Austrian mountain lakes, Salzburg, and crossing into Czechia

Since my last post, we’ve been furiously cycling on roundabout gorgeous routes through Austria and Czechia (aka Czech Republic, once a part of Czechoslovakia).

Cycling before Salzburg

We were enjoying Austria so much that we decided not to cycle directly towards Salzburg and instead visit the Salzkammergut Region, famous for its mountain lakes. We planned an overly ambitious path by the most popular lakes, but upon arriving at the first lake, Traunsee, we found there was a summer festival that evening. The town was packed and setting up for the festival. The cheapest hotel rooms were over $350, and the first campground we stopped at was booked full. The second campground had some space, but we were torn because if we stopped now, we wouldn’t have time to see the most popular lake, Hallstatter. But if we kept cycling, we ran the risk of not finding a campsite for the evening. It made me grumpy, but we decided to stop.

Our busy campground with the stunning views.

It turned out to be a good decision to stop because every campground we passed afterwards had signs up stating they were full.

Still, we saw some stunning scenery in the lakes. The scale of it all was literally breathtaking. Even with the summer crowds, it was an experience to remember.

Even cycling between the lakes, the signed bike routes led us through picturesque landscapes with beautiful fancy homes.

It seems to be a pastime of the Austrians to make designs in the drying sunflowers. Very entertaining for us as we cycled through many fields.

Charging our batteries (literally and figuratively) with solar power by Wolfgangsee. Campgrounds often charge extra for power or don’t have any at all near the tent-only area, so these have come in handy. At 10W, they are almost twice as powerful as our last ones and charge much quicker and even in cloudy weather.

Most of the cycle routes follow the rivers in Austria, and you can spend hours cycling under shade trees or on high levees and suddenly come around a corner and see sights like this.


Salzburg was great, and for me partly because I could sit back and let Steve plan it all. He had so many Sound of Music places he wanted to see, and I was more than happy to help navigate and sit back and go with the flow. I’m not a particularly big SoM fan, so I’ll just post a few photos; see Steve’s Instagram for the choice ones.

The actual gazebo from the movie set.

Pegasus statue.

Stunning views of town from the peak of the town’s main castle.

Water fountain that I guess was in the movie.

We toured the Stiegl brewery and left with some souvenirs including some bottle caps. Inspired by my friend Wendy, who has a bottle cap bike mirror that I love, I glued a bottle cap to my own mirror, making it much more interesting, and I hope entertaining some of the folks we pass by. If asked, I can proudly says, “das ist mein Stiegl Spiegl!” (Alas, no one has asked me yet, so I’m saving this gem of German wordplay for the right occasion lol!!!)

The craft beer room. Too bad we didn’t get to try this one as it wasn’t ready yet.

View from the love locks bridge. This is a thing everywhere apparently.

We really enjoyed getting to see Kris and Jill again in Salzburg. They are now headed west back home to the UK (probably), while we head north towards Prague. I know we’ll have a reunion at some point, but likely after our tours are over. It’s the curse of cycle touring, always saying goodbye to new friends.

Sankt Erhard.

The nunnery from the film with my very own nun. Ha!

Walking up to the castle.

Cycling after Salzburg

Ready to ride, we planned an ambitious 3-day route to Çesky Krumlov in Czechia. The first day and a half were fairly easy, following the Salzach River, emptying into the Inn River, and finally back on the Danube, this time going east. We were looking for the easiest mountain pass between Austria and Czechia.

We found one, and it was passable, but not easy. We joined one other cycle tourist (look behind Steve) walking our bicycles up the 12-14% grades for a few kilometers.

We did cycle most of it though, and the scenery was stunning.

Earlier, we came across some llamas…

and saw many scenic towns along the Danube…

and even caught a stage of the Race Around Austria! We watched a few dozen riders go by and cheer them on. It’s a 4-day non-stop race around the edges (i.e. hilliest parts!) of the country.

One part of the Danube cycling route requires you to take a ferry. We were joined by this group of Romanian cyclists who gifted us a Romanian flag that we were honered to receive. They are hoping to visit Florida next year, and we hope to see Romania soon!


Across the border, little initially changed, except that now fried cheese was on the snack menu. We tried some and it’s good! I mean, how can it not be?

Our first town of Çeske Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and we enjoyed pushing our way through hordes of Chinese tourists taking selfies. And watching hot air balloons and small sightseeing planes glide over the historic city.

Beautiful quaint architecture in the old town.

We rented a raft and paddled down the river! There’s a reason they call these boats widow-makers… But we had fun! 😬

Enjoyed sunset views over the city.

The city seal. I always enjoy looking at the town infrastructure especially in historic towns like this. Call me a nerd.

But wait, what? Is there really vodka piped through the city?? I knew I would like Czechia!

After Çesky Krumlov, we are headed north along the EuroVelo 7 route to Prague and then Berlin. Along the way we are going through historic river towns, and fields of corn, barley, and hops.

Speaking of food….

Food – Austrian & German

We had a few lunches across the Inn river in Germany, so they are mixed in here with the Austrian food…

I don’t know why Steve couldn’t finish this itty bitty platter of sausage, Knödel, and creamy lentils topped with bacon… Seriously, I think you’re only meant to eat once per day in Austria. Two meals is just excessive.

Yum, Schneider Weisse! Was happy to find this.

Lots of goulash mit Knödel were eaten. Reminds me of the beef stew my father used to make when I was a kid. Good memories.

We heard this strange dessert, Knockerl, was a specialty of Salzburg. After trying it, we know why it hasn’t caught on anywhere else. It looks well, odd, and tasts like a poorly cooked souffle. Oh well, we had to try!!

Steve loves his schnitzel! He’s got a blog coming up about this…

And me, my spaetzl. Omg, I was uncomfortable but very happy after finishing this.

Berry strudel-ish dessert.

Food – Czech

We didn’t know what to expect, but so far, the food bears a lot of resemblance to Hungarian and Austrian food, but at 1/3 the price of Austria. Which is not a bad thing at all!

Turkey cordon Bleu in mustard sauce over creamed spinach. Heaven!

They do a lot of pasta here too, though no one has claimed this is a Czech dish yet.

Did you know Budweiser is from the Czech Republic? Yeah, me either. The other local beers are better, to be honest, though the variety of beers at most restaurants is very limited. Can’t wait to get to Prague and try some special ones.

A spaetzl-like dish.

I had to try this local cheese from the market, a specialty of the region. Very funky taste, almost like I got the milk right from the source. Probably won’t have it again.

Okay that’s all for now! Next up, Prague!

Austria is not over-rated, but it is expensive!

Our first reaction to Austria was how beautiful it was with the traditional houses, farmland, and the Danube. Our second reaction when we paid for lunch was how expensive it is! From 90c beers and $3 meals at restaurants in Hungary to $5 beers and $12-18 lunches here. Well, it will take some adjustment. We have started eating a big lunch out and making breakfast and dinner from the supermarket.


Vienna absolutely astounded us. It was literally like walking through a museum. Every corner has a unique amazing piece of architecture.

Look up anywhere in Vienna and see gorgeous architecture and stunning foliage. What an incredible city!

And practical too! Shop hours are strictly limited to be closed on Sundays and have only so many hours per week open. It’s great for the workers, but if you need condoms and lube after-hours, where do you go? Well, there are vending machines to take up the slack!

Vienna is starting to speak up against animal exploitation for tourism, and we support this.

We toured the magnificent opera house. Here is a chamber you can rent during and opera performance for your event.

Pink bunny…

Beautiful views from the Volksgarten, the people’s garden.

Goethe statue.

We heard about this movie being shown for free during Vienna’s film festival, so we had to attend! Discofootball… It was… Weird… Very weird…

Yikes, did somebody slip something into my drink?

Nope, everything’s normal here.

St. Stephan’s in reflection.

The film festival before the film.


This reminded us our our Coffee Cycle friend in San Diego!!

Interior of the Opera.

On the road

Cycling into Vienna, we holed up under this bridge while a rain shower passed by. The street art is excellent near the rivers; I wish we had time to see more.

Steve’s bike in an alley along the Danube.

The Danube valley really does not disappoint! We’ve heard many amazing things about how beautiful it is here, and I can say with certainty that it is not at all over-rated! All of the compliments are fully deserved.

The cycle path takes you through small villages with amazing historic houses, vineyards, wineries, and shops. You will see none of this in one of the luxury cruises or by car. Cycling is truly the only way to see this part of Austria! Many of the most scenic paths are restricted to bicycles or pedestrians only.

The network of bicycle routes in Austria is truly world class. They are all signed and numbered, and they keep you out of traffic even as much as to send you through tunnels just to avoid a traffic circle. Everyone knows about the Danube cycle path, but there are dozens of others just as nice all through the country.

Melk Archabbey.

Cycling through vineyards and farmland.

Tractor parked in its home.

Our bikes overlooking a street in Vienna.

We cycled through a number of FKK, or Freikörper-Kultur (free body culture, aka nudism) areas, where people shamelessly sunbathe, swim, cycle, and hike in their birthday suits. It’s great to see a country support this, when there is so much body shaming happening elsewhere in the world. I would have joined, but my bike seat is not comfortable without padding!

We caught a water rapids race on the way into Vienna.

We are back to camping, and it’s nice! We loved our first campground in Austria, next to a lake, with fantastic showers and bathrooms. It was nice to sleep under the stars, even though Steve got spooked by a possom at 3am!

Photos can’t really capture the vast beauty of the Danube valley, especially the Wachau region.

More of the Danube.

Wood stacked by the Danube. We didn’t see many freight ships, but I imagine they use boats to transport all the wood.


Okay here’s my favorite part!

Steve’s first dish in Austria, the classic Wiener schnitzl!

A staple of our diet on the road, a wurst (sausage), bread, mustard, and horseradish.

Cheese spaetzl! Omg, one of my favorites!

Turkey schnitzel with cranberries.

Vienna’s film festival had all sorts of international food, from curry to tacos.

Austrian food stall.

Traditional Vienna style sausage.

One of my favorite bottled beers is the delicious Stiegl Weisse beer, brewed in Salzburg, so luckily we see more and more of it as we get closer.

A mildly spicy and delicate cheese from Wels, one of our overnight stops.

Steve at a famous sausage stand in Vienna.

I tried this Danube-caught Serbian-style fish and it was incredible.

More of our typical lunch.

Can you get enough sausage?

I couldn’t be happier than with a pint of craft beer and a pretzel the size of my head. Austria rules!

Sound of Music

So we are headed towards Salzburg, and of course, we are preparing to see all the famous Sound of Music sights!

Stay tuned and we’ll share them with you!

Slovakia is a funny name! – Sawyer

When my nephew-in-law Sawyer heard we were going to Slovakia, he texted me, “that’s a funny name!” I can’t disagree, and I have to admit that I knew very little about this country except that it used to be part of Czechoslovakia.

Without so much as a guide book, we booked an AirBNB near the city center and started cycling. Crossing the border from Hungary to Slovakia, the half-assed bike path suddenly became a full-fledged bike road, complete with signage, excellent pavement, and even small beer/snack restaurants lining the route! The bike infrastructure in Bratislava turned out to be world class!

As a mentioned in my last post, we were eager to meet other cycle tourists, and it was at one of these beer/snack places that we ran into Kris and Jill. Funny thing is, a mutual friend of ours had introduced us online and let us know we were both headed to Vienna. We saw each other cycling in Hungary, and I had said to Steve, “wouldn’t it be funny if those guys are Jill and Kris?”. Well, sure enough, they were!

We enjoyed getting to know each other and met up for dinner in the town later.

It was so hot that we didn’t do a lot in Bratislava, but I really like its energy. It’s still not too touristy, but it’s very comfortable. We spent a lot of time just walking around and admiring the architecture. I even heard a group of Thai tourists speaking Thai, and it surprised me, brought me back to Asia for a minute!

I think the “blue church” was our favorite, reminding us of some of the buildings in Barcelona designed by Gaudí.

It was fun watching some folks play on the big chess board downtown.

The food in Bratislava is a fusion of Austrian, Hungarian, and Slovakian, being so close to the border. But this dish with pork belly, sauerkraut, and a kind of tortilla, we were told is very traditional, and it was fantastic!

We took a food tour, and we sampled many different local cheese, fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, beets, cucumbers, etc.).

I feel like our time in Bratislava was rushed, being between two of our main destinations, Budapest and Vienna. And I think that honestly defines Bratislava, as the often-overlooked third sibling. I think it’s too bad, because I would like to spend some more time here; it feels like one of the more real and unspoiled capitals that we’ve visited, in a similar way that Zagreb is also.

Next up, Vienna…

Hungry in Hungary, back in the saddle, and a dead end!

We were very excited to be back on the bikes again, leaving Budapest! The whole region is having a heat wave, so we slathered up with sunscreen and headed out to the EuroVelo 6, south towards Serbia! Opposite from the way to Paris! Our initial idea was to get out of town and then follow the country roads to Lake Balaton, a very popular lake for swimming, boating, and fishing. A little detour but it looked really nice!

The EuroVelo 6 was easy to find, and we followed the Danube for quite a while, and then headed off onto quiet roads through suburbs and farms.

OpenStreetMaps has bicycle routes listed, and we planned to follow this one route that paralleled a railway. It slowly deteriorated to a path through the shrubs. It got worse and worse, but never so bad that we decided to turn around and take the 10km detour we’d have to take. But soon we were walking over thorn bushes one foot deep, and weed whacking our way through this badly maintained “bicycle route”. We were starting to get frustrated and nervous, drenched in sweat in the 100°F heat and nearly out of water.

When the trail disappeared, we were forced up against this rail line, where cargo trains and high-speed commuter trains zipped by every 10 minutes. It was too dangerous to continue, and we were scared and exhausted. The trains came by so fast they must have been going 100mph. But there was no way we wanted to cut our way backwards through 2 kilometers of brush and 10km of roads to go around.

So we sat in the underbrush watching the trains go by and making a plan. After a 15 minute rest in the brush, I looked on Google Maps satellite view and saw that if we climbed over a steep hill, there was a field on the other side, and then a road going in the right direction. I scrambled up the hill to check, and sure enough the road was there! We had to take turns carrying the bikes up the steep incline, me holding the front wheel and Steve pushing from behind. But after half and hour and 3 trips up and down the hill, we were home free, pushing our brand new, now scratched bikes across the field, along with a hundred scratches on our arms and legs from all the thornbushes we’d pushed our way through! The most mentally difficult day of our trip so far, even more than the most intense days cycling through India, and who would have guessed it would be in Hungary?

The next town had a local beer shop with a burger restaurant next door, and we planted ourselves there for two hours recovering our strength and changing our plans. Luckily we never plan out more than a day at a time, so it was easy to do something different.

We decided to skip Lake Balaton and head north to join the EuroVelo6 towards Bratislava and Vienna. Lake Balaton seemed to have little to no accommodations under 250€ per night, and we didn’t want to take the chance of showing up to an overbooked vacation resort area and not find a place to stay, even the campgrounds were questionable. Plus we were missing seeing other cycle tourists, so we aimed our path north towards Bratislava.

The Hungarian countryside was an odd but delightful mixture of eclectic, modern, and traditional. At times we felt we were cycling by California freeways and industrial shipping plants. At other times it was quaint villages with beautiful traditional houses. And other times we saw whimsical decorations like this one. The Hungarian people were, on a whole, welcoming and friendly, and we really enjoyed being off the beaten track here.

A few bears with the UNESCO Pannonhalma Archabbey in the background. We later walked up to the Abbey, and I tasted some local wines. The atmosphere of the local village was more interesting to me than the Abbey itself, but the walk up and the views are stunning.

Our homestay had this adorable momma kitty, visibly pregnant, and super loveable. She shared our evening meal of local sausages and cheese. Sleeping that night was nearly impossible; this region gets hot weather maybe one or two weeks per year, so there were no fans and definitely no air conditioning! Yet the homestays are 4x what you’d pay in Thailand. We began to think about returning to camping, now that we have our tent and camping gear back!

Another view of the archabbey.

One last photo of Hungarian food, this time a maybe-French-inspired cordon blue dish made with local cheese and pork, and coated with paprika bread crumbs, all friend in lard. The perfect calorie-rich lunch for a cycling trip.

Leaving Hungary, we made our way towards Bratislava, Slovakia, a country and a city we knew little about but would really enjoy…