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61km Munich to Gartenberg

Posted August 6th, 2007

Cycling south from MunichGetting out of cities is almost always a challenge and leaving Munich was no exception, even though it’s a city we love and know well. We missed turns for the bike path we tried to follow, fought traffic and dodged numerous crowds of photo-snapping tourists before we finally reached the Isar river and the trail leading out of the city. When we finally got underway we found a side of Munich we’d never seen before: hundreds of people out swimming and sunbathing on the banks of the fast-flowing Isar. Smooth white rocks made up the beach and nearby there were plenty of green tree-filled fields. It looked like an idyllic spot to spend a sunny afternoon. We stopped for a few minutes to dip our toes in the water but soon carried on, down a woodland trail that will take us all the way to Austria. We were glad to have thick tyres on the bike because the path was often covered in gravel and bumpy. Hills also reappeared – something we haven’t really had in some time – so overall things were a little more challenging than the smooth, flat roads we’ve become used to but nothing we couldn’t handle. All through the afternoon we saw people jumping in the river and sailing down its waters in plastic inflatable boats. The current was quite fast and we wonder how some of them got back upstream at the end of the day! Near sunset we found a clearing in the woods to pitch our tent and gladly flopped into bed. Normally we’d feel rested after a few days in one place but with so much running around to see family and friends we now are trying to get back into our normal pattern.

A visit with Tante Gertrud

Posted August 6th, 2007

Paul, Friedel, Ursula, Gertrud, DietmarPaul and a German mealAfter a wonderful weekend in Munich, we are now hitting the road again, direction Austria and Italy. But just before we do, we thought we`d share some pictures of our weekend, spent with Friedel`s uncle Paul in and her great-aunt Gertrud, who has just turned 90 years old. Never have we met someone so amazing as Gertrud, who is as lively and sharp as someone at least 20 years younger. Even her doctor thought there was a mistake with her birth date in the files when she recently went for an appointment. If we all looked so good at 90…. Happy Birthday Tante Gertrud and many more to come.

Posted in Germany, Munich

Taking the train to Munich

Posted August 2nd, 2007

Andrew in Munich campgroundOur plan for getting around the world never included trains, but in our last few weeks in Europe we have planned to meet many people in certain cities of fixed dates and sometimes it’s been impossible to make the distance any other way. With close to 15,000km under our belt by bicycle so far, we don’t feel too bad about the occasional train trip. This time we reluctantly left the pleasant cycle path by the Tauber river, dodged crowds of Japanese tourists in the cobblestoned, walled city of Rothenburg, and caught a train to Munich. We’ll meet Friedel’s uncle from Canada and her great aunt Gertrud – 90 years old! – in the city tomorrow. We gazed enviously at the cyclists from the train window: it was a sunny day with just a few fluffy clouds hanging in the blue sky, perfect for biking. The landscape of golden fields and towns on hilltops looked beautiful. Travelling by train with loaded touring bikes isn’t easy either. We found this trip and our train journey last week towards Frankfurt more tiring than cycling the whole day. Lugging our bikes up and down long flights of stairs is heavy work and more often than not we end up with old trains that require lifting our bikes several feet up and into the door. Today we were also pushed for time. We had to change twice and each time we had just 5 minutes to get off one train, switch platforms and onto the next train. If our fellow passengers weren’t so helpful and the train staff so willing to hold trains, we’d never have made it! In this way, the German train system is definitely superior to Japan’s network. We’re sure the always-punctual Japanese trains wouldn’t wait for two bulky bicycles to make their way to the right platform. We arrived in Munich in the early afternoon, managed one last exercise-session getting our bikes onto the local transport, and made our way to the campground in the west of the city, conveniently located near to where Friedel’s great-aunt lives. Now it’s time for a mini family-reunion over the next few days, probably a few beers in this city famous for the Oktoberfest and a bit of rest before we tackle the Alps one last time on our way south to Italy.

86km Altheim to Craintal

Posted August 1st, 2007

Cycling through a wine townWe rose early and hit the road while the sun was just starting to warm the earth up; a welcome event after a chilly night in the tent. The air overnight and first thing in the morning was the coolest it’s been in some time, although it’s sure to be colder this autumn and we’re a bit worried that our down sleeping bags don’t seem as thick and insulating as they used to be. Perhaps too many feathers have been shaken out by all this camping. Late yesterday we seemed to lose the bike path we’d been following so this morning we just decided to join the cars and drive east on the main road to see where we’d end up. We got lucky. The road was going in the right direction (at one point we did take a detour to avoid a 13% grade uphill!) and we soon happened upon another bike path that we followed with more success along the Tauber river and through plenty of old town centres, filled with half-timbered houses, flower-covered balconies and many bakeries and coffee shops to tempt us. We give in to that kind of temptation pretty easily so it wasn’t long before we were each sitting with a large cup of coffee and a “nuss hörnchen” – a sweet bread filled with nuts and almond flavour – and watching the locals stream in and out for their fresh rolls and pastries. German bakeries are wonderful. A guaranteed source of energy for the hungry cyclist and a good but cheap cup of black coffee. We strolled along the river for the rest of the day, stopping at lunch time to make a huge salad filled with all the in-season produce like green beans and a type of mushroom called Pfefferlinge. Not long after our midday meal we got chatting to another cyclist as we rode, a man from the area around Frankfurt who goes for a little jaunt around Germany every couple of years on his bike. He was covering over 100km a day and pushing ahead to reach the next campground, still some way down the road. When we learned we’d been wild camping he looked at us disapprovingly and said the police were likely to come make us take down our tent, wherever we put it up. We’ll take our chances. So far we have wild camped several times in Germany, and in fact during our whole trip, with never more than a passing glance from the occasional walker or jogger. It’s true if whoever owns the land complained to the police, we would have to go. That would certainly make for a bit of work at the end of a day!

72km Niedernberg to Altheim

Posted July 31st, 2007

The quaint town of MiltenbergAfter spending most of early July complaining about the heat, we’re now wishing the sun would come back. It’s cold in Germany with grey days, a lot of rain and little sun. For the first time in well over a month we really snuggled into our sleeping bags last night and when we emerged this morning to make our coffee there was a near frost on the grass. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

It can’t be good business for the many outdoor pools we’ve passed. The water is ready but we haven’t seen a single swimmer.

With an extra layer of clothes on, we toddled steadily southward, first along the Main river path, where grape vines grow on the steep river banks and almost all the towns are full of  pretty half-timbered houses. Miltenberg was the largest town on our route and we pushed our way through crowds of tourists admiring the historic centre to get to a bakery, where we enjoyed a coffee and resisted the temptation to spend all our money on plum cake. We also stopped to get lunch supplies from a local butcher before ploughing back through the picture-snapping, umbrella-toting bus tour groups and hitting the road again.

From there we took up another trail which led us alternately through farm fields and woodland until we found a camping spot late in the evening. Unfortunately the cycle paths don’t seem to be as well signed as we’ve gotten used to over the past few weeks, so we lost some time taking wrong turns and trying to find the right way. Tomorrow we will likely hit the roads again. It’s just too frustrating trying to follow a trail when half the turns aren’t marked.