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Author: jenny

Czech Republic – Saturday 25 May

Czech Republic – Saturday 25 May

Today we had a short ride of only 39 km, into the Czech republic. I was a little apprehensive about leaving the safety and comfort of touring in Germany. For one thing, the accommodation in Czech republic is not really advertised on internet booking sites (Booking.com etc), so booking ahead the day before was problematic. We found a place on line and sent them an email which they replied to the previous evening.

The border crossing was only around 3km from Furth im Wald, on the cycle path. It was pretty much an uphill climb to the crossing.

Border crossing to Czech Republic

The cycle path after the crossing was very good, a tarred path going through a forest with tall pines and every now and then a babbling brook. There were even some picnic tables at stopping places every now and then. The signage on the path was not as good as in Austria/Germany – so we had to be extra careful not to miss any turnoffs. The route we are following is marked as number 3.

Excellent cycle path just after border

Coming out of the forest, we passed through several small towns (including Babylon!), but the first big town was Domazlice. We stopped to draw some Czech money (Koruna) from the cash machine. We had a look at the main street, which has lovely historical buildings an was quite busy. Unfortunately they haven’t closed the street off to cars, as they do with similar streets in the German towns we have been through lately. Kris went into the tourist info while I watched the bikes. We are not as trusting leaving our fully packed bikes out in public places here as we are in Germany. He got some more maps and advice on finding accommodation – it seems the best way will be to ask at the tourist info office when we get to a town.

Domazlice

It was tricky finding the bike path again out of Domazlice. The rest of the route (less than 20 km) was on very quiet country roads. There were a lot of hills, so quite tiring and good views. The roads are also not as well maintained, with patches and pot holes in places – slowing progress on some of the long downhill runs. The countryside was pretty, especially with the splashes of yellow of the rape seed fields.

When we got to Horšovský Týn we easily found our Pension near the centre. It didn’t look like much and seemed all closed up. We had only just stopped when a passer-by asked if he could help. He phoned the owner for us and we had a confused conversation – as no one’s German is very good. It transpired the room is available but we couldn’t understand when. In the meantime the passer by asked if we wanted anything to eat or drink – it was just past 1 pm. We ended up at a local pub – not far away in a courtyard – we would never have found it on our own. We had their recommendation off the tap – Pilsner Urquell – evidently the best beer in the world. Our new best friend (Alexander) speaks very little German, virtually no English (only Czech, Russian and Romanian). Communication grew easier as we went along. We were given some traditional Moldovian dumplings to try (this is where his is originally from). It started to rain as we sat there, a heavy shower that we just had to wait out. We phoned the pension again and established that the door and our room were open – so after picking up the tab (not expensive by NZ standards), we made our way back to the pension.

Kris and Alexander drinking Pilsner Urquell
Dumplings bought for us to try

The pension room is really nice – basic but much better on the inside than outside. All the rooms are around a central courtyard. The room is also quite big and has a kettle. This is also the only place so far where there has been no formal paperwork filled out – and paid cash – so we may be off the books.

Later on we went out for a walk around town and to buy some food – the town is very small – with an ornate (painted) castle, church and some old gabled houses at the centre.

Horšovský Týn castle
Horšovský Týn centre
Dragons! – Friday 24 May

Dragons! – Friday 24 May

We were steeling ourselves for a difficult ride today, as Kris’s research showed that the landscape was very hilly. However it turned out to be an easy 63 km to Furth im Wald due to the good cycle paths.
The first one, the Donau Regen Radweg, was along an old rail track, with a long gentle uphill and then some equally long downhill runs. This was about half of our route. We were very impressed with a new bridge they had built just for cyclists, sitting on top of the old railway bridge piles.

Cycle path bridge built on top of old rail bridge piles (Donau Regen Radweg)
Donau Regen Radweg – Cycle track on old railway
Countryside scene from cycle way

Then we did about 13km on the Regental Radweg – along the river, before moving onto the Chambtal radweg. I heard the cuckoo calling for the first time this trip.

Regental Radweg – alongside Regen river
Chamerau
Pastoral scene from cycle way

Our destination was the town of Furth im Wald near the Czech border. The town is also known as Drachenstadt (Dragon City) and there are many references to Dragons in murals and statues all over the old town. The reference is to the annual Drachenstich (Dragon slaying) play that has been performed in the town over the past 500 years, the oldest folk play in Germany. It re-enacts the legend of Saint Georg slaying the dragon. The dragon here is a symbol of all the wickedness of the human heart.

The tourist info office here was incredibly helpful, photocopying detailed maps for Kris of the route to Pilsen. They also told us about an exhibition of dragons used in the play in the evening, both old and new.

Our hotel here was great, we had a very friendly greeting and beautiful large room. We went and sat at the Stammtich (informal table where locals sit for a chat) in their restaurant downstairs and had a good chat before heading out to the dragon show.

At the dragon show we all sat in an outdoor amphitheatre. Three dragons were on display. The first one was a mock up of the original 500 year old dragon – which just had two people inside it. The dragon from the war years was destroyed by the Americans when they came through at the end of the war (??), so we only saw photos of it. The next dragon was a bit more high tech, on wheels and could move its wings a little and shoot fire out of its mouth. It still had a person inside managing the controls.

Dragon used 500 years ago
Old (foreground) and robot dragon built around 2012 (at back)

The star of the show was the latest dragon, which is the largest four legged robot in the world. It is 4.5 m high and 15.5 m long. It walks, roars, rolls its eyes, bleeds, shoots fire and flaps its (huge) wings.

Dragon walking
Dragon breathing fire
Jenny and Dragon
Kris next to dragon foot – dragon blood on the ground
Easy sunny ride – 23 May

Easy sunny ride – 23 May

Today was a relatively easy 60 km ride to Hunderdorf. We are now positioning ourselves to get onto a bicycle route through Czech Republic to Prague.

Kris navigated us on country roads again to Laberweinting, where we connected up to the Labertal bike path. The sun shining and the roads were easy. The countryside looks so much brighter and more beautiful in the sun. The whole area is agricultural, with regular small towns. Most of the towns had a church and a maypole. We stopped at Greissing to take a photo of the church as the tower was so different. Most of the church towers here have a rounded turnip like top.

Unusual gable on church, maypole to right – Greissing

There was lots going on on the farms. We saw newly ploughed fields, seedlings shooting up through the soil, groups of women picking something in a field in the distance, tractors riding around, farmers spreading manure over fields (with accompanying smell that lingers long after you are past).

We reached Straubing, on the Danube and rode down their pristine pedestrian only street to the sound of a street musician playing Pachelbel’s Canon on an accordion.

Straubing, on the Danube

We did a short stint along the Danube, on the Donau Radweg to Bogan. The Danube was also in flood and at one point our intended cycle path was under water, but Kris found a way around it.

At Bogan we moved onto the Donau-Regan Radweg whch heads north. Our hotel was just past Hunderdorf. We arrived early and had relaxing afternoon at hotel.

Pork roast with potato, dumpling and sauerkraut
The Isar in flood – Tuesday 22 May

The Isar in flood – Tuesday 22 May

The rain had eased today, so we did a full 82 km ride from Marzling to Greilburg.

We started out along the Isar river trail, which had been flooded by the rain of the previous two days. In some cases the riverside cycle paths were not accessible. We always found another route relatively easily.

Water bridge
Isar bike path underwater – luckily we didn’t want to go this way
Isar in flood

A feature of the day was older men riding around on bicycles stopping to help us. One helped us find an alternative route to the closed bike path (see photo below) – riding ahead of us a little way to direct us.

Bike path closed

We also had our second flat tyre of the trip, this time on Jenny’s back tyre. We replaced it with the new tube we had bought in Italy. Kris really struggled to pump it up, until he figured out how the new valve design worked. We have never had a tube with this design valve before – you have to remove the whole top before pumping, otherwise it just lets more air in while you are pumping.

The main town we passed through was Landshut. When I stopped to take the photo of the flooded river below, another elderly man on a bicycle began tell us that we should go and look at the flooding on the weir around the corner.

Landshut, Isar in flood

We followed the old man on his bicycle to this weir, the flooded water coming down it was indeed impressive. There were also a bunch of tree trunks and branches that had come down the river.

We did some shopping and bought a heap of goodies for our supper at a supermarket, before heading away from the Isar. This took us off the Isar cycle trail onto the Isar-Laber cycle trail (which essentially connects the two river routes). Our ride was through rolling hill country with lots of corn and rape seed fields.
To get to our hotel, we had to move off the official cycle route, winging from small village to small village. The last bit was quite hilly and tiring.

The hotel we stayed at was one of the best of the trip (not the cheapest). Our room was big and had a unique, bright decor – artistically done. It has been in same family for ten generations (and we saw the ancient grandmother and grandfather taking their meals in the restaurant). There seems to be a farm attached to the hotel as there was a massive barn at the back where we stored our bicycles (so big you could put a house inside it).

Gasthof Pritscher
Riding in the rain – Tuesday 21 May

Riding in the rain – Tuesday 21 May

It was forecast to rain the whole day again today and there were heavy rain warnings. We actually enquired whether we could stay another night at the Munich hotel, but it was fully booked. So we decided to do a very short ride – just 33 km to Marzling in the north (near Munich airport).

In the end the ride was not too bad. It was wet, but we rode alongside the river and it was intriguing to see it in flood. There were lots of large branches and logs coming down the river The cycle way was mostly flat and quiet, so we made it in just over a couple of hours.

Isar in flood – logs coming down the river
More logs coming down the river

We were very dirty and full of grit when we arrived early to check in. The hotel were very good, giving us a dry place for the bikes and some water to clean them with. We had to hose down our feet and shoes with the water as well. We rode in our sandals to keep our closed shoes dry for another day.

The room was lovely and large and warm. The hotel was more modern than it looked at first, with entry to the room via a key card. We managed to finalise our booking for our break with Elsbeth in Hamburg.

We walked to the small local shop to buy some more snacks. In the evening we also had some beer, asparagus soup, pork roast and dumplings at the hotel restaurant. Most of the other clientele seemed to be there on business.

Landgasthof Naglerl
Rainy rest day – Monday 20 May

Rainy rest day – Monday 20 May

Today was a rest day in Munich. It rained the whole day – evidently a slow moving storm coming across Europe. We spent the morning at the hotel, researching accommodation for our up coming visit with Elsbeth in Hamburg. We thought it may be easing in the afternoon and ventured into the city – got pretty wet. We did find the Decathlon in an underground arcade and bought another odometer. Had some coffee and cake before heading back through the now deserted Englischer Garten. Not a good day for sight seeing.

The only photo from today – taken while sheltering in a monument from the rain
Sunday in Germany – 19 May

Sunday in Germany – 19 May

One of the great things about cycle touring, is that you never quite know what will happen each day. This was a day that threw up a couple of unforgettable sights. The route was again along the Isar cycle way, following the river from Bad Tolz to Munich. In all we did 80 km – our accommodation is to the north of Munich and we spent a bit of time finding it (first going to the wrong street with similar name – many streets in Germany are called Bahnhof Strasse).

Not all of the route was directly along the river – right at the start of the ride we had a good little climb away from Bad Tolz with lovely rural views. A little further on we had another forest path with very tall trees.

View after first hill climb – not far from Bad Tolz
Forest Ride – Isar cycle way

The mishap of the day was that Kris lost his odometer along one of these forest paths. It was somehow knocked off the mounting on the bicycle. We backtracked a couple of hundred meters to see if we could find it but soon decided that that was a fool’s errand.

Eventually we came onto an easy path alongside the river once again. There were a lot of people out and about here, cycling and walking as it was a Sunday.

We noticed some rafts drifting down the river, with groups of people on them obviously having a huge party. They even had live music and amplifiers on these rafts. The rafts were just made of huge logs lashed together with a platform on top, so I was amazed that they took their musical instruments onto them.

Then we got to a weir, with a bridge and beer garden part way down. I didn’t believe it when Kris said one of the rafts had gone over the weir, until I saw it myself. Another one came down and I managed to capture some pictures from the bridge – they all cheer loudly as they come down the weir – just like on a roller coaster. It was one of the craziest things I have seen. The scene was made even more surreal by a Bavarian band sitting in the beer garden nearby playing folk music at their table. It was not clear whether they had just come off one of the rafts or if they were part of the beer garden entertainment.

When we got to Munich we decided to first head into the central city to see if we could find the Decathlon to buy another odometer. We first noticed that there were a lot of Police around, then we noticed that some of the streets we were coming down were closed to traffic. We found ourselves right at the starting point of a huge protest. It was a pro-EU, anti nationalism protest in anticipation of the upcoming EU elections. It was very peaceful and people of all ages were taking part. Later I read that they estimated that 10 thousand people took part. It took a while for them all to stream by. We couldn’t find the Decathlon so headed on to our hotel.

After checking in and washing up at the hotel, we headed back into the nearby Englischer Garten, the huge park in the centre of Munich. The gardens have many beer gardens in them and it was a hot Sunday afternoon, so there were lots of people around. Many were just sitting picnicking in small groups in remote parts of the gardens.

The first beer garden we found was ironically the one we went to in 2012 on our first trip – with all the dog walkers. We decided to try some different places this time. Below are some pictures of our little beer garden crawl. We had a huge bretzel, some sausage, sauerkraut and potato salad at the first one, which was very traditional. It had an Bavarian folk band but Kris thought it was a bit boring. The second was more laid back, next to a lake – probably the best one. The third was a pretty standard beer garden and the fourth was back at the hotel, on the front terrace. It began to rain heavily soon after we came in from the terrace. Little did we know that it would rain almost continuously for the next two days.

Sylvensteinsee – Saturday 18 May

Sylvensteinsee – Saturday 18 May

Today we had another beautiful ride – 59 km from Achenkirch in Austria to Bad Tolz in Germany.

We first rode through Achenkirch township which extends for a while along the river at the top of the lake.
Then the cycle path took us off road, on a compressed gravel road in the mountains. The road contoured up and down through the Achenwald forest towards the Sylvensteinsee, another alpine lake.

Achenwald forest path – compressed gravel

The German border was around 13 km into our ride. Once again, the only sign that we had crossed was the old abandoned border post building. The picture is too boring to even put in this blog.

On German side – more compressed gravel

We first caught glimpses of the beginning of the lake between the trees. The path then veered away again into the forest and we did a bit of a climb over a neck before reaching the lake again – we crossed at a high bridge with a magnificent view – including someone catching fish from a boat below.

View from high bridge above lake

Then we were back onto more gravel road into forest to the small outpost of “Falls”, where we really started encountering a lot of Saturday day trippers, many on bicycles.
There is a large bridge crossing the narrowest part of the lake at Falls. An advantage of being on a bicycle is that you can easily stop on a bridge to admire the view.

View from Sylvensteinsee bridge
Sylvensteinsee bridge

A little further on was a dam wall, with many motorists, cyclist and motorcyclists (smokers) stopped and admiring the view. (tip – right click on any of the photos and chose ‘open in new tab’ for a closer look)

View from Sylvensteinsee dam wall

From here, the cycle path went through a little (lighted) bicycle tunnel. This was where we joined the Isar cycle route. After this, the route was an easy, well surfaced cycle road, mostly downhill into Bad Tolz

Bicycle tunnel
Bad Tolz, view from cycle route, Isar river in the fore ground

We arrived at around 12.30 and had a look around before going to our hotel. The main street in the old town is a pedestrian only, rising up from the river with many painted facades and outdoor restaurants.

Bad Tolz pedestrian street in old town
Easy, Hard, Easy – Friday 17 May

Easy, Hard, Easy – Friday 17 May

Today we rode for 59 km, the first 40 km of which were along the Inn Cycle way again. This part was relatively easy and very beautiful. The weather had cleared up, and we had great mountain views.

Leaving Innsbruck on Inn Cycle Path
Covered bridge
Three church spires
We took the wrong path here and ended in a farmer’s field – had to turn back.
Bucherwirt – fountain and flower display

The difficult part of our journey was a huge climb starting at the town of Jenbach. This is where we left the Inn Cycle way to make our way up to the Achensee, an alpine lake. The climb was so steep that we pushed our bikes up most of the way (it was steeper than Horokiwi road). It took us more than an hour. The climb started in the busy town, and the road grew smaller and smaller, until we came to an intersection at a busy motorway. It was not at all clear if the bike path continued on the small track behind us or if we would have to ride on the highway. We stood there for quite a while speculating, and stopped a few turning cars to ask if they knew whether you could get through on the track behind us. The third driver we asked could confirm that it was a bicycle trail. This trail switched back through mainly wooded areas. Most of the while we were pushing our bikes as it was still steep. At one point we stopped and had a chat with a friendly tramper. Two girls also sailed past us looking relaxed on their electrical bikes.

When we got to the top of the climb, we were lucky to see the Achensee narrow gauge steam cog railway. It was just connecting to the cogs to make its way down (a clue to how steep the hill is). There was a hotel/cafe right there at the top and we stopped for some coffee and cake on the terrace – feeling we deserved it.

Achensee narrow gauge steam cog railway
coffee and cake at the top of the climb

The path to the lake was easy from here onward – downhill. And stunningly beautiful. The lake is a deep blue/green colour and is surrounded by mountains.

Downhill bike path to Achensee
Path to Achensee
Achensee

We had to ride around the lake to get to our Gasthaus in Achenkirch am Achensee, at the north end. Some of the mountains sit directly on the lake and the snow seems to cling to the mountain almost on the lakes edge.

Bike path around the Achensee lake
Bike path around the Achensee lake

There were many other cyclists and walkers enjoying the path along the lakeside. Some other touring cyclists stopped for a chat.

chatting with other cyclists

Our accommodation was a very traditional guest house, efficiently run by an elderly lady. It was really quiet – I think we were one of only two lots of guests that night.

Landhaus Mayer
tulip display in the garden

For supper, we first finished the cheese and crisp breads we had been carrying at a lakeside picnic spot. We then had some Hefeweizen beer and Tyrolean soup (with noodles, meat and veg) at the nearby cafe/ restaurant.

Relaxing and eating cheese in the park
Innsbruck rest day – Thursday 16 May

Innsbruck rest day – Thursday 16 May

Today was a rest day in Innsbruck – we were booked into the youth hostel for two nights. When we woke up it was totally overcast and we couldn’t even see the mountain view that I knew was outside the window from the previous evening.

We spent the morning using the hostel washing machine and sitting in the hostel lounge working on our computers. It was nice and quite and comfortable, the internet connection was good and we had the place to ourselves.

As we sat there, the weather slowly cleared. By the time we went out at around midday the sun was out and it was getting quite hot. Lots of people were out and about, children playing in parks and eating ice creams. We had an unfortunate incident with the camera while taking a photo alongside the river – it fell. It was already a bit wonky, but now the lens didn’t open at all. We headed back to the centre and bought a new camera in a big department store. It is better than the last one! Hopefully you will see an improvement in the blog photos from now on.

Innsbruck old town – one of the last photos with old camera
One of the first photos with the new camera – pedestrian mall

After meandering around a bit, we found a local cafe and had a big lunch. We didn’t realise it would be so much food until it came – we didn’t have to eat again for the rest of the day. The local cuisine is very hearty – I had the Tyrolean dumplings and Kris had the schnitzel with potato salad. The proprietor has run the cafe for 31 years.

Hearty Lunch

In all, we did just 18 km around Innsbruck.

Over bridge – graffiti and mountain views