1. A glimpse on the Bavarian Alps
2. Cycling on snow
5. Freising et Mainburg
7. The Danube valley
8. Czech Republic, Here I come!
Wet! That’s more or less how I was when I arrived in Engelplotz, a tiny village close to Immenstadt.
I stayed couple of days in Engelplotz in order to dry my camping gears and do little maintenance on my bike. I enjoyed resting a bit. The landscape around Immenstadt was all covered with snow. One day I went snowboarding. Back home, I refilled my energy with very tasty käsespätzle made by my hosts, Anja and Naomi. My aluminium flask exploded after spending a night outside at minus 15 degrees, I am glad I was sleeping inside that night! Anyway, why should I get a special aluminium flask if I can fill up random water bottles the same way? From now I will use only bottles.
On the way to Füssen, I met a man in his fifties who was planning to cycle around the world. He invited me to his place and offered me “cafe con cognac” while explaining his project to cycle around the world across all continents in less than two years! “
Nobody ever did that before in such a short time!“
Sure but… Looking at his plan, I am amazed. This is more or less the same route as what Alastair Humphrey followed during four years of travel, crossing Africa, America from Patagonia to Alaska and then Asia and Middle-East. What can I say? That will be an incredible performance but I would probably not go for anything similar. When travelling also, sometimes less is more. I don’t see the point of rushing from one country to another, especially with an overloaded bike. To me, cycling is rather a way to travel slowly and randomly from town to town and especially take the time to meet people. I don’t want to give away this freedom for any kind of challenge. There’s a sentence I really like from a French travel writer, Sylvain Tesson: “Ce n’est pas par goût de la souffrance que j’use mes semelles mais parce que la lenteur révelle des choses cachées par la vitesse” which means more or less “being slow reveals things that are hidden by speed”.
My host in Füssen was a 67 years old lady living alone with her dog. We spent the evening drinking wine and discussing about Germany and the Second World War. She uses to read matchmaking ads in German newspapers and she read out loud one for me: “Man with dog looks for woman with garden”. I smile. I am not sure if I should laugh.
From Füssen, I was riding up to Neuschwanstein castle, the famous fairy tale looking castle. It was a very hard ride uphill and when I reached the top, I had to admit that the view was actually much nicer from the bottom of the hill!
I turned back and stared to cycle north. The weather was so bright and sunny that morning. I felt great cycling on small roads between the snowy hills. On some parts, the road was fully covered with snow if not ice and I was trying to keep my balance. Some Saturday walkers stared at me like if I was some kind of alien but that just made me smile as I tried not to fall in front of them.
I’ve crossed many picturesque Bavarian villages, looking at their typical churches with onion towers, wooden houses and odd paintings on façades, isolated farms with hundreds of cheese awards displayed on their façades. I kept wondering what are these strange Bavarian blue and white poles I found in every village.
When riding downhill, I almost crashed badly as I got surprised by an icy layer covering the road. I was so fast that I was sure I would crash badly but somehow I managed to keep my balance. I have no idea how I managed, I guess I only had a lot of luck. Then I promised myself to be more careful from now, and went on. Later, I was cycling by a river on a sand path covered with snow and was so incredibly slow that I started getting annoyed to have chosen such way. I knew I will have to ride at night once more. Cycling in the night I almost fell twice more on tricky ice stretches, but I finally arrived safely to my hosts, my stomach full of cereal bars and my mind full of nice snowy sceneries. I didn’t imagine I would like so much cycling in Germany 🙂
I was having a terrible sore throat after drinking nearly frozen water when cycling so I stayed couple of days with a family in a village near Starnberger lake. They were kind of vegan hippies, very kind and open minded. With their daughter I spent an evening in Tutzing, the village where live the singer of the kitschiest disco German band: Djinghis Khan.
I originally planned to sleep in my tent somewhere near Tegern lake but I changed my mind after checking the weather forecast and decided to head to Rosenheim in one day. This meant another exhausting 100 km ride in the snow but at least I would sleep inside if I managed. That day I was following quite big roads and the weather was pretty dull, cloudy and cold. With the rain of the last days, the snow had melted and the landscape suddenly looked almost as foggy and monotonous as it was around Boden See. A friend of mine advised me to visit Bad Tölz so I stopped there for a while. However, apart from the main street architecture, I mainly saw upper-class citizens looking at what expensive clothes they could buy in upper-class shops. That was enough for me. I knew it would be hard to make it to Rosenheim before night so I was not in the mood to wander around.
I finally reached Rosenheim after riding the last 2 hours at night and was very warmly welcomed by Sylvia, Philip, Sindy, Andy and Nico. Sindy is an artist. She painted and decorated the flat in a really nice way. She is also a drummer in a noisecore band called 7 Minutes of Nausea. All the guys there were so friendly and funny that I felt very comfortable staying with them and finally spent 4 days in Rosenheim. 🙂
When I entered Bavaria, I was told that I should definitely try to eat Weißwurst because it “looks like a sausage which has a hangover”. In Rosenheim, and for the first time since I entered Germany, my hosts were neither vegetarians, neither vegans, so I tried to convinced Andy and Sindy to join me for a Weißwurst breakfast! The Weißwurst is a white sausage that you eat traditionally for late breakfast with wheat beer (weißbier) and bretzel. I expected the worst but finally I was nicely surprised! I would not say I loved it but I would not die of hunger if I was surrounded only by Weißwursts.
I love to study maps, and when I was looking at what way to choose to reach the Czech Republic, Sylvia advised me to visit Regensburg which is according to her one of the most beautiful city in Bavaria. Regensburg is located north of Munich. That is not at all the way I was planning to follow but whatever, let’s go to Regensburg after Munich!
On the way from Rosenheim to Munich, I realized I start to feel a bit more comfortable when cycling uphill, I’m still not singing but soon. In Munich I stayed couple of days with Bea, a friend I know from my Erasmus in Finland. I was not very impressed by Munich, I usually prefer nature to big cities, but I enjoyed drinking weißbier, cooking French quiche and eating once more käsespätzle.
One evening, Ruth, the flatmate of Bea, asked me what my favourite animal is. I don’t have a favourite animal, why should I have one? The next day she gave me an unlikely blue and green turtle bell to put on my bike! The turtle sits on my handlebar since then and it is a kid magnet 😉
From Munich to Freising, I followed the Isar river on a forest path. The sun was shining and temperatures rising again. Hans-Jürgen, my host in Freising, told me he cycled across 900 kilometres in 5 days! I answered him that it’s approximately what I did in a month!
Next day, I was cursing against the nasty front wind in the hills until Mainburg. I start to understand why most cyclists agree to say that the wind is the most annoying element when cycling. It is extremely frustrating to think that you would be twice faster if the same wind was in your back!
Miriama lives on top of a hill. She is an American musician who moved to Bavaria five years ago. She welcomed me very warmly to her home, prepared me some Mexican food and we spent half of the night talking together about music and about her travels to Africa.
The next morning, I am eating croissant if front of a bakery when comes a very old lady. She saw the bike and showed a lot of interest in my travel. While she was talking to me about how beautiful it is to travel, she kept holding my hands so strongly and looking at me with shiny dreamy eyes. I felt happy of meeting her and I hope I was brightening her day as much as she brightened mine.
I continued my way north to Regensburg, still cycling against the wind. I reached the Danube 30 kilometres South of Regensburg but my plan of following the riverside ended in a dead end. In front of me the Danube is flowing in a canyon between hills. There is no path of any kind so I sit on a bench and watch the river; I listen to the small noises made by the water. I am not too enthusiastic at the idea of going back and cycling around the hills. Before freezing, I decide to leave the place and after couple of kilometres I leave the road to take a forest path, thinking it will be more interesting than the road. I have no idea where it goes but I see it goes up and down! Dragging my heavy bike on roads that were rather designed for mountain bikes is hard but fun! I finally reached the Danube again and followed it until Regensburg.
The old town centre of Regensburg is really pleasant, very colourful with plenty of medieval looking buildings and a massive gothic cathedral.
Sonja, my host in Regensburg, is vegetarian so I cooked once more some vegetarian food. I also learned how to prepare some Obatzda, a Bavarian speciality made of old smelly cheese, butter, onion and paprika. That’s the kind of smelly and sticky food I love and it’s absolutely messy to prepare.
These days I’ve read a lot about Japan nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima. I’m not too optimistic about our future and that makes my travel a bit pointless somehow… I miss something. I would love to contribute to a better world.
From Regensburg I followed the Danube valley for three days to Straubing, Deggendorf and finally Passau. That was a quite flat and pleasant ride, especially the way from Regensburg to Straubing.
The weather was really nice too for the two first days so I sat couple of times by the Danube enjoying for the first time a temperature above 20 degrees, watching the birds, and thinking, wondering how can most people be blind to the beauty that surrounds them, how brainless are we to destroy such nature for our own comfort. A lot of comfort doesn’t bring a lot of happiness. I know one day we will all wake up, but I am afraid it will be too late…
I woke up very early and arrived in Passau around lunch but the phone number I’ve got doesn’t answer. I cycle around the town and search for a place to sit and eat something. Later in the afternoon Iris called me, she is a friend of somebody I had contacted via couchsurfing. Iris offered me a room, the keys of her flat and told me to stay as long as I want! I was glad to rest a bit because my right arm hurts a lot. I might have hurt a muscle when lifting my bike. Passau was built where the Danube and the Inn rejoin. Both rivers have a different colour so the merging area is really interesting. Passau is also a very colourful town but a little too geometric to me.
Many times in Germany, I’ve listened to young people telling me how much they are afraid of the increase of Neo-Nazis groups these days. One of my hosts has a friend who got beaten because he was trying to help a black woman. “We saw you last week helping a black woman!” Another tells me that in his city, the Nazis give flyers and CDs to kids at the school gates but nobody can do anything about it, they are not operating in the schools. I have the feeling that the population mainly ignore them because they are scared. When skinheads enter a bar nobody dare to say a word, nobody wants to see so nobody sees anything, nobody hears anything.
From Passau, I decided to head to Český Krumlov in Czech Republic, but Český Krumlov is about 140 kilometres from Passau and I have to cross the Šumava mountains so I didn’t even think of cycling until there in one day.
I left Passau, followed the Danube for a while, and then I headed north to the hills of Donau Wald. After a 13% climb to the top of the hill, I searched for a place to pitch my tent in the forest. The ground wasn’t really flat but it was not flat anywhere around so I didn’t mind. In the tent I ate some knödels and slept… or at least I tried. An owl woke me up couple of times and the night was so incredibly bright I thought something or somebody was lighting my tent! I heard couple of days later that this night was the “night of the super full moon”, the brightest and closest moon since 1993!
In the morning, I didn’t have the power to prepare some tea. Packing all my stuff already took me about an hour and as it was only 2 degrees outside, I decided to leave and cycle as soon as I was ready. I was riding in the hills above the Danube, looking at the fog down in the valley. I enjoyed a lot the silent atmosphere of the Bavarian villages, the empty fields in the morning sunshine. Later in the morning I saw some snowy mountains in the background, somewhere North-East of where I was, exactly where I planned to go…
The weather turned cloudy when I entered Austria. Later, it started snowing when I finally reached the top of the pass across the Šumava mountains. I was exhausted.
Before crossing the border to Czech Republic, I had one last beer in the restaurant of a ski resort… Czech Republic here I come!
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