Day 20: Sankt Pantaleon to Melk - Grampies Track the Tortes (2019) - CycleBlaze

April 7, 2019

Day 20: Sankt Pantaleon to Melk

Our Landgasthof Winklehner did not offer a breakfast buffet, but rather the lady brought a plate of meat and cheese and a basket of buns. Then she asked how we would like eggs prepared, and brought that too. Sometimes we like this model, because it means we can freely squirrel anything brought to the table. The lady must have seen cyclists before, because she also brought a roll of  aluminum foil and invited us to pack away whatever we wanted.  This actually allowed us to have more with us than would happen at a buffet. It was a good thing, because this being Sunday, we found not one single commercial enterprise open over the whole day's ride.

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We set off following small paths or roads among incredibly well tilled and groomed farm fields, or green pastures. There was nothing exactly exciting to look at, just pleasant cycling.

Just pleasant cycling.
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The Bikeline guide claimed that there was an interesting market square to look at, at Wallsee, and it provided a route for the excursion. The square was admittedly up a hill, but hey, the day was young.

We did climb up there, and were rewarded with a bit of a panorama over the river. The square itself was nothing much, and besides, everything was closed. We persisted and climbed a little further, to the church. A service was in progress, so we left them to it and toddled off down river.

Wallsee square - ok, I guess
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A bit of a viewpoint - ok, I guess
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As with much of the Donau, there are surrounding hills. Presumably in flood conditions these could hold back water and contribute to high flood levels. But the high water marks you see are just unbelievable. We passed a barn that showed some past marks, and there was 2013, way above my head. How could there be a lake here that deep?

2013 is that extra red sign on the left.
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As we continued down the river, we found ourselves occasionally on roads with some traffic and no shoulder. We cemented an impression then that had formed almost immediately after leaving Passau. The Austrian drivers are far worse than the German. In Germany we found a lot of patience, and caution when around bicycles. In general, the drivers were cautious, and not quick to tromp on the gas pedal. In Austria, it has been quite different. Drivers approach us too fast, and pass too close. On narrow bits of road, they have honked at us for being in their way.

Generally, when we have seen bad behaviour with cars, we have attributed it to some black magic that cars do to people. Ordinary folks get behind a wheel, and given a little power, go crazy. But in Austria we have noticed bad behaviour among pedestrians too.  In a crowded market, people will not stand aside. When you meet someone on a narrow walkway, they will not give way. That, anyway, is our observation. Does anyone else have a feeling about this?

We seem to have chosen the side of the river without too many interesting towns, but with good views of towns on the other side. So for example, here is Grein:

Grein
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And here is Sarmingstein, with its strange round tower:

Sarmingstein. No sources seem to say who built the tower, or why.
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One house in Sarmingstein
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Strange species of bird.
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I'm not saying we were desperate for stimulation at this point, but I did notice a strangely all grey bird standing on a dock. "Oh, this one could stump our naturalist friends", I said to Dodie.  "Concrete bird!", was the rapid reply. She did not add "Stupid", but I guess she could have. This close-up shot makes it obvious, but I was far away.

The path leading into Ybbs is normal empty riverside trail, but on the downriver side of town there is a lot of commercial and industrial development. The presence of a couple of big name grocery chains (Billa and Hofer) there did us no good, however, since even these were closed.

We did run in to our first radweg detour of the day in this area. Of course there is the usual decision as to whether to believe the detour is real, and if yes, there is the hope that signage will not drop you in the wilderness. 

In this case, the detour signs were pretty convincing, but yes, they left us without guidance at an unmarked fork in the road. At that point the GPS helped us choose the way that would lead to the river.

Yeah, they seem serious about this.
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But where is the guidance once you are in the never never?
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Once advantage of this detour is that it took us by a practice field for a football club, and strangely this was American football. The drills were very active, and the players very big. I said to Dodie "Ok, if they would want the ball I would just give it to them!"

American football practice
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The next detour was about 14 km out from Melk, and seemed a bit half hearted. The way was not totally blocked off, and the signage said the radweg was "gesperrt". Learning German in the street, so to speak, and not in class, we had felt that gesperrt means damaged, much like "schaden".  Actually, gesperrt means "blocked".  But since we did not know that, off we went.

It turned out to be a hoax, because in fact the radweg was only mildly "schaden". For this they had tried to send us over a bridge to the left side, only to have to cross back at a power plant further on. Humbug! We are glad in our ignorance we had ignored that.

The Melk Abbey is probably the zippiest thing on the route from Passau, until one reaches Vienna. It is a huge golden building, with elaborate decoration inside. We plan to spend half a day there tomorrow. So it was nice when the abbey appeared on our horizon. 5 km away.

Melk Abbey in the distance
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Laurie MarczakWhat no commentary on the pronunciation of Melk relative to milk the beverage? Disappointing...
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2 months ago
Melk Abbey a little closer
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We covered the last bit of pathway into town, running in to increasing numbers of pedestrians, and especially little kids on bikes. We were amazed at just how little some of these were, and how far out of town they were. Dodie feels the parents are toughening them up for long distance touring.  Actually, there were plenty that we already could not keep up with, like these:

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Out guesthouse, the Pension Babbenberger, is within sight of the Abbey. For tomorrow, we thought about walking up, but we have decided to cycle with full gear. We read that they have bike parking and lockers, plus a restaurant, so we should be able to spend some time at the Abbey before striking off directly towards Vienna. 

Today's ride: 83 km (52 miles)
Total: 1,051 km (653 miles)

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Jonathan HechtOne of my only complaints about Europeans is their invasion of personal space and an unwillingness to yield to others.

And it’s really not the cars/drivers. I’ve only had a few "give 'em the finger" moments in 10+ tours. It’s the bikers, walkers, and line crashers that drive me up a wall.

Like the little old lady who butted into the very long train information line at the Amsterdam airport just as I reached the front. Or the three bicyclists riding three abreast taking up the entire Donau Radweg. And it doesn’t seem to matter if the bicyclists are coming towards you or if you’re clanging a bell as you approach from behind, they don’t move!

Finally, there are the ones who run you down with shopping carts in Aldi's or Netto's or Carrefour's, among others.

And as if direct physical contact was bad enough, how about the smokers? The entire patio/plaza of a cafe can be empty and a group of three or more smokers will sit at the table next to you and light up. Naturally, the wind will waft the smoke directly into your cafe macchiato...or what ever you and Dodie drink.

Grrrrr. I’ll get off my soap box now. Enjoy Vienna when you get there. Sorry I’ll miss ya’ in Prague.

Jonathan
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2 months ago
Tricia GrahamWe have just got off a 17.5 hr flight from Auckland to Dubai and are waiting to board our flight to Cairo another 4 hours in the air. I think we will have had enough flying for the day!
Tricia
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Tricia GrahamAnd we thought we were tired at the end of our 83km day. Wow, those flights are long. New Zealand sure is far away. You will definitely need a day to readjust your internal clocks. Oh, welcome to this side of the world.
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2 months ago