Saturday, 17 November 2012


We're trying to outrun winter as we cross Europe - but we're typically slow, so to speed matters up we take a train across Austria from Vienna to Salzburg.  The train is new and sleek and we can just roll our bikes aboard.  The train leaves us just inside the German border.  It's wet and windy but settles down as we begin our ride west across rolling countryside towards Munich.  The farmland all looks so neat and tidy.  Tractors are out ploughing the land, spreading muck, turning the soil.  The villages all look neat and tidy too - but of course: we are in Germany.  There are bike routes in many directions but we choose to stick to the small roads and these are easy to follow.  As we pass through hamlets people smile and say hello.  If we stop for a break we are asked if it's not too cold for touring.  It is a bit chilly but the ups are keeping us warm and the downs are okay if we zip up.  We'd forgotten the joy of the freewheel - cruising downhill into the next valley with the views across to the next hills we will cross.  At the end of the day we stop at a restaurant to ask for water.  The staff are intrigued as to what we will do with 7 litres of water.  They ask where will camp tonight.  I give them the best shrug I can muster and smile.  We don't know, but we'll find somewhere and we'll be fine.
Sure enough there's a corner of a field by some woods, out of sight of the road.
a sign to warm every cyclist's heart
The next day we continue along the minor road and it leads us all the way into Munich.  We know we've reached the city when we find a bike path alongside the road.  There are bike paths every which way.  One leads us to Jenny and Chris' flat in the city centre.  We met in Turkey walking the Lycian Way back in 2007.  Chris had twisted his ankle.  We all decided to take a break at a quiet little beach place and it took a huge effort to eventually move on.  It's great to catch up with them again and to meet their young son Simon.   We are not staying long so Chris gives us some directions to some of the main sights in the city.  He jokingly refers to one of the grand open squares as the 'Hitler Platz' much to Jenny's horror.  It's the kind of place you could imagine a Nazi rally being held, full of grand Teutonic buildings.  Unfortunately for Munich the city cannot escape all of its past.  However, if there's one European country that might have recognised and come to terms with its actions from that era, then it is probably Germany.  
the Big Sur...prise

Munich might be the driving force behind the German economy these days as all the famous car manufacturers are based here.  There is certainly the impression of wealth about the city.  On our wander around we also check out 'The Wave' after Jenny and Chris' tip off.  This is a wave created accidentally by a small water channel flowing through one of the city's lovely parks.  The wave attracts surfers all the year round and it's quite bizarre but great entertainment to watch surfers practice on a 'static wave'.  It's a cold day and rather weird to watch a man walk off down the street at the end of his lunchtime surf in his wetsuit, board under his arm.
hearty fare

Of course Chris and Jenny cannot let us leave Munich without a visit to a beer hall.  The one we visit is next to one of Germany's oldest breweries and it's packed to the rafters with locals.  Well, at least until the large group of Chinese businessmen turn up.  Here we can indulge in typical Bavarian food - I go for the plate of meat, whilst Gayle opts for the spaetzle.  At some point a couple of fellas appear with tuba and cornet to knock out a few classic ompah-pah tunes.  The Chinese look a bit bemused when all the Germans launch into a big sing-along.  We couldn't have wished for a better Bavarian night.  

Fed, watered and rested, and all the better for catching up with our friends, we cycle off along a bike path and out of the city towards Switzerland.  At lights we stop next to a cyclist with two large panniers packed to the gills.  He asks us where we're going. Japan! We smile.  And you?  Oh, I've just been doing my shopping - I'm on my way to work, he replies.

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