We had two options to start our bike ride at Grein. One was to retrace our path and cross the river on a bridge about 1km back. The other was to take the ferry from Grein. We opted for the latter and, in order to ensure we were in good time to see the Abbey in Melk approx 51km away, we were at the ferry station before 8am and swiftly across.
This part of the Danube, known as the Strudegau, is the most dangerous for shipping. It is narrow and fast flowing and in years gone by was the site of many disasters. Grein was renowned as the place where the reliable boatmen lived who would pilot the boats safely through these waters. This was the main source of the town’s wealth.
It was another sunny, hot day and we were grateful for the shade we were granted by the trees on the route. At Donaudorf we temporarily lost the cycle path but soon found it again just opposite Persenbeug with its very attractive castle.
Soon after we passed through Ybbs where the river starts a 180 degree turn. Our journey through Ybbs started off along pretty cobbled streets with attractive wall paintings but ended up through an ugly shopping area and alongside a busy road until we crossed the River Ybbs and set off again down a quiet cycleway. A short while later we had a good view of Maria Taferl church across the Danube.
We were well over half way on our days’ cycling now and shortly we stopped for lunch just after we passed the Melk hydroelectric power station. We passed the docking zone for the ships; there were already a couple there, disgorging tourists from air0conditioned tour ships onto air-conditioned buses and probably ferrying them up to the Abbey. Smuggly, I rode past with a brief tinkle on my bell. The 51km had taken us about 5 hours so we had plenty of time to take in Melk Abbey. Our route into Melk was a bit of a mess. Extensive road works were underway with noise and dust everywhere. However, the main town pedestrian area was quieter and we were able to walk our bikes up to the bottom of the steps leading up to the abbey.
We carefully locked our bikes together in a large group of others and climbed up the hill. It was very hot but the climb was worthwhile.
The Abbey was sumptuosuly impressive and I wondered what kind of life the monks must have lead in comparison with the populace. We joined a tour and marvelled at the the wealth and grandeur on display. We took loads of pictures and I hope these few give some impression
The Abbey was crowded with many parties with their tour guides, so we had to squeeze our way through the crowds. But the intricacy of the paintings. the library collection and the presence of gilt throughout left quite an impression. After the Abbey we took a quick tour around the gardens
then walked back to retrieve our bikes, take a leisurely beer in the shade by the river then pass our bikes on to the ship’s crew before a quick shower and coffee and cake (sponge with chocolate and jam).
The ship left its mooring for Tulln around 6pm, just after our briefing meeting. The journey took us through the Wachau, one of the most scenic of the whole week, and one we would be repeating by bike on our way back. In order that we could fully appreciate the views, dinner was put back to 7.30pm and the sun deck was fully utilised by beer- and wine-supping observers.
During this cruise we were buzzed by a speed boat just visible in this picture of Durnstein church.
I do not know if this boat was significant but just before dinner it became apparent that our ship had been boarded by ‘pirates’. Well, actually, the crew had adopted their alter egos and become surly and careless with eye patches, strange hats, attitude and accents. Our dinner tables were not laid, cutlery was in a pile in the centre and napkins screwed up and, later, we discovered our cabins had been strewn with toilet paper strewn everywhere.
The ship docked in Tulln ahead of schedule I was told, but I was sound asleep!