Thursday, 22 November 2012

bavarian peaks

We climb out of the mist around Munich and into the sunshine and blue skies above.  The road rises and dips in and out of valleys, down to a lake and then up through a village twinned with Windermere - a little reminder of Blighty for us.  Everywhere is tranquil but there are plenty of people out in the countryside walking, running, making the most of the good weather.  We meet an old man on his bike out from the city on a day ride.  He wants to chat and show us the bike path that will keep us off the busy main road ahead.  He tells us that soon we will see the Alps.  A bit later on there they are - stretching majestically across the horizon.  When we stop for our lunch at a viewpoint a few people stop to talk. We enjoy these little encounters even though our language ability doesn't stretch to anything meaningful. This is in noticeable contrast to eastern Europe, where people seemed more reserved.  The difference here is that we don't look like foreigners - everyone assumes we're German. It must be the panniers. We don't really look German, do we?

We awake the next day to a heavy frost.  Everything is crispy and white, our water bottles are frozen solid. It's beautiful to awake in our tent, toasty warm, and experience this. We have camped next to a tiny runway - we thought it must be a flying club when we arrived in the dusk last night - but it turns out to be a large military base.  This dawns on us at 5.10 in the morning when the reveille is sounded from a huge tower hidden in the trees about 10 metres from our heads.

Our journey ends at Andrea and Martin's house after another sunny day's cycling.  They live at the top of a mountain - or at least this is how it feels as we pedal uphill at the end of the day.  When we arrive they are busy working on the new house they have been building since the summer.  It's built from wood from their own land and they have evidently been putting a lot of hours into the construction - they are not far from completing it.  As the weather remains good Andrea is keen to take us up one of the mountains that their house looks out to.  It's a great view - the Alps spread from east to west.  We soon find ourselves on a knife-edge ridgetop looking out and over to Switzerland.  Andrea knows these mountains well and she too is a keen ski-tourer, like Eveline in Austria.  I can't imagine skiing up and down these mountain slopes - every ridge and peak looks so dramatic.  The next day we take a shorter hike and visit some of Andrea's friends living in one of the valleys beneath these mountains.  Their house is a big old wooden affair, part barn, part house, maybe three hundred years old?  Dotted around the countryside are lots of these wonderful traditional houses and Andrea and Martin have decided to cover their new house in wooden shingles in a style we see as we get closer to Switzerland.

We first met Andrea when she was cycling in western China in 2009 with Gerhard.  We then met up again in Myanmar a few months later. It was after talking with her that we got more confident about the idea of cycle-touring - she was so enthusiastic and gave us the advice that, if we were tired or didn't want to backtrack on our bikes, that we shouldn't hesitate in taking a bus or a train i.e. that the bikes shouldn't get in the way of exploring places.  They were some of the few cyclists we met who seemed more like travellers on bikes rather than just cyclists and this attitude appealed to us enormously.

We head off towards the Bodensee on a bike route that Andrea recommends to us - along an old railway line that saves us a lot of unnecessary ups and downs.  We are still blessed with sunshine despite the chill in the air.  We've eaten really well the past few days and we feel good rolling towards Switzerland.

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