A heat wave like we’ve not had in years – and the summer break is still so far away. But the 690 DUKE is ours for two weeks. We will conquer the city, escape to the forest and dive into the water.
Part 2: FOREST
I have already been through a lot with the single cylinder Duchess. She has been my guest, in one form or another, every year since she first arrived on the scene over twenty years ago. Together we have explored the topography of Austria from east to west and north to south. In her different incarnations, I have shown her the Dolomites, the Maritime Alps, the coasts of Croatia, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, some in the Adriatic, and many more. But up until now, she has not experienced a summer such as we have had this year; it has never been so continuously, so persistently hot, with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees every day. Never before have we had to give up our parking spot right in front of the house in favor of a shady spot around the corner.
We set out at daybreak.
We have a photo shoot booked into the diary and the weather is looking good. The forecast is for a sustained period of high pressure and high temperatures. So, to be on the safe side, we start early at 7 a.m. while the morning is allegedly cool. But the thermometer is reading 30 degrees – in the shade. My professional and cool leathers offer some degree of protection from this but the light is excellent for photography, it is flatteringly soft and the sparse shadows are still long. However, after more than a few shoots and several rounds of posing on roundabouts, I am starting to get overheated – and so is the Duchess. She is panting and needs a good headwind to cool off.
This is more than a little tricky in a town full of road works for the summer. Traffic jams, wherever you look and tempers are rising in the tin boxes. Particularly the tempers of those people who simply do not understand how hot it gets under a helmet and how nicely an engine heats up your butt, especially when you are just sitting in stationary traffic. Which, obviously, you only do when there is no more room to wriggle through the gaps and even then, the least offensive of what you have to listen to is a furious cacophony of car horns. Some of them wind down the window and hurl abuse while one of them rips open the door spoiling for a fight after we manage to brake just in time. It wasn’t all that comprehensible but it had something to do with smashing and breaking.
High time to leave! We swing out of the queue of traffic and turn left, admittedly illegally, into the next alley looking for an alternative route through the back streets. So, we reach a decision: Let’s leave the town and its filthy mood behind (not yet knowing that we would pay a heavy price for this escape maneuver. Someone has reported me and I receive a payment request from the state).
Looking for relaxation.
Time to get going. Quickly pack a few things for two nights but, unfortunately, the laptop has to come too as the next copy deadline is looming. Off towards the forest or, more specifically, the Waldviertel – experience says it’s usually cooler there. If not, then at least it’s the forest and therefore much more shady – and barely a hundred kilometers from Vienna.
This time, to really be on the safe side, we leave at 5 a.m. The Duchess and I whisper away from the sea of houses (not difficult with the standard exhaust system), just as well, because nearly all the windows are open.
Riding the freeway towards Krems is boring but the road over the Riederbeg (which is virtually empty) is a good warm-up. Driving over the Tullnerfeld is equally dull but we are quickly through it and on towards Wagram, still along the edge of the forest and through vineyards.
First stop is Langenlois and the laptop is still in my room with my luggage. Our first visit is to the Senftenberg ruins where we contemplate the length of the Krems valley, enjoy the fresh air and the gentle breeze and listen to the cicadas as they go to bed … until the first bus load of tourists has climbed the hill to the castle.
Then, it is just a short hop back to Langenlois and this is immediately followed by a first dip in the pool. Swapping between this and assiduous bouts of writing in my cool room fills the rest of the morning. The afternoon is artificially cool: a visit to the wine cellar is on the agenda. This includes an entertaining show, a demonstration of how to make wine. A wonderful production which has a lot to do with water, but that is not to say that the wine at the Loisium was watered!
We are off to the forest.
How do you combine work and relaxation? Either not at all or through good timing. With this in mind, we leave Langenlois bright and early again. Breakfast was, as usual, coffee with more coffee. Our objective for today is the Oberranna castle, a few kilometers from Spitz an der Donau, which we should be able to reach in half an hour or so. For now, relaxation does not necessarily mean staying still which is why I indulged the Duchess and myself in a few relaxing detours through the cool forest. There are any number of roads and lanes between Krems and Weinzierl running through coniferous and deciduous woodland on the way to our destination. That suits my guest from Mattighofen; she is not panting any more, but purring. So I find her a parking space in front of the castle which will definitely stay in the shade while I settle down on the terrace with my laptop. I’m in the shade, under a parasol with a view to the Spitzer Graben. Sheep are grazing along the edge of the forest on the slope opposite. One of them bleats now and then but the only other sound is birdsong. There are only a few guests during the whole morning and only those who are obviously looking for some peace and quiet.
The morning and lunchtime fly by. The challenge is not just to produce the required copy as far as it is possible but also to keep an eye on the laptop’s battery. It lasts a surprisingly long time – eight hours before it needs charging. So, late in the afternoon, I find a socket and then while away the time before dinner with a trip up the Jauerling. It’s really cool up there, not just in the forest, which the Duchess and I welcome with open arms.
We make our descent.
On some days, the Danube is not as blue as the waltzes would have you believe. When it is hot and the sky is hazy from the heat, it is a greyish-brown and a sort of green. The cool waters of the lake by Danube at Weitenegg are really green, reflecting the forest on the banks of the river. Here, there are quiet spots where, should you wish to, it is possible to take a short stroll or borrow a boat to head for the opposite bank through fish, ducks and swans to set up an al fresco office. I stay there, diving into the cool water now and then, until the battery is drained again and the sun is preparing to set. Unfortunately, it is time to return to the city once again. Still, the most important stories have been written.
Photos: Veronika Hiller-Asso, Beatrix Keckeis-Hiller, Seppi Linsbichler