Well, it is Mayday and it is just one month since we set off from the rear of our home in Chester on NCR5…. and today’s destination will be the last night we spend in Germany before we enter our third country on our journey… Austria.
Today wasn’t so sunny, but at least it was dry as we made our way out of Deggendorf eastwards on a quiet Sunday morning in Southern Germany. Our route took us across the Donau, but this time on a ferry, our first on the Donau.
We had a little rain in the afternoon, but we’re not anywhere near as soaked as we have been.
As we approached Passau we saw a barge just entering a lock; both were massive.
We watched for about 40 mins as it glided in, fixed to the side, gates closed, and the water let in
We arrived in Passau and found our accommodation near one of the bridges. Looking up, we could see some splendid old buildings high up overlooking the town. One of them was the youth hostel we thought about booking, but decided against it when we realized the location. Very glad not to have to get the tandem up that hill!
After an excellent Indian meal, we took a wander around the town,
the streets were quiet and we wibbled about for an hour or so. It was lovely wandering through history.
Starting in such an historic city as Regensburg we just had to have a bit of a wander before starting off for Deggendorf, some 60 miles away down the Danube.
Lots of cobbled streets, attractive old buildings and oodles of history.
Unfortunately the Old Stone Bridge across the Danube was being restored with lots of scaffolding shrouding the stonework. However as we crossed the river we noticed, for the first time, shipping that used the Danube for navigation… The river had become wide enough and deep enough for larger vessels to use the river as a waterway.
One of the nicest things about travelling by bicycle is that you notice lots of little details that you would miss if you roared past in a tin box on four wheels…
for example we passed some lovingly tended allotments that were right next to the riverbank… lovely to see in the sunshine with the flowers echoing the colours of the German flag.
We also passed the huge building in classic Greek style, a bit like the Parthenon, that you could see for miles in any direction. Called the Walhalla Memorial, after the old norse god, it is a hall of fame for all German speaking peoples and houses busts of suitably famous people. It was very high above the river and we had 60 miles to do that day so didn’t walk up to visit it.
Our route took us through a town called Straubing. We almost decided to cut a loop out and not go through this town, but it was a warm day and we wanted to fill up our water bottles……
The town was bustling and busy, with several cars driving round tooting horns loudly – seems it is the thing to do for a wedding.
In the town centre we came across some traditional dancers, all in costume.
As we moved on through more rural areas, we saw many villages had these decorated poles up, rather like huge Maypoles – we were told it was to celebrate “Frühe Fest” – a sort of spring Oktoberfest.
At one point along the Donauradweg (the cyclepath we are following) it was very blocked by a craft market. We enjoyed walking through and looking at the stalls. A few folks asked us about our tandem and we had some conversations in a mixture of English and German.
A few kilometers before Degendorf we stopped for a water break, and a friendly resident started to give us the run down on the history of his village. He urged us to go inside the rather pretty church that was close by, and also told us about the massive floods that occurred on the Danube between Passau and Deggendorf in 2013.
We arrived at Deggendorf after a long day to scenes of merriment as the town had it’s own Frühe Fest activities well under way, with a fun fair set up not far from where we were staying.
We spent the morning being shown around Ingolstadt by Svetlana our Russian Airbnb host.
We saw inside the Münster , a very spacious and lofty building.
She also took us to a Catholic Church, the Maria de Victoria Church, no longer used for worship it is now a museum and a performance space.
This had the most spectacular painted ceiling. Viewed from a specific point on the floor, all the perspective of the trees, fountains and pillars was perfect, but as you moved about the church the images no longer appeared as they originally did….wonderful. And as you walked about the space, one of the characters on the ceiling always had his eye on you!
We set off for Regensberg our next destination at midday and left to the sound of a symphony of bells as various churches marked noontime…. the deep sonorius bells of the Münster mixed with the soft tuneful musical chimes of several other churches, each of which played their own tunes on their bells.
We followed the Donau for some way, but turned South here and there away from the river. Much of our ride is through very rural countryside.
We had been recommended to see Walensburg, a small town further along the Danube, by Svetlana. But on looking at the contour lines nearby, and the lack of a riverside path we decided not to visit. Steep hills and a loaded tandem are not a good mixture.
However, we still managed to find some hills on our way into Revensburg. We had some difficulty with the chain jumping off when we were in a low gear ….. so more pushing the tandem up hill.
The last 3k into Regensburg were good – a lovely wizz downhill, we got up to 40kph (that’s 25mph in old money). In fact Simon’s hat blew off as we were speeding downhill, which then hit Diana in the face and disappeared behind us! Thankfully we were able to retrieve it safely.
After a bizarre overnight stop in a motorway motel, with our tandem safely stored away in the stockroom we set out in bright sunshine to follow the Danube downstream.
Today’s ride was relatively easy, following for the most part well maintained paths on the riverbank – sometimes freshly laid gravel made the going harder work.
We occasionally cut off the odd wiggle in the course of the river to head off down quiet country lanes and cyclepaths, crossing attractive agricultural landscape.
Stopping for lunch at a crossroads of decently surfaced narrow agricultural tracks we thought it would be a peaceful spot…. however we were passed by several tractors with trailers, walkers and other cyclists. One of whom stopped to have a brief chat about destinations and starting points. Benno, we discovered, had set out from his home in Freiburg on a year long journey on his bike to get to China! He told us of his blogsite www.bennopolo.tumblr.com , so we gave him our card’ with our blogsite address on.
A sleety windy squall that suddenly arrived in the space of 10 minutes and broke up our chat. So we dressed up in our waterproofs and headed off again, fortunately being blown along by a brisk, icy cold westerly wind.
One particularly attractive detour cutting across river bends, went up and over beautiful woodland on a recently constructed gravelly cycle path…. unfortunately it involved a bit of climbing and our long ride yesterday meant we both had some difficulty peddling up the uphill required ….. after a bit of walking and several breath-catching pauses we reached the river again.
We passed through various historic looking settlements, often characterised in the Bavarian manner, by a substantial entrance of a gatehouse leading on to cobbled streets and amazingly ornate old buildings inside.
At one of these towns, Neuberg an der Donau, we stopped to have a very nice coffee, rooibosch tea and a beer, before having a quick wander around the ‘Aldstadt’ beyond the gatehouse.
We passed yet another one of many hydro-electricity plant built to take advantage of the waterflow from the river. Each of these formed a lake in the river behind the low dam walls which invariably provided a home to broods of geese with lots of little goslings in tow (usually we were hissed at by the parents to keep away!)
We also observed lots of other birdlife swooping and darting to catch the insects over the water – usually, swifts, swallows and martins. Hearing a few Cuckoos in the woods suggest spring and warmer weather is not far away.
We arrived at the beautiful old town of Ingolstadt on a chilly but sunny evening to meet our Airbnb host Svetlana who showed us our interesting and attractive apartment for the night.
Ingopstadt is the northernmost point on the Danube as it wends its way eastward to the Black Sea.
Ingolstadt is also the home of the car manufacturer Audi… and we noticed quite a high proportion of the cars locally were of this luxury car brand.
After a really nice meal at a vegetarian restaurant recommended by our Airbnb host Svetlana called “Swept Away” we had a lovely wander through the attractive streets of the Aldstadt in Ingolstadt
Donauworth to Ingolstadt: 43 miles
Journey so far: 1,041 miles…….. our first thousand miles!
We woke up to a bright snow covered morning at Lotte & Max’s home, our wonderful Warmshowers hosts for last night.
We had our first view of the Danube ( or ‘Donau’ in German) at Ulm, some 5 miles away from Blaustein, down the Blau river.
The Münster at Ulm was very impressive and, apparently, according to Max, our host, it has the tallest spire in Europe (soon to be surpassed by La Familia Sagrada Basilica in Barcelona).
We had a nice coffee at a cafe/bakehouse called PANO in the Münster square which is run as a cooperative and specialises in vegan and vegetarian snacks. They had a great display of freshly baked bread on show.
The Danube is to be our companion for the next 1,000 miles or so before we turn away southwards in Bulgaria and head for Turkey.
Here at Ulm we are about 2580Km from the Danube delta on Black Sea.
Being along a river, our ride was characterised by flat fast stretches through riverside woodlands, nature reserves and arrow straight paths atop flood defence bunds.
We were fortunately helped by a brisk Westerly wind – but, by a piece of erroneous navigational planning (!) we managed to ride 67 miles (which did result in some rather cross words being exchanged) and arrived somewhat exhausted at a hotel/motel beside a motorway junction which offered the best price for a night in the area.
We were greeted by snowfall as we were loading up our tandem at Göppingen…. a few miles from Geislingen an der Steige…. name meaning “Geislingen on the climb” which is the start of the Schwalbe Alb the Swabian Jura mountain range….. some climbing is ahead!
What a day it was! We set out in light snow from Göppingen towards Blaustein near Ulm.
We have peddled up the most hills of our journey today, climbing a total of some 577 metres! As we carried on, the snow got heavier until we felt as though we were in one of those snow domes you might shake at Christmas.
We passed wood stacks wearing snow caps, trees dusted with snow, steep slopes all shrouded in mist and snow.
On the tops of the hills I was looking for Father Christmas and his sledge! Luckily the snow wasn’t settling on the ground and the roads and paths we were following were just wet, not icy.
We managed to find a bus shelter to huddle in as we ate our lunch but we still got very cold. Fortunately we found a little bakehouse/cafe nearby where we could get a hot drink. Two hot chocolates each later, and we were then ready to carry on.
More and more up hill, then eventually some long downhill rides to Blaustein where we arrived at our Warmshowers hosts, Lotte and Max who had a nice welcoming log fire burning as we arrived.
Having provided us with an excellent meal we were offered the opportunity to go for a swim at the local swimming baths. This was not just any swimming pool, it had a brilliant slide. One that twists and turns with no light in some places, and spirals of light in others …. excellent fun. I am sure the first ride was somehow longer than the others!
There was also a warm ‘spa pool’ that was outside fed by artificially heated natural spring water. I was not sure about this at all, I mean, outside, at night, on a day it had been snowing!
However it was quite wonderful. The water was as warm as a perfect bath, the sky had darkened to night and there were gentle flurries of snow on our faces. At the side of the outdoor pool there were strong bubble jets of water that came on intermittently, so that it was possible to massage tired muscles with them.
Altogether a wonderful end to quite a taxing day.
Our hosts told us that General Rommel, of Afrika Corps fame, came from Blaustein, and in fact, where we were staying was around 400 mtr from where he had his family home – which is now a private residence.
Although this section of our journey towards Ulm and the Danube was relatively short we found today’s ride was rather more tiring than previous days; partly because there were several ups and downs but also because we had a few hailshowers and cold weather to contend with.
Our German based bike route planner helped us to find some lovely back lanes to reach our destination, finding ways under busy roads and through woodland…. however some of the woodland tracks became paths …. then …. disappeared … in the middle of the woods … or suggested a path that just didn’t exist!
However, fortunately, we managed to push our trusty steed to reach a track again and we eventually reached our Warmshowers hosts for the night, Frank and Ho Pheng their 6 year old daughter Inge and their little baby Jan.
Their home was in Esslingen near Stuttgart, a lovely old house fitted out inside with lots of woodwork and homely touches.
We learnt from our welcoming warmshowers host, Angela, that the historic city of Worms is reputedly the oldest city in Germany. However very little had escaped the intensive allied bombing in the latter days of World War 2 in 1945 so few historic buildings have survived.
Unfortunately the ancient Lutheran church didn’t survive the bombing, (Luther/Diet of Worms etc.) with its replacement being built in the 50’s.
Apart from the Catholic Cathedral one of the few remaining historic buildings is the impressive gate house on the Nibelungen bridge across the Rhine. We crossed this as we left the Rhine and headed for the Neckar River to reach Heidelberg.
Most of the bridge was bombed out but the gate houses survived, although only one is now remaining.
We left the Rhine at Km443 , so we have travelled along it for a total of about 300Km
Then our route to Heidelberg took us through a narrow path in a field…… thank you Google maps! At least there was no locked gate to negotiate this time.
Coming into Heidelberg we could see what an attractive city it is, especially the “Altstadt”.
Having found our airbnb host in a small village beyond the city, we unloaded our tandem and caught the bus in to the city for a bit of a wander.
We’re staying a couple of nights here before following the Neckar towards Ulm and the Danube.