Cruising down the Danube, what could be nicer? Cycling along the Danube cycle path maybe? How about spending the days cycling along the Danube cycle path and the evenings on a river cruise boat? Perfect. We like cycling from place to place whilst somebody takes our bags from hotel to hotel. The constant packing and unpacking can get a bit dull. So when we saw a cycling holiday that promised four countries, three capital cities and only one lot of unpacking we were sold.
Passau was our starting and finishing point. It sits at the confluence of three rivers; the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. Germany is on one bank and Austria on the other. We flew into Munich and then caught the train down to Passau to join the MS My Story. The captain and crew welcomed us on board with offers of drinks and chocolates as we checked in and were given the keys to our cabin. We had interconnecting cabins that contained two bench-type sofas during the day that miraculously changed into beds at night. The cabins were small but as we spent little time lounging in them that didn’t matter. Once everybody was on board the MS My Story set sail for Austria as we sat down for dinner.
Next morning we woke up at Enghartzell in Austria and after a hearty breakfast were introduced to our bikes. Before we had gone more than a few hundred yards we boarded the first of many small ferries across the Danube. Many of the ferries that we took were hauled across the Danube by means of submerged chains, most only took cyclists or pedestrians but the one pictured above was the biggest we came across with room for a small lorry! Once back on dry land we pedalled off on small roads and cycle paths round the Danube Loop, so called because the river almost goes round in a full circle. Steep tree-covered slopes encased the river but we had very few ups and downs as the Danube cycle path largely hugs the banks of the river. Just before we got to Aschach where we were to meet the MS My Story she came floating past us, so at least we knew we were heading in the right direction and we had not been left behind!
Our bikes came equipped with panniers and a map holder to hold details of our daily route. As we were following the Danube cycle path it wasn’t necessary to stop at every junction to puzzle out which way to go as it was clearly signposted. Day two saw us cycling along the route of the old Iron Curtain before arriving at Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. Bratislava (a more detailed post will follow) is chocolate box pretty, it also has more cafes than I have ever seen in one place before, most of them packed. From Bratislava we cruised down to Budapest which we arrived at whilst eating breakfast, one of the more stunning breakfast views that I have had.
We had a whole day in Budapest only leaving as dusk fell enabling us to see this beautiful river city both in the sparkling morning light and dramatically floodlit in the evening. Sitting on deck with a glass in hand watching the view was everything I imagined a cruise to be.
Every day started with a briefing about our route from the cruise director, even in Budapest and Vienna we had the option of cycling. We could have chosen to stay on board and watch the world float by if the previous day’s cycling had worn us out, not an option we took but useful if you are travelling with small children. There is little worse then telling a small person only a little bit further when they really, really don’t want to pedal another inch. Each day we cycled between 10 and 27 miles mostly along small roads and dedicated cycle paths with only a very short distance on a larger road. One advantage of travelling to Passau and Budapest and back by boat was that we only cycled the most beautiful parts of the path, the more industrial bits were bypassed in the night. Packed lunches were supplied, if we had opted for staying on board then a full lunch would have been served. All food was included in the price of the cruise and we also opted for a one-off drinks payment that meant the children could order drinks whenever they wanted without us having to be there to sign for them.
Vienna was our third capital city. As with the other two, we opted to leave our bikes behind and bought travel cards instead. The combination of city days and rural days worked well for us. The MS My Story has Wi-Fi, but only by reception and even then it is very weak, which has the advantage of keeping the teens off their phones, but we were glad that they had downloaded some things beforehand so that the protests were not too loud.
Cruising was new to the Cultural Wednesday family but we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, for us the combination of cruise and cycle worked well. We booked our package with Freedom Treks who supplies the holiday in the UK.
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