After 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.
You Are Viewing Germany
Our 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.
We 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!
After 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.
A warm house can be a real blessing sometimes and as we watched the rain pelt down on Sunday from a snug flat in Frankfurt, we were very happy not to be cycling. A big thanks to our friend Peter, who
put up with us put us up for a few nights, showed us the town and helped recharge our batteries for the next leg of our journey. Peter also makes the best coffee in Frankfurt, quite possibly in all of Germany!
Our departure from Frankfurt means we are finally making a definitive move to leave Europe – yes, really! Our sights are now firmly set on heading steadily south through Austria, Italy and Eastern Europe, towards Turkey for the autumn. From there, who knows. But one thing is for sure, we will not be back in Europe next summer.
With this big challenge looming in our heads (how to arrange visas for many tricky countries and other administrative delights), we made a quick stop before we left Frankfurt at an amazingly well stocked camping and outdoor store, Globetrotters. We have never seen a shop that had so many things. Even Canada‘s famous Mountain Equipment Coop didn’t quite measure up, although it’s a close second. At Globetrotters we were very kindly given, absolutely free, a replacement pole section for our tent (a great relief after we stupidly put a crack in ours a few days ago) as well as other goodies like waterproof covers for our shoes in case of rain, two nifty bandanas that can be hats or scarves or any number of other neat things and new underwear for Andrew. Lucky man!
It was close to midday before we rolled out of Frankfurt and back along the Main river, jostling with the hordes of other cycle tourists. The route along the river is certainly pretty but like the Danube Cycle Path it’s also extremely crowded at this time of year. Even with a bit of rain and chilly temperatures, there were still plenty of people to share the trail with, well into the evening.
By the time we got 60km or so down the trail we were quite tired so, even though it was reasonably early, we looked for a place for our tent. There don’t seem to be any campsites around here so we had to settle for a cornfield again. This one is not so secluded as our other “farm stays” though, since a secondary trail runs nearby and is used by joggers and walkers. We were pooped so we set up regardless – with a bit more energy we might have carried on to find a quieter spot – and no one really seemed to give us more than a passing glance as they went by. Being in the country, we think we’re pretty safe.