Around the World on a Bicycle

In 1884, the 29 year old Thomas Stevens set out from San Fransisco on the 'modern mechanical invention' of the Penny Farthing to circumnavigate the globe on his 'big wheel'. His book - "Around the World on a Bicycle" - was published in 1888 and his writings are presented here in blog form. Read more in the archive.

Into Austria

All down the Inn River Valley, there is many a picturesque bit of intermingled pine-copse and grassy slopes; but admiring scenery is anything but a riskless undertaking along here, as I quickly discover. On the Inn River I find a primitive ferry-boat operated by a, fac-simile of the Ancient Mariner, who takes me and my wheel across for the consideration of five pfennigs - a trifle over one cent - and when I refuse the tiny change out of a ten-pfennig piece the old fellow touches his cap as deferentially, and favors me with a look of gratitude as profound, as though I were bestowing a pension upon him for life. My arrival at a broad, well-travelled high-way at once convinces me that I have again been unwittingly wandering among the comparatively untravelled by-ways as the result of following the kindly meant advice of people whose knowledge of bicycling requirements is of the slimmest nature. The Inn River a warm, rich vale; haymaking is already in full progress, and delightful perfume is wafted on the fresh morning air from aclows where scores of barefooted Maud Mullers are raking hay, and mowing it too, swinging scythes side by side with the men.

Some of the out-door crucifixes and shrines (small, substantial buildings containing pictures, images, and all sorts of religious -emblems) along this valley are really quite elaborate affairs. All through Roman Catholic Germany these emblems of religion are very elaborate, or the reverse, according to the locality, the chosen spot in rich and fertile valleys generally being favored with better and more artistic affairs, and more of them, than the comparatively unproductive uplands. This is evidently because the inhabitants of the latter regions are either less wealthy, and consequently cannot afford it, or otherwise realize that they have really much less to be thankful for than their comparatively fortunate neighbors in the more productive valleys.

At the town of Simbach I cross the Inn River again on a substantial wooden bridge, and on the opposite side pass under an old stone archway bearing the Austrian coat-of-arms. Here I am conducted into the custom-house by an officer wearing the sombre uniform of Franz Josef, and required, for the first time in Europe, to produce my passport. After a critical and unnecessarily long examination of this document I am graciously permitted to depart. In an adjacent money-changer's office I exchange what German money I have remaining for the paper currency of Austria, and once more pursue my way toward the Orient, finding the roads rather better than the average German ones, the Austrians, hereabouts at least, having had the goodness to omit the loose flints so characteristic of Bavaria. Once out of the valley of the Inn River, however, I find the uplands intervening between it and the valley of the Danube aggravatingly hilly.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 28th May 1885 (14:00 +0200) | Add a comment | Permalink

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