We set off from Munich a fair bit heavier than when we arrived due to the numerous steins and all manner of pork products we had consumed in our 4 days there. The culmination of this was on our final day in Munich when we headed out on the train to the Andechs monastery atop a hillside overlooking Ammersee, home of Benedictine monks who have been brewing beer here since the 15th century. It is also a purveyor of traditional Bavarian cuisine to soak up the beer and we were keen to sample their famous pork knuckle (also known as a ham hock in other countries according to Google). We should have been wary when we finally fought our way to the serving counter and the lady behind it had to reconfirm that, YES we wanted TWO pork knuckles. We should have been even more worried when she produced four plates for us. It was only when she announced the price (€20 for each pork knuckle) that we started to become alarmed. The price per 100g was €1.80! By that point there was no turning back. Two enormous hunks of meat, each the size of a small child’s head, were deposited in front of us. As we staggered out into the dining area trying to balance our laden trays we became aware that pretty much every other person in the whole place (and it was packed) was sharing one between two. Even the group of enormous German men that we sat down beside who looked like they had been consuming pork knuckles and steins every day for the past ten years! They chuckled good-naturedly at us as we sat down, fully aware that in this battle of man versus food there could only be one winner. Steven is not one to be defeated by food too often but this challenge was beyond even him. Afterwards, we just about managed to get ourselves down the hill and onto the train before promptly falling asleep in a food coma for the whole return journey.
Our journey from Munich to Salzburg was to take us south to Bad Tolz, then east to Lake Schliersee and Lake Chiemsee skirting round the foothills of the Alps. I had been on the Internet looking for cycling routes and this seemed to be a scenic option on cycle paths. Unfortunately we had no further information other than the towns we were cycling between. The cycle paths were not particularly forthcoming in their appearance, so we spent a frustrating day on hilly back roads, occasionally attempting a stretch of busy main road when we were feeling brave. On the plus side the countryside was getting ever more beautiful and the back roads wound their way through meadows of lush green grass, clover and buttercups with cows grazing peacefully, the sound of cow bells gently clinking ever present, birds of prey soaring above us.
We arrived at the beautiful alpine Lake Schliersee with our nerves slightly frayed due to the busy roads and keen not to have a similar experience the next day. Luckily we met Maria and her boyfriend, who were cycling the Bodensee – Konigssee radweg (cycle path) from Lake Constance to Salzburg. The cycle path was on the doorstep of our campsite and went exactly where we needed it to go. We took photos of their map, identified the signposts that we needed to follow and off we went. The next few days were some of the best cycling we have had, following quiet farm roads through sleepy villages with the Alps in view (but never too close for comfort!).
A few days in Salzburg left us just enough time to partake in the Sound of Music tour (complete with a sing-along on the bus) and wander around the rocky outcrop that soars high above the compact city with its numerous spires and towers. Unfortunately, it rained quite a lot. This seems to be becoming a common theme whenever we stop somewhere for a few days rest. It is rather tiresome when living in a two-person tent, as the only options are to stay inside and probably kill each other or tramp around in the rain in full waterproofs. The day we left Salzburg dawned bright and sunny, probably a sign that we should just get on with our journey.
From Salzburg, it was a 2-day dash across some stunning alpine countryside before arriving in Linz. Here we met the Danube and enjoyed some great cycle paths which are flat as a pancake, all the way to Vienna.
We’ve started to meet other cyclists with interesting journeys in the last couple of weeks. Firstly, a trio of Slovakians who were on a 3,000km pilgrimage from near Bratislava to Santiago di Compostella in 3 to 4 weeks (they cycle a lot more kms per day than we do!), secondly a family of seven (three children on their own bikes, one attached to the Dad’s bike and one in a trailer) on a 6 week trip from northern Germany to Budapest. Incredibly, they cycle almost as far per day and travel as fast as we do. We know because we raced them on the other side of the Danube one day (we hadn’t met them at this point and they didn’t know it was a race but we still couldn’t seem to pull away from them).
Unsurprisingly, we arrived in Vienna in the rain and it continued to rain for the next 36 hours. There was only one thing for it, get back on our bikes and ride!