10.17.2013

Leaving Weissenkirchen

I am on a bus traveling between the Austrian towns of Weissenkirchen and Vienna. Weissenkirchen means "white church," and that particular town is characterized by one of those. I have about an hour on this bus, ample time to write a post.

For the past week, I have been on a bicycling tour of Europe, and the latter half of the ride was in and around the Danau (Danube) River valley. I learned many tidbits of fact on this trip. One of our bike tour guides, Zuzana, always had good information and if she did not know it, she would research it.

I was trying to identify a type of duck with a yellow beak. Zuzana didn't know what it was but said she would do some homework. In the meanwhile, one of our biking group, the precocious Sally, identified it as a coot. I meant to tell Zuzana that I already had my answer, but I forgot, so I felt a little bad when she told me she had spent over 20 minutes researching the bird, and thought perhaps it was a coot.

I also learned, via Zuzana's research, that the difference between crystal and glass is lead content. Crystal contains a minimum of 24% lead, and glass has no lead requirement. I wonder if drinking alcoholic beverages from lead based crystal glasses is harmful? I should have Zuzana research the rate of lead leeching from crystal glassware next.

Alas, this morning we parted ways with our illustrious bike tour guides, Bodhi and Zuzana. They were fun and solid guides and hosts. I will miss them. They worked well together and they totally achieved their goal to make this the best vacation I ever had. I cannot speak for the rest of the bike tour group, but I enjoyed it immensely.

Truth be told, my bicycle trip to New Zealand (NZ) a few years ago may have been the best vacation overall that I ever had, in a relative sense. But that tour was also run by VBT, the same active vacations company. (Side Note: In German, the letters VBT are phoenetically pronounced VOW BAY TAY).

However, the two vacations cannot really be compared in that way. They were quite different in many respects. In NZ, the weather was pretty miserable, cold and rainy. For me, that was just a challenge to be faced and overcome, but for fair weather cyclists, it may have seemed a better option not to bike on the miserable days, and several chose that option.

Conversely, we were blessed with pretty awesome autumn weather on this bike trip around the Bavarian regions of Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria. We also covered three countries vs. just half of one country (in NZ, we were only on the South Island, though that was totally fine with me since I don't like crowds and the North Island of NZ is where 75% of all Kiwis live. The South Island is a paradise for xenophobes like me...).

In New Zealand, it was all about extracurriculars. The South Island is all about excitement and entertainment. I bungee jumped and jet boated and played some open mikes and open jams. Bavaria was more cerebral. We saw things and learned about the history and culture of the area. The craziest it got was when I drove a farm tractor in reverse at two miles per hour and when I rode an extra 12 miles, with this guy Mike, on the last day of biking on the tour, sans the support of guides, Zuzana and Bodhi (they did give us a map though).

But the beauty we saw along the daily bike routes was insane. I saw so much and learned a lot. Well, I think this bus is nearing Vienna, where we will spend the next three days (my folks and me). So ciao for now.

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