Sunday 7th August – Rothenburg Day Off
The rain started hammering down at 6.00AM, about the same time the church bells must’ve woken god up early and pissed him off. It hadn’t stopped by 9.30AM and Conrad, Mariska and the German couple had all decided to take a day off to explore Rothenburg’s medieval town. Capital idea.
We all wandered up the hill in to town about midday and went our separate ways. The old town was busy with Sunday day-trippers and tourists. A significant proportion of these were Japanese. In fact many souvenir shop windows had only English and Japanese translations. I wandered around the well preserved medieval walled old town for a couple of hours, taking photos and scouting for somewhere to sit down for a rew hours and update the blog. I also tried to find some fuel for my stove but all the likely shops were shut.
Cafe Wunderbar was advertising homemade soup and free WiFi. Ideal. After a bowl of hearty lentil soup I settled down with a few bottles of very good local beer and the laptop. After a few hours of frantic typing and photo uploading I had the site up to date. Unfortunately I discovered that I’d lost a whole week of GPS data. Don’t know why but I’m now going to make a back-up og the relevant file on to the laptop each night. Coincidentally enough the cafe was right next door to a Scottish Shop. Cafe Wunderbar’s owner was an older chap, late fifties or maybe older, who, judging by the photos on the wall, had led a fairly bohemian life. We chatted about my journey, he saying he would like to do something similar but would rather do it on foot. Closer to nature and stuff like that.
Returned to the campsite about 6.00PM. Conrad and Mariska arrived a little later and asked if I would like to join them for dinner at a restaurant round the corner. I ordered fish, potatoes and salad. Unexpectedly but not unpleasantly the fish was marinated rather than cooked. It had a flavour not unlike rollmop herring. All very tasty and washed down with a local dry reisling. Conrad insisted on paying for my dinner. The really are a lovely, genuine couple. We manage to travel together but they don’t intrude and I hope I don’t either. It was decided that we were all riding out the next day come rain or shine.
Monday 8th August – Rothenburg to Gunzenhausen
It was a fairly chilly night so last night’s laundry hadn’t dried. My towel was particularly damp. I’ll get it dry one of these days. Conrad kindly provided hot water for my coffee and they set off around 10.00AM. I was in the middle of re-packing again so didn’t get away until 11.00AM. I think I may have improved my luggage organisation this time though.
The steep hill up to Rothenburg was tough. I stopped at a couple of supermarkets looking for stove fuel but to no avail. Another steep climb was, as expected, my reward for choosing the 16km route to Colmberg over the 26km one. However, when I reached the top a strong tail-wind pushed me along at great speed. I had climbed on to a flat, heavily cultivated plateau. The map told me it was 90km to Gunzenhausen, my destination for that day. The cycle path took some pretty long winded twists and turns so I decided to cut a few corners along the quiet main roads, still whipping along at a cracking pace. As I was riding through some farm buildings a small white cat appeared to want to run across my path. I slowed and veered away from its route. At the last second it changed its mind and ran straight in front of me. I ran it over, fortunately only with my front wheel. It shot off ito the long grass. I couldn’t find the poor bugger and there was no sign of blood, so I went on my way. I hope it was alright.
The Altmuhl river, which I hardly saw all day, is even smaller than the Tauber. Probably about the same scale as the Water of Leith in Edinburgh. A quick coffee and bun stop at Lenterhausen was what passed for lunch. Next thing I knew I was at the Altmuhlsee, a large, man-made lake full of wind-surfers just outside Gunzenhausen. The wind had carried me along quickly and my short cuts had knocked 20km of the cycle path route. I pulled in at a lakeside cafe and spied a couple of familiar bicycles. Conrad, Mariska and I had arrived at the cafe just in time. Five minutes later a strong, wet squall cleared the lake and the beer garden rapidly. Conrad and Mariska were planning to head further, to a town with a main railway station so they could book their train home from Regensberg. I’m sure I’ll bump into them again.
I went to the nearby campsite but they had no fuel for my stove in their shop. They recommended OBI, a DIY shop, for camping fuel. I decided to head into town before closing time to find OBI, my only hope. Find OBI I did. But they only had gas. Not the right kind either. They directed me to a camping shop not far away where I bought a litre of Coleman fuel. Phew.
Gunzenhausen’s other campsite was conveniently just around the corner. So I checked in there for the nnight. The tiny zeltplatz (tent-area) was tucked away in the far corner, almost an afterthought. It was a big, well equipped site with a good shop and a bar and restaurant. I unpacked carefully, started cooking dinner, and got chatting to an older German couple who were doing the same. By the time I was finished dinner and washed-up there was only an hour to take advantage of the bar’s free WiFi, a rarity in these campsites. A video call with Margi over a couple of beers and it was suddenly closing time and time for bed.
Tuesday 9th August – Gunzenhausen to Kipfenberg
Getting organised was slow again. I’ve re-packed my bags so many times that I’ve forgotten where everything is and where its supposed to go afterwards. Got away just after 11.00AM. The weather was hot and sunny. Although I wasn’t getting the same help from the wind as the day before, going was good. After a while on the undulating path I stopped at a bakery for coffee and a snack. As I cycled the valley became narrower, the sides steeper and large limestone outcrops began to appear between the trees. I started to see signs relating to fossils and palaeontology, especially archaeopteryx, as the first such fossil was found somewhere nearby.
I arrived in Eichstatt at 4.00PM and sheltered from a shower in a nice wee cafe. I had a particularly good double espresso and an excellent bowl of Bavarian soup. A clear stock filled with potato dumplings, pork meatballs and a kind of pork-filled ravioli. Brilliant. I received a text from Conrad and told them what I was doing. It turned out they were doing the same just around the corner. We decided to cycle the last 40km Kipfenberg together. We rode along at a gentle pace. Conrad and I in front chatting about boys stuff and Mariska patiently bringing up the rear. We arrived at the campsite on the river at around 6.30PM.
It was a large Azur run site and there were only three other tents in the large riverside zeltplatz. We got dinner at the nearby supermarket and cooked together under the trees, sheltering from the heavy rain. By the time we had finished it was dark so after the washing up it was bed time.
Wednesday 10th August – Kipfenberg to Regensberg
Although I didn’t get started ’til 11.00AM I did feel I was a bit more organised. Conrad and Mariska had left about an hour before me. Before I set off I gave my spare beer to one of the young lads camping across from us. He didn’t seem keen but I’m sure he enjoyed it when his hangover disappeared. The still day would have been ideal for cycling but the less than ideal gravel path put paid to that. Scenery was still good though. More big limestone lumps sticking out from the valley sides, often with a little scloss type afair perched on top. Didn’t seem to be making particularly fast progress for whatever reason.
The Altmuhl became very wide and straight and became a canal. At Belingries I popped over to the Main-Donau Canal and its irritating gravel path. Shortly the Altmuhl Canal joined the Main-Donau Canal and that was the end of river number four. Lost my bearings a bit when negotiating my way round a large industrial complex but was back on track quickly.
At about 4.00PM I came across Conrad and Mariska having lunch at a picnic table by the canal. We set off on the last 30km to Regensberg together. Just like yesterday the pace was gentle, with us two boys out in front blethering. The canal abruptly blended in to the Donau itself, a big wide bugger of a river. I’ll be alongside this until at least Budapest. As we approched Regensberg we knew we were approaching a large city. Joggers, Nordic walkers! skaters and cyclists clogged the path. This will be by far the largest settlement I’ve spent the night in since Mainz. The big Azur campsite was 15.50 euros for the night. A travesty. We went to the supermarket and ate dinner together. This time in the dry at a handy picnic table.
Strangely enough Conrad and Mariska were the only non-British people at out little section of the site. There were two young English families, the dads had been competing in the local iron man triathalon a few days earlier. There were two older English chaps heading in the opposite direction from Budapest. One of them, Hugo, an experienced long distance tourer was riding an old, pre-Rohloff Thorn Nomad in very good nick. They were doing another leg of a tour they’d started a couple of years before. They’d been on a tight schedule to get to Regensberg and had got here from Linz in just two days. Allmost 170km today and 190km the day before. That doesn’t sound like fun. They weren’t sure of their next few days’ route so I donated them my Main to Donau map. After all that excitement it was time for bed.
Thursday 11th August – Regensberg to Deggendorf
Up at 8.30AM after a bit of a chilly night. The two English chaps had already left. Perhaps they have to be home by the weekend. Although Conrad and Mariska were up later than me for a change, they were still ready to go earlier than I was. At 11.30AM we set off in to town. They were heading for the youth hostel for the night as their train home was leaving at 6.20AM the next morning. We said our goodbyes, they headed into town and I set off across the bridge to the north bank of the river. They’ve been good travelling companions and I hope we keep in touch.
I didn’t actually get going until 12.30PM. Once out of town the smooth tarmac path ran alongside a fifteen foot high dyke that blocked any view of the river. It was a very hot day and the tiny black flies were forming a gradually thickening black pattern on my arms, caught in the sun-block. The valley floor was very wide and flat, the hills either side quite distant. I cycled past and through miles and miles and miles of corn fields. I stopped in Bogen for coffee and more excellent German buns. I’d decided on Deggendorf as my stop for the night. My new map doesn’t start until Passau so I hope there’s a campsite in Deggendorf.
Not far from the town I stopped at a REWE supermarket. These are proper shops where you get baskets and a good selection of produce. Bit more expensive than Lidl and the rest but not that much. Saw a sign for a campsite before I’d even got into town. Checked in, got a beer, spilled most of it, pitched tent, got another beer, cooked dinner. The zeltplatz was hidden away in the corner again. This time right below a railway line. How thoughtful. At least it was only 7 euros. A younger German couple were the only other tent campers there. The rest of the place was filled with the usual complement of caravans and camper vans. Dinner over I got myself organised, managed to catch up with my journal writing and slipped off to sleep.
Friday 12th August – Deggendorf to Inzell
Up at 8.00Am, shower then breakfast. Felt quite organised for a change. Just as many bloody mosquitoes about this morning as there were last night. On the road by 10.30 and the scenery was much the same as the day before. Smooth tarmac path, the view of the river blocked by the dyke and lots and lots of corn. Very hot too. At Vilshofen I popped across the river in to town for coffee and sticky buns. Even had seconds this time. The Germans are exceedingly good at buns.
The Donau valley started to narrow and the forested hills got steeper. Proper river landscape. Picture postcard stuff. Very pretty. Just after Passau I stocked up with food at a supermarket. By now it was just river, road then steep hills. Even moree beautiful. There were a few campsites marked on the map within a few kilometre of each other. I had sleeping options for a change. About 20km later I crossed in to Austria. As I approached one of the camps the chap on the ferry told me he was the last one for the day. I asked him which campsite he thought was best and he told me the one across the river at Inzell. Across the river we went in this tiny wee ferry.
I’m very glad I opted for Inzell, about 4km from where the ferry dropped us off. As I pulled off the tree lined road in front of me was a tight bend in the river, steep forested hills either side, with a small clearing containing Inzell. Which seemed to consist of just two guesthouses, one of which had a big lawn beside the river which acted as their campsite. There were only about half a dozen caravans and one other tent on the thick soft grass. I set up camp just fifteen feet from the water and started cooking dinner.
I was approached by an older Dutch lady called Hannah. She’d driven from Budapest this morning just to return to this beutiful spot that she’d stayed at a few weeks previously. She went off for dinner at the next guesthouse. The only traffic was on the river. Barges and cruise ships heading in both directions and the odd speed-boat now and again. This had all stopped by dusk and peace and tranquility descended. It was almost dark and I’d just finished eating as Hannah returned from her dinner. We chatted briefly and she promised to make me coffee in the morning if she was up early enough. She went in to her caravan and came out with an accordion, sat down and played a few lovely, slightly melancholic tunes as the dark of the night closed in completely. This would be the perfect spot to spend an extra day soaking in the idyllic tranquility. I expect I’ll have plenty more beautiful camping spots along the road.