Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Deggendorf to Aschach

11 August 2010

Tues 10 August

Pension Pielmeier was pretty good but we had to mark it down because of the breakfast which included kraft singles-style cheese slices. You expect that in Australia but in Germany it’s not really good enough. Tough, yes but we need to be if we’re to retain the trust of our readers.

There is a lot of water in the Donau. After leaving Deggendorf we encountered a number of ‘hochwasser’ signs (high water), where water was over the path. Some of these we ignored, resulting in wet socks and shoes. Some we could not ignore. We had one detour along the edge of a muddy field and another along the road.

Arrived in Passau in time for morning tea before attending the organ recital in St Stephens Church (Bach, Tartini, Flor Peeters, Schutze). This church is thoroughly decorated in the rococo style with a high cherub count. This style is growing on me – I think it could inspire the next kitchen renovation.

Passau cathedral organ

The Inn River enters the Donau at Passau adding more water to the torrent. The river flows through a forested gorge from Passau to Aschach making this a spectacular section of the route, especially at Schlogen where there is a big bend. There are gasthofs, restaurants, pensions and all kinds of facilities for the hundreds of cyclists. But the route is not overcrowded. We have seen people of all ages, including small children, cycling the radweg. Child trailers are common – one carried a dalmatian!

We have noticed the beautiful palette of pastel colours of buildings in the towns we pass through and believe that this must be the result of some kind of regulation. It seems unlikely that it could occur by chance. Does anyone know if that’s true?

As we dined by the river in the evening a man walked by with a falcon on his gauntleted arm!

Bicycle route:
Regensburg to Deggendorf to Aschach

Moving forward

11 August 2010

Monday 9 August
I know this is Julia’s slogan but it means a lot to all Australians, including us. We need to move forward at a rather cracking pace now. We have spent a lot of time visiting friends and this has been really wonderful (3 Ukuleles on our recently devised Bikelele rating system, similar to the familiar but soon to be outmoded Michelin rating). We have now pretty much run out of friends, unless we can make some new ones. Fabian was an excellent host in every way and his parents were welcoming and hospitable.

Now we are on our own with the most challenging part of the trip ahead.

We took a train from Kaufbeuren to Regensburg, a magnificent old city on the Donau. There is too much historical information to take in, so we have a nibble rather than a full meal. We visited the cathedral, then just wandered around the narrow streets and found our way to the river. The water levels are high due to rain and floods to the north and the river is muddy and fast flowing.

The radweg (bike path) is mostly flat, so we covered a good distance despite starting after midday. Notable sights include: Wahalla; cornfields; gold Jesus on the cross on a church; many cyclists travelling in both directions; the beautiful towns of Straubing where we had lunch and Deggendorf where we are staying in small pension overlooking the river.

Bicycle route:
Regensburg to Deggendorf

The Allgau

11 August 2010

We stayed in hotel horen in Kaufbeuren because Fabian’s house was full of guests already. The town was very quiet on Sunday morning. We walked around the old town and then joined fabian’s family for second breakfast. Our regional tour for the day began with a visit to the Wieskirche, a famous church decorated in the rococo style with painted ceiling, lots of gold and more cherubs than it was possible to count. There were a lot of tourists there and several restaurants but Schloss Neuschwanstein is the clear winner based on the traffic jam as an indicator. Inside the Wieskirche, an orchestra and choir were rehearsing for a performance that afternoon of Gounod’s Mass for St Cecilia so we stayed to listen for awhile, then had coffee and wieskucherl, a flattish doughnut (research purposes only). A thunderstorm and torrential downpour followed. We ended up in the Schloss traffic jam but fabian can do creative route finding in these situations.

One of our goals was to find some proper bavarian stinky cheese. We stopped at a rather touristy cheese shop and factory and bought 3 varieties. Our final stop was at the premises of Herr Zxxxxx, a place known only to certain bavarians. Its precise location will not be revealed in case someone from the Lonely Planet guide is reading this. It’s an old farm house in a village and everything on the menu is really bavarian and quite cheap. We ordered sauerkase – a piece of stinky cheese served with thin onion slices and vinegar. Also beer, sausage and bread. This was a pre-dinner snack. Fabian declared the cheese to be not stinky enough. We all had some. It was memorable.

Stinky cheese

For dinner back in Kaufbeuren, Fabian and his girlfriend, Irem, made knudeln (dumplings made of cold cooked potato and flour with a crunchy crouton in the middle); bratwurst; gravy with mushrooms; potato salad; cheese; cherry torte with cream.

Kaufbeuren

7 August 2010

We have made a trip to Kaufbeuren to spend a couple of days with Fabian and his family. This was achieved by a train journey from Ulm with two changes. The train was a regional train, cheap, no reservations needed, but it filled quickly with hiking groups and cyclists heading out of town for weekend activities. The second leg was hilarious as the bike carriage was filled to capacity and the refreshments lady couldn’t get through. She insisted on a reorganisation of the carriage, which initially appeared impossible, but was achieved with good spirits and the help of a few people. There still wasn’t enough room for the refreshments cart to fit through but all felt better for the effort expended and the neatness that resulted.

We had second breakfast with Fabian’s parents, Margaret and Karl and their house guests, then took a walk around the old town of Kaufbeuren with Fabian as our guide. Then we set off for a car tour of the region. First site of historic interest was Marktoberdorf school which Paul attended in 2004-5 on his exchange to Germany. Fabian told us the story of why he went to this school instead of the local Kaufbeuren school: he heard from his older brother that the Marktoberdorf  school had a tea and ice tea machine and he was so thrilled by this prospect that he begged his parents and even cried to be allowed to go there. All because of the ice tea!! But is was quite a good school as well.

As we came closer the the alps the weather began to improve. We haughtily dismissed the hoardes of tourists who were in traffic jams and long queues to visit Schloss Neuschwanstein (the famous castle of mad King Ludwig) and we just glanced at it as we went past. Our better idea was to go in the cable car to Tegelberg at 1720m and admire the view from there. At the top we watched hang gliders and paragliders launching and walked up the steep path to the Branderschrofen at 1879 m with a large cross on the summit. By now the sun was out and the view in all directions magnificent. Fabian’s moccasins got him up but his trousers were not really designed for this type of activity and they let him down by ripping apart. He coped pretty well with these adversities.

We descended after sufficient admiration of views had been done. Looking up to Tegelberg the paragliders looked like a swarm of colourful flies. We drove on to a small brewery in the village of Speiden that makes the best beer in Bavaria (Mariahilfer), so we sampled the beer and also had some brezeln and Rettichsalat, a Bavarian salad made from a long white radish that is shaved into a thin spiral with a special Bavarian radish shaving machine.

Quite a lot of Bavarians choose to wear lederhosen when they’re out walking (which inevitably means eating and drinking too) although this gentleman was not really dressed or speaking in true Bavarian style. Not many dirndl dresses!

We had a few detours on the way home because the Bavarians do road works in August and close off lots of roads. It has been statistically proven that this is the best time to do the repairs and the Bavarians love statistics and act accordingly.

A day in Ulm

7 August 2010

A drizzly grey German summer day, perfect for a sleep in and a slow start to the day. We found tourist information in English and started by visiting the Munster where we were in time for an organ recital that comprised an eclectic program with a couple of show tunes and a piece that sounded as though it was inspired by the Harry Potter film music. The Munster is quite amazing. I really don’t know how they did all that stone sculpting and wood carving but they did a good job. We looked at the Man of Sorrow, a wooden Jesus on the cross, apparently renowned for its expression that reached new levels in this work.

Grotesque on Ulm Munster

Next stop was Ulm Public Library, a new glass pyramid building in the town centre. We went to the top and sat with newspapers and coffee, looking across to the Munster and watching the rain. After completing this activity, an ascent of the Munster Tower was done. This is quite a climb and gets more interesting as you get higher as the spire is pretty transparent. They have thoughtfully added steel railings at the top. Despite the weather, the view was good.

Other Ulm sights: the old fishermen’s village; city walls; Donau in spate, flowing fast and muddy brown; old moat houses; Museum of Bread Culture (you can give this a miss if you’re in Ulm); action research to test quality of cakes (don’t miss this – more data always needed).

Day trip to Munich

5 August 2010

We cycled to Ulm Hauptbahnhof early to get an express train to Munich. We had a slight hope of doing something about arranging to vote because we found out that there is a consulate there. We also wanted to see Munich.

The train tickets were not cheap and bikes were extra. The conductor who came along wanted to know where were the reservations for the bikes. We knew nothing about that and showed him our tickets. With the whites of his eyes showing, he sternly told us that on the way back ‘you must have reservations for zese bikes!’ So we went to arrange this in the station in Munich and were told firmly that it was too late, we could not get any reservations. Nor could we get our money back. We could take a slow train, but there was no guarantee that we would be able to get a seat. It is holiday time!

First we went to Marienplatz and found a large crowd there, under umbrellas as it was drizzling, looking up at the glockenspiel that was about to play. The bells play and the figures move and it is quite charming. The crowd behaviour was equally interesting – an audible gasp of astonishment could be heard as the figures began to move. People are easily entertained, aren’t they?

We climbed the tower of Peterskirche and also went inside. It is unlike any church we have visited so far with incredible ornamentation, painted ceilings, golden sculptures. It was badly damaged in WW2 and has been reconstructed.

Opulent Peterskirche

The Viktualienmarkt is nearby with lots of German sausages, bread, cheese, fruit, vegetables, flowers, and beer. We felt that some action research was necessary to test the quality of some of these products. We subsequently found that the bratwurst and sauerkraut are excellent. Further research will be undertaken.

The consulate is only attended on Tuesdays. It looks unlikely that we will be able to vote. We will call the embassy in Berlin tomorrow. Visited the Pinakothek – modern art museum – where there was an exhibition about buildings that have been damaged or destroyed and then rebuilt, from Roman times to WW1 & 2 and late 20th century.

We bought (and drank) the smallest beer we could in the Hofbrauhaus – still half a litre of fine Bavarian beer.

We boarded the train in the evening feeling nervous that there would be no space for our bikes or, worse still, we’d encounter the same conductor again. Ours were the only bikes except for a folding Dahon (which didn’t really need a rack) and the conductor this time didn’t care that we had no reservations. I think we may have encountered a small chink in German efficiency.

Ulm

5 August 2010

Our gasthaus in Sigmaringendorf was nice. Contact Ingrid if you want to stay there. No hotels were open for dinner (obviously they all close on Tuesday nights) but we walked to the other side of the Donau and found an open one at which we were the only dining customers. Goulash, schnitzel and coupe Denmark (ice cream with cream and chocolate sauce).

The countryside after Sigmaringendorf is more open and we made fast progress. We rode with a German man named Klaus for awhile and met him again several times along the way. Saw one live stork and as we approached and entered Munderkingen saw lots of stork statues.

Stork statues in Munderkingen

We met a couple of Bike Friday riders here, Marj and Peter from Wonthaggi, travelling with their young granddaughter (on the tandem) for 2 months. Of course they knew Margaret and Graham.

Donau Radweg

Mr Ortlieb would be happy to witness the popularity of his products. They are seen on the majority of bikes along the Donau-radweg.

A noticeable characteristic of Germany has been the number of solar panels on rooves of houses and farm buildings. If only we could see this in Australia where we have plenty of rooves and a lot more sun.

As we came closer to Ulm we could see the spire of the munster (highest in Europe). We walked through the town centre, saw a group of young punks with mohawks and big boots, then sat near the munster and had a drink while a group of young people did energetic Christian song and dance.

Fabian, our exchange student from 2004, lives on the edge of Ulm in a tiny flat that looks out on to wheat fields. He cooked us a Bavarian dinner of dampfnudeln. It was great to see him again and to hear about his studies, travels and family news. Fabian is an expert on European travel and booked our train tickets to Munich as well as telling us alarming stories about his experiences in Romania and Bulgaria. We are still planning to go there.

Cycle route:
Sigmaringendorf to Ulm

Hüfingen to Sigmaringendorf

3 August 2010

Today we’ve followed the cycling path along the Donau (Danube) from the Catholic Church’s claimed source in Donaueschingen to Sigmaringendorf. We’ve been going mainly downhill on paths or very quiet roads in dark forests and along sunny river banks. No traffic except for hundreds of other cyclists. The river started out not very prepossessing but grew bigger and cleaner during the day. Herr Garmin is totally ignorant of this bicycle route and believes that we have been cycling through trackless wastes most of the day.

Danube source

The gorge in the Naturpark Obere Donau is beautiful with dark forests and steep limestone cliffs. There were many large camps on the banks of the river with hundreds of teenagers enjoying wholesome outdoors fun.

Youth summer camp on the Donau

A couple of times during the morning we met two Catalonian riders from Barcelona who had taken the train to Zurich and were riding the Donau to the Black Sea. In Sigmaringen we met a Viennese woman riding to Santiago de Compostela.

We saw some storks in the morning but were unable to get close enough for photographs.

About 30 km from Sigmaringen I discovered that my rear rim was failing – splitting due to the tension from the spokes on the drive side. It seems that wheel wasn’t built for Swiss hills. There was no alternative but to ride it carefully into Sigmaringen where I was able to buy a new wheel from Radladen Sattelfest. I hope this one lasts.

Bicycle rim not made for Switzerland

Herr Garmin has once again directed us to a nearby guest house with a room available at a reasonable price.

Tomorrow we’ll ride to Ulm to meet up with Fabian.

Cycle route:
Huefingen to Sigmaringendorf

Winterthur to Hüfingen

2 August 2010

Here we are in Hüfingen near Donaueschingen, Germany. On a climb toward the end of today’s ride we crossed a fateful watershed. The drops of sweat falling from our brows no longer find their way to the Rhine and the IJsselmeer in Holland (where attentive readers will remember we swam four weeks ago). Now that sweat heads East (if it doesn’t evaporate of course) into the Donau/Danube and the Black Sea. We feel committed to Istanbul now!

Husemer See

Guido lead us through forests, farmland and a high railway bridge to the Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen this morning – an awesome amount of water and those clever Swiss engineers have found ways to build platforms REALLY close to the torrent. We then said goodbye and headed out of Switzerland into Germany where we had some navigation challenges as we had no map and Garmin’s map had a hole in it too.

Rhine Falls

A ride through drizzling rain brought us to a kiosk in the forest where German bushwalkers were taking refreshments (very classy fare) – we joined them of course.

Arriving in rainy Donaueschingen we asked Herr Garmin for a list of accommodation. The closest, Landgasthof Frank was just 180 metres away (our of sight). We rode there and they had a room for us – who needs to book!

The sadness of leaving Switzerland and our Swiss friends was slightly ameliorated by a splendid (and inexpensive) meal at a Croatian restaurant called Forelle – excellent for hungry cyclists.

Cycle route:
Winterthur to Donaueschingen