Bavaria, you bovine-filled beauty

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Thursday 13th August

Miles: 58

We spent the morning descending from the mountains to the plains.

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The roads we took were fairly busy. The good thing was that there were a fair few cycle lanes, which we used when we could.

We’ve passed quite a few of these Bavarian-style churches, with the distinctive domed spire. I don’t know what denomination of Christian (I assume it’s Christian) they are round here, but they are very beautiful.

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One thing we are all enjoying about Germany is the funny roadsigns. We’ve seen signs to “Anger”, “Wank”, “Nesselwang” and “Grub”, and have also enjoyed seeing many roadsigns wishing us a “gute fahrt”, which translates to a “good journey” (leading to inevitable exchanges about how “Ich liebe das gros fahrt” and “das was ein gute fahrt”… yes, we are hilarious).

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After a hot day of cycling we ended up in a middle-of-nowhere campsite with lots of old, deserted-looking caravans. I thought it was great (despite the lack of icecream), but Eric and Steve said it was all a bit “The Hills Have Eyes”.


Friday 14th August

Miles: 53

The morning cycle was all going fine until our trailer came off. The attachment had been a bit dodgy ever since the man in Salzburg repaired it – not because he had done a bad job, but because he didn’t know that we needed the back wheel to accommodate the trailer too.

Lucky for us, the trailer fell off on a quiet, fairly flat section of a road. After a few minutes Eric and Steve managed to use another bolt to fix the trailer onto our pannier attachment. This happened just after Eric snapped at me (most rudely) to hold the bike still, causing me to play the “sulk” card for the next few hours, which is quite hard work when you have to communicate about traffic and signalling, and also not make the third person in your group feel awkward. I gave it my best shot.

It was another day of busy roads, with some confusing cycle lanes thrown in. Eric lost patience with the cycle lanes when one led us away from the road we were following with no warning, and we had to spend 15 minutes finding our way back again.

We stopped for lunch feeling rather grouchy. However, I did take a photo of this excellent German sign.

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The afternoon went more smoothly. We cycled past a beautiful lake called Simmsee.

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We arrived at our campsite in Grolking. We were crammed in to the tiniest plot ever, along with two other tents, but this aside, it was a good campsite full of very friendly people.

We met a nice man who talked to us about his experience cycling around the world. He had a high-flying job in finance, wondered what life was really all about, quit and spent 18 months cycling the globe, stopping to help many an underprivileged child along the way (he didn’t tell us all of this, but I found out about it later). You can find him if you Google “Bike Ambassador”. It turns out that in the world of cycle touring he is Kind Of A Big Deal.

While we were eating dinner the man next door to us offered us a local beer and spent some time chatting with us about his holidays and advising us on our route through Germany.

We spent some time at the bar and then went to bed.


Saturday 15th August

Miles: 48

After some heavy rain in the night (which I slept through) the sky was still looking rather grey and moody today. We set off hoping that we wouldn’t be rained on.

We joined the tail end of the Romantic Road today, which I was quite thrilled about as an old colleague had recommended it to me. I believe that this road takes you through lots of famous wine areas, and is very beautiful.

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It’s also obviously popular enough with Chinese tourists for a Chinese translation to be featured on the sign (I assume it’s Chinese, I could be wrong!).

The scenery was indeed very pretty. It fulfilled our expectations of Bavaria: rolling green hills, well-tended farmland, neat, pretty houses and lots and lots of cows.

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It’s typical for a lot of public buildings to feature rustic farming or hunting-themed murals, like this one on the side of this building.

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We cycled through countryside and sleepy little villages. Mysteriously, anything resembling a supermarket was shut, making us wonder if it was a public holiday. This situation led to us sharing out the last few slices of bread from the day before, and finally digging out the emergency tin of disgusting pate, which we had bought all the way back in Italy. It’s called “Spunti”. We had long ago nicknamed it “meat spunk” because of its unappealing texture and anonymous meat taste. It tasted like a sort of tuna-liver pate hybrid. Thank God we have finally eaten it.

We eventually found a kebab stand and a tobacco shop which had some biscuits. As Steve pointed out, in any other situation eating a kebab in a deserted park at lunchtime on a Saturday would be depressing. But for us it was simply a welcome change from bread, ham and cheese (which is of course also delicious).

It was cloudy and grey all day, but this kind of suited the scenery. 
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At our campsite the rain started. We cooked on a table under an awning, which unfortunately turned out to belong to a beer hall/restaurant which opened up for service while we were still preparing food – a bit of a faux pas! We bought some drinks, which meant that the restaurant owner glared at us but didn’t kick us out. I’m glad he didn’t, because unless we were going to sit in the pouring rain, there really was nowhere else for us to go! (It’s not quite as bad as it sounds, it was a massive beer hall, was quite empty and there were 0 other people sitting outside.)

At 8 in the evening we stood by our tents in the rain, and quickly concluded that it was time to call it a day. From inside our tents we chose this time to remind Steve that he had turned down a holiday in the Caribbean to come and join us. Steve said ‘Curse you!’ We chuckled.


Sunday 16th August

Rest day

The rain carried on all night. It’s quite nice being in your warm, cosy tent, hearing the sounds of the rain outside. However, there comes a point when you realise that you are going to have to emerge from your lovely dry cocoon into the soggy, still-raining world. At 9 the next day it was still raining, which meant that as far as I could tell water had been falling from the sky for the last 12 hours, with no sign of stopping.

Today we were planning to visit Schloss Neuschwanstein, which is a very beautiful and famous fairy tale-like castle. Here it is, looking mysterious.

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We took the bus there. We got off and saw reams of other tourists (the Asian coach tours were out in force), and lots of souvenir shops and restaurants too. We had lunch in a restaurant to get out of the rain. Then we joined the enormous queue to buy a ticket for the castle.

After 15 minutes we had shuffled our way into the official queuing area and saw the following sign: “Next available castle entrance time 17:00.” Our bus back to the campsite was at 4.30PM. We wouldn’t be able to see the inside of the castle (and enjoy the not-being-rained-on opportunities this would provide). There was a sign below saying “You can see the outside for free!” This would have to do.

We began the walk up to the castle. The rain had pretty much stopped, so this was good. We saw a sign saying that the bridge from where you can get the best view of the castle was closed for maintenance. Not good.

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Some nice views on the way up.

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Another castle (probably not getting the attention it deserves due to its proximity to Neuschwanstein).

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We reached the outside of the castle and got the camera out.

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It’s a nice castle, but… I was a bit underwhelmed. The whole fairy tale aspect comes from viewing the castle from far away. Up close, it doesn’t feel particularly special.

We wandered towards the closed bridge, thinking we might be able to get a better view there. Eric wanted to sneak onto the bridge. I said no (all of our experiences with the police have left me feeling particularly law abiding). Instead we left the path and made our way down to the river below.

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By then climbing up a steep, muddy, slippery hill, and perching on a precarious muddy bank which sheered off into a river gorge, we were able to get a half-decent view of the castle.

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Once again, I was in flip flops. Dammit!

The rain began again at this point, so we made a hasty retreat before the ground got too slippery.

We headed back down and had a little look round the souvenir shops.

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We had done all we wanted to by 3, so instead of waiting for our 4.30 bus we walked back instead.

In our soggy state we decided that a warm dinner inside would be quite nice, so we went to the beer hall/restaurant that we had so rudely prepared our own food at yesterday. We all ordered a half rotisserie chicken and chips. After eating so much camping stove food, rotisserie chicken felt like heaven.

As soon as we started eating, Eric declared that he ‘might have another one’ once he had finished. I didn’t believe him, but I should have known better.

‘Yes?’ said Eric to Steve, once they had both finished eating.

‘No!’ I said to Eric, horrified. We had all just scoffed half of a chicken and a big pile of chips. It was a huge meal!

‘Yes??’ said Steve to Eric, his expression saying “this may just be a brilliant idea”.

‘No!’ I said, wanting to add ‘You greedy pigs!’ But I was clearly just the eating equivalent of a killjoy – a killeat.

‘Let’s do it!’ said Eric. And they did. They each bought another half chicken with chips, and ate dinner all over again.

I took a photo of shame as evidence. Here we see Eric doing his classic “moron” face.

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It was actually kind of great for me too, as I got to criticise Eric and act superior while eating some of his chips – girlfriend heaven, surely.

A special mention for our evening entertainment. He sang, he gyrated alarmingly, he drank a beer on stage… and he wore a very risqué waistcoat. I am loving Germany.

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