-A 5-part journal of a kayak trip down the Danube in 2009-
By now we are deep in Austria; it’s August, and we have long given up the plan to make it to Budapest. Due to the weather we had lost so much time.
But there really is no regret or disappointment. Somehow, once again, the river has taught us its old universal lesson. There is no goal, no destination in life. It all happens now, right here and right now. And it all happens by itself. You only have to pay attention; but that is absolutely essential. If you don’t it’s all wasted, you missed what really mattered. Things don’t happen for you, they happen by themselves and for themselves, whether you notice them or not is up to you.
There are milestones along the way, they are man-made. The river couldn’t care less. We pitch our tent and sit out a storm, and curse the weather, the river doesn’t care.
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Marek & Luise built it and live on this raft and travel down the Donau the really slow way. They plan to go all the way to the Black Sea. It will take years, they say. The river police demanded to mount an outboard motor on their vessel; they did, but it now hardly ever fires up when needed, they say, and it needs gas and stinks, they just have it to keep the officials happy. They row with two oars to stay clear of the ships and to remain in the current. We met them when they had just started a fasting regimen to cleanse their bodies and souls. They had pulled up in this little hidden cove and had all the time in the world. Very nice people with a wonderful outlook on life. They seemed very healthy, spiritually and physically, and perfectly in tune with the river.
Ps: They made it all the way to Romania, not too far from the end, where, in a weird accident, the raft sank together with all their belongings. However, this did not break their spirit, they continued the journey by bicycle all the way to Turkey.
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With Marek & Luise’s bicycles we try the famous Donau Bike Trail a bit. It’s a bike path along the river that is almost perversely famous. In the summer months literally thousands of bicyclists from all over the world roll on this path every day, It really is almost ridiculous, it is like a mass psychosis; on weekends it can be difficult to pass each other. In the towns and cities they all run around in the evening and step on each others toes. I truly love bicycling, but not like lemmings on a suicide mission.
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The old typically Austrian Café House Culture. They really made it a form of art to hang out, drink coffee and chat and waste the time. They have not only ‘a coffee‘ but numerous refined variations of serving it: There is the ‘Kleiner Brauner‘, the ‘Mocca‘ of course, and the ‘Melanche‘, and it was here where the ‘Cappuccino‘ became famous. The most typical one is the ‘Verlängerter‘: a cup of coffee, a small piece of biscuit, and a glass of water. The water is to hang in there even when the coffee is finished.
In the evening we ran into a gathering of drummers. We heard the mesmerizing sound from far away. They just played for the heck of it, amateurs, it got you totally riveted. This is a technology museum. I liked the building: not a single straight edge! In the distance the old world, the old tradition. It goes along perfectly in Austria.
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Early in the morning we met a guy here who poured out his soul and told us about his broken heart. He had married a girl from Brasil via the Internet and it seemed not to work out well. I’m not sure if we could help him, he looked pensive, but he also smiled when we left.
This is the ‘Donauschlinge von Schlögen‘, a unique more than 180 degree swerve the river decides to do here. For a short stretch there are no roads along the river here, not even a path. (Who wants to follow such a crazy turn of the river?) But with our boat we have no choice, we take it gladly and savor the solitude for a night. Unfortunately it rains all night.
Years ago, on our maiden trip, we slowly, slowly drifted through this section, listening to music. It was a piece of Antonin Dvorak, we both never forgot it, and it turned out to somehow follow us along through our life.
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I believe it was already for sale 38 years ago!
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… to be continued.
Klaus August 2009