Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sunday 27 May - Cycling the Danube: Day 2

Today's journey: Passau-Engelhartszell
11.11am, Getting off our bus at Passau station. This morning we awoke bright and early and only a little bit hungover, to find the sun still shining. Our train to Passau left at 9.30am so we checked out and walked to short distance to the train station, excited and wondering what was ahead. Armed with coffee, pastries (which were to become a staple of our holiday) and a pack of cards, our train-and-bus journey flew by and, as we headed further out of the city and in to the countryside, we got a view of things to come.

We had rented our bikes from Rent-A-Bike Passau, which was conveniently located right at Passau Haputbahnhof (train station). Next came an hour of packing and repacking our panniers to make sure everything fitted and our bikes weren't too heavily weighted on either side. We had all been a bit worried about fitting everything in but, actually, we were pleasantly surprised and ended up with excess room. The bikes were AMAZING. I really can't recommend this company enough as the bikes were so comfortable and came with everything we needed. For eight days' hire, including deposit, panniers, insurance, I think the total was about £150, which also included a one-way pick-up charge from our hotel in Vienna. It couldn't have been easier.

Next up was a bit of map-reading and a small amount of panic when we realised all the shops were closed because it was Sunday. Luckily we found a Subway and so began our bike adventure with an American sandwich. How authentic. It's worth remembering though, if you are planning to do this sort of trip, that shops, including supermarkets, will be closed on a Sunday and any public holidays, and that most supermarkets will close at 7pm during the week. Boring to know and talk about, but useful to plan around if you're off on a bike adventure.

So, today's ride took us to a little village called Engelhartszell. We quickly got into a happy rhythm on our bikes and began the journey right alongside the Danube. It was mainly flat with a few hills to test out our underused things and calf muscles but, on the whole, it was a pretty easy day to start us off. After about 20km, we stopped next to the river and rewarded ourselves with a beer (and vodka cocktails for the girls!), which powered us on to do our final 10km for the day in super-fast speed. Cycling past a campsite we whooped and hollered at the people in there before realising that this actually was our campsite. Cue sheepish looks and some averted eyes.

The campsite, Campingplatz an der Donau, was pretty and right on the river. By this point we'd crossed the border into Austria but, weirdly, the land on the opposite side of the river was still Germany – the border goes right through the river by our campsite! I was launched quickly into speaking German, thanks to the campsite owners not speaking any English, and it was a friendly place with a gorgeous swimming pool, that cost us around €6,50 a night for camping, and €18 for cabins (for David and Val), which included breakfast.

Full of pride at reaching our first destination without any major hiccups, we wandered into the village 'centre' (which consisted of a pizza restaurant, a church and an Austrian restaurant). Of course we chose the Austrian and were immediately welcomed by two of the funniest, friendliest restaurant owners I've ever met. We were treated to jokes, presents and a barbie-and-ken cycle race, which the owner found hilarious. I would definitely recommend going here, and not just for the amazing goulash and schnitzel on offer.

Heading back to our campsite at about 10pm, we found ourselves pretty tired out and, by about 10.10pm, were crashed out in our tents feeling healthy, happy and ready for more.

All images © Jack Johns.

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