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Neu Isenburg to Mainhausen

It's Monday and a national holiday in Germany. The ride from Neu Eisenburg was mostly uneventful but I'm unsure that is was the most direct route. My theory of route planning, especially when I don't have a map, is to head in the general direction of the destination. For instance I wanted to join the Main river bike route, only I wanted to travel southeast towards Wurzburg. To do this I travel south and east, avoiding west and north for obvious reasons.

I did meet the Main around noon and turned right towards Wurzburg. It being a holiday the trails were full of people doing just about everything including bicycling. I was almost the fastest thing on the path, except for the occasional road biker who barrelled through at any cost.

I made it down to just south of Mainhausen, where I noticed a beergarden just off the trail. I kept going but with my knees and wrist were telling me that should be stopping soon. I noticed a nature park just beyond the highway ahead. There was a bridge over the highway which lead to a natural area. I followed a path into the area and discovered a swan's nest. I took some pictures and headed in the opposite direction.

I found a good spot and headed back to Mainhausen for a beer or two. I made some fast friends with a man who retired from the 3M Corporation. His English was great. He complained about the Scot's saying he could never understand them when he was doing business in English. He was surprised when I told him I stealth camp. He said my translation of "Ich camp in den wald" was almost correct, but the word would be pronounced campe (kampa). He thought I was bold to camp in the woods. He asked me if I was afraid. I told him I was afraid in Canada of bears and large wild cats.

Germany is very civilized. The bike trails had small stopping points almost every 500m and sometimes less. I stopped at one of the for lunch. German breakfasts are HUGE and they remind me of our lunches. There are really good breads and cold cuts and sliced cheese. You can start with muesli, go on to the lunch and then finish with yogurt, toast and jam. I usually carry a plastic container with me to breakfast when I stay at a hotel and make myself a lunch sandwich to take away. This is what I did this day and I enjoyed it while watching the Main pass by.

It is difficult to tell the exact distance today, but since I started at 9:00 and really stopped pressing forward around 3:00, I would say that at 12 km/hr average that I must have done over 70 kms today, Considering I told everyone I'd take it easy this trip (including my doctor and spouse) because I broke my wrist about 6 weeks earlier, I did the distance pretty much without pain.

Mainhausen to Wertheim

You will remember from the last instalment, that my new German friend expressed interest in me stealth camping. In an effort to make sure I was well away from civilization, I may have gone a bit too far in the opposite direction.

Along the way I spotted a Natural Reserve on the west side of the Main. Originally I had planned to go deep into the woods, but after supper, I had a second look and decided that being 200m away from any trail might be a bit too much.

The first night spent in the forest on a trip is always a bit shaky. This one was shakier because of the wild life. I suspect they were just deer out for a forage, but they could have been wild boars as far as I was concerned. I slept a total of a couple of hours and was glad to pack up at 5:15 at first light.

The brochures don't tell you that the trail that follows the Main River disappears for quite a distance. Coupled to the fact that the road portion is not well signed, makes for an interesting if not overly long ride.

I'm starting to have some observations about German car drivers. They drive very last. To their credit they give bicyclist a great deal of room when they pass, two metres is usual, one metre is minimum. Sometimes they will not pass you. This can be very annoying as they will creep behind you for some distance even though you wave them on.

Wertheim to Konigshaufen

It rained like I've never seen before overnight. Luckily I found a hotel in Werteim and was high and dry. The morning found us dry. By the time we got to Tauberbischofheim, it started to rain. We waited it out at first the McDonald's (Internet access) and later the LINDL no frills grocery shop. About 1:30 the rain let off a bit and in full rain gear we headed south.

Riding in the rain is difficult, but sometimes necessary. I always am prepared for the worst, so I have waterproof pannier covers and foul weather gear.  The sad thing was, although the shelter was  a waterproof top and bottom as well as a cover for the front handlebar bag. We travelled in the ran for about 2 hours, with a short break in a bus shelter.

Don't let anyone tell you that the Romantic Road is well signed. As it turns out we were on the wrong side of the river and even though I had a map right in front of me. It requires good maps and perhaps a GPS. Without either I discovered that we should be on the OTHER side of the Tauber. We did manage to find a nice inn called Zum Lamm. Shortly after the rain stopped and I we were able to enjoy the rest of the evening.

The beer at Zum Lamm was fermented by Distelhäuser. I had the Weis mit heffe and later the lager. The former was quite enjoyable, although I usually don't like that style and the latter was a typical Euro- lager, nicely hopped with a sweet bitterness (if that is possible).

WHAT'S ON TV: A program like Just for Laughs, hidden cameras, only children play tricks on adults. One episode, in a supermarket the cashier insists on being paid in Deutsche Marks. When the consumer complains they put her it touch my phone with the "owner" who is one of the children.

Special treat tonight: A restaurant. Just Schnitzel and pomme frit but I must make a statement about German salads. They have a base of a number of things including shredded carrots in a vinagrette,  corn, tomatoes, sauerkraut, cucumber and sometimes potatoes with a few leaves of leaf lettuce on top.

Konigshaufen to Creglingen

We started out in the rain, but ended up in a nice small hotel with the sun shining.

The best and properly signed trail out of  Lauda is on the east side of the Tauber, The signage does disappear now and then, I assume thanks to the locals who don't want cyclist on their street.

The trail markings seem to come and go. A careful eye must be trained at every intersection for a sign no matter how small or poorly placed. One sign across the road indicted to head backwards, when turned around I discovered 3 roads, one of which had a bicycle route sign. That wasn't the road. It was the one in the middle (silly me)!

After a nice chat withe man in the tourist office, he found me an inexpensive room for the night. Sadly iw was up a rather steep hill.

Creglingen to Rothenburg ob der Tauber

It was only about 24 kms from Creglingen, bur it seemed like more. The hills, the hills!

We left Creglingen about 8:30 and guess- timated I'd be in R o d T at around 10:30. Some of the hills were murder and we walked up a couple and just grunted up the rest. I wasn't far off the mark, as we got into town about 10;30.

When cycling in the countryside you are reminded how deeply the Germans have invested in alternate energy. It seems every south facing roof has a ban of solar panels and every hilltop a windmill. One  stretch of un farm- able land there was an entire field of solar collectors. A solar farm so to speak.

We booked into the hotel and dropped the bikes and did a walking tour of the town. The town is a fully restored medieval town within a fully intact wall. Sadly it is full of tourists, us included. Although the town seems to be very touristy, it doesn't take long before you realize that there are people who live here and if you are careful, you can live like them without paying the tourist price for everything.

I love a good donner (sliced meat with veggies in a pita). That and a beer was 6 Euros.

After dinner I went for a drink in the hotel bar. It was very quiet and the bartender complained about how all the tourists come in for the day in buses and leave at night, so it is very quiet.

I'm beginning to see some faults in the Romantic Road plan. First, is the signage.

? now you would thank that an arrow like that would indicate straight ahead. Well depending on the placement of the sign, in can mean  ? or ?

? Actually means go back behind you

? You would think that means go left. I may however mean go straight, depending on the placement

? same as above, only it can mean go straight or turn right.

They all mean one thing. You need a good map.

Rothenburg odT to Feuchtwangen

Well, Rothernburg was a real charm. I'd recommend it to everyone. Schillingsfurst however wasn't  worth the effort to get there. It was up one huge hill, on a road with too much traffic for my liking. German drivers, bless them, give you lots of room, but Schillingsfurst wasn't worth it. It's off my list forever.

I get to curse the people who sign the Romatic Road route. Perhaps there are children who take joy in twisting the signs around. Either way, I'm sure we would have arrived in Feuchtwangen earlier if it not were for the signage. Our hotel was just steps from the Rathaus and having internet meant I can catch up with my emails.

Feutchtwangen to Dinkelsbuhl

It's about 8 kms to Dinkelsbuhl from Feuchtwangen, but the Romantic Road people have you go up, way up and way out through forests, through little towns, and finally, about 20 kms later into the totally medieval town of Dinkelsbuhl.

We did get a chance to see how the Germans manage their forestry. We road through trails where the trees were being harvested. Instead of clear- cutting, which is mostly the North American way of destroying the environment, the Germans choose only the mature trees and leave the rest as a habitat for wildlife and a place that people can still enjoy. With clearcuts, the forest takes 75- 90 years to restore itself. Here after about 5 years it's hard to see where the cutting took place.

We broke here for the day as the rain was pending and as it turned out it was a good choice as the rain followed us all afternoon.

The town is another one of those tiny- perfect medieval towns that time and most tourists have forgotten. The streets are paved with cobble stones but this is far less touristy than Rothenburg.

Dinkelsbuhl to Nordlingen

This route takes  you over hill and dale and out the other side and ignoring the rough path and indirect route it would be a most enjoyable trip except for the fact in poured rain the entire time. Add to this my MEC rain jacket that I tried to replace unsuccessfully before I left is not really waterproof anymore and the cold temperatures, high winds and the occasional raindrop down my back did nothing to improve my humour which was as dark as the clouds above.

The sky is always like the Bavarian flag they say; blue and white. Today it was grey with a touch of black (more like the German flag).

Our hotel was Haus Walkmuhle which looks like it was an old mill, as the stream still runs along side it.

One thing the innkeepers do very well along the Romantic Road, is provide a safe and dry place for your bicycle. Also, when searching for a room always try the Tourist Information office first. I have never been charged for this service and the staff in the Tourist Information office always speak English, even when the person at your gasthaus or pension does not. They willso call around for you. This is important especially in high season when not every inn has a vacancy.

Nordlingen to Augsburg

Finally it stopped raining! It was dull and cool with a north wind but we were heading south so it was okay. Add to that that the hills have pretty much disappeared. I still have much to say about the signage, but having a map has really made a difference.

Castles, rivers, festivals and of course, romance

A partly supported bicycle tour of Germany’s Romantic Road

BLOG: Touring The Romantic Road

Our hotel is the Jakoberhof, about a 5 minute ride from the Rathaus (City Hall). It's also downhill. The rooms are big for Germany because with most of them the bathroom is down the hall. I prefer that, since I use the toilet once or twice a day and if an older hotel has added 'en suite' that means I have less living area in my room.

On Wednesday I went into Munich to see my friend's at Lenny's Bike Tours.  Lenny used to offer a free tour of Munich, just the same way I offered a free bike tour of Toronto. He now charges 10 Euros (about $15, what I charge). It was pouring rain at 11:30 when the tour was to start, so the Aussie tour guide gave it a pass. Just as well. Although the 3 hour tour spends an hour in beer halls, it was still a lot of exposure to rain. I think the trick is, it can't be raining when the tour starts.

Augsburg to Landsberg am Lech

It didn't stop raining the whole 60 kms. I did manage to stay of a relatively flat, if not direct course. We didn't follow the Romantic Road out of Augsburg, as we were already on the Lech River and wanted to stay there. The river was swollen from all the rain, and although I sometimes feared that river would breach the path, it never actually did.

I'm starting to think that there is a good logical reason that the Romantic Road is signed so poorly. One theory runs that there is a committee who's responsibility is signage for the extire X kilometres. Obviously no one person can possibly make sure that the signs are properly placed and complete.

It would be necessary to organize a number of volunteers who will be responsible for certain lengths of the trail. In cases like that sometimes a number of people want one area, but no one wants to sign and check other areas.

As often happens when more than one person is assigned a task, there is a disagreement as to exactly how the task is to be completed. One person might think that a sign beside a route indicating the route and an arrow (?) would mean follow straight ahead, another person might insist that sign indicates a left turn. Before you send me angry email, please be aware that in some places, including the United States, that arrow does indicate straight ahead providing there is not a left turn to make.

Landsberg am Lech to Steingaden

I would never take a tour on the route out of Lansberg all the way to Schongau. After that it got pretty good and I swore to myself that I would not stop to takw one more picture of alpine meadows with tiny villages nessled in the valley with the majestic Alps looming above.

The weather finally turned and the sun was out and so were the people who take bike route signs as souvenirs. The area through the Wildpark at Landsberg was so horribly mis signed I wanted to scream obscenities. And it was just 8:30 in the morning!

Things did get much better from Schongau on with great views and fewer nasty hills. When you get to Peiting (just south of Schongau) the Romantic Road trail splits into the west route and the east route. The east route is for people who love hills, the west route is for people like me who understand hills are necessary, but take no great pleasure in them.

Schongau is another pretty walled medieval town, with cobbled streets and I'm afraid way too much traffic for my liking. When biking on cobbles, I like to have a sizable buffer around me, and the bergers were willing to do that but it meant I was disrupting traffic flow.

Steingaden is another smallish old town without the protection of a wall

Steingaden to Fussen

Now this is the bike ride through the Bavarian Alps you want! We left Seingaden around 8::30 on our way to Wies and Wieskirck, a Rococo church in the middle of the alps. No photographs or videos please. I guess the church needs the money for post cards they will gladly sell you just beyond the church gate.

There were a couple of walkers (steep hills) to get there and at least one after, but every turn was a moment where you wanted to start singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music"

We are staying in Horn, a couple of kilometres out of Fussen. After a break we went into Fussen, and decided that we didn't want to stay in Disneyland anyway. The problem is that Neuschwanstein castle is so close and every tourist, especially from Asia, are out to see Disneyland created several hundred years ago by mad King Ludwig.

Off the Map

We went right up to Neuschwanstein first thing this morning, bought the obligatory souvenir and promptly headed for the train station in Fussen, where a DB employee told me (I thought) that the trains weren't running today (Sunday) and I'd have to take a bus. The trains only ran to Marktoberdorf he said.  That was okay because it was about 30 kms north and as it turns out, mostly along an old railroad bed.

It was a pleasant trip initially along rolling hills beside the Forggensee and then at Langenwold, the rail trail to to Marktoberdorf. The town does not inspire a desire to stay. It seems to lack a downtown and appears to be designed to get trucks in and out of town at record speed. Not surprisingly another DB employee at the station told me in much better English that the trains were not running until tomorrow (Monday).

I decided to stealth camp along the trail, just before Modorf (I shortened this from  Marktoberdorf). The site is close to both the road and the trail, but after by last experience with deer and God knows what, I'll put up with a bit of road noise, to keep away from the fauna.

It was a good choice, but of course it started to rain and rained all evening and part of the next morning. I took the DB to Augsburg and then biked to Danauworth. Danauworth is another lovely old walled town, only not all of the wall is complete. It is also a bit expensive.

The next morning I took a train to Nordlingen, much my preferred old town. I need to write an intro to my tour video for YouTube

Crazy TV:

DMAX

Drive around in a NYC Checker cab and buy used cars. Drive them and try to re- sell them to a used car dealer.

Where are they now?

Durst: They made enlargers

METZ: they made electonic flashes

Messerschmidt:

Just north of Tauberbischofheim, the Romantic Road takes a tight turn. I decided to go straight ahead avoiding Wurzburg and the extra distance to come back down to the Main river. The Tauber Trail ends at Wertheim. It has been terribly hot and I've managed to get a rash. It seems I am allegic to my own sweat (and one specialist suggested), to when it gets really hot, I start getting red itchy patches on my skin. They can last from several days to several weeks.

By Thursday I have made it up the Main to Oberburg. It is still impossibly hot, and the town has a lovely park with many shade trees down by the Main. I sat there for lunch and had a siesta, then after realizing it was still far too hot, sat around  waiting for the heat of the day to end. I'm planning on stealth camping nearby tonight.

Around 9:30, I went site searching. Because it was so hot, people were still hanging around the trails, meaning site selection was difficult, I finally chose a site, well off the path near the river. It was so hot at 10:00, I had to rig my tarp to try to capture some air. Around midnight, a big wind storm picked up and it was quite scary.

Saturday saw me in Neu Isenburg. I biked to the hotel and discovered that not only was it market day, but also a street music festival with all the purveyors of clothes, jewellery and of course food. The music started with blues in the afternoon and with two stages going Cuban at one and rock at the other. Everyone got up and danced, including the old men who were amazingly spry.

What I learned from this trip

German drivers are very respectful to cyclist giving them lots of room on the road. Stay out one metre from the edge of the roadway, then will give you 2- 6 metres space when they pass. They will wait if they cannot give you enough room, so on narrow roads, pull off as a courtesy.

Read signage carefully. What you see isn't always what you think you are getting. Watch for bicycle directions rather than car directions, as the signs for cars will probably take you out of the way and on to a highway. Bike or walking signs usually just mention the next village several kilometres away. Carry a map.

German bakeries. Bakeries are open everyday unlike other shops, which in smaller centres are closed Sundays and usually half days on Tuesday or Wednesday, or just closed Sunday and Monday because everyone should have 2 days off a week. Bakeries and fresh bread, buns and pastries are a necessity of life, so the bake shops open at 6 or 7 (maybe earlier. They are everywhere. Even a village with 3 stores will have 2 bakeries (the other will be a shoe shop) . Most bakeries also make sandwiches and coffee and many have a place to sit down.

The large food retailers (who are forced to close on Sunday) want in on this action, so you will find the bakeries at the front of their shops. On Sunday, the rest of the shop is closed, with large roll- down cages.

Supermarkets have an excellent range of beer, all in returnable glass bottles. Some have a few national brands in tins or plastic PET) bottles. If you want tinned beer (less weight) go to a filling station. Most of their beer is in cans. Go figure.

Sex and nudity are just part of life, so expect naked women on IKEA commercials. Sex sells.

Blue is the new green. Any road sign in a light blue you can do, A bike in a blue circle means you can bike on this path or road. Often bicycles have their own traffic signals, so watch for them.

All times are marked using the 24 hour clock. 08:00 is easy, but how about 18:00 (take away 12 and you have 6:00 pm.

Retailing tends to be very concentrated unlike where I live in Toronto where it is everywhere. Our corner store is two blocks away and sells most items of need at a slightly inflated price for convenience. Retail areas in Germany tend to be fashion and coffee shops or bakeries. Supermarkets are smaller and usually in different areas slightly out of the town centre. It's the same with filling stations, they are usually on the outside of towns.

In the forests, you see small huts on stilts. They are all over and an indication that there are deer or other game nearby. Hunters use them during hunting season to sit and wait for their prey. I trust they drink schnapps and chase it with the occasional beer.

The Germans know bathrooms. It could include a shower (it usually has a footbath included) to a full bath. Sadly, their designers don't know s**t about toilets. I believe that everyone in the world expels their poop in the about the same place, why is it that German manufacturers produce toilets which assume that the crap will arrive someplace much further north? Consumers of course realize there is a design flaw because they provide a brush for you to send it south.

WiFi or WLAN as they call it is just about dominated by T- Mobile, who charge as an amazing 8 Euros an hour. Get the unlimited monthly plan, which seems like a bargain when you figure out that they will say you've used up your hour with a couple of uses. It's also incredibly intrusive as it automatically loads when you turn on your computer if there is a hotspot nearby. Make sure you un- click "connect automatically" or you may be paying for time not used.

Old wood frame houses seemed to be everywhere

Beer or wine festivals abound. This one was on both sides of the Main river tow path bike trail.

Every several kilometres there are rustic picnic tables or benches so everyone can enjoy nature

There are hundreds of kilometres of traffic- free recreational paths

Where there are signs, there are lots of them. Confusing?

Some parts of the trail are along logging roads. This is a get off and walk part.

Watch out for those pesky Fussgangers!

My trusty Trangia alcohol stove. The only one to make it through airport security.

It’s difficult to describe the scenery. I’d say ‘breathtaking” but that describes the hills.

Another one of those benches in the forest. How civilized!

Wide and long streetcars on narrow gauge tracks. Be careful to cross the tracks at 90 degrees

Town centre of Landberg am Lech

Many of the narrow streets are pedestrian malls and cyclists must walk their bikes

You’ve got a flat tire and all the shops are closed. How about a spare tube vending machine? BTW: The trains run on time too!

I know not the name of the town. This is simply one of the glorious moments along the bike path.

The town wall gates would have painted murals. This is one of the few preserved ones.

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