So, I have just arrived in Vienna – rather tired after a day of gutsy, gusty, and grievous headwinds yesterday, some strong enough to leave tree branches and general floral debitage along the cycle path. On the bright side, said winds shifted overnight, with a change in weather to a blanket of cloud, to an equally forceful northwesterly, which shunted me right along into the Capital this morning.
After my last blog entry I headed to the famous (if you climb) Café Kraft climbing centre in Nuremberg, for a very tired clamber and much need stretch… And shower(s)! I then headed over to meet my couch surfing host, a welcoming and enthusiastic guy in his mid-twenties called Sebastian. Sebastian, a software engineer, had recently completed his own long distance tour; through the balkans, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran.
I met Sebastian and his old friend Toby at a bar opposite his home for a quick introduction to the local beer and food – a tasty plate of pasta, egg, and bacon. We then proceeded, beers in hand, for an evening tour of the city, taking in the nighttime views from the atmospheric Nuremburg castle above the, largely rebuilt, altstadt. The same castle and old town formed a large part of the inspiration and basis for the National Socialist Party’s early doctrine, narrative, and image – with the city becoming the staging ground for successive Nazi rallies from 1927 until the end of the Second World War.
On the Saturday I awoke with the others fairly early and, saying a brief goodbye to Toby who was to be cycling back to his home (some 50km to the south of the city), set out to see the Documentation Centre; a museum established in the former Nazi Congress Hall to explore the Nazi party’s history and use of Nuremburg for annual rallies.
The scope and size of the building itself was phenomenal – for a structure never truely finished. As with the former rally grounds, which encompass the congress hall, much of the building was constructed by slave labour; with early Nazi labour camps being used to quarry the tons of granite required to face the monumental edifice. In form the structure is a large semi-circular colosseum-esque building of imposing granite and brick. The museum was artfully portrayed, and skillfully handles the sensitive nature of its subject material. Particularly interesting was a section about the making of The Trimuph of the Will – a masterful work of propaganda portraying Adulf Hitler and the Nazi Party rallies. The film was directed in 1934 by Leni Riefenstahl, and despite its disturbing subject matter, you can still understand how it would have influenced the masses… After the museum, and in pouring rain and thunder, I continued around the remains of the grounds, including the Zeppelin Field – presently host to an American football field and a part of the Nurenburg Rally race course. In an uncomfortable juxtaposition, upon the former stage within the Zeppelin Field, where uniformed masses once stood, rank on rank, as Hitler spoke with hate and fear, and where swastikas can be seen scraped into the concrete steps, a young Turkish girl played and ran, laughing in the post-rain sun.
I hopped on a tram back to the centre, stopping to see the cathedral, a most lavish of protestant churches, and a later baroque church, before dinner of sauerkraut and sausages, and a quiet evening in.
On Sunday I awoke late and, with Sebastian accompanying me a part of the way, headed on south to where I would stop over at Toby’s family’s house. The route south took me along the gravelled banks of the Main-Donau canal, then on through a landscape of gentle rolling undulations, with ever more frequent hop fields – characterised by their frameworks of timber uprights joined by a grid of cables along which the maturing plants will eventually grow.
Reaching Toby’s by the late afternoon we met with another old friend of the group’s, Luca, who drove us to a local town for a great evening of traditional schnitzel and beers, and not so traditional Turkish shisha.
The following morning I continued south, accompanied again, for a while, by Toby. The day was beautiful amd warm, with the way susserating between low becliffed lines of hills, following the route of a stream south to my first encounter with the Donau River – The Danube! In the area of Dolnstein I took a few short breaks to boulder and explore the beautiful rock formations, and a diverged from my route to wander through a small yet dramatic castle above Wellheim.
Reaching the Danube at Neuberg I stopped again, to see an ornate boroque church, and the Neuberg palace, with its courtyard walls painted with black-and-white scenes – unfortunately the building was otherwise closed on mondays. The palace encompasses the oldest place of protestant worship in Germany. I pushed a little further south again, to camp out in the hills above Brunnen.
That night I decided to review my route and progress, deciding unfortunately that it was untenable to continue onto Munich amd Salzburg as I had planned, and that I needed to push on east to Vienna as soon as possible. The following blog post will cover that fast and wonderful dash east, and back to the Danube, then on through Austria… For now however I have a city to see!