Day 5 -- Emmersdorf to Traismauer

It was another beautiful morning as we left Emmersdorf. Not a cloud in the sky. According to the guide book, this day was to be a highlight of the trip -- biking through the Wachau region where vineyards and orchards cling to the hills overlooking the Danube. And, indeed, the day started out quite well. After that, well, we'll get to that in a moment.

The path on the left (north) bank went higher and away from the river. There were modest climbs up to delightful small towns, and I kept remarking on how clean and well-kept they were. The bright sun brought out the brilliant colors of the flowers everywhere.

Leaving Emmersdorf on a gorgeous morning

The colors are bright this morning

The path climbs above the river and among orchards

In the small town of Willendorf we passed a museum, and shortly afterwards came to the place where the centerpiece of the museum had been found -- the so-called Venus of Willendorf. A large replica of this figure was located a short walk above the bike path. The Venus is an 11-centimeter figure of a fat or pregnant nude woman from paleolithic times. It is supposed to represent a fertility symbol, and is the oldest figure of its kind that has ever been found.

In one tiny town we stopped to appreciate the beauty of homes on a small creek.

Deep colors of flowers

Right here we stopped to talk with a middle-aged couple from Austria. They spoke English very well, and seemed articulate and educated. Len had just come from three weeks in Turkey, and they were talking about the prospect of Turkey joining the European Union. The Austrian man was worried about the implications of that possibility.

Soon we passed a small grocery store on the outskirts of Spitz, and as usual we selected items for lunch. Once again, we didn't know about how you were supposed to weigh and price the fruit yourself. But the checkout person was obliging and friendly as he kept other people waiting while he went back into the shelves and did what we should have done ourselves.

Stopping in a grocery store in Spitz

At Spitz we left the bike path to climb up a hill to the town square. Len was asking an Austrian biker there about a castle that was supposed to be near the town.

An ill-fated hill in Spitz

The biker didn't think much of the castle. "It's new," he said. But it was close, and we biked up a little more. He was right; it wasn't even worth a picture, and that was a pretty low threshold.

Now for the bad part. Len took off biking down the hill from the square -- the hill shown in the above picture. I was fiddling with something or other and got a later start. When I got to the bottom of the hill, I turned left to rejoin the bike path we had been traveling. I didn't see Len up ahead, but the sight lines were limited from turns in the path as it cut through the town. I assumed he was up front, and I biked ahead. And ahead. I still didn't see Len, but I couldn't see very far ahead. After a while I reached the edge of town and the view opened up and I could see pretty far ahead. I stopped at a railroad crossing. Where was Len?

I didn't know what to do. This had never happened before on any of our trips. If I went back to the town and he was ahead of me, I would be increasing the distance between us. The only way he could be behind me was if he had made a wrong turn. In that case, I thought I should see him soon catching up. I decided to wait for 15 minutes. I thought that if he was ahead, he would come back, and that if he was behind he would catch up.

They were tough minutes to wait. I was thinking that every minute I stood still, he was getting further away. Finally, the time was up and I was increasingly restless. He had to be up ahead somewhere, and getting further ahead by the minute. I started out. Suddenly I realized that I was on my own, and I felt lonely. Although I've biked a lot alone, having someone to share experiences is really essential on a trip like this.

For a while I didn't pay any attention to the scenery. I kept watching bikers up in front and those coming up behind me. Several times I thought I saw Len's red panniers, but it was never him. I was thinking what a good thing it was that I had been able to get another guide book and that my GPS had begun working. I was going to need them. Also, Len had the hotel vouchers and the instructions about how to find the hotel (as useless as they'd been so far). At least I had a list of the hotels somewhere in my panniers.

The town of Weissenkirchen wizzed by me. Nice church, but I was watching bikers. Then there was a hill to climb up to the town of Durnstein.

Climbing up to Durnstein

Durstein consisted of a cobblestown road on a cliff overlooking the river. There was an abbey and a castle. Lots of tourists were walking along the narrow road as I threaded my bike along.

It was now one o'clock and I needed some lunch. I'd hesitated to stop for lunch, thinking that Len must now be far ahead. The path here was a sidewalk alongside a highway. I stopped at a little pull-over and sat on a wall, eating my lunch rather quickly. As I got ready to leave, I saw a large stone sculpture built into the cliff right over my head. I hadn't noticed before.

I came into the town of Krems. The guide book said you should go over to the town center, so I did.


It was really hot now, and I was very, very thirsty. I had finished off my water bottle, as well as the drink I had bought for lunch. I pushed my bike down the walking street in Krems and bought a can of coke from a small store. Then I stopped in a park to enjoy the coke.

Park in Krems

I wanted to sit on a bench and enjoy the coke, but I just couldn't tarry, and after one sip I decided to get back on the road. Here I did something really stupid. I had this open coke can, and no way to carry it. So I poured the coke into my empty water bottle and started out biking. I had gone a few blocks down the highway when there was a loud explosion, and everything on my bike, including me, was covered in a fog of coke. How dumb can you get? Of course, the jostling effervessed the coke until the pressure broke the seal on the water bottle. I was all sticky now, as were my panniers and everything else. I didn't mind that so much as losing my precious drink. Man, was I thirsty!

I needed to cross the bridge in Krems to the south side of the Danube, because this was the last chance before the town of Traismauer, where the night's hotel was located. I could see the bridge on my GPS, and I steered in that direction. For a while there were also signs for the bike path, but they disappeared. I could see the bridge up ahead, but it didn't look like the road I was on would get there. After redoing a turn that didn't work out, I biked ahead on the original road. Right at the intersection with the bridge up above there was a little sign for the bike path, and after a loop around I was on the big bridge.

On the far side of the bridge I was forced to bike westwards, the wrong direction. There was no choice; there were fences on both sides of the bike lane. After a mile or so there was a turnaround where the bike path left the road and went back the other direction. Now it rejoined the river bank and there was smooth sailing to the east.

A few miles later there was a refreshment stand on the bike path, and I finally got to drink a coke. I really needed it! While I drank I studied the map. Apparently, I would have to go past Traismauer and then cut south and backwards to the west. There were marshes in the direct path and no roads. That's what I did, and soon I was in the little town of Traismauer. There were a number of signs to the hotel, the Zum Schwan. I biked through a big stone gate, and there was the hotel.

Hotel Zum Schwan in Traismauer

I checked the bike rack outside the hotel for Len's bike. No luck. Either he wasn't there, or he had put his bike somewhere else. Inside, I described my predicament to an old man at the reception desk. I didn't have a hotel voucher, and had lost my friend somewhere. Was he here? The man listened politely, then spouted some German. He hadn't understood a word I'd said.

He lifted the telephone and called someone, then handed me the phone. Apparently this was his daughter, who spoke some English. I again described the situation. I'm not sure she understood either, but the old man handed me a room key. I lugged my stuff upstairs and turned on the Tour de France, leaving my door open in hopes that Len would be coming by. I was getting worried about him. Maybe he'd had an accident. Where was he?

Just as I turned on the television, Lance Armstrong sprinted past the CSC rider to take the mountain stage. I watched various replays and heard the German commentary about Ulrich. It was about an hour later that I heard Len coming up the stairs. We shook hands. I was really glad to see him. He looked the worse for wear; sweat was dripping down his face, and there was a lot of blood flowing down his leg.

What happened to you?

We took turns telling what had happened from each of our standpoints. It turned out that Len had made a wrong turn at the bottom of the hill in Spitz. When he didn't see me anywhere, he went back up the hill in Spitz to the square where we had last seen each other. He waited there more than an hour, went back to the grocery store where we'd bought lunch, then back to the square. All in all, he biked up and down the hill five times. He had lunch, still on the square, before starting out on his own.

Len had run into some trouble at Krems. He often asks directions from other people, while I never do. In Krems he asked someone about how to get to the bridge. A man told him that the bridge was closed, and that he would have to bike back several miles to get an earlier bridge. Of course, that was wrong -- the bridge had been open -- but Len was forced to bike 12 extra miles because of this misleading advice.

Then to make matters worse, Len had an injury when he got impaled on his leg with the steel rod that supported the front mud guard. These had looked dangerous to us from the start. These rods projected out towards your legs when you were biking, and they were covered with small rubber tips, which had a habit of falling off. In Len's injury the tip was embedded in his leg, and he had a nasty wound. All in all, a bad day. I had biked 37 miles, while Len biked 49.

We had dinner in a nearby hotel (our restaurant was closed that day) at an outdoor patio. Then we had the traditional ice cream cone at a little bar on the town's only street. We sat outside on the sidewalk and discussed how we lost each other, and what we should have done.

Len actually did the right thing. We had an agreement, though not very firm, that if we got separated we would go back to the last place where we had seen the other person. That's what he did. From my situation, however, since I thought Len was in front of me, going back to the square in Spitz seemed like a bad thing to do.

We talked about what algorithm would be the right thing to do. The problem with going back to the last place where you saw the other person and waiting is that the other person might have a different idea of where the last place was. Then you'd both be waiting forever in two different places. We thought maybe one person should be moving, while the other waited. And so forth. I'm not sure there is a good algorithm. In this case Len had the only cell phone, and I didn't even have his number.

We have to come up with something better for our next trip!

Proceed to day 6 of the Danube trip

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