Tuesday 13th August
We got off to a good start with a dry and sunny day and not much traffic on the road to North Shields for the ferry. The other passengers were the usual mixed bag of families, hen parties and a large group of Venture Scouts. We enjoyed the buffet dinner with its huge choice of dishes though we didn’t sample so many of them as the other couple at our table who each had two large main courses and FIVE desserts! The Night Club, on the other hand, was a little disappointing – one singing group and no dancers.
It was mostly motorway to Miltenberg. Lots of roadworks, quite a few speed limits.
Miltenberg is very pretty
– a good first stop for our holiday. We soon found our hotel (the Gasthof Anker). Just on the edge of the old town, it was an old place full of stained glass and religious icons. Our room was spacious, and the bike shared a garage up a side alley behind a sliding door. We walked down to the riverside where we found an Italian restaurant and had a delicious dinner al fresco.
Miltenberg was largely shut due to a religious holiday. So window shopping only! (Colin’s cunning plan didn’t work as Pat earmarked a couple of shops to return to.) We took lots of photographs before walking up the hill to the old castle (closed for the day). Great views.
Back in town we chatted to – and had a photo taken by – a US couple off a newly arrived cruise ship. We walked further up the river, then back via a supermarket (closed).
Come evening we thought we ought to dine German, so we headed for a biergarten, again by the river – baked potato for Pat, goulash & potato dumpling for Colin.
Shops open again, so back to try on and buy the lovely outfit noted the day before. Then it was time for a boat trip up the river and another visit to the castle. A Thai restaurant for dinner this time, yet again on the riverside. We are resigned to putting on weight over the holiday – not least because every day is punctuated by numerous stops at cafés for coffee, cake and/or ice creams of various sizes.
After paying our hotel bill in cash (no cards taken!) we were on the road to Regensburg, with a planned stop in Rothenberg ob Tauber. Rothenberg was a quaint, walled town with restored ramparts you could walk round, very pretty and bursting with tourists.
After exploring the town we picnicked in a small park just outside the walls.
We’d plotted a nice scenic route to Regensburg, which we reached about teatime. The city is full of old buildings but lacks charm. Our hotel, The Landshuter Hof, was fine – a huge room for us and private parking for the bike. Not too dear either, due to it being a 10-minute walk into the old town. We (blame Colin) fancied a curry for dinner, seeing as there was an open-air Indian restaurant in the pedestrianised area of town. We passed on the adjacent outdoor McDonalds.
We spent the day in Regensburg.
First up was a short tour round town in the little road train to get an idea of what was where. We then walked along the river and over the famous old stone bridge, thence along the towpath with a picnic lunch.
In the evening we returned to town for dinner in the lovely courtyard of a big old hotel we’d noted earlier. We can’t remember the name, and the Germans don’t allow Streetview!
Away early & rode through some very pretty countryside – the Bavarian Forest in Germany and then the Bohemian Forest (Sumava) in the Czech Republic.
We stopped in Zelezna Ruda for some lunch. We had four attempts at lunch at a café – at a table under the terrace awning, then as it started to rain at a second table further under the awning, then as the rain worsened at the innermost edge of the same table and finally inside the café itself. Czech thunderstorms pack a punch!
While still outside we were amused to watch a human conveyor belt moving house across the road – including the cuddly toy. We wondered why everyone at the café was having the lunchtime special of goulash, until we discovered it was the only thing you could have. They did, however, make potato soup specially for Pat.
The rain eased somewhat, so we pressed on in the drizzle to Kvilna and the Sumava Inn. This was an odd but attractive hotel full of strange decoration,
with a dining room full of smokers. Our room was huge, with a view of fields & woods (once the clouds lifted).We ate in. We were uneasy at not speaking Czech, but enough of the staff spoke enough German for us to get by.
We took advantage of a dry morning to have a walk in the nearby woods, all well kept and sign-posted but no open views at all. When you go for a walk in the woods here you see trees! Having coffee in one of the cafés, we noticed everyone was having the special, this time soup. It’s obviously what Czechs do – dish of the day means the only dish you can have. We settled for a picnic lunch, then holed up in our room as the rain returned.
The rain had gone, so off we set on a nice scenic route to the delightful town of Cesky Krumlov. Here we parked up and strolled through the impressive gates
over the river to the old town where we tried the real Budweiser with our sarnies – well, it would be rude not to. The streets were absolutely packed with tourists and the river with kayaks. We were amused to watch the dedicated kayak-slide, constructed to bypass the weir.
Colin had plotted a pretty and twisty route to Linz, through a succession of Alpine (ish!) meadows. Real Julie Andrews countryside. We had a quick wizz round Linz on the bike before hitting the motorway to Gmunden.
It was a long, tortuous business finding our apartment, as it was owned by a private individual and shared a name with two other sets of apartments. However, once in we found the apartment to be absolutely perfect, with a lovely view over the Traunsee
and a balcony, immediately below which was a restaurant that brought out the nosey-parker in both of us.
We had dinner in the adjacent Panoramic Restaurant to thank Vera, the Czech waitress there, who had been most helpful in our search for our apartment.
First up was a good wander round the town, followed by a sandwich lunch on our balcony, then more wandering to the nearby swimming area to chill out. Pat tested the water and pronounced it too cold. Colin was amused by a dog owner who’d clearly brought his dog along in an open cart towed by his bike. As Colin pondered how the owner would stop the dog jumping out on the journey home the owner produced two bungies!
In the evening we had a DIY dinner on our balcony, although with the restaurant just below it was almost like dining out.
A post-prandial promenade finished the evening off nicely.
Today was the first day of one of the town’s biggest annual events – its pottery fair. It took us a while to get round all the different stalls, but the several items which tempted us were all too big to fit in the tankbag. We then followed Vera’s suggestion and biked up to the nearby Offensee. Strolling round the lake we heard and then saw a helicopter. As we watched, it landed further along the shore. Naturally, we had to investigate. It seemed to be a rescue training exercise as a man was lifted up and carried off on the end of a rope. Rather him than us!
We then rode to Bad Ischl for quick look round, then over the mountain to Attersee, thence back to Gmunden. Having stopped for petrol on the other side of the road we had great difficulty rejoining it due to all the festival traffic. Pat eventually solved the problem by stopping the traffic at the nearby pedestrian crossing.
We dined again at the Panoramic Restaurant. It was perfectly situated for our last meal in Gmunden and we wanted to say goodby to Vera.
We were sad to leave Gmunden. We shall be back. However, we had a fairly long trip to make over to Westendorf. And what a trip it was. The Austrian scenery is simply fabulous, and we had a perfect day in which to enjoy it. In retrospect perhaps we should have taken a few photographs, but it’s really hard to slow down on those sorts of roads!
Unfortunately we took a wrong turning when we reached the (very pretty) Hallstatter See, which meant we missed our planned loop through Schladming, where we’d skied the previous year. We also ended up on a motorway for a short way, which was completely jammed by an accident. We had a picnic in a service station while waiting for it to clear.
On again via Hinterthal (home to the Simonhof Hotel – recommended) and Kitzbuhel to Westendorf. We were staying in the Jakobwirt Hotel, a possible skiing destination. We had a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant, watching the heavens open and wondering if there was anyone in the hotel who wasn’t English.
We woke to steady rain, and were pleased when the absolutely drenched bike started ok. In view of the weather we decided to take a direct route to Landeck and the Hotel Enzian. The rain gradually cleared, and we were dry for the last part of the journey.
The Enzian, and Klaus the landlord, were just as we remembered from our stay there with friends four years previously. Our room was spacious, and we had a great dinner – the antipasta in particular being superb.
The weather for now was looking ok, so we thought we’d have a scenic trip out. We retraced a route we’d done 4 years previously, taking the L246/266 from Imst via the Hahntennjoch to Elmen, then the L21 east from Stanzach towards Bachlbach. We even stopped for coffee at the same café in Namlos. The interior with its abundance of skulls and antlers was so typical of the region that we had to take a photo.
What we should have done then was go back the way we’d come, to enjoy the same twisties but different, and no doubt equally stunning, views. Instead we came back via the Fernpass. Far too much traffic.
A fair distance to cover, so we started on the motorway. Ran into a few showers, none bad. We stopped for a coffee by the Bodensee in Freidrichshafen, then bought sarnies at a service station for lunch. We were spending the night at the Aux P’tits Boulas in Gérardmer, and the plan was to go there via the northern half of the Route des Crêtes, and then leave the following day by the southern half. Unfortunately the heavens opened again just as we reached the Vosges, so the rest of the jouney was done in pouring rain and some low cloud. We could tell, however, it would have been fun another day.
It was still raining when we went to bed. In the meantime, we’d found our quaint hotel, parked by the french windows at the back and dripped our way throught the dining room and the bar and up the stairs to the smallest and most over-furnished room of the trip. We struggled to find places to put our wet things: panniers on the bathroom floor, boots in the shower tray, jackets draped here and there. Luckily the flooring was lino and we could wipe up the puddles. Later we found the dining room full of guests and local families. Our meal was spoilt for a while by a whining child, and we were much amused when our host made violent slap-round-the-face gestures when the family had gone! A short stroll after dinner took us to an unexpected fair, complete with proper old-fashioned dodgems.
The hills were still covered in mist, so we decide to leave the Vosges for another occasion. That was twice we’d failed to tour them, the first occasion being in 2002 when a detached gear lever had caused us to go straight to friends instead. So we headed straight to Verdun for lunch, enjoying the freedom of French country roads. We found ourselves, as in Gérardmer, still sometimes talking German. It’s as though our brains could cope with being abroad, but not with exactly where.
We were staying two nights in the Hotel Chateau Fort, Sedan. The hotel was fine.
Parking was reasonably secure, the receptionist spoke perfect English and the room was comfortable. We reserved a table for dinner and went for a quick explore of the town. Dinner, however, was a failure. The limited menu (all plats €20) was, to us, pretentious – lots of foam and re-cooked this and half-cooked that. Not even one veggie option, and when Pat asked what she could have for her €20 she was told a plate of vegetables! So we left, headed into town and had a very nice meal at a welcoming Turkish restaurant.
We had planned a short round trip to look at potential hotels for a future ukrm trip, so that is what we did, stopping for a good look round the pretty town of Bouillon with its great assortment of pedal boats.
Back in Sedan that evening we went to an Italian restaurant that we had spotted earlier. It was a good choice. Within half an hour the place was full, inside and out, mostly with locals.
We kept in the main to motorways for the trip to Ijmuiden, simply to make sure of arriving in good time. We hit lots of traffic, being thankful yet again that we were on the bike and could filter. Dodging the HGVs, which at one point were lane-hopping at random across all four busy lanes, was “interesting”. Nevertheless, we made it to the ferry safely.
While waiting to board we got chatting to a party of HD bikers from Germany. One had a slow puncture, so we gave him one of our puncture repair kits. He was worried that the Newcastle HD dealer might not be open for repairs on a Saturday, but they rang ahead and, because of HD’s policy of supporting touring bikes, a mechanic would be waiting on Saturday morning to sort them out.
We arrived to a sunny day , but a long wait to get through passport control. Colin, being an obviously suspicious character, was required to take off his helmet so the official could have a good look at him. Of course, this involved switching off the bike, Pat climbing off, Colin removing his gloves and then the helmet, followed by the whole performance in reverse.
Then a good but short blast home. The odometer read 2,033 miles. It had been another good trip. We were particularly pleased that we hadn’t been rained on often, and then mostly when it didn’t matter.
More photos from our trip are here.
The full route is pictured here.