Another large day in terms of distance but not really in terms of exertion. There wasn’t a hump, bump or hubble along the way. Perfect asphalt and zero potholes (at least my pothole radar device did not detect any). It is a sign of how spoilt the cyclist is along this stretch that my only complaint is about the 7 or 8km stretch into Linz which is indeed separated from the traffic but runs parallel to a busy road. When you have been cycling in divine solitude with only the birds sharing the airwaves it is noticably stressful to be cycling along traffic even when you are in relative safety.
After Linz I caught up with an american couple on a tandem – Brent (a professor of outdoor education in New Hampshire university) and Beth (a science writer). We stopped for coffee and a grand chat. Their tandem is a very clever piece of kit and comes apart in a way that they can pack it into normal sized suitcases and thus not get fleeced by the airlines.
One thing I have noticed all along the trail in France, Germany and here so far is that when couples are cycling together (on tandems or separate bikes) the man is ALWAYS in front. I wonder if this is due to some sort of insecurity on the part of the man or subordination by the lady or something else.Whatever, it should be standard and ok to share the role and just relax about it when cycling or indeed any walk of life!
As I have written before, cycling is big business around here and obviously gives great pleasure to people of all ages, abilities and body type. Many of the older folk use e-bikes. These have an electric motor which assist the cyclist to degrees varying with the ability and desire of the cyclist to use pedal power (often the motor is kept in reserve for going up hills). This group were on an organised tour along the Danube where their baggage is transported ahead of them by van. They get to enjoy the scenery in small stretches of 40 or 50km per day with plenty of breaks to eat and drink or visit the sites. Something I am going to research in the autumn for my Dad and friends – perhaps even the Let’s Go club in Boyle. Why not. Passau to Vienna over 6 or 7 days staying in the excellent value guesthouses along the Danube should be a feasible effort:
Along one particularly quiet stretch of the trail I listened to a podcast (with one earphone in leaving the other ear to listen for any danger). The blindboy podcast comes out every Wednesday and this weeks was particularly pertinent to me. He deals with the psychology of purpose in life with much reference to the theory of Victor Frankel and his book “Mans Search for Meaning”. This book is quite thin but very powerful and was recommended to me during the winter by Dermot Lahiff who is the person I know best in the charity I am trying to support in Stop Suicide. Recommended reading for anyone drifting and wondering wtf is the point of everything! You listen to the podcast here and it breaks it all down into easy to understand terms: I love The Blindboy Podcast | Butchers French, let’s play it!
One thing that is noticeable on the trails in Austria is the absence of inline rollerskaters. They are “verboten!”:
I asked some locals along the way and they were mostly unsure of the reason for banning the roller skaters but there seem to be two schools of thought on this.
The first one is predicated on the enormous problems caused when skaters crash. Ball bearings are scattered everywhere. Pay attention the next time you see such a crash. It is like fft, fft, fft, fft, oops, BANG! Yep, ball bearings all over the place! The problem starts with the geese and swans that live along the Danube who mistakenly consume the ball bearings. This is bad for the bird and sometimes kills them. More often though other birds and fish are endangered when the bearings come out the other end at a high velocity. This is because the distress caused by the bearings triggers an emergency bowel evacuation response. Watch next time you see a swan or a goose evacuating its bowels in a distressed state (but keep your distance). I saw it once in a pub in Ireland. The owner of the pub was known as the broher goose (there is an interesting back story to this but I will save it for another day). There was his 50th birthday celebration and some smartass thought it would be hilarious to bring a poor goose in a sack into the pub and release it. A smokey and smelly pub not being the most natural of environments it became distressed very quickly. Que the emergency evacuation response. It unleashed the goose equivalent of the kraken in every direction. A bit like when the gangsters in Bugsy Malone shoot the custard pie tommy guns. There were some very polite ladies who had to go home and change their costumes only for 3 of them to return in matching outfits which caused further ructions… I spoke with one of the violinists from the trad group the next day and he said that he had to use a coat hanger and a sponge to finally get his instrument properly clean.
The Austrian government of the day apparently tried an information campaign to mitigate the damage by encouraging people to pick up the ball bearings with tips like using chewing gum to assist with the gathering. As you well know however a piece of chewing gum can only hold 4 or 5 ball bearings before becoming saturated. So in the end a full ban was the only way.
The other school of thought was that there were riots between the cyclists and the rollerbladers over a period of months in the early nineties. As this was before Austria joined the EU on January 1st 1995 it was not widely reported. Seemingly the riots brought the country to the brink of civil war and the army had to be called in. The government finally banned the rollerbladers from the cycle paths and gave them free ski passes instead to become “good” Austrians and conform.
At the guesthouse that night I had to fill out a check in form in triplicate….
There was a local angling club having their annual meeting and when they discovered I was from Ireland they were very eager to chat about the fishing possibilities back home. They also explained the possibilities of fishing the Danube with them and the prices of the various permits: