Here’s a quick overview of our route down the EuroVelo 9 from Vienna in Austria to Maribor in Slovenia.
Day 1: Vienna to Laxenburg. We rode straight out of the airport car park through suburbs to the pretty Laxenburg Castlejust south of Vienna. We learned one valuable thing straight away – division of duties! Putting bikes back together after a flight is a bit nerve-racking even without a passenger, so I just waited in a cafe and had some lunch while Tom reinstated our derailleurs, loaded the trailer up with toys, re-inflated tyres and, most importantly, got to grips with where we were going. We’d bought a GPS for the trip just because we thought it might save us time faffing with an upset passenger. It was really useful for leaving the airport – after that, it was so frustratingly slow we reverted to tried-and-tested paper maps.
Day 2: Laxenburg to Lanzenkirchen. After visiting the castle in the morning, we rejoined the main Eurovelo 9A cycle path and followed it south through semi-rural suburbs and farmland, mostly following the Triesting River and passing an almost silly number of children’s playgrounds. The highlight was an unexpected summer wine festival beside the river, complete with hog roasts and waitresses in ‘local costume’. After a bit of replenishment, Ozi fell asleep, so in the 30-degree mid-afternoon heat we slogged it as hard as we could to the wild-west-like town of Lanzenkirchen. (The recommended stop is Bad Erlach a little further along, but we hadn’t been able to find accommodation there.) Here, sampling the delicious ice creams in a local cafe, we hit upon the notion of a fourth meal every day – ice cream lunch, to be enjoyed around 2pm every day.
Day 3: Lanzenkirchen to Monichkirchen. Day three was the day of the Big Climb – around 600m up to the ski resort of Monichkirchen. Riding south from Vienna we’d been able to see the alps off to our right; fortunately the climb that revealed itself ahead of us after lunch at Aspang Markt was decidedly gentler – more rolling plateau than mountain. The scenery started to become much prettier, too, and as we climbed we got beautiful views of Hungary to the east and, to the south, the rolling hills we’d be riding through over the next few days. At first, hilltop Monichkirchen seemed like a fairly sad little town in which to be marooned overnight. After a wander around, though, we warmed to the place – there was a delightful cafe where the owned came to our rescue by donating us a few nappies (we’d run out and there was no supermarket), and a little water park which, although not exactly a major tourist attraction, was a nice wee spot for a toddler to stomp about. And the sunset was spectacular.
Day 4: Monichkirchen to Bad Waltersdorf. After the previous day’s climb, we’d expected an easy day of about 50km, largely downhill. The morning’s descent was over quickly, though, and was followed by rippling hill after rippling hill all the way to Bad Waltersdorf. The Eurovelo here was well signposted, although not in the direction I was expecting, and took us over some esoteric and very beautiful back roads through elderflower orchards into the spa and wine town of Bad Waltersdorf. Here we visited the thermal spas, where, instead of lolling about in the steam on an already baking-hot day, I quickly wished we’d visited the outdoor swimming pool down the road instead (much better for kids!).
Day 5: Bad Waltersdorf to Therme Loipersdorf. What looked like a bit of a ‘nothing’ day on the map turned out to be just delicious. First we climbed through vineyards to gain the plateau above town, then rolled steadily downhill through thick forest to the pretty little village of Burgau, just missing a skittish deer en route. From there we climbed back into the forest along gravel tracks then dropped down to the next spa town, Blad Blumau, set in a wide valley growing wheat and squash. From here we nipped along more gravel tracks to the colourful town of Furstenfeld for lunch and ice-cream lunch in one, before a hot and steep climb to another spa, Therme Loipersdorf, set up on a hillside in the forest. We nearly didn’t go in when we heard the extravagant entry price, but it soon became clear why it cost so much – acre after acre of slides, wave pools, swimming pools, jacuzzis, health spas, and, best of all, a baby beach with real sand. Quite a way to finish a day.
Day 6: Therme Loipersdorf to Bad Radkersburg. Day six was always make or break day – the only day over 60km and the only one not easily done by train in case of an emergency. We set out early, but still followed the circuitous, zig-zagging way of the EuroVelo. Along the way we passed the pretty Raab nature park, said hello to some ostriches, and had lunch at the lovely viewpoint of Saint Anna am Aigan. From there, it was downhill then a flat ride into the gorgeous town of Bad Radkersburg, flanking the impressive Mur river. We arrived in time for ice cream lunch then spent a lovely few hours wandering around, spotting storks flying overhead and trying (and failing) to get Ozi to go to sleep in a baby carrier so we could go out and sample the local wine.
Day 7: Bad Radkersburg to Maribor. I hadn’t really spent much time pondering the ride into Maribor, Slovenia’s second city. It started out well enough, with a beautiful ride along the Mur cycle path (packed with cyclists) to Spielfeld. We’d planned to stop in Spielfeld for lunch, expecting another pretty riverside town, but it lived up to its name (which translates I believe as ‘playing field’). We eventually found a greasy spoon caff and had lunch while Tom coaxed the GPS back into life and confirmed that the route to Maribor did indeed start off down the busy four-lane highway in front of us. It wasn’t too bad, though, and once we’d passed the old border the cycle path (optimistically signposted as cycle route 1) peeled off the highway and climbed up a steep hill to join the service roads next to the motorway. We’d have been a bit stumped without a GPS, but with it we made it into Maribor, which (unlike the route to get there!) is a real haven for cyclists. We spent the next day exploring (the old wine cellars are a must) and falling in love with the town before the catching a taxi van the next day to Zagreb to fly home. Cue the only mishap of the trip – the taxi that arrived from Zagreb to pick us up at 7.30am was neither a van nor equipped with a child seat. Another was eventually rustled and by the time we got to the airport, we were already pondering the next big trip…