Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Vacation report, part 5: Ottenstein to Durnstein, Austria

We took a bus from Cesky Krumlov to an old castle in Ottenstein, Austria.  Along the way I learned that there are no longer any passport controls at the borders between EU nations, so I didn't get an Austrian stamp in my passport.  We sped through the former border checkpoint so quickly that I couldn't even take a photo of the empty drive-through booths.  Lunch was a picnic provided by one of our guides, followed by a brief lecture on the history and culture of Austria.  Then we were off and riding again. It was one of the hottest days of the trip, and even three full water bottles weren't enough. For the first time I wished I'd brought my Camelbak along.

Castle in Ottenstein where we had lunch

Ancient castle near Ottenstein

There was another big climb on the route that day that I wasn't about to miss.  I rode up the hill with Doug, one of the strongest cyclists in the group.  Just before we started the climb, we met an older Austrian gentleman who asked us (in broken English) where we were going and then insisted on getting out of his car and helping us with our directions. I think we convinced him we weren't lost and that we were riding up the hill for fun.  He said he'd learned English from 1940 to 1945 and we suspected he hadn't spoken it much since then.  We also wondered if he might be one of the Von Trapp children.

The stream at the bottom of the big climb

Doug and I kept the same slow pace as Bob and I had used on Monday and again it worked to conserve our energy.  But it was so hot that we were running low on water.  I had one full bottle left and Doug was on his last bottle.  We didn't see our support vans at all.  While we rode through small towns on our way up the hill, we saw no stores where we could buy water.  I scooped up some cold water from a small stream next to the road, useful for pouring on my head but questionable for drinking.  Finally, near the top of the hill, I spotted an outdoor spigot at a deserted tennis court. There was no gate or door and no one to ask for permission, so we helped ourselves.  The water was delightfully cool and refreshing.  

The view at the top of the climb

Another view from the top

A few kilometers later we were speeding down the other side of the hill on another roller-coaster-like, hairpin-turn-filled ride.  The end of the route led us through vineyards into Durnstein, site of the imprisonment of King Richard the Lionheart and our base for the next two evenings.

Vineyards outside Durnstein

At dinner that evening, we found out what had happened to the support vans.  Some of the people in the group had opted for a ride to the tops of the hills, then rode their bikes down.  And other riders took longer than expected to finish the day's ride, so the vans was out looking for them.  Doug and I got caught in the middle with no support so we had to improvise.  But all's well that ends well and we'd had a good time on a challenging hill.

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