Tirol to Bavaria on Bike Paths

2009/10/27: St. Johann-in-Tirol  75 km
The riding was mainly on bike paths at first. We skirted the lake at Zell in See, and had lunch at a picnic table conveniently provided along the bike path.

After an easy climb on the path, we took the faster option of doing the downhill to St. Johann on the road. We pedalled hard downhill, and we think we were breaking the speed limit as we entered the town. Chris was making motorcycle noises behind me, so I could tell he was enjoying himself.

We found our way to Emma (Chris’s cousin) and John’s newly built house, and were made welcome by John till Emma returned from tutoring students for English. They’ve recently moved to Austria from England, are polishing their German, and are working hard at learning the finer points of living in St. Johann. This includes recycling nearly everything into about eight different streams so as to produce only a minuscule amount of household garbage. As Emma later showed us around, we saw their washing machine, and realized that the last time we’d washed our clothes in a machine was in Chengdu, China, in early March. Please take note that, although we may not have had access to a washing machine since March, we HAVE washed our clothes by hand many times in sinks, basins, or buckets. Still, seeing a washing machine was a great excitement and we looked forward eagerly to doing a mechanized load of laundry.

In our quarters, Emma had sensibly provided a dressing gown to use when moving to the bathroom across the hall. Having done laundry by hand for nearly 10 months, I have become very conservative about unnecessarily creating dirty laundry, so – rather than use the dressing gown – I attempted a quick dash across the hall wrapped only in a bath towel. I was carrying my après-shower clothes, and not wearing my specs. John and Emma have two lovely cats, but it’s been some time since I’ve been in a household with cats, so when I unexpectedly felt the feline Maxmillian underfoot, I slipped on the hardwood floor and landed in a clumsy (and stark naked) heap. I gave my temple a bash, and the blow later produced bit of a black eye.

The point of confessing my clumsiness is to put into perspective any risks we may have taken on our bike trip. This was the worst injury of our trip to date. We could have worried so much about being hit by cars, falling on steep descents, or being held up at gunpoint that we’d never have left home. In ten months on the road we haven’t fallen, we haven’t been hit, and we haven’t been held up. I did trip over a cat, however, something I could have done without leaving home. I’m glad we did leave home – but I do apologize to poor Maxmillian.

2009/10/28: In St. Johann
Chris and I went to St. Johann’s excellent bike shop where I got some lovely Shimano Deore XT pedals to replace the red ones from Tirana. The red pedals went in the bin at the bike shop after I thanked them for getting me from Albania to Austria. We mailed home a box containing shorts and T-shirts not needed for late fall cycling in the Alps, and did some bike maintenance.

In the afternoon, Charlotte (Emma’s sister, Chris’s cousin) and Phil arrived from England via Munich airport to stay and look after cats, Emma and John being due to depart the next day. The afternoon and evening were sociable and enjoyable.

2009/10/29: Bad Feilnbach, Germany 66 km
We left St. Johann late after a sociable morning (photo by Phil). Carsten (German cycling companion in China) had sent us three GPS tracks for a choice of possible routes to Lake Konstanz (or Bodensee), and we’d examined them and selected one, which Chris had uploaded to the GPS. The GPS had been of only limited use to date, but we’ve learned that it’s in the following of tracks where it truly comes into its own. We believe Carsten gets the tracks from an online database set up for sharing cycling routes. It’s like a magical mystery tour, as the clever device leads us on tiny roads and bike paths that aren’t shown on our 1:750,000 road map of the Alps, and that we’d never otherwise easily find.

We were enjoying the quiet pathways and russet fall colours when I noticed the bike route signs looked a little different. “What country are we in?” I asked Chris. “All the license plates are German” he observed in reply. And that was how we made another border crossing within the Schengen Zone. We must have entered Germany when we crossed the River Inn on a wooden bridge for cyclists and pedestrians.

We found a country hotel and were shown to our room with a four-poster painted in ornate Bavarian style. Some men walked out of the bar downstairs wearing not only lederhosen (below-the-knee length) but also traditional hats with tall feather plumes. We’ve seen beautifully detailed traditional clothing for sale both in Tirol and Bavaria, and the locals don’t feel a need to wait for special holidays to wear it. 

2009/10/30: Starnberg 91 km
Another day of idyllic cycling, but it’s getting chillier. The morning was misty and damp, but the afternoon clearer. There were lots of commuter cyclists and sporty roadies out as we passed about twenty kilometres south of Munich. We were stopped at a junction in late afternoon when a well-appointed cyclist with four panniers pulled up. We thought this must be another long-distance tourer, but Erich was a commuter cyclist with dreams of doing a long tour like ours. He kindly provided us with a detailed local topographic map that we’ll mail back to him when we’re beyond its coverage area. We used the map to divert ourselves from the GPS track into Starnberg for the night.

2009/10/31: Oberkammlach 92 km
Cold weather but pleasant rolling farmland and woods. We stopped at a bike shop and looked unsuccessfully for tights for me, to replace the ones accidentally left in Kazakhstan. We ate lunch in a school bus shelter. We had coffee at a McDonald’s in hopes of getting internet access like we did in Austria, but you could only get free access if you were subscribing to a particular local cell phone company. Getting internet access in Germany poses a compatibility problem with our computer and can be fraught with bureaucracy and form filling. We look forward to better access once in Switzerland.

We found a quiet rural gasthof that welcomes cyclists. What a joy! We were cheerfully told to take the bags off the bikes by the door, then helped to wheel our bikes to a nearby garage. In the last few days we’ve stayed in places considerably more expensive than this one, and have felt as if we should apologize for having arrived by bike and that our appearance lowers the tone of the establishment. Not so here. They had relief maps of the local area on the walls, and with minimal shared language showed interest in our next day’s route.

2009/11/01: Durnast 104 km
Not only did the breakfast include smoked salmon, but we were also encouraged to make sandwiches with leftover breakfast food to take along for the road. Breakfasts here include cold cuts, cheese slices, and crusty rolls, so leftovers make good lunches. I’ve taken the details of this gasthof and would be happy to direct other cyclists to it.

Early on, with mist still rising from the fields, we saw a pair of fine black horses trotting towards us on the bike path (actually a multi-use paved pathway) pulling an elegant carriage. There is a well-developed horse culture in Bavaria evidenced by the many riding schools we’ve passed and which usually have jumping arenas and dressage rings. Many of the equines we see in the fields are purebreds of various kinds, and some are heavy draft or fine carriage breeds. I don’t know the breed of the black pair we stopped to admire, but they were some sort of special carriage horse that we’d also seen in the  fields. Anyone care to  identify the breed?

It’s the short daylight hours that now limit our daily distances. The roads can be frosty if we start too early, and we do our best to be off the road by sunset, so we start looking for accommodation at about 4:00 p.m.. We drink almost no water from our bottles, but stop for coffee or hot chocolate instead. What a change in daily routine from Central Asia in July or the Caucusus in August, when we would be on the road at dawn and hunting for shade at midday! We’re still carrying our camping gear and we’d be warm enough zipped into our tent, but what a long night it would be!


2 responses to “Tirol to Bavaria on Bike Paths

  1. Just to warn you about dangers lurking ahead. Best to avoid the Geneva region for fear of baguettes in your spokes.

  2. Pingback: Index for Bangkok to Paris 2009 « candmwanderings

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