Vienna, hello and farewell

We first met Vienna 26 years ago and have been wanting to return; it is still my favourite European city- so cultured, elegant, calm and well organised. Walking in the rain the first day was not a pleasure so we slipped into the Albertina Art Gallery for a couple of warm, dry hours; what a treat, including some of the best still life’s I have seen (not my favourite genre).

Our apartment is just off the Ring, surrounded by cafes. With its space, 4 m ceilings and great view (below) it’s a good base and the 4 of us ate in the first night.

Day 2 was chilly but fine so we headed off for an 11km hike through the Vienna Woods and vineyards, and a visit to a local heurige (vineyard & food).

Heurige 1 was pretty but closed (they open mid afternoon) but Heurige 2 in Grinzing was open – Yay.

We sadly farewelled Sharon and Paul, who went on to London.

And then, our last day on this trip was finally warm, sunny and Vienna shone!

St Stephens Church

Zer Schön!

Sacher torte in Cafe Sacher
So grand!

Golden Strauss (and a waltzer)

So now, the final Prosecco, packing, a sleep, and the journey back home tomorrow. Au revoir Europe!

Still life with Prosecco

Danube Cycle trip: Part 2

We have now completed our Danube ride and happily returned the bikes, as well as getting into normal clothes and decent hairstyles for our days in Vienna.

The bike trip was a mixed experience. Some beautiful riding days but windy, one day when we looked out the window and put the bikes and us on the train (rainy) and the last day into Vienna that was cloudy but really easy riding.

Our favourite place was Bad Kreuzen, on top of a hill (we were transported up and down), where we stayed in a super modern chic hotel, attached to a castle where the restaurant was situated and the bikes stored in a wedding marquee. I would have happily stayed there longer and done some hiking.

Taking the bikes over the drawbridge to store them

View of Bad Kreuzen from hotel balcony

Other than that, lots of stretches of river, coffee stops and pretty towns:

The abbey in Melk

A cruise ship for those who like such things!

We were relieved to have made it (oh, and Lester and I both came off our bikes in different places and have some bruises but we are fine!)

So now, 3 days in Vienna before we fly out on Saturday, and it’s raining again! The weather has not been as good this year as last year.

Danube Cycle trip: Part 1

Passau on a grey day

After 2 chilly days enjoying beautiful Munich with friends Sharon and Paul, we moved on to Passau on the Danube where our next cycle tour began. This was just a day after 5 people had been killed by crossbow in Passau!

Passau is lovely but it was wet and bitterly cold so we spent a fair bit of time in a Brauhaus after collecting the bikes.

Bikes were stored in a hotel room – odd!

The first day’s cycling was chilly and damp but improved as the day went on. It was still beautiful- we cycled along the river all the way.

We spent the night up in a little village called St Agatha above the river.

Hotel in St Agatha

The second day was mild and sunny – great riding (but quite windy). Again we were right next to the beautiful river.

We are now in Linz and continue the journey tomorrow. The thing about cycling is that it is the day’s activity. All you need is dinner and you are done!

Oh, and a bath, if you are lucky!!

High on a Hill…..above Innsbruck

We are staying in an Airbnb apartment in a suburb of Innsbruck, and while it is not central, we haven’t seen any lonely goatherds. It’s a nice ‘hood’, a starting point for a network of hiking trails (see above) and a hub where cable car, Bahn and local bus connect so it’s easy to get around.

Entrance to Airbnb
Our neighbourhood

There is an uber-cool cafe (yep – Aperol Spritzes), where a friendly, dread-locked man/boy waiter who lived in Oz for 2 years wrote down his suggestions for walks for us.

Our local cafe – few mins walk

We did a couple, both involving significant climbs, but the reward was found at inns (“Alms”) at the top serving great Tyrolean food (the views weren’t shabby either). Here is one:

Then it was onto the cable cars to the top of the highest mountain (Nordkette) and it was snowing gently – just lovely!

Can’t help it – see snow, have to roll in it!

We loved Innsbruck and were lucky to have 3 beautiful days to enjoy it before the weather turned.

Swanning around Lake Garda

On the bus from Verona to Bardolino on Lake Garda, I had decided to call this post “Gold Coast on Garda” after we passed several “Worlds” on a very touristy strip. But Bardolino and the subsequent days changed that perception.

Our first afternoon in Bardolino was spent hanging out on the beautiful waterfront, sipping (you guessed it) Aperol Spritzes (as well as washing and food shopping):

And then things changed – the most atrocious storm came in with thunder, lightning, heavy rain and 45knot winds. We holed up in our Airbnb for a day (apart from an hour’s walk) and were very grateful:

a) we had a 4 roomed apartment with windows everywhere, warm, homely and with a lovely host downstairs

b) we had a stack of food and wine

c) for the first time in Italy we had a movie channel with movies in English so we could binge on “The Addams Family Movie” and “Chocolate”

d) we were not riding bikes

And then the weather cleared so we could spend 2 days riding ferries and buses and walking to beautiful places on Lake Garda:

Garda

Sirmione

Malcesine

Limone

More Malcesine

and then we returned to Bardolino to sit on our balcony

So that’s it back in Italian Italy. Tomorrow it’s Verona and then we head back North again.

Cycling Dolomites to Lake Garda: Days 4-6

Day 5 ride: Bolzano to Trento

Day 4 of our cycling program was a 40 min train trip (with bikes) from Bolzano to Merano.

Did I say we loved Bolzano? Well Merano is an absolute winner too! A beautiful mediaeval town in a magnificent mountain and river setting, and on a perfect spring day many people were out enjoying the sunshine on the river or in cafes:

The 40km ride back was to be through vineyards and villages but it was way too complicated so we opted for the sign posted ride along the river – bit boring, although we did get passed by a one-legged cyclist!

Day 5 I was nervous about – 70km and the furthest I have ridden was 60km. However it was a beautiful, gentle downhill ride along the river from Bolzano to Trento, so apart from some incorrect directions in our maps, it was fine.

It was Market day in one little town- talk about super-cheeses (almost obscene)!We stopped for a fresh apple juice at a little stall and the owner gave us apples. Nice lunch.

And pleasant scenery:

We were booked into the Grand Hotel Trento – a most unexpected treat, and it is indeed grand:

Day 6 was the whimper, rather than the bang. We were to ride 50km from Trento to Riva del Garda, drop off bikes, pick up luggage then get 2 buses to Bardolino further down Lake Garda. It was always going to be a day where things could go wrong!

Then we discovered there is a huge 3 day bike festival on in Riva, so we were worried that parts of the bike path there would be blocked off. So we decided to cancel the day’s ride and get train and bus to Bardolino. Last bike pic for now:

Lake Garda here we come- just not on bikes. Oh well.

Cycling Dolomites to Lake Garda: Days 1-3

One thing we have learned about cycling trips, especially this time of the year, is that weather usually impacts at least one day.

This time it was day 1! We were to be transported further up from Brixen to Torbech and then ride down river to Bruneck. But Torbech had 30cm of snow and the path was closed. Instead we were taken to Bruneck where we cycled a way up river and back just to get our legs into cycling mode.

Day 2 we rode from Bruneck to Chiusa, 60km and it was quite tough – more ups than we like! It was pretty, with the covered bridge below being the most interesting feature:

Day 3 was splendid – a beautiful 30km downhill ride along the river on a glorious May Day holiday:

There were many cyclists out. The leisure cyclists (that’s us) are a friendly lot. The serious cyclists are too busy looking buffed and sleek and going fast to be friendly.

Then we arrived in one of our absolute favourite places – Bolzano. There was a Spring market on and plenty of pop up bars and food stalls. I’d say most of Bolzano’s 21000 population turn up to buy their spring flowers and veggies to plant. Of course Aperol was essential again.

And our hotel has a discreet sunny balcony – perfect for airing the cycling gear (I won’t post the photo of that coz Facebook will probably use it as the key photo!!).

Our bike tour is with Fun Active tours and we are very impressed with quality of bikes, equipment, hotels, communication. Probably the best yet. We booked through a broker, Rad&Reisen, in Vienna and they have also been excellent.