Our plan for Saturday 17th was to move from the Yachthaven Kuchelau, which is about 10 km from Vienna, to the Marina Wien which is a bit more centrally located. We had one or two urgent shopping issues that needed attending to, one of which was courtesy flags. We did not have one for Slovakia, the next country we would enter, Hungary, Serbia or Romania.
Google had very kindly supplied us with the details of a good chandlery in Vienna, however, it closes at 12 on a Saturday. It seemed sensible for me to head into town on public transport to procure the flags, then return and move, rather than risk not making it before 12. With this rather convoluted plan formed, I headed off towards the railway station just after 7 o’clock. I was a bit surprised to find that I couldn’t leave the compound due to the gates being chained and padlocked closed. On such an important mission, some locked gates were not going to stop me. In a rather undignified manner, I climbed up and over, hoping the electrical box I was using as a foothold would hold firm. It did, and I found the station, navigated the public transport system, and found the chandlery without further incident.
Meanwhile, back on the boat, Cy was finishing off the service on the water pumps. Once I found my way back, we contacted Marina Wien to check they had space for us, settled up with Yachthaven Kuchelau, and headed off.
It took less than an hour to arrive, but the walk from the pontoon to the Marina reception/shower block seemed to take almost as long! We booked in for two nights and once all the formalities were done and Doris was secure, we were able to attend to the next lot of shopping necessities. This involved a metro ride to an ‘OBI’, which is a European equivalent of B&Q. All of this took us to the end of the day, so we had dinner onboard and started to plan our sightseeing the following day.
Vienna is a place I have long wanted to visit, so was pretty excited about it. Cy had come up with a quirky place to visit for breakfast, so we made a reasonably early start and found ‘Volkspension’ just before 9. It was a great choice, a family business, with several generations of the family working there. The cakes are all baked by grandma, who works quietly at one end of the dining area; I believe there is even a cookbook available! It was quite busy, and we were asked to share a large table with another group and a local student. His name was Paul and we enjoyed chatting with him over breakfast. The vibe in the place was great and we lingered awhile absorbing it all. This was followed by a gentle meander through the streets of Vienna. It is a beautiful city with fabulous buildings everywhere. Some of the areas by the main sights were incredibly busy, but you didn’t have to go far to discover a quiet courtyard or corner.
A bit of a late morning coffee and cake seemed like the right thing to do, before checking out the cemetary. I love cemetaries and the one in Vienna is particularly impressive. It is a quite way out of the centre but the public transport is excellent so it is very easy to get to. Several composers are buried here and lots of people visit. You can even have a bus or horse drawn carriage tour around!
The day was hot and bright, so by around 5pm, we were touristed out and headed back to the marina. It had been a great day.
Departure preparations the next day followed the usual pattern. Grocery shopping, water tanks topped up and engine checks completed. When we went to hand back the gate key and settle up, we found the price to be fractionally less than at Kuchelau, so were glad we had decided to move.
Our next destination was Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, which is around 65 km from Vienna. We had a bit of a wait at the lock, but otherwise made good time with the current improving our speed considerably and we arrived at around 5 pm. The views of Bratislava castle when arriving by river are pretty good, although the yacht harbour is a way past the city centre.
On arrival, we were greeted by Eliska and her grandson Robert. The marina and restaurant had been the dream of her late husband, Dodo, and Eliska, with help from her family, continue to operate it. Marina Wien had been great, but was quite professional and formal. Arriving in Bratislava was the complete opposite. The family atmosphere and vibe of relaxation and friendliness was immediately apparent.
We ate at the restaurant that night and spent the evening chatting with Franz and Angelika. We had met them a few days previously in Kuchelau. They had travelled from France, with Bratislava being the last stop before turning round and trying to get back upstream. They have a winter berth at the Paris Arsenal so would aim to be back there for October. When not on their boat, they live in Berlin and moved there (West Berlin) in the 1970’s. They had some pretty interesting tales to tell of life before the wall came down and were fantastic company.
Tuesday 20th was our sightseeing day in Bratislava. Somehow or other, Cy managed to arrange a lift from one of the regular boaters into town (there were no taxis free and I looked helpless until someone gave in -a technique we’ve each employed more than once..). We were also given the number of a trusted taxi firm for the return journey.
Once into the city, we stopped by the tourist information office for a map and then headed through town and up to the castle before the heat intensified.
The views from the castle are amazing and the breeze was lovely, especially in the shady areas in the surrounding parkland.
Bratislava is a picturesque city, but in the heat of the afternoon we didn’t have the energy to explore it fully. I felt a bit unwell and had to take refuge in the air-conditioned haven of a well known fast-food outlet…..
The next stage of our journey involved a long canal section (Rick, whose blog we used a lot in the planning called it a “concrete ditch”) and a lock which from accounts we have read, can be quite difficult, even dangerous, for small boats in the wrong wind conditions. Having checked the forecast, we decided to stay put for another day.
During the morning of the 21st we did a few bits and pieces on the boat in the morning and spent the afternoon sitting in the shade doing not a lot. We may have walked the 30m or so to the bar for a nice cold beer a couple of times. We ate in the restaurant that evening and when the time came to settle the account (we were planning to leave early the following morning), Eliska sat down with us. She showed us her guestbook, which we were able to add to, as well as enjoying reading the comments from previous visitors. She also had lots of photos of other boats that had stayed there. We drank a glass of palinka together and she invited us into her home on the pontoon to see the pictures of her late husband which lined the walls. She is evidently very proud of all that he achieved and still misses him very much. After hugs (Sarah started it!) and heartfelt goodbyes we stumbled off to bed feeling that this was another place and people we would be sorry to leave.
I would heartily recommend to anyone visiting Bratislava, make the effort to get over to Dodo’s restaurant if you can. It is a taxi ride from town, but we reckon it would be worth it. We certainly would if we are ever lucky enough to pass this way again.