Our last day in Austria was a beautiful day to bike along the Danube River in the Wachau valley region! The Wachau is known in particular for the small towns dotting the banks of the Danube River. These towns boast elegant-though-small castles, monasteries and churches along the way. Vineyards also comprise the landscape of this sunny valley, making for a very picturesque day.
Truth be told, I was a little worried and hoped I’d be able to keep up with the guys. I’m just terrible at hills—and London gives me no practice since it’s all flat—and I don’t always have the best balance. But it’s good to be pushed (especially if you, like me, aren’t very good at pushing yourself). So deep breath, here goes!
We started with a surprisingly delicious lunch at the Best Western Landhotel in Emmersdorf an der Donau, where we rented bikes. (It was bought by the Best Western chain, but there’s no branding and it feels very cozy and authentic. Also, it was the only restaurant in all of Austria that was willing to give us as much tap water as we wanted free of charge!)
I’d never heard of wood garlic before, but it’s a local chive that was included in almost every menu item because it was in season. And it was so delicious! It came sprinkled all over our mushroom ravioli. Who would’ve thought, delicious pasta in the heart of the Austria?
We set out on a bumpy dirt and gravel path, stopping across the river from Shonbuhel an der Donau to snap some shots. I took a fall along the path, hitting a rut not long after taking this shot. After we’d gone a while—a few kilometers at least—things started to feel fishy. The path looped into the woods and back towards the river, and there were backhoes everywhere.
Hmm. This doesn’t seem to be the right biking path. We backtracked another few kilometers to whence we’d come. (Later, I learned that it’s part of the construction work for building a floodwall along the Danube.)
We found the real bike path, which was delightfully paved and smooth, and were on our way! We stopped briefly in another teeny town called Willensdorf. I needed to use the toilet, and when I tried to dismount from a stationary bike, I fell again! My legs turned to jello and buckled, hitting the concrete knee-first. Hahaha. So sad.
The towns in Wachau have little tourist establishments for passersby such as us, but it’s not peak season yet so most places are still closed. But because the small town feel is so prevalent, people don’t lock, or even close, their doors. I couldn’t find any open-for-business restaurants, but I did find one that had an open door. The sign said closed and the lights were off, but hey. Nature calls. Feeling like a stray cat, I snuck into the bathroom. I winced when flushing the toilet, anticipating that I’d get chased out with a broom any minute. But nope! Who knows where the owner was—I made it out of there unscathed.
Two falls (me) and two flat tires (not me) later, we made it to Spitz.
Problem: there were three of us and only one functional bike.
Solution: Two of us stayed behind in Spitz relaxing, eating cake and ice cream, basking in the sun… enjoying scenic views… watching the ferry cross back and forth. Ahh, so peaceful and refreshing. Meanwhile, the other biked all the way back to Emmersdorf to get someone to pick us up. Poor guy. We toasted to him as we dug into our hazelnut cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.
All in all, we biked about 25 km, probably the farthest I’ve biked yet! It probably sounds dinky to you hardcore athletes out there, but I’m pretty proud of myself—and my battle wounds. As of yesterday I was still discovering bruises I got from those darn falls!
We stopped at the same McDonald’s near Linz on the way back for more chocolate drinks, a bite and a quickie Wifi check-in. As I’ve been writing up these posts on Austria, I felt a need to explain that McD’s is actually a nice establishment in Austria—the burgers and fries taste the same, but the McCafe is actually quite nice, and the decor impressive! But I no longer feel the need for self-justification, since I have even better validation from the New York Times.
In seriousness though, this is the nicest McDonald’s I’ve been to yet. If there were one like this near me, I’d probably go just to hang out and get some studying done!
On the road to Munich.
We got stopped by German border police, who checked our passports. All was fine, and before leaving they verified that there’s no speed limit on the autobahn unless indicated otherwise. We were free to zip along, and so we did—at 180 kph.
Um, I just converted that now while writing this. I am so glad I didn’t know how to convert that in my head, because if I did I would have been a little freaked out. R’s a great driver, so not saying anything on that front, but 110 mph!?!?! Holy heck.
Despite our speedy gonzalezing, we arrived in Munich later than hoped. J & R’s colleagues, K & R, kindly had dinner waiting for us! It was so delicious, and so nice of them to host us for a lovely homey evening to end a fulfilling trip!
*Thanks J for inviting me and R for driving us all over Austria. I’m so glad I came along!
*Shoutout to K and R for hosting us in Munich—best Indian-Italian fusion I’ve ever had! ;)