A Bike Ride North to South – Berlin to Brindisi.

As epic foreign journeys have been hard to arrange recently, we came to the conclusion that epic domestic journeys may be the way forward. H came up with the idea that we should go and visit our friends Mayk and Peter in Walchensee near Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the far south of Germany. Then it became a bike ride and camping along the way. Riding bikes is something we do only rarely and just for short trips, but this trip is over 800 km. Obviously some creative thinking was called for to get me out of this madness and volunteering to drive a support vehicle while H pounds the cycleways of Germany was my best option. We joked that she would turn back at Königs Wusterhausen anyway which is the nearest town to the south of us.

Friday 29.05.2020 Day 1 Schulzendorf to Luckau, Brandenburg

With only a small amount of planning and preparation we set off. H hurtled though Königs Wusterhausen before I had finished locking up the house. I caught up with her at Groß Köris and we had lunch at the side of a canal.

The Brandenburg countryside was very pretty with red poppy fields, blue cornflowers, white storks and hares. This is the land that time forgot, and you could easily be in the 19th century here. It looks as though the area slept through WW2 and the DDR without really paying attention.

I got some supplies at an Aldi in the town of Luckau and set up camp in splendid isolation on the bank of a small river at Campingplatz Sonnenberg. There were clumps of yellow water iris in the water.  H arrived and we had salmon on the barbecue for dinner.

Saturday 30.05.2020, Day 2 Luckau to Mühlberg/Elbe, Brandenburg

I waited for H at the town of Bad Liebenwerda on a bridge over the Schwartz Elster river and watched a few european beaver and large trout lazily swimming upstream.

We met up again at Camping Wasserwandererraststation Badesee near the village of Mühlberg/Elbe. It was a crowded site with both tents and campervans. We had a view over the Badesee which is a small lake, probably an abandoned river channel for the Elbe. This being East Germany there were the occasional FKK enthusiasts skinny dipping in the freezing water.

Sunday 31.05.2020, Day 3  Mühlberg/Elbe to Rochlitz, Saxony

H crossed the Elbe on a small passenger ferry between Lorenzkirch and Strehla and entered North Saxony. I crossed the Elbe at the bridge at Riesa a little further upstream. The first meeting of Allied troops heading east with Soviet troops heading west was at Strehla/Lorenzkirch at 11:30am April 25, 1945 although the official link up was recorded for the history books as being at Torgau some 20 miles to the north at 4:30pm.

While H was on the trail, I headed to Colditz Castle where the best POW escapers were held during WW2. There were signs saying the castle was closed but they were not entirely serious, and I tunneled in and managed to look around the museum there.

H ended the days ride at the small town of Rochlitz and as there were no campsites in the area, we loaded the bike on the car.      

We found a campsite at Rabenstein and managed to get electricity for the first time in days. We made blueberry icecream (yes, we are carrying an icecream maker) and took the chill off the tent with a heater (yes, we are also carrying a fan-heater). Try doing that with all your kit carried on the bike.

Monday 01.06.2020, Day 4 Rochlitz to Steinberg, Rothenkirchen, Saxony

We returned to the Markt in Rochlitz for H to continue her ride and I went back to Rabenstein to strike camp. The day’s ride took us to Rothenkirchen near Zwickau where Mayk was staying at his mother’s house. Back in the DDR time the family business was making brushes. The business was shut down by the communist government in the early 1970’s and the brush factory next to the main house was converted into living accommodation and this is where we stayed. Mayk barbequed sausages in the garden.

Tuesday 02.06.2020 Day 5 Rothenkirchen to Fichtelberg and back to Rothenkirchen Saxony

After a fabulous breakfast prepared by Mayk’s mother we decided to take a break from the ride to drive to see some local sights and drove to Schneeberg and Fichtelberg and stayed overnight again at the brush factory.  

Wednesday 03.06.2020 Day 6 Rothenkirchen to Raitchen   

Another fabulous breakfast and we were back on the road. I took a detour to the town of Hof to buy gas for the BBQ. We expected to have to do some wild camping this night, but H found a Gasthof with some RV’s parked up behind and they said we could camp overnight. There were no facilities open and H ended up showering under a solar shower hanging from a tree in the forest.

Thursday 04.06.2020 Day 7 Raitschin to Schweinmühle

I had a few detours on this rainy day including the town of Marktredwitz to buy waterproof pants for H.

We had an overnight in a small holiday flat at a campsite called Schweinmühle.

Friday 05.06.2020 Day 8  Raitschin to Schwandorf

Close to the camp site was a 9,000-metre-deep borehole which was drilled in the 90’s as a scientific project to look at the roots of a mountain chain. The huge rig is still there, and they had a good museum. I had a wander around for an hour or two while H pedalled south.

As it was a bit rainy, and we had no interest in camping, we found a rental apartment in Birkenzell to the south of Schwandorf and we loaded the bike on the car to get there.

Saturday 06.06.2020 Day 9 Schwandorf to Regensburg

Drove back to Schwandorf and the end point of and found a bike shop to tweak the gears which had been acting up. H resumed the ride and I went on to the old stone bridge over the Danube river in the centre of Regensburg. H arrived soon after.

As we needed to clean out one of our rental apartments between guests, we headed back to Berlin by car for an overnight at home. Fortunately, most of our guests are workers at the nearby SXF/BER airport so bookings have been almost unaffected by COVID-19.

Sunday 07.06.2020 Day 10 Regensburg

We drove from home back to Regensburg to get H back on the route and we stayed in a hotel overnight.

Monday 08.06.2020 Day 11 Regensburg to Rudelzhausen

I was going to take a look at Walhalla which is a Pantheon-style monument to great Germans on the north bank of the Danube near Regensburg. They have restricted times because of the corona virus so I didn’t go but maybe on the way back.

Heike pedalled south, mostly down the Danube valley and we stayed the night in a farmhouse deep in the countryside south of Ingolstadt.

Tuesday 09.06.2020 Day 12 Rudelzhausen to Dachau

We stayed overnight in a converted bunker in the Allach area of Munich. The bunker was constructed in 1942 in the form of a tower. An odd concept but it seemed to work. Bunker-im-Hotel has been stylishly converted into a hotel but you can still see the massive concrete walls exposed in places.

Wednesday 10.06.2020 Day 13 Dachau to Munich

H and I visited the concentration camp at Dachau for a few hours. A bit depressing but it had to be done. H continued her ride down the west side of Munich and I ferried her to an old style hotel in the Thalkirchen of Munich. While in Munich we visited Ralph, a former colleague of H’s and his wife Kerstin for dinner.

Thursday 11.06.2020 Day 14 Munich to Walchensee

Took H back to yesterday’s stopping point at Münsing and I drove on into the foothills of the Alps. The hills beyond Kochelsee becoming very steep. On over the Kesselbergstrasse, Walchensee came into sight. H was met by Mayk on a bike and escorted her the last leg to the house. Peter showed us around their large restored 1911 villa with it’s view over the village, lake and mountains.

Friday 12.06.2020 Day 15 Walchensee, Bavarian Alps

We breakfasted with Mayk and Peter and then we went for a walk to buy some smoked fish from a farm in the village. The fish, called Renke locally, is caught in the deep waters of Walchensee. The fish looks, and tastes, exactly the same as the Omul we ate at Lake Baikal in Siberia earlier this year. This was followed by a walk on the lake-shore with Lhakpa, Mayk’s dog. This is an exceptionally pretty part of the world and the day was sunny and warm. The lake water is startlingly clear with a tropical turquoise colour and with white sand beaches in places. There are forested areas with snow-capped mountains rising above and grass meadows thick with wildflowers. Day-trippers were flooding in through the morning with bikes everywhere. Many of these people would doubtless prefer to be on a beach in Mallorca in normal circumstances.

Saturday 13.06.2020 Day 16 Walchensee, Bavarian Alps

Day off at Mayk and Peter’s. The evening was a barbecue at Ralph and Kerstin’s country residence in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Fabulous views of the mountains from their balcony.

Sunday 14.06.2020 Day 17 Walchensee to Seefeld in Tirol, Austria

Although we have reached our original destination, H has decided that this bike ride needs to continue to burn off more fat. As most border-crossing restrictions have recently been lifted, we went further south and crossed the Austrian border near Mittenwald and began to climb with rain falling the whole day. We stopped in Seefeld and drove into Innsbruck for the night. The plan now, such as it is, is to cross the Austrian Alps and descend the full length of Italy down the east coast to Brindisi and then maybe get a ferry to Corfu. Early days.

Monday 15.06.2020 Day 18 Seefeld in Tirol to Mutters, Austria

The day’s ride was mostly down vertical forest tracks and along the valley of the river Inn. All in the rain. We returned to Innsbruck for another night.

Tuesday 16.06.2020 Day 19 Mutters to Vipiteno, Tyrolean Italy

The day was entirely uphill. A massive effort by a middle-aged, and let’s say, well-fed, lady and we arrived at Brenner Pass with great celebration and slipped into Italy knowing that all is downhill from here on. I have said that I would never drive in Italy again having been on the receiving end of a blizzard of tourist rip-off traffic fines earlier in the year but here we are again. I have no doubt the signage is still just as bad and the cameras are still in tip-top condition. We had the night in a Tyrolean farmhouse. The farmer greeted us waving a giant scythe like Old Father Time but the natives were friendly enough.

Wednesday 17.06.2020 Day 20 Algund, South Tyrol, Italy

Mayk and Peter made us a gift of a night at the Pergola Residence Hotel in Algund. A place well beyond our normal budget. A fabulous suite with spectacular views over Merano and the valley beyond.

Thursday 18.06.2020 Day 21 Algund to Auer, Italy

H wanted to see some people in Bolzano about her state pension contributions as she is employed by an Italian company but the office was closed to visitors. We took the time instead to see Ötzi the Ice Man. Police are apparently still looking for a 5300 year old man to help with their inquiries. Back to camping overnight as the weather was not too bad.

Friday 19.06.2020 Day 22 Auer to Rovereto, Italy

H coninued down the Adige river stopping near Rovereto. Car shuttle to Brenzone on Lake Garda where we had a holiday apartment with a balcony overlooking the lake.

Saturday 20.06.2020 Day 23 Lake Garda, Italy

A day off, at least for cycling. We had a drive circumnavigating the lake. About 160km. It’s a big lake. The night back in Brenzone.

Sunday 21.06.2020 Day 24 Rovereto to Preabocco, Italy

Shuttle back to Rovereto and H continued down the Adige River.

A night at an agritourism campsite which was essentially a vinyard with a small campground. We were the only tent. This was also H’s birthday. The owners were very nice and brought us wine and cakes and we bought a case of their stuff on departure. There were no labels on the bottles but as we are in the heart of Valpolicella country it must be that.

Monday 22.06.2020 Day 25 Preabocco to Tombazosana

H continued down the Adige river valley and we met up on the streets of Verona and went to see Romeo and Juliette’s balcony. A completely fictitious Shakespeare story, of course, but the Veronese make a big thing out of it. Verona has some good buildings including the Verona Arena which is a Roman amphitheatre but is still in use for concerts. Except during the time of Corona. H continued on down the Adige river and stopped at a tiny place called Tombazosana.

A car shuttle back to a campsite in Verona for an overnight. It was a brand new campsite with only ourselves and one other German cyclist.

Tuesday 23.06.2020 Day 26 Verona to Ferrara, Italy

Car shuttle back to Tombazosana and H continued on across the Po river and on towards Ferrara. First impression of Ferrara was that it was a mess but we got an apartment near the historic centre and took a walk there and discovered some very impressive palaces and castles.

Wednesday 24.06.2020 Day 27 Ferrara to Punta Marina near Ravenna

This stop was something of a blast from the past for H as eight of her childhood summers were spent on this campsite. Things had changed of course since then and they now play a lot of loud music over the speakers and there is a Berlin Wall-like structure now separating the site from the beach. You get a card key for the gate but I’m sure it’s not as welcoming as in the old days.

This was a hard day’s cycling for H with endless agricultural land and a strong head wind.

Thursday 25.06.2020 Day 28 Punta Marina to Rimini

Today is the day we crossed the Rubicon. A point of no return for Julius Caesar and something similar for us. The river, now called the Rubicone is just small but once represented the northern limits of Rome. This was my old Mum’s 90th birthday so we found a restaurant to organize a Skype call. In normal times we would have gone to England but these are not normal times.

Night was under canvas with more loud beach music until the early hours.

Friday 26.06.2020 Day 29 Rimini to Senigallia north of Ancona

An ocean-side ride all day for H. We met up at a restaurant called AlMare in Fano for lunch. It turned out to be a very fancy place but we ate there anyway. The night at a beach side campground sandwiched between a road a railway track.

Saturday 27.06.2020 Day 30 Senigallia to Civitanova Marche

Driving south I spotted a big citadel and basilica on a hilltop. I went to take a look and it turned out to be Loreto, a big Catholic pilgrimage site. I’d never heard of it before but it was very impressive for that kind of thing.

Sunday 28.06.2020 Day 31 Civitanova Marche to Salinello

The overnight stop was Sallinello, a very well setup site with a large private beach, swimming pool, supermarket. Wasted on us though.

Monday 29.06.2020 Day 32 Salinello to Ripari di Giobbe near Ortona

The days are very hot. Glad I’m not pedaling. We ended up at a campsite with our pitch on top of a sea cliff. It was a great view but caused H some panic about falling down the cliff when going for a night-time pee.

Tuesday 30.06.2020 Day 33 Ripari di Giobbe to Marina di Montenero

Another hot day. We pitched camp next to the beach but also near a rivermouth which was not so good for the mosquitoes.

Wednesday 01.07.2020 Day 34 Marina di Montenero to Termoli

In the morning baking sun H got as far as the beach town Termoli. Like most roads and towns in this part of the world, white, pink and red oleader bushes are everywhere. After almost 1900km of cycling, and a little more of light driving for me, it was time for a break and we drove across the mountainous centre of Italy to Scala on the Amalfi Coast where we had booked a couple of days in an apartment to be tourists.

Thursday 02.07.2020 Day 35 Amalfi Coast

Today we drove the Amalfi Coast from Scala to Positano and back. This is a spectacular coastline with colourful houses and bougainvillea cascading down to the sea. The roads are a nightmare though with large numbers of motorbikes, cars and buses sharing hair-pin single track roads that are sometimes cut from ledges on the cliffs. Sometimes they are on top of overhanging rocks, sometimes under overhangs and sometimes in narrow tunnels. We got as far a Positano and had a pizza at a beach restaurant and then back to our apartment at Scala. Night was spent listening to yappy dogs and motorbikes roaring up and down the mountain roads.

Friday 03.07.2020 Day 36 Scala to Pompei

A drive over the scary mountain again to Pompei Scavi where we had a rooftop apartment booked with a great view over Versuvius. The rest of the day was just lazing around with a bottle of wine.

Saturday 04.07.2020 Day 37 Pompeii Archaeological Park

A day exploring the old streets of AD79 Pompeii. An amazing place and there is a lot of it. Another night in the apartment.

Sunday 05.07.2020 Day 38 Scavi to Naples to Barletta

A drive to nearby Naples where we strolled the backstreets of old Napoli. All a bit run down and grafitti-covered but obvious the place had seen more glorious days. We had a gelati from Gay-Odin, a famous old chocolate shop followed by a pizza lunch and then went on to the National Archaeological Museum where most of the portable artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum are on display. A well put together museum.

Back in the car we drove eastwards to the Adriatic coast to resume H’s bike ride. Night was a hotel in Barletta to the northwest of Bari.

Monday 06.07.2020 Day 39 Barletta to Bari

The hotel air-conditioning was not working so it wasn’t a great sleep but we got a free breakfast as compensation. I raced on to Bari, a relatively short hop of 60km, and sorted out some groceries and an apartment in town. H pedaled on and she tells me that while approaching Bari, the cycle routing app led her over a thick raft of swampy seaweed which nearly completely submerged both her and her bike. She managed to escape which was just as well as she had some work phone conference calls to organize soon after.

We visit Bari from time to time on cruise ship runs so we are fairly familiar with the Norman-Swabian Castle, the Basliica of San Nicola and the winding medieval streets near the port. This time we had a little drive in the evening to Alberobello, a place H had been to before. I was not particularly keen on going as it was described as funny little houses. It was actually so strange it was interesting. This was a whole town made up of circular whitewashed houses with dry-stone conical roofs. These are known as trulli houses that are a traditional rural construction style in Puglia.

Our night was in a small apartment in a gritty district of Bari.

Tuesday 07.07.2020 Day 40 Bari to Ostuni

H continued down the coast in the hot sun making over 80km in the day and we had another apartment booked in a dramatic white-painted hill town of Ostuni. Ostuni looks like a stranded giant iceberg in a rough sea of green olive trees. Our apartment had an interesting vaulted ceiling made up of blocks of limestone. Maybe all buildings here are like this. We had a walk in the evening followed by pasta dishes and wine in a street restaurant in the main square. There were not many tourists around which was a good thing for us. According to Wikipedia, Ostuni is the fifth city in Italy by percentage of British residents and the first for sales of houses and villas. There are also a lot of Germans but none of this is obvious. I’d never even heard of the place before coming here but maybe I’m not up-to-date with Brit expatriate trends in Italy.

Wednesday 08.07.2020 Day 41 Ostuni to Brindisi

This was the final day of the bike-ride before heading home. Brindisi was once a port for Crusaders heading to the Holy Land to do battle with Saracens and before that it was at the end of the Roman Appian Way. The world’s first ever super-highway. The Roman column marker for the end of the Appian Way was the symbolic end point of our trip. H had cycled 2157km in total which is enough for a ride that I thought was just going to the shops in the next town. We ate in a Brindisi waterfront fish restaurant. Our apartment was in a grand old house with high ceilings and old tiled floors which looked to be early 19th or late 18th century.

Thursday 09.07.2020 Day 42 Brindisi to Bologna

A long drive up most of the length of Italy with H pointing out her cycle route when seen from the Autostrada. We stopped for the night at the Roma Hotel in the old part of Bologna and naturally we couldn’t be in Bologna without eating spaghetti bolognese in an outdoor restaurant.

Friday 10.07.2020 Day 43 Bologna to Walchensee, Bavaria

We did some early morning shopping for Italian foods and bought some excellent salame, prosciutto, mortadella, formaggio, wine, lemons, figs, olives and bread and squeezed them into the remaining spaces in the car. H also bought a dress with a lemon-fruit print. Mainly, I think, because it was a lot cheaper than buying the same dress on the Amalfi Coast. About midday we drove north over the Po river and on into the Alps through the huge rocky cliffs of the Adige valley and on up through the Brenner Pass. Italy, as always, was hot and sunny. Austria was overcast and by the time we crossed the German border the rain was falling with tropical intensity with frequent flashes of lightning. Welcome home. We arrived at Mayk and Peter’s in Walchensee to stay overnight with them and filled the dinner table with our Bologna goodies.

Saturday 11.07.2020 Day 44 Walchensee to Berlin

Breakfast was more Italian food together with honey and eggs from Slovakia gathered by Peter on a recent visit to his parents. Then it was a final long drive across Germany back home. Both the lawn and our hair are in need of a good trim.