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Friday, June 30, 2017

Vienna, Austria

Arrival at the Bristol hotel in Vienna was easy.
We chose our own hotel instead of the VBT hotel for a lower rate.  It was located adjacent to the Vienna opera house and near all museums.  The hotel room was charming and we felt like we were walking into a golden era of Viennese culture.

Opulence and comfort was welcomed after several days of cycling.  A 1 mile walk to the Belvedere palace was first on our agenda.

 This palace, which is now a museum of art is worth a visit and contains the worlds largest collection of Gustav Klimt.

It was educational to view the transition of his art from lovely realistic portraits to impressionistic scenery and finally to the abstract portraits for which he is famous, as seen in the "Woman in Gold."  View the palace rooms here as well, most rooms have an image of how it looks when a functioning palace.
When in the upper levels of the museums look out of the windows for a spectacular view of Vienna.

Rx tip: Whenever visiting a city or museum look for free podcast tours.  Often you can find the audio guide available for download before you arrive.

Off to listen to Rick Steves' walking tour of the city to orient us.

This was excellent and led us to Demels which I highly recommend for coffee and sweets.  The prices are reasonable and the service is friendly.   Take a look in the back for the bakers in action.  Their products make good gifts.  Try to get aside walk seat, but there are plenty of tables inside on multiple levels.

J meil is another good place to get coffee and sweets.  It is located a block away from Demel and is an upscale grocer.

You can purchase sweets for consumption or take home.  They have many beautiful marzipan products.  Also consider other unique gifts, like Viennese mustards, coffee or sauces.  This is an excellent place to find them and the grocery bags themselves are a worthy gift bag themselves.

Dinner at our friends hotel, hotel Stefanie, was lovely.

It is one of the oldest hotels in Vienna.  We sat in the courtyard which was splendid.  Cool air and quiet surroundings are a stark contrast to the busy Vienna streets.  Beer and wine were excellent but Mixed drinks were not very good here.  Our dinners were telenspitz (boiled beef) which is like a pot roast prime rib.  It is served with horseradish, apple sauce and sour cream with chives. Also Hungarian goulash was good here. Dinner was around 50 euro.

A visit to the imperial jewels was next.  This is lovely and highly recommended.

Consider an audio guide here because much of the displays are in German.  The Hapsburg history can be very confusing so you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the names before you go.  Take time to look at the fine details of the displays. Photos without flash are allowed and I recommend taking them because you can see more detail in photos often then in the dimly lit rooms.  The photos are gorgeous.

Lunch at Graben30 was nice.

People watching on the square was fun.  We had a panini and hamburger with potato wedges.  Two .2l beers were tasty.  These are what Vienna locals consider a quick beer. Tap water is available everywhere in Vienna.  Just ask. 

Coffee at spenando was to follow.  Iced coffee was my norm in Vienna due to the heat we encountered.  Coffee for two in the tourist areas for two is about 8-10 euros.

Next the imperial porcelain collection, Sisi museum and imperial apartments.  Here we downloaded podcasts and utilized them throughout.  The Sisi museum is a bit crowed but it is a nice presentation of the princess Diana-like figure who seemed perpetually tormented.  The apartments were notably sparse reflecting the tastes of Franz Joseph.    This visit gave an excellent perspective of the regal couple.  Photos were not allowed in the Sisi museum or imperial apartments.

Dinner at the butchery was pleasant and full of opera goers surprisingly.

We had two delicious and different gin and tonics.  They have near 30 varieties of gins and several varieties of tonics.  We had vegetarian and chicken burgers.  Each was delicious and our meal was 50 euros.  We walked after dinner as there was a big event for the life ball a block away.  Many handsome people were in attendance, but I did not recognize any American celebrities.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Weissenkirchen, Austria

Boat ride to up the Danube through the locks was lovely but being an extra sweater as it is cold.  

On to the Hotel Raffelsberger Hof.  Our first hotel with air conditioning.  It is a former residence of a boat builder from 1547.  Everything was comfortable here with an excellent breakfast included.  Breads and jams were outstanding.  An honor bar with local wines and brandies is there and makes for a great  afternoon meeting place or night cap.

Illy coffee is served. Wachau wines are dry better than expected for everyone.  I thought that the last time I visited.  A good bottle of dry red is available for less than 30 euro at restaurants and tasting rooms are everywhere. Cycling the wachau valley is breathtaking.  Many villages are present on the banks to ride through and stop for site seeing or wine.

 The butchery on the city square in Melk is recommended for brats or traditional Viennese country food. A climb to the monastery is suggested to view baroque library and cathedral.  It is 10 euro for tickets and an audio guide but the courtyards and church can be partially viewed for free.

Dinner at hotel Wirchenstein is recommended.

I had the special venison stew and a salad with red and white wines.  Outstanding.  A little more expensive at 75 euros including tip, bit considering all of the wine and food it was a value.  They catered our farewell dinner the following night which was outstanding as well.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Vermont Bicycle Tours Cycling Prague to Vienna Review VBT Czesky Krumlov to Passau and Review of Altstadt Hotel

Vermont Bicycle Tours offers and Excellent Tour from Prague to Vienna.  This is an excellent Healthy and Meaningful Vacation!  

Here is our crossing from Czesky Krumlov to Passau which was one of the Highlights of the Itinerary!

We started with the morning train to Nova Pec.  The train is individual cars with drapes, much like in old movies.  It was comfortable and nostalgic.

After leaving Czesky Krumlov here are our Thoughts on the Czech Republic 

1. Locals eager to have you visit.
2. Most speak some English except elderly.
3. Food is inexpensive but not exceptionally tasty
4.  Beer is plentiful and inexpensive. 
5.  Wine is marginal.
6.  Bread is dry 
7.  Hotels have minimal amenities and space is limited.
8. Walking is safe
9. Prague is lovely.

We recommend Compression bags for the Active Vacation where changing hotels is regular.  This allows you to separate your clothes for easy access compared to packing cubes and pack more.  Click Below to View.

The route to Passau was a challenging bike ride.  We crossed the Czech Republic/Germany border where there are remnants of the "Iron Curtain".

Lunch was delicious in a biergarten.  The bread is much better in Germany.

The afternoon consisted of many hills and headwind. After only a few seconds after arrival in Passau we realized the Altstadt Hotel was 50 yards from where our Uniworld boat was parked 5 years earlier.

Room was spacious.  A vanity was present, but no air conditioning again. Why do European rooms not use Air Conditioning?  We discuss this in our review of Innsbruck Penz Hotel.  Rooms were noisy too with street noise from students and tourists was abundant.  There are many universities in passau so it is akin to staying in a college town.  Dinner at wagners was fair.  Breakfast at wagners was included and a beautiful view of the three rivers was beautiful with breakfast.

Rx fitness Tip:  

Run along the Inns river.  There are very few cobble stones with a beautiful view of churches and water.  It is 5 miles to the dam Roy trip from the point of the three rivers convergence.

We recommend dining at the Scharfrichterhaus Restaurant in Passau.  

The food is excellent with many gin, beer and wine choices from Germany and Austria we enjoyed an appetizer, entrees and drinks for 45 euros including the tip.  Outside or inside are both nice with jazz playing overhead.  Many locals were there.

We cycled to Schärding.  On the way don't forget to stop for a photo op.  One foot in Germany and one foot in Austria.

In Schärding, we recommend gelato at Eiscafè PUROGELATO on the square for 2.5 euro.  It is a nice break during a day of cycling.

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