During our trip we didn’t have the access to computers we had hoped so our of our posts were written either on the one or two hotel computers we had access to or on our cell phones. Because of this most posts were pictures and small comments. It is now July 29th, two months since we returned home. After some time of readjusting to normal life I have just now started to chronicle our trip. I will be adding parts and pieces over the next few months. For most of the places we stopped there are brief category blog posts.
It had its beginning December 24th, 2015 during a bicycle trip from Broad Ripple to Fountain Square and back again. We take this ride often. It is about a fifteen mile round trip from Broad Ripple and very pleasant. There is plenty of time to chat and talk. There were about seven of us this day. During the start of the ride V said he would like to go to Europe again and either ride Passau to Vienna or something similar. Peter was up for it and suggested Vienna to Budapest. Everyone agreed it sounded fun but no one committed.
During the week that followed, the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I had time on my hands and decided to look into flights. The first few I found were between $1200 and $1500 into Vienna and out of Budapest. Quickly discouraged I shelved it. A day or so later I was watching TV and bored. I found myself looking at flights again. Bingo! A round trip from Chicago to Budapest was $775.
Peter, Jon, myself, and a couple other people were at Broad Ripple Brewpub and I mentioned I found flights to Budapest and back fairly reasonable. We decided to meet the following day and see if the flights were still available.
After a brief, very brief, discussion our flights were booked for May 14th through May 29th. V wasn’t at our meeting so we couldn’t book his flight. Something about he had a work meeting he had to attend. We gave him our flight information and he made his reservation. Although he didn’t reserve his seats which caused him to get a lot of grief from Peter in the following months.
Initially we were just going to rent bikes and ride each day to the next town on the map to find our small hotels, or penzion as they are known there. We decided to book three nights each in Vienna and Budapest upfront which turned out to be a great idea.
By late January we were getting excited and began planning and exploring the options of the trip. Early on we decided it would be better to book our trail rooms in advance. This would give us more freetime during the day and not require us having to get to our destination by 3:00 in the afternoon. Through a few meetings we selected places that looked welcoming and intriguing. One in particular was at Bratislava. Dunajský Pivovar. It is a barge converted to a hotel that floats on the Danube, and it is a brewery. Over the next month we met a few evenings and afternoons and selected the places we wanted to stay. This allowed us much more free time on the ride and removed any pressure of having to be somewhere at a certain time.
On May 14th we drove from Indianapolis to Chicago, IL to catch our flight to Budapest, Hungary. A quick stop at Jon’s brother’s family home, a brief rest, and off to O’Hare. The four of us were second in line for check-in. Ten minutes later V realized he left his passport in our vehicle at Jon’s brother’s. Jon called his brother but there was no answer. Panic. Jon called his sister-in-law and was able to leave a message. A few minutes later Jon’s brother called to let us know he was returning to the airport, fortunately he was only a few minutes away from us. Success! V got his passport.
By now the line waiting to check in had grown to to more than 50 people. Having arrived at 1:00PM for a 4:PM flight we were at the head of the line. Which also put us near the front of the customs line. We were through customs in quick order and had time for lunch and refreshments, and getting a couple magazines and snacks for the flight. Finally on to boarding on our plane.
Our flight was great. The selection of movies and music was quite large which help pass the next 10 hours. Well, that and some wine, beer, and in-flight meals.
We arrived in Frankfort, Germany a few minutes behind schedule which made for a panic run to our connecting flight. Problem. Our connecting flight had a line about 100 anxiety ridden people long and only one flight service person checking people in.
An airport person rode past us on a bicycle to the desk person. They chatted, He phoned. Turned to us all and said, “follow me”. At a quick clip we were off to unknown parts in the airport. 100 anxious people snaking along behind the guy walking his bicycle through the crowd, down stairs, around corners. Success. New check-in desks with about 4 clerks supporting us all. They said, go that way. Not much of a direction to follow but after some guesswork we found the tarmac and the waiting bus to the plane. Now just a quick hour flight to Budapest.
We piled into a van for our cab ride to the train station. Our first view of Hungary was less than opulent, other than the billboards. Advertising here is different than America’s. Sex sells more overtly than we were use to. It was kind of dreary when we got to the station and the rundown appearance just added to that feeling.
The station is old and has seen wear and tear of wars, Soviet Occupation, and revolution. A grand building on low maintenance budget. We were on the opposite side from where we needed to be, didn’t speak the language, didn’t know where to go, and a little overwhelmed by the atmosphere. Peter found the right ticket booth and purchased our tickets. We didn’t know which train and then didn’t know which part of the train after we found the right train. Once on the train we found some seats only to have some local people across from Peter and V start complaining about being in their space. We soon learned there are assigned seats for some people. Ironically, the complainers were escorted out of their seats by police a little later because they were someone else’s seats. Four burly, well armed police get on the train and start interrogating a woman near us. Tense time. She was nice and not argumentative but we still had no idea what was going on. Eventually she was escorted off the train and left at the station on the boarding platform with no altercation. While Peter and V relaxed with trips to the club car, Jon and I napped. Actually we fell asleep.
Arrival into Vienna
We arrived in Vienna and found a cabby to take us to our hotel. We were discussing among ourselves if he was taking us the right way or padding the trip. We were thinking he didn’t know much if any English but he probably spoke English better than we thought he did. No matter. He got us to our destination in short order and was very pleasant. Looking back he probably took us on a short cut from the route we thought he should have took.
After settling in a bit we went to explore around our hotel. It was Sunday late afternoon/early evening, and it was the day before Wit Monday which is a Holiday in Europe. After a brief walk we entered a small restaurant. Walking through a portico you enter a wonderful patio area. Inside the building was very nice and had a warm atmosphere to it. The server brought us menus and asked if we wanted a drink. First round of beer in Austria. He also mentioned they had a buffet. I didn’t have a buffet type hunger, until he mentioned it was half-price for us because we were the last customers. So for $10 American we gorged on a buffet that had at least fifty dishes of various liking. Finishing dinner we took a walk down Mariahilfer Straße, and maybe went about two miles. It felt pretty good to walk after the flights, train, and meal.
Our First Day
Our base is the Leonardo Hotel Vienna. Great location and pretty reasonable. The elevators were wonky though. There is bike storage in the parking garage, about two blocks to the subway and mall shopping, one block from Mariahilfer Straße, and about two blocks from Scrappy’s. We didn’t eat any meals here although the restaurant/bar looked very clean. There were so many places nearby to eat and drink where you feel the local experience we wanted to do that. There was computer access so this is one place we were able to post more than pictures. V has a post here.
We packed our non-essential bike trip items in boxes and walked to the post office in the mall to ship these to our hotel in Budapest. We also exchanged some currency and had a quick pastry at one of the walk-up bakeries in Vienna, wonderful pastries there. This was our last required agenda item until leaving Budapest 14 days later. From here on it is “No where to be and no time to have to be there.”
Monday morning was still a little cool but very pleasant so we wore jackets but didn’t bother with rain gear or umbrellas. The best transportation in Vienna is the Vienna Metro, U-BAHN. Peter said it is best to get a multi-day U-Bahn pass so we could get around Vienna easily by just getting on and off with out having to get tickets each time we rode, it’s also much cheaper that way too. We boarded the U-Bahn and were headed to Schonbrunn Palace.
The palace tour gives you a good idea of what it was like to live in the palace. Jon and I enjoyed a pivo while waiting for the tour to start. V and Peter just relaxed.
After the palace we went for a late lunch and then to participate in The Third Man tour. This tour mostly covers events in the movie but it is also a great look into Vienna just after World War II. It started raining on the tour and it got chilly. The tour included a lot of background about the building in the area. Should have brought a rain jacket. Following the tour we stopped for a pivo at an Irish pub on our way to meet Dave, Peter’s friend. Along the way the rain stopped and we saw a double rainbow.
We met Dave at Bermuda Bräu for dinner, pivos, and one schnapps. The meals were fantastic, very large, and reasonably priced. Calling it an evening around 10:00 we headed home on the U-Bahn. Arriving back at our station it was decided we needed a nightcap, because why not.
We walked past a few little places but didn’t agree on any of them. About the time we were ready to give up and go to the hotel we noticed Scrappy’s. This turned into a much longer nightcap than anticipated. Bruno is a wonderful host and his pub is not to be passed by.
We spent time wandering Mariahilferstrasse, shopping, and getting some food. Then we went to pick up our bikes at Pedal Power. Rick set us up and provided t-shirts and hats. From here we pedaled back to the Leonardo. After packing our panniers we headed to7Stern Bräu for dinner. Dave met us there also. On our way out we noticed a beer vending machine so we tried it out. Then a walk back to the hotel for an early night before our ride started.
The Trip Starts
We met Dave again and we pedaled to the Prater Wiener Riesenrad. After a couple quick photos we were off. The bridge across the Danube brought us to Donauinsel, the Danube Island. By mid morning the sun was out and it was nice weather. We stopped for lunch, sausage and beer, at a simple outdoor beer garden. From here Dave headed back to Vienna and we were set to Hainburg, riding through Danube-Auen National Park.
Hainburg was a small village that had ruins dating back to Roman times. The village settlement dates to Celtic times. It was evening before we walked around town and by then most shops were closed. There were interesting sites though. This could be seen as easily as an afternoon stop.
From here the trip is covered in the
Categories listed, in our videos, and pictures. The youtube video is the most complete chronological documentary. It is a combination of all our pictures and gives a good understanding, although there is no commentary. Other short videos give glimpses of the ride at different times.