Last cycling day, and rather more cloud than previously, but still warm. We took our usual early breakfast, made our last packed lunch of the trip and went to our last briefing ready to leap on our bikes for the off. During breakfast, we watched a smallish otter-like creature running up and down on rocks at the side of the river, and diving in, catching and eating a fish. It seemed to be too small for an otter and perhaps was a pine marten; I have checked and they certainly do eat fish, so I am going to guess that is what it was.
We set off on our bikes downstream and soon came to a bridge where we crossed over the Danube and set off in the opposite direction. The bridge was a relic from the second world war. It was built by the advancing Russian army and very substantial it is to, as witnessed by its multitude of rivets and its continued use.
Soon after the bridge we reached the very pretty town/village of Durnstein. Strangely, no cycling was allowed in the narrow village streets but cars were! Anyway, despite being quite early in the day, about 09.30, it was packed with tourists and bijou gift shops. Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner here in 1192. He was released in 1194 after payment of a ransom estimated to be around £2000 million in today’s money.
The day’s ride took us through the Wachau valley, a wine and apricot growing region of some renown. The valley is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its archealogical and agricultural history. It is a truly beautiful area and it was a wonderful day’s cycling to complete our tour, the only downside being that a good deal of the cycle track is beside roads carrying appreciable amounts of traffic. After Durnstein we arrived in Weisskirchen where we had bought into some wine-tasting with family Schneeweiss (Snow white!); the only optional excursion we had subscribed for. This proved a very convivial experience, meeting several of our fellow Rad-reisen colleagues and our tour guide who also managed a glass or two of wine. The wine was exceptionally tasty and quite distinctive and, although we had limited room in our panniers and rucksacks, we left with two bottles.
Later we took our lunch in the shade by a small town hall in, I think, Spitz and then in Aggsbach Markt I took a rest and had a paddle in the Danube. I was joined by a New Zealander and we had a short chat about rugby. What else? I had brought my swimming trunks with me on this trip, hoping for a swim in the Danube, but the river conditions after the flood made it unsafe for swimming and this paddle was my consolation. We arrived at the ship around 3pm after 41km of cycling. We were in good time for a shower before coffee and cake. The ship was moored in Emmersdorf, a small town just across the Danube from Melk with its majestic Abbey. After the cake it was time to start packing and to return our bikes and other equipment. It was sad to say goodbye to our bikes but our bums heaved a sigh of relief, metaphorically speaking that is!
That evening there were Captain’s cocktails before a grand dinner and a crew show after dinner, which was both original and hilarious.
On Saturday we packed and left our luggage outside our cabin doors; it was shifted later by the crew and we picked it up outside after disembarking. We had a few hours of cruising and sitting on the sundeck before we arrived back in Passau and docked for the last time.
This was a most enjoyable and unforgettable experience. We were undoubtedly lucky with the weather, which could not have been better. But the combination of exercise in cycling, exquisite countryside viewed from bike saddle and sun lounger on deck, good food and wine with comfortable accommodation and good company was just about perfect. Thank you Radreisen, Macs Adventure, our guide Andreas, the staff, crew and my fellow guests aboard MS Theodor Korner.