Events chronicled in this story happened on Monday the 22nd of July, 2019. We paddled our inflatable canoe from a village called Zwentendorf to another village called Langenlebarn in Austria. That was a relatively short distance of 15.6 kilometers.
Our Stay in Zwentendorf
Airbnb was very nice. Our host had told us the story of “the world’s safest nuclear power plant”, which has Zwentendorf as its home. We walked there on our off-day after work to learn about it. The nuclear power plant never got turned on, hence the safety. It’s also being used nowadays to train nuclear power plant employees in case of a meltdown or something since it’s such a realistic space to practice in. They do tours, but you have to reserve weeks in advance.
Today, they produce energy by using the space next door for solar panels. Next to the concrete beauty is an Austrian chalet that someone brought down from the mountains to place it here next to the nuclear power plant. For contrast, apparently. It’s a nice restaurant where you can enjoy a beer next to the bike path.
Back at the Airbnb, I arranged the meeting time with my mom. I haven’t seen her since December 2018. And then it was time to pack again. These one or two-night stays are really getting to us. We’re really looking forward to relaxing in one place for a week in Vienna.
Leaving Zwentendorf for Langenlebarn
We said goodbye to our host and carried all our stuff back to the stony beach. At this time of day, there are only people walking their dogs. We’re at the river at 8:20 and start inflating our boat. Jonas wants to order a new paddle of Amazon because his yellow paddle is a bit too short. He measures his yellow paddle against my blue paddle and sees that it’s about 10 centimeters shorter. The paddle he wants to order is 20 centimeters longer than his current paddle, so he’ll have the longest paddle once he decides whether he’s going to order it. I’m thinking it’s also a good idea to order an HDMI-cable along with the paddle, so we can watch our Netflix shows on a big screen.
By 8:45, we’re paddling. It’s still very quiet on the river. Up ahead is an industrial terrain next to the river. My map shows a designated spot for loading and unloading coal from ships. There are many barges and boats anchored in this area. Behind us, one of the A-Rosa appears in Jonas’ mirror at 9:05. The cruise ship travels downstream beside us as we approach the zone owned by the company Donau Chemie AG, a publicly-traded company. This area is a no-wave zone, but I don’t see the cruise ship slow down or anything like that.
We eat at 9:25 after we paddled past the last moored barge. None of them moved. Next up is the bridge of Tulln, after which we’re almost ready to arrive already. Can we even check-in this early? We paddle on in the slow-ish waters.
We spot the bridge. It’s a good idea to make a quick 10-minute break to relieve ourselves before we enter civilization. There are some nice stairs at the 1966-kilometer sign right before the cable-stayed bridge. I’m sure my mom and stepfather will take this bridge tomorrow when they drive to Tulln with dog and caravan. We paddle again at 10:40.
On a day like this, we can really take it slow. There’s no real reason to paddle any faster. After the bridge, the river Große Tulln joins us from the right. It’s a fairly boring day today. We paddle on past the marina of Tulln, a former cruise ship that has rusted in place and became a restaurant named the ‘MS Stadt Wien’, and the Donaubühne. The Donaubühne is a floating stage for performances. We’re technically… backstage.
Red Rotting Roots
We paddle under the other bridge of Tulln, which is actually much closer to the campground my mom will stay at. This campsite was also in our spreadsheet of the trip. Tulln is one of these other places that I was sure of we’d stay at on this kayak trip. Turns out we’re not staying here at all.
We paddle past the marina next to the campsite and see a lot of people tanning on the top of their motorboats just parked in the marina. I know, I know… it’s expensive for them to go anywhere with the boat. But it just looks a tad bit silly to me.
Our side of the river also has a harbor for the boats of the firefighters. The left side of the river has a lot of forest and nature with tiny little streams in it. In hot summers like these, there’s a real risk for big fires.
Jonas points to the roots of the trees we’re paddling next to. It’s a really strange bright red that doesn’t exactly look healthy. I try to film it for… science. My theory is that the hot summer has heated up the water temperature here more than normal and the riparian plants just can’t deal. And perhaps the waves from the cruise ships make the exposed roots wet again and again. This sight is literally the most interesting thing that happened this day:
Arriving in Langenlebarn
We spot a pier of the restaurant Floh we intend to eat at later. Since it’s a bit closer to our hotel, we’re thinking why not land here? So we go for it and scare the family who’s only half-watching their young child away. It’s 12:05 when we land in Langenlebarn and this the pier is also the spot fo the 1959-kilometer sign.
Once we put everything on the pier, we spot a nice bench in the shadow for us to relax at. It’s right next to the Donauradweg (Danube bike path), so we need to check before we cross not to get runover by excited cyclists. Langenlebarn is our last stop before Vienna, the capital city of Austria. I’m sure many cyclists here are about to finish their trip here, which might make them so excited and fast.
Jonas stays with the boat while I check out what they mean by ‘self-check-in’ at hotel Buchinger. We’re staying there for two nights. There’s a list of people who reserved a room with their room number and a stack of keys for grabs. I grab ours and walk upstairs to check it out. It’s a simple room with a good table. It will do. On my way out of the hotel, a lady steps out of a very fancy car and starts asking me about the hotel in German. I tell her in English that I don’t work here but she doesn’t seem to get the memo, so I just point her to the door where I found my key so she can do the same. She follows me and asks more stuff, so I make the universal ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and walk away faster.
I return to Jonas and asks if he wants to drink a beer at Floh just 30 meters down the embankment. He doesn’t want to, so we wait for the boat to dry before we pack it all up in the backpack. I showed him the picture I took of the stack of keys at the hotel to answer his question about the self-check-in. It’s a very low-tech solution compared to the advanced system that the hotel in Günzburg in Bavaria had.
We arrive at our hotel, enter our room, connect to the internet and shower. Then when we’re about to walk around Langenlebarn we encounter the owner of hotel Buchinger. He’s a friendly man who’s really worried about our kayak. He wants us to put it in the bike shed. Jonas tells him it’s all good because our kayak is inflatable and now it’s packed up and inside our room. The man is relieved.
At night, we try to go to restaurant Floh’s inside Langenlebarn. It’s the only restaurant in Langenlebarn that’s actually open today, as the others have Ruhetag (resting day) – Austria’s most annoying feature. But Floh’s is overbooked and we’re forced to share a table with the chainsmoking club of the local elderly home. The table only fits six people, but they’re eight and counting. I decided I’d rather go hungry and let my anxiety over eating in public win, so I walk away.
I find another table – which is probably the table of the restaurant’s employees – and call Jonas to come and sit there. We order something anyway. Jonas’ food is of course not available, so he’s forced to change for a Schnitzel. I order the wholesome vegan dish and it doesn’t disappoint. Eventually, we’re very satisfied with the expensive food.
Back at the hotel, we relax with an episode. Tomorrow we’ll work and somewhere in the afternoon we’ll meet my mom, stepfather, and dog.