After joining us on our Coast and Castles trip last year, Sarah Ainsworth and her family decided to book onto our Danube Cyclepath holiday, a self-guided cycling holiday through Germany and Austria. Read on to find out more about their wonderful holiday below, starting in Germany’s Passau…
“Having all three of our children together for the first time in five summers I wanted to make the most of this and have a family holiday. Last year the two of us had booked with Saddle Skedaddle for the Coasts and Castles route and wanted to do another one so everything came together well to have a cycling holiday with our three boys and the girlfriend of one of them. It was the perfect combination of activity and exercise with a sense of achievement, no opportunity for anyone to say they were bored and the chance to see a different part of the world!
So, we set off for Passau in Germany to meet the representative there, talk through the route and check out our hired bikes. The next day we took the opportunity to visit the confluence of the three rivers in the old town and then crossed the River Inn to the southern bank of the Danube to start our journey to Vienna. The route was very clear with the only decisions to make as to whether we cycled on the northern or southern bank and even then, we could cross the river on ferries, bridges or at the dams during the day. The path itself was easy to ride on and with only a few other cyclists, some very serious riders clearly aiming to cycle as far as possible in one day and others meandering along rather like us. After crossing the border into Austria, we cycled through grassy fields alongside the river with wooded hillsides and chalet type houses, stopping at times to look at the onion topped church at Pyrawang and the Trappist monastery at Engelhartszell with its rather surprising skeletons in glass fronted coffins, before taking a quaint little ferry across to the other bank. We stared in awe at the long barges which silently moved up and down the river, a miracle in steering and waved to the other cyclists passing us by on the path. We arrived about 65kms later at our hotel in Aschach to find a swimming pool – how wonderful was that to relax in the water and enjoy our sense of satisfaction.
The next day, we cycled along the northern back towards Linz passing fields of ripening maize and took a detour into Linz itself to visit the modern opera house and see the contrast with the old buildings. Next stop was the swimming lake where local Austrians were enjoying the sun on a relaxing Sunday afternoon. We stayed that night in a beautiful hotel in Au on the banks of the river, eating in a nearby restaurant where the owner took great delight in introducing us to Kaiserschmarren – a fluffy shredded sweet pancake.
The next morning, we continued along the north bank, crossing over the river a couple of times at the huge and imposing power plants situated along the Danube at various points, but also passing through pretty villages and alongside fields of maize. We visited the Schloss at Grein which was closed as it was a Monday, but we were able to go into the courtyard and pretend to be part of the Von Trapps! Our stay that night was in Maria Taferl, at the top of the hill with the most amazing views of the surrounding countryside – worth a visit just for that alone, especially seeing a rainbow arching over the river and beyond.
Day 5 saw us cycling from Maria Taferl (great going downhill!) to Krems about 55kms away. We stopped to cross to the south bank to visit Melk and the abbey there – a vast elaborate baroque monastery with good bike racks once you had navigated the narrow streets filled with sightseers. After Melk we were in Wachau country and beautiful hillsides lined with vines, apricots, wildflowers and pretty villages stretching ahead of us. We took the opportunity to stop near the end of the day at a vineyard to drink some of the local wine along with some delicious cheese and meat.
The following morning, we cycled along the south bank towards Tulln, briefly visiting Traismauer to check out the Romans, but the castle was closed as it was a Wednesday! Nice coffee and croissant in the town though as compensation. Then further to the abandoned nuclear power plant at Zwentendorf, where we stopped for lunch at the quaint Austrian chalet type restaurant situated rather incongruously immediately in front of the power plant. Good venue for a film! As the journey was only 45 kms that day we were able to enjoy the beautiful gardens and waterways in Tulln, including taking out a canoe and visiting the Egon Schiele museum.
Our last day we cycled initially along the south bank until we reached Klosterneuberg where we took the ferry across to the north bank and then not long afterwards the path took us onto the long island, Donauinsel which divides the old and new Danube. This path took us into Vienna, a lovely route which brings you suddenly into the hubbub of the city. After checking into the hotel we could use our bikes to cycle into the centre to get a flavour of the history of this great city. Such a contrast to our quiet meanderings along a river bank!”
Feeling inspired? Learn more about our incredible self-guided journey through Germany and Austria here.
After the trip, we caught up with Sarah to find out a little bit more about our Competition winner…
1. What do you love about cycling?
We love the freedom to get around, see more places and just be independent. It enables you really enjoy a place and feel part of it in a way that you wouldn’t with other forms of transport. It also has the added benefit of keeping you fit and being environmentally friendly!
2. What’s your favourite cycling memory?
This is very hard to choose as both our holidays have been wonderful. Perhaps cycling along the coast in Northumberland, seeing the different castles in the distance and crossing over to Holy Island, but also cycling along the Danube with my son playing tunes from the Sound of Music from his phone on a speaker ( when no one else was around of course!) are the most special memories.
3. What do you most like about Skedaddle?
We like Skedaddle because of the amazing holiday opportunities, the wonderfully helpful staff in the office who make you feel that your holiday is the only one they are helping with and the great holiday notes, routes and accommodation.