Link to Index of Pages
Joan and I met at breakfast and decided to pull a fast one. Of course it wasn’t our idea, we’d overheard others plotting. The ride to Oberammergau was 144 km., routed out of the way to go past the Dachau Concentration Camp\Museum, which was thoughtful planning on TK&A’s part, except that many of us can’t ride that far in a day plus see a concentration camp as well. Neither Joan nor I wanted to see the camp. I had already visited it on an earlier trip to Germany and she had seen a similar camp on another cycling trip. We decided to take the shortcut we’d heard about which was to take the train from Munich to Tutzing, the town nearest Checkpoint, then cycle from there to Oberammergau. It couldn’t have been easier. Joan led the way to the train station where we bought tickets for ourselves and our bikes and found the right platform. Waiting there for the same train were other Odyssey riders. When the train came we clumsily clambered aboard bikes and all and stored five bikes in the space meant for two. But no conductor came to hassle us about it or even to collect our tickets. Forty-five minutes later we were already in Tutzing, our destination. Joan and I had signed off-route at breakfast so technically we really didn’t need to go to Checkpoint, but we cycled there with the others anyway. No one was there. We were too early. That was a first! So Joan and I left them there and began our ride to Oberammergau.
We arrived there early in the afternoon but thousands and thousands were there before us. This is the year of the Passion Play which is performed only one summer in ten. Everybody and his brother had come. All we wanted were postcards and souvenirs but everyone else had the same idea. It was a zoo. I despaired of ever succeeding when suddenly the streets were nearly empty. It was the pleasantest thing! It was 3:00, bells were ringing, and the play was starting. I had read that the Passion Play required 8 or 9 hours (which seemed unreasonably long) but in Oberammergau at least, each performance is 3 hours with the play being performed twice a day. We were able to do our bit of shopping and even enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee with Charmaine and Linda, two other riders who had stopped in the pretty little town where nearly every building is a shop and nearly every shop is targeted at tourists. Red and pink flowers bloom from every windowsill and balcony. Most buildings and homes are decorated with paintings done right on the exterior plaster. My favorite was the Hansel and Gretel House where every episode in the story has been colorfully painted. The housepainters in Oberammergau are talented artists.
Eventually we left the pretty town and cycled to the Campingpark Oberammergau. It was a nice enough park in a stunning setting directly under the mountain, but the only tent spaces left were in a swamp. The DRG said, ‘The campground will be full this time of year, but the owner has reserved a grassy spot for our use.’ Riders who had arrived earlier had found relatively decent tent spaces here and there around the edges of a road but Joan and I were forced to camp in the swamp. I found the driest spot I could and pitched my tent. My footprint is not as water resistant as it should be, so for insurance I spread my emergency foil blanket over it, then set the tent on it. It worked! My tent was still dry inside in the morning. The coconut crabs didn’t get me either. We had noticed some rather big holes in the mud, too big to be insect or worm burrows, and Bryan had playfully suggested that they were the holes of coconut crabs. He explained that these crabs come out when it rains and cart off everything in their path including pots and pans! Never heard of coconut crabs? Me either, but it’s a good story!
Germany to Braz, Austria
We were cycling out of Germany and into Austria but my leftover schillings were still in the bottom of my suitcase which I had left in my locker because I had camped in the swamp which not only was potentially wet but too far from the gear locker trucks to carry anything unessential. Oh well. I had only a few coins worth a couple of dollars or less anyway.
Only 12 km. from camp we came to the road to Linderhof Castle, off our route but it looked close on our map. We felt we had to go while we had the opportunity. We knew it would set us back for the day but Joan said her goal was only to make it to Checkpoint anyway. As it turned out the castle was just one kilometer away and we were there too early to see the interior or the grotto. We walked about the grounds admiring the buildings and fountains with their golden statues and wondering about poor ‘mad’ King Ludwig II who wasn’t mad at all and who had built three castles during his reign as King of Bavaria including this one. He had also built Herrenchiemseecastle, a beautiful castle modeled after Versailles on an island in the lake, Chiemsee. We had cycled around the lake and past the castle on Day 230 but unfortunately we did not stop and take the ferry to the island for a closer look. Maybe we would have if we had known the tragic story of Ludwig II then.
Only 7 km. after leaving Linderhof Castle we crossed the border into Austria. We had been climbing and were glad to reach Am Plansee where the terrain leveled as we rode around the lake by the same name, Plansee. At 37 km. we came to the turnoff to Neuschwanstein, Germany. The castle of fairy tales, the castle that was the model for the Disney castle, Neuschwanstein Castle, is there and it too was built by King Ludwig II. Of course we wanted to see it so we stopped and studied our map. It appeared to be too far away and we could see no shortcut so we reluctantly gave up the idea. At least one rider took the detour to Neuschwanstein to visit the castle and still finished the ride, but that was Racer Bob who is very fast and strong. We heard of other riders who tried to make the trip but had to turn back because they were stopped by the highway patrol and told they couldn’t ride on the highway.
felt to me like it was taking us forever to reach Checkpoint. Joan didn’t want
to arrive before 2:00 so that it would be late enough to quit (on the grounds
that she couldn’t possibly finish the day anyway) but she was having a slow
day at any rate, bothered by the heat and hills. There was serious climbing
after Checkpoint which she had predetermined not to do. I, on the other hand,
never like to give up and unfortunately am still putting achievement over
enjoyment. (When I realized that I couldn’t achieve my first goal which was to
do all the miles, I decided on a new goal which was to learn to play, to have
fun. I keep forgetting that however.) But on this day I wasn’t tired enough to
quit at Checkpoint (I actually was having fun!) and besides the day was gorgeous
and the scenery was ‘Sound of Music’ all the way. I couldn’t bear to miss
any of it. So I gobbled some cheese and crackers for a quick lunch and took off
by myself, happy to be free to go at my own speed and stop as often as I pleased
for photos. I stop more often than I shoot. It seems I am constantly looking for
a good picture in front of me, on either side of me, and behind me in my rear
view mirror. Sometimes I think I see one that doesn’t work after I have
stopped. All this eats up time and although Joan often wants a photo too and
says not to worry it’s harder for me to decide to stop both of us.
I climbed and climbed and although it was hot and steep and long it was doable and it was beautiful, so beautiful it didn’t matter that it hurt to do it. How different it is to hurt up a hill in gorgeous weather and great scenery, than to suffer equally in lousy weather when one can barely see the white line. That kind of riding begins to seem pointless.
I was having fun until I came to the first tunnel. It was only half a kilometer long but it was dark and narrow and noisy and very nearly terrifying. I could hear vehicles approaching that I couldn’t see because I was afraid to take my eyes off the road. I was concentrating on what was in front of me - potholes, grates and the treacherous curb. As each vehicle drew closer and the sound became more deafening, I wondered whether that would be the one that would get me. This tunnel was probably made worse than most because of the motorcycles. There were hundreds on the road that day, it was Sunday and beautiful and everyone who had a motorbike had chosen to go for a drive on that road, or so it seemed. I should also point out that I knew that I was very visible, decked out with a flashing red light, a large reflective triangle on my trunk bag and reflective red tape on my name tag which hangs over the fender. I had to be as bright as a Christmas tree in their headlights but I was still uncomfortable. Thank goodness only one tunnel was terrifying. The others were appreciated for their cool air and relief from the sun.
After leaving Joan, I became determined to cycle at least as far as Lech, a ski resort town that I had visited once long ago. It was uphill all the way and the route crossed the Lech River several times. It was an unusual river in that the color of the water was a glacial blue, startling and beautiful to see. When I eventually reached Lech, the river was there flowing right through the village. I didn’t recognize Lech, it had grown so much since I’d been there. It is another town that exists because of tourists. It is a popular and expensive ski resort, some of the people I knew in Saudi Arabia used to go there every December for a skiing vacation. I was amazed to see that one of the chairlifts begins right in the heart of town, carrying the skiers over the streets and buildings on their way up the slope. I wondered whether the town grew and engulfed the chairlift.
After all that climbing I was hungry again so I sat in the sun beside the road and had a snack of juice, cookies, and ice cream. By this time I was tired and would have appreciated a sag but since none had come along I thought I should get going. It was still uphill and there were two more tunnels but they were okay. I was nearly to Zurs at the summit of the climb, 5300 ft., when a sag van came by so I raised my fist and was picked up. In a way it was a shame to quit only a kilometer from the top with the rest of the ride, about 30 km., being largely downhill but I was tired and it was getting late.
The campground was right in Braz and right in an orchard. I was one of the last to arrive so there were precious few tent sites left. I found one under True’s bike. He had left it lying on the grass while setting up his tent and then forgot about it. Thank goodness. It was sloping but then the whole orchard was on a slope. I cautiously picked up the squashed apples and pears, trying not to anger the yellow jackets that were feasting on them, and then pitched my tent.
Dinner was served outside where we sat at rows of long tables which were also on a slope. There was a hollow log watering trough with a stream of ice cold pure alpine water flowing into it from the spigot. Big half liter paper cups were stacked there for our use. I drank cup after cup of that delicious cold water. After dinner we were entertained for two hours by a group of Austrians dressed in folk costumes who performed many dances, some of which were very unique and required great strength and timing. But the best part was probably when they did a hat dance, then picked some of us to do the same dance. It was hilarious to see how we bungled it. It was a wonderful show but went on well past our bedtime. The audience kept dwindling but the dancers kept dancing.
(Photo Link to Day 233)
Austria to Flims, Switzerland
We were seated at those long rows of tables again having a wonderful breakfast and apprehensively watching the dark menacing clouds approach. It grew colder and darker and we knew that rain was inevitable. When the first drops fell people grabbed their plates and dashed for shelter in the bathrooms and under the eaves of that building. We huddled there munching and in a few minutes the storm blew over. The streets were wet when we set out but at least the rain had stopped.
This was another uphill day with the steepest climb at the end. The scenery was beautiful, it was green meadows, forests, hay fields, and cows with every cow wearing a bell which clanged with the slightest movement. A group of cows grazing together made quite a racket. I wondered whether that noise ever bothers them. Sometimes we rode on busy highways and other times we rode on bike lanes. Bike lanes can be wonderful because they feel safer than the highway but they have drawbacks too. Sometimes they end abruptly, they are crossed by driveways and side streets from which a car can suddenly emerge, the surface can change from asphalt to gravel or sand without warning, cars park in them, busses stop in them, and there are often patches of broken glass. Still it feels good to be removed from the highway with its traffic and I am sure the drivers are happy to have the pokey cyclists out of the way.
At 33 kilometers we rode into Liechtenstein. No border stop was necessary but some people stopped anyway to have their passports stamped. We would be cycling for only 20 kilometers in Liechtenstein so we were anxious to take pictures and buy our souvenirs. There was a lovely photogenic castle just before the Swiss border and a picturesque hotel where Joan and I stopped to take pictures of each other in Liechtenstein. One of the advantages to riding with a friend is that we can be in our own photos if we choose.
At 52 kilometers we left Liechtenstein behind and entered Switzerland. The road was busier and there was evidence of lots of industry, a change from the agricultural lands we had been cycling through lately. We rode through a special military training zone at a place called St. Luzsteig GR. I thought that a strange name but haven’t found out what the GR means. The military base there was a cavalry unit. We saw several large stables and a few soldiers and horses in training.
We rode through Maienfeld, an attractive village with cobblestone streets and stopped for a look in the Heidi store. One of the riders, Racer Bob said that the movie ‘Heidi’ was filmed there.
As we approached Reichenau-Tamins we cycled past a railroad station. I yelled, “Stopping!” to Joan, and once we were both stopped I suggested that we inquire whether there were trains to our destination, Flims. We had only 13 km. to go but we knew it was a steep climb. The DRG said ‘Begin climbing most of the way to camp.’ We know that if a hill is mentioned on the DRG it is a serious hill. We figured that at our uphill speed we would need two hours to reach camp. Joan inquired about a train in the station and learned that there was a bus going in less than an hour and that the bus journey would be only 20 minutes! That seemed so much better than bicycling that we decided to do it. We cycled to the Post Office to buy the tickets and just in time too for the clerk locked the doors and went home just afterward. We sat ourselves down to wait and when the bus arrived we saw that there were others who had had the same good idea. Already on the bus were Bob Jones, Russ, Dick Ryan and Krystal. They had boarded the bus in Chur, 13 kilometers earlier. The bus went up and up through one tiny village after another, just millimeters to spare around the hairpin curves. Part way up we stopped to pick up a load of school children on their way home after the first day of school. It was only August 21.
The bus driver stopped the bus right at the street leading to the campground and unloaded our bikes for us. We were camping on the grounds of the Flims Sports Center. What a place that was! There was a huge lawn, twice as much space as we needed for our tents, and sports facilities that we were welcome to use. There were astro-turf soccer fields and clay tennis courts. There were two enormous curved wooden structures facing each other for the skateboarders who would whiz up one side, jump and twist in the air at the top only to whiz down and up the other side again. Young boys were playing there and could do that repeatedly. There was another curved wooden structure that was for mountain bikes I think. There was also a big trampoline. Indoors was an enormous ice arena where we could borrow skates and skate if we pleased. I think every Canadian among us and a few others put on ice skates and had a game of hockey. Pierre, one of the volunteers, looked like he was born on skates. There was a restaurant and telephones and showers with enough hot water for everyone.
When we set up our tents the weather was changing, dark clouds were coming our way, so I put the foil emergency blanket on top of my ineffective footprint before I set the tent on it. That foil sheet prevents moisture from seeping into my tent so that the floor stays dry and feels warm rather than cold and clammy. But it is thin and tearing and a pain to use as it flies away in the slightest wind. Maryke has a footprint that was made with foil on one side so that her tent floor is always dry and warm.
We were served dinner at the Sport Center’s restaurant which was very convenient for us. The meal was good and the crusty whole wheat bread was a welcome change from the white and rye we have been eating for weeks. When I went to bed the American country western music was still blaring from the ice rink. Fortunately I like that music and enjoyed listening to it. Europeans seem to have a fascination with the American west and enjoy not only the music but the Cowboy and Indians part of it too. One day I saw a sign advertising western riding lessons. Someone told me about a western style overnight camp where the guests sleep in teepees, and one day we found ourselves in a bakery/coffeehouse decorated with American memorabilia.
It had started to rain and was raining heavily before I was settled for the night. After the second or third drip on my head I realized that I had a leak and on investigation found the drip coming from the center top. I tied a rag around the tab that is there so that it would absorb the water, then clothespinned a plastic bag over the rag to catch water if the rag should become soaked in the night. The storm was a dandy with crashing thunder, lightning, wind and torrents of rain. But I slept quite cozily and dry in my tent, thankful that I had taken the precaution of using the foil emergency blanket under my tent.
When morning came the rain had stopped and I was delighted to find that the inside of my tent was dry. Not everyone was so fortunate, at least four people that I heard about were drenched in their tents, everything was soaked, and they had a miserable, sleepless night.
The morning was dreary, the sky grey. Rain was still a threat but I did some laundry by hand to be ready just in case the sun should shine. It did break through the clouds later in the day but meanwhile I had learned about a drier available for our use and waited my turn for that.
My only goal for the day was to work at catching up the writing for the web page. If I hadn’t had to do that and if the sky had been clear it would have been fun to go for a hike or at least ride the ski lift to see the view which would have been spectacular.The overcast day made it easier for me to keep my resolve. I worked all day but didn’t finish. It takes me forever!
Some people have suggested I give up writing for the web page because it consumes all my extra time and energy. It is true that if I gave it up I would then have free time and I could bury myself in one wonderful book after another which is my idea of a good time or I could spend time chatting with friends and I could even get enough sleep. But I am writing because my memory is so poor that otherwise I will forget much of my trip. I am looking forward to next year when I can do the trip all over again but this time from my comfortable recliner, and have time to do the peripheral reading I can’t do now.
Daily Glockenspiel Concert
Every day, the large glockenspiel at Munich’s Neues Rathaus, or New City Hall, delights passersby with a short concert. While music plays, mechanical figures made of enameled copper move in and out of the archways, engage in miniature battles, and act out scenes from Munich’s history.
Austrian and Swiss Alps
Odyssey Riders and Staff
Alice in Salzburg, Austria
Previous Page (Page 66) Next Page (Page 68)
Link to index of Pages