Ybbs to Krems Along the Danube

By | June 28, 2011

Breakfasts so far have been fabulous – buffets with fruit, cheese, yogurt, croissants, bread, jam, Nutella, nuts and cereals. Today’s was a basic affair which would have been luxury in Spain, but was a little disappointing here.

The road out was confusing, along a busy industrial route and then retail parks. We finally turned off into corn and turnip fields, far more like playing Agricola. Then we got lost in a little village before a woman tending her huge back yard, dressed for the 1930’s, shouted us to go down a track. It took us past more land and tractors before rejoining the tow-path.
My chain came off on the hill up to the tow path and as a result I cracked the new second skin I’d applied so painfully before setting out. It hurt.
Onwards to a levee and around another kraftwerk. The cycle path jiggled around and into carparks before finally spewing us out into Melk and its fabulous monastery. It’s unattractively yellow, but impressive.
We went past an American tour party heading back to their Danube cruise boats, not moving out of anyones way. One bloke said “These high water marks aren’t real are they?” Fool.
We pushed the bikes up the cobbled streets to the main square and chose a bike park. We locked up, I changed into Crocs so that my cleats wouldn’t clatter, and we hung our damp washing off the bikes. Classy. I did up the bikini to fixing it on the handlebars so it wouldn’t blow away. We walked to the tourist office and she told us where the pharmacy and the steps to Melk Abbey were.
At the pharmacy I quickly found second skin, but not antiseptic wipes. I looked up antiseptic in the dictionary and said it in my best German accent. The pharmacist looked puzzled then said “oh, you want antiseptic, yes of course, I have a spray”, in a more credible English accent than my German one.

We sat at a cafe in the square where I asked for ‘tomatensaft’ – go me. They didn’t have any, I settled for apple juice. We sat and drank and chatted and chose food, then we tried to get the waiter to take our order. He was incredibly skilled in avoiding eye-contact whilst striking handsome poses. I’m sure this was nice for him, but I was more hungry than horny and quickly got fed up. We ordered cheese toast, which turned out to be a grilled cheese sandwich American style, served with ketchup and without cutlery.

As I was happily eating it the “Golden Girls” from last night arrived, looking just as glamorous although they had clearly cycled in.  They laughed at us snacking again.

We tried to pay, with limited success.  The waiter ignored me twice so we went inside to pay where he ignored me some more.  When he graciously agreed to let us pay he was grumpy that we didn’t give him a tip.  Idiot.

Melk Monastery was dull at first, a big courtyard where the windows were being replaced and a couple of rooms of bad modern art followed by reliquaries galore – hurrah!  There was a gold head with missing scalp and ears where St Agnes’ head was stored.  There were little fancy bejewelled reliquaries with bits of St Peter and John the Baptist.  There were unlabelled shin bones and bits and pieces of unsung saints.  Fabulous!

The library was impressive as was the view over the Danube.  A couple asked Lou to take a picture of them.  She did so, badly, but they returned the favour anyway.  The church was a festival of gilding.  It was spectacularly ugly.  We plodded back down to town, repack our now dry washing, sun screened up and set off.I stopped on the road to get a cold juice from a petrol station.  Travelling on cycle routes you don’t see many BP stations.  They didn’t have any Rennies, Tums or Bisodol for Lou though.The cycle route took us up, up and up on a track along the side of a busy road, then we had to cross it and cycle on it.  It was hot, steep, busy and scary – just like Spain.  We then rejoined the cycle path across the river which was a tiny stretch of the Austrian portion of the Camino de Santiago.  We whizzed down from the bridge onto smooth cycle path beside the road close up against the cliff face.

We came up to Grimsing where we sang grim songs until stopped by two German firemen who chatted.  The steep banking and cut out terraces on both sides of the river were amazing with Gruner Veltliner, Riesling and what I assume was Pinot Noir below us.

There were terraces cut into the slopes although some around the edges looked to have been abandoned years ago.  Farmers were busy turning over the ground at the base of the vines and cutting off leaves to encourage better fruit production.  I was fascinated, but the road called.

A short climb up Durnstein was made harder by tourists randomly strolling into the road.  I had to get off and walk when the combined effort of climbing, weaving through people and breathing through a fog of expensive aftershave and perfume became too much for me.  There was a fancy hotel at the top.  We stopped for water and to admire the views of miles of vines and Durnstein Castle up above.  Richard the Lionheart was held there for “A King’s Ransom” on his way home from the Crusades.

We rolled down through the cutesy tourist town and out through yet more vineyards up to Stein which melded into Krems, our last station stop of the day.

We rolled in trying to follow information signs but ended up circling the town and coming back to the slightly scary looking Steiner Tor and seeing the information place around the corner in a shopping mall.  We booked a room, a double after the woman told us there were no twin rooms in Austria, at the Under The Linden Tree Hotel. It was a great choice with a secure courtyard garden to store the bikes and pull apart twin beds in the room.

We strolled around looking for somewhere to eat, but everywhere seemed to have closed at six.  We found a bar and I ordered a Sekt.  It wasn’t nice.  I had tuna penne, it was heavenly with loads of tomatoes and vegetables in the sauce.  We wanted to order pizza toast as a side as we were super hungry after the hills but the waitress advised it would be too much.  She was right.  Lou had ordered ribs and wings which came on a bread board and would easily have fed four.

I had a Gruner Veltliner from Krems, it was divine, wines are always so much better when you’ve seen the grapes growing.  We strolled back and had a beer in a café by the Steiner Tor before bed.

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