22 May – EuroVelo6 to Besancon

Today was a shorter (rest) day – only did around 60km on a flat road. It was wet but not cold. The bike route is still along the river and sometimes on towpaths along a canal which has been built to the side of the river. These canals were built in 18th to 19th century and are not functional today. However we began to see quite a few houseboats moored along them today.
We spent quite a bit of time in Besancon, both at the tourist info and looking around the city. We also visited 3 bike shops but none of them could sell us a new wheel for Kris’s bike. Kris is resigned to replacing all the spokes, we think it is due to poor quality spokes as the bike mechanics can’t see anything wrong with the wheel (never buy an Avanti! We have friends that had the same problem with Avanti).

We found our accommodation through the tourist info – it is a bed and breakfast at the top of someones house, practically on the cycle path. It is at Beure, just a few km outside of  Besancon. He charged us 5E less because we arrive on bicycles. The other guests are French and also on bicycles – we all had coffee together when we arrived and a conversation in a mixture of French, German and English.

Highlights

  • breakfast at the farm B&B- our best so far. All farm or local made products. She had made the best apricot jam I ever tasted. Also wonderful cheese. Coffee served in bowls.
  • Reflections of the trees in the canal
  • The rain stopping and fresh feeling in the air
  • Coming around a bend in the river and seeing the Besancon citadel emerge out of the mist up on a hill (looked like something out of Lord of the Rings)
  • riding past citadel fortifications which are UNESCO world heritage site
  • bike path going through a tunnel alongside the canal on entering the city (with water dripping on you from above)
  • Narrow streets and tall white stone buildings in Besancon centre

Lowpoint

  • 1 spoke broken today

21 May – EuroVelo6 along the Doubs (to Baume-les-dames)

We have found our way onto a cycle route along the Doubs river.  It started out as a towpath along a canal, when we left Autrechene, eventually becoming a path alongside a large river. Saw quite a few people fishing along the banks but no boats.

Most of the ride was flat and easy. We ended up doing around 100km, even though our destination was only 70km away, due to going in the wrong direction at the start and then spending some time riding around Montbeliard. Kris bought a French mobile phone chip (expensive) and I bought a pastry (the bakeries here are a joy). We also bought groceries.

More trouble with the spokes put pressure on getting to our accommodation in the evening. Our accommodation was difficult to find but was lovely – rooms at the top of a large farm house.

Highpoints:

  • herons on the river banks
  • locks at regular intervals
  • seeing the river grow and the banks change from farmland to cliffs and trees

20 May – In France

A long day, we did at least 100km, reaching the small town of Autrechene which is near Belfort.

We reached Basel early in the morning and enjoyed riding around listening to the church bells. Nice and quiet as it is a Sunday. Basel is interesting as the city spans three countries – Germany, France and Switzerland. It spans the Rhine and there are some lovely paths alongside the river and many bridges. There is alsoa large port.

Then we crossed over into France and made our way on a road (no bike path) over rolling hills. Very much like the Eastern Transvaal with a huge sky. It was quite hot in the middle of the day.

We reached Ferrette after a long but fairly gentle hill climb. It has a ruined castle on the top of it’s hill. There we used a tourist info map to map our route through small towns (about one every 2km) to Delle. This was the best part of the ride, very pretty rural landscapes and towns.

We felt sure we would find accommodation in a town the size of Delle, but found the two hotels had closed in 2010 and despite various directions from locals we couldn’t find anything.   The town seems to be going downhill as there are a number of derelict buildings. This seems to be as a result of economic conditions.  Eventually we moved on to the next town (Grandvillars) with same result and so on for couple of hours. Eventually we found a place after more advice from locals, but this was full. They phoned ahead to another place to confirm they could take us and directed us here. This was around 4km away. So we only found our accommodation at 7pm, having started looking at 4pm. We had visions of sleeping under a bridge at some stage. We were exhausted from riding for longer than desired, but still in good spirits.

Highlights:

  • Poppies growing wild on side of road
  • Beautiful landscape
  • The accommodation we found is lovely – (Le Bambios) – it is at the top of a large house in the country surrounded by well kept gardens and far vistas. We have a large room and bathroom/ kitchenette. The decor is gorgeous, like someones home, and the lady owner very helpful. She has booked our next night accommodation and washed our clothes!

Lowpoints

  • Kris broke 2 spokes in the morning and then another in the afternoon at Ferratte. We have concluded that his spokes must be from a bad batch. Probably we will have to replace all 32 on this trip, especially as the weight of Kris with his baggage is considerable.

19 May – Along the Rhine to Herten (just outside Rheinfelden)

A slightly longer ride today at around 100km. Overcast with no wind but surprisingly warm. The chill has left the air since we descended from the Bodensee.

We have followed the Rhine the whole day through changing landscapes. In the morning we cycled through part of the Schwarzwald (Black forest). We also crossed into Switzerland again for a while over a toll bridge (bikes dont pay!). Also some cycling along bike paths over farmland. There are quite a number of other touring cyclists on these paths with pannier bags. Some have whole families including little children on bikes or in towed wagons.

We spent about an hour finding accommodation, due to a bike tour/race that is happening in the area. The hotel we have is OK but not as good as our previous accommodation (we are getting spoilt!). However it does have internet.

Highlights:

  • Riding on an island (which is a nature reserve) on the Rhine just outside Shaffhausen
  • Stopping to buy (and eat) cake at a bakery
  • The beautiful border town of Bad Sackinnen – cobbled streets etc again. Most notable were the bridge over the Rhine into the old town and the stunning gothic cathedral.
  • Riding through a few wooden covered bridges (some of which cars cannot go through)
  • Another swan with cygnets (the male almost attacked Kris).

Lowpoints:

  • Kris broke another spoke! Luckily this time it only took about 20 min to fix. I am becoming a handy bike mechanics assistant.
  • The outskirts of Rheinfelden were seedy with broken bottles on the road etc. Across the border on the Swiss side it is a beautiful historic town but seemed very posh.

18 May -Bodman to Eichberg (via Stein a. Rhein and Schaffhausen)

A good day for riding – overcast with no wind. Mostly flat or downhill at the start, up and down at the end.  Around 80km.

Lovely riding along the Rhine and through vineyards. Went in and out of Switzerland a few times. Did part of the ride on the Swiss side of the Rhine. Part of this was through a forest (gravel road).

Accommodation is in a tiny town with lots of horses and one Gasthause. We had to hunt around a bit for it and were pretty tired by the time we got here. Had some beers and honey liquor on arrival while they got our room ready.

Highpoints:

  • My not having to do my iron woman challenge – carrying my bike up onto a bridge due to roadworks – a nice German pedestrian offered to help and I let him!
  • Stein a Rhein – the most beautiful town yet with painted buildings, narrow streets, on the Rhine.
  • White swan with cignets at Stein a Rhine.
  • Rhine fall – huge waterfall on the Rhine just outside Schaffhausen.
  • Evening walk around Eichberg, very quiet with Alps in the distance, Rolling hills with horses, rabbits, goats beehives.

Lowpoints

  • My breaking a spoke and Kris having to fix. Spoke not fitting properly and a bit of a struggle (though got going). Then not being able to find bike shop in Schaffhausen. We cant go on breaking spokes every day!
  • Navigating through the traffic in Shaffhausen, witch is Swiss and traffic not as forgiving or bike paths as good.

17 May – Lindau to Bodman along the Bodensee

A beautiful and easy ride. Mostly flat. Around 80km. In contrast to yesterday the weather was perfect – sunny with no wind, though the air still cool. The Bodensee is an amazing place, it is a huge lake with Alps in the background. On the slopes are vineyards and orchards and a picturesque town every few kms. Most of the towns have a waterfront leisure area with yachts, ferries, cafes, etc Today was a public holiday for Ascension Day so all the locals were out and about enjoying the sun, many of them on bicycles too. We passed three bands playing. At one local celebration we stopped to buy cheesecake from a a street stall run by the community. The atmosphere was festive. We found very spacious and nicely furnished accommodation at the top of a private house in a small town at the very end of the lake at around 3pm.

Highpoint:

  • Enjoying a beer in a waterfront cafe at the end of the day. Followed by a picnic on a bench on the waterfront eating food bought at a farm stall – including fresh strawberries and a locally made fruit liqueur.

Lowpoint:

  • Kris breaking a spoke mid morning and losing about an hour struggling to balance the wheel after a friendly German cyclist tried to help (and mucked it up).

16 May – a cold journey to from Sommerberg to Lindau

Snow this morning!!  It began to fall while we were still getting ready. Didn’t realise it was so cold as gasthause is so warm with double glazed windows etc.

Once we started riding it soon turned to rain. We thought it may clear and warm up once we got to Lindau, at the lake and quite a bit lower down, but  it was still very cold. So we found accommodation with internet and  settled in for the afternoon. Emerged at around four to go to supermarket and pub for some beers and snacks. It has been hailing and raining on and off the whole afternoon.

We have only made about 30km progress, and did around another ten going shopping in evening.

Highpoints:

  • Breakfast at Gasthause Rudolph – immaculately set table  with knitted chicken egg warmers – while watching the snow outside.
  • Surviving the cold and getting warm again.

Lowpoints

  • Coming down a huge downhill to Lindau with hands and feet freezing. Hands so cold they were painful and then numb. Had merino on  so body quite warm but really needed ski gloves!
  • Hail coming down as came into Lindau.

Breakfast in Germany

We are finding the food in Germany cheap and of very high quality.

Our highlight is the breakfast which keeps  us going for most of the day. It has been included in all our accommodation so far except the Wombats hostel where it cost only E3.80 for all you can eat.

The traditional breakfast consists of fresh rolls, a number of different cheeses, salami and ham, a boiled egg, berry jam and copious amounts of coffee. Some places are more elaborate and provide fruit, yoghurt and cereal as well. In one or two places they even had cake as an option. I particularly like the yoghurt as they usually provide a very soft unsweetened variety.

We are also enjoying the beer culture here – everyone drinks it and you can buy a good beer anywhere (even in a coffee shop). Many small towns seem to have their own breweries. They typically cost around E2.80 and you get 1/2 litre – no mucking around with smaller amounts.

Another thing I like about this food culture is their habit of putting bakeries at the entrances to supermarkets. Very sensible to make it easy to get a pastry and coffee. Their breads and baked goods are excellent and we are not holding back as we need the carbs.

We have eaten out or had street food a few times – they seem to enjoy pizza and kebabs as much as we do. The gasthauses have the more traditional food. We have also eaten out of the local food shops very well a few times. They don’t seem to have any huge supermarkets like we do so there is less choice, but everything you need is available and not expensive.

Travelling Clothes (this one is for Bermy)

Following discussion at work about how we would cope with so few clothes, I thought I had better report back. Well, it is working out well as planned. It is a drag to hand wash every night, especially when we are tired after a big ride it is the last thing you feel like. However the clothes are drying overnight as our accommodation is warm. I would recommend the Katmandu quick dry underwear. Our shorts and riding shirts are also quick dry and dry enough to put on in the morning. Socks not so and also not the cotton T-shirts. We have had to resort to hanging these off the sleeping bag at the back of our bikes on one or two days. We basically wear the same clothes every day for riding and then have a change of clothes for the evening which we wash every few days as necessary. I would say we could get by with even fewer clothes than we have as I have items I have not yet worn.

Cycling from 11-15 May

11 May Munich to Augsberg

Our first day of riding. Well we didn’t expect to be in a heat wave. It was well in the mid thirties and felt hotter on a tar road. The locals assured us it was unseasonal and would be cooler tomorrow. The distance was meant to be 66km, which is manageable. We ended up doing at least 100km (odometer is faulty and cuts out half the time).

The reasons for this – 1) leaving the city in the wrong direction. Kris navigates a lot from the sun and hasn’t adjusted to the Northern hemisphere yet (although this gave us some more views of Munchin). 2) the marvelous cycling paths are actually a little longer than the motorway. 3) In a number of places we took unplanned detours by following signposted cycling paths .  For instance we visited Luttenwang, way off track.

Highlights:

  • Cycling through the rural towns – each with a church and a maypole.
  • Talking with an older German lady on a bike who had a little dog (black maltese) on the back in a homemade basket. She had taken the dog swimming as he was feeling the heat.
  •  Seeing a little old German housewife sweeping the public pavement in front of her house. And a little while later another vigorously cleaning out the gutters in front of hers. This explains something about my mother in law.
  • Pouring water  over ourselves in Luttenwang when the lady there allowed us to use her tap. Feeling body temp drop a few degrees.
  • Christ statue on a wooden cross between two trees on side of road
  • getting directions from the Germans. Kris is doing very well and understands what they say mostly while I catch the odd word. They are very helpful and will repeat the directions several times to make sure you understand. One or two wanted to chat.
  • Going to a bike shop to buy electrolyte replacement powder and bike bell and having the salesman tell me I don’t need to wear my high viz gear in Germany.
  • Buying my new camera in Munich. (photos to come)

Observations:

  • All new houses being built in Bavarian style with high pitched roofs.
  • Many homes with solar panels, usually more than one.

Low points:

  • Kris breaking a spoke and replacing it in the heat.
  • My gears slipping again and Kris having to adjust. So we got pretty dirty again. Not able to go into first gear without chain slipping. Despite expensive bike shop service!!!
  • Worrying that Kris had heatstroke  on last few km into Augsberg. It was still stifling hot even though after 6pm

12 May Augsberg to Landsberg

Did around 70 km today. 20km were riding around Augsberg seeing the sights and then trying to find the right route out. Thankfully a lot cooler.

Highpoints

  • Old city in Augsberg with narrow cobbled streets with canals running along one side of the street.
  • Augsberg city hall
  • Cycling along the river going out of Augsberg
  • Hearing the  churchbells ringing on the hour in the towns as we pass through.
  • Arriving at our accommodation in Landsberg. Our best yet. It is in the middle of the city right behind a the cathedral, on a cobbled street. And we have our first on-suite bathroom.

Lowpoints

  • riding in the rain – my first experience of this. However not as bad as I thought it would be as it is not that cold and there is no wind. However the bikes were filthy when we arrived with mud etc. Luckily I had our clothes in plastic bags so they stayed dry.
  • coming off my bike – on a railway line – luckily this was beside the river and away from traffic. Also I fell well. Only damage is skin off my elbow, grazed knee, cut on my lip and chin. So I am OK.

13 May – Landsberg to Shongrau to Peiting

An easier day today and a lot cooler. Overcast. Altogether did 69km. 10 km sightseeing around Landsberg and around 12 km going back to Shongrau for sightseeing.

Highlights:

  • Landsberg cathedral inside. Amazing alter.
  • Leck river beside the town with fairy tale like towers beside it. Riding alongside the river.
  • Some houses in Landsberg built over little canals diverted from the river.
  • Tarred cycle path all the way through lots of rural land – jersey cows.
  • Riding around city wall in Shongrau.
  • Accommodation with a bath – great for tired muscles.
  • Dinner at Gasthause. They brew the beer themselves. Had asparagus – the same huge ones we have seen sold on side of road. Five men walking in to eat dressed in lederhosen, braces, hats etc – the full Monty.

Observations:

Our first day of not pre-booking accommodation. When we arrived in Shongrau it was pretty dead being a Sunday and everything closed. A passerby recommended a place when he saw us standing outside the closed tourist info office.

So we we found it and they recommended we come through to Peiting only 2km away and gave us some names. The place we found is great with big room and bathroom. Not many other people staying here but crowds of locals eating Sunday lunch in downstairs restaurant.

14 May – Peiting to Fussen Weisensee

Did around 80km. Took a slightly longer route as more scenic. Our earliest start yet at 7.30am. Chillly strart –  cold  hands. A clear day with the air still cool (probably as we are near the mountains) Found accommodation around 3pm.

Highlights:

  • Hearing the church bells ringing throughout the night and early morning – every hour (still not sleeping through)
  • Seeing the Alps come closer and closer as we rode.
  • Cows with bells and the smell of fresh cut grass.
  • Long straight bike paths through meadows interspersed with little towns
  • Seeing small children in one town being fetched by mothers on bikes
  • Getting directions from a little old man who would have been a gnome if he were shorter – white beard, curly mustache, traditional hat and jacket.
  • Riding over the Echelsbacher Brucke- built in 1928 over a huge gorge.
  • Riding through forest next to lake on way to Fussen
  • Approaching Fussen over a bike path on an open field well away from the road. Lots of other people out on bikes too.
  • riding around Fussen old city – the city wall was built in 17th century and an amazing baroque church.
  • Riding along the lake at the Weisensee
  • Drinking beer in the sun in front of a cafe on the lake after finding our accommodation. The locals sit there for hours nursing a beer.
  • Buying nice bread, cheese, sausages, tomato and eating them as a picnic supper on the lake shore, with Alps in the background.

Observations:

– Again accommodation not pre-booked. No problem getting a place. We got list from the tourist info place at Fussen and chose to come a bit out of the city. We are in an old house that looks a bit run down on the outside with unique decor – rather ghoulish dolls and religious statues in the hall. Shared bathroom and toilet. We are paying basically the same as the youth hostel but have big room with washbasin. Everything is spotlessly clean. The owner is friendly – this house was her family home. Her career was as a ski instructor.

Low points:

  • Third day without access to the internet – Kris getting withdrawal symptoms.
  • Going around with a huge scab on my top lip from bike fall – luckily nothing seems to be infected.

15 May – Fussen Weisensee to Sommerberg

About 80km. Early start at around 7.45am, found accommodation around 3pm. More hilly than previous rides. Beautiful weather in morning – sunny with cool air, beginning to rain just before found accommodation.

Highpoints:

  • Riding through Heidi type scenery with mountains, meadows, alpine type villas, cows with cowbells
  • Riding past some of the ski fields and looking down on the landscape
  • Seeing a deer run across a meadow
  • Struggling to find the way on the cycle path at a highway intersection before Immenstadt. A passing cyclist stopped to help. He said it is too difficult to explain – just follow me.- he then took us right through the city through convoluted bike paths (including through a quarry!) and showed us the right path on the other side. We would have struggled for ages to  find this way otherwise.
  • Riding alongside the Alpsee (huge lake with mountains in the background and sail surfers on the lake)
  • Our accommodation – Gasthaus Rudolph – chosen because it was starting to rain and i was feeling too tired to ride further. Very reasonable rate and we have basically a whole flat (as it is not being used). It consists of a hall, living room, large bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. It is in an old family home just about in the middle of town. The decor and furnishings are beautiful. Modern bathroom, wooden floors, etc. The lady says they have been upgrading the place for generations. She is very house proud. Some parts of it (a door) are 500 years old. At some point it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt using as many of the original structural elements as possible. Kris has enjoyed watching English CNN on the television.

Lowpoints:

  • still no internet, evidently as we are in the mountains. Hope for some tomorrow.