Vienna. Summer. Bliss.
Only this time around Europe witnessed one of its worst ever heat waves and the two luckiest folks in town aka Sid and I happened to be bang in the middle of it. So, when our friend suggested a day trip to Wachau Valley filled with wine tasting and scenic views of the Austrian countryside we jumped faster than the rate at which our sunblock tube was being emptied. We booked a guided cycling tour through Vienna Explorer and on a warm sunny July morning set off for Wachau Valley.
The tour involves travelling by train to the city of Krems, from where the entire tour group picked up bikes. Now, I am always first to admit that I am not the most athletic person in any sample size but the idea of cycling brought a smile to my face. I last rode a bicycle almost 8 years ago so nostalgia engulfed me when I picked a bike, put on the helmet and took position. It is another thing that this nostalgia was of no use when I struggled to bike up an incline and was at a loss for breath even as people twice my age swiftly bypassed me! But, in the morning, all fresh and fed as I stood outside the bike parking garage, I felt like I could cycle like
Lance Armstrong (is there a better role model I could insert here?) Once everyone was ready, we were ably led by our tour leader onto the streets of the small town and our journey to the beautiful vineyards of Wachau started.
As we slowly made our way out of Krems and into the countryside, fresh crisp air greeted us. We were flanked by beautiful terraced fields on one side and the Danube on the other. We stopped at our first wine tasting after about 30 mins of cycling. We got to taste quite a few varieties of wine although such a thing is lost on me. I can’t figure out how people shake the wine, talk about clarity, taste and texture. The fact that I managed to finish my wine glass was an accomplishment in itself. Plus, given my threshold for holding alcohol, I don’t think the group would have appreciated a drunk woman on a cycle humming Bollywood songs (alcohol makes me desi like nothing else can). Sid and our friends definitely had a better appreciation for the wine and the unique classification system that wine in Wachau region follows.
We set off on our bikes for the next leg of our journey which took us to the beautiful medieval town of Durnstein. I fell in love with the cobbled streets, quaint coffee houses and cafes and the lovely houses that dotted the roads. A part of our group decided to hike up to the Durnstein Castle which overlooks the town and offers magnificent views but Sid and I chose to stay back and explore the town. There are lots of souvenir shops that sell key-chains, postcards and other such knick knacks. But, we ended up picking a bottle of apricot jam! Now, apricots are very famous in this part of Austria and you will find them in everything from chocolates to Brandy but I can vouch for the jam we bought – it was delicious. After leisurely strolling through the town, the group got together to have lunch in one of the restaurants. Even restaurants in Durnstein feel like they have been designed by an art director. Set in a garden amidst beautiful plants with wooden tables and chairs, a meal in this setting was thoroughly enjoyable. Being vegetarian, we had one option on the menu so good thing we packed some stuff earlier in the day but if you eat meat then dig in into the Schnitzels!
With our tummies full, we picked up our bikes to go to our second wine tasting. I don’t know if it was the lunch break or my lack of fitness, I struggled to bike during this part of the journey but thanks to the constant
heckling encouragement from my friends I managed to make it to the Mang Family Weingut winery. The place has a large garden with lovely outdoor seating – perfect to soak in the sun with some wine. When you have friends and great wine for company, you don’t need much else but a place like this doesn’t hurt!
If you happen to be in Vienna for more than 3 days, I would highly recommend taking a day out to visit Wachau valley. It offers a glimpse into what life in the countryside looks like. We don’t get to cycle that often so that was an adventure we enjoyed thoroughly as well. The views are beautiful, the wine is delicious and the cycling is fun. A perfect outing if you ask me!