DAY 39: Schlogen to Au an der Donau 85.4km, 130m
I rolled out of bed just after 6am and the sun that i saw set last night was just starting to poke its head above the mountain tops of the valley and hit the tent. We planned to have a big day today, the rumors of stunning roads, the tailwind from yesterday and our personal energy levels all egged us on. Camp was at around 100k.
As we checked out of the expensive campground, drinking our crap and expensive coffee, we noticed that 4 french tourers that we had met a week ago had actually stayed at the same ground as us.
It really brings you down, paying 28e for a night with a couple of rubbish coffees, but these pains quickly disappeared as we hit the nicest bit of road yet. From Schlogen to Aschach the EV6 is glorious. Hugging the Danube, winding between the steep valley cut by the river. There was minimal traffic, a few fisherman, a few day-cyclists, but apart from that, it was smooth tarmac and views to die for, reminding me of the roads skirting some Italian lakes.
Apart form the view, there wasn’t much else, we stopped at the 25k mark at a quirky cafe/restaurant which had a old sign outside ‘Welcome To Paradise’, a couple of friendly biker guys, and a bar full of vintage beer and cigarette signs. Unfortunately, they didn’t really cater to our hunger, but we fuelled up with a sugarific Coke and kept going, knowing that it was going to be a long day.
From Aschach to Ottensheim, the valley opens slightly and, being Sunday, hosted many road cyclists, joggers and walkers. Ottensheim was at the 47k mark with another ferry to stay on the bike path. A bigger, car ferry this time, loaded with day-cyclists (and the French foursome), a few cars and pedestrian tourists shuttling across to the popular village of Ottensheim. There was a market on too – I have never seen so many homemade pastel woollen cushions and blankets in my life – a sense to me that this town was pretty bloody boring.
We squeezed our bikes and stinky selves through the market, hoping for a food stall, but had to settle for a bakery with some outside seating. Feeling out of place, i wandered inside to browse their offerings, but instead was greeted by an elderly Austrian lady asking me what i wanted. Telling her i wanted to have a look, she called over her colleague who could speak English. Saying that i simply wanted to look before buying seemed to be abnormal. I picked up a can of OJ from the fridge and pointed to a couple of pastries, although this apparently wasn’t allowed. I was asking for items that were for take away, and if i wanted to sit down, i had to order from the cafe menu, from the waitress at the table. It didn’t make any sense to me, and my impression of this town, and the beginning of Austria, weren’t inspiring.
Maybe, it was all in my head. My head that didn’t feel too good. Sitting outside the bakery, hot, hungry and the feeling the mornings push on the bike taking its toll, I felt light-headed.
We refilled our water from the town drinking fountain, and moved away from the hoards of Sunday tourists, stopping in a park just out of town to sit down, hoping my head would recover. Maybe it was the shock of being shoulder to shoulder with ‘normal’ people that got to me? Can’t imagine taking the tube in London at rush hour now.
This was where the scenic route ended – on the north side of the Danube, after Ottensheim the cycle path ran directly along the main road, with gradual undulating hills. We stopped at a service station and picked up some bacon and bread to have with our pasta, coincidentally the French foursome were refuelling there too.
The city of Linz slowly approached with industrial buildings, dull houses and poor infrastructure – Austria didn’t seem to have the same qualities of Germany that we had enjoyed for the previous 3 weeks. We followed the bike path, quickly cutting through Linz, a city mostly famous for being the birthplace of Hitler, passing the city parks and Sunday strollers. We stopped again underneath one of the many railway bridges and admired the factories on the opposite bank.
With 13k to go, the path left he Danube and headed slightly inland. It was nice to be away from the Danube – it’s headwind, heat and monotonous bike path was draining. Just off the river we came across a pub, and having not substantially eaten we decided on lunch, with 13k to go. Alessia had been craving schnitzel, and like most places, it delivered without fail.
The last 13k seemed a drag, more undulating town roads, sapping any energy with their small climbs. We briefly stopped at a memorial in Gusen dedicated to the 350,000 people that were cremated following incarceration in Nazi concentration camps. The stark reminder showed an extensive Italian, Spanish and Polish population lost their lives here.
We pushed onwards arrived at Camping Au an der Donau to be greeting with hundreds of people, mostly cyclists, enjoying the warm weather, live band and busy bar. It was a sight to see, but in our mood not something that interested us. We bought a couple of beers to-go and headed to the tent area.
When camping, you tend to grade campgrounds and this one was looking pretty good: peaceful and quite with no main roads or noise from traffic or industry, a secured tent area away from Campervans with kids, a little shelter in case of rain or too munch sun, plenty of open space with trees, park benches galore – at least a dozen, guaranteeing our own private table, free power inside the shelter, a water source very close by, the river a minutes walk to swim in, and a bar if we had any urges to get sloshed. Rest day tomorrow was looking good.
We had our first, and most likely our last, swim in the Danube, murky brown, bloody cold but refreshing, did our weekly wash in the machine (3.50e), hung the clothes in the shelter, cooked some pasta with left over sauce and bacon and relaxed on our park bench.
It was a our biggest days ride so far, just over 85k – we couldn’t manage the century today after being drained going through Linz, but we felt good. Great in fact. Funnily, we didn’t really feel like we deserved or needed a rest day, but this place was as good as any.
We will sleep well tonight, especially knowing that we won’t be moving tomorrow.