Across Continents

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Postcard from Passau

’Nice weather for ducks’ he’d said, cycling with his friends towards Passau. Impecable English, even for a German. Yes, I thought, with an orange. Since leaving Regensburg the previous day temperatures had dropped markedly. Birds were gathering on the telegraph wires, readying themselves to fly south. I’d do the same, but first had to reach Bratislava, Slovakia, before the Danube took a turn for warmer climates. At least that was what I was hoping for.

Sometimes it rained, sometimes it snowed. Always heavy. Although the still air temperature was a little above freezing, wind chill on the bike meant that ice formed on my mitts and jacket. I wouldn’t have minded so much had it stayed like that. But the occasional milder spells of heavy rain meant that you still got water seeping inside your jacket, before the temperature dropped again. And then there was the insidious fine abrasive grit of the cycle way that stuck to everything. Don’t think the guide books ever mention that little detail.

I’d reached Passau in the dark. The city stands on three rivers – the Danube, Inn and Ilz – which adds an extra dimension to finding your way around in the dark and the icy rain. But I knew exactly where the youth hostel was – an old fortress overlooking the city. That’d be simple to find. It was, they even flood lit it. The problem was how to get to it – my map lacked that sort of detail, and the signs I found directed you to endless steps. The roads where still busy but there was no one around to ask. In the end it took me an hour to crack it – not quite an impenetrable fortress, but close.

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