I’ve been on a couple of cruises before, from ones with several thousand people on board and ships that are the size of small town with full amenities, to small sailing trips on boats with bunk beds and just about enough room in the galley/living area to stretch your arms out both sides. I’ve also been on a few short bike tours, strapping on a set of panniers to my road bike and setting off for a few days in the Scottish countryside.
Before last week, what I hadn’t done, was combine the two in a Bike and Boat holiday. This has all changed as I’ve just returned from a fantastic week on our Danube Bike and Boat: Passau to Vienna holiday.
I am normally a long-distance cyclist, with the emphasis being on getting from A to B in as quick a time as possible. However, I found the pace of the Danube Bike and Boat trip just right. Enough miles to keep those more serious cyclists interested, but short enough to take a more relaxed approach. For those who like to supplement their cycling with plenty of coffee and cake (let’s face it, that’s all of us), there were a plethora of stops en route too.
One of the main attractions of a Bike and Boat trip for me is the opportunity to meet like-minded people. You can do your own thing during the day whilst out cycling and socialise at night with your fellow travellers on board, comparing your day’s experiences. This was very easy to do with the amenities on board, which included a restaurant, panorama bar, and sundeck.
The cycling itself was straightforward and very easy to navigate. Much of the route takes you along the purpose-built cycle paths that follow the Danube, allowing you to relax and take in the scenery. The daily briefing’s, in English, were detailed and allowed you to ask any questions you might have as well as give the cruise director a chance to give you some handy hints about interesting things to see and do along the way.
My comfortable 21-speed bike was a dream to ride. Bikes come fitted with panniers as standard, which meant no need to carry a rucksack. Mechanical issues are rare, but if they do happen and you can’t fix it yourself, the cruise director is only a call away.
The eerie silence was almost a bit daunting at first, however, you soon come to appreciate that this is part of the experience, allowing you to contemplate on the horrors that took place all those years ago.
The small museum housed in the old infirmary was an excellent explanation of the history of the camp, with some short video pieces to accompany the physical ones on display.
Vienna is perhaps my new favourite city. The sheer amount of history was astounding. You practically trip over famous palaces, opera houses, and museums at every turn. Cycle paths were plentiful, which was a big change for me compared to what I am used to in Glasgow. Being the halfway point in the trip, having the opportunity to wander around a beautiful city was also welcome.
It was a bit of a hard slog at first, even for my relatively experienced hiking feet. My goodness though, this 1.6 km walk was worth it. At the end of the hike, the forest canopy opened and I was greeted with one of the most scenic views I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing first hand.
All in all, this trip had everything for me. The food was excellent and provided real tastes of local cuisine on board the boat. The cabins were small (as you might expect) but extremely comfortable and after a hard days cycling, sightseeing and socialising, I was generally asleep seconds after my head hit the pillow.
My fellow passengers and cyclists were extremely friendly people, whose company I enjoyed greatly. After touring the same stretch of the path as each other, there is no shortage of evening conversation to be had.
The cycle routes were a delight. While extremely straightforward and not too challenging, they provided enough points of interest and natural beauty to make them just perfect for a relaxing cycling holiday.
If you’re new to cycle touring or indeed cycling, I can’t think of a better first Macs Adventure holiday to try out! If you want to ask anything more about this trip, don’t hesitate to get in touch on [email protected] with me, or one of my destination specialist colleagues.
Hamish was also interviewed about his trip by activetraveladventures.com, you can listen to the interview about his Danube bike & boat experience here.