Tomorrow (Saturday) will see us leaving Germany and entering Austria, the fifth country of our trip if you count the UK. Our time here has confirmed our love of the country -the excellent cycling infrastructure, the friendly people, the pretty towns and villages, the good food and drink. What’s not to like?
The chilly weather of Wednesday encouraged Stephen to get his winter cycling jacket (that of AS Bellinzago, the Italian cycling club of which he is a member courtesy of his friend and former colleague Stefano). This naturally led to the return of the sun and warmer weather!
The morning was uneventful apart from the main street of one of the villages being impassable due to roadworks and the diversion being up a steep hill. The river wound its way along the broad floodplain appearing to flow fast considering the gentle gradient suggesting that it was swollen by the recent rains. This was confirmed by how close the river came to the path at times and trees appearing to be growing several metres out in the water.
Around the middle of the afternoon as we neared Passau, the countryside began to take on a different feel that, remarkably, we both noticed at the same time. The hills started to close in and the cycle path was squeezed closer to the river. Also the surface improved being asphalt almost all the time, with the gravel thankfully much less prevalent, and things seemed more tourist orientated with greater numbers of hotels, restaurants, information boards, etc.
We stopped at the last campsite in Germany, about 10 km before Passau, and were pleased that it was the cheapest we had come across in the country at a very reasonable €13 including free Internet access – particularly as we planned to spend two nights there so that we could look round Passau.
It was a beautiful morning on Friday and cycling into town without all the heavy luggage was bliss! We came to Passau in 2000 when we cycled the next stretch of the route to Vienna on our first holiday with the children but without the car. Our memories were hazy as we only had an evening there – and it was 15 years ago!
The approach into town along the Danube was pretty drab it must be said but we did use an impressive old dam/hydroelectric power station to cross to the southern bank. It is known as the town of the three rivers as it is at the confluence of the Danube, the Inn (as in Innsbruck, and almost as big as the Danube) and the Ilz. It is at the start of an extremely popular stretch of the river for both cyclists and people on the luxury river cruises to Vienna and Budapest. We both remarked that the boats looked much more appealing than the monsters that ply the Mediterranean and Caribbean -something for when we are too old to cycle?!
It is very pretty with the location setting off some lovely buildings, although the marks on the side of the town hall showing the height of floodwaters did emphasise the perils of the location as well. (Just take a look at the photo with Steve as a reference point -when they get uploaded!) The second highest of the marks was in June 2013. We were both impressed at how well the place had recovered from what must have been a horrific mess and grateful that we were not attempting this trip 2 years ago when it would probably have been (a) impossible and (b) very unpleasant if the rains were falling around here rather than miles upstream!
We also used our visit to town to get a fix of “yer aktual kulture” with a lunchtime concert on the largest cathedral organ in the world. St Stephen’s cathedral was overwhelming – impossibly ornate in its Catholic finery that was very reminiscent of Italy at its most ostentatious – especially compared to the Lutheran austerity of Ulm.
BTW. Ominous weather forecast for tonight (Friday) with thunderstorms and hail predicted. Wish us luck (even though it will have happened by the time you read this! )