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03 October 2012

Cycling through the Austrian countryside (3 of 4)

So the day has come to describe my journey cycling through the Austrian countryside. Basically this trip came about when googling things to do close to Vienna or Wien as the Austrians call it. Melk is an hourish train trip away from Vienna.  You leave out of the Westbahnhof station (this train is always going elsewhere and is super nice) and then have to get off in St Polten and wait for another train (this train is not so nice; one car and it's pretty ragtag). I got off the train and immediately rented my bike.  It cost 8 Euro or so. 

There are numerous companies you can rent bikes from.  I happened to pick NextBike.  *The pain in the ass thing about NextBike is that you have to have a phone to call a number in order to rent the bike (using the number on the bike you picked) and to get the code to that bikes lock. Pay attention to the bikes and pick a good one. I picked one that had plenty of air in the tires, but after I picked it and called, I found the seat lowering clasp wouldn't work.  During my phoning the company and arguing with them, some random Austrian came out of the train station and used a wrench to get the clasp to move.  Of course, the clasp wouldn't close well after that so my seat fell down about 4 times before I got the seat in the right spot and the clasp semi-closed.  Since it wasn't closed all the way it hit my leg on every single stroke of the pedal which left me with a gorgeous bruise as a souvenir.  Grrrrr.

Once the bike sitch was settled I moved on to Melk.  The train station is about a 2 minute walk to downtown Melk (it's tiny) and 5 minute walk to Melk Stift (aka the abbey). You immediately notice Melk Abbey because it towers over the town and it's a giant ornate yellow and white building.  Inside the opulence is even more pronounced, especially in the cathedral.  I don't understand why religious people back in the day agreed to paying for such opulence. I guess I'm not religious so I'll never understand. The Stift is still a working abbey today and there are monks who live there.  Sadly, I saw none. I went the route of paying to just view the open bit of abbey myself instead of following a guide.  It costs 10 euro.  I sort of wish I had done the guided tour so I could spout more info, but at least I got to wander at my own speed.

The Abbey Looms Over

Abbey on a Hill

The Stift

Heading to the Abbey

Hallway in the Abbey


View from the Abbey
Great view of the countryside

Melk Abbey Library

Inside the Cathedral

After the Abbey I wandered in to a few of the shops to check out the wares.  They had a great pottery shop where everything was made in house. The owl I purchased is one of my only mementos of the trip.  Once the purchase was made. I hopped on the bike and got rolling.  I decided to stay on the Melk side (Southern) of the Danube for half the trip and then take a ferry over to the opposite side (northern) for the second half of the trip. I could have hopped over the bridge right outside of Melk and saved the ferry boat fee (3 euro), but I wanted to have the experience of taking the ferry.  I will say that the northern side has most of the vineyards so if you want to ride through vineyards the whole trip go that route. The coolest thing about the southern side was that for the first 2 hours I saw maybe 6 cyclists.  The other side is much more heavily trafficked by people on bikes. During the ride to Spitz (where the ferry was) I was mostly riding directly along the Danube, which provided for gorgeous views of the mountains.  I saw multiple castles, one of which is Burgruine-aggstein which you can tour, but I didn't. I also road between the Danube and miles of apple orchards.  It was so peaceful.

On the way to Schonbuhel Castle

Cycling along

More ruins - Burgruine-aggstein

Bike trail through a small town

My dream home

Wine and God

No cars, just bikes

The ferry boat was cool. It's a cable powered boat so no motor.  Very quiet ride.  There were no cars on our ride, just cyclists and very few at that.  There is also a camera obscura on board in a viewing room so you could see a still image that looked like it was moving. After the 5 minute ferry ride, i got off in the lovely wine village of Spitz and had some lunch at this great cafe overlooking the Danube.  The food was good, the server spoke a bit of English, and the pastries were amazing.

I then continued my bike ride through the vineyards and along the highway.  This path didn't hug the Danube as much as the opposite side path did.  It also went through more villages and was much more populated.  My next stop was Durnstein, where I was planning on hiking up to the ruins. 

For whom gardening is life

Church towers over


Fuzzy Dürnstein

Durnstein was this tiny packed out town with the castle ruins towering over.  I could never find a place to leave my bike chained and was sort of pooped by this time so I didn't wind up hiking up to the ruins.  I'm still disappointed about it.  Durnstein castle was the place where the Duke Leopold of Austria stashed King Richard I Lionheart after he kidnapped him during the third crusade in 1192.  Then the pope excommunicated Leopold for kidnapping a crusader. Cool stuff right? 

Biking to Dürnstein

Dürnstein cyclists

Small Town Dürnstein

Dürnstein on the hill

I biked through some more tiny towns and vineyards and then made it to Krems - the "big" city (in these parts at least).

Random Town

Villa or Church?



City of Krems

After the day was up I biked 24 miles and had a lovely bruise forming on my leg.  I also made off with multiple bottle of apricot liquor for friends as well as some local pottery.  I caught the train back to Vienna from Krems. A good day! 

The last post of the trip will be about Bratislava.  I hope to have it up next week, but who knows.


tamara said...

sick photos stephie! its so beautiful there. i went to austria on a central europe trip in 09 and had not the best time. i think i felt all weird because a lot of my family was from there pre-Holocaust and I felt guilt about visiting or something. (weird!) It looks so gorgeous though! Damn

Stephie Z said...

@Tamara- my moms parents were both in the holocaust. My grandma escaped from a labor camp and became a partisan fighter and my grandpa escaped from the ghetto and hid during the holocaust. I will say that the hardest thing about being in Europe is thinking about that. It occured to me numerous times over the trip and really freaked me out. I tried to put it out of my head most of the time. You shouldn't ever feel guilty though for the past though.