Friday, May 2, 2014

Danube Bike Trip — Day 5

Melk to Traismaur

Today started with another fantastic breakfast served at the Hotel zur Post in Melk. Seen from the street the hotel is not all that impressive — most of its considerable charm is hidden out of sight at the rear.

My single room was small but well appointed with comfortable bed and desk and a very fast Internet connection. Dinner was excellent and the brekkie was top notch: espresso with steamed milk, homemade plum and apricot compotes, eggs, bacon and plenty of pastries, flawless service.

Breakfast — round 1
Breakfast — round 2
After playing some mean tricks over the past few days the weather this morning was very fine with blue skies and no clouds in sight. This day was to be the best of the trip although I didn't know it then. The air was warm enough by 10 o'clock that I could take off my polar fleece shirt I had worn under my yellow windbreaker for the entire trip. I finally ditched the light gloves I'd been wearing as well.
A very sweet ride

The Schloss Schönbühel guards the bank of the river

Schloss Schönbühel, the fortress in the first shot above crowds the riverbank and forces  the Donauradweg to go around behind it and up a hill, the longest uphill I encountered on the entire trip. At the top was a wooden bench and picnic table and next to them a very old 5 km. milestone. I consider a milestone a find worthy of inclusion on the OSM map so I spent some time photographing the very faint lettering on it in an effort to capture what I assumed was a town name beneath the carved 5 km distance inscription. That evening in the hotel I looked for a town named Kyselak on OSM and Google Maps but drew a blank. I gave up the search until later in Vienna when I happened to ask Helga, my knowledgeable Couchsurfing hostess, if she knew of a town named Kyselak. She did not but had a hunch about the name that a short Google search quickly resolved. Josef Kyselak is considered by many to be the world's first graffiti artist. (Wikipedia: Josef Kyselak (1799 — 1831) was an Austrian mountaineer and travel writer. He became famous for his habit to "tag" his name onto prominent places during his hikes across the Austrian Empire.)
I had unwittingly blundered onto one of Kyselak's tagged objects.
The Donauradweg wanders through some very photogenic vineyard country between Melk and Traismaur. The day was so beautiful I stopped every few kilometers to sit by the roadside enjoying the birds and flowers. It was awesome day and the high point of the bike tour in terms of both the scenery and the weather.

View of Spitz, Austria
I jumped on a ferry to cross to the north side of the Donau and the little town of Spitz where I had some delicious espresso brewed with a brand new Cimbali machine that the owner told me "cost as much as a small car". Aside from the excellent brewed coffee I'd had at the hotels where I stayed the coffee situation is not that good in the Austrian hinterlands. Many food shops and bakeries serve lattes but they're generally weak and bland, more milk than coffee — they reminded me of the "flat white" lattes I drank in rural New Zealand a few years ago — so this place was a welcome stop. I inhaled two dopios and moved on after complimenting the owners profusely.

Just before reaching Spitz I passed through a small conservation area where these little signs appeared to alert passersby to the possibility of seeing biber (beaver), birds and other wild creatures. After passing this one I went on high alert and kept my eyes open for snakes!!

New Cimbali espresso machine — Donauprinzess Cafe — Spitz

Danube River flood heights, Spitz on the Danube, Austria
I assumed the Danube would have all sorts of controls in place to prevent floods but that's not the case. The river does flood occasionally and causes a great deal of damage when it does. Passau had a similar display which showed the flood of June 2013 as the second highest in history. That one doesn't appear on this sign — maybe this far down the river and behind the several big power projects I had passed earlier, Spitz experiences slightly different flood surges. (Note: Helga later informed me that after the 2002 flooding the towns of Wachau installed flood controls which were completed in 2010. Apparently they worked. See her note in the comments for more. The link she includes is in German but Google Translate can handle the translation.)

Wehrkirche St. Michael — Spitz, Austria
A stop along the L7093 —  a very rural highway — Danube in background

View of a winery from the L7093

Wachau, Austria

Riding in sunshine and lilacs
I took some lunch beside this old wall
It had been a fantastic ride and the sort of day I didn't want to end. My butt, unaccustomed as it was to a bicycle seat, was sore and I was anxious to get off the bike but still, I felt a slight let down as I pulled into the little town of Traismaur for my last night on the Donauradweg. I arrived at 4:00 pm, having pedaled 55 km in 3 hours and 50 minutes, (6 hours 20 minutes total door to door).

Thailand has its squat toilets and Austria has what I'll call "turd shelf" toilets. Neither is much to my liking. These Austrian toilets don't have a pool of water to catch your droppings. Instead there is a small reservoir of water in front of the bowl and a dry shelf, I don't know what else to call it, poopdeck maybe?, immediately under your butt. You do your business and there it all sits until you flush, at which point it all, hopefully, disappears. Why a toilet would be built this way is a mystery to me. This is not stuff you'll see in the travel magazines. You saw it here first.

Audio equipment: iPhone 5, PanApp music player Mighty-H Bluetooth headphones
Today's Playlist:
Mozart Piano Trio K. 542
Mozart Piano Trio K. 502
Mozart Piano Trio K. 564
Mozart Piano Trio K. 548
Mozart Piano Trio K. 254
Mozart Piano Trio K. 496  — Beaux Arts Trio (all)
Golden Palominos: This is how it feels
Jackson Browne: Late for the sky
Moby: 18
bee sounds

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