Day 41 Friday – Györ to Esztergom

And today we cycled 93 km from Györ to Esztergom.

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 08.00.00

Today I was reminded that I do things the wrong way round in cycling,

And maybe in life.

On Monday I moaned about the headwind but never mentioned that we had no trucks to contend with. I moaned about the weather forecast but never praised the hot wifi. So today before I mention any negative, I’ll first mention the positives. And although today is our second last day, I’ll try and learn this lesson for life!

Today we had no wind, no hills, no bad surfaces, no rain. Now that I’ve mentioned pluses, can I moan just a tiny bit?

Today I looked at my phone in the afternoon and considered how far it would be to walk to Esztergom – 5 hours 24 minutes. I thought seriously about it. I also wondered if there was a bus service between the middle of nowhere and Esztergom.

Yes today Véloroute 6 very much fell down on the job. For about 30 km we shared a narrow road with absolutely no margin with many, big trucks and buses and cars. I felt I was taking my life in my hands cycling beside these monsters, (monsters when you’re looking up from two wheels.) Big trucks whooooose past and I’ve to stay steady on the bike, not to allow the length and whooooose cause me to topple. Yes it’s Friday and the road is ultra-busy.

For about 25 km before and after lunch we cycled like this and then suddenly a cycle route magically appeared in front of us. Yiiiiippppeeeeeee!

But the Gods must have felt I didn’t thank them enough because after another few kilometres it suddenly disappeared again. At this stage I was only begging for a dirt track to appear as a Véloroute, just to be separated from the traffic. By the time we arrived into Esztergom, a proper cycle route hadn’t yet reappeared. By the time we arrived into Esztergom, I was utterly exhausted from all the concentrating. By the time we arrived into Esztergom, I realised if this was a typical day’s cycling on Véloroute 6, I would have given up long ago.

And then my second (very minor by comparison) woe, after a great run of hot wifi, tonight’s was freezing cold.

Life lesson – never take any positives for granted.

Some photos from the day

In all the countries we passed through, I wondered what must people who live in quiet areas think of all the cyclists passing their front doors – Here the Véloroute passing these Hungarian houses.


In Neszmély we enquired re lunch in what looked like a restaurant but it only served coffee/drinks. We briefly cIMG_5877hatted with a Hungarian customer who spoke good English, he recommended a restaurant further down the street. As we got back on our bikes he came out and said make sure you have the Tárkonyos vadraguleves soup. He typed it into my phone. We found the restaurant and both ordered the soup – it was  a spicy tarragon soup full of vegetables and some meat. We weren’t really sure what we were really eating and it doesn’t look great, but trust me, it tasted gorgeous.

A World War I memorial in Nyergesújfalu with the inscription Pro Patria.IMG_5885 (1)

The words of Wilfred Owen’s poem come to mind; Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori – it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country. As we saw in France, in Germany and now in Hungary, the young men were all dying – just for different countries. Senseless!



Small detail, I’ve noticed in a few toilets in rural Hungary – that there’s no cisterns, just a tap that one turns 90 deg. So you just basically turn on and off the tap.



I’m also noticed on our cycling so far in Hungary that we’re meeting farmland but very little, if any industry, though we did pass two big cement works.

Denis has always been very interested in the Tour de France so following it has become his new relaxation, when we get in from our cycle, (that’s before he goes for his run). Dan Martin, (nephew of Stephen Roche a previous Irish Tour winner), is doing very well, he’s in sixth position after today’s stage. He’s writing a tour diary in the Irish Times, here is his latest account.

Below are this year’s Tour de France stages.

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On the Tour, they cycle 3,500 km with severe mountain stages and at incredible speeds over three weeks. By the time we finish tomorrow, we’ll have cycled 3,000 km in six weeks with some hills, but at leisure, taking lots of photographs as we cycle.

The Tour de France is some grind! Well they have youth on their side 🙂

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Day 40 Thursday – Györ

We have been visiting Hungary for over twenty years, mostly to Budapest. Our connection with Budapest started when Tommy aged one and a half first went to the Peto Institute for treatment. That started our relationship with Conductive Education and later with Szilvia, a Peto Institute conductor, (A practitioner of Conductive Education, trained at the Peto Institute, is known as a Conductor). Szilvia is still a great friend of the family and we will meet her shortly in Budapest.

The whole family drove overland to Budapest for that first visit in February 1996 and we stayed for three weeks. A few years later we again drove to Budapest for Szilvia’s wedding, this time with our caravan and we stayed at a great campsite outside Budapest. On that visit, we also travelled down to south Hungary to visit Szilvia’s family.

Later Denis developed business interests in Budapest and he has been coming regularly since. We have made great friends in Budapest and the family have often often visited Budapest with Denis.

It goes without saying that this is the first time we have come to Budapest on bikes and it is our first time seeing the western side of the country.

Well it was just as well we took the rest day today. I’d seen the wind symbol on the weather app and boy was this morning windy! Had we been cycling today we would have been cycling right into it. Thankfully it will have died down by tomorrow. Oh, but that’s according to the weather forecast and my faith in forecasts has been a little dented of late. We shall see. We shall hope!

I’ll get this out early. Though Györ is another beautiful medieval city, I won’t test its wifi, nor you, the reader, by uploading lots of pictures. In the spirit of An rud is annamh is iontach, (What’s rare is wonderful) I’ll only mention the rare 🙂

The tourist office had a very good self-directed walking tour of the old city and using it, I saw many of the main sights. Trust me, Györ has some lovely old buildings, its castle, its Cathedral, plenty of monuments … Once again the old part of the city was pedestrianised, with a number of big open plazas. Lovely weather meant lots of people eating outdoors. It did not seem over-touristy. Györ seems to have done a great job of combining new and old. I’ve allowed myself to mention just three Györ sights

Firstly, the Cathedral was undergoing renovation so I couldn’t go in but my notes said – Its northern aisle features the Weeping Madonna painting, which was rescued from Ireland in 1655. On 17th March 1697, St Patrick’s Day, the painting wept blood. I later researched the painting and found an interesting back story here on the Donnycarney church website. Apparently during Cromwellian times, when Catholic bishops were being persecuted and exiled to Europe, a bishop took it with him and on his death he bequeathed it to Györ Cathedral. IMG_5561

I enquired and found that the painting was being stored nearby while restoration is underway. I went and the security guard took me over to see it. He allowed me take a photo without flash.IMG_5640

My second Györ sight is the Benedictine buildings, built by the Jesuits in the 17th century, which line one side of Széchenyi square a lovely open square where we had lunch.IMG_5656.jpgThe Church is situated between the school (left of church) and the monastery (on the right). The church is in baroque style.  Within the walls of the monastery is a Pharmacy, also decorated in baroque style, and still a fully-functioning pharmacy! It was the pharmacy that I found fascinating.

The beautiful ceiling of the pharmacyIMG_5620

When no one was there the pharmacist showed me around. The beautiful wooden drawers behind were still in use to store medicines being dispensed. Look at how the drawer sizes decrease, the higher they go on the wall. The drawer mechanism was just so beautifully smooth.

An old water dispenser in the middle of the shop.IMG_5665

Display cabinets for old pharmacy artefacts and a chair in the ‘museum’, a little room beside the pharmacy. The whole thing is a fabulous living museum!




Apparently the silver gastric stapler on the left was a local invention.







My final sight from Györ is this Pulse sculpture which allows one to see the entire city panorama on each side.Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 16.04.23


Györ has plenty of nice restaurants. We had a lovely dinner both nights in the same restaurant – here are photos of one. Foie gras is very popular in Hungary. The other starter was beautifully flavoured sliced courgette.IMG_5490

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Mangalica pork for himself. (The Mangalica is a Hungarian breed of pig.)











And lamb for herself









And lovely ice-creams to finish on our way home.


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Day 39 Wednesday – Bratislava to Györ

80 km today from …

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A few thoughts before I finally put Bratislava to bed. The number of Japanese tourists in Bratislava was very noticeable – at our hotel and generally around the city. Yes the internet was available everywhere and very fast.

Food in Bratislava was excellent. Generally I dislike restaurant picture food – where restaurants have menus that include photographs of the dishes. Here in Bratislava it was very common in their good restaurants. I thought about it. Given Slovak is the language spoken, and most tourists don’t speak that language, photographs help understanding. We met some Slovakians here in the capital who spoke English but not everyone. Below are photographs of the gorgeous food we had for dinner last night. (Maybe, I should have taken photographs of the picture fooded menu!)


Back to today’s trip! Today’s cycle was one of the flattest to date. We had an elevation gain of only 224 metres – you’d nearly get that going up the stairs a few times in the day!

No hills, no head-wind, no heat, no rain, generally good surface, (more on that shortly). Generally a no filled day!

Today’s cycle had many long straight stretches which can be somewhat less interesting but good for getting kilometres covered fast. IMG_5888

We crossed the border from Slovakia to Hungary early on in the cycle.

We had a funny incident at one stage where we lost the Véloroute signs. Denis took out Google Maps to continue navigating. Google Maps sees headlands in fields/pathways through fields as cycle-able – so we were suddenly reduced to those. IMG_5479IMG_5480

Early on in this detour we met an English family who were in doubt like us. Denis spoke confidently that it was possible to get back to the Véloroute through the fields. They followed for a little but then I noticed that they had turned back, their English sensibilities wouldn’t allow them brave it on. Our Irish adventurous spirit kept us going. The “cycle path” at some points was so potholed that we had to keep looking down to avoid flying out over the handle-bars. At one stage I looked up and there I was in the middle of fields with no sign of the Navigator ahead. Given how remote it was I doubted that I would have signal and even if I did would the Navigator hear his phone, (he often has it on silent.) I was lucky, neither fear was realised. I got through to him – he had assumed I was following as he took a right turn.

After about five kilometres of cross-country, (seemed like much longer but let’s not exaggerate here),  we arrived back on the Véloroute! The navigator deserved to feel slightly smug 🙂

Rajka, one of the early Hungarian villages we came throughScreen Shot 2017-07-13 at 10.01.44

Windmills in the distanceIMG_5875

We arrived into Györ, our stop for the night. Again we had booked a hotel in the old part of the city.IMG_5889 IMG_5890IMG_5893IMG_5895I was amazed how beautiful Györ is, I had no idea. Györ is roughly halfway between Vienna and Budapest. Given that it is situated on the Danube once again this was a very important factor in its development. It has a population of 130,000 and is the sixth most important city in Hungary.

In true Eagles style we are now relaxing and taking it easy on the final part into Budapest, though I’m not sure about the next line –

Take it easy, take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy

We will spend tomorrow in Györ and cycle on from there the following day.



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Day 38 Tuesday – A day in Bratislava

Today was a wonderful day in Bratislava. At the weekend I was delighted to spend time in Vienna and get to know it better but I already had a feel for that city having been there briefly a few times. Bratislava and Slovakia were a whole different ball game for me – totally new and I didn’t know what to expect.

As you can see from the map, like a lot of central European countries Slovakia is totally landlocked, with borders with five countries; Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary. Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 20.16.11I always imagine these countries like a group of children elbowing each other – borders going back and forward over the years.

Slovakia is a very mountainous country and has ski resorts. It also has lots of caves, apparently more than 2,000.

The population of Slovakia is the same as Ireland, about 5 million and comprises mostly ethnic Slovaks. Slovak is the language spoken. I made great use of google translate when getting my hair cut this morning.

I did a quick revision of Slovakia’s history for myself and here are some important dates/events:

  • From the 11th century, what is now modern day Slovakia was incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary, until 1918, when the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed.
  • The 18th century was a period of great prosperity for Bratislava as the most important town in the Hungarian Kingdom. Maria Theresa reigned from 1740 – 1780.
  • In 1918, during the chaos following the break-up of Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia was formed. In 1919 Bratislava joined Czechoslovakia.
  • In 1939 Bratislava became the capital of the Nazi satellite Slovak state
  • After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reconstituted
  • 1947-48 the Communist era began
  • 1989 the Velvet Revolution contributes to fall of communism
  • 1993 Bratislava becomes the capital of newly-established Slovak Republic. (The full and official designation for Slovakia is the Slovak Republic and hence both terms refer to the same nation-state)
  • 2004 Slovakia joins EU
  • 2009 Slovakia joins Eurozone

I hadn’t realised that Slovakia is a high-income advanced economy with a very high standard of living and performs very favourably in measurements of civil liberties, press freedom, internet freedom, democratic governance and peacefulness. Slovakians have universal health care, free education – I checked and third-level is free, no fees. Though after 26 one has to pay fees because people were becoming eternal students! Slovakia has one of the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD – I asked the guy cutting my hair this morning how long paid maternity leave is here – it’s 3 years with decreasing percentage of your salary.

According to the World Economic Forum, (February 2016),  Slovakia was the 7th fastest growing European economy at 3.2%, (behind Ireland in 1st position at 4.5%). 90% of citizens own their own home.

Interestingly Slovakia is the world’s largest per-capita car producer and the car industry represents 43% of Slovakia’s industrial output and a quarter of its exports. I checked up and brands manufactured here include Volkswagen, Skoda, SEAT, Audi, Porche, Peugeot, Citroen, Kia. A lot!

Bratislava has lots of medieval towers, palaces and grand 20th-century buildings. Apparently it has the world’s highest per capital number of castles and chateau – what a boast! It underwent a construction boom since 2000. Now, it’s beginning to sound a bit like Ireland!

The old town of Bratislava is really interesting, it’s totally pedestrianised, full of cafés and lots of young people. With the beautiful weather and people sitting outside, it had a lovely feel.Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 20.03.41

I took a walking tour of the old city. Uploading these photos was fast – their wifi is hot!

Primatial’s Palace on Primatial Square. (They use the term palace for any big, significant house.) During reconstruction of this palace in the early 20th century, six important, very valuable tapestries from London were found behind the wallpaper! 

One side of the old Town Hall, I love the coloured roof

A medieval well uncovered in the seventies.

Main (and Primatial) Square served as a market place.

Note the detail on both sides of the entrance shown in the two photos below – on the extreme left is a knife – knifes weren’t allowed to be longer than than this one, otherwise they were weapons. On both sides of the entrance are length measures.

A mark on the wall showing the Danube water level in 1850.Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 21.29.56

The other side of the Town Hall, (see earlier photograph) on Main Square. It’s interesting the different styles side by side in this building built in different periods.

A protestant church beside the Town Hall, (Note no steeple. The steeple to the right is on a building in the background.)

A modern statue of Napoleon

Behind the fountain, a building in the Secessionist style. (There are a few more buildings in this style in the city.)

Like Vienna, Bratislava had a rich music tradition. (I forgot to cover that in my Vienna post!) Plaques showing buildings with connections with Mozart and Lizst. Beethoven was a music teacher for a girl who lived in the corner house below.

A glimpse of Bratislava Castle in the distance. (There is also another castle – Devin Castle about 10km from Bratislava.)IMG_5431

Michael’s Gate, (a northern gate), is the only gate that has been preserved from the medieval fortifications and it ranks among the oldest of the town’s buildings.IMG_5427

The places where the other three gates were are marked by a suspended gate and bronze plaques in the ground.IMG_5458

This building housed a pharmacy. (I was so near it, I couldn’t get a shot of the full building.) IMG_5440

Note the signs on the pharmacy building in three languages, the languages in order Hungarian, Slovakian and German. Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 18.07.29.pngApparently until the mid 20th century, many people spoke all three languages. When we were doing up our house in Sligo, the builder had two great guys working for him – a Pole and a Slovak. Though neither spoke the other’s language they could understand each other and had worked out a common language which they spoke together.

St Martin’s Cathedral under renovation. This was the city’s most important Cathedral as it was where coronations took place when Bratislava was the capital of Hungary.IMG_5439

The bronze plaques mark the procession after a coronation – there are about 200 of these  in the city.

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A memorial to the Jews who died during the HolocaustIMG_5446

Some old walls visible near the former Jewish Quarter.  The Jewish Quarter was largely destroyed in communist times for the building of a road in the city.IMG_5444

A large open air chess board with a plaque in the centre to Wolfgang Kempelelen (1734 – 1804), the Slovak author and inventor, known for his chess-playing “automaton” also called Mechanical Turk or The Turk. It was later found to be a hoax – there was a chess player hiding inside the machine.  But that was long after it had beaten many famous people.IMG_5450

It was no surprise that Bratislava developed as an important city. Located on the Danube, it was also on important ancient trade routes – the Amber road and the Danubian road, part of the Silk Road.

I was chatting with our lovely guide afterwards, she remembered the Communist era with the quintessential description – grey. She remembered people behaving in a hypocritical manner, afraid to speak their opinions too loudly. She remembered that the borders opened for a few months in 1968 and people left but couldn’t re-enter after they quickly closed again.

Finally, a note important subject of food. Food in Bratislava was gorgeous for example we had a lovely mezze lunch.IMG_5379

Ice cream parlours abound with sometimes long queues and the ice-cream is divine.IMG_5370.jpg

I’m off to get ice-cream!

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Day 37 Monday – Back on the bikes – To Bratislava and beyond

I was reading up on Bratislava, a city about which I knew very little. It has a population of 450,000. Apart of course from general interest, the population of a place is important for us cyclists – the bigger the place the more one has to cycle from seeing the first sign for our destination for the night to our hotel as we generally book hotels in the old, more interesting section. Vienna totally took the biscuit in this regard but then it was by far the biggest city we have stayed in on this trip.

Interestingly –  In 2017, Bratislava was ranked as the third richest region of the European Union by GDP per capita (after Hamburg and Luxembourg City). I did not know that.

They must have known I was coming – Slovakia is the eighth best city for freelancers to live in, mostly because of fast internet and the low taxes. Slovakia should know a thing or two about hot wifi!

Anyway, today we cycled 74 km from Vienna to Bratislava. Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 18.34.42It was mostly a flat and once we were out of Vienna, for the first time I’m going to say initially it was an uninteresting cycle – there were long stretches of straight road with very little of interest on my cinema screen. IMG_5765In the afternoon there was a head wind – it tried its best to keep us out of Bratislava for as long as possible but we persevered!

This morning when I woke up early, going against recent form, I checked the weather app on my phone. It showed the lightning and rain symbol in Vienna until 10 o’clock. Denis woke and I said to him that he should take the opportunity for a lie-in, we hadn’t a big cycle planned, so there was no pressure on us to set off. I’m a morning person  so got up, went to breakfast and finished uploading the one million and fifty photos from our weekend in Vienna 🙂

I watched the weather as I worked. Not a drop of rain. Not a flash of lightning. Not a clap of thunder – to look or not to look at the forecast, that is my dilemma!

At 10 o’clock we set off. My late mother, always a very hard worker, used to say that she hated a day getting away on her! I thought of her this morning. It was slightly frustrating. What with waiting out the bad weather that never materialised plus it took us a long time to get from our hotel in Vienna back onto the Véloroute. But none of it mattered.

With our 100ish km days cycling we had gotten into a rhythm of start at 7.30am, cycle roughly 30 km before morning coffee break, a further 30 km before lunch, 20 km before afternoon break, and finally 20 km to destination. This morning we felt out of our usually rhythm but our cycle was shorter so it was fine.

Some photos from the day

Cleaning the windows at our hotel as we left:

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We crossed this bridge over the DanubeIMG_5284

And this is how we lost the heightIMG_5281IMG_5285

I took this photo of leaves already beginning to turnIMG_5296

The Véloroute for a while this morning passed through quite an industrialed area.IMG_5758

Spotted at our very late lunch stop – what to do with your old, rusty bikesIMG_5300

This is the first time we have seen a blue Danube, up to now it has been green. I need to check out why.IMG_5782

Hainburg an der Donau with its nice old buildings

Heads bowed in respect!IMG_5317

We saw Bratislava up on a hill from a good few kilometres out. IMG_5796Bratislava Castle is very prominent over the city, apologies for picture quality, taken while cycling!IMG_5823

We passed this former customs point, now with weeds growing – a remnant of Iron Curtain days and finally made redundant when Slovakia joined the EU.IMG_5805

Though not as bad as with Vienna, this evening was another case of long cycle from first seeing destination to actually reaching hotel. It’s like the saying The darkest hour is just before dawn. 

Walking to dinner Denis made the suggestion – given we knew very little of Bratislava/Slovakia why not stay here tomorrow, I immediately jumped at the idea. No marks for guessing the title of tomorrow’s post – A day in …

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Days 35 and 36 Saturday and Sunday – Weekend in Vienna

We had a great weekend in Vienna. I’d been to Vienna before but had never spent much time in the city, it was nice to get a chance to see a bit more of it. Vienna is big – 1.8 million live in the city itself.  The city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 and one can see why – it really is so beautiful – there are just so many beautiful buildings – I was wondering to myself how long would you have to stay here to feel you had really seen Vienna…

I like buildings so first up a health warning – there are lots of pictures of beautiful buildings in this post, (but only a drop in the ocean of the number of beautiful buildings in Vienna.)

And a comment on our hotel. Our friends had arrived into Vienna before us so we stayed in the same hotel. Their comment was that it was dinky and it really was. Many hotels have a sameness feel to them but this one had carved out a unique identity and one could feel a difference. The building was a former shopping centre and included many reminders of its former life – the props in the breakfast area were very fitting for a classy tailor!

The hotel included a movie lounge, yoga area, music instruments… A small point that I thought imminently sensible – an ironing station set up on a corridor – no more fighting with that ironing board stuck away in the back of a wardrobe, (not that we are doing much ironing on this trip!) I loved their healthy breakfast, free use of a marker, plants in the dark at reception.


On Saturday we first took a bus tour around the city and then walked between various sights. First up the gothic St Stephen’s Cathedral.

The Museum of history of the Arts

Vienna is well know for its cafés

The Ring tower

Fun toilets in a café – when you go in first there’s clear glass on the door and between each cubicle but the glass goes opaque when you lock the cubicle door – but you don’t know that until you go in. Everyone who came in the bathroom area was initially very taken aback – I never saw so much chat going on between people in a bathroom! (The figure in the pictures is just the reflection of the photographer.)

Back to classical buildings! The Vienna State Opera houseIMG_5100.jpg

Schmetterlingshaus – Palm house and Butterfly house on the left. We had lunch in Palm house during heavy rain. Unfortunately I didn’t take any good photos of the interior. Again there was thunder and lightning with the rain.IMG_5105

The Hofburg, Vienna’s former Imperial palace  is a big complex of buildings. Once home to the emperors, the medieval castle was enlarged gradually up until 1918, and as the power of the Hapsburgs grew, successive emperors added buildings in contemporary styles. Today the Hofburg houses the offices of the Austrian president, an international convention centre and much more.


A conference underway.Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 08.19.01





The Theseus Temple is located in Volksgarten Park near the centre and was built between 1819 and 1823. It was intended to be the home for a single work – Canova’s Theseus Slaying the Centaur which, seventy years later, was transferred to one of Vienna’s museums. IMG_5120

Since 2012 exhibitions of single pieces now take place in the temple. This year it’s a work of a Californian sculptor, Kathleen Ryan.IMG_5122

Volksgarten, a park near the centre, beautiful rose gardens with over 3,000 rose bushes of more than 200 different roses.


(Including a photo of another rose!)

The Neo-Gothic Town hall (Rathaus)IMG_5128

Parliament building was designed in Greek style. Two broad ramps are lined by statues of Greek philosophers leading to the main entrance. Here the first republic of Austria was declared in 1918. 

My only wish was that there weren’t as many power lines!


I’ve included a few photos of the columnated entrance. I checked up on my Corinthian columns – thanks Ms Hayes for your Latin teaching in secondary school – I did like your classes.




The Athena Fountain (Pallas-Athene-Brunnen) in front of the Parliament building. The female statues represent the legislative and executive powers of the state.IMG_5155

And Joseph with two other female powers.IMG_5158

The republic monument, beside Parliament building, recalls the proclamation of the Republic of Austria on 12th November 1918. The monument consists of busts of the three Social Democrats each resting on a pedestal.


The Liebenberg monument is beside the main building of the university.  Liebenberg was mayor of Vienna from 1680 to 1683. Apparently as early as 1679, he acquired great merit in combating a plaque epidemic in the city and then in 1683, his greatest achievement was during the second Turks invasion of Vienna, he supervised the defence and organised an army.IMG_5141

University buildingIMG_5171.jpg

Andrea and Joseph left early Sunday. I planned my Sunday organising a few things in the morning and then sight seeing in the afternoon. The weather and we are becoming very predictable; we don’t bother checking the weather and it serves up a storm each afternoon. I had set off on my sight seeing but a downpour including thunder and lightning sent me home earlier than planned.

I got to see the magnificent Art Nouveau Secession building.IMG_5208

This white, cubic Secession building was built in 1897 and the exhibition hall opened in 1898. Most of the original interior was looted during World War 11. It was renovated in the 1970s. The beautiful dome is made up of gilt laurel leaves. Above the entrance of the pavilion is the motto of the Secessionist movement – in English “To every age its art, to art its freedom”

The mosaic flower pots on either side of the entrance are carried by four turtles.

I had wanted to get to see Hundertwasserhaus apparently an amazing social housing development and Andrea had highly recommended that I go to see the Belvedere, (the latter consisting of two Baroque palaces and much more and is also where Klimt’s The Kiss is exhibited.) Again, I’ll just have to come back!

Our two day break in Vienna was just the R&R we needed after six days cycling. Tomorrow it’s on to Bratislava!

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Day 34 Friday – Storming through a record 84 km before lunch

Friday was a long cycle – 126 km from Melk to Vienna.Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 12.52.13

As normal, we set off early when there’s a long cycle on the cards.

I should have noticed something strange – after yesterday when the Véloroute was crawling with cyclists, today we had it almost to ourselves. I postulated that we were out early thus we might have been ahead of the madding crowd. I postulated that Friday might be a change-over day for those in organised groups. Having finished postulating, I forgot about the no crowd and watched the picture on my Friday cinema screen unfold.

We were now passing many fruit trees; apricots, apples, plums, cherries …IMG_5013.jpg

Today our cycle took us through the Wachau region with its vineyards. Apparently Wachau produces excellent wine.IMG_5020IMG_5693IMG_5700A very pretty small churchIMG_5022.jpg

We met an Australian guy, Peter, cycling Véloroute 6 from its start on the Danube to Budapest. We chatted for a while as we cycled along together. He was camping en route. He wore a cycling top with the line by Cadel Evans “It’s amazing how far two wheels can take you in life”, (Cadel Evans was the Australian professional cyclist who won the Tour de France in 2011.) I was going to use that line as the title for this post but changed my mind with what came later. We were stopping for coffee, Peter had already done so he cycled on.

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When we stopped for our coffee, it started to rain and we thought that was lucky – the rain started just as we could hit indoors. After our coffee break, it was mostly beginning to clear, or so we thought! Lately we hadn’t been bothering to check the forecast because even when the forecast was poor, the actual days turned out pretty fine. Today was to change that pattern!

We were back on our bikes cycling along minding our own business when suddenly the heavens opened and emptied their contents on us. That was’t so bad, it was a warm day, our stuff was safe, including our laptops – our panniers were lined with plastic bags, the contents were in further plastic bags. It was the lightning, accompanied immediately by a thunder clap, (i.e., no time delay), that made us realise we had really offended the Gods – One flash of lightning was like a fighter jet flying just over our heads.

I checked with the engineer and he said we were as or safer cycling as we would be elsewhere outdoors. (We did shelter for a bit but the trees weren’t saving us much so we gave up.) At one stage a river boat passed us and if they saw us I imagined they felt sorry for us. We didn’t feel an ounce of sorrow for ourselves. Once I felt we were safe, I relaxed and actually enjoyed the rain. My rain jacket also relaxed and enjoyed letting in rain.

We didn’t meet too many other cyclists but those we did smiled knowingly at us – we seemed to be sharing a common experience. I then realised – all those other cyclists had the sense to stay in their beds. They knew something we didn’t!

Almost as quick as it had started, the rain cleared, the day brightened and it was as if the storm had never happened. We changed our tops and by lunchtime it was all a memory other than the wet tables and seats in the plaza when we stopped for lunch at Tullin.

And we had stormed through a record 84 km by lunchtime!

In the afternoon, I took this photograph to point out the gaps on the river bank which are kept clear of vegetation to show the 100 metre interval markers.IMG_5027.jpg

These particular two kilometre markers, (distance to the Black sea) are important dates in our lives!

This dog was also (lazily) doing Véloroute 6!

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Approaching Vienna, look at that beautiful sky after the morning we had! (Our phones would have been destroyed if we had tried to take photographs earlier during the downpour.)

As you can imagine with Vienna being a very big city – it was a good distance from first reaching Vienna to getting to our hotel for the night. I was totally exhausted by that last 126th kilometre! IMG_5046

It was so good to meet Andrea and Joseph at the hotel that all exhaustion vanished – we had a lovely dinner and great catch-up.IMG_5048We were looking forward to our two-day break with the friends in Vienna.

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Day 33 Thursday – When origin and destination are four letter words

Linz to Melk was a lovely flat 111 km cycle today with the wind behind us in the afternoon.

I mentioned that St Mary’s Cathedral was just beside our hotel last night – it was just outside our window. Normally I don’t go near my phone at night, (other than than to play radio through earphones), but when I woke during the night, I couldn’t resist taking a photo. Only an exterior shade covered the window, we hadn’t drawn the curtains inside. This was the view at 4.54am.

Wouldn’t you cycle across Europe to wake during the night to this view in Linz?

A little later, morning breaking 

Denis was already gone down to breakfast, I was enthralled by the view from the window in the morning sun, that I found it hard to leave it. I’ve long since parted ways with organised religion but this hymn came to mind:

Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the mighty thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed

Booking the night’s accommodation is a daily job. Whilst we try to do it with care, we don’t spend too much time at it, (we use a lot). We had no idea that we would have such a super view when we quickly booked last night’s hotel.

The bike has three main gears – on hilly days that first gear is needed a lot whilst third gear on flat days. Similarly I’ve three layers of clothes; sleeveless T shirt, cycling top and rain jacket. On hot days, just the sleeveless T shirt is needed but all three layers on cool/wet days. Today was very much a third gear, one layer day!

The Véloroute section that we are now on – Passau to Vienna, is really busy with cyclists mostly travelling in the same direction as us. I’m not surprised as it’s a lovely flat section. I just checked the Véloroute 6 website and yes this is the busiest section. It’s funny there were earlier sections in this trip where we cycled for the day hardly meeting a soul whereas now we need to cycle with care to avoid a cycling accident. Here, we’ve also come across cyclists on organised trips with their luggage being moved between hotels.

We had a funny incident today with a  cyclist. Normally one is cycling along and like with cars, if you approach one from behind and the one in front is going slightly slower, one overtakes. Today we came upon a lone cyclist cycling along with a big backpack and passed him. Two minutes later he passed us. We spoke as we passed but he had no English, we weren’t sure what nationality he was – possibly Hungarian. We cycled on further and came upon him again, (he was immediately recognisable from behind because of the big backpack). We cycled for a good while behind him and then passed him again. Once again he immediately passed us. Further on if Denis and I came up behind him and were talking, he immediately sped up. Denis and I realised what was going on – he didn’t want us passing him, but probably more particularly me. Because we were going at roughly the same speed, we couldn’t shake him off. Eventually we stopped for a break and that was the last we saw of lone cyclist with the big backpack.

Some photographs from the day

Travelling out of Linz this morning we passed a very industrialised area where there appeared to be a lot of emissions from heavy industry. You could smell them in the air.

But back out in the countryside – Courgettes growing

More storks, Like the swans, I can’t resist them

A vessel being piloted up the river. I recently read Uncommon Carriers by John McPhee, a book on freight transportation. In it he describes large groups of barges tied together, being piloted up the Illinois River. Here on the Danube we’ve yet only seen this happening with two vessels.

We’ve had to take ferries a few times over the past few days, first on Tuesday to our accommodation in Schlögen, twice yesterday to bypass a point where the Véloroute was blocked and today where the Véloroute switched from the northern to the southern side of the Danube. The ferries across are

very quick and frequent.

Cycling towards Melk, our stop for the evening. Melk Abbey, a Baroque Benedictine Abbey dominated our view of the town from a long way off. 

Arriving into Melk 

And look what our one minute spent on had for us outside our bedroom window. Whilst last night’s hotel was really nice, tonight’s is nothing extra special, but here’s our view.

Melk, another lovely small medieval town although this one seemed to cater a lot to tourists. To give you an idea with a population of 5,000 Melk has ten hotels. It’s not surprising since the Abbey draws a lot of visitors.

After all the long cycle today, I honestly hadn’t the energy to climb the big hill to visit the Abbey. I’ll just have to come back!

Tomorrow we plan a long cycle to reach Vienna.

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Day 32 Wednesday – Pumpkining up the kilometres

Today we had the most amazing ice creams on the edge of the Danube – Pumpkin Seed Sundaes – the silkiest vanilla ice cream, pumpkin seed brittle, pumpkin seed oil and chocolate sauce.

Ice cream to die for – Or at least to cycle far for!

They seem to have been cooking here for some time, their menu told us –

In 1635 our Landgasthof (county hotel) has been mentioned in a document for the first time as “Wirt an der Brücke” (Inn on the bridge). 

Today was a short, flat 63 km cycle from Schlögen to Linz. I would have said flat but Strava begs to differ with its 658 metres elevation gain. Strava, I honestly didn’t feel it!

The scenery as nearly always was breathtakingly beautiful.

We hadn’t been seeing Lime pollen for a couple of weeks but we saw it again today. It really is like a snow shower as the photo shows. One definitely wouldn’t want to have a pollen allergy cycling through this.

Cycling into Linz, we could see the spire of St Mary’s Cathedral in the distance. Linz was our stop for the night. Linz with a population of just over 200,000 is the third largest cities in Austria, (after Vienna and Graz).

We are getting to be very efficient tourists now. Generally the most interesting parts of these towns and cities are the old section so we try to book a hotel in that part. Tonight’s hotel is right beside St Mary’s Cathedral.

St Mary’s Cathedral is a Catholic Cathedral in Gothic-Revival style. According to Wikipedia With a total height of 134,8 meters, the cathedral is the tallest church in Austria. Constructed in the years of 1862 and 1924, it is fully built of sandstone with unfinished front details.

I’ll allow myself two photos!


It is currently undergoing big renovations so a lot of the interior was blocked off.

Another beautiful cathedral today but a totally different style compared with yesterday’s. We seem to be cycling between cathedrals these days.

Another beautiful sight was the Plague Column built to built to remember the people who died in the plague epidemics. The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia, peaking in Europe in the years 1346–1353.

And finally, Mozarthaus where Mozart composed his Linz Symphony in 1783.

We had a lovely dinner in Linz and home to bed early, planning another longish cycle tomorrow. Good night Linz!


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Day 31 Passing through Passau

Today we cycled 101 km from Deggendorf to Schlögen in Austria and it was a lovely and flat.

We set off with the sky again looking very threatening.

In the past, people looked at the sky for signs of what the weather would be like for the day, today we look at our phones. The weather app on the phone showed lots of cloud but no rain, the sky looked very different – today I wanted to believe my phone.

What a fun archway made out of bottle crates to welcome cyclists, well welcome anyone, into Vilshofen!

I took this photograph just because it shows the very distinctive roof tile colour of the region up close, here put to a different use.

Admiring the Danube at Windorf.

I had promised myself no more swan photos but then I saw this family. (The young seem quite grown up to be at home still.)

Note how big the transporters are in this lock coming into Passau. (They look small in the photograph but the one on the right is a car transporter.) We’re so much more used to smaller vessels in locks. Denis mentioned what must the locks be like on the Panama canal!

And then we come upon the Véloroute suddenly closed to us. Of course we just wheeled the bikes around the side. It’s funny though the Veloroute can sometimes be closed/dug up – there are never any warning nor diversion signs. It seems the powers-that-be don’t have to think ahead of the needs of cyclists as they do for car drivers. Or maybe they think cyclists are an ingenious lot and will work it out themselves!

I hadn’t spotted this until now – a clever way for not having to get off the bike at lights. The lights here include a symbol for cyclists as well as pedestrians, (not shown in photo).

With my little show of non-love for German food yesterday, we has a gorgeous lunch today in Passau in a very modern restaurant in the old city. Modern and old side by side. 

The modern restaurant

And then the old stairs leading downstairs to the toilet area. A newly refurbished but very old building.

After lunch I set off to see the Dom (Cathedral).

Some facts I learned – St Stephen’s Cathedral is a baroque Catholic church. Since 730, there have been many churches built on this site. The current church was built from 1668 to 1693 after a fire destroyed the previous one.

The cathedral has eight large bells in the bell rooms in the two towers. The tower on the left has the date 1074 and the one on the right has 1075 – I liked their precision!

The interior detail was amazing! (I’m being restrained with photographs here, I took many more!)

This Cathedral has the largest organ outside of the US, (Los Angeles). It is also the largest cathedral organ in the world. 

I loved the fact that though the ceiling and walls are very ornate, the floor and seats were very plain. Our focus is kept upwards.

Having walked around the old city for a bit it was back to cycling onwards.

One point I learned about Passau is that due to its location on the German-Austrian border, and in the south-east of the country, it has become a major migrant entry point into Germany.

Passau is also known as the City of Three Rivers because the Danube is joined at Passau by the Inn from the south and the Ilz from the north. Leaving Passau in the direction of Vienna, we saw where the three rivers joined.

Having checked that the three rivers were behaving themselves perfectly, we set off for our destination for the night in Schlögen. Vodafone were quick to remind us that we were crossing the border!

We had to get the ferry across to continue the Veloroute on the other side – about a 2 minute ferry journey.

We had a lovely evening in Schlögen.

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