Monthly Archives: August 2014

Fussen to Rettenberg

More up and down today in the Bavarian Alps, and quite a lot of going round in circles, it felt like, something to do with following the contours, our navigator told me. Anyway, a cool day but big rural landscapes, at times reminiscent of the Scottish uplands. Apparently we climbed 732m in the day and Statto tells me that makes it the 3rd highest climbing day of the trip. Bowls of goulash at an alpine cafe hut helped us along, which was a welcome improvement on our original plan of a picnic lunch which we carried with us, but we just never know whether food will be available en route on Sundays.

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There were two prize winning village names today, one the village of Oy, and the other came up on Andy’s GPS navigation screen as Wank. Lucky it was a village name rather than an instruction, said Andy. Juvenile giggles all round.

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Rettenberg is not much to tell about, but we are beside the Italian restaurant and it opens at 5pm, that is all we are focused on today.

Track of the day:
When the Sun Goes Down, Arctic Monkeys.
Over the last few days we have talked quite a bit about casework we have been involved in over the years following news stories of the Rotherham report that came out this week. I could write a lot here but just to say that reading again of the experience of young girls in Rotherham made me angry. As usual I agreed with the analysis by Suzanne Moore in The Guardian on Thursday though she is dismissive of social work for reasons that I entirely understand. All this is to say that I feel pretty much ready to get back to work, which is good as there is only a week to go. And I like the anger in the track of the day, on related experiences set in a district close to Rotherham at a similar period.

Bad Kohlgrub to Fussen

Not many miles today but we really had to work at it, with a cold and wet start in the mountains adding to the effort required. A lot of the route was through mountain forest – so that meant testing our off-road skills on rough tracks, avoiding boulders, streams and trees to keep moving. Hats off to the wheel builders at Spa Cycles – it’s amazing what these touring bikes can cope with!

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At one point we had to do a river crossing with no bridge available so we waded across in sandals. All part of the mix but it made for slow and wet cycling.

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With no villages either and only bananas in our supply store, lunch did not seem very inviting, but I spied the only cafe for miles around across an open section of fields and sandwiches and hot tea were sorted out for us just after 1pm.

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We arrived in Fussen within an hour or so and saw the famous German castle Neuschwanstein, big and white and a very popular attraction.

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But I was keener on a hot shower and a hotel for the night, which we have managed to find in this very busy spot. We have now done 1340 miles altogether so I think a celebratory pot of tea is next.

Track of the day:
Cloudbusting by Kate Bush

I knew this would happen if I listened to any Kate Bush music- the minute we started cycling this morning I get ‘every time it rains’ in my head from this track. It stayed with me throughout the ride. Incessantly.

Bad Tolz to Bad Kohlgrub

We are doing spa towns today. A great day’s cycling. The sun shone, the cycle route was superb, with long views over pastureland to heavily wooded mountains (that we weren’t climbing over!)

Bavaria is big, green and beautiful, and half a litre of excellent beer is less than a cup of tea! I am never going home!

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Helen’s track of the day:
Everybody Needs Someone To Love by Solomon Burke
If you want to put hats and shades on and pretend you are one of the Blues Brothers that is fine but this is the original version which is not quite so manic. But still very cheery.

Traunstein to Rosenheim

Ok, so a train was involved here! On a beautiful sunny morning we cycled into Salzburg and caught the train to the start of the day’s ride. The idea was to avoid the suburban exit from Salzburg, (airport, railway, motorway), and start, in Germany, close to the Chiemsee.

And this proved every bit as good as billed. The hills were gently rolling (rather than steep), all the farms are covered in geraniums, and the fields are a shade of Irish green that only a really wet summer can produce .

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The bike route round the north shore of the Chiemsee was extremely popular – danger of collisions on the narrow, off-road path. But the views across the lake to the mountains beyond were beautiful.

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We finished the ride at Rosenheim, on the river Inn, and hopped on another train to Bad Tolz. This misses out a section of steep, off-road, climbing in the forest. Bad Tolz has a typical Bavarian high street, very familiar from our ride down the Danube four years ago.

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Helen’s track of the day:
Moving by Kate Bush.
Unlike any other trip and entirely because of my I-phone, I am much more aware of what is going on in the UK than usual, reading the paper online everyday. That has meant trying to keep track of football transfer news and the like till the season started rather then major political or social debate on the whole, though in all seriousness the events in Gaza could not be ignored, so shocking was the impact of war there. Anyway, the major event for some of us this week was the return to live shows by Kate Bush after 35 years. I saw rave reviews and would love to have been there but instead listened to a few of her tracks last night. I have to strictly limit what Kate Bush music I listen to or it sticks in my head for days and really drives me crazy. This was the track that stuck most today, same title as yesterday, but very different sound.

A second day off in Salzburg

This hotel is a great place to stay and, thankfully, the nocturnal neighbours have left, so we got a good night’s sleep.

For our second day in Salzburg we went for the heights: first the modern art gallery on the Monchburg and then the fortress on the Festunburg. Both were reached by cliff lift, and both gave great views over the town. But it rained most of the day, so the pictures are not great.

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The highlights of the modern art were Martha Roster’s photomontage about war (profound) and Simone Forti’s dance and movement (wacky). The highlight of the castle was probably the Bull of Salzburg – an enormous mechanical organ (no keyboard) that was used as an alarm clock for Salzburg!

Back to cycling tomorrow. The last leg from Salzburg to Zurich now looks a bit ambitious, so we are planning a couple of train rides to bypass some harder bits. A decision reinforced by the forecast for yet more rain ahead. Looking forward to it!

Helen’s track of the day:
Movin’ by Gregory Porter.
One of the best parts of the day for me was drinking coffee in the posh bar overlooking the city from the Modern Art Museum. The soundtrack was good jazz music, advertising the forthcoming jazz festival, so I have chosen a new jazz track and even if the sentiment doesn’t quite fit, the title does.

This was in preference to the theme tune from Breaking Bad, a wonderful last series doing so well at the Emmys yesterday, good news, but not quite the ambience I am after here.

Day off in Salzburg

So we started the day with a medley of Sound of Music tunes from our neighbours in the hotel. Unfortunately it was almost 2 am at the time and they needed reminding that they were in a different time zone now. That became Andy’s job. He was very effective and I think all the other guests except the family making the din appreciated the peace and quiet that followed.

But it meant we were in less than jovial spirits for our exploration of Salzburg, particularly places such as the Schloss Mirabell gardens which were used in the film we had suffered at 2am. We did have a picnic there, enjoying the flowers and the fountains and views, though from under an umbrella as it is raining again.

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Overall Salzburg is smaller than we anticipated though it packs a lot in, and I think the buskers here are top quality, which is not surprising since we are here during the music festival.

We managed the cathedral, a monastery, another church and then Salzburg museum. That gave an interesting account of the development of the place and particularly the diffident views about the impact of tourism, referring to the cult of Mozart for example. We managed one Mozart reference, afternoon tea at Cafe Mozart, with tea and strudel for me and a Mozart beer for Andy. (Until today I had thought that Mozart was a composer, but apparently he was a chocolatier. His chocolates are everywhere. Andy).

And we got to go on a bus into town from our guesthouse, somehow an activity I still consider is a treat even though I am not 7 anymore.

Track of the day:
Real life Angels by Elbow.
All that baroque architecture in Salzburg was full of cherubs and angels having a good old chat on ecclesiastical ceilings. Perhaps inevitably this song came to mind. Definitely not Do-Re-Mi.

Bischofshofen to Salzburg

We saw the sun today. For several hours. And the lower section of the valley, with its castles, cliffs and gorges, was absolutely stunning.

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The cycling was a joy – about 35 miles down the valley – but still over 300m of climbing thrown in. This was mainly to avoid narrow sections of the spectacular gorge.

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The final section was Austrian pastureland at its most idyllic. In fact I think that Golling is my latest top retirement village! We stopped for tea in a farm garden with llamas, donkeys and peacocks. Perfect!

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And now we have just checked into a lovely guesthof, in the countryside just south of Salzburg. We plan to spend 2 days exploring Salzburg before the final leg back to Zurich.

Kaprun to Bischofshofen

Back to cycling today. And to more heavy rain and low cloud. The first hour was seriously wet as we set off down the Salzach valley, still following the Tauernradweg bike path towards Salzburg.

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But yesterday’s rest seemed to have done the trick and, by coffee, the rain stopped. The valley entered a gorge, where we were entertained by kids in a raft shooting the rapids. After lunch the path climbed steeply away from the river. On rested legs this was worth it – first to warm us up after the morning’s soaking and, second, for the views.

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The last few miles followed the river bank to Bischofshofen, a ski village with an old centre. It is Sunday and there is very little open. We decided that it is too cold to camp (or, rather, too cold to sit still outdoors between now and bedtime) so we have found a cheap guesthouse. The temperature has only just reached double figures this afternoon. And this is August!

Helen’s track of the day:
Still Crazy After All These Years, Paul Simon
The start of the ride today was like dressage on a bike rather than on a horse : slippy gravel paths, water jumps over streams, some without bridges and some with tiny metal ramps tucked in to a narrow ledge to test your balance, then thick mud, sometimes with deep puddles so you couldn’t see how deep the water was on entry and then steep inclines to test your balance and strength. All in the rain and , in my case, with a Paul Simon medley playing in my head. You have to be crazy to be enjoying this, I thought at one point. Cue track of the day.

Day off in Kaprun

I bought a souvenir today, the first other than postcards on this trip as there isn’t space in my panniers. A light weight fleece in lime green. That tells you about the weather conditions and with the bonus that I now blend in with the soft furnishings in some of the Austrian caf├ęs. So, yes we went shopping in Zell am See as the rain came down, just like a wet weekend in Ambleside.

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Then we had an uninhibited and very relaxing 3 hour session in the posh spa/sauna complex which worked on those tired muscles in our legs, ankles, thighs, hips and, in Andy’s case, left thumb from when he signalled left at one point this week and hit a road barrier. So now we are relaxed, recovered etc and still enjoying the scenery , now through drizzle rather than heavy rain. No photos today, see above.

Track of the day:
If He Don’t by Paul Heaton and Jacquie Abbot.

Terrible grammar but a great duet from them. I should have the lyrics sorted for both parts by the time I get home so anyone who visits, or particularly Mandy next door, is warned that they are likely to hear me singing this from the kitchen.

Krimml Falls to Kaprun

This has been a beautiful day’s cycling – one of the best of the trip. The Tauernradweg is highly recommended (and offered by many cycle tour companies). But we are pretty tired, and the 40 miles down valley turned out to include well over 1000ft of uphill. And there was a fairly hefty Jim’s wind in our faces.

[Jim is a Canadian raftsman who first explained this phenomenon to us on Vancouver Island. Sunny weather in the mountains sucks air up the valley – particularly as things warm up in the afternoon. I don’t know the proper name for it – but we had a Jim’s wind on our tail on the ride up the valley from Trento last week and were cruising at 18mph. I’d be happy with that on my road bike! But it’s not so good when, as today, you have to pedal to go downhill.]

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And now we are in Kaprun, a ski village near Zell am See at the foot of the Grosglocknerstrasse – one of the most spectacular passes over the main spine of the Alps. No thank you. Twice over the Alps was quite enough for one holiday. And, since yesterday’s train journey put us a day ahead of schedule, tomorrow is a day off in this beautiful spot.

Track of the day
Love me again by John Newman
Another track from spinning class and one I heard at breakfast time in the very comfy Spar cafe. It stayed with me on the descent, going whizz down hill at 30 mph with a bit of braking was great, and the tune stayed with me for about 10 miles which is when it started to get harder. Made it to the end of the ride, but only just. Damn that head wind.
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