The Journey – Day 60 ’till 65

Three days travel on the Herbert brought me to Linz. I had a stopover at Obermuhl, a truly beautiful village at the confluence of a small river that comes down through the Austrian mountains to join the Danube.  The small marina, centre of the tiny village is surrounded by wooded hills cut by the Danube as it twists its way through the rock formations forming loops than almost form islands.  The village is located at the end of the most famous loop called Schlogener Schlinge.

There is a quay where the Herbert was able to tie up and spend the night.  I organised the delivery of the motorhome as set about organising my evening.  I spoke to the owners of the hotel and bar, explained what I was doing by showing the website.  They saw photos of me playing guitar and invited me to play a few songs on the terrace.  During the evening I joined a group of bikers who were saying at the hotel.  The evening ended in a cloud of schnapps.

The next morning, I was up early to benefit from the peace of the valley and spend a quiet half hour watching the sun come up over the hills and illuminate the trees on the opposite bank of the Danube before the crew were ready to set off for Linz to pick up a cargo to return back to Germany.

Passing through countryside people pay to see from the many river cruisers, the ship navigated two locks and, at 17km per hour passed through the centre of the city of Linz in a wide loop with the mountains falling away on both sides of the river providing space for a city to be built.

Klaus and his wife had been fantastic hosts during the time I was with them, they opened their home to me and kept me in coffee and conversation as best they could with our limited language skills.  Karol the sailor came and gave me his email address to be sure to keep in contact.  All too soon Klaus brought the ship 180° in an on one spot turn, headed into the flow of the river whilst Karol brought the Banana from the stern.

In the fast moving waters, we threw my bags and computer case, clothes bags and hand cameras, plus the oars all onto the ‘deck’ of the Banana.  The impact of one of the oars sent the other over the side and into the river.  It drifted away towards the bank, and I thought it would be lost.  I jumped onto the Banana making sure that as my impact launched everything into the air my body covered their flight towards the water.  The rope was thrown at me and I was adrift in the Danube, one oar gone and lying in a tangle of ropes and video equipment.  I kneeled up and used my one oar to steer slowly towards the other drifting away almost as fast as I could go.  With the second oar on board I paddled ashore as quickly as possible, scrambled onto the rocks of the bank and filmed the Herbert’s departure.

I was about 150m from a small marina, just upstream.  It took nearly an hour to pull the Banana along to the entrance, every step there were snagged ropes to free and holes in the bank to fall down.  I made it to the side of a small jetty and pulled the Banana up the bank, tied it securely to a steel post, wiped the sweat out of my eyes to see a group of people sitting under a shelter watching my arrival with intense interest.  I walked over to introduce myself and was offered a beer immediately, ice cold and very welcome.   I had arrived in Linz.

Whilst waiting for the motorhome I was invited to a double birthday party at the marina the following Saturday and was also given permission to leave the Banana where it was until I found a boat to move on to the next stage of the journey.  The motorhome arrived and I set off for the Zum Schwartzen Bearen hotel, in the heart of Linz.

I have not mentioned the foul cold and sore throat I was suffering from through the journey on the Herbert and arrival at Linz.  It was a perfectly normal cold with all the usual sweats, goo, aches and pains associated with the virus that serves no purpose on the planet whatsoever.

Hotel was paid for by the city, including parking and breakfast.  I felt I should spring into immediately into action and get out and about to film and explore.  The goo in my head and the hot bath I had, plus being exhausted by the journey with the Banana helped me decide to just get some sleep.

The following morning, Monday 30th May, I had an excellent breakfast (including orange juice from a machine that squeezed the fruit for you at a press of a button).  Back in my room I had no energy or ability to think.  The cold was giving its best and obliterated my attempts to organise my video files or write anything.  I got myself together by lunchtime and set off to explore the city.

I had been given a city pass to all the major tourist attractions, including public transport.  I left the motorhome at the hotel and set off on foot.  Most of the attractions are closed on Monday, and as I wanted to get a feel for the city a did not use the public transport.  I found my way to the ARS Electronica Center, on the rive gauche of the city.  Filming on the way and avoiding getting run over by the trams I went to a bar next to the center where I met Chris, who is marketing manager for the laboratory of the future, a part of the whole complex.

We had a chat on camera and after explaining he organises displays of 100 drones flying together making a sound and light show, he took me into the ARS Center which was closed to the public on Mondays.  I filmed the exhibits and ran into Andrea who works part time there.  She showed me around and we got on really well.  We went for coffee afterwards and she invited me to go and see her art exhibition and afterwards to go to her home in the mountains.  Whilst having coffee, on the restaurant ship Florentine, the barmaid was curious why I was filming, and after explaining she invited me for the following evening to make a presentation of the voyage to a cinema group that meets on the ship Eleanor, which is home to resident artists who stay for various periods of time.  I had no idea how it all works but agreed to go anyway.

I said good bye to Andrea and set off to explore the city once again.  I filmed various encounters with locals and samples a few beers in the interest of being polite to the citizens of Linz.  Back to the hotel for a chill out and recover from the effort I had made to get out and about.

Next morning, Tuesday, started a round of visits to the various attractions around Linz.  The day just disappeared into filming and recording aspects of the culture and facilities of the town.  I went back to the marina to see if all was well.  I had a coffee with the woman who seems to run the place, although she said that it is only a hobby for her.  I eventually found a good place to park the motorhome and around midnight I finally went to bed.

The days in Linz were full of encounters and chance meeting that led to other meetings and so on; I had made arrangements to meet with Elizabeth Stephan from the tourist board, but the meeting was cancelled several times; we eventually met of Friday afternoon.

Thursday 2nd May I went to the ARS centre again, mainly because on the way back to the motorhome I escaped from a heavy down pour of stormy rain.  I walked in and met the lady who was there on my first visit.  She said one of the exhibits of 8K was just starting and would I like to have a look.  On the way across the foyer I met andrea and she invited me to join her in the show then go and see her gallery later.  In the theatre I found myself sitting next to the Mayor of Linz, so I asked him to do an interview after the film show which he agreed to.

The 20 minute drive between Linz and the gallery were much longer with the slow progress of the motorhome.  The pictures were interesting, colourful and the sort of thing you would see in a dentists or public building; that is to say they were pleasing, well done and unusual.  I filmed the gallery and we went on to a church on a hill overlooking the mountains towards the Chez Republic.  Andrea said she liked to visit a town just over the boarder so I thought it would be good to go as I have never been to that country.

After a short visit to her lovely home we set off in her car to cross the border, arriving in the dark.  I tried to film the cluster of establishments around the church on the main square catering for the men of the region, tried to get a coffee in a café resteraunt but couldn’t because it was just about to close.  Back to Andreas house and a glass of wine in a bar in her village on the way.  Next morning she was gone and I made the journey back to Linz, filming the countryside on the way?

Friday 3rd May  I had arranged to meet several people and go to the ship ‘Eleanor’ for the evening.  I had a text from Elizabeth making our meeting later in the day so I spent the time going around the angel exhibition.  This provided a chance for filming from the roof tops and getting a superb view of the city for background shots.  I also went to the Haribo superstore and was shown around, and ended up with a complimentary bucket of sweets and a bucket of packets of sweets to give away on my travels.  Back to the city centre just in time for the rendezvous and met her outside the tourist office.  We had a good two hours of information and plenty of jokes between us as we filmed around the old quarter.

Friday night in Linz is very active as people take advantage of the bars and waterfront walks.  The ships coming and going, the party ships and the general sense of movement of young people made an almost holiday atmosphere.  I flew the drone, or tried to, from the roof of the ARS building.  The radio interference was too much and I moved to the land next to the car parks.  There was still a lot of problems and the drone eventually flew but the gyros were not working and the aircraft did not stabilise and when I brought it to a halt it continued on its own.  It flew without instructions away from me over the river.  The control turned the drone but it would not stop.

I flew it in descending steps turning it to bring it back towards me, but it tended to drift away.  I quickly learned what it would respond to and worked with that, bringing it down to the ground perfectly for a good landing, followed by a crash as only half the motors shut down on instructions.  No damage done, but I had a raised heart beat and tingles down my spine.

I went to the ‘Eleanor’ and was greeted immediately with offers of drinks and food.  The video and film club had gathered, all four of them so I connected my computer and showed them uncut videos of radom meetings and explained the voyage.  Afterwards we sat on deck and drank wine, sitting in the light of candles.  My host made some veg soup which was really tasty.  I finished the evening in the motorhome on a grass bank next to the river bank.  Had I known I might have camped higher up away from the river.  I later learned people had drowned in floods in Passau, just over the border from where I was.

Fortunately for me the locks and dam systems controlled the problem for the Austrians and the was only a rise in river levels and noticeably more trees and branches floating in the flow.

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