Let’s go for a 59 kilometres walk – and be prepared for what comes at the end!
From Vienna to Bratislava. By foot. Within one day. When my friend Julia came up with the plan of mastering this distance in just 24 hours I was immediately on board. This idea sounded crazy enough to make it happen. 59km by foot – oh boy, that was going to be an adventure.
The early bird catches the worm – that’s what we thought when we started our walk at 7am. at the Danube in Vienna. Without any further hesitation we started marching through the woods and soon reached Großenzersdorf, where we allowed ourselves to take the first break to eat as we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. However, we wouldn’t pause for long. Soon we started over again as we only had conquered a few kilometres so far. It was still early in the morning when we reached the Lobau, which is a beautiful nature reserve right at the Danube. Having my camera always with me I quickly snapped some pictures to keep some memories of this adventure. The sun had already risen and the water was glittering in the light of the early morning.
It was getting warmer as we kept walking, but luckily the next part of our way led us through the woods, so we didn’t have to burn in the sun. We came across a dam where we wanted to take a shortcut to leave out a few kilometres as we were eager to get to Bratislava in time. Our feet already started to hurt a bit, the first signs of blisters appeared – even though we were wearing sports shoes! Marching for such a long time had left its marks. We continued our walk anyways, trying to ignore our feet as best as we could as we could already see the end of the dam.
– Look, we almost did it! The shortcut was definitely worth the way!
Or that’s what we thought. Our “shortcut”, however, turned out to end at a river just a bit too big to cross. We either had the choice to get down in the water and try to reach the other side – risking to end up completely wet as we couldn’t see how deep the water was – or to walk all the way back. We were thinking for a while, trying to find a way over there to avoid the extra way. But we had no choice – in the end we accepted the fact we just walked a lot of kilometres for nothing. Complaining about google maps which didn’t show us the river in the way we kept on walking as fast as we could. Our “shortcut” had made us lose a lot of time.
It was already midday and we still had a long way to go so we decided it was time for a break, sat down on the side of a forest road and had a little picknick. While eating, a tractor passed our way – with the guys in there turning their heads in disbelieve of us two girls sitting in the middle of nowhere, enjoying their lunch like it was the most normal place to do so ever. The food literally made us so happy, you won’t believe it.
Afterwards, we couldn’t keep up with our fast pace before the break, so we slowed down considerably, but kept on walking nevertheless. Sometimes other people crossed our path, but most of the times we were alone. Then we reached another dam – the dam of horror as we have feared in secret. 9 kilometres long and all out in the sun. No shadows to hide – we knew that dam would take up all our energy. We should be right. Damm that dam! Taking pauses more often now we even started to sacrifice our motivation dates we had brought with us to eat in worst case. Now it was about time. Our backpacks were getting heavier and heavier, our feet covered in blisters hurt like crazy and the sun was burning mercilessly from the sky. We slowed down even more, hobbling along the way like two old ladies who couldn’t walk properly anymore. Well, after all of that we certainly couldn’t. 45 kilometres we already had mastered, but it was still a long way to go. 14 kilometres left. It would have been impossible to reach Bratislava within time as it was already getting late. We were debating about what to do. On the one hand we really wanted to master our challenge, on the other hand we knew we couldn’t reach Bratislava today anymore. So we finally decided to take a bus from a village 2 kilometres farther – the best idea we ever had. It was already 8pm. and we were at 47 of 59 kilometres.
When we finally reached the village, Heinburg, we took the next bus that came along. We were so happy to sit for a while, we didn’t even want to get up anymore. From the bus stop we got to Bratislava easily. It was already 9pm and we still had to find the couch surfer we were staying with. This was the last distance we had to walk by foot. Walking through Bratislava during the night we couldn’t even appreciate the beauty of the city as we were too focused on our hurting feet and just wanted to sleep as soon as possible. Luckily it wasn’t hard to find our couch surfer. Finally there, we were warmly welcomed with a hug – we really needed to be hugged after this energy-sapping march.
A minimalistic lifestyle
The apartment of our couch surfer was way different from what we expected – he was living a completely different lifestyle. That he was vegan – like us – we knew beforehand, but he was also living a very minimalistic life, including trying to save as much water as possible. That he did by flushing the toilet with the water he used for showering – and while we lived there we did so as well, of course. Every time we showered we had to close the cork of the bathtub to collect the water. After being done we had to take as much water as we could out of the bathtub with a barrel and then used it whenever doing some bigger business on the toilet.
Our host was a dumpster diver as well – which essentially means he took some of the food big supermarkets throw away every day out of the trash for himself to eat. Dumpster diving is not very common in Bratislava, so it’s not even illegal there he told us – in many other countries, however, it is. Too much food ends up in the trash every day even though it’s perfectly fine – like everything he had in his pantry! So we could thrive on a lot of delicious food, that was completely free as well! Fruit and vegetables, but also perfectly fine bread and pastries. The pastries weren’t vegan, but as this was rescued food which would just have ended up in the trash anyways, we all felt fine to eat it.
To this day I am fascinated by this man, doing that much effort to keep his impact on our planet as little as possible. This lifestyle might not be for everyone, but there are certain habits everybody could adopt as well.
The next day, it was finally time to discover the city. Julia had messaged with another guy on couch surfing as well, who couldn’t host us but was willing to meet up. So we went around the city a bit, then met up at the main place. First, we had trouble to find him, but eventually we got there. He was already waiting for us with a few friends that came along and we ended up as a really big group. Miguel, so his name, who wasn’t even from Bratislava himself, but from Spain, brought along his friend, a French a guy who brought another French guy. Then he invited another girl from Austria to join the tour who came along with two Portuguese guys. Got lost there? I don’t blame you. In short, a Spanish guy showed a very international and mixed group around in Bratislava.
First, we went up to the castle to enjoy the view from above. You can watch over the whole city, spotting the bridge of Bratislava with a restaurant on top that seems like an UFO hovering over the Danube. We also walked through the beautiful garden of the castle, where everything already started to blossom. The conversation was always flowing the group got along nicely. Miguel not being born there did a good job keeping us entertained (maybe not as much as he did as a tour guide be we forgave him). After walking around for a little bit, everybody was getting hungry. Julia and I still had to go home as we promised our host to be there. So the group split, but we would be reunited not much later.
In the evening we went out to grab a beer – and it shouldn’t just stay at one. The conversation ranged from selling organs to all crazy kind of ideas and we were having the best time. Exchanging a bit of cultural differences, I even tried to speak French to the French guys – but didn’t really succeed though. Granted, that was before I lived in France for 5 months – now a conversation would run smoothly. Anyways, we were having fun, in English or in French or even Spanish – it didn’t really matter.
After a few bars we wanted to go to a party taking place on a boat, so we went to the haven. It was already late, dark, and no one was there except us – a drunk, loud, multicultural group of eight. As we were walking down alongside the water the guys started to make jokes about killing us here and selling our organs, because no one would notice anyways – yes, our conversation escalated quickly. When we reached the boat not much was going on there were just a few people on the boat and no one really was into the music playing.
So we left and went to another famous club in the city centre. That one was fun – good music and we stayed to dance for quite a while. In the end the group was slowly but surely getting smaller, people were already leaving. One of the Portuguese guys got so drunk he couldn’t even walk home so we ended up getting him to a taxi to get him to his hostel – we were sure he wouldn’t have found his way without us. It was already early in the morning, Julia and I could even witness the sunrise, the old town of Bratislava appearing in a beautiful morning glow. Then we had to sleep a bit and soon it was time to leave for going back home again!
A very short, but very fun trip came to an end. Actually, we had planned to walk all the way back to Vienna as well – but as our feet were still not over the torture we had put them through 2 days before we decided to go by bus – a very smart idea. On our way to the bus station I took some last pictures and we wished the city goodbye. Crossing the Danube, I got a last photo of the castle of Bratislava as a souvenir. It was time to go home. Pomaly ale isto – slowly but surely, as I learned in Slovakian the night before.