Cycling the Danube
Looking through all the myriad freewheel Holidays, there are lots to tempt you. Choosing you trip is half the battle and I wanted to test out the 8-day biking trip down the Danube. I chose it for a number of reasons: it was through a beautiful part of Austria; it was almost all on cycle paths so there wouldn’t be too much traffic; it was self-supported so I could go at my own pace; and it wasn’t too gruelling at an average of 60km per day for six days cycling. I haven’t been on my bike for several days in a row for quite a long time, so didn’t want to suffer too much.
My friend, Maria Del Valle Lopez, who I had met on an adventure trip in Chile, decided to come too. She was designated map-reader, and I was the holder of the holiday kitty and spokeswoman (with my very limited but enthusiastic schoolgirl German). We made a pact to eat as much cake as possible and to spend some time every day sitting under a tree.
The instructions and maps of how to tackle the path were clear and easy from the start. Our bikes, maps, brochures and vouchers were all waiting us when we got to our hotel from the airport. The bikes were perfect for the flat, easy terrain we were tackling. They were “sit up and beg style” so you could take in the scenery comfortably, with gel saddles and all the extras like mudguards, panniers and a bell. You wouldn’t win the Tour De France on one but
they were a good, comfortable ride.
Passau – Linz
We set off in glorious sunshine and were on the bike path within five minutes of leaving the hotel. The Danube rolled along beside us, fat and lazy, and we rode through a mixture of woods and open country. The first section dived in between the mountains, giving us beautiful views. With no cars in sight, we could hear the birdsong and enjoy the peace of the landscape. The wild flowers at this time of year are wonderful and there were splashes of pink mallow, blue forget-me-not, white Queen Anne’s lace and yellow buttercups all along the path.
The heat meant we took very regular stops for juice and we discovered that this is a bit of a speciality in Austria. Half litre glasses of elderflower, blackberry, orange or strawberry juice mixed with sparking water taste fantastic when you are hot but my absolute favourite was the rhubarb juice.
Linz - Emmersdorf
After two days of sunshine, we knew something had to change and on our third day we woke up to grey clouds. When the rain came, along with some thunder and lightning, it was actually quite a relief. The smell of the fresh earth and the clean grass took my mind off, to quote Mary Berry, my soggy bottom.
Pedalling through tiny, picturesque towns and stopping off to admire an ornate little church or visit a museum broke up the miles through the countryside and the time sped by.
Emmersdorf - Vienna
Maria and I agreed that day five of the biking was the prettiest. We rode through endless fields of golden wheat and ripening corn and then into vineyards with roses at the end of each row. It is apricot and cherry season and the orchards were full of trees heavy with ripe fruit. We couldn’t resist stopping at a road-side stall to buy some.
By now, we were ridden in, which was lucky, because the 77km last day into Vienna was a beast. The temperature hit 38 degrees and stayed there and the cyclists’ nightmare – the dreaded headwind – was against us for 76.9 of those kilometres. We were saved by cake, iced tea and a long dip in the river at lunch.
This is an ideal trip for anyone who wants a relaxed adventure in the outdoors, to kickstart their fitness or for families who like to be active together. The organisation was impeccable with our luggage waiting for us at every hotel, the route was clearly marked and well-chosen and it was a joy to spend a week on the banks of the mighty river Danube.
By Alice Morrison