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Wending its way from the German borderlands to Austria’s imperial Vienna, the Danube cycle path rides in tandem with Europe’s most majestic river past medieval towns, revered vineyards and Baroque palaces

Going with the flow


The sun sets on the Danube as it bends around the tiny village of Au, close to Austria’s border with Germany

The blue highway

There’s a lovely long view of the Danube to be had from up near the old bishop’s palace on the wooded heights above Passau, especially during that golden hour just after sunrise. It’s all there in perfect trompe-l’œil: the river all a-shimmer as it wends its way past the town, and the spires of Dom St Stephan, in miniature down below, glinting in the first rays of sun. Add a vignette of leaves and a cast of soft light, and it’s easy to imagine yourself looking at a travel poster from the 1920s, one that makes you wish you’d been born a century earlier, rich and unencumbered, and able to trot the globe in the days when the world was wide and the going was good.

The Lower Bavarian town of Passau’s skyline is dominated by the green-domed Dom St Stephan, which houses the largest cathedral organ in the world

For more than 2,000 years the Danube has fired the imaginations of travellers. It is Europe’s highway to the east, the grand blue road of kings and emperors, traders and troubadours, pilgrims and poets, adventurers and dreamers. Empires rose and fell along its length. It is Europe’s second-longest river, behind Russia’s Volga, which seems too far away to count. In the course of its 1,785-mile journey from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in Romania, the Danube passes through, or abuts, 10 sovereign nations and four capital cities. But it is here in the Bavarian town of Passau, on the Austrian border, that the river acquires its stateliness. Here is where the immature Danube is joined by the rivers Inn and Ilz to become the majestic Danube that Strauss had in mind when he wrote his famous waltz.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - March 2015
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