Sunday, May 22, 2011

Romantic Road (VI): What's a Donauworth?

On the way to Donauworth, disaster. I went over a bump and found my back tire again running along on the metal rim. This time, something had slashed right through my metal belted tire and the tube.

Is that Daylight?

I replaced the tube, but my only solution for the tire itself was to use an old emergency technique and duct tape a piece of cardboard into the inside of the tire and continue. Every bump I went over had me holding my breath, but it held for 50kms to the next bike shop.

I hope the Cambridge Thai restaurant still accepts their loyalty card.

The camping ground was 10 kms out of Donauworth, but I caught a train into town and wandered around the centre of the town at dusk.

The Town Glockenspiel

That night it poured down with rain.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Romantic Road (V): Rest day: Augsburg

Augsburg is the biggest city on the Romantic Road.

In the centre of Augsburg is an area called the Fuggerei, which is the world's oldest social housing area. Dating from the early 1500s, the rent for one of the houses remains about 88 cents per year. For the price that I paid to enter, I should've been allowed to stay for about 5 years.

It was founded by the wealthy Fugger family. If you're rich enough to build a housing complex, you're rich enough to change your name via deed poll.

It irked me a bit. Most people in Germany were really good about letting me butcher their language, but the lady at the ticket office wouldn't let me get past "Ich..." without making me switch to English.

The Fuggerei

Each doorbell pull in the Fuggerei has a different shape. Apparently, this was so that, in the pre-street lighting era, people could find the right house in the dark by feeling their way.

I went to the museum at the Fuggerei, which seemed a little off. It was in a subterranean WWII bomb shelter. Its two themes seemed to be the terrible damage that was done to the area by air raids in WWII, and how much Augsburg loved Hitler. It didn't engender a lot of sympathy.

The Augsburg Synagogue

Augsburg was a former Roman settlement, and has a really interesting museum of Roman archaeology.

Romantic Road (IV): Pfaffenwinkel District


Are you exhausted, alone and your bike is squeaking because the overnight rain washed all the oil off your chain? Well, try Mezzo Mix, available across Bavaria. It's a drink made up of Coke and orange, and you know what? When you're bike touring, it's pretty good stuff. Mezzo Mix: It's colakusstorange.

I got away earlier this time, but with the previous day's deficit, I needed to do over 100kms today, just to get back on schedule. I was off to a bad start when, 10kms down the road from the camping ground, my rear tube exploded. This was actually the first puncture I've had on this bike, so when I opened my spare tube, the rubber was suspiciously white-looking. But it held air and I plodded on through the Pfaffenwinkel district.

James, I hear you ask, are bicycle shops open in Bavaria on Easter Sunday? No, no they are not. Nothing is.

Along the way, I encountered the Lech river for the first time.

Here, a couple of other cyclists had also stopped. The guy said something about shitty photos (Foto schiessen), to which I giggled immaturely and nodded. It was only further down the road that I realised that schiessen is the verb for taking photos. The word I was thinking of was, of course, "scheisse".

I made it to Landsberg am Lech for a late lunch. I can't remember: some sort of spiced sausage? Mmm, more pickle.

Landsberg has a lot to see, and I was disappointed to only have time for a meal there, before jumping back on the bike.

Leaving Landsberg to the north meant riding along a bike path beside a motorway. I got lost here quite a few times; the signage was very confusing. At one point I went through an area with signs telling me to keep away because it was a Germany military test site. That can't be on the official route - it's not very romantic.

God knows how many people I asked for directions on this trip. The Germans are very patient and forgiving of people butchering their language.

It took ages to ride through Augsburg to the camping ground in the north of the city. It's a bloody big city. It was pretty dark when I arrived, and I had my lights on. A couple gave me directions on how to cross the autobahn, saying that I would need the footbridge. I was thinking that I would just whip across the road when nothing was coming, like usual. Apparently you don't do that with autobahns. Those are 3 foot high walls on the median strip and fences along the sides. Okay, I'll use the foot bridge.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Romantic Road (III): A Bit of a Bad Day

I got to the castles around 9:30 in the morning. There was already a formidable queue. They are massively popular, drawing about 1.3 million visitors per year. I queued for about an hour, but as I got closer to the front, the list of available tours was getting later and later in the day. I realised that to remain to do a tour, I would essentially have to forego a day of cycling, and my schedule simply didn't allow for that. I went up to the Marienbreucke bridge and walked around the outside of Neuschwanstein, but I haven't actually been inside. Guess I'll have to go back.

Leaving Schwangau, the bike path runs through flowery fields beside a stream, and is very flat. I was flying along. Riding at over 30kmh, I was thinking of all the distance I could knock off in a day.

Then the path began to climb through hills. It was a bit of hard work. The path climbed through farmland and then through a forest. I gradually became aware that having done the bulk of my cycling in the Netherlands, East Anglia and the Canterbury plains, I am not well-practised at climbing hills. I do not care for them.

After riding through the forest, the trees parted and the rococo Wieskirche appeared. The church is pretty flash, and became a famous pilgrimage site because it had a statue that cried real tears.

UNESCO and I disagree about which of these things is the truly great achievement of mankind:

Black Forest vs White Church

A couple watched me take this photo, and in my stilted German I tried to explain to them what I was trying to achieve, but they didn't get it. Probably too high brow.

I rode on. At one point, I drifted off the Romantische Strasse, and found myself on the Milchweg instead: Bavaria's only bike route dedicated to the production of milk. I swear that's a real thing. At this stop, there were cow bells that you hit with a striker. The notes on the pages were colour-coded to match the bells. It was fun.

I stumbled on through the afternoon, but it became clear that I was not going to get even remotely near my planned destination for the day. There weren't any shops along the way either, so my only lunch was my piece of cake. In bike touring, there is a term "bonking", which is the point where you hit the wall on no energy. It's a bit dangerous, because you can make silly decisions.

By 5pm, I was starving and seriously bonking, and then the trees parted and a roadside schnitzel restaurant appeared. Now that's a pilgrimage I can believe in!

Salad in Germany is like something that they read about in a book but don't really understand, so you get half a kilo of chopped pickle instead. As long as that's a whole fried pig beside the pickle, I'm happy.

Refueled, I had the option of trying to make it to my intended destination for the night, 40kms in 2 hours, or turning back to the previous available camping ground. I set off, then turned back, went forward again, and finally gave up and went back to the previous site. Of the 90kms I needed to do that day, I had done 50, and 10kms of that was backtracking, so I had achieved less than half the required distance and I was knackered. This was not a good start to my riding.

I returned to the camping ground at Rothenbuch, where I found myself next to Australian couple Jason and Shannon, who are spending 6 months cycling around Europe. They kindly gave me some Easter eggs, which revived me a little.

It poured down during the night.

Romantic Road (II): What's all the Fussen About?

I arrived in Fussen on the evening of Easter Friday. I cycled to the tourist office, which is the official start of the Romantic Road, but couldn't find any sort of sign or gateway signifying the start. There were signs pointing the way to go, so I headed off. Fussen looked pretty, but I didn't stop there. Schwangau is about 5kms along the route, so rode to my hotel, and had a great venison goulash with spaetzle. Then I set off to see the castles.

Schwangau was the home of Ludwig II, aka Mad King Ludwig. He's quite an interesting character. He became obsessed with Wagnerian opulence, and built 3 castles. Linderhof is some distance away, but Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau are near Schwangau, in the foothills of the alps.

Neuschwanstein Left, Hohenschwangau Right

Neuschwanstein at Night


My Hotel

Along the Romantic Road, there are about a million statues of some bloke nailed to a cross. I took photos of a couple, but for the next several hundred kilometres I lost interest.

Jesus Won't be the Only One Sick of Crucifixes by the End of the Ride

Here's a map that I saw in Schwangau. Oh Germany, don't ever change.

"I Went to Wankerfleck but all I got was this Shirt With a Stain on it"