Mike and I are camping near Linz on our way to Vienna where we hope to pick up our new e-bikes. We have just found out that they have been delayed yet again. Linz is Austria’s third largest city. We used one of our GPS tour guide apps on our first visit to the city. Technology is just so great when you are travelling. We visited Linz’s “Old Cathedral” which was just lovely inside. We then had a look at their “New Cathedral” which was built in the mid-1800s. I am still trying to get my mind around a building that is almost 200 years old being called New. They say that this cathedral can hold 20,000 people. We walked around inside and I don’t see how that is possible, certainly not sitting for a service. Maybe if everyone is standing and are squeezed like sardines, you might get that many in. The originally planned spire for the New Cathedral had to be shortened. In Austria-Hungary at the time, no building was allowed to be taller than the main cathedral in Vienna. At 135 m, the New Cathedral is two meters shorter than the Viennese cathedral. I must say that the New Cathedral had some of the best stained-glass windows wrapping around the cathedral walls, that we have ever seen. They were extremely intricate, detailed and very impressive. Many of the original stained-glass windows at the southern end had been badly damaged in WWII. Disappointingly, these have been replaced with modern art stained-glass and do not fit in with the original gorgeous windows at all.
I called Salzburg the City of Mozart in my last article. Well, one of the highlights on our GPS tour was the residence where Mozart lived while he was in Linz. I think everyone wants a piece of him. Another place that we didn’t visit in Linz was the Museum of the History of Dentistry. The write-up said that it “was a fascinating museum, though not for the squeamish”. They have the strangest museums over here. We did visit the must-see Ars Electronica Center or the Museum of the Future. Overall, we were disappointed, but they did have some interesting exhibits. They had a large area on 3D printing which has always intrigued me. We also saw some silk, produced by silkworms that had been genetically modified using genes from luminescent jellyfish and corals. The silk produced is “luminescent silk”. I listened to a guide touring some school children around. Although I couldn’t understand what he was saying at all, I did hear the words “augmented reality” and “tablet”. This goes to Mike’s theory that in a few generations the world will be speaking Bill Gates English.
Our campground is about one kilometre from the Danube. We are really in the backyard of a restaurant where they have installed a few electricity poles. In the backyard was one nice clump of trees. We parked right next to them. That was a big mistake – the trees were WALNUT TREES! For those that haven’t been next to walnut trees in Autumn before, it is awful. You walk on the fallen nuts and the squished outer hulls stick to your shoes. Cleaning off the brown stain from these decomposing hulls on the RV’s ceramic tile floor is really tough. It wasn’t nice and after just a couple of days we moved to a more open area in the backyard well away from the walnut trees.
Mike and I played as kids for a few hours today. We went to the Grottenbahn. This is a mini Disney-like theme park that was built over 100 years ago in 1906. In the 1800s defensive fortifications including stone walls and towers were built here. By the turn of the century they were no longer required and became the buildings for this small theme park. There was a wooden train with a dragon’s head. One ride takes you around inside one of the towers three times, due to the short track. Each time different niches with various scenes are lit in the walls. The characters in these scenes could have been from the Seven Dwarfs. On the last time around the dark, cave-like atmosphere changes to a bright and happy environment. I was quite intrigued to see what this ride looked like, given that it was built in 1906. After you left this train you entered into an area that had lots of little rooms with scenes based on various fairy tales. Many of the fairy tales such as Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel etc. were written by the Brothers Grimm and were a hundred years old when the park was built. I found it fascinating that the fairy tales that I grew up with in Canada where the same ones that were popular 50 years earlier in Austria and were written 100 years before that.
Mike and I drove to the Grottenbahn but we could have taken the Pöstlingbergbahn, a train that went from the centre of Linz up to the park. The Pöstlingbergbahn was, at one time, the steepest adhesion railway in the world and is still one of the steepest. I don’t really know what this means but it sounds impressive.
Lunch is often a problem when Mike and I are biking on proper bike paths. The most recent path we have been on runs right along the Danube, which is lovely but, since there are no cars and traffic, there are also no restaurants or cafés. Yesterday we travelled on a road for a short distance and passed a Texas saloon. There were only a couple of people inside, but it was still really smoky. Normally Mike and I would have left due to the cigarette smoke. This is often an issue over here. Given the number of times we have missed lunch while riding, we decided to try and ignore the smoke and have lunch. The people, who didn’t speak any English, were really friendly. There was no written menu for us to try and translate so out came our phones and Google Translate. The waitress would tell our telephone what meals she had in German, and the phone would repeat it to us in English. We then used Google Translate in reverse, to ask for extras such as vegetables. Everyone had big smiles while this was going on. It was a very nice atmosphere. One soup that is very common in Austria is a clear beef broth with thin strips of crepes, or pancakes as they call them, in the soup. Basically, they are replacing croutons. A soup that I was not familiar with but quite like is their Cream of Garlic soup.
Mike and I took a break from cycling and visited some small towns in the area using the car. Enns and Steyr where two of the towns we visited. They were both really nice looking. Enns has the honour of being classified as the oldest town in Austria. This isn’t really true in terms of the oldest settlement. Enns’ city charter dates back to 1212 which was the first documented charter in Austria. Mike figures that this is like baseball statistics, you can always find something to brag about. The most prominent structure in Enns is its 60 metre clock tower. Mike climbed up to the top. My knees have long since decided that clock towers and bell towers aren’t for me anymore.
Steyr was just lovely. The picture at the top was one of the streets in Steyr. Most of the buildings were pastel colours with white trim and great plaster work. On a side note, it is interesting that where the buildings in town centres are often pastel colours, the buildings in the rural areas are more likely to be much deeper, solid colours. Steyr is about 10 km from Linz and there is quite the competition between the two towns. I originally assumed that this was a lighthearted competition between neighbours. Mike and I stopped at a small ice cream parlour. The girl serving us was about 20 years old. She was talking about this “competition” and saying that of course Steyr was much prettier than Linz, which is probably true. She then went on to say that Linz wasn’t any good because Hitler had lived there. I checked and found out that Linz was one of five “Führer cities”. Hitler loved Linz and wanted to turn it into a “German Budapest“. I said to the young girl that this was all quite a while ago but that didn’t seem to matter to her. She was quite serious. Mike and I were very surprised.
After visiting Enns and Steyr, we stopped in at the St. Florian monastery on the way back to the RV. According to the internet St. Florian was a commander in the Roman Army. In addition to his military duties, he was also responsible for organizing, training and leading firefighting brigades. Florian is therefor known as the Patron Saint of Firefighters. Presumably this is why you will find a full size statue of St. Florian in the Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero in New York City.
St. Florian ran into trouble with the emperor Diocletian when it was revealed that he was not enforcing the persecution of Christians. He was sentenced to death and ordered to be burned at the stake. As it turned out he was actually drowned by being thrown into the river with a millstone around his neck. His body is supposed to be buried under the monastery.
Mike and I arrived at the monastery too late for the official tour which was really unfortunate. The place is huge, and absolutely gorgeous. There were at least 3 inner courtyards that we saw and possibly more. They were setting up for a concert in the Basilica later that evening. There was going to be an orchestra joined by a guest choir from Berlin. Because the doors were open for setup, Mike and I got to wander in and out of areas that might normally have been closed off. We didn’t get to see the library which is supposed to be phenomenal. I don’t know what else we missed. We did end up in a crypt. One wall was covered in the very neatly and symmetrically stacked skulls and bones of 6,000 people. Discovered in 1250 the skeletons were said to belong to early Christians who wished to be buried close to St. Florian. In front of the skulls lay the coffin of Anton Bruckner, a famous Austrian composer. In fact, he was laid to rest directly under his beloved Bruckner organ, which stands tall in the Basilica above. To top it all off, as we were leaving we saw the most beautiful and reddest sunset that we have ever seen. The roofs of some of the building were surrounded by red and actually looked like they were on fire. We couldn’t get a good picture of the Basilica or the monastery with the sunset in the background which was too bad. As we were driving away the entire sky turned an unbelievable orange for a few short minutes. What a great way to end the day.