I started out from Donaueschingen on a bike and rode about 60 kilometers a day in sweltering heat, periodically jumping in the river to cool off. I stayed in Beuron (a pretty mountain village) and Riedlingen.
This boy followed me for a couple of kilometers and happily gave me an interview when I finally saw he was still keeping up. At this point in Germany the river has no boat traffic and just as you think it is wide and deep enough it is dammed up and what comes out on the other end of the dam is usually a trickle.
After three days of riding I arrive at Ulm, a pretty medieval town with painted buildings.
This building represents a famous Ulm box – a boat in which merchants in the middle ages traveled as far downriver as Belgrade. Later, impoverished Schwabisch peasants traveled down the Danube to populate parts of Hungary and Ukraine.
At Passau the Danube is joined by the Inn and the Ilz. This summer Passau had a record flood as a result of the rivers swelling from heavy rains. The top of the brown band on this former armory tower is how far the Inn flooded the city after traveling from the Austrian Alps. Finally traveling by boat I leave Passau at the confluence of the three rivers.
In Austria the river traffic is filled with barges and cruise ships.
We continually see castles and encounter the first locks.
Arriving in Linz (where Hitler spent his childhood and intended to retire) I am taken by how diverse the population is. People of every ethnicity hang out together less than 70 years since the fall of the Nazi regime
We come to Mauthausen - a picturesque Austrian village on the Danube that housed the Nazi Labor camp where Russian POW's, Jews, Roma and other enemies of the Nazi state quarried granite.
Having traveled almost half the river length I arrive in Vienna at the end of the German-speaking world where I see the first Soviet built hydrofoil from Bratislava, Slovakia.
Vienna is at once imperial and radical with classical Austro-Hungarian Empire buildings lining the Danube canal while great graffiti covers it’s walls.
An hour from Vienna on the hydrofoil and I'm finally in the Slavic world – Bratislava, Slovakia. I hear the language and it sounds like Russian, but I can't quite understand it. Still, sounds familiar.
This sign in Czech is written on the bridge in Bratislava.
A loose translation is: Much more than my verse you are reading, but a mirror which inspects all.
I met this art student/street artist spraying stencils for tourists in old town Bratislava. His friend who was taking pictures of him was happy to do an interview for me in Slovak.
On to Budapest, Hungary. The city is an exotic mix of Post-Communist abandonment and squalor and incredible Habsburg architecture that screams of well healed imperial power and dominance.
This man, Miklos gave me a Hungarian history and language lesson along with an interview. He is one of the founders of the language school - Fungarian.
The Hungarians managed to hold on to their language after coming from the Ural Mountain region of present day Russia and settling in modern day Hungary in the 10th century. It is a beautiful sing song language that no one in Europe can understand because it has neither latin nor slavic routes.
Agglutination - a kind of gluing words to one another to form new words makes some Hungarian words more like whole English sentences.
Mobil+oz+tram means I called some people on my mobile phone.
I am off to Belgrade on the train and visiting Vukovar in Croatia after that before going to Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine.