Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wine + Cycling = Fairy Tale

Our one full day in Vienna was basically spent almost entirely outside the city limits, comprised of a full day cycling tour through decadent Austrian vineyards. In the morning we woke up to scattered rainfall which proceeded to more or less consistent rainfall as we prepped for our tour and headed to breakfast. Sidenote: Our amazing palace hotel also had the most amazing of all the breakfasts too, primarily because of a small chocolate and coconut cake that I had way too much of each day. It's fine, all in the name of energy for our crazy holiday schedule. As we navigated (or rather, Cousin navigated) our way to the tour meeting point, the fact that we hadn't found ponchos and were fairly convinced we would end the day with pneumonia was not boosting our spirits for what lay ahead. Because of our brief sidestep to a few tourist shops to see if a poncho could be found, we were just about on time slash technically late to meet the group, so we missed the general introductions by the guide. I was quick to note that he was Australian and cute, however, and that in and of itself made the day just a hop, skip and a jump closer to awesome.

We began the journey by taking a train ride outside of Vienna where we would fetch our bikes and get fully equipped for venturing through vineyards. Halfway through the trip I decided to name my bicycle Marie Antoinette, as she was a native Austrian destined to live in France where I now reside. She also wore amazing dresses. Helmets were required (something M.A. would NOT have approved of but c'est la vie), we were each given a bike, a poncho was included (huzzah!) and after a brief lesson on gears and breaks we were all ready to go. Now, before I continue, let me just say that in general I fancy myself a city girl. I like activity and high energy and lots of things to do. But whenever I submerge myself in environments painted with stunning landscape and overflowing with beautiful bits of nature, I feel so rejuvenated and full of life, I wonder what it would be like to live somewhere a bit closer to the earth. That being said, I am a highly fickle lady who changes her mind on a daily basis so one can only assume the best case scenario is to have frequent access to both.

I digress... On to the vineyards of the Wachau Valley! I will start by saying that I essentially felt as though frolicking in a fairy tale all day, fed on wine (aka the elixir of life) and bbq (mouthfulls of heaven). Our fellow cyclists were about 95% Aussie or Kiwi, leaving one Scottish girl, Cousin and myself. In my experience, that means a lot of drinking, a lot of joking, and a lot of rollicking good times. Our first stop was the small town of Durnstein, a quaint little picturesque village if ever there was one. We snacked on a famous roll, called a wachauer laberl, from one of the cafés, so notable that it was actually featured in a glass case with mini spotlights lighting it from behind. We tried some apricot schnapps and Cousin got reprimanded by a Viennese shop owner who apparently couldn't wait 3.5 seconds to be paid and told her to "hurry up a little please!" Apparently the Viennese have so little need of money that they are the ones doing US a favor by selling their goods, and half the shops were closed simply because it was raining. Gotta love the local customs.

Another highlight was of course our midway stop for lunch in a small restaurant that resides in the home of a local family. Pork and sausages were barbecued in the back yard while we watched from long wooden tables inside and took in the insatiable scent of newly brewing apricot schnapps. While we ate our delicious feast we were given several kinds of wine to taste, followed by a scrumptious walnut schnapps, with flavor a bit like Christmas, as digestif. This is about the time that tipsy Angela began to emerge, meaning that my mouth would start chatting and there would be very little anyone could do in future to make it stop. Par for the course. After lunch we continued to ride on to a local heuriger, essentially an Austrian wine tavern where vineyard owners can serve their wares. Apparently this particular one is open for only a few weeks a year, so we were privileged to have the entire place to ourselves. Now, THIS was about the time where tipsy Angela turned into slightly drunk Angela and I decided we needed to be best friends with the whole group. This also may or may not have been what influenced our decision to buy bottles of wine for the train ride home so that we could continue our merrymaking back into Vienna. 

Since most of the members of our tour were all riding a bus through different cities around Europe and many knew each other before the day began, most were also staying at the same hostel back in the city. Cousin and I were invited to continue the partying in the hostel bar, something that totally reminded me of my college days staying at hostels in Rotterdam and Maastricht with my university choir, young and clueless and seemingly carefree. It was a hilarious night of festivity and flirtation, culminating in a bunch of new facebook friends and a tipstytastic Angela circa the very late hour of 10pm. Off to bed we went!

Let me just say that this was absolutely one of the main highlights of our trip. Come wind, come rain, come bitchy Viennese shopkeepers, we had a truly triumphant time. At every turn, there were visions of masterpiece, and I was never quite sure if a romping little gnome would pop out of the woodwork or a pixie would fly past my ear. The only thing missing was a billowing dress tied with corset laces to wear as I soared through the vines (next time!). I have every intention of revisiting Austria at some point, whether it be to get my true fill of "The Sound of Music" nonsense or to drink some more of the amazing wine. Either way, as the title of this post suggests, wine plus cycling equals fairy tale and I feel destined to continue my magical story in future.

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