Category Archives: Paris-Romania 2010: 5 Ulm to Regensburg

Regensburg

This was a rainy day in Regensburg – which certainly took the gloss off the photos, if nothing else. We have spent most of the time between cafe stops wandering through the maze of medieval streets. The place is certainly very different from the post war rebuilt towns elsewhere, and it feels more like York.

The old Rathaus - now the Tourist Information
The old Rathaus – now the Tourist Information

But the emblematic feature is the Stone Bridge, crossing the three strands of the Danube. This dates from 1137 and is described as a masterpiece of medieval engineering. The huge stone piers now have concrete bases with upstream steel tips against the winter ice, and they create enormous eddies downstream, so it is a wonder that it hasn’t been swept away. This is a very powerful and fast river now.

The Stone Bridge
The Stone Bridge

At the town end there is a tower, from which there were good views of both bridge and town – despite the rain and the greyness.

Stone Bridge from the tower
Stone Bridge from the tower

Having crossed the bridge, the view back to town was excellent (I am referring, of course, to Helen’s rain attire, not the architecture).

St Stephen's cathedral from the Stone Bridge
St Stephen’s cathedral from the Stone Bridge

This is the most northerly point on the Danube. So from tomorrow our route takes a rather more logical south easterly trend.

Helen’s track of the day: James Taylor – Up on the Roof. (Our 4th floor hotel room has skylight views over the city).

 

Neustadt to Regensburg

This was one of the best days of the trip so far. Warm sunshine, spectacular river scenery, and a boat ride!

But first I have to mention last night’s food. Why can’t German cooks leave the salad veg alone and just put it on the plate? What ranckled this time was that the chef came out to tell us off for not eating the potato cooked to a pulp and then pickled in vinegar and mayonaisse! Leave it …. there are better things to recall.

Today began with a trip through hop growing countryside, but on a grand and thoroughy modern scale. Huge pole and cable infrastucture for the hops themselves, and enormous barns with the entire roofs covered in photo voltaic cells.

Then down to the river and the start of another gorge section, but now the river is much bigger than a week ago. It was still early, beautifully calm and still and with the mist lifting off the river.

Near Weltendorf
Near Weltendorf

Soon we were hemmed in by limestone cliffs.

Entering the gorge
Entering the gorge

Soon we reached a point where, for a short distance, limestone cliffs fell directly into the water on both sides of the river. There wasn’t even a footpath anywhere near river level. The recommended way of making progress downriver to Kelheim was to take the ferry for a close up of the scenery. So we did.

Arrival of the Kelheim ferry
Arrival of the Kelheim ferry

The boat ride was a bit like something out of Lord of the Rings – I was expecting giant statues of kings. We were also entertained by a French couple with two small children. These were long distance cyclists, with kids in a trailer, and the little ones were enjoying the exitement of a boat ride just as much as us. We are in awe of people who can cycle all day and then manage small children on a campsite at night. What energy!

Danube gorge at Kelheim
Danube gorge at Kelheim
Danube gorge cliffs
Danube gorge cliffs

I know that the purists are going to point out that we can no longer claim to have cycled all the way. But those 4 miles by river were excellent!

From Kelheim there was another 20 miles of lovely riverside cycling (though rather bumpy off road and hard on the nether regions!) before we reached Regensburg. Here we saw our first barge – because the river is navigable upstream as far as Kelheim, where the Danube-Main-Rhine canal leaves the river to cross the watershed to the North Sea. (Wikipedia lists the species of fish that have made the same journey and have found new homes!)

Barge heading upriver to Kelheim - heading for the Rhine
Barge heading upriver to Kelheim – heading for the Rhine

Regensburg is the only intact medieval city centre in Germany, having escaped war time bombing, and it is a gem and has Unesco world heritage status. We will have a day off from cycling here tomorrow and tell you more about it then.

Helen’s track of the day: The Beatles, Let It Be, because I am feeling chilled and at peace with the world after a lovely day of cycling.

See yesterday for GPS track.

Stepperg to Neustadt

We certainly made the right decision not to camp last night. It started with storms about 5 pm and then rained heavily all night. We spent the night fighting with mosquitos that had come indoors for shelter – the only drawback of this otherwise brilliant guesthouse. I emerged from bed groggy this morning and put athelete’s foot cream all over the bites on my face and head!

Another day: another section of the Danube. But first a few small hills to wake us up (one was a huge 50 m high!). Then back to the levees.

Danube levee bike trail
Danube levee bike trail

Morning coffee was at Neuberg, an attractive town right on the bank of the river.

Neuburg
Neuburg

The following section took us to Ingolstad, which Lonely Planet suggests has the reputation for being the richest town in Germany. There is a huge Audi factory to the north, and Audi seems to own the town. But it was an interesting place to spend a couple of hours over lunchtime. We visited a church built in 1735 that had the largest, flat, painted ceiling in the world. This consisted of lurid scenes of ‘taming the natives’ (and the equally savage wild animals) with the gospel. But it was arranged so that, by standing exactly in the centre, all the sight lines came spot on and the thing came into perspective in all directions. Clever! Just like the adverts painted on rugby pitches for the TV cameras.

After Ingolstad we went back to cycling beside the river. We are beginning to count power stations (5 so far), having lost count of the many fragrant sewage works that the cycle path likes to take in!

One feature of Bavaria is the presence, in most villages, of things that look like giant maypoles from England. In fact they are huge, felled fir trees, erected in the village. But the strange thing is that all but the top few branches are removed, so that it looks like a Christmas tree at the top. They vary, but most have circular ’shelves’ at intervals, and flags or other decoration sticking out. If anyone knows anything more about these then I’d love to know.

 

Bavarian Maypole thingy
Bavarian Maypole thingy

We have finished the day in a campsite in Neustadt, the weather having been improving somewhat. Now off in search of beer and something to eat.

Helen has been entertaining herself with stories about people we see en route. The current one involves a fat man who cycles but seems to prefer puffing a great cigar. Helen spotted him three days ago and we have seen him several times, so now the story is that the fat man is a part of a posse chasing us. I think it gives Helen the opportunity to hum all the theme tunes from the westerns she watched as a kid. She thinks I did not watch enough TV as I don’t recognise them, so I think the current story is that we are impersonating Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. She sits in bars pretending to hide behind her hat, like Paul Newman, as strangers walk in!

Helen’s track of the day: Burt Bacharach, theme from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. See above.

Two days’ GPS tracks accidentally joined together:

Dillingen to Stepperg

The noisiest camp site so far led to an entertaining night with toddler strops finally settled by the louder noise of an almighty thunderstorm. It rained through the night, but all was well with us and the tent, we stayed dry and somehow we got enough sleep. I am keenly aware now that the cycling goes better if I have a lot of sleep, though on the current flatter terrain it is not so vital.

Camping at Dillingen - thunder and kids!
Camping at Dillingen – thunder and kids!

Breakfast in Dillingen was hard to come by – and we only discovered ‘the cafe’ as we were leaving – too late!

Dillingen (and, yes, it does look like Gunsberg!)
Dillingen (and, yes, it does look like Gunsberg!)

Coffee was also a bit hard to find, and we ended up reaching our intended lunch stop – Donauworth – very early. Like Ulm, this is another town that has been almost entirely rebuilt since 1945, making it hard to tell what, if anything, predates the war. The fact that much of the rebuild in Donauworth copies older styles means that it is hard to resist the impression of Disneyfication. Somehow it feels strange.

Donauworth
Donauworth

Leaving Donauworth behind we reached a point where the Danube (which, since Ulm, has been running in a broad, flat valley) bumps into some low hills to the north. So after a long flat section through rural land, including a village where the slurry tractors were out in force, so smelling like one of our local North Yorkshire villages at this time of year, we found some hillier ground. We found we were glad of the variety, both in cycling terms and for the variety of views. The Danube is getting wider all the time, now hemmed in between high levees. Every few miles it is dammed for hydro and flood control, resulting in an artificial lake.

 

Cycling the Danube levee
Cycling the Danube levee

We covered the allotted miles by 1 pm, and the intended campsite next to a Gasthof did not look promising, so on we went for a few more miles. This is the first time we have overshot – we must be getting fit!

Helen’s track of the day: Tracey Chapman, Talking Bout a Revolution, because of discussions today about history, German and elsewhere.

Ulm to Dillingen

Back to sunny weather, breeze on our backs, and beautiful, easy cycling. Sunday morning in Ulm is given over to jogging, rollerblading, rowing and, of course, cycling. The riverside cycle path out of town was heaving.

Sunday morning on the Danube bike trail – Ulm
Sunday morning on the Danube bike trail – Ulm

The valley is a lot broader here, and we enjoyed a mix of tarmac (small lanes), dirt tracks through forests, cycle lanes beside the road and some suburban streets. The town of Gunsberg was the main highlight, and we stopped for a long drink and a (re)read of Saturday’s Guardian. (Getting hold of a Grauniad – particulary the Sat version – has become something of a Holy Grail that has involved trips to gares and bahnhofs in all major towns and cities. This week’s was a disappointment – Lucy Mangan and the puzzles page was missing. I can feel a letter to the European editor coming on).

Gunsberg
Gunsberg

We stopped after 36 miles right beside the Danube at Dillingen at a small campsite. We arrived around 3 pm and pitched our tent. Since then a huge number of cyclists have arrived, including several families with a total of about 10 children between them. Our tent is now hemmed in and it is anybody’s guess whether we’ll get any sleep tonight. Oh the joys of camping!

Helen’s track of the day: Fleetwood Mac, The Chain, because of my first pangs of homesicknessness tonight and this reminds me of home, listening to Mark Radcliffe on the radio.