Krems to Vienna (Day 7 & 8)

Day 7: Krems to Vienna

So far we had been lucky with the weather; other than a few clouds, mother nature had spared us from the rain. 
For our last day, we thought our luck had ended as we awoke to dark skies and rain. Fortunately, we had to do a 40 minutes train ride before doing the last leg of our trip and what do you know, by the time the train reached our destination, the rain had stopped!! 

Near the end of our last ride, we stopped for a picnic in a park just before entering Vienna.  We checked into our hotel and explored the Austrian capital on foot while indulging in some delicious local treats like apple strudel and coffee with Chantilly cream!

All of Vienna's pedestrian signs come in every variety!

After a good night sleep we said goodbye to Jen’s dad and Lloyd. They were off to Budapest for a couple of nights before meeting up with their wives in Rome, while we had plans to continue on to Bratislava, Slovakia.

Marbach to Krems (Day 6)

Day 6: Marbach to Krems (~50km)

Today was all about wine and Richard the Lionheart. 

We entered the Austrian wine country and passed through several vineyards. Every small town had signs filled with arrows pointing to the nearby vineyards and wine shops.  

Our tour included free samples of schnapps and 4 bottles of wine that we picked up along the way.  The schnapps tasting was so good that we couldn't resist buying a couple of small bottles of the apricot and cherry schnapps to take home. :) 

We then climbed the cliff in Durkstein to the Castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned on his way back from the crusade. What remains are mostly ruins, but the view of the wine region from up there was fantastic!

We finally arrived at our hotel in Krems where we enjoyed some of our wine and schnapps before wandering around town and grabbing dinner.

Bad Kreuzen to Marbach (Day 5)

Day 5: Bad Kreuzen to Marbach (~40km)

As we finished up breakfast, we heard a fanfare playing outside our hotel. We started preparing our bikes in front of the hotel and 5 minutes later the entire town passed in front of us dressed in traditional attire. We were told that it was the Ernkdankfest (Celebration of Harvest). 

The first part of today's ride was super fun and easy.  We zipped downhill through rolling fields for about 6 km to get back down to the Danube River. Then it was a short ~34 km to our hotel. 

We arrived at our hotel fairly early and had the option to climb up to the Maria Taferl, a local basilica that is a popular pilgrimage destination.  Just as we finished lunch and got ready to climb to the church, it started to rain... so bakery treats and an afternoon nap became too tempting to resist.  We tried a local drink called "Sturm" which is a young semi-fermented wine.  It was sweet, fruity, and delicious!

Linz to Bad Kreuzen (Day 4)

Day 4: Linz to Bad Kreuzen (~60km)

We left early so we could have time to visit the Mauthausen Concentration camp, which sits atop a huge steep hill. We spent about 1.5 hours visiting the site and listening to the audio guide which talked about many interesting yet horrible stories of what happened there.  Mauthausen was chosen as one of the larger concetration camps because it was nearby a granite quarry, so prisoners were used as slave labourer who were starved and worked to death.  They were made to repeatedly carry large 25kg granite stones up 186 stairs until they were so exhausted that they would simply fall down the stairs to their death, taking those who were following close behind, along with them. 
After the tour, we then hopped on our little bikes and zipped back down the hill.  From here we rode through various farms including pumpkin/canola/corn fields, and apple/pear orchards. 

We also lost David and Lloyd on the way!  Thanks to Sharon's careful planning to ensure we were all equipped with Zello, a walkie-talkie app, and Freedompop Global SIM cards with free data, we were able to communicate our locations to find each other again about 30 minutes later :).

Since we arrived at our pickup location an hour early, we treated ourselves to a nice ice cream treat!

Wesenufer to Linz (Day 3)

After a big buffet breakfast we headed out for our longest biking day. 12 km later, we arrived at the Schlögener Schlinge, the area along the Danube where the river actually loops back on itself.  So we parked the bikes and climbed 30 minutes up to the lookout point to see the famous view.

From there, we continued along the river, taking a couple of ferries whenever the pathway switched to the other river bank.

After 70km (total), we finally arrived in Linz. It was a long day, but we were happy (and exhausted!).

Passau to Wesenufer (Day 1 and 2)

We boarded the Dusseldorf train at 20:30 and settled in for a good overnight-train-sleep to Passau, Germany.  We arrived in Passau at around 5:30am and met up with Jen’s dad, David, and his friend, Lloyd, at the hotel.  

Our 8-day adventure crossing Austria along the Danube River, with our little folding Brompton bikes, was about to begin!


Day 1: Passau
While David and Lloyd went to pick up the bike tour packages and bikes, we tried to get a bit more rest before heading into town for a stroll and visit.

Day 2: Passau to Wesenufer (~35 km)
Our first day biking was short.  We left at 11am and rode down to the Danube River to begin our journey.  At the edge of town, we stopped to hike up the cliff facing Passau to get a view of the city and a glimpse of the castle.

Along the way, we stopped at Engelszell Abbey, a Trappist Monastery where they make beer and liqueurs.  We bought some sample sizes to bring home as souvenirs.

We spent our second night near Wesenufer, Austria, at a really nice hotel-spa called Gasthof-Pension Luger.  The rooms were super fancy/nice (compared to the way we usually travel), and the food at the restaurant was delicious!


Gouda & Dusseldorf

It took almost 3 travel days to get from Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka to the start of our next adventure in Gouda, Netherlands.  We started out by transferring to and overnighting in Colombo.  Next, we then flew to Qatar and then London for another overnight.  The next morning, we trained across town to exchange our kites for bikes, then cycled to the train station, hopped onto the Eurostar to Brussels, transferred to Rotterdam, and finally transferred to Gouda.

The original plan was to spend 3 days cycling through the Netherlands, but we arrived to a dismal forecast of dark overcast clouds and pouring rain.  It was a blessing in disguise.. we were exhausted from all of the travel and Jen had brought home a stomach bug from Sri Lanka.

Our AirBnb room was relaxing and our hosts were very lovely, so we spent some time chatting with them, watched movies, and recharged our batteries for the trip ahead. Whenever the downpour took a short break, we'd dash outside to explore and eat at the delicious restaurants. Gouda is one of the nicest towns that we've stayed in, with its cute little market, shops, squares, and buildings. 

Our first stop was obviously at a Gouda cheese store where we sampled Gouda cheese with all kinds of interesting flavours and colours including Basil, Red Pesto, Fennel, Truffle, and Carrot... just to name a few.  We also learned that we've all been pronouncing Gouda incorrectly our whole lives.. apparently their "G"s sound more like throaty "H"s, so when Dutch people say Gouda, it actually sound more like a throaty "how-da"!

On Satuday, as we explored the town, we found ourselves at the Saturday Market where they were showing off... cows?  We have no idea what the cows were there for, but it was interesting seeing them just chill out in a tent in the middle of the square :)

Jen was SOO excited to finally have Dutch pancakes in Holland - apparently it was on her bucket list! :)  
The verdict?  Well, apparently they were just as good as her favourite Dutch pancake restaurant (Pfanntastic Pannenkoek Haus) in Calgary.  Hahaha! 

On Sunday, we finally awoke to sun and blue sky, so we decided to do 45 km bike ride to Kinderdjik to see the original Dutch windmills.  Kinderdijk sits below sea level, so the windmills were historically used as part of a water management system to prevent flooding and keep the region dry. 

The area was scenic and peaceful, so we stopped here for a picnic of gouda, bread, gouda, fruits, wine, and more gouda. 

On Monday, we made our way to Dusseldorf - the last stop before our cross-country bike trip. Since we were finishing up some work, we didn't have time to do much in Dusseldorf other than a quick wander through town to try out the local cuisine.

Return to Kalpitiya

Our friends, Fabian and Iris, arrived in Colombo the day after Dom’s dad left.  We hunted them down at the airport to share a ride back to Kalpitiya where we spent our last 9 days working and hanging out with friends.  

We did a bit of kitesurfing

Helped Fabian and Iris with their creative hotel projects 

And celebrated Jen's birthday!! :)

Negombo

For Yves' last few days, we stayed at a small family run guesthouse near the beach in Negombo.  We spent a lot of time hanging out in the pool and visited Negombo’s fishing market, beach, and dutch canal.


One evening, on our way to dinner, we happened upon a kite festival on the beach where crowds of kids were flying elaborate kites of all shapes and sizes.  Some were huge or had crazy long tails, while others were decked out with LED lights.  After dinner, we hung out at the kite festival concert for a while and then stopped to watch a local wedding ceremony on the beach that had live musicians playing really nice traditional music.


Dom's dad is a really friendly person who loves to talk to people.  Locals in Sri Lanka are so genuinely friendly, so Yves would often stop to chat with them.  On his camera, he had pictures of snow in Canada that he enjoyed showing to the locals. The funny thing is that it actually turned out to be a great way of fending off vendors in the market.  The locals who genuinely wanted to chat with him would look at the pictures with interest, but the ones who just wanted to make a sale would quickly get bored and race away to the next potential buyer. 

After our visit in Negombo, Yves returned to Canada.  We were really happy to have the opportunity to travel with him and have so many wonderful experiences and adventures together!  We look forward to the next time :)

Kandy

From Sigirya we went South to Kandy.  Our plan was to take the train to visit the highlands, unfortunately, the "first" class car (the only car with reserved seating) was temporarily cancelled for the next few weeks.  We were a bit disappointed, but since we weren't thrilled at the idea of standing in a hot crowded train for the entire 7 hour journey, we decided to stay in Kandy for a couple of days.  

We took it easy exploring the streets and discovering all of the delicious restaurants, markets, and temples in the area. 

On our way to Negombo we stopped to visit a tea plantation, where learned all about how the various types of tea are grown, picked, processed and exported.