That was roughly the message my friend Soma Youm sent me on one summer day this year. I was just on my mountain bike and I didn’t have time to read it thoroughly on the display. A three-day trip sounded as a good idea to me. Soma’s a pretty Korean girl and an expert cyclist who has done more than 8000km on her road bike so far this year, which should have warned me a little bit. She’s really strong. Despite lacking additional information about the trip I agreed to join her.
Later that day I found out what was really going on – Soma’s plan was doing the famous Danube tour. The route itself belongs among the most appreciated and the most beautiful cycling tours in Europe. The dedicated cycle path runs from Passau in Bavaria and continues through Austria to Vienna through the amazing Danube valley. The road is lined by vineyards and historical castles. Everyone who’s ever watched the movie about the Austrian princess Sissi must have known that this must be an utterly cycle- romantic experience!
Some people, including my friend Soma, extend the journey by additional stage to the Slovak capital Bratislava, which makes the length of a whole trip exactly 400km. Cycling websites usually recommend dividing the tour to Vienna into 7 days. However, Soma decided to ride from Passau to Bratislava in two and half days only.
“Look at the profile, mostly it’s on flat or even declining,” Soma replied to my hesitation. I believed that turning down my original decision would make me a cycling coward in her eyes. So I said “yes” one more time and I bought the train tickets and booked the accommodation for two nights. To be honest, I only exceptionally refuse to take part in any adventure, regardless of how crazy it looks. So, I was in.
At this moment I should say, that I’ve never travelled by bike for more than one single day. Staying in the saddle for three days made me thinking where the hell should I put my belongings, along with my cell phone and credit cards. We wanted to take as few things as possible and the idea was to ride without any heavy racks.
While Soma managed to order her Apidura handlebar and seat post bags from the UK, I jumped into the running train too late and didn’t have enough time to manage the delivery. With the help of my friends from the Festka bicycle company in Prague I got the seat post bag made by a small Czech company Ever Bike (www.everbike.com), and it would accommodate up to 8 litres of my gear. On Thursday night I spread all my stuff on the floor of my flat with an intention to pick out just the basics – there were the street shoes, two t-shirts, shorts, two boxers, a rain jacket, a compact camera, a bike lock, and two pairs of socks. That was it – no room to pack my favourite books for my cycling holidays.
Friday afternoon we got off the train at the station in Passau with a simple plan to manage the first 100-km stage to Linz before dusk. “Good for warming up,” Soma said. Unfortunately, we started with water pouring from the sky. After two minutes we were totally soaked and at least we didn’t have to care about the wetness anymore. The whole way to Linz was like riding a cycling trainer in a car wash without a chance to even take the camera out of the bag to make some photos.
I was really glad that the trip was originally her idea. Any girl in the world, which I would have taken with me onto this ride in such conditions, would scream the brain out of my head.
Still, as it was not that cold, we really enjoyed the ride and crossed the river Danube a couple of times to get on the German bank and then back again. At least there were almost no other cyclists on the path and we could go really fast and arrived to Linz even before 6 PM.
The day after was much harder. The rain was over but in the morning chill we knew there was no other choice than making the 240km trip to the hotel in Vienna. When I started with road cycling in the beginning of this year 100km was a benchmark for me, but this really seemed insane. We decided to do a break every 60 kilometres to have a short rest and regain some energy. Due to the tail wind we were rolling with an average travelling speed around 28 km/h.
The scenery was stunning and the local food made us happy. However, I must admit that the last one hundred kilometres were more than tough for me. Both of my knees, buttock, Achilles tendons and even my arms were in a hell of a pain. Luckily, the surface of the cycle path was really smooth and a joy to ride. As we got closer to Vienna more and more bistros, bars, cafés, and buffets appeared along the road. We passed cycling families with small kids who enjoyed their outdoor holidays. Tired but happy, we came to Vienna at about 7:30 PM after the 240km ride. In the beginning, I wouldn’t have believed I could do it. Now we’re planning Prague – Dresden, which is only 170km.