This morning in Vienna is very special – and the start of a rather unusual love story. Within the walls of a baroque building in this city lying on the Danube, I am snuggled up in my hotel bed completely stuffed from breakfast with a huge smile on my face reflecting back over the last week. Not only because (as I’m sure you agree), holiday is the best time of the year but also because I have finally found my perfect-styled holiday. Active and eventful – simply perfect! It was definitely the right decision to cycle along the Danube cycle path from Passau to Vienna. It was my first time that I have done daily exercise and the first time that I can truly say that I am proud of my travels. One thing is for certain, it definitely won’t be the last cycle tour that I do.
Fitness levels like an athlete? Nothing of the sort!
7 days ago I was 300km further west. I decided to start cycling from Passau, which is the three-river-town! I could have also started from the baroque town of Schärding.
The jersey that I bought for the tour doesn’t quite seem to have a perfect fit now that I am ready to cycle off from Passau, but the rental bike fits my needs spot on. So off I went, leaving Passau and its pretty little streets with Vienna being the destination. Of course, it would be possible to ride the 300km faster. There are also tours lasting 7 days or 5 days. Seeing that the route along the blue Danube river has so many impressive spots and that I was new to cycling I decided to go for the 8-day option of the pre-planned tour.
Always slightly downhill, what a lovely cycling!
Already after the first couple of hours, it became totally apparent that this is not about a speed record. After all, it would be too much of a shame to whiz past this amazing landscape without taking it in properly. That’s why I am comfortably cycling along whilst breathing in the fresh air and whilst wondering at the same time why cycling seems to come so easily to me. It was only later on that I found out that the Danube cycle path slopes slightly downhill when cycling east and that’s why it makes for such an ideal cycle tour for beginners like myself. Despite the unhurried tempo there was always enough time to check out the attractions and things to do on each stage or simply to put my feet up and relax.
Romantic nature and city gems
Whilst getting about 50 to 60km closer to Vienna each day, I learnt bit by bit what fascinates others so much about cycling. It is the freedom to cycle so fast or slow as you want. Or to take a detour that goes through the fields or the forest or along the water’s edge. Since the route is mainly flat and in very good condition, it is really fun to then take the bike through some slightly rougher terrain. A deep green colour and lots of trees accompanied me along almost the whole length of the route between Passau and Vienna. Upper Austria, lower Austria and Vienna - each of these regions that I cycled through had its own special charm.
Right at the point where the Danube makes its well-known 180 degree turn due to the granite rock, I took a break even with a quick snooze built in. This really enabled the nature to work its wonders. The Schlögener Schlinge (loop) is even more impressive in reality than in the pictures on the internet. I took some deep breaths, dipped my toes into the cold water and looked forward to the next stages of the tour that were ahead of me – who would have thought that my first cycle tour holiday would have had such a meditative effect upon me.
The picturesque little towns along the route look like they have been painted at times. Schärding, Passau, Ybbs, Spitz, Dürnstein or Krems – they all give you that feeling of well-being, both physically and mentally. Every day on the tour, I got to discover new amazing areas along the Danube. These idyllic places are just perfect to escape the hustle and bustle in cities but whilst doing so they allow you to enjoy the culture and cuisine. My personal cultural highlights from the trip were my visit to Melk’s monastery along with its magnificent view across the Danube valley as well as Grein’s boat museum and the oldest still-used Greinburg town theatre.
Cycle straight through the middle of Austria
I’ll admit that I have never done so much exercise in one go than in this week’s holiday. It is therefore no surprise that I was busy eating all of the different culinary delights from the region each evening. Exercise in the fresh air really does make you hungry. Fortunately, the little places don’t hold back, they seem to love serving up their traditional dishes to the tourists. Speckknödel (like a bacon dumpling) is at the top of my list of favourite food from the tour. This is followed closely by Wiener Tafelspitz (this is boiled beef often served with horseradish sauce). Another one of my favourites are the apricot dumplings from Wachau. The apricot dumplings are best enjoyed in the unique and wonderful location of the lower Austrian vineyards. Stone walls spread across the rolling hills and they make you want to have what grows there: juicy grapes for top-quality wine and tasty apricots. The density of good quality wine is higher in Wachau than you will find in many other regions. I can’t let myself miss out on the chance to dry a drop or too of the local produce whilst I am directly where it is grown. After all, If I am going to get to know a region then I want to get to know it properly and by using all of my senses.
The holidays go past quickly. At the end of the holiday, Vienna greets me with its unique charm and celebrated with me for having completed my first holiday on two wheels. I have not only cycled 350km but also gathered a collection of valuable moments of sheer happiness. Whilst sitting on my hotel bed in Vienna, straight after having completed my tour, I’m already looking at the map to see where my next bike tour is going to take me. I have read that there are some magnificent trails on the Spanish island of Majorca for those who like cycling.
An overview of the Danube cycle path
- Length: approx. 350km
- Start point in Austria: Schärding
- Destination: Vienna
- Route profile: easy
- Best time: April to October