On day thirteen, a Tuesday by happenstance, I pushed on hard out east – covering 165km. To begin with the scenery remained one of rolling hop country, with miles upon miles of the ubiquitous frameworks, before slowly flattening out towards Landshut. I honestly can’t tell you much about the city, as I barrelled straight along through it and onto the east bank or the river Isar. The cycle path along the Isar slowly deteriorated into a gravel road, then trackway, to trampled grass, and at one point a short stretch of muddy twisting footpath, before returning to good old tarmac. All the while the Isar ebbed and swelled, ran, and walked, through a series of damns and runoffs. The flat riverine setting I followed allowed me to, depsite some questionable surfacing, cover ground quickly – a taste of the Danube ahead. Before Landau an der Isar I kipped, drifting off to the sonorous belches of mating frogs and the hollow-wood calls of cuckoos.
Landau an der Isar was nice, from what I could tell, as I climbed steeply up through its centre, via a bakery (of course). Then into more flat unremarkable farmland. The hot sun, and the day before’s milage was taking its toll on my behind by this point, exacerbated, I figured, by the moist spungyness of my cycling shorts; so I conducted a not so subtle change behind a bush and pushed on, sans cycle shorts. For the last four days I have hence dispenced with the seat softening ways in favour of superior whicking and ventilation, without sorrow.
With my rear in gear, I trundled on, down the Vils river valley, nearly hitting a slowworm and a grass snake within thirty minutes of one and other, and into Vilshofen an der Donau – a characterful town alongside the Danube. A tourist information board suggested I tried a beer at a pub on the main street which I did, with slight worry in lieu of how my last midday beer affected my cycling. The half-pint I sensibly ordered turned out to be a pint, but nonetheless it passed with ease. Being at last on the Danube I resolved to push on until I reached Austria, and then I would camp.
The Danube unfurled with majesty as I rode on, along good paved cycle paths, with sections of limestone cliffs occasionally festooned with a castle or two. At Passau, a pretty, Mediterranean-feeling, city near the Germany-Austrian border, I stopped to buy camping gas (having ran out the night before, and eaten nuts and cheese for dinner), then pushed those last few kilometres past the border (which I completely missed as it wasn’t marked). I paddled, sunbathed, and finally bivvied, on a small gravel beach beside the river – just past a little settlement called Jochenstein.
The following day followed much the same, unraveling the sultry curves of the Danube, with a good steady pace and a smile on my face. After an early morning ferry crossing, the route curved around hard and out southeastwards, opening out after 50km and flattening to become somewhat less inspiring. 20km before Linz however, the landscape temporarily regained some of its allure, with the city of Linz itself featuring a range of impressive boroque churches, a striking cathedral, and, at the time, a wine festival celebrating Austria’s wine areas (I did not indulge however). Continuing on, at times in every direction imaginable as the cycle path detoured around dam works and field systems, I crossed the river again by ferry at Mauthausen. A few kilometres east the Danube sweapt northeastwards, with the horizon closing in again as the sides steepened, with rocky outcrops begging to be explored. Becoming slightly desperate for a decent bivvy spot I eventually pushed my bike off the road at a horrendously steep foresters track just past Weins, and bivvied in a flat-ish area in the woods.
From Weins I ambled on, through wending wine country, and on, via a nice town called Melk, towards Vienna. The day became challenging as I passed Krems and pushed towards Tulln – a ride which should have been easy but was exacerbated by a strong headwind, with frustrating gusts, strong sun, and another near collision with a snake. From Tulln I crossed to the north side of the river and camped about a 2 hours cycle from Vienna. That night I slept poorly, as gusts attempted to flatten the tent against my face, and awoke early to peddle, with a renewed vigour courtesy of a shift in the wind to the northwest, into Vienna – arriving just in time for breakfast.