Earlier this year my son Owen mentioned that one of his running mates Hubie, who was born in Germany but is now living in Cork, was arranging a cycle trip from Passau to Vienna along the banks of the River Danube. He suggested that I might like to join their group. Because the cycle was going down river and as rivers do not normally flow uphill, I was delighted to accept. After all, Owen as well as being my son is also my physio and if he felt I was up to it then who was I to disagree!
He did suggest in fairness that, as the cycle was over 5 days and that the average journey would be about 55k, that an electric bike mind not be a bad idea. I agreed.
I said this to my other son Eamon one day. I could see that he was not too impressed with the electric bike idea. I happened to mention on leaving the office one day that I was going home to do a session on the exercise bike. He looked at me, laughed (cheeky b….…!) and suggested that since I was getting the electric bike for the cycle trip that there really wasn’t really any need to get that fit. He suggested I practice instead sitting on top of the washing machine just to get used to the vibration of the electric bike!
Naturally, this hurt my pride and I immediately contacted Hubie to cancel the electric bike and tried to get in as many cycles as possible down and up the banks of the River Lee.
The cycle was from Passau (close to the Austrian border) along the banks of the Danube as far as Vienna. We flew to Munich and from there got the train to Passau situated on the Danube. We stayed in a lovely hotel close to the river and picked up our bikes on arrival at Passau. Each night we stayed in a different hotel along the river. Each morning our suitcases were picked up and delivered to our next hotel. The organisation and the quality of the hotels and the food along the way was first class and the cycle paths were of very good quality.
The bikes, however, were not the classiest and poor Vince seemed to have some trouble with his saddle most mornings. He used to hop on the bike and sometimes the saddle would be a little low and he literally would have his legs hitting off his head as he started cycling. He knew there was something going on and, as he jumped off the bike, he shouted a few curses after Owen who for some reason had a big grin on his face as he cycled off merrily into the distance. One morning Vince arrived and the saddle was gone. It took a while to restore peace that morning, I thought Owen was going to end up in the River Danube!
The rain was bucketing down in Passua on our arrival but the forecast was for a heatwave over the remainder of our trip. The forecast was correct and it got hotter and hotter over the next few days. Nine of us, including Owen and myself, had signed up for the cycle and it was a wonderfully diverse group of people mostly from Cork but also two great characters from Kerry – Tommy Roche and his son, Jack. More about Jack later. We also had Kevin Heath from England who kept us up to date on Brexit until eventually we told him we didn’t really care what happened…. we were on our holidays from all of that stuff. We also had the Groarke brothers, Vincent and Peter, two wonderful entertainers who added so much fun to our trip. We also Chris Hannon and of course our Organiser–in-Chief Hubertus Wiese better known as Hubie.
The first day’s cycle was a gentle one from the bike shop to the hotel. The next day’s cycle from Passau was around 40k and I was feeling good and was delighted that I had made the decision to revert to the normal bike. The third day we did a cycle of about 45k to Linz (passing the rowing area where the 2019 rowing championships were subsequently held). I started to struggle a little in the heat towards the end of the cycle. On the fourth day, we started in Linz and had a cycle of 55k to Melk and this cycle I found tough and spent more time with my backside up in the air than in the saddle. Eventually we got to Melk and boy was I relieved to get there. That evening I said to Owen that I was struggling and straightaway, having had a quick look at my backside, took the decision that I totally and absolutely agreed with. My cycling was over for a while.
The following morning Owen and I headed by taxi to the next stop which was Emmersdorf, across the river from Melk. That night we were staying in the Hotel Zum Schwarzen Baeren. The remainder of the group continued with the cycle and joined us after lunch. While waiting for the lads to arrive, Owen and I had a few games of chess and I think he won all of them. Revenge for all the times I beat him when he was a young fellow. Amazingly, Vince had no trouble with his saddle that morning.
The next morning we all went for a tour around the wonderful Melk Abbey perched on the hill overlooking the Danube. After a very interesting tour of the Abbey, I took a taxi back down to the Danube and hopped on the ferry that was going to take me down river to our next destination – Krems. The lads all kindly cycled to where the boat was moored to wave me off and, whilst I did not know it at the time, young Jack Roche was busy with his pencil and paper doing a little caricature of me as my boat trip started. Jack is an exceptionally talented artist doing some wonderful work.
Jack Roche’s caricature of me on the boat which I will always treasure
The ferry boat on the Danube
It was great to relax on the boat. The boat trip was one of the most wonderful, peaceful days that I can ever remember. In the cooling breeze from the river I had a super lunch, a delicious ham and cheese omelette, washed down by a few cool glasses of Austrian wine. Of course, I was missing my friends as they battled through the heat to their next destination, Krems. Well, I didn’t miss them that much! Vincent and Owen decided to race the boat to Krems on their bikes but were not quite able to match the speed of the boat downriver.
We had some wonderful fun evening meals along the way and the most memorable was certainly the one above the Danube in Krems when we met up with Hubie’s friends Cico, Ute and Luisa. It was an open-air restaurant up in the hills over the river in a local farm, which had nice food and had its own vineyard of good quality red wine.
Cico, Ute, Vince, Hubie, Myself, Tommy, Peter, Chris, Kevin, Jack, Luisa & Owen
As the evening progressed and the wine was enjoyed, Peter proceeded to entertain not just our table but also everybody who was dining there that evening. He is just so funny and engaging. He was asked to join the table next to us which of course he was delighted to do – they just loved his fun, chat and stories.
Peter in full flow!
The following day I hopped on the train to Vienna and met up with the cyclists when they arrived a few hours later. They all made it to Vienna in good shape considering the length of the cycle they had completed and the heat along the way. We spent a few days in Vienna which was really nice and Marina, Owen’s wife, joined us as she and Owen were heading off to a wedding afterwards. Vienna is a lovely city to spend some time in and is by all accounts one of safest cities in the world.
Passau to Vienna Cycle Overview
Looking back at the cycle, yes I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys cycling. It is, however, quite a long cycle especially if the weather is as hot as it was for our trip. Many of the cyclists had electric bikes and for many that made total sense as they could peddle as much as they wanted and then turn on the power when the muscles got tired. In addition, it is possible to take a day’s rest and hop on a boat and bring your bicycle with you to your next destination. In fact, Hubie was going to have a rest day for my sake when he thought I was going on a push bike. He changed plan then when he booked an electric bike for me and rightly did not change the plan when I cancelled the electric bike.
The organisation of the cycle was first class. The accommodation and the quality of the food was fine and the cycle paths were in excellent condition. The safety of the cyclists was good because about 98% of the cycling was done on designated cycle paths alongside the river. The river itself is probably not as gorgeous as some of our incredibly beautiful rivers in Ireland and the UK.
Vince, Hubie & Chris
Overall, definitely a trip I will always remember. A truly wonderful group of people who were very helpful and kind and just great fun to spend time with. Thanks for the invite Owen – can’t wait for my next boat trip!
Ted Dwyer Family Business