“Even as boys we used to hop on a zille, float down the Danube, fish a little. We spent countless days – and sometimes even nights – out on the water.”
Michael Reichl and Gerald Geith have known each other since childhood. Having grown up in Wösendorf in the heart of the Wachau, the two still share the same passion they did back then: fishing. They were drawn daily to the Danube, pole and tackle box in hand, and spent hours and hours on the river. It is no surprise then that after years of scrimping and saving, they purchased their first wooden zille, the classic boat in Danube shipping. Michi Reichl: “On this traditional flat-bottomed boat, we drifted down the river, fished and spent countless days and nights out on the water.” As a young man, he ventured out into the big wide world. He took off, bag and baggage, for Vienna to study at the university and after that, worked in Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Despite all this – or because of it – he was ultimately drawn back to his home turf once again. “Oftentimes you can only appreciate a place if you have lived elsewhere. Every time I make my way down to the Danube at dusk and see the sunset reflected in the water, I get goosebumps. It gives me so incredibly much.” One day, the two men realized they no longer wanted to keep moments like these to themselves but share them with others instead. After months of bureaucratic red tape, the time finally came: They launched a passenger ship business with the German name “Ahoi Wachau!” With their two wooden zillen, the two men provide “decelerating” tours along the Danube between the towns of Spitz and Dürnstein, exploring the landscape of the Ur-Wachau, the original Wachau.
“We just take time, plenty of time. We want our guests to get a real feel for the Wachau.”
The River Dictates the Timetable
Heading downstream, no throngs of people, no time pressure, no traffic congestion. Riding in a boat on the Danube, you see this much photographed and beloved landscape from a completely different perspective. Michael and Gerald tell you stories from the region while serving you Wachau wine. “We take plenty of time and want our guests to get a real feel for the Wachau, far from the mad rush and vacation stress. We are intent on preserving the culture of river navigation and tell stories that come from this area.” Michael is confident that the river tours they offer strike a good balance between modern and traditional. “Of course, we could grow the company, hire employees and earn more money. But it is important to treat nature and the ecosystem with respect. It is a balancing act. And we want to remain authentic.”
Living with Water, the Element of Life
It has now been three years since the two started taking their guests on zillen through the Ur-Wachau. Every ride is a highlight. “The Danube is ever-changing. Sometimes it is calm and tame, other times wild and rough. The river gives and it takes, just like life does.” Drift along, let go, relax, that is what these tours are all about. “So many vacationers arrive in the Wachau totally stressed out, park their car in a lot, run through the town, stop at the next best heuriger wine tavern, make a brief detour into a souvenir shop and then drive off again. But we have so much more here: tiny unknown villages, hiking trails with stunning views, and a host of undiscovered spots you can explore on foot, by bicycle or as in our case, from a boat. Another aspect equally important to us is to show a different side of the Wachau for a change.” These two river people are absolutely certain about one thing: “A sunset along the Danube with a glass of wine in hand surrounded by this unbelievable countryside – life does not get any better than that.”