Sunday, 29 May 2011

A hike through Germany - continues in Austria on the Donausteig

Rest area on the Donausteig
 I usually hike about 1,000 km per month - and this had brought me from Waldshut-Tiengen on the Swiss / German border to Passau on the Austrian / German border. The route I had chosen was 1,000 km long and it took me exactly 1 month including 1,5 rest days. I still had 5 days left before I wanted to visit my friend Sabine and therefore I continued from Passau onward along the Danube on the newly opened Donausteig (Danube trail).  The Donausteig follows the river Danube on both banks from Passau through Linz on to Grein in more than 400 km. I guess that the creators of the Donausteig have been inspired by the success of the Danube bike trail that is cycled by 437,000 bike tourists per year!!!!! I had cycled the Danube bike trail in 2008 where I already observed an incredible amount of fellow cyclists but this year was even worse. As the Donausteig and the bike trail coincide for some short distances I could watch a constant stream of cyclists - whereas I did not see a single fellow hiker on the Donausteig!!!

Designer bench on the Donausteig
The lack of hikers on the Donausteig really surprised me. Heaps of money have been pumped into this trail and I can only call it the Hilton of European hiking trails. The trail marking is impeccable and consists of metal sign posts of mileages rather than of blazes on trees. Special rest areas have been designed and boast designer seats and benches plus boards with stories and sagas of the Danube. Also the trail has been heavily marketed: The trail was officially opened less than a year ago and there are already 3 guide books! But still no hikers....
Schloegener Schlinge

I hiked about 150 km on the Donausteig and still it is difficult to say whether I liked it or not. The Donausteig offers some really spectacular views, especially at the Schloegener Schlinge, where the Danube creates an almost 180 degree bend. The banks of the Danube are very steep and very high - and also being heavily forested wild camping is very difficult due to the steepness of the terrain. But because of this steepness the banks could not be used for agriculture or any other commercial purposes and therefore present a wilderness feeling that I did not expect at all in this rather densely populated area. Of course there is a lot of culture to see, too, especially in churches and monasteries, but I think I have seen enough churches and monasteries for the next couple of months...

The biggest problem of the Donausteig is the trail surface which varies wildly. There are almost wilderness sections with small overgrown and steep trails, there are trails directly along the river that were used by horses pulling ships upriver against the current - but there is also a lot of walking on pavement. About 1/3 of the Donausteig are on pavement and this is the highest percentage of my whole hike. None of the paved sections is along busy highways but still they are very bad for your feet.

Voest Alpine chapel
The hike ended for me in Linz which I had already liked when I stayed here on my European bike trip in 2008. This time I opted for couchsurfing and had one of the most interesting couchsurfing experiences: I chose my host because he had studied mathematics and theology - a fascinating combination that led to hour long philosophical discussions. I was so intrigued that I almost did not want to leave for sightseeing, but I found a good compromise: I asked my theologist host to go church sight seeing with me - not the typical tourist churches, but weird or interesting churches and that idea turned out to be a great success. We visited an ultra-modern factory chapel at Voest Alpine, a former fabric workshop turned church with the former smoke stake as church tower and of course Linz cathedral.

Intellectually recharged I embarked onto the last station of my trip and took the train to Krems and my UL hiking friend Sabine. We spent two days talking trail and UL equipment. She showed me all her tarps and even let me paddle around in her new packraft which will probably be the piece of equipment on my wish list.... but that is another story. And finally, after 1,150 km of hiking and 5 weeks on the trail I flew back to Berlin where I have now 4 days to pack and prepare for my Yukon adventure.


Anonymous said...

MoreMore about the Packraft

Anonymous said...

More about the Packraft please.