Bright blue skies and slowly mounting temperatures await us when we wheel our bicycles out of the plush Linz Hotel/Casino. The morning streets are awash in traffic, trams, and commuters hurrying to work. We wheel slowly down the main drag, cross the bridge to the Danube's North shore, then hang a left. Today is supposed to be one of the shorter days on the itinerary, so we have decided to lengthen it with a side trip to the town of St Florian, which is supposed to harbor one of the finest monasteries in all of St Florian.
Our path takes us through a long green park beside the Danube. Not everyone is on their way to work today. Some, like us, are heading south on the bike path. Other people are walking in the park, striding along with a cross-country ski pole in each hand. I suppose this flailing about with the poles increases the aerobic burn, but it still looks a tad odd. The trail signs state that Vienna still lays 227 km down river. A bit worrisome, what?
I get very excited for a moment when a road sign indicates that we are passing the “Austrian King of Dirt.” Well, you can see why I would. It's not often that one meets royalty. Later I have a look at the website and discover that rather than a soiled aristocrat, the Austrian King of Dirt was some sort of BMX bike jumping and racing event held in Linz. Very disappointing.
The air is humid, a thin haze that dulls the trees along the ridges. The Danube has grown industrial. Not a castle, monastery, or vineyard in sight. Great piles of gravel wait for barges on the southern shore. Ann and I race a tugboat and barge downriver, trying to beat him to the dam for an upstream photo. We have no luck, however, and he beats us in.
Rather than riding straight to Enns, we turn south to St Florian. As noted above, St Florian is the home of a fine Augustinian Priory. After a quick bite of lunch, we stroll up the hill to have a look. I will have to admit that, despite the fact that Anton Bruckner once was the organist here (and his tomb is in the crypt), I do not take to the priory. I snap a few photos in the basilica, but quite frankly, I don't think it can touch Wilhering monastery. Leaving town I see a sign that reads “Infidelity, Aug 30-31.” Some form of annual dispensation for the town? Hard to say.
We turn our bikes toward Enns and cycle through more farmland (primarily corn) dodging the odd tractor or five. Enns is not inspiring on approach, and we thread through a mass of eight story concrete block apartment buildings as we look for our hotel. Hot and tired, we grow more irritable as we attempt to find the right street. Finally we reach the center of town, get oriented, and find our lodging.
Enns claims to be the oldest town in Austria. It was originally founded as Lauriacum by the Romans in 200. Our tourist brochure also claims that Enns is the “Siena of Austria.” I would find this claim a little more plausible if I had never been to Siena. Both towns have a city wall that has kept the core of the old city out of the hands of the developers, and a bell tower, but I think the comparisons end right there.
After a short rest and shower, we climb the bell tower that is located in the center square near our hotel. The tower is 60 meters high and has 157 steps, winding up the dusty, pigeon stinking cave of an interior. From the top we can see the roofs of Enns, grain silos, and, in the distance, the green Danube snaking away toward the horizon.
After our ascent, we encounter a nice, white-haired Austrian man, who sees my camera (I am meeting more people this way) and stops us to strike up a conversation. He has, he tells us, a cousin living outside San Francisco who runs a vineyard. When we ask him where to eat in Enns, he looks dubious. He selects a pizzeria from the list in the tourist information brochure. “It has a lovely garden for eating outside,” he says, “but the food is not so good.” When we look worried by this, he hurries to reassure us. “Our cooking is not so good here in Enns. But this is the best of what we have.” It turns out that he was right. But the garden was lovely.