@ the Belvedere
Start: Vienna, Austria
End: Laa an der Thaya, Autria
Elevation Gain: 2478ft
Elevation Loss: 2416ft
Reading Material: The Czechs and the Lands of the Bohemian Crown – Hugh Agnew (figured I should bone up on my Czech history as I’m basically crossing the country twice);
Audio Material: The World in Words Podcast; Re:Sound; Nerdist podcast
After several days exploring Vienna, it’s time to start heading to Krakow. I’ve chosen another EuroVelo-inspired route. Sometimes called the Krakow-Moravia-Wien Greenways trail or the Amber Route (either an ancient trade route or a nice piece of marketing). The planned route is about 700km in length and might take 8-9 days of cycling with a few stops along the way (Brno, caves, Ostrava, Auschwitz).
Today was a bit of backtracking from Vienna north to the Czech border. To keep things interesting, I plotted an alternate route that conveniently landed me in Laa an der Thaya, a thermal spring town just a few km from the border.
Unbeknownst to me, today was Ascension Day — a public holiday in Austria. This meant the streets were empty as I bicycled away under blue skies at 830am. Unfortunately, it also meant I wasn’t able to get a farewell breakfast bagel from my local cafe. I had a beautiful farewell cycle through Vienna and up the entire length of Danube Island, much friendlier than the route I took on the way in. Twenty km north of the city, I was able to stop and get a proper breakfast — espresso + marmalade rolls.
The remainder of the ride was on quiet backcountry roads and some stinky fields freshly fertilized. Achtung Wildwechsel! (Beware Wild Children?)
Don’t tell anyone, but I decided to stay an extra day and enjoy the thermal springs in Laa. I’m a sucker for hot tub soaking — hopefully this doesn’t ruin my cred.
Start: Poysdorf, Czech Republic
End: Vienna, Austria
Elevation Gain: 1916ft
Elevation Loss: 1993ft
Reading Material: A History of the Jews – Paul Johnson; Attempting Normal – Marc Maron
Audio Material: Sound Opinions, Planet Money (lots of “is Economics a science?” discussion after the Reinhart/Rogoff Excel error)
Arrived in Vienna a bit ahead of schedule. This last section follows EuroVelo Route 9 into Wien, a section I might repeat in reverse when heading to Brno and then Poland.
The last ~20km was spent tackling the sprawl of Northeast Vienna. Pretty much a straightshot, but the drab cityscape goes on for a long time before the Vienna you remember from covers of philosophy textbooks appears. All sources indicated that Vienna would be a bike-friendly town. And, indeed, there are dedicated bike lanes on many roads. However, they also end unexpectedly with poor signage and occasional misplaced curbs.
One positive aspect of this bike lane confusion is that I had my first opportunity of the trip to exchange the universally understood bicycle/motorist salute: the raised middle finger. Like Prague, Boston and many other elder cities, Vienna is built along a river. However, unlike those other cities, the main bridges over the Danube River do not have bike or pedestrian lanes. I was following what I thought was a bicycle lane over the 4-lane wide Gürtelbrücke bridge. The lane ended and I was forced onto the roadway. Two hundred meters or so later, a sidewalk appeared but with constant traffic, a fully loaded bicycle and high curb to navigate, I deemed it safer to continue pedaling with traffic over the bridge. A woman two lanes over leaned her head out of the passenger window and yelled at me. She was a good 10 car lengths ahead by the time I flipped the bird but luckily I was acknowledged with the reply. I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to be welcomed to Vienna after two weeks of bicycling from Berlin.