A Brief View of Vienna

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been on something of an “adventure high,” loving every day that our bike tour has brought us.  I’ve been up early, reading to pack up and hit the road, already anticipating the excitement of the day.  That is, until this morning.
Last night, after checking in, we set up the tent and took our showers, and got settled in a bit,  and then the rain hit.  It went on for hours and hours.  Due to the Corpus Christi festivities, we were running impossibly low on snack foods and we really needed to use our stove to cook dinner.  Neither of us seemed to have the energy, though, to work out the logistics of preparing dinner under our vestibule  even though we were starving.  Instead, we stayed holed up in the warm, dry tent and  crunched through the last of our remaining muesli, nuts, and chocolate, feeling a bit deprived.  Finally, I ran out of energy for feeling bad for myself, and just went to bed.

After putting two hundred loaded miles on our bikes in three days, to say I was tired doesn’t quite do it justice.  My legs were so shredded they ached deep in the muscle tissue.  The weather was still looking gloomy, and until reception opened at 8:00 when we could buy some bread from the attached market, we really didn’t even have anything to eat.  I gave serious debate to  crawling back in my sleeping bag and staying there for the rest of the day.

Instead, I laid there miserably until 8:00 when Ben went to get us some breakfast.  Once I’d downed a couple of rolls and some jogurt, and the cobwebs of sleep had had some time to clear, I felt a bit more sensible.  We weren’t planning on any actual riding today, but instead just needed to pedal the short way into Vienna to check out the city after which we would take a train to Salzburg.

The rain cleared nicely, so we packed up and headed out into the grey morning.  Our first stop was to grab a whole bunch of badly needed groceries to refill our food supply and just knowing that we would have something good to eat for the rest of the day did a lot for my spirits.  Then, we cycled into the heart of Vienna.

As usual, we hadn’t done all that much research before showing up and mostly we just wanted to spend some time getting a feelfor the city.  As we rolled through what must have been the shopping district, I was absolutely astounded at how busy it was.  We’ve been to a lot of busy cities on our loaded bikes including Rome, Florence, and Geneva, but I felt almost as if I were riding through Times Square gridlock.  Ben adores riding in this kind of snarled mess, and I made my best attempt at following him as he crafitly weaved between pedestrians, passed slow moving and illegally parked cars, and hopped curbs to avoid conjestion.   Still, all this crazy city traffic felt more welcoming than even five minutes on a busy Hungarian highway.

Before very long,  we arrived in front of St. Stephen’s cathedral where we were joined by plenty of tour groups and other tourists riding around in horses and buggies.  The church was open for visitors with mass going on in the front, and we were able to step in and listen from the back for a while.  We paused a while to take some pictures and then headed back into the streets.

One of our biggest challenges when we ride in touristy cities are the tour groups that are usually following one handkerchief wielding guide.  I can only assume that this is a perfectly interesting way to travel, but often the members of these groups have eyes only for the handkerchief, and would willingly walk right in front of a speeding train if that is where the group was going.   Ultimately, they become the equivalent of human flocks of sheep which never fail to make us laugh.  These groups often block entire roadways or sidewalks, cutting off traffic and making it impossible to go anywhere, leading Ben to note that when on foot, these groups are bigger and slower than the busses that usually drive them around.

After a few hours, we’d had enough big city for the day and headed back to the train station to see about catching a train to Salzburg.  We managed to buy tickets for ourselves and for our bicycles from a ticket machine with no problem and we quickly wondered what we were missing.  Getting anywhere on a train with our bikes is never this easy!

We checked the timetable and headed up to the train that would be leaving shortly which also indicated that our bikes would be welcome.  Upon arrival though, the conductor informed us we needed reservations for our bikes and that we needed to go back to the ticket office to get them.  A bit begrudingly, I got in the ticket line that I though we’d avoided entirely to make a reservation.  No bike friendly trains were available for another couple of hours, but I made the reservations and then found a place to wait.  Ben went on a bit of a shopping excursion in persuit of a  polarizer for our wide angle lens (and of course didnt’ buy anything) while I hung out, and before very long at all, we were  heading to our real train.

We quickly discovered that Austrian trains are not like Italian trains, pretty much at all.  The hanging bike hooks that we’ve ignored 100% of the time in Italy are mandatory in Austria and we were forced to completely unload both of the bikes and hang them on opposite ends of the car with the conductor overseeing our every move.  Our unloaded luggage took up rows and rows worth of overhead bin space.  We were a little annoyed with the whole painful process, but gratefully, our train was direct to Salzburg so we wouldn’t have to do it more than once.   As we set off, Ben quickly noticed that the train was dead silent as it moved along the rails: a big change from the ones in Italy.  Also, we had individual electricity outlets for our laptops as we went.  We arrived in Salzburg with our computers fully charged!

Our campsite was a mere couple of kilometers away from the station and before long, we were settled in and cooking up something of a feast after our deprivation yesterday. We ate until we were full and then ate some more until we were actually a bit uncomfortable.  It was a nice change.  As I was doing the dishes at the dish station, I met a couple of other campers that were heading for Vienna and were discussing where to camp once they arrived.  We got to chatting since we’d just been there, and I met a cute couple from Canada on a month long European tour.  They began in Croatia where they said the weather was unbearably hot (thankfully it was not when were were there!) and will end in Budapest.

After how miserably hot we were only a few nights ago as we finished our century ride in Hungary, I couldn’t believe how cold it has been these past two days! I have been layered up and wearing my rain jacket even when the weather is dry…it sure doesn’t feel like late June.  At the end of a long, chilly, and only sort of restful day, we were excited to crawl into the tent into our warm sleeping bags to blog and look at photos.

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