In Ireland, we are all terribly sophisticated now, but that used not always be the case. Indeed, I remember pre-sophisticated days vividly. We only had the single television station and that ended for the night around 11pm with the playing of the national anthem. Dinner, which we eat at midday, consisted of meat and too veg. Then an American college friend of my brother came to stay for the weekend, and he cooked us the most exotic dish we had ever eaten – spaghetti bolognese! The kids still crack up when I tell that story, but it is true.
That is a long-winded way of telling that anytime I find myself staying where there are vineyards outside the bedroom window, I still get that flutter of excitement of being somewhere exotic. Grapes, paths lined with cherry and walnut trees, and apricots, apricots of all thing, growing in the fields; Wow! This is the scene I woke up to, and the first part of my morning’s cycle brought me through this beautiful vineyard country. A couple of the more picturesque villages were stopping off points for cruise ships, so I had to weave my way through crowds on occasions.
The cycle as I got closer to Vienna took me along dykes and over dams, criss-crossing the river. I rested for a while, looking across the river- is there a name for the syndrome of always wanting to be on the other side of the river, I wondered? Seated by the river I saw an otter come into view, swimming just out from the shore. That’s nice to see, I thought to myself before suddenly realising that wasn’t an otter but a real live beaver just swimming along minding its own business. I must have moved suddenly with the excitement for it dived and disappeared. I remained there for quite sometime scanning the river for another sighting, but it was gone.
Another thing I noticed is that the Austrians have a big problem with invasive species. Everywhere along the river is infested with Japanese Knotweed, and in parts, giant knotweed and Himalayan balsam. But rather than doing anything about it, they seem to just cut it vigorously where it grows onto the grass strips, taking no care whatsoever with the cuttings. Already there are extensive stretches where access to the river is hindered by these invasives and it can only get worse unless serios action is taken.
I approached Vienna late afternoon with the cycly track getting busier with cyclists, joggers and roller bladers.The intention was to try to get to the far side of Vienna for the evening. I approached the city in an unusual way, coming in along the waterway, then following a metro line before arriving in very heavily graffitied urban scene. I got the sense that many of those around me may not have been entirely happy with their lot in life. The cycle path took me through the heart of the city, past bars where punters were engrossed in the Germany v Mexico football match, under balconies with fine diners, and across the river from revellers sipping cocktails and eating icecream. I felt a bit like a sewer rat, close but passing unseen.
Getting to my campsite east of Vienna proved a bit challenging as I took a couple of wrong turns bringing me where I didn’t want to be. That’s the problem with big rivers, there are islands and canals, and islands, all of which have to be navigated. At one stage, tired and really wanting to finish up for the day, a woman wearing a skimpy miniskirt and little else stepped onto the path and asked ‘ Did I want a good time?’. Now as there was no earthly way she was going produce a wiener schnitzel and a cool beer from that outfit, I kept on going.
Arrived to the campsite on edge of the Donau Auen National Park, where I did get my beer and wiener schnitzel; two beers in fact.
Managed to cover 139km for the day.