Along the Beautiful Blue Danube

In Hof, near the end of the Saale River Cycle Route, the weather threatened to deteriorate and the forecast was not very inspiring, but we had a great run from Berlin with beautiful weather, so, we were lucky and can’t complain about a bit of rain. However, instead of potentially cycling two days south to Regensburg in the rain, we decided to hop a train and hopefully escape the nasty weather. The forecast in the south along the Danube looked much better.

A building in Hof slowly being reclaimed by nature.
A building in Hof slowly being reclaimed by nature.

A quick check at the railway station revealed that we could catch a direct train about 90 minutes later. No transfers. No hassles. We cycled around Hof to have a look around while waiting for our train, bought some snacks and a couple of beers for the journey, and returned to the station 15 minutes before our scheduled departure. We wheeled the loaded bikes right onto the train and found a window seat in the compartment above.

The rain began shortly after and it poured most of the way to Regensburg. It was great to see from the dry comfort of the train compartment. About two hours later, we arrived in Regensburg just as it was getting dark. While cycling through the old city’s narrow streets, we picked up some kebab and beer, and arrived at the camp site a few minutes later.

As we stood in front of the closed office, two people came up and showed us where the tent camping area was. Turns out Yves and Katja are cyclists from Canmore, AB, and on their way to Istanbul, just like us, but along a different route. They went out to eat while we got our camp in order and ate our dinner.

Paul with Katja and Yves (from Canmore) in Regensburg.
Paul with Katja and Yves (from Canmore) in Regensburg.

We were sipping our beer when Yves and Katja returned and we spent the rest of the night swapping stories from our respective trips. Nice to meet some other Canadian cyclists, only the third time on this trip. There must be other Canucks on the road. We just haven’t met them yet.

In the morning we packed up and headed back into Regensburg to have a look at this old Bavarian city in the daylight. Settlement dates back to the Stone Age, but more recently, about 2000 years ago, the Romans built a fort there. The site has been an important spot along the Danube for a very long time.

The Dom, or Cathedral, is one of the main examples of Germany’s Gothic architecture. It was begun in 1275 and completed in 1634, except for the towers which were completed in 1869.

Regensburg Cathedral. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regensburg_Cathedral
Regensburg Cathedral.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regensburg_Cathedral

The stone bridge across the Danube is another historical highlight. It was built between 1135 and 1146 and knights on the crusades used it to cross the Danube on their way to fight in the Holy Land.

The stone bridge across the Danube at Regensburg.
The stone bridge across the Danube at Regensburg.

One of its notable residents was Oskar Schindler who was a German Industrialist, and member of the Nazi Party, credited with saving the lives of 1200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his munitions factory. He was the subject of the film Schindler’s List.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oskar_Schindler

Detail of a house in Regensburg.
Detail of a house in Regensburg.

In the early afternoon we got on the road heading west along the Danube, or Donau, as it’s known in Germany. Our plan: to follow it upstream to near its source before heading north to Tübingen to visit our friend Tom.

Jan in a pensive moment studying the route map over coffee in Regensburg.
Studying the route map over coffee in Regensburg.

Heading west, one stop of note was Weltenburg Abbey, a Benedictine monastery situated on a peninsula in the Danube near Weltenburg. This is no ordinary monastery. The monks there have been brewing beer since 1050 and claims to be the oldest monastic brewery in the world. This claim is disputed by Weihenstephan Abbey which claims to have begun brewing beer 10 years earlier. Never mind that. What matters is the beer. Upon sampling a couple, I happily report It is a great brew.

Inside the monastery walls is a huge bier garten and restaurant which was absolutely jam-packed with people imbibing on the abbey’s beer and traditional Bavarian fare. The other thing worth seeing is the abbey church. It is absolutely spectacular inside.

The interior of the Weltenberg Abbey, founded in 650 AD by Scottish and Irish monks. It is also one of the oldest monastery breweries in the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weltenburg_Abbey
The interior of the Weltenberg Abbey Church, founded in 650 AD by Scottish and Irish monks.    It is also one of the oldest monastery breweries in the world.

We cycled on another hour or so and camped at a campsite on a farm near Nuestadt an der Donau. Despite being in the south of Germany now, the evening was damp and cold and the down jackets, torn from their pillow bags, reappeared on the scene. Autumn is definitely in the air. Perhaps it’s time we headed further south.

Foggy mornings were the order of the day along the Donau.
Foggy mornings were the order of the day along the Donau.
Second breakfast in Ingolstadt.
Second breakfast in Ingolstadt.

Cycling along the Danube is lovely. It’s pretty flat and the miles roll by through forested areas, farm land with, you guessed it, corn being the most popular crop, and occasionally along large industrial sites. Our second day along the river was a lovely warm sunny one, once the cold morning fog lifted around noon. We took a break on a sunny terrace in Ingolstadt and enjoyed our second breakfast.

Evidence of flooding is still present. In June of this year, many of Germany’s rivers broke their banks and flooded huge tracts of land and in many places breaking high water level records. Much of the Donau cycle route was inaccessible following the June flood but the cleanup has been remarkable as in only a couple of spots were we re-routed to avoid still-flooded or damaged areas.

There is still evidence of flooding along the Donau. Our trail was a bit watery in places forcing a detour.
There is still evidence of flooding along the Donau. Our trail was a bit watery in places forcing a detour.
Paul checking the GPS for our route to a possible camp site.
Paul checking the GPS for our route to a possible camp site.

Towards the end of the day, the search for where to camp is always interesting. Sometimes the map shows a camp site near where we want to end our day but most days we rely on the GPS to tell us if there are is a campingplatz nearby. On our second day along the Donau the GPS directed us to a spot in Donauworth where there was supposed to be a camp site.

We cycled through town, picking up the requisite beers along the way, and let the GPS guide us to the promised camping platz. We arrived at the local canoe club where a few people were still sitting on the terrace enjoying a few beers in the waning sunshine. Seeing no evidence of any camping and the related items such as tents and motorhomes, we inquired and were told that, yes indeed, we can camp for 12 euros with access to the bathrooms and showers, as well as the bar and the beer vending machine! Again, the GPS was spot on and we had a home for the night.

Enjoying the sun at a canoe club campsite along the Danube River.
Enjoying beer and the sun at Donauworth’s canoe club campsite.
Our tent with the town's church in the background at sunset.
Our tent with the town’s church in the background at sunset.

From Donauworth, we kept along the river in a southwesterly direction through Bavaria and into the state of Baden-Württemberg in the southwest. These states encompass a region of Germany known as Swabia. It’s borders are not clearly defined but are generally accepted as including Württemberg and eastern Bavaria. To learn more about this distinct region of Germany: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swabia

Ulm architecture in the old city.
Ulm architecture in the old city.

We arrived in Ulm late in the day, again directed by the GPS to a supposed camp site in the city centre along the river. It was another canoe club complete with pub and a space to put up tents. And again, we were the only campers for the night.

Ulm along the Danube.
Ulm along the Danube.

We pitched the tent and availed ourselves of the pub’s services by having a couple of beers and a plate of pommes with mayo – a light snack to tide us over until we could make dinner, which we did under the glow of our headlamps. After dinner, we went for a walk through the old city of Ulm, found a restaurant in a centuries-old building where we had a night cap before turning in at our urban camp site after the canoe club’s pub had closed.

The Ulm Minster, the tallest church in the world at 161.5 metres. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulm_Minster
The Ulm Minster, the tallest church in the world at 161.5 metres.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulm_Minster


In the morning, we rode through Ulm to see things by the light of day. It is an old city, dating back to 850 and is mostly known for having the tallest church in the world: the Ulm Minster, with a steeple 161.5 metres tall. An imposing piece of Gothic architecture that dominates the city skyline.

The old and the new: city hall and the library in Ulm.
The old and the new: city hall and the library in Ulm.

It is also the birthplace of Albert Einstein and, let us not forget Johann Gambolputty-de-von-ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von-knackerthrasher-applebanger-horowitz-ticolensic-granderknotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kürstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-guten-abend-bitte-einen-nürnburger-bratwürstel-gespurten-mit-zweimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-schönendanker-kalbsfleisch-mittelraucher-von-hauptkopft of Ulm, the (fictional?) German Baroque composer in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

And now for something completely different:

Still life with chairs on the plaza in front of the Ulm Minster.
Dancing chairs on the plaza in front of the Ulm Minster.

Our journey continued through Swabia along the European Union’s longest river, running 2,872 KM from Germany’s Black Forest to the Black Sea. Every morning was cool and foggy but like clockwork, the fog would lift around noon and we had gorgeous sunny weather the rest of the days.

Jan zooming through the German farm land west of Ulm along the Danube.
Jan zooming through the German farm land west of Ulm along the Danube.
Storks on the sports field in Mengen.
Storks on the sports field in Mengen.
Farny: for active people. A lovely Heffe Weizen.
Farny: for active people. A lovely Heffe Weizen.

We enjoyed occasional glimpses of wildlife, such as storks and birds of prey, and there were occasional glasses of beer such as Farny Hefe-Weizen: “Für aktive Menschen,” or “For active People.” Although, the coaster promotes Farny’s alcohol-free version of the brew, we figured that since we had been really active that day, cycling nearly 80 KM already, we deserved the unadulterated version instead. A great brew on a warm sunny autumn afternoon in the town of Riedlingen.

That evening, the GPS steered us to our most unusual camp site yet: the Mengen Airport where the Mengen Flight School offers camping, complete with full bathroom facilities and a small kitchen area to wash dishes. There was nobody there but the very kind lady at the airport pub phoned the proprietor and told us we could camp and he would come by in the morning to collect his 14 euros.

Having breakfast at the Mengen Airport campsite.
Having breakfast at the Mengen Airport campsite.

We awoke again enshrouded by fog, cooked our breakfast on the stoop of the bathroom building while waiting for the owner to collect the camping fee. Once paid, we packed the bikes and left the Danube, heading north in the Lauchert River valley in the direction of Tübingen in the heart of Swabia, and the home of our friend Tom.

The bike routes we followed north from the Danube: The Swabian Alps route and the Lauchert River route. Well signed and fairly easy to follow.
The bike routes we followed north from the Danube: The Swabian Alps route and the Lauchert River route. Well signed and fairly easy to follow.

Leaving the Donau, we headed into the Swabian Alps following two cycling routes: the Lauchert Valley and Swabian Alps route. Not far north, however, the route was blocked as here too, flooding had damaged the road forcing a detour. We followed it up on to the plateau and decided to stay up on the plateau instead of dropping back into the Lauchert River valley. No sense in making the climb twice.

Cycling through a village in the Swabian Alps.
There are beautiful villages in the Swabian Alps.

As a result, it took us a bit longer to find our way, since we did not have a map but only the GPS to navigate. Eventually, we made sense of a route and got on a fantastic downhill run from Öschingen all the way into Tübingen and found Tom at his place of work, a bicycle store in the centre of town.

After cycling for 13 straight days from Berlin, we were ready for a much-needed break and the bicycles ready for a much-needed overhaul. We have clocked 6,500 KM since starting in Iceland on June 1 and the bikes’ drive trains were completely done. We settled in at Tom’s in Wankheim, just outside Tübingen and visited with our good friend whose hospitality and help with the bicycles have been invaluable and so very much appreciated. Thank you Tom! I don’t know how we can repay you.

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3 thoughts on “Along the Beautiful Blue Danube

  1. Dan maar een reaktie in het nederlands. Wij hebben jullie toch nog toe helemaal gevolgd.
    Berlijn, Wittenberg, Regensburg, Ulm, magnificent. Twee jaar geleden en kort geleden hebben ook wij deze steden bezocht maar dan wel met een camper. Home on wheels.
    Advice : visit Augsburg/Füssen/Reute, all in the same arear down south to Austria. Hebben jullie Rothemburg o/Tauber bezocht. Old, very old, worth visiting en meer plaatsen along the Romantich Street (Romantische Strasse). Vanavond gaan we jullie pa/ma bellen in PG. We hebben wel wat met hen te sharen. Don’t forget Vienna on the way to Istanbul. Kroatia ?? Fiets langs de kust naar Dubrovnik en indien mogelijk de kleine eilanden in de Adriatic Sea.
    We volgen en groeten jullie. Behouden vaart. En ikke . . . . . ik ben jaloers.
    JANNEKE & HENK DE vRIES

  2. Hello Jan and Paul, still follow you, you had a really beautiful European summer!! I like your stories… Cycled long time ago also a part of the Donau cycle route… nice and relatively flat.. Netherland not in your cycle plans?!
    Hope autumn will be nice as well, here in Holland it’s stil beautiful weather! Lots of greetings from Dianne, Dutch girl from Purmerend, the Netherlands.

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