I didn’t end up leaving Linz until about 6pm on the Wednesday. I could have stayed another night but I was conscious of the fact that it was 220km to Vienna and I wanted to be there by Friday afternoon. It was a beautiful evening and people were out enjoying it. There is a huge sportplatz where people were partaking in all types of summer sports: cycling, running, racewalking, rollerblading, “Austrian King of Dirt” (bmxing), volleyball, basketball…the Austrians are an active bunch.
About 15km or so into my ride Florian an Austrian chap on a racing bike sped past me, then slowed back down to talk to me. We chatted and after inquiring where I would be staying that night, he said I could crash at his place in Enns, Austria’s oldest town. Cautious after Schirmeckgate, I sussed out the deal and got nothing but good vibes so after 15+mins of cycling and chatting I took him up on his offer. I ate dinner with him, his Mum, and his sis, then me him and his sis went to check out a castle which was built using the ransom money from the kidnapping of Richard the Lionheart. From a view point looking out over the bridge which divides Upper and Lower Austria and which was also their teenage drinking spot, conversations of solar panels, kilowatt hours and aeroplane black boxes drifted into the night…
The following morning I met Flo´s Dad who himself had cycled St Jame´s Way (the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela) and so knew what long distance cycling was like. He cooked me a fat onion and salami omlette and set me up perfectly for what would be my new ‘longest day yet’ ™. On leaving I saw a sauna they had installed in their basement. If only I had clocked that earlier! He led the way by bike back to the cycle path and I nestled in behind a sexagenarian cyclist who acted as a wind break against quite a strong headwind.
The news that heavy rain was coming in from the West and was about 1 to 1.5 days away was enough to make me give it some and cycle 143km…
I guess 100 miles (160km) is a good target to beat. With the wind behind me it would be very doable. I wonder what the upper limit will be during this trip. Whatever it is it will probably happen in the next few thousand K because from east Turkey onwards it all gets very mountainous. I didn´t realise this was the case. I thought it was flatish (relative to the Pamir mountains) ’til Iran and it was only after I came across a 3D map in a book shop in Augsburg that it dawned on me how much more effort this might be than I anticipated. It will quite literally be a case of ‘go big or go home’.
…I woke up to a neptunian sized rain cloud staring down on me forbodingly. It was a race against time. I was glad I had put the extra effort in the day before and surprisingly wasn´t feeling too stiff. As I approached Vienna it started to spit very lightly. No sooner had I arrived, BOOM the heavens opened and it pissed it one for hours…
Vienna is yet another beautiful Austrian city. I caught up with my old friend Thomas the Bavarian Barbarian and we did some cultural stuff, and some not so cultural stuff. We went to the Viennese Pathology Museum which with the likes of this little fella was quite the trip. Looked like something straight out of Aphex Twin´s Rubber Johnny music video. We visited the University of Vienna which architecturally speaking was the most impressive university I´ve seen. Dotted around one of the gardens were headstones of former lecturers such as Freud. Later we checked out the town hall, Helden Platz where Hitler gave a speech, The Hofburg Palace, and St Stephen´s Cathedral. We tried doing a tour of the catacombs but it was only one a day and we missed it.
Friday night was spent chilling in a jazz bar. Amazingly people are still allowed to smoke indoors in pubs and venues here. On Saturday night Ceephax Acid Crew, brother of Squarepusher, delivered some synapse-titillating Grade-A electronica and thoroughly made up for the techno night in Augsburg which never was.
I feel like I have done enough “carbo-loading” in Germany and Austria so tomorrow it´s back to it where I will be entering my 5th country Slovakia and its capital Bratislava. It has been absolutely invaluable speaking French and German for this trip so far so it will be a real change being in countries whose languages I don´t speak. There is also the psychological factor that Thomas was the last person I know and from here on it’s friends of friends who I’ve yet to email, spontaneous invites, couchsurfing if I can get my act together, or the recently rewaterproofed Vango Apex 200….
Auf wiedersehen Österreich. War wirklich schön.