Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Danube Trail

Even before I came to Europe a couple of years ago, I had planned to do a bit of long-distance cycling while I was here. I finally got around to doing all the preparation such a trip needs, and for 9 days I rode my bicycle along the Danube river, starting at its alleged source somewhere in the Black Forest, and ending up in Austria. I slept (almost) every night in a tent. I almost had to cancel the trip just after I started. I had got myself a good bike, and shoved a tent, a sleeping bag, and a couple of changes of clothes on the back. Less than 1 kilometre into the trip the back of my bike fell apart, strewing bits of luggage and nuts, bolts,and screws all over the street. Luckily the local bike shop did a good job of fixing it quickly, and the next morning I started again.

The Danube bike path is supposed to be one of the best bike rides in Europe, and even better, it's mostly pretty flat. I rode through Bavaria, and it seemed that every few kilometres there was an old castle, cathedral, medieval village, or memorial on the river bank. I even saw people walking down the street wearing lederhosen (the German leather trousers), and some Julie Andrews-style dresses. It turned out that in the nearby town there was a sort of mini-Octoberfest going on. Well I say mini, but that's a relative term. I checked it out in the evening, and it was an enormous weeklong festival with thousands of people, plenty of beer drinking, carnival rides, and German oompah bands. And Australians. It seems wherever you go in the world, you'll run into Australians. I heard this unmistakable Aussie twang amongst all the German, tracked down the source, and got talking to an older guy from country Victoria who was being dragged around little-known parts of Germany by a German woman.

It was easy just to ride and ride and ride until I had had enough for the day, then find a nearby camping ground. The biggest problem was with the Bavarian food - not so bad if you like schnitzel, but for a vegetarian it was pretty rough. One restaurant I went to had about 20 different types of schnitzel on the menu, and nothing else. I asked if they had ANYTHING without meat in it, and they brought me out a couple of lettuce leaves, with some tomatoes and radishes. Not exactly the energy food you need for a full day's biking. After that I stuck to pizzerias.

Photos are here: http://flickr.com/photos/smcleod/sets/820932/