A morning in Bratislava and return to Austria - The Hills are Alive (with the sound of wheezing) - CycleBlaze

September 10, 2020

A morning in Bratislava and return to Austria

Bratislava — Free camp by Danube

Heart 0 Comment 0

A great night's sleep in a real bed, and I was up in good time for the breakfast included with my hotel room. A very good buffet which I hit pretty hard - still running a calorie deficit, it seems. I collected the small number of possessions I'd taken up to the room, and checked out - the room was already paid for, so I just needed them to open the courtyard door and I could wheel the bike out. Highly recommend the Bluebell B&B in Bratislava - it manages to be incredibly central, quiet, and inexpensive (I think my room was €45 or something) all at once.

Picking up the Shift, stowed safely in the private courtyard
Heart 0 Comment 0

This was going to be the last full day of the tour. Very early the following morning - 6.50am to be precise - I had my express train booked out of Vienna hauptbahnhof back into Germany and home. Now, this had led to something of a quandary, as while I didn't particularly want to scramble around for a hotel in Vienna, if I stayed outside the city I would need to ride in some time in the middle of the night.

My plan was to sort of split the difference, by camping in a designated free camp spot I'd learnt about by the Danube. It was still about 50km away from the centre of Vienna, so I'd need to leave halfway through the night - but, since it would be free camping, it should be easy to just pick up and go.

Since the site was only a very flat 30km up the Danube, I could spare a whole morning to do some more sightseeing in Bratislava. I'd seen lots of posters advertising the Inca gold exhibit up at the castle, and thought I might go and check it out. First I wheeled (not rode - it was rather steep, cobbled and busy) the bike up to the castle.

The old town hall, a better photo in the daytime
Heart 0 Comment 0
Town hall tower, with fine polychrome windows
Heart 0 Comment 0
The Georgian embassy have to put up with occupying the second floor above the Infiniti Rock Cafe
Heart 0 Comment 0
Unfortunately the pharmacy museum wasn't open - they're always interesting!
Heart 0 Comment 0

I couldn't take the bike into the castle ground, and puzzled for a minute as to the safest place to leave it. I settled on a spot directly outside the parliament building, in the eyeline of a guard - my lock's not too great, but the city feels very safe and I thought the chances of someone pinching it (or walking off with a pannier) were pretty low. Actually, to be honest I did wonder if I'd be asked to move it, as four bulging panniers look a bit suspicious when parked outside a government building. Seemed to be fine though.

The inside of the castle was open, and I walked right into the Inca Gold exhibit after getting a ticket. The friendly girl on reception talked to me for a full minute in Slovak as my looks of incomprehension may have been hidden behind my mask - then she was really overwhelmingly apologetic and switched to English. I wanted to tell her it's not like we should expect English to be spoken everywhere - but I was also pleased to (just about) not be an obvious tourist.

The gold exhibit was really excellent, though not particularly Slovak.

Inca gold: Ceremonial vessels.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Lamps (I think). All of these are pure gold.
Heart 0 Comment 0
This is made of quite thin, layers of gold leaf, but the detail is amazing
Heart 0 Comment 0
Ceremonial hands! It's though the king would wear these for certain important rites.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Another ceremonial vessel
Heart 0 Comment 0
Very fine gold and jade monkey/bird pin
Heart 0 Comment 0
This is very cool. So much gold did the conquistadors discover when they invaded Peru, that when they captured the last Incan king, Atahualpa, they would only accept a ransom of an entire large room filled with gold. In a git-move for the ages, after Atahualpa had actually produced all this gold, Pizarro killed the king anyway.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Coming out the exhibit, I saw it was almost lunchtime, so I wheeled back down into the old town, resolving to have lunch at one of the many restaurants lining the big square. On the way I bought a few souvenirs and also replaced my ridiculous broken sunglasses, which I'd worn gaffer-taped together for the last couple of weeks.

The castle from the parliament building
Heart 0 Comment 0
This bizarre statue is of ... Hans Christian Andersen. He didn't really have any links to Bratislava, but it seems he did visit once. The snail? No idea!
Heart 0 Comment 0
Lunch outside in the square. It felt positively Mediterranean (pretty good pizza too)
Heart 0 Comment 0

After finishing up lunch, it was with some regret I bid farewell to Bratislava and saddled up to ride to the west. Back across the SNP bridge for one last time, I picked up the Danube cycleway immediately on the other side, and within ten minutes had left the city behind.

My route was to be all Danube cycleway - though I was a little disappointed that rather quickly it lead away from the river, it was incredibly easy cycling and I covered the distance back to the Austrian border easily. This was likewise completely open (a bit of a relief, since if I couldn't get back to catch my train the next day I'd be a little stuck).

Picking up the cycleway. Here is where EuroVelo 13 (Iron Curtain) and 6 (Atlantic to the Black Sea) cross.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Information about the Czechoslovak border defences built in the '30s, "the most perfect European fortification system". It didn't really work out for them.
Heart 0 Comment 0
On the Danube cycleway - fast, well-surfaced, but with no Danube in sight
Heart 0 Comment 0
I don't think I've ever seen so many different countries on one road junction sign! That's four: Austria, Hungary, Poland - and UA is Ukraine, which is quite some distance away! Oddly, the Czech Republic, which is less than 50km away, isn't listed.
Heart 0 Comment 0
The historical bunker advertised above
Heart 0 Comment 0
Back at the Austrian border - just this open blue gate. An optimistic sight!
Heart 0 Comment 0
58.5 kilometres to the centre of Vienna!
Heart 0 Comment 0

It was quite funny entering Austria again and immediately seeing a multitude of signs indicating things you could and couldn't do. The cycleway continued easily towards Wolfsthal, following a fairly major road and well away from the river. The going was fast though not particularly interesting.

When I reached that village, I decided to head off-piste for a bit and try to get back to the river. After some very pleasant (if slightly unofficial) diversions, I found my way to an apparently cycle-able path right alongside the river bank, and looking up to Devin castle on the other bank. This was the confluence of the Danube with the Morava, which forms the western border of Slovakia and separates in from Moravia in the Czech Republic. Devin castle saw a lot of action historically as the westernmost fortress in Hungary - before being finally smashed by Napoleon.

I came across a spot so secluded, right by the river and hidden by trees from the path behind, that I nearly stopped and wild camped right there. I was damned tempted, but I figured it would be an even longer (>60km!) stretch into Vienna from here, and I might as well press on to the official free camping.

You won't see much of the Danube on this stretch of the Danauradweg
Heart 0 Comment 0
A slightly unofficial cut through some wooded paths near Wolfsthal. Thanks GPS!
Heart 0 Comment 0
The secluded spot where I seriously considered free camping
Heart 0 Comment 0
Devin castle, or its ruins
Heart 0 Comment 0
Pleasant section along the Danube. It's a bit of a pointless diversion, but is considerably nicer than the official radweg
Heart 0 Comment 0

I popped out in Hainburg. This is a larger place, and is situated just before the Andreas-Maurer bridge, the only crossing the of the Danube between Vienna and Bratislava - my intended camping spot was just a little way over the other side.

I stopped off at a pretty big and busy supermarket, and brought the supplies for the evening. After passing a very low-stakes car collision in the back streets, I made my way along the river to the bridge.

Riverside cycleway in Hainburg
Heart 0 Comment 0
Crossing the (huge - over 1.5km long) Andreas-Maurer bridge over the Danube. It has separate lanes for cyclists on both sides, but like an idiot I ended up on the wrong one. Fortunately I didn't meet anyone coming the other way.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Picking the Donauradweg back up through the flood plain of the Danube. For miles it goes on like this, as I was about to find out.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Near Stopfenreuth I was there were a collection of construction vehicles on the cycleway, and it was closed up - but no problem, this was where I needed to turn off to the secluded official free camp. I wheeled down the kilometre or so to the riverside, not really knowing what to expect, or how busy it might be. And you know, it was perfect - a completely free and open area, with just a couple of tents set up. 

I parked the bike up and went for a wander, eventually settling down by the riverbank to read and snack.

Flood high water markers, some distance away from the bank of the Danube. The 2002 event must have been a sight to behold.
Heart 0 Comment 0
A very secluded WW2 memorial. I think this was the only one I saw in Austria.
Heart 0 Comment 0
The officially sanctioned free camp site. Anyone can camp here for up to three days, tents only. The water pump was now working again (I'd seen reports it had been broken) - but there isn't a toilet.
Heart 0 Comment 3
Jacquie GaudetOfficially sanctioned but there isn't a toilet? That sounds very odd to me!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Jon AylingTo Jacquie GaudetYou know, it really is. There are actually google reviews of the place, about half of which are saying how great it is and the other half how the lack of toilet leads to an, um, mess. It's particularly strange when the (very long!) list of official rules says it's ok to camp for 2 days. That's a long time to hold on!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Jacquie GaudetI hiked the West Coast Trail in 1982 before there were any facilities, though where to camp was pretty obvious. What was also obvious were the little piles of toilet paper in the bushes near every camping place. Ugh!
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Sitting by the bank of the Danube, taking it easy. Mosquitoes were pretty rife, mind.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heron, I think
Heart 0 Comment 0

About 6ish I headed back to the bench I'd nabbed (by leaning the bike against it), opened a beer, and started cooking up some pasta. As it was getting dark some other campers appeared, a couple with a guitar - and I was approached by a really friendly chap, an Estonian guy who had been travelling around Europe (on foot, and with no money!) for six months.

We traded travel stories, he gave me a £5 note he'd been hanging onto ever since he'd been in London, and I donated him my cooking pot - his had gotten stolen in a campsite!

It was an incredibly warm night, so instead of troubling to put up the tent (I'd only have to take it down in a couple of hours) I set up my sleeping gear on the deck of the visitors exhibit over the free campsite. Alarm set for 2.40am!

Today's ride: 29 km (18 miles)
Total: 1,005 km (624 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 2
Comment on this entry Comment 0