Day 81: Grossraming to Au (on the Donau), Austria - Grampies on the Go - Again! - CycleBlaze

August 8, 2012

Day 81: Grossraming to Au (on the Donau), Austria

Being able to put our tent under cover at Grossraming was the greatest. Not only could the tent fly hang and dry all night, but nothing else got wet. We left out cooking gear on the table, so it was ready to go in the morning, and packing the bikes was a breeze with everything right there. In fact, even the toilet was just as close as our ensuite back home. The whole thing was even more convenient and comfortable than had we been in a hotel!

Part of our luxury hotel at Grossraming
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We were able to set off down the river early. Only thing, it was more like up the mountain than down the river. We found ourselves pedalling and pushing up, up, up and then descending down, down. We came back to the river not that much further down.

While we were up there, we could look down on the highway on the other side, snaking along quite levelly. It reminded us of the Columbia River Gorge, where we had toiled on the north side while watching the level Interstate on the south side. Eventually we crossed over, and traffic or not, got out of there.

This time we did not wait nearly as long, crossing at the next opportunity, which was hydro generating facility. After that we made reasonable progress. Until then, we had averaged about 6 km per hour. At that rate, had we not done something, we would still be slogging it out up river!

Eventually, the mountains receded and the valley opened up. This is how it would stay all the way to the Donau. With that situation we made good progress and made up for our slow start, covering the almost 90 km to Au, on the Donau.

The Enns near Grossraming
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There are hills on both sides of the river!
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Our "escape" road
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Otherwise we would be up there
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During the day we hit five towns of note: Losenstein, Garsten, Steyr, Enns, and Mauthasen.

Losenstein had a ruin on the hill above, but we otherwise know nothing about it, Neat to look at though.

Garsten has a major Benedictine monastery. It seems to be one of those famous places that we also know nothing about. Our first look at it was surprising, because it is surrounded by high walls, barbed wire, and guard towers. The church part, though, was accessible, and the inside remarkable. It is covered in ornate gold painted carving and statues, with many paintings, all with a pinkish tone. The scale of these cathedral type establishments is really impressive. They clearly took huge amounts of labour to construct. In one of the side chapels was an effigy of St. Bertholdus. Not that we had heard of him. However there was a book there in which hundreds of people had written, mostly in German, but one in Arabic. They were either asking the Saint for health or more commonly giving thanks. Ok, fine.

Steyr was a surprise, since of course we just sailed in unknowing. The town is stuffed with gorgeous 600 year old buildings. We took a pile of photos, of which a few are uploaded here. As we were leaving town we ran into a man who had been born here, but spent 35 years in Australia before returning. An Australian/Austrian accent is an interesting thing to listen to! Unbelivably, this fellow was decrying the old buildings, complaining about the constant renovation projects. He recommended dumping the buildings in favour of modern concrete and glass. I assumed he was putting me on, but in the end decided he was serious. I hope he is in a minority!

Enns bills itself as Austria’s oldest city, and perhaps it is. However the zone of traffic and modern uninspired building was wide and the old part small. Plus in terms of elegance and impact it did not compare to many towns (such as Steyr) we had already seen. Since our camping prospect was about 15 km further on, we did not linger long in Enns.

To get to the camping on the far side of the Donau we had the choice of backtracking and coming around to where there is a bridge, or shooting for a ferry that we saw advertised at the Enns town tower. We made a run for the ferry, which cited its time of operation as up to 7 p.m. We made it to the ferry site at 6:45 but could see no boat on either side of the river. There was a number one could phone, but I forgot the Austria country code. Eventually someone with a local cell phone turned up, and a call produced the boat.

It’s a short hop over to the other side, with the landing at Mauthasen. However, it’s a big step for us to come anywhere near the city of the infamous concentration camp. One landed, we took (wanted) almost no photos. What we wanted was to put as much distance as fast as possible between us and this place. However, it was interesting as we zoomed out, to note the modern town, complete with McDonald’s. It’s easier to forget the past while picking up Fruhstuck at the McDrive.

The camping at Au was really slick. Lots of facilities, lots of space, beside the river. There were dozens of cyclists from all over, families in hyperjumbo tents, etc. Best of all (we have been having great luck in this) we could set up our tent beside a covered shelter with tables and power. Yeah!

The ruin at Losenstein
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Not sure what Eisentor is all about, at Losenstein
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Losenstein, with the ruin above.
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The Inn near Ternberg
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A prison at Garsten? Look at the barbed wire and bars on the Abbey windows.
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Stift (monastery) Garsten
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One of many many statues like this in Stift Garsten
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St. Bertholdus
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One of many elaborate paintings
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St. Berthold must be an important guy.
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Steyr
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Steyr
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Steyr
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Steyr
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Steyr - the bakery
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Steyr
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The gate to Steyr dates from 1489
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The city tower at Enns
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Enns
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The ferry story, and Mauthasen
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The ferry shows up after we got the man in the foreground to phone.
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The Inn meets the Donau
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(part of) Mauthasen today.
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Nice camping at Au
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Fancy camping and many cyclists - we are back in the thick of it, on the Donau
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BONUS TOPICS: Cycling along within a society you notice small things that can still be major indicators of the differences between where you are and what life and society is like at home. Here are a dozen odd observations like that, from just today:

GAS STATIONS

Gas stations do not seem to be part of major chains, as least that I have recognized, and they do not seem to have such standard layouts. Overall, they are more rare than in similarly populated areas of North America, and do not feature convenience stores. The price of gas is about 30% higher than Canada, which itself is 30% higher than the US. This does not seem to stop people here from driving everywhere, though cars are smaller. Smaller cars are probably more due to smaller roads.

A typical gas station.
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COWS

I think I never did get to see the type of Swiss cow that wears a bell ad poses for postcards. But here there is this one, which is also cute:

My favourite type of local cow.
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RADLERS

See the Guestbook for Marius' comments on Radlers!

The Radler ("cyclist") is a Biermischgetränk (beer-based mixed drink) with a long history in German-speaking regions. Consisting of a 50%/50% or 60%/40% mixture of various types of beer and German-style soda pop or lemonade, the invention of the Radler has been widely attributed to the Munich gastronomer Franz Xaver Kugler in 1922. However the recipe for the Radler had been mentioned as early as 1912.[1] Nowadays, the Radler is drunk not only in Bavaria but across Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, Northern Italy, Republic of Macedonia and Romania. During the summer months, Radler is very popular due to its reputation of being a thirst-quencher.[2] The product is now being offered by various breweries in bottles and cans.[2]

A radler that is not an Almdudler Almradler.
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PHOTOSHOP

We have found most foods here to be much more wholesome and with fewer funny ingredients than back home. Retail places are smaller, less glitzy, and the sales pitch is less intense. Billboards are very rare, and those that do exist are small. One example is this piece from a Spar flyer, the page with soft drinks on sale. The attractive models seem to like the drinks, but nobody photoshopped the cavities they got in their back teeth.

Un-photoshopped teeth in a Spar ad.
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SMALL CARS and TRUCKS

Cars on average are smaller here, but while at home we mainly see only the Smartcar in the super small category, there are a number of models and makers running around here. Super mini delivery trucks, too, mostly Italian - by Piaggio.

These mini trucks do not seem to be Piaggio, but we zoomed by too quick to really check them out
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Not a super small, but just a small VW I noticed. Model is "Fox"
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Small car
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Anyone know where this is made?
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CUCKOO WIRING

Starting about 10 km outside of Steyr, we started seeing extension cord strung by the roadway. It was not very thick, like a 10 amp cord back home, and went on and on. Occasionaly there would be elaborate junctions, with lots of cords seemingly going in and out. Right into the city of Steyr, these cords ran all over the place, and they joined us again in the corn fields on the other side. I finally stopped someone who looked local and asked about it. He thought it had to do with oil exploration. That seems plausible (maybe coal bed methane?) because some of the fitting are sunk into the ground. We briefly thought about unplugging one, to see who would come along to investigate.

If this is some kind of sensor network for a seismic project, it seems strange to be using kms and kms of wire. Don't these guys have cell phones?

We followed kms and kms of wiring, and looked at terminals like this everywhere.
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WEIRD CROP

As we pedal by farm fields we usually know what is growing, and its interesting to note the mix of the various crops in the different regions. But this one is a bit of a puzzle. The leaf has a white stripe, like corn, the stalk is like corn and the smell is like corn, but this is a dense planting with no hint of any ears. What is it and what is it used for?

What is this corn like stuff?
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WARNING SIGNS

We have been posting warning signs that are relevant to us, just to get (daughter) Laurie's attention. However there are scads of signs that seem to tell us where to go and what not to do, for which we have no idea of the translation. I am taking snaps of some of them, and with time (and Marius) back home, will say "Oh, that's where we were not supposed to trespass", or whatever.

Laurie - sign of the day.
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NEWSPAPERS

In England, I photographed some newspaper front pages, because it is interesting to see what news is covered and how it is presented. In France, while I could understand the stories, they all seemed too boring to even waste "film" on. In the German speaking countries, I have no idea what the papers are all about. But I did see this: We won a medal in paddling!

Hey, we won a medal!
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SOFT DRINKS

In North America, the soft drink section of the supermarket features Coca Cola, Sprite, and such like. Yes there are fruit juices too, but here they dominate the aisle. There are also large section of fruit based syrups, that you can mix with water or carbonated water to make your own drink.

The syrups local people love.
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BUILDING MATERIALS

Birgit, in Irdning, told us that flimsy stick buildings (made from 2x4's) would not be allowed here. Indeed, all new construction we saw was made with blocks, like this one. Insulation is also needed, but these with their many channels seem like they would have a measureable R value. Anybody know?

More of those building blocks.
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Today's ride: 87 km (54 miles)
Total: 3,818 km (2,371 miles)

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