From Passau to Vienna in a St Ayles skiff

A tribute to a member of our rowing club who passed away

The plan was to go with a group of 13 people and two dogs, 2 rowing teams consisting of 6 rowers a day (a morning and an afternoon group) and someone who completely voluntary offered to do the catering.

There is an existing cycle path from Passau to Vienna, so most of us took their bicycle as well. The trip from the Netherlands to Passau took us approximately 9 hours with a lots of coffee breaks on the way.

We were planning to camp in tents, one camper and a minibus hosting two more people. The organising members of the teams made thorough investigations beforehand but decided that the team could handle unforeseen changes of plan. So, we only booked the first campsite and planned only one day ahead at the time. Most of the campsites had a small harbour nearby where we could leave our skiff for the night.

Day 1 Woudrichem to Passau

After a 9-hour drive we arrived at a campsite on the bank of the river Ilz in Passau. It was nearly dark when we arrived, we quickly set up our tents meanwhile attacked by several aggressive mosquitos, which gave us an itch for days. Anti-mosquito spray was number one on our shopping list for the next day. Second on our shopping list were earplugs, some Austrians snoring very loud indeed.

Day 2 Passau-Niedersanna-Kaiserau

Passau has a central geographical location within the three-country region of Germany, Austria and Czech Republic. The three rivers – Danube, Inn and Ilz – lend the city on the Three-River-Conjunction-Point its unique beauty. We got the skiff in the water near the campsite, just a matter of many hands make light work and we set of on our existing trip.

After 200 meters on the river Ilz (our camping was located on the bank of this river) we were on the Danube, it was a great sight to see Passau disappearing behind us, rowing downstream made us fly over the water. Nature reserve Donauleiten stretches on the left bank till Jochensteinlock, on the right bank are fortified castles and strongholds and several ruins high up in the hills. The first lock on the way was Jochenstein, a lock and the border between Germany and Austria as well. No passports were needed. We waited for half an hour after communicating with the lock keeper by marifone, while waiting we noticed the snorer of the previous night snoring again in a comfy chair after 2 pints of beer. It wouldn’t be the last encounter with the snorer on our trip.

A huge cargo vessel entered the lock and after that we were allowed go in, with lifejackets on. The sluice spans a drop of sixteen meters. After locking we had a beautiful rowing trip to Niederrana with many more castles on the right bank. In Niederrana after coffee and cake we had change of crew, the campsite was already set up, so the morning rowers had a relaxed tour in the car, only to find ourselves on the wrong riverbank, we could see the campsite on the other side of the Danube but had to make a detour. The afternoon rowers went through the ‘Schlogener Schlinge‘ were the Danube meanders remarkable even more than 180 degrees. We spend the night at campsite Kaiserau, convenient on the Danube right bank. We left the skiff at one of the so many moorings. Lots of tourist vessels speeded by in the night, making a lot of noise and turbulence 

Day 3 Kaiserau-Linz-Au

Some members of the team decided to cycle to the next campsite. The morning group first had to go through the next lock: Kraftwerk Aschach. The expected changeover was supposed to be in the beautiful town of Ottensheim where an old-fashioned rope-ferry still functions to fetch cyclists and cars to the other riverbank. While enjoying a well-earned coffee the morning rowers got the message to carry on rowing, because the campsite we had in mind was not allowing any dogs. The next campsite was to be in Au. The two cyclists continued for another 20 km (70km in total), soon after their arrival the afternoon group including the two cyclists went back to Linz where the morning rowers waited in Asko sportboat harbour.

They had a great time in the canteen, the pub owner had never seen such a rowing boat and such funny people and kept bringing beer, wine and pizza’s. The weather was great and everyone turned more and more red in the face, apart from the two to-be-drivers.

The Danube from Ottensheim to Linz centre is beautiful, but downstream of Linz there’s lots of industries and pollution. Behind Lock Abwinden – Asten (by marifone: “how heavy is your boat? can you carry it around?” “No, we can’t: so, they let us in”) the landscape changes, nice towns on the riverbanks, including the (in) famous Mauthausen, in the evening sun we arrived in Au, to find the snorer had put up his tent again next to our tents. We berthed our skiff in the harbour of Au and had a nice meal in a nearby restaurant (no credit cards, only cash). Tired and happy we all fell asleep, no one heard any snoring.

Day 4 Au-Grein-Marbach

The part from Au to changing place Grein is a quiet stretch, no hills and lots of trees. Lock Wallsee-Mitterkirchen opened for our boat, being the only boat in the huge lock made us feel very tiny. We rowed to changing place Grein, with a suitable harbour and we had lunch with the whole group in a nice Romanian restaurant on the riverbank. The afternoon group had a very though journey to Marbach. Beautiful hills castles and villages like St Nikola on the way but for unknown reason reverse current and a speed of only 4 km/ hour. They were exhausted also because of the hot temperatures (> 30 degrees) The morning rowers were relaxing on the campsite in the afternoon and even took a swim in the Danube, so they felt very refreshed.

Day 5 Marbach-Melk-Krems

By far the most beautiful and dangerous part of the Danube so you need fearless coxes. The lock at Melk caused delay, because all boats had to wait for a large cargo vessel which was not yet close by. Changing place of the day was Melk, famous for its monastery (Stift as the Austrians call them). This Benedictine Monastery is a famous example of Baroque architecture. We decided to change from morning to afternoon rowing in Aggsbach, because Melk was not really halfway, but of course we all wanted to see the famous monastery, so we had lunch in Melk. From Melk to Aggsbach the Danube is a very swirling river and our cars had to speed up to be in time at the changing place. The afternoon rowers were waiting in Aggsbach Markt, left bank, while the morning rowers attempted to get to a jetty in Aggsbach Dorf, right bank. Because of the very strong current it was very difficult for them to reach the jetty, also because there were some large waves from passing tourist vessels. When they had finally reached the jetty, the afternoon rowers were waiting on the other bank, so they had to cross, this time we changed on a small beach since there was no pontoon or jetty. From Aggbach to Krems: the most beautiful part of the journey, it gave us a real ‘Danube’ feeling, vineyards, monasteries, ruins, girls in dirndl. Later that day we arrived in Krems with an expensive but convenient harbour next to the campsite. Krems is a beautiful old town with many Baroque houses and churches. The weather was excellent, even late at night when we invaded a terrace for a superb Austrian ice-cream we could still sit outside.

Day 6 Krems-Kleinschonblick-Klosterneuborg

From Krems to Kleinschonblich the Danube is a wide river, not much current to help us, no hills, flatland resembling the Biesbos, a nature reserve nearby Woudrichem, where we come from. Kleinschonblick was supposed to be the harbour to change, they even have a guest pontoon, but no way out of the compound, fenced completely, no telephone number to call. Luckily, we managed to get out of the compound and the afternoon crew to get in, but soon the harbourmaster came and was not the nicest of characters (like many Austrians quite surly). After explaining he tempered. Later we thought Erpersdorf would be a better place to change with a beach and nice houses and a restaurant. The journey continued to Klosterneuborg, a nice place (no harbour though, so it took some creativity to leave our skiff in safe waters), with again a beautiful monastery and great wines to go with it. As well a good connection to Vienna, we decided to stay for two nights at the campsite and reach Vienna with our Aylesskiff and cycling the next day. The campsite in Vienna was not responding our calls and the location in Vienna North didn’t look quite attractive.

Day 7 Klosterneuborg- Wien

By far the most challenging part of our journey. Vienna is not oriented on the waterfront; the Danube is canalised and lots of industry to go with it. However, there is the Danube canal going right through the city and accessible for boats. There is a lock at the beginning of the canal and we were hoping (but not knowing for sure) to find a place to get our Aylesskiff out of the water. The first obstacle was the lock: no lockkeeper to be seen, but after a few phone calls he appeared on his bicycle and was very kind and amused to see our boat. We were allowed to go in, but we had to be quick, he wouldn’t open the doors completely, we managed and soon we found ourselves rowing on the Danube canal with an enormous speed. We managed to fix the boat under a bridge in order to have a coffee with the rest of the group who had arrived on bicycle.

After coffee which turned out to be a lunch, we continued our amazing journey and attracted a lot of attention. We enjoyed ourselves a lot, but we didn’t find a suitable place to get the boat out. Luckily, we found the one and only option in time, thanks to our cyclists who pointed out where to go. The quay was half a meter high, but in no time we got the skiff safe in the grass (all you need is strong, creative and lateral thinking people).

After 3 rounds through Vienna’s traffic jam our car had found he entrance to the park, we loaded the skiff on the trailer and after putting a halt to the traffic and trams our driver could safely drive back to Kloster-neuburg. After a nice evening on the campsite we drove back the next day, because of the distance we rowed it was a long journey back.

Our adventure was over, it was a great trip with the best possible team.

September 2019

Anneke van Walree

WSV Woudrichem,

The Netherlands

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