Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Fine Day for Fahrrading

Fahrrad means bicycle in German, and on Easter Sunday we grabbed our bikes, hopped on a train, and headed out to the beautiful, historic Wachau region west of Vienna.

The Wachau is a valley in Lower Austria through which flows the Danube (Donau) River, Europe's second longest. The Wachau is famous for its vineyards and apricot orchards, ancient monasteries and castles, and charming little villages. Arguably the best way to see this area is by bike, and fortunately there is an extremely well-maintained bike path (it's Austria after all!) called the Donauradweg that runs along both the north and south sides of the river. This bike route is popular among tourists who enjoying cycling from Germany through Austria to points far beyond (actually, the bike path starts in southwestern Germany and goes all the way to the Black Sea). We just cycled a small section (40 km) of this route on Sunday.

Sign showing distances between towns and (importantly) ferry boat crossings

View Larger Map
This Google Map shows the region where we cycled as well as our (approximate) route.

Achtung! Only cyclists and top-hat-wearing old men with children are allowed to use this path.

Views from the south side of the river back across to the north side.
Absolutely beautiful!!

Behind Lindsay is the little village of Dürnstein, famous for its apricots and castle ruins (up on top of the cliff in the center of the photo). We'll come back to the latter a little later.

(Good weather) + (2 x Bikes) - Σ(Responsibilities) = A fabulous day

This old man does not have a little kid with him, nor is he even on a bike, but apparently the authorities let it slide since he's a local.

Time to take the ferry, the only way to cross the river on this stretch of the Danube

Which did man create first -- the wheel or that castle up on the hill?

The self-shot photo is always worth a try.

It doesn't get more countryside Austrian than the town of Spitz.

Must refuel at a restaurant in Spitz.

An historic church in Spitz

The Wehrkirche (church) in St. Michael.

Inside one of the church buildings.
This is what becomes of people who don't finish their bike rides along the Donau.

The local townspeople seem to make out alright with their wine sales.

We could see the Dürnstein castle ruins up ahead, marking the final stretch of our journey.
Certainly a cause for celebration.

Oops! Celebrated a bit too soon. Two chain malfunctions in less than 500 meters.

Finally made it to Dürnstein. Those are the famous castle ruins up on the hill.

The castle was originally erected in the 11th century. Over the years, its hilltop perch afforded it a good vantage point for spotting enemy invaders coming up or down the Donau.

One of the not-so-lucky was King Richard the Lionheart of England, who was captured and imprisoned here during the winter of 1192-93. Eventually he was freed, though not before the English were forced to pay a pretty penny for his ransom.

View over the village of Dürnstein, the Donau, and the Donauradweg from the castle ruins

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