Monika, a friend of mine, who I met in Cali in Colombia asked me if I wanted to join her bike trip along the Donau with the final destination Vienna (from Passau 305km) within 3,5 days. At first, I had absolutely no interest whatsoever. I was continually on the email distributor where everything was planned and the offer didn’t get my attention until I woke up one morning and decided to spontaneously join them with my mum’s old bike. It was because of one email a couple of days ago to which I replied, “Yes, I’m in.” With no experience in cycling more than 5km in one day, I had no expectations about what to expect. I joined a group of strangers, which ended up to be an incredible few days. Here you can read why.
Donau Trip stages and distances
1. Passau – Linz 97km
2. Linz – Ybbs a. d. D. 80km
3. Ybbs a. d. D. – Tulln an der Donau 105km
4. Tulln a. d. D. – Vienna 39km
The spontaneous Donau Cycle trip with a group of 11 people of different nationalities (Poland, UK, Austria, Germany) from different stages of Monika’s life was a success for many reasons: The long cycling days with a lot of ice cream breaks and a lot of sun along the Donau was incredible. It couldn’t have been more random, and the group are all friends of Monika from different stages in her life; but we didn’t know what to expect from the cycle trip with complete strangers. I had never cycled more than 5km and yet I joined a journey of strangers.
Train journey to Passau
On my journey from Munich to Passau I was already wearing my bike shorts with the funny padding inside that I really didn’t like sitting on. I have never been wearing anything like that but apparently its the most important equipment. On the train I then had to pay extra for my bike, which in my opinion is very strange – you have to pay for being sustainable.
DAY 1: Passau – Linz 97km
I was very excited to start the journey, even by myself on the first day. However, after about 9km, my ass started hurting and after 12km, I couldn’t feel it anymore. The journey between Passau and Linz had monotonous scenery, and it was not so long before I felt very bored just cycling alone along the Donau. However, arriving in Linz felt better even with a very sore butt. The biggest challenge that night was to find a supermarket open after 7:30pm, which was very annoying because I was very hungry but didn’t want to travel far from where I was staying. I ended up wandering for at least 1.5 hours – painful !
DAY 2: Linz – Ybbs a. d. D. 80km
After an exhausting first day, I fell asleep very early but still somehow managed to get up early and I think it was because of the butt pain. Before I met my friend at the central station, I decided to wander around and discover Linz, where I got up very early. High on my agenda was to eat Linzer Torte (Linzer cake), which I have loved since I was young and now I had the opportunity to eat the original – so delicious at Jindrak Konditorei. The Plättelsberg (mountain) was also very nice to visit because it was just me overlooking Linz. Then Monika and I finally reunited and she brought, as I had requested, cookies all the way from the UK. I was so happy to see her but I do have to mention that I was very happy to see the cookies, too, and even more when I ate them. It was wonderful to see her after about two years and also all her friends. We didn’t waste any time and hopped onto the bikes and started cycling. An hour passed and it was already time for lunch and the first break. We stopped at a very random place but it was very good and so we ended up staying for two hours. I was already very happy that the others were also not such keen bike riders because that was probably the only worry I had before leaving. Ha ha. At lunch, I realised that everyone knew my friend Monika and nobody else. So it was very amazing when I found out that she had organized the trip with her friends from different stages of her (childhood, A-level, university, work, travel, etc.) – a very good idea as we get older and our priorities change.
A very odd but funny thing happened at the restaurant when this elderly couple paid for a beer for everyone and left. In the late afternoon we continued the journey and it was not easy after sitting down for so long. However, the journey passed smoothly and we arrived safe after a very nice day in the sun along the Donau river.
DAY 3: Ybbs a. d. D. – Tulln a. d. D. 105km
Probably, this was hardest but most beautiful day to cycle in the beautiful vinery region, passing through some very cute little villages, until we arrived in the dark late at night. It was day 2 for all the others while it was day 3 for me, and I could feel it.
The lunch break was at the perfect spot in the traditional Austrian village Melk where we had a good meal at Schmankerlfleischer Josef Schraule
on the main square. A little bit behind Melk near Wachau was the start of the winery region that turned out to be a very scenic landscape.
After a couple of hours of strong cycling, I realized that something on my bike wasn’t quite working correctly, as I had to paddle while going downhill. Something had broken down and it was my front brakes, so in the evening when everything was already very tough and I was way behind everyone, I decided to take them off, and it felt like such a relief. It was getting dark, and some of the others had knee pain when we decided to watch the sunset before our last two-hour sprint. At this point, the group was split but we still had a very nice time because I played Abba tunes and we sang together, having a good time going through the dark forest and streets. I was so happy when we finally arrived and I could take a shower in the newly- opened hotel, where we had been given quite a cheap rate (Diamond City Hotel).
THE WINNER ETAPE DAY 4: Tulln a. d. D. – Vienna 39km
Waking up today, everything seemed already accomplished and this felt very good. The breakfast buffet was perfect for a long breakfast and then it was back onto the bikes for the winner etape along the Donau. The weather was again perfect with a blue sky and the sun shining strong. Today, even thugh I had used sun lotion every day, I didn’t see any change and I thought why put it on because it was only a short journey to Vienna – very, very bad idea. I ended up looking like a tomato. The winner etape was pretty easy and a lot of fun. On the way, the “English” boys and I stopped to cycle on a halfpipe course and later a BMX bike track – so much fun and my mum’s old city bike performed well. Then, finally arriving at the Vienna sign and being able to see the city skyline made us all very happy and proud of our accomplishment. I knew the trip had been nice but I would never get on a bike again. Ha ha.
We then spent a very nice afternoon on the rooftop terrace of Anna and Gregory. The next day was devoted to discovering Vienna, which you can read about in a different post. However, fun fact on the last day is that the weather turned cloudy on my way to the train station; and while hopping onto the train, it started storming and raining – so lucky.
I TRAVEL FOREVER’s VIEW & RECOMMENDATION
This cycle trip from Passau to Vienna as a beginner bike rider was harder than I expected. Cycling along the Donau river also seemed boring after some time. However, the time together with all those “strangers” and having made so many new friends was so special and I wouldn’t have wanted to change this for anything else. The spirit within the group was very unique for such a “random” put together group, and for this experience I really thank my friend and of course all the others who supported Monika’s Voyage.
In my honest recommendation, it’s better to start the cycle trip from Melk and go to Vienna (126km) in a nice two-day bike tour. If you want to go from Passau or even Munich, I would suggest breaking the journey into smaller legs to have less stress and more time to stop and enjoy the views. Definitely, have a bike toolbox in your bag and always carry enough water (most restaurants on the way happily refill). The distance signs along the journey are a disaster with very confusing numbers at times. I also used the maps.me app, which only showed me good distances of 10-15km before arrival. At night I also recommend you to bring a bike light and also after around 6pm keep your mouth closed as there are a lot of bugs – unless you like some protein on the go. I also think its quite handy to have a tool box including some bike chain oil.
Compared to Germany, Austria has weird opening and closing supermarket times (open: 7:30am, 7:15am; close: 6:15pm, 7pm), so be aware of this when traveling through Austria.
My perception of the Austrian people didn’t quite change even though I was open to it, but I feel they have a very secure culture with locals who aren’t outgoing and are quite ignorant – sorry for being honest.
After these incredible days, I think I will finish with a quote from my friend Monika who answered the question how she planned the trip and selected the people she had invited:
“The idea of the cycling trip gradually evolved. It was originally just meant to be ‘a cycling trip’ with the initial idea from Vienna to Bratislava. I targeted and seriously asked friends who I knew really enjoyed exercise, were easy-going, fun to travel with and very sociable, so I was sure they would enjoy mingling with a group of people they met for the first time !”