Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

Distance travelled 363 km

It is rarely that anything goes exactly according to plan, so it should not come as any surprise that our departure, although well planned for nine o’clock was delayed by circumstances beyond our control. After weeks of torrential rains, the weather had calmed down and we cooled our heels for an hour in bright sunshine while we waited for somebody to do something totally unrelated to our holiday. In the end, we set off at around ten o’clock. It was so warm that I strapped my jacket to the luggage rack and rode in my tee shirt and HOG vest.

For some years, the Czech Republic has suffered a drought, some of it extreme and we have already got used to having a slightly arid landscape. This year has been the complete opposite and neither of us could remember when we had last seen the landscape so green in mid-July.

The biggest problem of always leaving from a fixed point is that the first part of any journey has little about it that is new. We set off from Prague along Strakonická street, with the unusual intention of going just where it led to, Strakonice. In both of our opinions, this is the most beautiful way to leave Prague. It is hardly any time before you actually leave the city and, after you come to the “end of town” sign and enter Route 4, there is no belt of industry, just nature. In only a few short minutes you are passing the signs for Řitka, where in the distance on your right, the hills of Hřebeny begin to rise slowly before being replaced by those of Brdy. The area of Brdy has a special place in the hearts of Czech people as, for many long years, it was a forbidden military zone and detail of the geography was not even marked on maps !

At Dobříš, there is a large and very noticeable pond on the right, known as the Huťský rybnik. The main reason for pointing that out is that almost directly opposite, on the other side of the road in Stará Huť, there are two tall chimneys. On the far chimney, to the left as you view it, there is the nest of a stork. We could clearly see a parent standing there.

This is the very westernmost nest of the storks that migrate to the east. See below.

Stork Photo – Sorry Stock Photo !

Purely as a relatively insignificant aside, the Stork has an aversion to flying over water. Every year storks migrate to Europe from Africa and, because of this aversion, they split into two migratory streams. The western stream flies over the narrow strait of Gibraltar and into Spain where it slowly spreads out. The eastern stream flies up the Levant, over Turkey and crosses into Europe over the Bosphorus before spreading out. The nest at Stará Huť marks the very westernmost extent of those storks that arrive from the east. You will never see one in Prague and it is only about thirty kilometres away.

The Route 4 has been slowly transforming over the years into a far more rapid road and there are a lot of roadworks.

Despite this, apart from the last few kilometres, the part we travelled on has not yet received “motorway” status. It still passes through a few small towns and villages but, in most places, work is in process to bypass these.

What remains, despite the work done, is the beautiful views across the classic South Bohemian landscape, on both sides of the road.

We did start to ride on the E59, which is now a “proper” motorway, but at the second exit, when we turned right towards Strakonice, we again reverted to the Route 4. Lucie describes this as the entrance to the Šumava region.

This is particularly true once you pass through Strakonice and head in the direction of the German border. In my opinion, that section, after Strakonice, is one of the finest biking roads in the whole Czech State. The road winds through the Šumava mountains and the views are simply spectacular in places.

The scenery is the subject of much Czech literature and poetry. As Lucie likes to say, “the forests, slopes, meadows, valleys and streams have been well described by cleverer people than me”.

Bikers do love the road and sadly, perhaps, the local authorities now have realised this and see it as a source of revenue. There are a number of, recently introduced, speed cameras to catch out the unwary. Even riding normally, it would be easy to trip some of these, so if you do ride the road, be careful.

In the small town of Horní Vltavice, we passed over a cutesy little bridge that crosses one of the two sources of the Vltava river that eventually flows through Prague. In this case it was the Teplá Vltava (warm Vltava).

We refuelled the Harley in Vimperk and prepared to greet our German neighbours. At the border, no sudden surprises awaited us. There were no last minute, Covid related, changes to the regulations and we were totally ignored. With the road designation switching to B12 (which I always think sounds a bit like a health pill) we set off for Passau.

At least the B12 would have led us to Passau if it had not been for a detour before we got there. I have mentioned the dreaded “UMLEITUNG” signs before. In truth, in Germany such detours are usually well signposted and merely a slight diversion. We both remembered, however, the endless and seemingly concentric circles those yellow signs had led us on during our previous Hundertwasser tour in 2020.

We set off into the countryside which, in truth, was very pleasant.

Our SatNav, quite naturally, did not like this and began to suggest an endless series of alternatives which it readjusted every time we ignored its pleas to head down a tiny side road. Being on an “official” diversion meant, of course, that every vehicle, from moped to lorry, had to be able to use it – so it had to be capable of taking all traffic. Some of the SatNav’s suggestions might well have worked for a vehicle our size, but who could tell. Eventually, with all the connotations attached to that word, we did arrive at quite a main road, the 85 where the yellow signs indicated that the diversion had ended. This, at least, concurred with the wishes of the SatNav at that particular second and peace returned. Slightly ironically, our chosen destination, the Bishop’s Fortress called the Veste Oberhaus (Oberhaus 125, 94034 Passau), sits on top of a high bluff overlooking Passau. On the B12, we would have had to go into Passau and then drive up to it. On the 85, we were far higher up and were duly directed across flattish countryside to our destination.

Riding along, we had not even noticed just how hot it had become. As soon as we stopped this was quite obvious and my bare arms were quite burned. I swiftly changed my tee shirt for a real shirt to get them out of the sun.

I have been in Passau scores of times but, such is the topography of the town, I had never realised this fortress existed. As we enjoyed the stunning views of the city from the lookout points, I knew that those down in the town, were they to look up, would not really see anything. Strange.

Passau lays at the confluence of three rivers, the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. I did notice that the river was rather high and that, in some places, the riverside streets had a little water in them. We had a great lunch in the in the castle restaurant, Das Oberhaus (Oberhaus 1, 94034 Passau), overlooking the confluence of the Danube and the Inn.

The third river, the Ilz, is comparatively minor and flows into the Danube from the northern side. It actually parallels the course of the road B12 for its final descent and, when up in the castle, we had it both behind our backs and behind the hill and we could not see it.

For our lunch, we had a quite delicious falafel salad – it was truly tasty and a couple of the inevitable alcohol free beers, on this occasion from the Clausthaler brewery. The price was only 38 EUR which, considering the location, we thought was reasonable indeed.

Whilst we were eating, the time came to the hour and all the bells in the numerous churches of the city below began to chime in unison. The effect was quite charming. One set of bells kept on playing when the others stopped. Whether this was emanating from the town hall, or a large church nearby, we could not tell. We did not recognise the tune but it was quite harmonious and had a lot of tones. We debated as to whether this was what is called a “Carillon” which has at least 23 tones (otherwise it is just a “Chime” !) But, for once, Wikipedia ™ is strangely reticent on the subject.

We had a quick stroll around the castle grounds, but did not go inside. It was very picturesque, but we had other places we wanted to be. 

After lunch we set off for Salzburg. We descended to the banks of the Danube and crossed it onto the island where most of Passau is situated. As we had noticed from above, the water level was very high.

Leaving the island, we crossed the Danube again, this part mixed with waters of the Inn and began the climb out of the valley. On the way up, we passed Passua’s “other castle“.

At the top of the hill we unceremoniously entered Austria. I let the SatNav do its thing which, whilst it did avoid the monotony of the motorway led us through a mostly uninteresting landscape that did little to inspire.

In the end, the mountains of Salzburg did come into view in the distance.

We were not on the motorway, but the SatNav did shadow it to a point and, in the increasingly heavy traffic as we approached Salzburg, I would almost have welcomed the tedium of two, fast, lanes. The traffic intensified the nearer we got and the last thirty kilometres, particularly around the sparkling blue waters of the Mattsee, dragged on indefinitely. Time was passing and we could feel our strength for a long hike through the city to find the more distant of its two Hundertwasser sites decreasing. In the end, we decided to ride to the first, Hundertwasser Allee, on our way to the hotel.

I must confess, at this point, to a slight screw-up. When I “researched” our trip, by which I mean “when I typed Hundertwasser + Austria into Google”, I was presented with a list of seven places. I made a note of the stated addresses (two of which were in Salzburg) and that was about it. I know what Hundertwasser is about and, on the spot, his works are usually prominent and easily noticeable. Anyway, after a traffic nightmare, we came to where the SatNav said Hundertwasser Allee was. Strangely, it seemed to be a park. Expecting to find some artworks amongst the trees and with nowhere to park in sight, I put the Harley between the barrier across the park entrance and the lane for trolleybuses. This was not really a very appropriate place and certainly not in accordance with local regulations.

Inside the park we could see nothing significant and most of the paved paths were frequented by speeding cyclists who did not appreciate our confused and uncoordinated zigzagging, even though it was in search of art. We searched independently and thought, for a while, that a slightly unusual children’s play area could be what we were seeking, but it had no “trademark” Hundertwasser idiosyncrasies In the end, we concluded that the authorities had just simply named the path through the park after Hundertwasser and left it at that. Somewhat dejectedly and in anticipation of an ear bashing in my immediate future, I photographed the street sign (Hundertwasser Allee, 5020 Salzburg). The park, by the way, is called the Volksgarten.

Then we retrieved our badly parked transport and headed for our hotel. In the event, Lucie was quite good about it, but I was acutely embarrassed. She remarked that anyone can make a mistake, just as anyone is entitled to remind them of it, in front of their friends, for many years to come. I sincerely hoped the remaining six places would have something for us to see. Well, I knew three would, they are all in Vienna, but what of the rest ?

Because I had stayed there before, when I watched RB salzburg play Chelsea, we easily located the place we would spend the night. This was the AllYouNeed Hotel (Glockengasse 4B/1, 5020 Salzburg).

The name perfectly captures the philosophy of the hotel, there is everything you need for a comfortable stay, but nothing more. It was great value at 83 EUR including breakfast. To check-in, we did need to show the “Covid Passes” that were stored electronically on our iPhones. These were compared with our Passports and that was it. We cooled down a little from the journey and the minor frustration around Hundertwasser Allee before venturing out.

First, we went in search of the other Hundertwasser site. The hotel is astonishingly close to the pedestrianised tourist centre and we walked easily to the banks of the river Salzach. The river was a turgid, greenish brown and obviously full of sediment from the recent flooding further upstream. We crossed, in the very shadow of the 11th century Fortress Hohensalzburg, which towers over the city and blithely ignored the house where Mozart was born (Getreidegasse 9, 5020 Salzburg), I mean what did he ever do ?

We navigated the picturesque jumble of side streets below the castle. That is actually not true ! The Austrian need for order would never permit a “jumble” – they were old, but straight, clean and dotted with upmarket boutiques and cafés. We easily located the Museum der Moderne Salzburg (Wiener-Philharmoniker-Gasse 9, 5020 Salzburg). Sure enough (and luckily for me) there were a few, real, Hundertwasser motifs around the windows. It was not much but, strangely, even that will please you if you have driven over 350 kilometres to see it !

The Hotel Krone (Linzer G. 48, 5020 Salzburg), was where my friend stayed for the Chelsea game and it has a pavement bar offering a large selection of beers. The signs state that coffee and booze are offered for the “working class” which is obviously how Lucie sees me ! We chose a couple and pondered our dinner options.

Lucie had seen a Japanese restaurant noted on Google ™ called Nagano and I was surprised that I could not see the sign from where we were sitting. We eventually discovered that we could see the sign, because it had changed its name to Tokyo (Linzer G. 36, 5020 Salzburg). Let us face it, both towns are in Japan.

It had little to do with a Japanese restaurant, at least as we imagined it. Rather, it was more of an Asian-style buffet. Of course, we figured that it may have been a real Japanese restaurant, because that is probably how most Japanese people, in Japan, really eat. As there were some “real” Japanese tourists at the table next to us and they did not look offended, in any way. by what they got, our suppositions were possibly correct. We went there and the food, whilst not archetypically Japanese, was very tasty and filling. I had spicy beef with noodles and spring rolls with Lucie mirroring me except that she had the duck option.

The beers, one real and one without alcohol were so similar it was hard to tell them apart. The restaurant did not take cards and our bill, with the two beers was around 40 EUR.

On the way back to the hotel, well not exactly the way back to the hotel (it was actually in the totally opposite direction !), we had some delicious ice cream and a ristretto in Alpz Gelato & Cafe (Platzl 3, 5020 Salzburg).

There was so much choice of ice-cream flavours, it was simply agonising to have to make a selection – but it was the best 7 EUR we spent all day. Then we did go back to the hotel and more or less fell into bed. We noted that, at no point that day, had we seen a menu in English and that, in all our travels, was a little bit strange.