Make your own way to the hotel in Passau.
Leave Passau, the city of three rivers, and cycle from Germany into Austria amidst one of the most significant river landscapes of central Europe. The trail runs beside densely wooded slopes and ravine forest passing the only Trappist monastery in Austria at Engelhartszell before continuing to the famous Schlögener Loop. Here the Danube does a U-turn around a granite mountain before changing the direction of its flow twice, providing spectacular views from the surrounding hills.
The valley narrows as it continues downstream and has a wilder appearance passing the beautiful castle of Ottensheim, also one of the oldest places in Austria. A day of river crossing and cycling along country lanes, entering the fertile plains of the grand Eferdinger basin before reaching the historic Cistercian Abbey at Wilhering. The trail continues to Linz, where the central Hauptplatz is a good place to start exploring the old town.
Today's ride guides you through beautiful meadows and tranquil hinterland, the route passes the former Nazi concentration camp at Mauthausen and enters into the province of Lower Austria for the first time. South of Mauthausen there is the opportunity to take a small detour into Enns, the oldest town in Austria, perhaps a good spot for lunch. Continuing on your journey you pass the Celtic village of Mitterkirchen and the majestic church in Baumgartenberg and onto the romantic castle of Clam (the village is spelt Klam and is shown as a detour on the route notes). Towards the end of the day you will reach the Baroque village of Grein, here you will find the oldest original bourgeois theatre in Austria.
Historically Grein marked the beginning of the river's most treacherous stretch. The cycling is through the fascinating landscape of tall and densely wooded rock formations on both sides of the Danube. The journey takes you through quiet riverside towns, with numerous examples of castles that were positioned to exert power over the area, collecting tolls from those following its path. Your journey will end as one of the most striking edifices on this whole route comes into sight, the Benedictine Abbey at Melk - stunning both inside and out, you can't miss it!
This morning you will have the opportunity to ride through the magnificent Wachau vineyards. Here you will find terraced vineyards, which give this area its distinct and beautiful appearance. It is one of Austria's best known wine growing regions, with centuries old tradition of wine production. The route winds between the pretty villages of Spitz, Weisenkirchen and Durnstein; castles continue to dot the landscape. In Durnstein you will find another spectacular monastry and also the ruins of a castle where King Richard the Lionheart was held for ransom. All along the route there are opportunities to experience Austian hospitality in small taverns offering local food and drink. Our journey usually ends in Krems, but due to hotel availability it may finish in Traismauer.
Ride into Vienna past Greifenstein and Klosterneuburg. This area has always been important culturally, politically and economically with settlements in existance before the Roman moved to the area. Again you will pass many castles, including the Kreuzenstein Castle in Korneuburg. There is also the famous story of the Korneuburg Rat Catcher, a similar story to the Pied Piper. On arrival into Vienna navigation can be tricky (look out for trams), if you have trouble the best thing to do is head for the centre of the city and you can work your way out from here. The central area around Stephansplatz is perfect for an evening stroll, and is close to most places of interest. All hire bikes are handed in on arrival in Vienna and exchanged for a new bike for the second part of the trip. A train ticket is provided for the journey from Krems to Tulln should you wish to shorten your journey.
On leaving Vienna the route takes you through extensive flood plains, which have turned into small ponds offering a rich habitat to countless species of birds, animals and insects. You will follow the Donauinsel, a long, thin island and continue to one of Austria's most important archaeological sites, the Roman remains at Petronell-Carnuntum. Much of the track is gravel/grit but is comfortable to ride on.
You start with a short train transfer to Hainburg and then cycle onto Bratislava, Europe's youngest capital city. Here the Danube is imbedded between the hills of Hainburg and the small Carpathian Mountains. Between the Danube plains, hills and vineyards, Bratislava enchants with its dreamy old quarter.
From Bratislava to the Hungarian boarder is only a short distance. Here your route crosses the 'Szigetkoz', a large wetland area boardered by the Danube and the Mosoni Duna (small Danube). It is an idyllic paradise for birds and fish and is made up of more than 500 tiny islands. Your ride will take you past small farming villages and a labyrinth of Danube creeks. You will pass the unpronouncable and attractive old town of Mosanmagyarovar, a good introduction to the complexities of the Hungarian language! Following a short train transfer your journey ends in Gyor, famous for its beautiful Baroque style old town.
Today you will leave the River Danube for the day and ride the undulating countryside to Tata. You will pass through many pretty villages, including Babolna, famous for its Arabian horse breeding Studs. Here you can visit the Studs and the Stud Museum and get an insite into the secrets of Hungarian horse breeding. It is possible to extend your ride today to visit the Basilica of Pannonhalma, a masterpiece of Hungarian architecture. Today your ride will end in Tata or Komarom depending on your accommodation. The section from Tata to Komarom is on a busy road, so if you would prefer to take the train then this is a good option.
If you stayed in Tata then you may want to take the train to Komarom to avoid the busy road. From Komarom you will begin your cycle along the Slovakian side of the river bank through quaint villages and past the archaeological site of Kelemantia, the remains of a Roman Fort. Your destination is Esztergom, the 'town of the Bishops and Kings' or the 'Rome of Hungary'. The Basilica of Esztergom is the largest Catholic cathedral in Hungary. Its beauty, standing guard over the Danube is a highlight of the tour.
Ride around the Danube Bend past Visegrad, once the corner of the Roman empire. Its impressive royal palace dominates the scene over the river, known as the 'knee' of the Danube. From one cultural highlight to another, you will quickly approach the artists' town of Szentendre, considered an open-air museum, it is the perfect place to stop, have a drink and a bit of relaxation before you make the final push onto the final goal, Budapest. The route crosses the river by ferry at Vac, and includes a short section on an island in the middle of the Danube. Arriving in Budapest, you are greeted by the impressive parliament building. Try to arrive in time to return your bike and have a few hours to explore the city.