Skating the Danube

A clear and freezing day opens a new world on the river

Alte Donau

The Alte Donau today the Donaucity rising behind the frozen waters | Photos: S. Simlinger

We went skating today for the first time this winter and it couldn’t have been more perfect. In spite of the traditional warnings on the wien.at website that skating on the Alte Donau is at one’s own risk, off we went to the Gänsehäufel. There we found what I, as a native New Englander, wait for, rejoice in, and never take for granted—black ice. Indeed, it was the most beautiful ice I have ever had the pleasure of skating on. First of all, it was the smoothest (almost flawless, I’ve never seen anything quite like it) and, secondly, it was truly beautiful to look at. In many places, delicate fronds of water plants were eerily suspended below the icy windowpane of the winter water.

On top of that, the weather was perfect. Four layers of clothing proved almost too much, given the wonderful conditions of bright sunshine. It’s also amazing how far you can skate, and want to skate, when there is no wind. We went around the island twice and took excursions into various branches of the Danube before heading back to the U1, our stinging feet reminding us that we hadn’t been out yet this year to toughen them up.

We were not alone in our rounds. From the elderly relying on Nordic walking sticks for balance to infants being towed on sleds, all age groups were represented as well as some other species. Dogs and swans were particularly noticeable. All were left in peace to enjoy their time on the river.

It’s too much to hope that the ice will last long. Warmer temperatures are already being forecast for next week. Then we’ll have to fall back on the Eislaufverein or rink—granted, pretty fabulous with the ice paths through the park—in front of the City Hall. But, for now, I’m going to hang on to the fact that we were able to have such a day.

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