The happenings in this story occurred on the 2nd of July, 2019. We paddled our trusty inflatable canoe Zucchini on the Danube river from Engelhartszell to Kobling. Both towns are in the Austrian state of Oberösterreich. We paddled 22.8 kilometers between the two towns.
Our Stay in Engelhartszell
This is Jonas’ first time here. He’s a German passport-holder who has lived in Australia but has never visited Austria before. And even though one probably shouldn’t draw conclusions based on the experiences made in a peripheral border town, his first impressions aren’t bad. It’s like Germany, but with faster internet. The thick accents make people even harder to understand than in Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg, but it doesn’t make communication harder.
There isn’t much going on in Engelhartszell. It’s a very cute town known for its Trappist’s abbey (Stift) and its location along the Donauradweg (Danube cycling path). This bike path starts in Passau in Germany and ends in Vienna, the capital of Austria. Engelhartszell is simply one stop on the way. It’s scenic and quiet and has everything you need to live and nothing more.
We worked quite a bit from our hotel room. I tried to refamiliarize myself with posting on social media, which is something that can make me very anxious. Not yet knowing whether the internet situation was a one-time chance or a pattern, I seized the chance to upload lots of videos and pictures. Sometimes I prioritize writing, and sometimes the dreadful task of uploading. But I’m very proud that I’ve managed to keep this diary going this deep into the trip.
All our next accommodations until Linz – three in total – we already booked in advance, which is always a nice thought even though we still had to make it there. Our off-day was the 1st of July and it makes me happy that we concluded the German chapter of this trip in just under two months; slow travel is nice, but at times it felt like we barely made any progress. Now that we struck a balance between paddling and working, it’s easier to both make progress in our online jobs as well as our kayak trip. Kayak+Work.
We know that with our two-night and one-day stop in Engelhartszell, the TID people are already far away out of sight and out of mind. On the first of July, they reach Linz, and on the second of July, they’ll arrive in a place named Wallsee. Since Wallsee comes after Linz, I don’t even know where it really is. I haven’t looked ahead that far into the future and I’m sure we’ll make a stop somewhere before Wallsee since the TID participants cover a lot more water each day. I’m happy they’ve moved on.
Meanwhile, we’re prepping ourselves for two consecutive days of paddling: one from Engelhartszell to a village named Kobling (about 25 kilometers) and one from Kobling to Aschach an der donau (about 17 kilometers). Then it’s another 30 kilometers from Aschach to Linz, which makes a total of an awkward 72 kilometers. An even split of 25 kilometers per day didn’t yield any available accommodations – except for campsites, which bring their own struggles – so we had to split it in a less-balanced way. But we found places nonetheless.
The night before departure, I finally made the tough call of ditching our broken kayak sail. I’d tried to fix it with six shisha mouthpieces and electrical tape in Passau. It felt and looked good at the time, but the fix didn’t hold after folding the kayak sail back up. What a shitty buy. But also what great fun it was that one day the kayak sail did its job. Perhaps I’ll order a new one… expecting different results.
The heatwave finally broke. We’d been on the cusp of the big lethal heatwave of June 2019 here in the German-Austrian border region, which struck France with a whopping 45.9°C, but 36°C isn’t particularly comfortable either. In Engelhartszell, the rains and lightning flashes finally came in the evening of the 1st of July.
Leaving Engelhartszell for Kobling
It rained the morning of the 2nd of July. We love the cooling effects and were looking forward to a nice day of paddling under the clouds, but we didn’t per se want to paddle through the rain. So we only woke up at 7:00 and then waited in our hotel room with cold coffee for breakfast. Only by 8:45 we leave our comfortable hotel room for the river. We walk back to the same spot we got out two days earlier.
It’s nice and cool outside, so while we rig our boat, we don’t start sweating yet. By 9:10 we’re done with our boat, but there’s a big, slow ship on the river traveling upstream that we’d like to let pass first. Right behind that boat, we finally leave Engelhartszell and we directly cross the river from the right-hand shore to the left at 9:20. It’s very mysteriously foggy. Today we have about 25 kilometers ahead of us with no obstacles to carry our boat around. It should be quite easy.
We know that the big 2200-kilometer sign should be on the right-hand shore a bit after departure. Sadly, it’s blocked by a cruise ship.
On the left-hand side, we pass Pumped Storage Power Station (Pumpspeicherkraftwerk) Ranna. It produces electricity by pumping water from the Danube into the river Ranna during low demands for electricity and releases that water when the demand gets high. I have no idea how pumping water over a mountain into another river produces more electricity than it costs, but I’m sure the scientists have scienced this out. Jonas says it’s basically a battery to save energy for hard times. But he has an engineering degree. Also, the river Ranna drains again 5 kilometers later into the Danube.
The river’s good speed slowly diminishes, but the weather allows us to not be worried about arrival times.
Schlögen River Bend and Its Ferries
The fog clears as the time progresses. We’re approaching what looks like the tightest river bend yet. It’s an S-shaped bend called the Schlögener Schlinge (Loop of Schlögen) and looks like a real challenge for big boats like those long cruise ships. There are mountains with hiking trails and viewpoints that embrace the loop. Our hotel in Engelhartszell had many brochures filled with pretty pictures of this river bend. Unfortunately, we’re just passing through and not going on a hike. So I found a beautiful autumny, royalty-free picture for you to enjoy:
Breathtaking, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that at all from our line of sight!
We paddled on the tight inside of the turn and then crossed to the right-hand side of the river at 11:30, after a speedboat passed us. There are a bunch of ferries in this area helping many hikers and cyclists cross. One of those ferries is in that picture. The ferries are very small and open, so we could communicate with the ferry captains before passing them.
We took a break on the right-hand side of the shore from 11:50 till 12:00 at the 2184-kilometer sign.
Paddling Past Inzell
After our break, we have to go through the other sharp bend. We stick to the right-hand shore and get overtaken by the little ferry that goes between Au and Grafenau. It’s quite fast.
The hills are beautifully forested here, but sometimes there’s a patch of bald. A clear-cut area, then some logs downhill next to the road. It looks like a hazard for landslides once the heavy rain comes.
We’re arriving at Inzell, where the TID people stayed at. They have quite some proper infrastructure to host people there and there are plenty of businesses around. It would have been not a bad area to stay at. But we have to paddle on to Kobling, across the river from Obermühl.
There’s a nice shadow on our side of the river and a cycling path next to us. Lots of cyclists are taking a break next to the shore to enjoy the pretty views. They greet us. They always greet us. The levels of ‘greetiness’ of cyclists towards us has increased quite a bit since entering Austria. The bendiness of the river isn’t over yet as we have a left turn coming up. A cargo ship approaches us from the back. Then at the same time, a cruise ship appears in front of us inside another turn. We’re in between. They travel at fast speeds.
We stick to the shore and wait for the two big ships to pass one another. The cargo ship seems to want to go at the inside of the turn and the cruise ship is going for the same approach. They can’t yet see each other, but I’ve always assumed that the captains of both ships use their radar and radio to communicate with one another what they’re going to do.
Meanwhile, we don’t want to paddle any further because there’s a paddling of ducks on the water. We don’t want to scare them into the direction of the big ships, even though we know they’re much more agile than they look.
The two big ships are now at a point where they can see one another. To us, it looks like it’s going to be an accident or a really close call. Neither of them slows down, but the cargo ship seems to just go straight to end up on the outside of the turn instead of the inside. Collision avoided. Barely.
Arriving in Guesthouse Idylle am Donauufer, Kobling
After the next turn to the right, the water gets pretty shallow on our side of the river. There are some protruding rocks that the birds use for peace and quiet. But there are no buoys in the water to indicate where the ‘street’ is for the big ships. In Germany, those red and green buoys were everywhere – even when it was blatantly obvious. It seems like a weird thing to save money on. Yes, there are some signs on the shore, but they can be hard to see from the river. And they seem fragile because anyone can just reach them from the shore, put a bag over them or steal them, and screw with the boat people. I see this as further proof that the German tutorial is now officially over.
We spot the small town of Obermühl and the little ferry that crosses between Obermühl and even tinier Kobling. It’s all very adorable. The ferry is one that can carry two cars and a bunch of cyclists and hikers. When the ferry crosses back over to Obermühl, we land our boat on a slipway before the ferry. It’s 13:25 and we’re done for the day.
We pack up our loose items and empty the boat to flip it. I’m staking out the beer garden and drop a few items off. Jonas has a chat with one of the people who work at the hotel and deflates the boat. We leave it there out of sight in the sun to dry while we’re enjoying a beer on the beer garden ‘Donauterrasse am Limes’, which belongs to the guesthouse Idylle am Donauufer.
After the beer, we check ourselves into our room. Yet again we have a beautiful view of the river. It’s a small room, but it’s quite OK and we’re only staying one night. We take a shower and then relax with some internet time. Tomorrow, we’ll eat breakfast here and then paddle on to Aschach an der Donau. We roll up our boat in a lazy fold and just put it in the room instead of packing it up into the backpack.
In the evening, we eat at our restaurant while the last ferry of the day crosses. I’m eating a Flammkuchen (a German thin-crusted pizza) and Jonas eats his first-ever Käsekrainer (sausage with cheese in it). We go for an evening hike along the river after dinner. Then we return to the hotel to pack our bags yet again.