Virtuoso Life - May/June 2017 - 95
"I hesitated to take my two
on a river cruise, but with
active mornings and relaxing
evenings, I knew this would
be a great family vacation. My
kids loved it and say it was
one of their favorite trips.
Bring a GoPro to strap onto
your helmet to capture the
beautiful scenery so you can
relive it at home."
- Ann Becker, Virtuoso travel
advisor, Dayton, Ohio
Clockwise from top left: Pretzels in
Vilshofen; Krems, Austria; the Inn River
splits Austria and Germany; hydration
priorities; the AmaSonata in Passau,
Germany; and Prague's Old Town Square.
years, packing each morning and unpacking
every night, and the luxury of having just
one room can't be overstated. "A decade ago,
you'd hear people talk about five countries
in seven days, and it would sound hectic,"
says Cat Malone, Backroads' director of trip
development, who conceived the company's
cruise model. "This allows you to do it and
still feel like you're on vacation."
THE TOUR IS A JOURNEY IN TWO PARTS:
the better-known towns of Germany and
Austria, and the ex-Soviet bloc of the Czech
Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. Nearly
everyone in our group has some experience
with a place like Vienna, but no one knows
anything of Cesky Krumlov, much less how
to pronounce it.
We visit the medieval Czech village,
tucked in a broad oxbow on the Vltava River,
on an afternoon excursion following a bike
ride out of the Austrian town of Linz. Like a
set for a Brothers Grimm story, the town is
a stack of blocky, whitewashed homes and
towers with red-tile roofs beneath a soaring,
aqueduct-supported castle. A crumbling
ward of the Soviet state until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, it's still quirky, pleasantly
shabby, and welcoming.
A few days later, the ride from Vienna
to Slovakia's capital, Bratislava, offers a
sharper contrast between Old Europe and
its Eastern Bloc additions. Austria's bike
paths are as smooth as ice rinks and littered
with cafés offering a Radler (the word for
both a cyclist and a shandy) to decked-out
riders. It's 10 am, but we decide the double
entendre calls for a round.
At the border, we pedal over the Morava
River on the Freedom Cycling Bridge, constructed by the two countries in 2012, and
suddenly we're in Slovakia. A few decades
ago, concertina wire lined the perimeter and
soldiers stood guard; now there's not even
passport control. Rusting fortifications remain, along with a memorial to 400 people
shot while trying to cross to Austria during
the Cold War. Holes and roots pock the bike
paths, and we see almost no cyclists.
Yet Bratislava, a dozen miles down the
pathway, proves as captivating as any town
so far, with narrow cobbled passages, ornate cathedrals, and street art everywhere.
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