We and just a few others thought the Saturday forecast of sunshine and 21°C temperatures could only mean one activity: cycling Austria’s Wachau Valley. ÖBB, the Austrian State Railway makes it an easy-peasy outing, too. Stuff your bicycle into carriage and enjoy a 75 minute ride to Melk (ours was made particularly entertaining by two Romanian families screaming at each other for the duration), cycle the 40km or so to Krems along the Donau, then hop back on one of the hourly return trains to Vienna.
The Wachau Valley is terribly picturesque, and the cycling route is flat. Except for that 18% grade switchback stretch just outside of Melk. Funny, there are no signs warning cyclists of the death trek up the hill; only signs warning riders on the way down.
From Melk Abbey to castle ruins to postcard villages to the flowering culturally protected Marillen trees (don’t call them apricots!), one would be remiss not to make this a “must-do” activity. What took us so long we do not know.
By good fortune the village of Weißenkirchen was hosting its Wandertag, and the village church courtyard was fragrant with grilled bratwurst and pan-fried Krautknodeln for all hungry wanderers. (The dish is a favorite of mine, dumplings sautéed in bacon fat and with sauerkraut that has itself been sautéed in bacon fat.) It was a good and hearty dish to make the last 12km of the ride go smoothly.
Of course, any event in Central Europe requires alcohol. Marillen Schnapps, anyone?
Steckerlfische (grilled whole mackerel on a stick) is another favorite for all of us, and there were several stands en route from which to select our dinner “zum Mitnehmen” (“To Go”). Yes, we carried grilled fish home on the train with us.
Our ride today was fondly reminiscent of the spring rides we would take as a family in DC, to see the cherry blossoms before following the Potomac River toward Mount Vernon and back again. So the cherry blossoms have been replaced by marillen blooms, small matter. The day was great.