Day 18: Passau to Aschach an der Donau - Grampies Track the Tortes (2019) - CycleBlaze

April 5, 2019

Day 18: Passau to Aschach an der Donau

To leave Passau we went over the suspension bridge on the Donau, and then shortly crossed over the Ilz. The Passau side of the bridge has some nostalgic significance because just by there is the Fahrrad Klinik. In 2012 they did some Bike Friday repair for us, and we got a sticker on the bike that said "Fahrrad Klinik". For years I was proud of that sticker, because it was in German and because it came from a shop in such a famous place.

Yesterday we did stop by, but they were busy and we felt pressed for time. So no new sticker. They also had the Leporello for the Passau to Vienna portion of the route. But Dodie has successfully argued that these are too heavy to be carrying around. So no new memories were developed around Fahhrad Klinik. Except, here is what their workshop looks like:

Fahrrad Klinik, Passau
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Also lined up in the vicinity of the bridge are many of those iconic river cruise boats. They are impossibly long, and we assume luxurious. One of the cruise lines, Viking, advertises in Canada, with evocative shots of their boats in environments just as we are in right now. 

One of the many extra long river cruise boats.
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From the bridge we could look back at Passau, a bit longingly. One more day would have been good here, just to get better oriented and hang out a bit. On the other hand, though Passau does have a few major attractions beyond St. Stephens, it's not as if there is a list of 20 things to hit on a walking tour. (Actually, we did see walking tours advertised, 1 or 2 hours for just 6 and 13 euros per person.)

Last look back at Passau. (The Ilz is coming in at the right.)
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We are cooking up a plan to drag grandchildren Avi and Violet over to Europe, for them to see what we are going on about with respect to cycling here. The Donau, Passau to Vienna, is the best known route for bringing kids, so we set off from Passau with a keen eye to how it would be for these two.

The first 20 km was frankly not very encouraging. The route was safe enough, protected by a strong railing from a busy road, but except for the river directly on the right there was little that seemed child interesting. Ok, there was one thing - a mermaid statue. In fact, mermaids seem to be big along this stretch. We actually bagged three:

Mermaids on the Donau
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This one is a bit wimpy, need a shelter to avoid getting wet.
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The swan and I had to adjust the angle to keep this a family friendly blog.
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The day had started out at 7.5 degrees, and it was not warming much.  We were very chilly, too, affected by a lot of mist on the river. We searched for the word to describe the conditions, and it finally occurred to Dodie. "Raw", it was "raw". 

We thought about putting on more layers, but were reluctant to take off stuff as part of putting in stuff. So we resolved to stop in a cafe, get a hot drink, and rearrange clothing. 

We were working under the thought that this was the famous Austrian Donau, and therefore there should be cafes around every corner. That should be eis cafes for hot days and hot chocolate cafes for cool days. But whichever, one around every corner.

So when we got to the first town  we looked into the first bakery we haughtily decided that the tables were buried too far in the back, and sailed on to find the next one. In a couple of blocks, I thought I had found the ideal location, but Dodie smoothly pointed out that I had actually found a butcher. And that was it. In 78 kms we were to run in to exactly one bakery. In Austria? Say what?

Of course, we improvised. We stopped and poured coffee from the thermos. Mated that with a square of spice cake pilfered from breakfast, and steeled ourselves to reconfigure our layers of warm clothes. After that, we were fine.

By "fine", I am referring only to being chilly and hungry or not. But there were some other challenges. One was enjoying a long and beautiful but empty route. Every long distance cyclist has to cope with endless miles, and somehow after lots of experience we are able to do this. But after about 60 km we were thinking Avi and Violet would have trouble with this.

Hooray, it's Austria, but that's a long lonely looking trail.
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Things were about to change, though. From Passau you can choose to travel basically the left or right bank of the river. We fairly randomly chose left. But the thing is, the left bank path in two places (I think), and the right bank in one place (also not quite sure), disappears. The solution, well documented with German language signs, is to take a bike ferry over to the other side, cycle past the obstruction that is on your original side, take a ferry back, and carry on. Simple. In season, that is. 

We did get a ferry to the right bank when we needed, and yes, at Obermuhl got one back over to the left. Then we slowly cycled a boring 10 km, to where the left bank path again stopped. This is where we found that this early in the season, there is no ferry back to the right bank. A helpful young man who was working on drywall in a nearby building helped us out with advice. We could cycle back the long boring way to that ferry we had taken, attract the ferry man (who had better still be there), cycle back 10 km to the other side of the river here, and continue 20 km to our destination of Aschach.

Or, we could climb 20 km straight up over the mountain and circle around to our destination of Aschach.

With the Grampies, one of us fears boredom more than exertion, while the other is the reverse. The one that fears boredom is also a bit spoiled, so over the mountain we went. The young drywall  man had warned that it was to be up, up, up but of course I was surprised to see just how up up was. I was also surprised to see how well Dodie climbed. Her technique is to choose first gear and spin like crazy. (It's worth noting that after 60 km already done we did not have any big surplus of assist to rely on. In fact, I turned off the range display on my bike, because it was too depressing. But I also secretly knew that since we would be returning to the Donau, every foot we climbed would be matched by a foot of descent before it was all over. The bike, of course,  is not privy to that forecast.)

Deciding to go over the hills in traffic, or deciding to cycle the 20 km detour are things we can do, because we are grown ups. Had we had kids in tow, the options would have been much narrower - like look for a place to stop, and think about it tomorrow. That is why we would only take kids on a previously well scouted route.

On this "cake walk" Austrian route, Dodie is somehow back to riding the white line in hills. Half way down the descent, you can see the fuzzy Donau in the distance.
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When the descent started, I was also amazed at how long and down it was. This is where I was glad of the really good Magura hydraulic brakes that we have on both bikes. These are rim brakes, and the rims heated quite a bit, but they did the job.

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Sue PriceWhoa! That's a pretty big climb at the end of the day! Glad you made it up and over with no problems!
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2 months ago

Back at the Donau, a little downstream from Aschach, we encountered the Donau Radweg signs. It happens to us quite often - after a period when signage has disappeared, it pops up again and seems to be saying - "Here I am, waiting, where have you been?".

The signs led us over the bridge (back on the right bank now!) and soon we were at our stop for the night - "La Mamma" pizzeria (and rooms).  How great to be sleeping over a pizzeria! Actually the rooms are big and very nice. Not only is there the pizzeria, but a Spar grocery store is across the street. 

We hit the Spar and collected some really good stuff - like prepared salad, a big pot of yogurt, three Ritter Sport bars (including the new flavour -Buttermilche Zitrone), and a treasure trove of other stuff. The total cost was magically only about 13 euros.

We noticed at Spar a lot of packaged meat and cheese, buns, and other things commonly found in Gasthaus breakfasts. None of them is particularly costly. With access to a grocery store, one could put together a great breakfast cheaply.

There is scads of economical sliced meat and cheese at Spar (whole wurst too).
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Also, quality Ritter bars - .99 each - less than half the price of the same bars in Canada.
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Some other things at Spar are Austrian specialties that somehow we only expected to see a little deeper in. One was those "Mozart" kugeln chocolates, we widely sold in Vienna. We'll wait until then. Another was Punschkrapfen, a pink pastry with heavy rum ball type filling. Ok, we did buy one. Does this have enough layers to be a torte?

Punsch Krapfen
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We returned to our pizzeria.  Naturally, if you are going to live above a pizzeria, you should try one. It was not wood oven or anything, but still good. With it we ordered another Austrian specialty - Alm Dudler - the "national" soft drink. We noticed that it cost about the same as beer. Beer costs about 4 euros for .51 litres. Is that a lot?

We are reminded of how Jeff Arnim always used to record the pizzas he found along the way.
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At the Weiser Hase the hotel history mentioned a high water mark visible at reception, from the 2013 flood. We forgot to look for it. But here at La Mamma, there is a mark as well. We should be safe, on the second floor.
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Today's ride: 78 km (48 miles)
Total: 897 km (557 miles)

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Tricia GrahamMy reason for riding in Germany and Austria is to get Ritter Sport chocolate. I am addicted to the Marzipan ones. Last year I bought 10 back from Munich. There is only only one shop I know of
in NZ that sells them this is a small Dutch shop close by which makes and sells its own extremely delicious cheese. And has a few other yummy things Ritter Sports cost around $5 there occasionally when Ken is feeling very generous he buys me one
Keep safe
Tricia
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Tricia GrahamInteresting. Steve's favourite is also marzipan. Dodie loves the peppermint. We visited the Ritter Sport factory one year, what fun.
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2 months ago
Tricia GrahamTo Steve Miller/GrampiesThink visiting the factory would be very dangerous for me. About the river boats last year we went on one from the Black Sea to Budapest it was a wonderful trip filling in the part of the Danube we hadn’t cycled. Very luxurious and when we got off we wondered if we could ever think for ourselves again and we had to get ourselves to Hamburg and buy bikes
Tomorrow we head for Egypt and Jordan for three weeks. Needless to say NO cycling so I can’t write a blog will just have to write something by email for family and friends who can’t understand why I can’t write ona cycling website!
Keep safe
Tricia
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Tricia GrahamWe were just wondering today what the river cruises would be like. I think too much luxury would make us crazy. Please add us to the list of family and friends who receive your nonblog emails of your upcoming trip. Have a great time. Steve and Dodie
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2 months ago