Day 0 – Thursday 21st August
Onto our usual 17:30 ferry from North Shields bound for Ijmuiden, but this time on our new bike – a barely run-in Kawasaki ZZR1400. We stood on deck for the trip down the Tyne and then off to the restaurant for the buffet supper, followed by a post-prandial slouch in the nightclub. Singers and dancers disappointing.
Day 1 – Friday 22nd August
Route. Didn’t get off the ferry until after 10:00 a.m.. Spent the day in heavy rain navigating a lot of motorway roadworks to Baden Baden at the edge of the Black Forest. Surprise of the journey was how stable the new bike was surging through the bow wave created by the front wheels of an adjacent lorry. Booked in to our hotel (Hotel Merkur) and the very helpful receptionist moved a bench so that we could leave our bike on a mini patio. Dinner in the hotel’s dining room.
Day 2 – Saturday 23rd August
A day of sunshine and showers, but fine enough to discover what a nice place Baden Baden is. First up was tourist info, and a laugh to see a Korean, who’d been asking directions to the old town, go outside and proudly inform the group for which he was obviously the tour guide. Also of note was the Muslim lady seemingly unaware of the contradiction between her very modestly covered head and her very obvious pantie line, the busking string trio and their impressve classical repertoire, the H&M shop selling pullovers (sleeved) and pullunders (unsleeved) and a bride sheltering under the trees from the shower that interrupted her wedding photos in the park. A more prudent couple were having their photos taken in the old Pump Room.
The new spa is a very impressive modern building. The water as it comes out is too hot to touch. Lunch was a picnic of Flammkuchen from a stall in the market, tea the obligitory Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Gateau) and dinner a slightly disappointing curry from an Indian restaurant (and my first curried duck).
Day 3 – Sunday 24th August
Route. We hummed the Horst Jankowski tune as we set off, albeit by bike, to cross the Black Forest. It’s a beautiful drive, with the roads eventually opening out into sweeping curves. After advice from ukrm we mostly followed the 500, but side-stepped through Vohrenbach to avoid the traffic on the 31. Lunch was a stop in the delightful village of Wolfach.
On to the Bodensee (Lake Constance), dramatically appearing as we crested a ridge, dotted with white sails and flanked by vineyards and orchards.
Our hotel was the Villa von Soden in Friedrichshafen, whose proprietor turned out to be the keen owner of an FJR1200. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the town had a long and pretty promenade along the lakeside, with a tower to climb for a panoramic view and a good selection of restaurants. The Pavillion did us proud with pizza and spätzle under the trees – and blankets as the air chilled.
Day 4 – Monday 25th August
Route. Headed east and south to Oberstdorf to have a look at the Breitachklamm gorge. Very impressive. Käsebrot and beer for lunch then back on the bike. Superb bendy road up to Oberjoch, then a right turn and over the pass into Austria. The view coming down was absolutely stunning, but the only viewpoint provided was right opposite huge roadworks and completely useless. Through Reutte to chill out by the beautiful Plansee over more kaffe und kuchen.
Thought we’d run into some Geordies at the lake, but no – it was a German child shouting “come here” .
Our hotel for two nights was the Hotel Tannenhof, delightfully set under the mountains at the edge of Reutte and, we discovered, hosted by a Canadian-born lady.
Day 5 – Tuesday 26th August
Route. We rose in good time to pop up the road to Neuschwanstein – the picture-postcard castle used in the filming of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Quite a long walk up from the car-park ( we eschewed the horse and traps for hire), the castle was every bit as impressive as we expected. Begun by King Ludwig in honour of his hero Wagner, it was still incomplete when Ludwig was deposed. He subsequently died in mysterious circumstances.
On to lunch at the top of the Zugspitz, Germany’s highest mountain with the view you’d expect.
The building at the top is in two halves, bisected by the border with Austria, and consists of a restaurant each side served by a cable car each side. On the German side, visitors are invited to climb the last few metres to the highest point in the country. We passed.
Back to the Plansee to spend what was left of the afternoon stretched out by the lake. Going back through Reutte took a while. There were four zebra crossings in the village and half of each one had been painted and coned off to dry, leaving the busy traffic to sort itself out. Chaos!
Day 6 – Wednesday 27th August
Route. Beautiful sunny morning, the dewy spiders’ webs making the hedges seem full of delicate flowers. We’d planned a scenic route for the day, heading out past Plansee and along the bottom of a very long and impressive cliff. Then a quick blast up to Kochel am See and south over the pass to the Walchensee. This road has received many laudatory comments on bikers’ websites, but we found the permanent solid white line, the heavy traffic and the recurring signs specifically forbidding motorcycles from overtaking to be somewhat off-putting. The Walchensee, however, was very pretty indeed – and had to be admired at length from the terrace of a cafe.
We then took the small private road through Vorderiss and the wider but nicely winding road past the pretty Sylvenstein-Silversee over the Achenpass to Tegernsee. The signposts nearly threw me when we had to dip into Austria for a couple of miles and the road number suddenly changed.
The Tergensee was yet another pretty lake, enjoyed predictably from the terrace of a lakeside cafe, only too happy to knock Pat up a veggie not-on-the-menu sarnie. On past the beautiful Schliersee, over the Sudelfeld (a fun, winding road spoiled a little by too much 70kph limit) and then a blast up the motorway to Ruhpolding.
We were to stay 5 nights in Ruhpolding in a nice little appartment (but with breakfast provided) at the Haus Bavaria. The view from our balcony was very pretty,
and the bike was to be parked under a little roof in case of rain (which never came). We had a wander around the town, discovering that the launderette and the Post Office were both closed Wednesday afternoons. Pat had visited Ruhpolding 48 years previously, and was amused to discover that the Kurhaus dining room, with stage, hadn’t changed a bit. The buildings in the town are all beautifully decorated,
and the locals all turned out to be really friendly. It was tourist-friendly without being too overtly touristy. All in all a nice place to stay. Dinner at the Kurhaus.
Day 7 Thursday 28th August
Our very friendly landlady looked like a bad person to cross, so we dutifully joined the other guests in clearing our own breakfast dishes. First up was chores – dropping off laundry, sending postcards and calling in to an internet cafe to catch up on emails. After a coffee we bought lunch from a bakery and walked down to the river and along a bit to find a suitable spot at which to consume it.
We then wandered back to the park for a stroll, kaffe und kuchen, picked up the laundry and then enjoyed an aperitif back on our balcony. Dinner was a visit to the local pizzeria, full of runners ready for Saturday’s race (see below), in particular a pair of very pretty Canadian girls – who we found out eventually won the women’s race.
Day 8 – Friday 29th August
Route. My German was just sufficient to discuss with our landlady what the weather was likely to do and which days would be best for a visit to Salzburg and trip on the Konigsee. She concluded Salzburg today, Konigsee tomorrow. Salzburg was only a short motorway blast away, but there were no signs to the old town when we got there. We therefore headed for the Bahnhof and scrounged a map from tourist info. The old town is very nice indeed, tucked in between the hill fortress and the river. By the time we got there we were hungry, so headed for the nearest tables to the bike which turned out to belong to a Greek cafe, with a waiter who wanted to spend time in Ireland and then Liverpool (if he could afford a season ticket!). The day was cool enough for a pleasant wander, stopping to listen to an incredibly talented busking foursome (3 balalikas and an accordian) play a selection of Viennese walzes, some Mozart (obviously) and Lara’s Theme! We also found a bookshop selling English books, so topped up our supply.
As the day had warmed up we headed back to Ruhpolding and then up to the Lödensee on the Reit im Winkl road to chill out and watch the bathers (human and canine).
Dinner in one of the Ruhpolding hotels – indoors for once as the evening was cool.
Day 9 – Saturday 30th August
Route. First thing was to watch the start of the race. This was the 2008 Goretex Transalpine Run – 185 miles and 8 days, cumulative ascent 52,200 ft. (photos) We chatted to a couple from Vermont, listened to the local band
and watched the runners set off.
Then off to the Konigsee in Berchtesgaden (Hitler’s hideaway). The ride there along the 305 Alpenstrasse produced some heavy traffic but also some of the most stunning views yet, matched by those when we got the lake itself. We took a boat
the length of the lake, then walked the short distance
up to the Obersee.
On the boat trip back we got chatting to an Aberdonian couple who recognised us from the ferry. He turned out to be from Old Deer (Pat’s from New Deer). Back to Ruhpolding and another dinner at the Kurhaus.
Day 10 – Sunday 31st August
Route. A day for pottering about. A short little ride along the Alpenstrasse to Reit im Winkl for a look around and a coffee. The roads yet again were full of bikers, including (as usual) a good proportion on sports bikes. Failed to photograph a rather clever horse carriage that became a sled in winter, but did eventually discover what pfifferlinge were (small yellow mushooms). Lounged beside the Lödensee until lunchtime then back to Ruhpolding for Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) and enormous ice-cream sundaes. Salad for dinner!
Day 11 – Monday 1st September
Route. Off to Rothenburg via the Romantische Strasse. The course of true love never runs smooth, so unsurprisingly we had to make a huge detour (never did find out why). Despite my fears of a downpour we only had one serious shower all day. Stopped for lunch at Donauworth. The Donau (Danube) here is disappointing but the town is pretty enough.
Arriving at Rothenburg, our first problem was getting into the old town. We had to ask a local for directions in the end. What a nice place, though – a very old walled town on the top of a hill above the Tauber.
The Kreuzerhof Hotel is close to the centre with nice secure parking at the side. We ended up with the best room at no extra charge. We had a good walk round the town before dinner at a nearby (rather claustrophobic) restaurant.
Day 12 – Tuesday 2nd September
Route. We had to pause for a photo before setting off – our hotelier wanted a picture of us on the bike for an advert he was placing. We set off again along the Romantische Strasse to Bad Mergentheim, thence Tauberbischofsheim and a superb bendy road up to Wertheim and a coffee break. Then on to the motorway for a blast (and an absolutely excellent lunch at a Marche service area restaurant) up to Montabauer. Here we dropped off to wind our way through the pretty Naturpark along the Gelbach and Lahn rivers to Bad Ems. We nearly ran over a fox, and had a bit of a moment coming round a corner to find a coach on the wrong side of the road overtaking a couple of cyclists – we came to a full stop tight against the bank as it reached us, but still got a dirty look from the driver. From Bad Ems it was a short hop to Koblenz.
We found our hotel for the night, the Merkelbach, quite quickly, which gave us time for a nice wander into the old part of Koblenz – built on the corner where the Rhine and Mosel rivers meet. We had a very nice dinner on the hotel’s terrace, right by the river, drinking Mosel wine (of course) and watching the boats and the setting sun.
Day 13 – Wednesday 3rd September
Route. First off was a bimble south along the west bank of the Rhine. This stretch of the river is quite picturesque, with plenty of vineyards on the steep banks. We got as far as the Lorelei rock, so that I could recite the few lines of Heinrich Heine’s poem that I could remember from school, then enjoyed the scenic road from St Goar to Emmelshausen. There we met yet another road closure. We stopped to look at the map, and were joined by the first British bikers we’d seen since Baden Baden 11 days previously. These two were Hein Gericke store managers on a business trip, taking time out to visit the Nürburgring. They used our road atlas to find the correct spelling to enter into their GPS!
We eventually found our way (via Buchholz and the tightest hairpins I’ve ever met) to Brodenbach on the banks of the Mosel.
We admired the river in the company of a crowd of bikers at the inevitable cafe (Zum Toni), then did the few miles north along the river bank (the vineyards such as Alkener Burgberg helpfully signposted in huge white letters) to reach the motorway.
By now the threatened heavy showers had arrived, so it was on with the waterproofs and off to Aachen, pausing for lunch at some services with amazing self-clean toilets. They even had a gadget that polished the seat between customers!
By the time we got to Aachen the rain had set in pretty steadily, so we opted to go straight to our hotel. We were staying at the Hotel Restaurant Alte Mühle, a very nice country hotel a few miles north of the city which, despite me having noted the route before we left, took some finding. It thoughtfully provided hitching rails for horses – and bikes.
Day 14 – Thursday 4th September
Route. An uneventful journey to Ijmuiden and the ferry home. As usual got chatting to other bikers while waiting to board, including our two Hein Gericke friends, a very nice German girl off to meet friends in Scotland and an English couple home from 3 months in France, Spain and Portugal on a HD. The sea was initially quite rough (it was the weekend of all the gales and flooding in England) so we didn’t overdo the buffet. Later the sea calmed and we enjoyed an absolutely excellent dance troupe in the nightclub.
Day 15 – Friday 5th September
First up was breakfast of coffee and pastries, the former involving much argument. The coffee shop sold tasty cappuccinos and cafe lattes, but if one wanted a black coffee (i.e. all water rather than water and milk) then you had to buy a cafetiere (stewed coffee, which we dislike) at double the price. We insisted on having a latte without the milk. Persistance paid off.
Up on deck to watch Sunderland and Seaburn slip past, and we were rewarded with a school of dolphins, a couple of dozen of them, quite close to the boat.
Off the ferry and down to the Tyne Tunnel, where we sympathised with a whole crowd of foreign bikers in front of us struggling with the 20p charge and not knowing where to go – they fresh off the ferry with their new wad of sterling notes, the Tunnel with its row of kiosks all labelled “Cars only” and “no change given”. Chaos, and really unnecessary. So boo to the Tyne Tunnel. And it started to rain 2 minutes away from home.
Our overall impressions? Bavaria is beautiful – no, it is stunning, a perfect blend of mountains and lakes, a bit like the Lake District but on a larger scale and less crowded. The roads are great but often too busy for much of a blast – full of bikers but virtually no Brits. The people are friendly, very similar to the English (up here anyway). The food is rich but vegetarians are reasonably well looked after. The breakfasts are much nicer than French ones.
The new ZZR1400 met all our expectations, and then some. That it was smooth and powerful goes without saying, but it also felt surprisingly light once on the move, completely planted whatever it was asked to do, and very comfortable for both rider and pillion.