Written by Ian Elliott
Gary, Ginette, Candy and Ian’s adventure – Vienna to Budapest by Canoe 30th July to 3rd August 2011 (and days before and after)
The planning took ages and our expectations were high for a BIG ADVENTURE!
WEDS 27th July – Kayleigh and Dan picked up Candy and Ian and drove us to Nailsea to collect Gary and Ginette. All goes well and we arrive at our destination but can’t find Gary and Ginette’s house? Numbers 8, 9, 11, and 12 are in sight but no 10!! We ring them and they appear as if by magic.
We then drive to Gary Edward’s house to drop off the dragon boat keys and off we go. Following the Tom-Tom out of Nailsea – Tom-Tom says turn right Gary says turn Left this happens several times and we get quite confused but we do make the Motorway and we are then driven up the motorway to Candy’s brother’s and his partners house where we stay the night.
We stay up fairly late with a few drinks and then say that we have to go to bed as the Taxi is due to arrive at 5am. Ginette says that she will be up at 5 minutes to 5am!!! During the night a fox does it’s best to keep all the dogs in the neighbourhood awake. In the morning Gary says there is more wildlife in London than back in the countryside!
THURS 28th July – The Taxi arrives on time and Ginette makes it with less than a minute to spare (she stays very quiet all the way to the airport). In Heathrow we see a few GB paddlers on route to Florida where the World internationals are due to take place. We have breakfast and Gary tells us about Ginette’s lack of direction and how she has gone the wrong way from the shops before now!
We catch the flight and all is well. We land in Vienna and take a train to the City centre where we immediately go wrong unbeknownst to us. We have a map of Vienna or is that Venice (Gary – hmm reminds me of a song see bottom of report). The map isn’t much use so we walk until we find somewhere to buy a map of Vienna. Here we find that we have gone completely in the wrong direction so have to retrace our steps humming Vienna by Ultravox. Turns out we had we turned left we would have been quite close to our Hotel – sense of direction? The Hotel was on the “Old Danube” we checked in and went out for a walk around the city. We bought some chocolate which wasn’t quite as expected but at least it was chocolate. Not really knowing much about Vienna (Venice – we do) we got on a tour bus to learn more Candy, Gary and Ian learned lots and saw plenty Ginette fell asleep and missed it all!! Most interesting was the Gaudi building that had trees and plants growing out of it. It was raining so Candy bought an umbrella and we started humming the Blue Danube as that what we think the musical notes were? After the tour we walked around and found a good authentic pub/restaurant called Kulchdragoner (we can recommend this place – http://www.kuchldragoner.at/). We had a drink and decided to come back later as the owner was so friendly. True to word we went back and had a great evening including having a great ice cream that set us up for the next day.
FRI 29th July – The next full day we set off to look at the Canoe hire company but first looking at the Spanish Riding School t see if there were any Lipizzaner horses on show but there were not. We wandered around and then took the train to the Arwex canoe hire. They were closed so we set off to the Donauturm Tower which has a rotating restaurant 150m above the ground. This was a great place to look at the view of the journey that lay ahead. After lunch we made off to Arwex and this time they were open – we had a slight language issue but all the paperwork was thee and we were shown the canoes that we were to use. We were also given paddles, BA’s and trolley. We were given the keys to the locks and set off back to the Hotel on the train to some funny looks. In the Hotel we were asked if we lost our boat! We then set off to Vienna’s permanent fun fair that has some great rides Gary and Ginette opted to go on the Sling Shot this went around so fast I couldn’t get a decent photo but I could hear Gary as he was flung around. Then Gary and Candy went on a chair ride that meant Candy having to tuck her dress into her knickers! We had fun there and afterwards went around some other parts of Vienna.
Sat 30th July – An early start and off to collect the canoes. We picked the canoes up and tried to use the wheels but didn’t get on too well with both boats on the wheels. So we split the journey. Ginette then used a public convenience – emphasis on public!!!
The canoes were loaded with our gear for the next 5 days and Ginette and Candy sat in the back to steer the boat. Gary soon swapped but I persuaded Candy to stay in the back – it led to few exchanges but we carried on. Despite the look of the river the flow wasn’t as expected and it was hard work to keep the boats moving and in a straight line. We eventually came up on our first obstacle one of the big locks, there was no way that we were going through the lock so Gary got out and ran across the lock to see if there was another route – thankfully there was but it meant taking out the canoes and wheeling them around this time the two canoes stayed on the wheels as I guess they were heavier. We launched the other side and Candy and Ian immediately went through rapids adding fuel to Gary’s expectation of Ian either tipping over putting a hole in the boat as Ian had done a couple of weeks prior on the Wye to his O1. True to form the flow on the river picked up when it joined the Old Danube. The speed was great and we made great progress since going over rapids Candy and Ian kept to the navigation channel and then got too close and hit one of the large buoys so hard they thought they were going over but survived with only a soaking as a few gallons of water came in. By now we had made good progress and decided to take a bite to eat whilst drifting. After a while we stopped again for a call of nature it was then that we realised we were still near the rest of the world despite the tree lined banks!!! We made such good progress that we took a break at a riverside restaurant for drink. Candy and Ginette ordered an apple drink that when it came was red and tasted of something that wasn’t apples and cost a fortune – no tip was left!! Before too long the unmistakeable view of Bratislava came into sight. We tried a landing at a boat club that involved turning up a tributary not as easy as it looked. We didn’t get any joy there so came out of the tributary like a popped cork and headed downstream where the flood walls towered above us – getting the canoes out here was going to be interesting! We found some steps but stopping on the rocks at the bottom was difficult then getting up the steep steps another challenge. At the top Gary said it looked like a Russian prison camp not inspiring. We left the boats with the girls and went in search of our hotel. We found it after first almost being run over by a tram!!! When we got back we said the hotel was like the buildings on the waterfront but didn’t get a response. The canoes were locked up behind a wall in thick undergrowth where we hoped they would remain until the morning. The hotel was actually very new and quite luxurious for four sweaty paddlers. We were told that there was a party going on but that we would not be disturbed! We got changed and went out to find old Bratislava (or Bratislavia). Initially we went to a what turned out to be a French restaurant but so hungry we just had soup and moved on to find the real Slovak cuisine – we found this in the back of beyond and ate outside. We had a great meal and Gary went inside he came back out saying we should go in – inside it was like a castle a fantastic place. On the way back we stopped off to listen to some Japanese drummer’s absolutely great free entertainment. Once back at the Hotel we had an aperitifs and realised that the Wedding Party was in full swing – but as promised we had a quiet night.
SUN 31st July – The Longest Day Knowing that we had quite a long day ahead of us we got up early and realised that the party was just ending fair play they had partied hard all night by the look of them – some still clutched their bottles of wine but were still standing (just). We had breakfast and set off early in the rain. Gary had promised the night before that we would see beneath the bridges where it would be drier unfortunately the flow took us through the bridges a little too quickly but the flow wasn’t as good as we had the day before. We were soon passed by a rowing 8 who Gary challenged to a race there was no contest the 8 was far too quick but we did see them later going upstream a lot slower than they went down, we on the other hand were going one way. The flow lessened as the river widened so it was a tough start. At Cunovo the river became extremely wide and resembled an estuary – we were not sure which way to go but at that point of indecision a cruise ship came up and we decided that was the way to go – at the point of no return the wind picked up and that was followed by huge waves that basically brought us to a standstill. Several large ships came through in both directions really making waves and at that point Candy’s inexperience and Ian’s lack of clear direction soon told and the canoe turned broadside into the wind and waves this happened twice and after the second time Gary and Ginette in the distance had put on the Bas – this was a sign that it was getting difficult. There was no way out of this cauldron but in the distance the ships were turning s it looked like there was a way out – it wasn’t to be it was more of the same although a little narrower. In the distance Ian spotted what he thought was a tree and he thought that was a way out. Hours later the tree turned into a huge control tower of the lock. We couldn’t go in the dock but had to cross over the water to some steps where the waves were actually cresting and breaking like waves on the sea shore. No going back Gary pulled up to the steps jumped out followed by Ginette and the canoe pulled out we did the same there was no time to wait for fear of being smashed on the wall or turned over. We were out boy were we glad to see the land. Both boats loaded and we walked to the lock following a tarmac drive at the end of which was a road that crossed the Danube. At that junction we were met by a security guard who came over with a phone against his ear he looked like he was going to give us some grief but when we spoke in English he just said “English” into the phone and held the phone towards us so that whoever was at the other end could verify that we were indeed English! He pointed to the other side of the dam and down the road we must take – we wheeled the boats around to where he had pointed past a red eyed ferocious guard dog (Cujo) and on to where there was a moored boat that seemed to offer us the best place to launch – distance about 1 mile to cover a few hundred metres of river! Here there was a man and an Alsatian that seemed fixated into chasing his tail and having a yelp rather than a bark befitting of an Alsatian. We had a drink and an energy bar or two and watched the Alsatian pull the man and his moped up the slope and off into the distance – time to go. What had seemed a reasonably place to launch the canoes turned out to be a pile of loose rocks just waiting to catch one of us out and give a broken ankle or leg. Amazingly both canoes were carried down the rocks without any issue. Gary pulled out in reverse and shouted “duck, duck, DUCK!!” the put your head down. Ginette had almost hit her head on a steel hawser and she said too Gary that he didn’t know what he had meant by duck next time Gary will shout Elephant or Giraffe or something unrelated!!
Out into the flow – it wasn’t good but we got into stride and after the issues we had in the lake above this was so easy. Candy and Ian got into stride with Ian looking focussed and paddling hard we were off and making good progress a tributary pushed Ian and Candy’s canoe on and away they had chosen the right side of the river to benefit from this. The weather now was glorious no wind and evening sunshine making the days troubles melt away. After many hours of paddling here was Gonyu a small Hungarian village that just before made our trip we had booked a couple of rooms in a Liere Business Hotel and were asked to ring them when we got to Gonyu. Ian rang the number and with no Hungarian waited for the response a man answered in good English and asked us where we were. Ian said the beach and we were about to walk to the hotel but we were told to wait as he would come and pick us up “Bargain”. A car arrived and the bags loaded – the canoes were locked up on the beach by some Hungarian canoeists who were camping on the beach for a few days – we were taken the relative short distance to the hotel where we met by a man who spoke excellent English but with a Canadian twang he was the owners best friend and helped us communicate. We were given two rooms in the hotel that they had opened just for us – how great. It didn’t stop there they made sure that the restaurant stayed open for us and there we had a great meal really cheap and really filling. We left a huge tip. The next day we were met by a very full breakfast and made our farewells what great people. Gary and Ian went to collect the canoes but stopped in the local store to buy water and chocolate- here they were warmly greeted and hands were shaken.
MON 1st Aug – Having had a tough day we set off expecting more of the same – the flow was weak but we were heading out with purpose not quite sure how far we had to go but the Garmin indicated 40+km. We went around quite a bend and Candy’s back was giving her grief so Ian and Candy paddled to the shore to swap as they beached a large cruise ship came by and the wash filed the canoe with water and soaked Candy as well this took a lot of effort to empty. Ian took a turn at steering but this wasn’t working so they swapped back. A green bridge was the catalyst for a race and thereafter Ian thought that this was the place we were staying in Komarom. A check of the Garmin confirmed that it was the place. The canoes were beached and chained between two trees out of sight. We had quite a walk but we flagged a Taxi that took us to the hotel. Here we had the use of swimming pools and the spa. The short paddle felt an injustice but once in the spa all that was washed away and we spent a few hours soaking up the warm water. Later we went out to buy water and supplies for the following day but we did stop for cake!! Then we went to Tesco’s!!!!
On the evening we found a restaurant that specialised in traditional Hungarian dishes somewhat dearer than last nights meal but very good. Back in the room Ian and Candy had an uninvited guest a small toad that was caught photographed and released.
Tues 2nd Aug – A good paddle today to Esztergom. The scenery was beautiful on this stretch and we were accompanied by sunshine which did make paddling hard. This day passed without incident apart from a group of naked canoeists that had camped on a sandbar in the middle of the Danube and had jumped up and down as we passed. The distance was covered in good time. Soon the Cathedral came into view and we took a tributary into Esztergom. We pulled the canoes out and locked them outside a local boat club and walked to our Hotel. Rooms allocated we freshened up and made our way to the restaurant bar next door where we had beer and strawberry soup!!! Tasted much better than it sounds. We then saw that you could climb to the roof of the cathedral. At the top (yes hundreds of stairs) the views were spectacular. The Danube passing below and heading off between mountains that was tomorrow’s trip. Back down to the bottom and into a bar for a drink and rest in the sunshine. We then went off to buy supplies for the last day of paddling – Candy and Ginette went off in search of the local Lidl and Gary and Ian went into the local pub. Time passed they were a long time in the store eventually Ginette and Candy reappeared (remember sense of direction they went the wrong way when leaving Lidl).
Back for a freshen up and then on to our evening meal at the restaurant where we had the strawberry soup. Candy in her excitement threw herself down a flight of steps how she managed to avoid injury goodness only knows. We had the meal and went for a stroll around Esztergom and then off to bed.
Wednesday 3rd August – The last day. We set off a little later than we wanted but we did speak to a couple from Canada who were cycling the Danube. When we left the sun was up and another glorious day of paddling through fantastic scenery. The flow slowed as we went round and through the spectacular Danube bend – here people played in canoes and camped along the shore. After the bend we spotted a riverside bar that drew us in from the heat of the day. We had lunch a huge salad and loads of chips, very cheap. Across the river was a mountain top castle that pointed to the choice of direction should we go the new channel or take the old Danube. The old Danube it is and what a treat fantastically quiet but little flow. People fishing and swimming and bathing naked mainly men which cheered the girls. Ginette was on a high today and was till pressing on from time to time and making Ian work hard to stay in touch. We reached a road bridge and our hopes of completing the final day were high but soon dashed as we realised there was still a very long way to go! This final stretch was shared with some fast motor boats one in particular thought it funny to split the canoes with it’s wash sending Gary and Ginette totally off course and almost swamping another canoe that was drifting down stream – there’s always one. Eventually the piers of a large bridge were seen that was the final bridge before we rejoined the Danube. Budapest was in front of us and before long we were looking for a place to so come and collect the boats. We stopped at the Electric Sports Club a wonderfully appointed club.
We got permission to land and all was going well until Mr Meddler came along and caused chaos, not once but three times!! Anyway we pulled the boats out and waited for Arwex to come and collect them. We then got a call saying that he couldn’t find us. We guessed he was close by on the Arbat Bridge. Gary ran off with paddle in hand and found the pick up truck and brought it to us. Boats loaded a taxi was called and off to our Hotel what a great hotel as well. As it was now quite late we had a meal opposite – Gary was broken and needed sleep Candy and Ian went for a stroll. Apparently this hotel is good for great sex!!
Thursday 4th August – The next day we went to the Gelert Spa what a fantastic place. Candy and Ginette had a great massage – Gary wasn’t impressed with his. The spa was great the steam room exceptional. A few hours here and we had no aches and pains. We the wandered around this beautiful city.
Friday 5th August – we left our bags in reception and walked to heroes square along the wrong roads. A very interesting place. As this took so long we headed back just leaving enough time for a drink and then take the taxi to the airport. We caught the flight to Parris where Gary lost his bike chain in customs I had a similar one and passed through without incident. In Paris we landed in a terrific thunderstorm we caught a taxi to our hotel and got a flavour of how much rain there had been as there were several accidents on the motorway and as we came off the slip road was flooded – we just got through. We checked in to a typical Paris hotel the smallest and dearest so far. We got ready for Moulin Rouge and took the tube. We had a meal in a Cattleman’s and were then headed like cattle at the Moulin Rouge. The show as not as expected although the acts between the dancing were good especially the gymnastic strong man.
We caught the very last train back to our hotel – at one point we thought it was going no further. Eventually we got back and we walked the short distance to our hotel however Ian leading the way was following a pair of very long legs and took the wrong road – he got a slap!!!
Saturday 5th August – Breakfast in a local cafe, then off for our own foot tour of Paris.
We walked around all the key areas such as Eiffel tower and Louvre and Notre Dame. The queue’s where horrendous everywhere so we decided not to try to get in any of them today.
We did manage to gain access to the Arch-de-triumph and climbed the stairs for some great views over the city. We also had a stroll inside one of the Palaces to view some art work, this place was a work of art in itself with high painted ceilings and a beautiful courtyard
Once on the Champs De Lyses we spotted a couple of car show rooms – in the Citroen showroom we took a 4D ride (it wasn’t brilliant but for 1 euro it was OK). We made our way to the Louvre (a blind museum) but that was very busy so we walked onto Notre Dame again very busy. After stops in bars and for ice cream the day was closing so we made our way back to the Hotel where we agreed to eat local as it appeared to be cheap!! Turns out all the prices were shown without taxes and a simple meal (and a few drinks came to £165!!).
Sunday 6th August – OUR LAST DAY L. We checked out and left our bags in the hotel to collect later, an early start and no breakfast so that we could go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We were near the front of a queue that had already formed (08:00hrs) and waited an hour in the sunshine and a cold wind (not what you expect in August). We were pestered by Eiffel Tower salesman – Gary wanted to borrow one of the small metal towers for a photo which confused the vendor but he was happy with the 2 Euros that Gary gave him.
Once into the tower it was a dash to the top (by lift this time although the stairs wee a temptation). The views from the top were fantastic and we spent a while there picking out landmarks and taking photos. We descended and made our way to the Louvre as it was free today. When we got there the queue time was over three hours as everyone else in Paris had been told that it was free! We went for breakfast and when we returned the queue was enormous – it had wound its way all the way around the Louvre – I doubt those at the end would get in and if they did they would be rushed through!! We made our way through the Latin quarter looking at the stalls and onto a park where there were martial arts taking place – an unusual place to train but interesting to watch. We then sat and watched children (well their dads really) play with model yachts on a boating lake one yacht seemed to be doing better than the rest – we later discovered that it was radio controlled!!
We looked for a place to eat and ended up sharing a huge cauldron of mussels, a plate of chips and a sea food salad – this was a cheap meal but filled us up.
Well that was it time to go – back to the hotel to collect the bags and back on the train to the Airport a long way but quite an easy journey. At the airport we bought some drink to take on the plane that got seized in customs as it wasn’t sealed and we didn’t keep the receipt!! The flight went on time but we warned that it might be a bumpy ride – the captain wasn’t joking no sooner as we took off you could feel the turbulence – at one point we shook and dropped just like on a roller coaster at the precise time Ian tried to swallow an M&M he nearly choked and Gary was shouting whee at the sensation others were not quite so happy with the effects. Anyway it soon passed and we were back in Bristol in 10 minutes!! (we left at 7pm in Paris and arrived back 7:10GMT).
That was a fantastic trip and we really enjoyed each others company it was sad to say good-bye. We will see each other again at training on Thursday and no doubt we will do some more of the Danube in the future.
Add your own words….
We walked in the cold air Freezing breath on a window pane Lying and waiting A man in the dark in a picture frame So mystic and soulful A voice reaching out in a piercing cry It stays with you until The feeling has gone only you and I It means nothing to me This means nothing to me Oh, Vienna The music is weaving Haunting notes, pizzicato strings The rhythm is calling Alone in the night as the daylight brings A cool empty silence The warmth of your hand and a cold gray sky It fades to the distance The image has gone only you and I It means nothing to me This means nothing to me Oh, Vienna This means nothing to me This means nothing to me Oh, Vienna