July 7 - 10: Braunau - Passau

In my father's hometown of Altheim

It was a packed day. We got an early start from Braunau - it was Sunday morning and nobody was about, except for bikers. There were actually lots of bikers. As a matter of fact, much of the tourism in this area seems to be set up for bikers, there's loads of trails and markers and restaurants with signs saying how bike friendly they are.

For the first time, we actually hit some rain while biking. The first time the rain came down we sheltered in some trees.

But later on, when the rain got pretty steady, we just biked through it. The things in our yellow dry bags should stay dry, and for everything in our daypacks, I put them in a garbage bag that I'd brought with for this purpose. Low tech, but it seemed to work okay.

We passed two old castles/palaces on the way to Altheim, Frauenstein and another one that I can't remember. Frauenstein is now some kind of wellness center. Here's a few picture from along the way.

A fancy treehouse
The beginning of the Roemerradweg - Roman bike trail. It has all kinds of fancy benches and signs
This old tree is a "Naturschutzdenkmal" - or natural memorial
Arriving in Altheim

Later on we arrived at the Hotel Zillner, which was just a 100 ft or so away from where my aunt and uncle used to live. The lady at the hotel, whose name is also Sylvia, said she remembered me from when I was visiting my aunt and uncle, when I was growing up.

We had lunch at the Gasthaus Wurmhoeringer (they also own a beer company), where there was a large 90th birthday celebration, so service was a little slow. One relative delivered a long, very loudly delivered (the birthday boy was probably quite deaf) poem on the occasion, all about "how did you get so old, it can't be because you don't smoke and drink, because you do".

Later on we walked around town, past the site of my aunts house, which has been torn down. The beer factory that was there has been extended onto the old home site. Kinda sad to see it all disappeared.

This is the site of my aunt and uncle's house, now an extension of the factory
I remember this old building from across the street
This building, now empty, was originally a tiny grocery, then a store that sold electrical supplies, then a social services office

Then we went to the Ochzethaus, which is a musuem of the Roman era, based on some excavations of old Roman country homes not too far away. There was nobody there, even though it was past 2, and was supposed to be opened then. Another lady that came with her family called the number given, and the guy who headed the organization that sponsored this museum came over and unlocked it, and led us through it. It turns out that he had been taught by my aunt, and also had gone to school with my cousin Erich.

There was a dress-up area in the museum, where kids could dress up in Roman costumes

Then we went to the St. Laurentz church and graveyard, and found my fathers grave, and my aunt and uncle, and my paternal grandparents. My father's name was Alois - it's amazing (based on looking at the gravestones) how many men born around that time were called Alois, and how many women were Aloisia.

Here's a few more pictures from around town.

The river Ache
The school where my aunt taught
One of the two beer breweries in this town
The little hut in the plot of land that my aunt and uncle owned
From the bridge, looking up to the town.

For dinner that night we went to the local Chinese restaurant. Many, many people came in to get take-out, it seemed really similar to in the US. I guess Austria is behind the US in terms of eating habits, but it's certainly catching up quickly.

Later on in the evening the hotel owner Sylvia called on the room phone, and asked if we have everything we needed, and when I said we were good, she invited me to chat over a glass of wine. I had a nice conversation with her, in my very rusty German, talking about all kinds of things.

Meeting relatives in Altheim, and then heading to Schaerding

We had the breakfast buffet this morning, which is standard at hotels in Austria. But I think there was just one other guest in the whole hotel - it was a big spread for so few people, a lot of work for the owner.

After breakfast Peter and I visited Claudia, my cousin. She's sold the Drogerie (drugstore) that she's had for decades, and moved back into the original Drogerie, that her mother ran before her. They still have a small refrigerator where the keep some food items - milk, butter, eggs - because apparently there's no other stores in the actual Marktplatz that carry food - aside from the bakeries. I wonder if there's still a butcher on the main street. Austria has moved firmly towards regular supermarkets, just like the US, but many, many decades later than the US.

Peter and Claudia

Anyway, I chatted with Claudia a bit, and visited my aunt - Tante Lisl. She is 91 and has macular degeneration, but is still able to have a good conversation. My German is still very rusty, but if I spent more time there, I'm sure it would come back.

Then we went and visited Onkel Karli - my father's cousin. He's 84, and still does some work in the cafe/bakery that he's been working at all his life. The bakery now belongs to his son Markus, who is very friendly and has kids Peter's age, but unfortunately he's gone on vacation . Onkel Karli is very sociable, and greeted pretty much everyone that came into the cafe by name. Peter had a huge fruit ice cream, and I had a cup of coffee.

The Weinhaupl bakery
Peter with his fruit ice cream
Onkel Karli

Then we went back to the Zillner hotel, and moved on out of Altheim, biking on the Ache river, the same as we came in. I had originally considered going on the Roemerradweg, which is another bike path that would do a loop in the area, but now I think that would be too much biking, so we'll just head to Passau, and do the Donauradweg - the bike path that leads along the Danube river.

The house where my father was born
At the playground
We saw lots of these robot lawn mowers
Lots of stone work has been done on the Ache - for fish?
We stayed at this overlook just a minute or so - the mosquitos were too bad

It's far cooler now than it was a week ago, so biking is much less exhausting. We went through the town of Obernerg, a charming but very quiet little town. There was a grocery store there, but it was so small that I couldn't buy anything for lunch. I asked there if there was a bakery, then followed their directions to get there. Meanwhile, Peter was reading Percy Jackson books on his Kindle. I bought us some rolls and cheese spread, and we had that for lunch at the Burg Obernberg (Obernburg Castle - more like a very large stone house).

Here's a few pictures from the Obernberg town and castle area.

Then we followed the bike path to nearby Reichersberg, which is a monastery, and apparently still has about 15 monks in it. It's a beautiful old place, and I remember distinctly going there with my aunt and uncle when I was a kid. At the cafe there, they had Marrilenknoedel on the menu (apricot dumplings). That was one of the things I really wanted to have again, so we sat and ordered that. It was decent, but didn't taste as good as I remember my aunt making.

I didn't remember to take a picture of the apricot dumplings till they were gone!
A few more picture from Reichersberg

We got to our hotel at around 3 in the afternoon. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a hotel right in Schaerding, so we're in a little town just outside of it - St. Florian. It's a reasonable place, huge room, BUT the internet is completely non-functional.

My cousin Gerhard came to meet us after he got off work in Schaerding - he's a bank director at the Volksbank. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of him. So I've seen 4 relatives now - I was worried, after not hearing from people or hearing that they're on vacation - that I wouldn't be able to meet up with anyone, but that fear has turned out to be unfounded.

Later on, Peter and I had some dinner at the restaurant here. I ordered Speckknoedel - ham dumplings - and after having them (extremely salty, I just ate about about a quarter of them), I think I'm done trying to find local specialties that I once enjoyed.

Arriving in the big city of Passau

I think last night's hotel - the Landhotel St Florian - was probably the worst we've stayed in. Most hotels we've stayed in have been fine, but this one had NO internet (in the evening, in the morning I was able to get a little internet), wasn't that clean, AND had an annoying fly situation. Hmm...maybe that's why it still had rooms available...

Anyway, we got on the road by 9 am, and then spent some time walking around nearby Schaerding, which is a beautiful little Baroque town. I was a little nervous about leaving our things on the bike (we have just one little bag each, that we strap to the back rack), but considering the wimpy locks that people use, to lock up their bikes, I think the theft problem in general isn't very bad. We had a little tourist map of town, and walked most of it. Here's some pictures of around town.

Relaxing in the town square
It is definitely apricot season!
Peter leading the way
This little cage was used to dunk bakers in the Inn, ones that supposedly cheated their customers
High water levels through the years
The main market square
I remember this little alley from coming here with my aunt and uncle. The cobblestones were formerly much rougher - now they're smoothed over with concrete.

We bought a few items for a picnic lunch (rolls, apples, cheese), and then headed down the bike path again. It's still almost all gravel, but we're starting to see larger groups of bikers - tour groups.

The weather is absolutely lovely for biking - nice and cool, a high in the low 70's. Best day yet. We only have about 20 k to our hotel in Passau, which is a modern mini-room hotel called Rotel Inn.

Here's a few pictures from along the way.

Vornbach Abbey
Around Neuburg
The first bike tour group we saw
An amazing huge swing at a trailside playground
This bike has been here a while - note the vines on it

We arrived at the hotel around 2 - even though it was a short bike ride, we took our time. The rooms really are tiny - only the width of a double bed - but I'm be happy to try something different. It's also about half the price, and right off the bike trail.

Here in Passau, I've heard my first American accent since we've been in Austria. There's a lot of Danube river tours that stop here for the day. It seems like a hip, active city, it has a university, and people are definitely "citified" compared to where we've been biking through recently. But - no grocery stores! I've really been wanting to buy some fruit - probably a reaction against all the sausage meals - and the only groceries in the city are tiny little organic-only places.

But Passau is a really fun place to walk around, lots of beautiful little alleys to walk around, and stately old buildings to see. There's a strange lack of drinking water fountains - lots of fountains, but they all say "kein Trinkwasser" - not drinking water. Strange.

We even - finally - found a EuroShop - everything for one Euro, just like a dollar store. They had an outstanding selection - better than dollar stores in the US. Peter got a little headset for his phone, and I may go back there and buy a pair of scissors - need to trim my bangs.

Our tiny room
A Tauck tour boat
Peter found some kids to play with at the playground
One of the many river tour boats

A day in Passau

The plan today was to see a few sights in Passau, but generally take it pretty easy. And we did just that. In the morning we biked to the Veste Oberhaus - a castle/fort across the Danube river.

Breakfast at the Rotel Inn
One of many river boats on the Danube. A change from the Inn, where there were no boats

Biking in a city can be pretty stressful -even cities that are very well set up for biking. There's bike paths everywhere, but getting from one spot to another, with disappearing and reappearing bike paths, and all of a sudden certain paths are pedestrians only, no bikers allowed - it's not always easy. We were biking in what was apparently a pedestrian-only area, and two people within 50 feet or so told us it was pedestrian only. We stopped after the second guy told me I should be a better example to my son.

There's a lot of great views from the fort. We also went through the museum attached to the fort. Peter was most interested in trying to catch the lizards that were everywhere on the rock outcroppings.

Views of Passau from the fort
There was a dress-up station in the musuem
Peter caught a lizard, which promptly dropped its tail
Peter found 1.20 in Euros under the bag storage area

After the fort, we went to a nearby playground (we stop at pretty much every playground there is), then biked home. I was hoping to stop at a grocery store, and there's one marked on the map not too far from our hotel. But after searching for it for about 30 minutes, and unsuccessfully asking 2 people where it is, I came to the conclusion that people in Passau don't shop for groceries. Seriously - there's nothing here, in main part of the old town. I ended up buying some more sausage type rolls from a little stand - I'd love to not eat any more of those!

A little rest in our room, then we went out again to see the cathedral (kinda done with cathedrals, though). Then we ate some dinner at a "bowl" type restaurant - at least it wasn't sausage.

You can really see the Inn and Danube mixing here