You have sorted the Flux capacitor and everything is working, when you are faced with the most agonising of moral dilemmas. You have in front of you the first working time machine and yet there is that nagging thought. ‘ Are you now morally obliged to go back in time and kill Hitler? ‘ I have heard the case eloquently argued both for and against. If you are thinking of making sure his parents never get to love each other in that special way or, route one, you need to pay attention because we have just cycled through where he was born.
Monday morning, and we join the River Cruise Americans and dozens of other Danube cycle tourists in the centre of Passau. It has rained heavily overnight, which of course could have been predicted after I told you in the last blog how dry it has been. Over the bridge, after a first coffee and we join another bike route, this time along the River Inn. The quick witted will have realised that this heads to Innsbruck in Austria. We are not going that far, as we will peel off to head south towards Slovenia.
From the start, this new bike route is a pure joy as it picks up the path less pedaled next to the River Inn.
I have in my front box, for times when moral or blood sugars are low, a bar of Milka chocolate. We have tried others, but as ever you get what you pay for in life. I am wondering about the slogan on the side of the bar: ‘ made from the milk of happy cows ‘. This is a bold, and as always with such advertising things, a rather unquantifiable promise. But then I start to wonder if you could ever quantify the happiness of cows. If one was sad that day, would the milk have to go elsewhere or down the drain? Such things you ponder when on a bike.
One castle after another comes along on the bank opposite. We have ridden past a few castles, but the shear density of them on this stretch is bewildering. The ride is off-road and mostly by the side of the Inn, so progress is slow. Two months ago it would have been impossible as the Danube and Inn where 3 metres above their banks. It had started to rain and not stopped for days in June. Then a dam burst and the worst flooding in history swept into the area. We had been seeing the tide mark in Passau on all the wonderful buildings. Many businesses are still not back in business and some inevitably will never return. Here we pass a digger restoring the path. Cycling is very much part of the economy here and it is good to see work being done. In horse racing terms, the going is still soft in places.
The farmers here have taken to Maze in one of those monocrop madness moments that will always go wrong at some point in the future. It is everywhere, and still waiting to be harvested. Where the combine is working on the ripe Maze, Jackdaws in work gangs are picking up the spilled crop. They hop sideways , sharp eyes seeking out the seeds. This will be important for survival in the harsh winter ahead. Off they fly to hide the corn in a hundred secret places. They will return to these stashes when food is scarce. You may not know where you put your car keys yesterday, but these corvids remember thousands of such hiding places. They are called feathered monkeys by those in the business, because of their levels of intelligence. I have a soft spot, an admiration for Corvids.
The final town of the day is Braunau. There is no plaque just bellow the town sign, no memorial and there is very definitely a very big elephant in the room. This is the birth place of Adolf Hitler and the place where you may need to be punching in the date and coordinates of in your history changing mission. It is of course lovely and according to our map gives us the choice of two campgrounds. We try the first, which is closed. The second is in the opposite direction and is also closed.
It is now getting late and we start to ask people what the wild camp options may be. Of course the consensus is that it is back out along the river in the direction we came in. It is a wonderful ride, but the sun is now going down and stealth camping pitches are looking thin on the ground. It is all so wet, and we need to find short grass and out of view. At the last possible moment we spot a place. It is still damper than we would wish for but it is in our price range.
We start to put up the tent just at the time that mosquitos love the most. It is hellish. On with a brew and sandwiches are eaten in the tent and to hell with the crumbs. A cold night with bright stars and barked calls from deer as they come by the tent. By morning we are still dry but everything other than the insides of our down bags has a layer of dew. This is one of the mornings that are difficult and demand focus on the business at hand. Cycle touring is not I repeat not glamorous and never will be.
We are striking out away from the river this morning and towards the Alps. As we pick up quiet roads on our morning ride, we can already see dark peaks ahead. The gps is on all the time and I am trying to run together as many small roads as possible whilst holding a South or South East heading. We stumble across bike route R24, which looks as if it trying to do the same thing.
Cows are more free range here and possibly happier for that. The grass is certainly long and invitingly dark green and full of herbs and flowers. You lucky cows. The little village of Unterlochen for lunch which today includes a fine dark beer. Austrians love a chat. They may strike you as being almost indistinguishable from their German neighbours, but in this respect they could not be more chalk to the others cheese. Esther loves to blether as the Scots put it. Lunch takes almost one and a half hours.
We set out and have an appointment with unpleasant grades. The Alps are getting closer and we are going to feel them this afternoon. We rejoin R24 for a short while, but we need to get further East. The weather is closing in and the light fading. On with the rear lights and the gps is back on to pick our way.
Esther has the ‘ sniffles ‘, and is making sure that I understand that she is not happy with another damp tent night. She wants a hotel, and as we ride into the village of Lochen, we start trying to find one. It is a bit pressing as it is now a downpour. Not a good negotiating position and of course the second most expensive hotel of our trip comes along.
It is early, but we call it a ‘ Duvet Day ‘, and shower and turn in, then get up for another shower and turn in again. As usual we try not to eat much to remain famished for the inclusive breakfast.
The forecast is for a cold and overcast day to greet us. By nine it is fluffy clouds and shafts of sun just to show what a rubbish sudo science meteorology is. We pick up the bike path on the far side of Lake Irrsee. There are mountains and forests to the horizon. The clouds and sun giving scale and drama in the most perfect balance. The higher peaks in the far distance hold dark clouds, but they are for a day ahead. We have a hotel booked to help Esther and her cold. It is in the picturesque town of Mondsee. We have a walk around and stumble across the most charming of disorganised museums. It is thrown together with enthusiasm and little organisational rules. Next door is the church that features in The Sound of Music. I was wondering why everyone was taking photos of it. Many have come from the other side of the world on a sort of Secular Julie Andrews pilgrimage.
We have one more relatively easy day ahead, then things get nasty. Some good weather would help.