Getting to Füssen took us while. Our journey started early one Monday morning with a crack of dawn flight from Gatwick which was delayed. That meant we'd missed our train from Munich's Haubtbanhof (central) station by a matter of minutes, which wasn't so bad really given that the delay had doubled the flight time!
We arrived in Füssen - our first base - two hours later than expected and eventually found our hotel after a march around the town with suitcases in tow. We had directions but they didn't make much sense to our tired selves. After a couple of dunkel (dark) beers and a schnitzel it was time for bed, in preparation for collecting our hire bikes and the 34km circular route planned for day 1. Actually I was struggling to keep my eyes open so bed was the only option, and no matter that it was just before 9pm (and with the time change) - we were on holiday, and that day that was how we rolled!
The next morning after a hearty breakfast - well we needed fuel for the ride - we were ready to hunt down the cycle hire shop, pick up our hire bikes and set off on our first cycle.
Oh and it was raining. I'm not sure I ordered that.
The plan for the day was a circular route clockwise around the shore of the Forggensee, with views of the Alps. The highlight of the day for me was the visits to Hohenschwangau castle, the Gothic castle and nearby Neushwanstein castle with its fairy-tale turrets.
The castles were just a few kilometres from our base at Füssen so the ride really was just a very long winded route there - but a beautiful one no less, even in the wet.
So these are our bikes - and we were to get to know them very well over the next six days.
The Germans are a tall bunch and when we collected the bikes I needed my saddle lowered. And then lowered some more. In fact they lowered it three times for me before I could even get on the bike and they were totally bemused by my shortness - I'm 5ft 2ish. And then bemused some more when I had them raise the handle bars, but I was comfortable and it was soon obvious that I wouldn't be needing the gel saddle cover I'd bough as a precaution. I also had an influx of gears which was a novelty - on my Pendleton at home I have just seven gears, on the hire bike I had twenty seven. Once I worked out that the levers on each handlebar worked in opposite ways I was fine... I think!
The bikes came with a pannier each, a small repair kit, a pump and a map holder which I quickly swapped over to MOH's bike thinking that having the directions would give him something to keep him occupied and as most likely he'd be riding in front, it made sense.
We booked the cycling part of our holiday with Inntravel, the slow holiday people and they provide cycling notes and step-by-step directions so that's one thing we didn't have to worry about. They also arrange for your luggage to be transported between hotels, which is a major bonus as it means I can follow my normal packing regime (aka chuck it in just in case) without worrying how I'm going to transport it. We've done a couple of walking holidays with them before - in the South West of France and our first visit to the Alentejo region in Portugal - and have had a great time on both of those trips.
We left Füssen and headed for the Forggensee and all was going well, or so we thought. MOH stopped as he thought we'd been this way before, at this point I hadn't noticed as I think I was still working out that the gear levers worked in opposite directions but he seemed pretty convinced. And it turned out he was right, as once we were heading back out of Füssen again it all looked familiar. It turned out that we'd turned left too early which the second time round was all too obvious.
Hmm, the first of our detours. I was beginning to wonder if moving the map holder was such a good idea after all.
We reached the lake and it's huge - 12km long and 3km wide. It's hard to believe that this lake is usually empty from the middle of October to the start of June, especially so as our visit was on June 9th! It acts as a flood prevention method for the River Lech in this natural basin and the artificial lake was first created in 1954. Later on in our ride we crossed the hydro-electric dam at Roßhaubten, but more of that later.
It was a misty day as you can see from the photos above - and that was fine for our first cycle as we were both rather wary of the 32 degree temperature we'd seen on the weather forecasts the week before.
I quickly discovered that cycling is not as accommodating as walking for taking photos, and I was conscious that if I stopped to take as many photos as I wanted to then we could be cycling back to our hotel in the dark. I found though, that like walking photo stops are a good way to catch your breath, especially if you time them right.
So it was with pure good luck that our first stop of the day was by these logs...
These are I'm afraid the first of many stacked log shots from our Bavarian trip, they're just so pretty and I'm still fascinated by how neatly they're stacked. It seemed everywhere you looked there were logs being stacked, whatever their size.
The chalet-style houses too are just postcard perfect, this one had the added interest of iron sculptures at the roadside so it was just asking to be photographed.
Even though it was misty, the views across the Forggensee were stunning and while I can only imagine what they'd be like on a clearer day, I don't think I'd be disappointed.
As we approached the northern end of the lake we started to see these Roman centurion totem poles, and it wasn't until a little further on that we realised their significance. We were cycling along the Via Claudia Augusta cycle route which is a route across the Alps and follows an ancient Roman road.
As well as the totem centurions there was a small sculpture park which we had a quick wander around before climbing back onto the bikes and heading towards the dam at Roßhaupten.
The dam holds 650,000 m3 of water, which is a lot of water. Completed in 1954 it's one of Germany's largest dams and is 41 metres (or 134 ft) high. Given it's significance we decided to pose with our bikes:
And I couldn't help but smile at this sign
The next section of the ride was mostly on cycle paths alongside the road with the lake out of view. It also had the most hills and while they weren't massively steep - actually one of them was - it wasn't my favourite part of the ride. Our agreement with hills is that I'll see MOH at the top, which means we're both free to go at our own pace - it also means if I want to stop I can and usually that goes undetected!
I was thinking about a stop when I spotted this snail in front of me - it was huge, the size of snails that usually come on MOH's plate when we're in France. So that was it, it was being photographed and it really did sum up #aslowmoment for me.
The hill kept going on and on, but the corner was in sight. Imagine then my disappointment when at the corner it turned and went up even more. I was done, and off the bike and walking the steepest part. A water break and a photo stop at the top, with the promise from MOH that it was all down hill from now on... I almost believed him too, though most of it had to be downhill, surely.
As we cycled towards Schwangau it rained a bit more, though thankfully not a huge downpour - but even so when we arrived we were slightly on the damp side. We'd bought advance tickets that morning in the hotel to visit both castles and set about getting ourselves on a tour as soon as we arrived. As it turned out we had a short wait but found ourselves a pretty German cafe for some traditional Apfel Strudel and a coffee - the bonus was we got a window seat and were able to use the radiator to dry ourselves off and warm-up. Sometimes I'm real class y'know!
I'll share more of our visit to the Castles in my next Bavarian post, but as this post was about the cycle I'll finish with some stats:
Scheduled cycle distance: 34km
Actual distance recorded: 45.4km
Cumulative distance recorded: 45.4km
Number of detours: 1 (of about 3km)
Number of km walked around Schwangau and the castles: c5km
Number of hills walked (instead of cycled): 1
Number of Apfel Strudels consumed: just 1... sadly!