Cycle the Danube River Path or Bike/Boat it from Passau to Vienna
Today we will cycle Europe's most popular long distance cycle path along the Danube River, doing an exquisite section from Passau, Germany to magical Vienna, Austria. You can even continue cycling all the way to Budapest! Choose to cycle from hotel to hotel, or do a Bike/Boat cruise so you don't have to pack and unpack each day. (itinerary for each below) Your luggage is transferred regardless so all you have to do is enjoy your ride. During this week long adventure, you'll have plenty of time to stop and sightsee, sample local dishes and wine taverns, or check out the historical monasteries, palaces and many museums. This is a VERY gentle, well-marked path that is mainly flat or downhill, so even children as young as ten can do it! It is an IDEAL first-timer adventure trip!!! Listen to the full interview with Hamish Adamson who cycled the Danube River Path in July of 2017 on the Podcast Player above, and read more details below. Adventure On!
Our guest today, Hamish Adamson, is from MACS Adventures, a Glasgow-based self-guided tour company. This is the company I used to arrange my West Highland Way hike in Scotland last June. Because of its popularity, I wanted the Danube Cycle Path to be the first biking adventure covered by Active Travel Adventures, but didn't know anyone who had done it. Since I was really happy with MACS, I contacted them to ask if they could refer me to someone who had recently done the adventure and they directed me to Hamish.
CYCLE FROM HOTEL TO HOTEL ITINERARY : 8 Days – 7 Nights
Late March – mid October
Includes breakfast, but the rest of the meals are on your own. You can arrange for ‘half board', meaning you get dinner, too. You are able to customize your itinerary should you want to plan to stay in say, Linz an extra day. Your luggage is transfered to your hotel for you each day, so you just need your incidentals and lunch on the provided panniers (bags that hook onto your bike). You must stick with your planned cycling itinerary (versus on the Bike/Boat tour, where, if you don't feel like cycling one day, you can just hang out on the boat or wander around the town until the ship departs.)
DAY ONE : Arrive Passau, Germany
Passau is a city of three rivers: the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. Be sure to take time to explore the many arches and tunnels! If you can, maybe get here a day early and take a city tour.
DAY TWO : Passau to Schlögener Loop
The Danube makes a 180 degree turn, the Schlögener Loop, on one of this adventure's most special days. You can hike up above the path to get a panoramic view (about 30-40 minutes and it's steep but well worth it!). Be sure to visit Austria's only Trappist monastery and sample some of their special liquers. 45 km/30 miles [distances rounded]
DAY THREE : Schlögener Loop to Linz area
You'll take a ferry across the river and then cycle to Eferdinger Basin across the plains to the wonderful city of Linz [also worth an extra day if you can spare it!] Linz is the capital of upper Austria and was named 2009's European Cultural Capital. 55km/35 miles
DAY FOUR : Linz to Region Grein Take a diversion to the charming Enns, Austria's oldest town. Cycle through the coutryside and visit the Celtic village of Mitterkirchen, Baumgartenberg's famous church and Clam's castle. Tour Austria's oldest – and still working – theater in Grein. 60 km/40 miles
DAY FIVE : Region Grein to Region Melk
Landscape takes center stage today as you cycle with stunning wooded rock formations hugging both sides of the river. Look up above to see the Marie Teferi church as you head towards the Benedictine monastery of Melk. 50km/30 miles
DAY SIX : Region Melk to Region Krems Today you're in wine country as you cycle through the vineyards and orchards of the Wachau Valley. Take time for a wine tour! It's a day of terraced vineyards, palaces, monasteries, castles and taverns. Stop off in the towns of Spitz, Weißkirchen and Durstein. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its cultural landscape. 40 km/30 miles
DAY SEVEN : Region Krems to Vienna
You'll take a train to Tulin (taken to shorten the ride today, but you can cycle it for about double the distance listed). You'll cycle through the Vienna Woods as you make your way to the “Gates of Vienna”. You can check out the Klosterneuburg monastery, the Hofburg Palace, over 100 art museums, the famous Viennese cafes, the City Opera, Ringstraβe, Schonbrun Castle, and so much more. Do try to take an extra day or two here. 40 km/30 miles
BIKE/BOAT TOUR 8 Days – 7 Nights
April – October
Includes ALL meals (buffet breakfast, pack lunch and a three course dinner with choices). Some itinerary customizing within a particular day, but you must do so within the ship's schedule. Evening briefings on the next day's itinerary with recommendations. Solo cabins as well as two party cabins (BOOK EARLY – Try to plan a year in advance and certainly book by January of that year]. This tour offers a chance to really get to know some of your fellow travelers from around the world. If you decide to spend more time in a city like Vienna or Linz, you will need to return after the bike/boat tour (which is easy) as you must stay with your original ship.
DAY ONE : Arrive Passau and embark. Sail to Mathausen.
DAY TWO : Mathausen to Grein. Visit Mitterkirchen. Cycle 35 km/22 miles[distances rounded]. Sail to Devin.
DAY THREE : Devin to Bratislava. Former Iron Curtain (you can still see some checkpoints and bunkers). Visit Hof palace and explore Bratislava. There's time for a city tour that night. Cycle 18 or 49 km /11 or 30 miles. Sail to Vienna.
DAY FOUR : Explore Vienna. Full day to explore this magical city. Consider taking in a waltz and operetta concert at a palace!
DAY FIVE : Krems to Melk. Ship turns around and heads back upstream. 33 km/20 miles. Overnight in Melk.
DAY SIX : Melk to Grein. 50 km/30 miles. Sail to Obermuhl.
DAY SEVEN : Schlögener Loop to Engerlartszell. 28 or 43 km/12 or 27 miles
DAY EIGHT : Passau and disembark
Highlights (complete transcript below with time stamps):
1:10 The Danube cycle path tour is a perfect multi-generational and/or multi-adventure level tour for families, couples or friends, or solo.
1:39 Kit’s big problem and how she’s developing her ‘Grit Bone’
4:30 Hamish Adamson of MACS Adventures introduces himself
5:57 Cycle along the Danube from Passau, Germany to Vienna, Austria or Vienna to Budapest, Hungary.
6:36 The path is level plus a description of what you’ll see
7:37 How long you cycle each day 9:02 Perfect for families
9:27 Bike options 10:24 Baggage transfer service
11:16 Navigation 12:08 Best time to go [weather and crowds]
13:06 Start in Passau, city of three rivers
14:53 Austria’s only Trappist monastery in Engelhartzell; Schlogener Loop
15:45 Linz area
16:38 Food: Linzer torte, Knodel, erdafelka
17:56 Grein region – Enn’s – Mitterkirchen – Baumgartenberg – oldest theater in Austria
19:13 Melk – monastery Maria Telfari (tour)
20:01 Krems – Wachau Valley wine region – Spitz – Weibkirchen – Durstein
20:35 Arrive Vienna – Klosterneuburg monestary – Hofburg palace – wienerschnitzel – tafelspitz – gerostete erapfel
23:36 Naschmarkt – Opera House – Ringstrasses – castle Schonbrunn – Viennese cafes
24:38 Hamish’s strongest memories: Day Two Schlogener’s Loop – Mathause concentration camp
26:27 Favorite memory is the people he met, both locals and fellow travelers
28:11 Is there a problem if you can’t speak German? [No]
29:48 Bike/Boat options and benefits 34:03 Meals on the bike/boat tour
35:57 Traveling solo
37:07 Planning this trip on your own
39:48 MACS Adventures
41:30 Book well in advance, especially for Bike/Boat tour
43:34 Hamish other cycling recommendation: Scotland’s Perthshire
45:15 Kit’s “podcaster’s Pooch” problem hopefully solved
45:45 Kit’s upcoming Costa Rica hiking and rafting adventure trip
46:27 Affiliate partnerships explained
47:39 Next up: Patagonia in Chili and Argentina
REACH OUT TO MACS ADVENTURES:
The cycle adventure Hamish also highly recommends: Highland Perthshire
READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE:
011 Danube Bike with Hamish Adamson January 11, 2018 Transcript
Kit: 00:00 SCRATCH THAT wrong music.
Kit: 00:05 This is more like it.
Kit: 00:18 Happy New Year everyone. I hope you enjoyed the holidays and have got some great adventures planned for this year.
Kit: 00:24 Today we're going to be going on our first biking holiday. This is a great vacation for somebody who wants to test the waters on adventure travel OR the more intrepid traveler who wants to make it more challenging. Also it's an adventure that the whole family even those as young as 10 can do. What a great bonding opportunity for parents or grandparents and children. The Bike Path is gentle with no steep climbs, is virtually traffic free, and is well-marked. You bike less than 40 miles per day (about 60 kilometers). So your butt is never going to get raw which has always been my hesitation about taking a cycling tour. This also means that you have plenty of time to sightsee and explore the charming and historic villages and cities along the way. You even have the option of boating in at night or if you're traveling with somebody who doesn't want to bike.
Kit: 01:10 It's truly a perfect multigenerational and multi adventure level vacation. So where are we going? Classical enthusiasts are going to recognize the background music by Johann Strauss: Blue Danube. That's right! We're going to cycle alongside the mighty Danube River doing a section from Paasau, Germany to the magical Vienna, Austria. You can even continue your cycle all the way to Budapest. This path is Europe's favorite cycling holiday for good reason. Because it's the favorite, I thought we'd feature it as Active Travel Adventures first cycling adventure. I didn't know anybody who'd actually done it, so I reached out to MACS because I'm such a fan of them. One of their employees had recently done this adventure and he agreed to tell us about it. But before we get going, I want to tell you a story.
Kit: 01:54 Remember how in the last episode #010 on the 15 Benefits of Adventure Travel? As I'm recording this I have a big problem and I wanted to share it with you because I think it exemplifies what I was trying to relate in that episode. I live in eastern North Carolina in the United States. During the winter., it may be freezing at night, but it is usually about 50 degrees or about 10 degrees Celsius during the day. Like most of the country we have been in a solid Arctic freeze for almost a week. Our southern homes and our heating systems just aren't built for this kind of cold. Three nights ago we had a rain and then that froze and it snowed on top of that. So my poor heat pump compressor froze up like an igloo. I rigged up what I thought was like a solar defroster: I wrapped it in black roofing tar paper and black trash bags in hopes that when the sun came out the next day, it would melt the ice. However this time of year the sun is too low in the sky and the Western trees in my yard blocked all the rays. Thus, I'm going to be without heat until we finally get above freezing again in three more days. My house temperature is currently about 40 degrees which is less than 5 degrees Celsius. But I'm staying here so I can keep flushing out the pipes so they don't freeze up and bust on me. My brother brought me a space heater so at least I'm able to keep one room warm my family and friends are all upset and worried about me but I'm not. I have found this reaction interesting.
Kit: 03:10 I think it ties back to what I was talking about in that last episode. I'm not the least bit stressed over it at all. This is a completely different reaction than I would have had not too many years ago. Being without heat for six days when the temperature are in their teens (which is about 7 below in Celsius) is a big deal. But I find myself rolling with the punches. Since I can't change the situation, I better just deal with it. I believe that I'm building something I'm calling a ‘Grit Bone' that I attribute to my adventurous travels these days. When I come across a new problem or obstacle instead of fretting over it or whining like I used to, I'm becoming more detached about the problem so that I can analyze it and deal with the situation calmly. If you look over my list of the adventure travel benefits you'll see that I've been able to translate several of these to improve my home life in this situation.
Kit: 03:58 There is no doubt I'm going to really appreciate heat come Monday, but throughout the situation I've actually felt empowered– much like I feel when I've complete one of my adventures. I truly believe that adventure travel is life changing and has changed who ‘Kit Parks' is today. I have a few more personal items that I want to share but I'll leave them until after the interview. So let's get started.
Kit: 04:40 To begin, can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hamish: 04:45 Sure. My name is Hamish Adamson. I'm a Destination and Adventures Specialist for MACS Adventures. and we are our tour operator based in Glasgow, Scotland. I'm in my mid twenties. I'm a keen cyclist and trying to become a keen walker as well, but my heart lies with cycling. So I've travelled all over Scotland doing various adventures over the years and travelled in various other parts of the globe as well and travelled in New Zealand and US as well. So I've got a passion for adventures and particularly for cycling.
Kit: 05:26 I myself used this particular company when I did the West Highland Way hike that I did in Scotland episode #3. I'll link to that in the show notes. I became a big fan of MACS and you'll find there that I recommend them quite often on the Travel Planners as a self guided tour company where they make all the arrangements but you do it by yourself without a guide. And I have even asked to be an affiliate with them, so more about that later. Anyhow let's get on with the interview.
Kit: 05:54 As Europe's second largest river which runs through 10 countries, the Danube River offers a great cycling holiday. In fact, it's Europe's most popular cycling holiday. Last July, Hamish himself did the Passau to Vienna section. I've asked him to tell us a little bit about his adventure and to describe the two ways that you can do this adventure. Hamish:
06:12 OK yes. So as I say, we offer two variations of ‘The Cycle on the Danube'. The first would be a hotel to hotel trip. So we offer two sections. The first would be from Passau which is in Germany and you cycle to Vienna, the capital of Austria. And the second section is from Vienna and then finishing in Budapest in Hungary. So you cycle along the River Danube, along really easy and flat cycle path's the whole the whole way, cycling from hotel to hotel, stopping along the way taking in all the various sites and points of interest.
Kit: 06:51 It's cool that the path itself is fairly level. What percentage are you actually in towns versus the countryside?
Hamish: 07:00 Sure yeah, it varies a little bit. Generally speaking and the majority of your day, so I'd probably say something between 80 – 90 percent your day is going to be on dedicated cycle paths and traffic free cycle paths. Once you get into the villages and towns, sometimes you have to deviate from the cycle paths and sort of go onto quieter town roads, but the majority of the cycling is free of traffic which is great for or cyclists who maybe their first cycling holiday are or people who are looking for a bit more of our leisure trip as well. You can really sort of relax when you're doing the cycling on this along the Danube and not really have to worry about running into any cars.
Kit: 07:44 Cool! On average, about how long you're cycling each day? Hamish: 07:52 So both the Passau to Vienna and Budapest trips you're probably looking at about 40-50 kilometers a day. So that's probably approximately 25 to 35 miles a day.
Kit: 08:01 So what does that take maybe half a day and allowing you to ‘putz' along the way and do some sightseeing? Hamish: 08:08 Exactly. Yeah. I mean obviously everyone's a little bit different in terms of how they approach their schedule for the day. Most people would probably check out of the hotel in the morning and probably cycle for a couple of hours and then maybe stop for lunch somewhere. Some people make a pack lunch themselves so they can just stop anywhere they want. Other people like to stop at a restaurant or cafe, and sort of sit down and have a proper meal. And then you might continue cycling on for for a couple of hours. I mean, I think the thing to remember about these sorts of trips is that getting from point A to point B as fast as you can is not the time you're really looking to him to take in all the sights along the way so I would probably say on average you're probably looking at maybe three to five hours, and depending on your ability and also how many times you stop.
Kit: 08:56 Different from most of the adventures I cover on this podcast, this one seems like a very suitable for families. Is that correct?
Hamish: 09:02 Yeah absolutely! So we do actually offer a dedicated family version of this trip which is a slightly amended itinerary as well. But to be honest, both itineraries we've just been discussing Passau- Vienna and Vienna – Budapest would be suitable for families as well. Cycling, it's just really straightforward… you know there's no hills to speak of. And because it's traffic free for the vast majority, you could be absolutely fine taking children, probably from the age of 10 upwards on the trip. And indeed when I was there in July this year, I saw numerous families and family groups on the cycle path.
Kit: 09:42 Who provides the bikes? MACS or do we have to bring our own? Hamish: 09:46 We can do either option. The majority of people probably get bike hire from from ourselves but you know some people maybe doing a cycle tour around Europe and might have their own bikes with them and would just like us to arrange accommodation for them, so we can do that as well. The bikes are hybrid touring bikes so they're very comfortable, very practical. They come with panniers and bags on the side, so plenty of room for anything you want to take with you on the day and you get a wee handlebar bag as well, which is handy for putting your paper notes and things like that. And to help you gauge yourself along the route.
Kit: 10:24 What about the rest of your clothing and belongings? Explain how that gets transported from one stop to the next.
Hamish: 10:30 So we offer daily bags transfers in the price of the trip, so your luggage is collected from the hotel and reception or the designated pickup area in the hotel in the morning, and then it's delivered to your next accommodation, usually late afternoon. So no, all you have to worry about when you're cycling is just getting from point A to point B and enjoying enjoying the route. It's a pretty stress free.
Kit: 10:58 While I love to backpack, I used the luggage transfer service on my Scotland trip and I have to admit that was really sweet to have everything lugged for you everyday… waiting for you when you got there, and they just take it in the morning. That's a really nice service. I've only experienced lugging about 30 pounds on a bike was when I was relieving a long distance biker that I met on my French trip last year. And it gets tiring, so so this luggage transfer is a really nice luxury. Let's talk a minute about the route markings. How easy is it to find the path? And is it easy to get lost?
Hamish: 11:31 So the cycle path is going to split up into various sections so each section will have a number on it and there's signs on the routes. So most commonly, on one day’s cycling, you'll be following the same path. So say it's ‘number seven', just follow the signs for ‘number seven' that day. We also provide notes and maps as well. So you're covered in all bases really. But to be honest, you don't need any great navigation skills for this trip because you're following the cycle path that follows the river. You really can't go wrong. You know, as long as you keep going on the same side of the river and following that, you'll get to where you need to go to.
Kit: 12:08 When's the best time of year to do this, to both avoid the crowds and to have the best weather?
Hamish: 12:14 So I think it probably depends on what what the most important thing to you when you're thinking about the trip. If you're looking for the best weather, then probably your looking at June- July. It does tend to get quite warm in July and August, so that's something to bear in mind. When I was in Cycle on the Danube in July, it was a heat heat wave and the temperatures were well over 30 degrees Centigrade which is pretty warm for part of Europe [Note from Kit: about 85F]. That same year, if you're looking to avoid the crowds then probably you want to look at the months of May or September, and they can also be very good for weather as well, actually. The weather tends to be a little bit cooler probably more around 20 degrees centigrade and the paths are certainly a bit quieter that time of year as well.
Kit: 13:00 You're going to be going through some incredible historical areas and some beautiful areas. Can you tell us a little bit, almost day by day, about what we'd be seeing and doing? And also are we able to modify the itinerary a little bit if we want to stay an extra day in a certain town or city?
Hamish: 13:21 For the Passau to Vienna trip, that is quite customizable. You can add in extra nights along route, so you want to have a day off the bike and sort of go and explore one particular region, you can do that. And probably cutting it down a night is probably not something we generally advise. The routes laid out the way it is just to give you a really nice and easy paced sort of cycling itinerary. But yeah Passau's a fantastic starting point, it is actually a city of three rivers. So it sits at the confluence of the Danube, the river Danube, the river Inn and the river Elts, so it is quite a historic city. Quite a lot of our customers and might have an extra night at the start there, so arriving a day earlier just so they can have a bit more time to explore. You know it's a great place to take a tour of the city and stroll through the lanes and the arches and tunnels that surround it. So Passau is a great starting point. So for the Passau to Vienna route, you then move on to the Schlogener Loop area.
Kit: 14:16 Before Hamish moves on I want to talk a little bit more about Passau. It is, as he mentioned a place where three rivers meet and periodically about every five years it does flood at one of the tunnels. You'll see a marker that shows all the different floods since 1501 so that's kind of cool as Hamish alluded. Be sure to take some time to wander through the tunnels and the streets. It's a very cool city. People visit Passau not just for the scenic rivers but also for the old city. While there'll be sure to take time to visit St Stephen's Cathedral: it has an organ concert daily and features the second largest pipe organ in the world. They do the concerts from May through September. Another cool thing to do is, next to the Town Hall is a very significant jazz and political cabaret stage. I'm going to mangle this name called the Scharfrichterhaus : try to check that out while you're in town. You'll find some gorgeous gothic and baroque architecture in Passau, and it's worth an extra day trip if you have the time.
Hamish: 15:12 So Passau is right on the border of Austria. And then your soon cycling through the upper Danube Galloway on the way to Schlogener where your first overnight stop is. So because some of the highlights of that day will be a visit to the only Trappist monastery in Austria which is at Engelhartzell, and they offer some some delicious liquors as well, which is a nice way to start your trip. You're also on that day taken Schlogener Loop, which is where the river makes complete 180 degree turn, so it's quite a famous part of the river. And actually if you sort of look them up online you'll see some fantastic photography of people. You can hike up the mountain side and get a really good panoramic view of this side of the river as it comes down and then loops around itself and goes back up. So that's a fantastic starting point as well.
Kit: 16:00 I'll be sure to put photos of that on the ActiveTravelAdventures.com website for this Episode # 11. So far we started from Passau, Germany and hug the border of Austria through the Schlogener Loop on Day Two, and then here we go onto Day Three, the Linz area. Linz is the capital of Upper Austria. It's the third largest city and it's just south of the Czech border. Linz is home of the Linzer Torte, the oldest cake in the world, that was first created in 1653. In the old city center, you'll see the medieval arch and you'll see lots of neoclassical, neo baroque and neo Renaissance styles. Linz has got a big music and art scene, and it's designated as one of UNESCO's Creative Cities. Because Linz treasures its arts music scene, they have a ton of festivals. You may want to try to coincide your visit along with a special festival that interests you.
Kit: 16:53 Linz is a good sized city, so you'll eat well in Linz. You'll have the traditional fare, of course, tons of cute taverns and also plenty of ethnic choices as well. You can have, of course, the traditional fare, which might include the popular Linzer tort, the Knudel, which is a boiled dumpling that is used as a side dish or can be sweetened up as a dessert, or the strudel which is a descendant of the pastry baklava. Another specialty is, here's the butchering, erdafelkas: it's a spread made from cream and mashed potatoes. If you have the time, try to add an extra day or two for Linz Here's Hamish talking about Linz.
Hamish: 17:33 So Day Three, you're heading into Linz that day. So some of the days you cross the other side of the river. One of those days is Day Three. So you take a small passenger ferry across the other side of the river and then sort of move on up from there. You're starting to move into sort of a more open landscape here, kind of fertile plains, that sort of thing. And as you head into Linz, it's a fantastic destination, as is i it's the capital of Upper Austria, and was actually the European Cultural Capital a few years back in 2009. So it's got some really nice places to visit. It's got a lovely main square as well, which is something I know a lot of our customers enjoy.
Hamish: 18:11 And the summer evenings are really nice places spend a few hours and enjoy a coffee or perhaps sample some of the local wines and beers and that sort of thing. And then moving on: Day Four, you're going to the region of Grein. This day you've got a diversion you can do to the tune of Enn's. So this is a town that's the oldest in Austria, and is really, really beautiful and also has a lot of history too it as well. And then you continue along the Danube taking in lots of meadows and quite tranquil countryside on the way. This is a really good day actually, for people who have an interest in history because you can take in the Celtic village of Mitterkirchen and also a church Baumgartenberg, and this was a castle and climb as well. And then your destination that day is and the baroque village of Grein, which is home to the oldest theater in Austria and which you should take a tour of as well.
Hamish: 19:05 I did this when I was there. It's really cheap: it's about five euros and your guide is a local, and who's lived there for him for a number of years and knows a lot about it. It's a working theater as still, are still so the local theater performs in there. But it's been operating for hundreds of years.
Kit: 19:21 I put all the links in the show notes and also on the free travel planner for this episode. Hamish: 19:28 Day 5 and you're moving on to Melk. And so you're cycling for some really wonderful landscapes on this particular day and quite a lot of wooded sort of dense wood, of rock formations on both sides have quite dramatic along the way.
Hamish: 19:40 There's a pilgrimage church of Maria Telfari and which is perched high up on the Danube, so presents quite a good view from her on the river, and then in Melk itself, you actually go a Benedictine monastery as well. So depending on how long you take to do your ride that day, you might have time to go there that afternoon. The monastery offers a couple of different options for her having a look around, and they've got really well known gardens so you can just get into the gardens if you wish. Or for a little extra, you can actually go into the monastery itself have a look around as well.
Hamish: 20:16 And then on Day Six, we're moving on to Krems, so you're going to be cycling through the Wachau Valley, which is the wine region of Austria. So this particular area is filled with terraced vineyards and apricot orchards, there's lots of little castles dotted about, and, palaces and monasteries as well. You're going to cycling through villages such as Spitz, Weibkirchen and Durstein. And these places they're open and filled with nice places to eat and drink as well and also to sample lots of local produce which is a nice way to spend the day as well.
Hamish: 20:50 So there are wineries that you'll be cycling past that also offer tours as well, so that's something you can do as well, and certainly something I I would recommend. You know it's always good to try a little local drinks when you can. Then on Day Seven, your last day of cycling, you're going to be heading into Vienna, the capital of Austria. So you take a train for the first part of the section. And you get to tell him, this is just to cut down the cycling that day. If you want to do it, you could do the whole whole route. I think I would add up to about 70 or 80 kilometers that day which is quite a long day. So where we start off of the train which cuts down your cycling approximately 40 km long that day.
Kit: 21:31 I'm just going to interject for a minute. Forty kilometers is roughly twenty five miles. So if you do it with the train it's a 25 mile bike ride or if you don't use the train it's about a 50 mile bike ride.
Hamish: 21:53 And you roll and cycle on through to through the Vienna Woods and then pass through the gates of Vienna. So highlights of this particular day, one of which will be Klosterneuberg monastery , definitely one to look at. And then you arrive in Vienna which has been a known as the city of music. So I spent a day in Vienna earlier this year and really really fell in love with it. It's a really delightful city and really perfect place to to end your cycle. So you've got a night there, and Day Eight, you head off. So if you go to a hire bike and with us you would drop that bike off and make your onward traveling continue your journey to wherever you're going next.
Kit: 22:22 Before we talk about how you can bike and also cruise the Danube at the same time, and by that I mean at night you're spending the night on a boat so you never have to keep packing and unpacking. It is kind of a cool way to do it as well. I want to tell you some other cool things about Vienna. It is, as Hamish said, it is the capital of Austria and also Austria's largest city and the seventh largest in the EU. It is Austria's cultural economic and political center. It is the home of Sigmund Freud. And so they also call the City of Dreams. And most of this trip you'll see much Celtic and Roman history. Vienna is considered to be in the top five of the quality of life indexes of places to live. And it's considered the most prosperous in the world.
Kit: 23:04 Vienna is also considered the gateway to Eastern Europe and is the last great capital of the 19th century ball. They still hold over 450 balls a year. Some have up to nine orchestras. The most popular is held in the Hofburg Palace in Heldenplatz. Most middle class and upwards go to several balls in their lifetime. The wienerschnitzel which you'll find in almost every Austrian restaurant, is a powdered veal or pork cutlet, breaded and fried in clarified butter. It's very good. Another common thing to eat is tafelspitz, which is a boiled beef. All right here comes a bad one: Gerostete Erdapfel, which is boiled potatoes mashed and then fried and served with horseradish sauce. You'll find lots of street vendors with sausages or wiener's and you can ask for mustard either sweet or spicy.
Kit: 23:51 Make sure you take time to go see the famous market, the Naschmarkt, go see the city Opera House, the Ringstrasses, and the castle Schonbrunn. And I do apologize to all my German speaking folks. I know I just cannot speak very well, but I apologize. I'll spell all of these out in the show notes. One really popular thing are the Viennese cafes. And some say that Starbucks got its idea there. The Viennese create a culture of cafes that people spend hours there as is if it's their own home. And they claim to be the first to have filtered coffee. There are over 100 art museums. There's lots of things to see and do in Vienna so do try to stay at least a couple of days, if not longer to enjoy everything the city has to offer. Vienna has so much to offer from the cozy wine taverns, the wonderful food, the fabulous coffee shops, the imperial palaces, the art museums, the music ,the balls… It's a cultural mecca. Hamish when you look back on your adventure. Do you have a favorite memory?
Hamish: 24:53 Oh yeah. Good question. I think a couple of highlights probably the first, on Day Two. So I did a bike and boat itinerary, and on Day Two, we got the opportunity as a detour to the main route and to go and visit Mauthausen concentration camp, which is not one of the most infamous concentration camps. But it was one of the biggest during World War II, and I've never had the opportunity to sort of explore our sites like that before, so it's a bit daunting at first. The eerie silence of the place, and contemplating all the horrors that went on there. But personally I find that aspect of our modern history quite interesting and certainly gives you a appreciation of the efforts that went to keeping us safe back then. So I think Vienna for me was it was a great highlight. If you're going to spend some extra time I think Vienna is a great city to do that in. There's quite a lot of history… they're just quite astounding tripping over themselves: palaces, opera houses, museums at every turn! And it's a great city for cycling and as well. Cycle paths in the city itself are plentiful and really easy to use. And everyone's very considerate of cyclists as well.
Hamish: 26:08 One of the highlights probably in terms of the kind of landscape and things would be on Day Two of the Passau-Vienna itinerary, the Schlogener Loop, at where the river makes complete 180 degree turn. As I mentioned, you can go hike up from the river, and put a 30-40 minute hike up a steep path. It's worth it for sure. These panoramic landscape you've got there is fantastic so if the weather's good, why this is something I encourage people to do.
Kit: 26:39 Do you have a favorite story that you tell your friends about this trip? Hamish: 26:42 Well I think probably for me it was the people that you meet. The Danube is a popular path. So there's a wide variety of people doing it for a wide variety of reasons. Kind of compare it to something like perhaps one of the sort of Pilgrim walks you know such as the Camino de Santiago. Some people who are doing this Danube cycle are just out for a pleasure holiday and other people might be doing it as part of a much larger tour through Europe.
Hamish: 27:09 You know you can follow the Danube from the source all the way to the Black Sea. So you meet a wide variety of people. So I've got to speaking to lots of North Americans, lots of other Europeans and on one particular day, we had stopped at some places, I think some English actually some English fellow cyclists, and we ended up having lunch together and enjoying a beer. And you know, just sort of that sort of experience I think was was one of the real highlights for me. The sort of camaraderie along the route, there's a real sense of everyone's there enjoying the cycling and avoiding running into each other and that sort of thing. So yeah I think that's one of the highlights for sure.
Kit: 27:47 I'm guessing if you see others with the panniers on their bikes that you can tell they're doing the same type of cycling vacation and not just out for a day cycle.
Hamish: 27:54 Yeah exactly. So we work with a local partner for this trip. So yes you can recognize the panniers generally and there's a knowing nod when you're going past someone who you know is doing the same trip as you. I mean, the cycle paths, they're used by locals as well, so it's a good opportunity to meet people from the area as well. Hamish: 28:18 You know that people use them to get from a one town to another and that sort of thing… to visit friends and family, as well as meeting other other tourists. And you also get a chance to meet to locals as well which I think is always a bonus.
Kit: 28:26 A lot of us English speakers don't speak German. Is that going to be an issue?
Hamish: 28:30 No I wouldn't say it would be an issue. I am an English only speaker as well. I did study a bit of German in high school, as some people know may have studied French or Spanish and so on. So I was able to say hello and sort of say certain phrases like, “Can I have a glass of water?” and that sort of thing. But to be honest there's sort of tourism infrastructure along the Danube is is really really good, and all the hotels and accommodations that we use have staff that can speak English. And so it's not something people are worried about. I wouldn't worry too much. I mean all all your documentation in terms of your navigation and things like that are in English. And what we offer in terms of our service would be sort of a 24 hour 7 emergency assistance.
Hamish: 29:13 So if there's any issues and you know as you're trying to speak to someone but they can't speak English then you can just give us a ring and know where we're on the end of the line to give your hand. Everyone on the Danube is really friendly and most of the time you're going to be able to find someone who speaks English, and certainly at the hotels, there is always going be at least one or two people who are English speaking.
Kit: 29:35 I have to comment on what Hamish just said. Number One: part of the fun and some of my favorite stories are when I was trying to interact and could not speak the local language and it ends up sometimes being some of your fondest memories. But Number Two, one of the nice things about going with a company such as MACS is that you do have the safety net of help should you need it. When I used them for my Scotland trip I never had to call. But it's nice to know that they're there.
Kit: 30:03 We alluded earlier to the fact that this could also be a Bike/Boat adventure. And this is particularly nice if somebody doesn't think they want a bike every single day for a few hours for seven days, or let's say it's a family and maybe not everybody wants to do all that. You know there's lots of different reasons that you might want the option or you just don't want to unpack everyday you want to just be in your same cabin every single night. Can you tell us a little bit about the bike/boat option?
Hamish: 30:27 Yeah absolutely. So again we offer a couple of different variations of that. The first would be from Passau-Vienna again, although it's a slightly different itinerary to the hotel one. And then again, the second one is from Passau all the way to Budapest. So the Bike/Boat option is, I really think, it's fantastic actually. It's a really good one again for beginners and probably a good one for people who want a little bit less hassle, so because you're not sightseeing from hotel to hotel you only unpacked once, which is a really big appeal for a lot of customers of ours.
Hamish: 31:02 The other big appeal is the fact that the trip's full board as well. So you don't have to worry about any of your meals. You get breakfast, a pack lunch, and then a three course dinner when you get back on board the boat. The cruises are all generally multinational and nationality as well, so it's great chance to meet new like-minded people. You cycle through very similar areas to the ‘Hotel' routes but I'm just doing it in a slightly different order. It was the trip I did in July was the bike and boat one. And that was the first time I'd done the combination of the two, and I was really surprised, and pleasantly surprised, at how much I enjoyed it. It was really fantastic.
Kit: 31:41 How big is the ship and is it dedicated just to your clients or is it a mix of whomever books on the ship?
Hamish: 31:53 The boats that we that we offer trips on are broadly comparable in terms of size. It's going to be between about 80-100 people on board. So they're river cruise boats, and they are quite a decent size. Generally about three decks, you have a lower deck, a main deck and an upper deck on the boats that we work with, and they are dedicated cycling boats.
Hamish: 32:10 However the benefit of doing these bike and boat trip is that if maybe a member of the party who isn't that enamored by cycling and might enjoy puttering about in the morning and having a look at where the boat is docked and the surrounding area, and then hopping back on the boat when it moves on to its next stop. And you can do that as well. And likewise, if you're say a keen cyclist, but maybe one day and you've maybe overdid it a bit too much the previous day, you can just relax on the boat and sort of take a day off and go up on the sun deck relax with your book, and that sort of thing. There's quite a lot of flexibility when you take a bike and boat trip, I would say.
Kit: 32:53 What kind of flexibility, if any, do you have if you do the bike and boat? Ccan you do an extra day in Lintz, for example, or do you have to stick with the itinerary? Hamish: 33:00 No that's not possible, unfortunately. The boats depart weekly, departing on a Saturday for the Passau to Vienna trip and on a Sunday for Passau to Budapest trip, so you'll be staying on the same boat for the duration. So the departure dates are fixed.
Hamish: 33:26 But I would say, the itinerary is that you on a daily basis, you have a sort of briefing, a daily briefing, in the evening which is conducted in English. And a tour director will go through the route with you and discuss points of interest. But what they also do is point out places where you can take detours as well. So these can vary from maybe a few kilometers up to maybe an extra 10-15-20 kilometers. So there is an element of customization available within the parameters of safety of cycling. So if there's something that particularly interests you, if it's something historical or if it's something more related to food and drink for instance, then you can pick and choose maybe an add on that would mort suit your interests.
Kit: 34:03 Tell us about your favorite dishes and what kind of food we can expect to enjoy. Hamish: 34:08 So the food was fantastic actually. It's a mixture between sort of classic European dishes and also some more traditional Austrian dishes, so we had quite a wide variety. We had some lovely fish dishes, and on a couple of days, the foods we select the night before, so it was kind of a set menu to choose from every evening beforehand. So you would have the choice of a meat dish, a fish dish, and also a vegetarian option as well… maybe three courses. I mean there was lots of nice dishes you know where there is a strudel for dessert some nights. And meatballs and they served sausage and things like that. So yeah the food was a really high quality and there's plenty of it as well. And what you do as far as lunchtime, your pack lunch… the way they operate breakfast is a buffet style and then once you're finished breakfast, you are invited to go and make up a pack lunch yourself.
Hamish: 35:03 So you select your breads, your Continental meats and things like that. And then they'll package it up for you. And you've got it all ready for you for when you're ready to stop for lunch along the route. Of course if you want, all that's included in your holiday costs. But if you wanted to stop on route and have lunch at a restaurant well, you could do that as well. And you just leave your packed lunch for the day. Kit: 35:25 In case someone's on a treadmill or driving and not paying 100% attention, I just want to clarify that the full board is strictly with the bike and boat adventure, and not with the bike only adventure. On the bike only, if it's like the West Highland Way, I just had breakfast. Can you explain or clarify that for us please, Hamish?
Hamish: 35:41 Yeah exactly. So hotel to hotel itinerary, as standard includes breakfast. We can also offer half board options as well for that. So that would be having breakfast and dinner. And then you would look after lunch and that would be sort of a supplement for that option. For that sort of itinerary, we like to give people a little flexibility. It's nice to be able to stop at a restaurant on the way so they can go explore in the evening time. But for the bike and boat itineraries, they are all inclusive. So you have for breakfast lunch and dinner included throughout.
Kit: 36:17 On my Scotland trip, I paid the single supplement because I was traveling solo. Is that also the same on this trip?
Hamish: 36:22 It is, yes. So for the hotel to hotel options it would be a single supplement and you can do that and you can do that trip as a solo traveler as well. For the bike and boat trips, there as a single supplement payable as well. So they have dedicated cabins are allocated for solo travelers, so sometimes that can present a little bit of a problem in terms of availability. Cabins are limited to the number that they offer solo travelers, but as a bonus I would actually say that the bike and boat option is a great one to think about if you are traveling solo. It was actually something I mentioned the rest of the team here at MACS Adventure when I got back from my trip. I really think it's a good one for solo travelers because you're on a boat with lots of other people. I really find that it was a really friendly and welcoming atmosphere you know after a couple of days… after the initial can of getting to know everyone phase… it was a bit like when you were a kid and your and went to summer camp or something. You know, you really make good friends along the way for the week. And if you're traveling by yourself, I think that can be a really nice thing to have.
Kit: 37:22 Obviously I'm a fan of your company and in the last year or two I've also become a convert to hiring companies to plan my tours whether it be self guided like MACS offers or a fully guided tour because adventure travel is a little bit different. You need… it's a little bit more complicated than traditional travel but for the intrepid traveler that would like to plan their own adventure is something they could do by themselves?
Hamish: 37:47 So for the hotel to hotel option, planning yourself will be probably be doable, but it's we've we've been offering trips like this for a number of years now. We've developed a real expertise in terms of putting together the baggage transfers and organizing the bike hire and things like that. So I mean, as as with most holidays I think, if you really worked hard you could probably plan out yourself. But I think the benefit of having someone like MACS Adventure do the trip for you is that all the stress is going to be taken out it. We pick everything from your bike hire, hotels and bag transfers and transfers on request sort of to their starting point from the airport and things like that. So it can really take the stress out of it. I know when I've tried to organize trips like this myself after a few weeks of sort of trying to do it I sometimes think, “Why did I start this?” I think I would rather have someone else do it for me.
Kit: 38:41 I'm going to ‘ditto' what Hamish just said. I was so anti-tour until I started using tour groups such as MACS because on adventure travel it's different than what I always visioned as tour companies where you'd follow behind the white flags. Listen to my rant on Episode 000. I mean I just was SO against it. But I think with adventure travel, because it can be a little bit more complicated, and then they have the boots on the ground, so they know what the complications are. If you listen to my Scotland thing about the Kingshouse thing, they knew that that was closed and if I planned it by myself, I'd have been in a pickle.
Kit: 39:14 And it's nice to have somebody that… they've already figured everything out. You know how, when you go on a trip, “Oh! I would have done this differently next time around.” You don't have time to go back and do this next time around. So it's nice that some has already figured out all the logistics for you. All you have to do is just go on the adventure. They don't even charge that much, I don't think relatively speaking for the value that you get, so not only is it more stress free, it is a huge time saver! I mean I just can't even imagine the logistics of figuring out some of these adventures because you don't know how far, you don't know the terrain, you get how far you are to go each day and then what you need to stop in or where should I stay… I don't have time for that anymore. So anyhow I'm a convert and I don't think I'm going to self plan adventure trip myself anymore. I'm changed.
Kit: 40:03 Hamish we've mentioned my trip to Scotland and your trip on the Danube. But Max goes all over the place. How about you tell us a little bit more about the company.
Hamish: 40:11 Sure. So the company was founded in 2003. It was founded by a chap called Neil Lapping, who's originally from South Africa, but then somehow made his way over to Scotland and settled in Glasgow. We originally started off just offering guided walking trips along the West Highland Way, which is you know Scotland's probably, arguably, Scotland's most famous walking route. And then the years passed, and the company grew, and began to offer focus more on offering self-guided trips, which is now all that we offer is self guided. And then the cycling part of the business came along a little bit later, and it's kind of grown and grown from there in the last few years. We've kind of come on leaps and bounds, and we offer our walking cycling trips in the majority of Europe. We've now started offering trips now in North America as well, and some trips in Asia as well. And we opened up a couple of international offices as well. We have an office in Germany and we've recently opened up an office in Boulder Colorado, which I think is going to be a great help for our North American customers in terms of being able to speak to someone on the phone in the same time zone and that sort of thing.
Hamish: 41:16 We have about 20000 adventure seekers travel with us every year and that's kind of growing every year as well. So as a team of 60 of us here in Glasgow and we all work on putting together itineraries, developing tours, solving problems in case anything goes wrong on tour, and then just making sure that our customers served have a fantastic time from the moment that they inquire with us to the time that they come back.
Kit: 41:39 Before I let you go is there anything that I forgot to ask you that you need to convey to the audience?
Hamish: 41:45 I think probably the one thing I would mention for the Biking Boating itineraries is probably the importance to get booked in early. Those trips are popular because the boats only the sail on certain days the week and the availability can go very quickly. So for 2018 and for some trips we're already looking at a lot dates being being sold out. So that's something I would definitely encourage people to do is to sort of get their plan sorted out as early as they can, and get in touch. For the Hotel – Hotel trip, there's probably a bit more flexibility and if you find that you have a few weeks vacation coming up and you fancy a cycling trip, then usually we can organize their hotel – hotel one with a few weeks notice. So I think we always encourage people to get in touch nice and early because it means we can guarantee the departure dates and things like that and make sure you get the trip you're looking for.
Kit: 42:44 When you say far in advance for the bike and boat, are we talking a year, or what are we talking about here?
Hamish: 42:52 Definitely! The bike and boat season, it runs approximately from April to October. And so definitely for the summer dates, you're looking a year in advance to guarantee the dates that you want. Sometimes you can afford to push it into the fall, and then this time of year (in November and December), and then we'll move into January/February, which is peak booking time for our holidays, really. The availability really starts to diminish. So I think probably a year is ideal. Probably between a year or say 8-6 months is probably the minimum you would want to look at.
Kit: 43:29 Final question: you're a big cycler. If we had to choose another cycling holiday besides the Danube what should we choose?
Hamish: 43:37 Oh well, I'm going to be biased here and suggest looking at Scotland. One of my favorite trips that we offer is cycling from Perthshire, which is an hour and a half north of our capital city of Edinburgh. So starting there and cycling through really beautiful part Scotland's and Perthshire is famous for its really tall trees and really lush green countryside and lots of walks and glens and that sort of thing. So I think Scotland's got some great great cycling opportunities, probably not as well developed as somewhere like the Danube, but I think in some ways that can be a good thing. There's not as many cyclists on the roads as you might find in some other parts of Europe. And you can, if you're willing to sort of gamble on the weather and then sometimes some days you might get a wee bit wet but it's some days you might get some glorious sunshine with that fantastic sort of mountains and forest in the background as well.
Kit: 44:32 Speaking of bad weather, on my Scotland trip, my bad weather days (of which I had two) ended up being my favorite story days.
Hamish: 44:42 Absolutely! I think I've had the same experience. You know sometimes when it's when it's really raining outside, and everyone has to stay in their hotel and BnB for the day, and that's quite often when you learn a lot about your fellow travelers and have perhaps made a friend you might might have for the rest of your holiday, and certainly maybe for going on afterwards.
Kit: 45:02 Many thanks to Hamish Adamson for his insight on biking alongside the Danube River. On today's show notes I'll of course have some photos links to things we've discussed, outline the differences between biking the Danube and bike boating the Danube ,the itineraries plus a complete transcript of the show for you. Non-native English speakers remember that there's a Google Translate button at the bottom of each of my web pages. If you haven't signed up for the newsletter be sure to do so you'll get the free Travel Planner for this and all future episodes in our monthly email. You can get it by clicking on the Newsletter link at ActiveTravelAdventures.com.
Kit: 45:36 Earlier I mentioned that I want to tell you about a couple of personal things.
Kit: 45:40 Number one: I think that I may have solved by “Podcasters Pooch” problem. Remember that I said that now that I'm spending so much time in front of the computer producing this show that I put on weight? I just ordered a walking desk. It's a treadmill with a desktop so I can gently walk all day long. I hope that this works as I refuse to buy fat clothes and things are getting a little tight.
Kit: 46:00 Number two: I've been training for my upcoming Costa Rica hike at the end of this month. On this trip I'll be attempting to climb Cerro Chirripo. It's Costa Rica's tallest mountain. The highest mountain I've climbed so far was about 8500′ and Chirripo is about 12,500′, which is 2600 and 3800 m respectively. Where I live in North Carolina is flat, so this is going to be interesting. Of course, I'm going to cover this adventure on a show later this spring. I'm also going to be white water rafting the Pacuare River for the second time. Except this time, I'm going to be doing it for two days and staying overnight in the rainforest. And my sister is coming with me – this is her first adventure travel vacation. I'm just super excited about the whole adventure.
Kit: 46:42 Number three: putting on the show costs money and I really don't want to accept advertiser money. And I definitely don't want to see ads for things I may not even support sitting in a banner ad alongside the ATA web page. And I don't really like listening to ads inserted into podcasts. So what I've decided do to help defray some of my expenses is to go directly to the companies that I've already vetted and love.. people that I trust and believe in, and ask to become an Affiliate Partner. What this means is that at no additional cost to you, if you click on some — not all my links– but some of the links may be affiliate links in the future, I may earn a small commission. So if you like what I'm doing with this program and you're going to be doing it anyway, clicking on my links is a way to support the program. And it doesn't cost you a dime.
Kit: 47:25 I believe this is a win-win solution and I hope that you're going to agree. At the time of this recording, I'm not an affiliate of MACS, but as many of you know I'm a big fan and I have sent them an email asking to be one. All along I've been promoting MACS on many of the Travel Planners without any compensation because I believe in them.
Kit: 47:41 My integrity is on the line with every recommendation I give you and I take that responsibility strongly. You come before any potential commission. So anyhow I just want to explain this
Kit: 47:54 Finally, on the survey that I asked you to take, you said you want adventures in South America. So on our next episode, we're going way way south of the equator to Patagonia. We're going to be going to Chile and Argentina. This adventure is on the bucket list of many of you. So be sure to subscribe so you don't miss it. If you haven't taken the survey just go to ActiveTravelAdventures.com and the link is on the home page. Many thanks also to Naxos for providing the music of The Beautiful Blue Danube for us today. It was conducted by Ondrej Lenard. Listening to this music, don't you just feel like getting all decked out and waltzing in a ball? Thanks for listening. I'll be back in two weeks and until next time, Adventure on!