It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Rick Steves told us to go cruising down the Danube and biking along the way.  He made it look so easy.  Then we tried to figure out the logistics, and well, let’s just say it was a logistical nightmare involving hours of fruitless research.

it all looks so effortless... why isn't it??

We took the train the Melk (mostly easy enough, once we asked at information and were told we would need to change trains, and once the train ticket checker guy told us that the tiny little single car was indeed our next ride).  We, as usual, took the scenic route, walking through Viennese campgrounds trying to find where we could buy ship tickets and rent bikes.  Once we FINALLY found it, the really nice rental girl gave us the student prices!  Win!

the abbey in Melk

We circled around a little shack that had posters of bicyclists on it to try and figure out if it was a place we could rent a bike.  Then we felt nervous and so we went back to ask our friend at the ship tickets.  She said that yes indeed they did rent out bikes at that odd little shed (my words, not hers).  So we headed back over there, and a woman who I thought was just a customer of the little food stand, put down her sewing and rented us some bicycles. 

We set out down the Danube. At first it all was going swimmingly.  The trail was relatively flat, the view of the Danube was lovely; there was even a castle in the distance.  Then suddenly, things took a turn for the worse.  We encountered a giant hill of death.  We thought we would never arrive at the top of it.  I was excited to go downhill on the other side of it.  But then I realized we would be turning around at some point and would have to go up any hill we went down.  This spelled trouble, because basically the whole next leg of the trip was downhill.  Yikes!

We stopped for a picnic lunch along the Danube, gazing out at some vineyards.  It was quite lovely.  Then we prayed for strength to go back, because all we could think of was all the hills we went down, and how we were feeling a bit tired.  Well, prayer works – we only had one giant hill to go up, and then the rest of the ride was a breeze!  We were ultra confused that we did not go uphill most of the way.  It was such a pleasant bike ride!  And we had fun bells on our bikes.  So when other bikers weren’t around (we didn’t want to confuse them and make them think we were passing them) we rung our little bells to our hearts’ content.  Thanks Rick Steves.  I’m sorry for saying mean things about you earlier in the day when we were feeling so lost.

the site of our picnic

After dropping off our bikes, we walked to Tom’s Eis Café on the Main Street in Melk, and sat outside under an umbrella, enjoying some lemon ice cream (sherbet?  Italian ice? It is hard to say.  But lemon ice cream doesn’t sound that great when you call it ice cream) and preparing for the boating portion of our day.  It was a little tricky to order.  I knew that I wanted Zitrone Eis, but did not see just scoops of ice cream on the menu.  After some German, some English, some sad looks, and some smiles, we figured it out and we enjoyed a refreshing treat.

PTL for lemony refreshment.

The boat cruise along the Wachau valley was so incredibly beautiful.  The only downside is that the sun was blazing hot at this point in the day.  We figured out that despite the sun, it was actually quite lovely on the roof deck of the boat, because there was a strong breeze when the boat was moving.  The scenery was heavenly.  We were in a valley, with rolling hills on their side, lined with vineyards, old churches and tiny villages.  I MAY have taken a few pictures 🙂

gorgeous vineyards and small towns in the Wachau Valley

love the Wachau Valley. Pretty.

We arrived in Krems and immediately set out in the wrong direction.  After a miserable tour in the Bermuda Triangle of our trip, we broke free from the Krems University of Applied Sciences and made our way to the picturesque town.  At this point though, we were so miserably hot, we had nothing in us to give toward meandering through cute shops, and mostly just wanted to go home to our air conditioned hotel room.

the adorableness that is Krems. We wanted so badly for it to be a magical place of adorable meandering. Such potential. Such heat. This is the most half-hearted photo I've ever taken. Slowly, in monotone: "I guess I should take a picture. That street is cute."

Overall, I would give the day 3.7 stars out of 5.  The high points were really high, but the low points were really low.