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Right now we’re in Bratislava, country number four. But Austria was an amazing country. Everything there was so refined and immaculate; the food, the music, the architecture. We found ourselves riding through fruit orchards only to end up in small villages tasting the brandies and schnapps produced from the local fruits. We saw many historical sights, not just castles and churches but famous archaeological sites like the Venus of Willendorf. The river valley once again became mountainous with lush forests. The temps have been cool but the weather has been wet. In fact the Danube is swelling beyond its capacity and is suffering from overbank flooding in several areas. Two days ago we had a major detour due to water over 1m deep covering the trail. Our last stop was Vienna, the Austrian capital, and the center of an empire that existed for centuries. It is the culture hearth for many famous music composers. Unfortunately the Viennese Philharmonic does not perform during July and August. Some cyclists did manage to catch a classical performance where the musicians were dressed in period costumes and the music was accompanied by ballet dancers and opera singers. I turned to a different style of music. My “Lying Planet Guide” described a place called Jazzland as a musical institution of Vienna. I didn’t believe it until I walked into this dingy dungeon of blues. A dank subterranean catacomb of weathered brick walls littered with musical legends of Motown, jazz and blues. But the night we were there we saw an entirely different show. Shkippel, a bluegrass jug band complete with 12 string acoustics, a harmonica, mandolins, a gazoo and a washboard as the only percussion. But what a show, it was incredible. When we left Vienna we gained 8 new cyclists. We are now a dominating force as we cruise along the Donauradweg. When we crossed into Slovakia, country number five, it was quite obvious that we had entered Eastern Europe. This country is far less gothic and much more industrial. But we won’t get to see much of it. Tomorrow we enter country number six, Hungary. And in three days we will reach Budapest which is where the tour ends for me. It will be tough to come this far and not be there to cross the finish line in Istanbul. On the bright side I’ll be back in the homeland for the Labour Day weekend celebrations. See you then.
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