Chapter 2: The Danube Bike Trail

As usual we first enter a cafe at the market place of Donaueschingen. At a table besides a loaded biker seems to arrange his belongings for the same undertaking. We call him "Singleman" for our private use. Another group of corpulent persons curves over the market place and vanishes towards the castle whith the spring of the Danube. The spring is a stone bassin with a softly shivering water surface. The reality is however that two small rivers Brigach and Breg combine to gnerate the new Danube. We know this from Northern Germany as Werra and Fulda to become the Weser furtheron. Besides that the Danube will soon loose lots of her waters underground to another river named Aach, let's speak about this phenomenon later - you can be sure...

The spring of the Danube
Another mystery is the tale, that if you throw a Hungarian coin into this spring you get it back by a multiple of thousands at Budapest. Unfortunately we have no Hungarian coin at hand this day and on the other side have not the plan to go until Budapest.

Now we actually start to cycle at the Danube and for this moment we have waited for some months. Soon we are in a wide valley and I can read every bench and bridge at my roadmap on the bag of the handlebar. We overtake a father and son pressing each other along. Then we pass the group of corpulent persons who may have a rest more often. Another father has one child sitting on his bike in front of him and another behind in a trailer.

Near Immendingen now the attraction will come where the waters of the Danube pour off. Soon we find a place with a sign where the situation is declared:

The underground break through of the Danube to the Aach must be a huge and complicated cave system.

We find the name of our famous cave diver Jochen Hasemeyer who has dived 250 m from the fountain of the Aach into this system. But as the crow flies there are 12 km in between.

To inspect this all you now can walk at a small trail at the southern shore and slope. My imagination of the continuation of this way is somewhat confused for I believe to reach the regular trail again on this route though the track is not allowed for bikers. So I press Heidi and our two heavy bikes along cautious not to fall into the Danube and the soak. But all the time there is so much water in the river may be the soak cannot be recognized after the longer rain during the last days. So we slip along for nearly half an hour until two other bikers - but without their bikes, with helmets instead - approach. "Do you look for the Danube bike trail?" they ask. From me you hear a weak murmur of "vanishing waters" or so but now Heidi explodes. The other two look at me as if there was a flash of lightening somewhere around. So I agree to return and we slide back all the way. No further conversation will arise.

Back at the place with the sign Heidi finds out that she lost her talisman which was a small duck (named Wuschel) dangling from the handlebars. May be it was swallowed by the soak - but no joke now!! In silence we continue on the well paved route without a look at the nice landscape. And from the back black clouds come up. I slowly hang behind and think of the
meaning of life. So if we reach the town of Tuttlingen the rain begins.

We find our accomodation at Hotel Ritter which is not as cheap as desirable but do you imagine the situation? Dry and warm now in view of the room for the night Heidi gets a bit more friendly and I dare to look up from the ground for now and then.

Finally we find the nice Greek restaurant Poseidon, have lever and calamares and a free aperetif before AND after the dinner as well. So let us forget the nasty things now! (Be sure that I shall hear this story until the last days of my life but I have a story to tell about on the other hand...).

Tuesday, Tuttlingen - Zwiefaltendorf 100 km

The sky is blue today and a piece of jewel concerning the bike trail lies ahead. Behind Tuttlingen you will see the famous medieval town Mühlheim if you climb up a while. So there is NO chance to go there today! A rest instead at a bench at the corner of a wood is more convenient. Hi, there is our Singleman - so he was not able however to have gone further meanwhile.

The valley and the rocks
Between Fridingen and Beuron the most picturesque section of this Danube awaits us. You recognize this by the rocks at the narrow valley and the numerous biker families with or without panniers. At the Monastery Beuron you nearly cannot find a place to deposit the bike. This is because today there is a holy day for the Catholics: Mariä Himmelfahrt. ("Mary goes to heaven" - we did that yesterday.:-) At the chapel of the monastery a worship takes place in the moment so we can have only a glance inside, everything baroque style I suppose.

We meet the couple of the soak from yesterday and they laugh at us. I grin somewhat sour.

Aside a railway we continue through the wonderful valley. I miss to notice that I have changed some leaves of my booklet with the maps and no one recognizes that we are somewhat desoriented. But the route is well signed and we enter the next town Sigmaringen. Here all those bikers of the last fine lead meet. We sit down for a goulash soup and listen to the conversations: where from and where to go. Blau, Lauter, Altmühl - names of nice rivers nearby - seem to be the paradise for everyone.

Some time later I once have to arrange the chain of my bike. And - Hi - the Singleman overtakes and sets the pace again. But at the village Scheer we find a short cut and nearly reach the Singleman again. But he now speeds up and soon vanishes behind the horizon. We buy some bananas and cucumbers anywhere and consume them at a bench.

We pass a wide countryside again but unfortunately with a headwind. A French family nearby struggles as well against the wind. We sit down at a meadow and a lot is to be seen there.Two girls on a tractor cut the grass. The farmer drives a machine to turn the grass upside down to proper rows. "Good appetite" he shouts at us. And then - really - a stork comes in and stilts amongst the hay. And now a heron appears. We nearly forget to chew and when we go on we nearly forget the headwind.

Riedlingen and Zwiefaltendorf
We pass Riedlingen and ride zigzagging on paved paths through the meadows. Once we must use a railway bridge where you see the treetops between your feet. Heidi looks at her handlebar otherwise she would get in a critical state. At another place you cross under a railway and should duck your head except you wear a helmet.

We now stand with a clean 100 km on the speedometer at a junction of the village Zwiefaltendorf. A Gasthaus is just there may be they have a room for us. The guest room inside is crowded and hectically the clerks rush around. As the host looks at me he immediately knows what for I am there and without longish declarations presents a large key to us. We can use the guesthouse aside and there is much room. The nearby church and it's clock (do you remember?) is not as loud this time. Now I have a look to my touring guide where we have ended up for today.

At home I had read of a Gasthaus and a brewery right by and the main attraction to be a limestone cave beneath the cellar rooms. I had forgotten about this, but - do you believe? - we are just there now!! At once I am quite confused about this.

Before the dinner we make our usual walk around, this time the church and the graveyard are the only attractions. At the graveyard they have huge grave stones, there seems to be a competition who owns the greatest.

The guest room is still crowded but we get a seat. We chat to a family who tell us that this is one of the best restaurants around. But our meals appear to be as usual. Within this hectical crowd it is impossible to arrange a visit of the cave far below, they say I should ask the other day.

We cannot drink our beer during the rest of the evening for more and more people come in so we have a "dry" evening at the guest house with television.

Wednesday Zwiefaltendorf - Ulm 55 km

The first discovery of this day is the refrigerator full of beer brewed just here. "Arrgh". What a nice evening we could have had...

After breakfast the cave project has to be arranged. The host starts to become stressy again - he declares we should be some more people to be worth of it. We arrange our belongings first and then I enter the guest room a last time. There are about 7 people sitting at a table. I start a speech and tell them of that cave below. Everyone is interested at once and no one had known of this matter before. So we now find our way down the stairs accompanied by a servant. Finally we enter the small cave, the lime stone is pure black and nothing to be seen. Where the light ends there may be a continuation but today we are no cave explorers. They say this cave is connected to another one some km away.

But I am proud to have managed this matter. Now we leave off but for this day we only plan a half-day stage until Ulm. We have to climb up to the pilgrim's church Frauenberg near Munderkingen. We are the only visitors this morning and a woman of Polonia cries at her children.


At Munderkingen we pass the tower which generates the pressure for the water pipe, this is built on the highest hill of course. At Rottenacker we find a nice weir and then cross the reservation site Rottenacker Ried. Just as we get rid of our morning coffee - "Hi" the Singleman comes up and rides up up and away.

Picturesque weir
We have wide fields around and now we see lots of military stuff and soldiers who play war games. Some march along with heavy bags, no one can figure out what may be inside. Others lie amongst some bushes and hide themselves, on the other side they have a red balloon above? At a meadow one soldier sleeps and snores. At the border of a forest a sanitary truck waits for guests, they look by binoculars at us. We wave and they wave back. The Singleman is zigzagging through the manoevre lines...

The next section is not as attractive, we finally reach the place where the river Iller joins. Now the waters of the Danube become double as much. The water of the Danube is dark from the moors whereas the water of the Iller is milky grey to green by the limestone of the Alps. You can watch the two different colours until long behind Ulm.

We change the shore and look for the Hotel Moevenpick. Our daughter Annika is an apprentice at the Moevenpick Braunschweig at this time and has booked an apartment for us where we get a discount for the employee (we have to pay DM 50.-). The rooms are not arranged yet so we start a walk at Ulm.

You must visit the Fischerviertel, the cathedral with the highest towers of Germany, then the post office to get money, then a snack bar to consume a fish, then a shop to buy some beers for the minibar at the hotel. Heidi buys a comb at Woolworth's.

Back at the hotel we can enter the apartment. There is a well sorted minibar and we take the champaign out and the beer from the shop in. Then we switch and zap through the numerous television programs. The best program is named "Pay TV" where you can watch scenes you better do not show your children. One minute is free, but then you have to pay DM 18.90 for the rest until the next morning. But what to do while the actors need more than one minute for their project? So there is the mess.

Before we can leave for dinner we have to deposit the bikes at the cellar rooms. A clerk tries to stuff the bikes into an elevator but fortunately the managing director comes by and says: "No chance to survive neither for the bikes nor the elevator". He is right and we carry the bikes round the building and into a technical bureau.

For we like domestic dishes we look for a Chinese restaurant and find the Shanghai just at the shore of the Danube. We occupy the table number 34 and choose the menues 72 and 73. A rice wine is free. During the meal we can watch the different activities at the river like a family of swans or some people heavy rowing against the current.

Of the rest of the evening I will not tell too much for we have Pay-Tv and the minibar filled with beer. But I remember one thing and you can prove it to be true: there was the first run of the world on 3000 m hurdles (Hindernis) beneath 9 minutes at this evening at Zürich.

Thursday Ulm - Donauwörth 100 km

We have our breakfast at the Moevenpick Restaurant which is famous for it's fine buffet but we are not so much enthusiastic about it. Thereafter we check out and I have to spend those DM 18.90 for the Pay-TV. Never mind which was registered by the computers, Big Brother is watching you.

Rush plants in the woods
Soon our Dolce Vita is left behind as we climb up a muddy slope at the Danubian shores after we have missed a fork of the trail again. Then you pass a wood, thereafter a forest, then a wood, thereafter a forest... But we never have motorized traffic around and no wind from ahead. There are huge rush plants (Binsen) covering the floor of the woods.

The next nice town is Günzburg. We buy bananas, grapes of wine and Coke. We sit on a bench and watch the other bike tourers. I must declare now: we never see our Singleman again but we miss him. Now I will not bore you while we pass the villages of Gundelfingen, Lauingen or Dillingen.

Sometimes we suffer of the traffic here but find the typical sausage of this area named Rote Wurst at a barbecue store.

The following section of 20 km is awful for we have a strong headwind and flat area without shelter, roads leading dead ahead. The names of the villages all end with ...schwaige but we do not know the meaning of this. At some time I hear something fall down from my bike but cannot find the cause. Later on I find out that I lost a broken screw of my saddle somewhere between Untere- (Lower-) or Obere- (Upper-) Hoseschwaige (Hose is the German word for trousers).

So we arrive at Donauwörth somewhat exhausted. We are just in time to enter the tourist office two minutes after they should have had closed. They tell us all accomodations to be booked out and give us a list of hotels and private accomodations. We look for a phone box to try the best. Inside however an individuum is busy to manage a bottle of something drinkable and as we knock at the walls he turns at us and cries against us.

We get off to another phone box, look here and there and find one near the railway station. And whom do we meet inside there - will you belive once more? - just the same individuum as before? For two of us have seen the same I believe today to tell the truth. But we cannot declare by what trick this drunken man could have changed his place as fast. Fortunately there is a phone box for disabled persons aside so we can use this one.

Now our first call is successful and we register at Pension Haus Gertrud. They explain the route and we announce to be there 15 minutes from now. I cannot tell everything following now: we get lost at Donauwörth, no one is able to read the city map or they say to be of another universe. Finally at the Gasthaus Traube they tell us the right way - up a hill of course. And now one long hour later we arrive and find everything to be the best.

Later I find out that someone before us has used our city map that we got from the office already and has signed by ballpoint pen the way to just this pension. But the name of the street was overdrawn so it was not readable. I will never apologize to myself. Much to learn in this big wide world...

At last we find ourselves at the Gasthaus Traube to have our dinner. We tell our story to the waiter who is new here and surprised of all the bikers passing by all the time. Apparently he has told the story to the hostress, for some time later a big woman appears, a smell of alcohol around herself and annoyed that they told us at the tourist office all accomodations to be booked. They have lots of free rooms yet. Worst of all: Heidi just visits the toilet and I am the victim of that all that excitement. Thereafter we learn about the background of local politics.

At our nice pension they tell us that there are some problems concerning this Gasthaus. But never mind, things could have changend meanwhile.

Friday Donauwörth - Vohburg 83 km

I still can ride on my broken saddle so we can start for some uphills where we walk instead to ride. At Leitheim you find a nice little castle up there and the sight of the landscape around shows green everywhere. At this area the river Lech joins the Danube but this is on the opposite side though a village located at this side is called Lechsend.

Once we walk on a longer uphill together with a larger group of one-day bikers. They are completely exhausted at the summit and sit down for a rest while we continue to leave this crowds behind. We reach Neuburg and we look around: the historic upper town with castle, city hall and church and the lower part with the market place, a snack bar and fruit shop to have a rest. It is nice to sit in the sun and to be lazy.

Today we want to organize our accomodation more thoroughly. So I call to a hotel at Vohrburg and things are arranged. The automate even remembers me by several squeaks that I have forgotten to take back the telefoncard.

Castle of Neuburg

Jagschloß Grünau
Now we pass the Englischer Garten of Neuburg and that is 8 km straight ahead. May be this was the promenade to the Jagdschloß Grünau which we recognize to be the motif on the title of one of the tour guides.

Stadttor in Ingolstadt
The next town is Ingolstadt. Though we know the wisdom "Never change a winning team" I buy a new saddle now. I used the old saddle some thousand km and it has formed my seat and vice versa. Now there is the brandnew saddle of the same manufacturer (Brooks Conquest) but a short test ride shows: the future will be uncertain.

Picture at a house: 7 men against 1 rabbit
We walk along the pedestrian area, Heidi buys some sandals at Woolworth's again and we sit at a cafe. As we continue the saddle feels like a piece of wood, no suspension at all. So the name of the path long the shore is Dammweg (Damm = perineum) according to the situation. We pass the power station of Großmehring through a hole in the fence nearly and can avoid a long bypass.

At last we reach Vohburg and I know that I have not to sit any longer at this torturing instrument. The village is nice and we visit the castle which is a big building site. On the roof there sits a stork as if paid for this duty. At the graveyard you can see the photographs of the dead persons and this is somewhat interesting.

Saturday Vohburg - Wörth 95 km

Fields of hops
The first attraction today is the monastery Kloster Weltenburg. We pass large fields of hops before, which they need to brew the beer. At Weltenburg large car-park areas announce that this is a touristic place. We look inside the church, of baroque style again. At the entrance a group is arranged to a guide who is a black dressed monk. We join to this group for a while but soon feel that they think of us to be parasites and we return to the bikes, which are at their place for this is a monastery where no one steels anything.

Kloster Weltenburg
We go to the ship landing-place because the valley becomes so narrow at this place that there is no track beneath the steep rocky slopes and you have to use a ship for a short distance. We wait for half an hour and the ship arrives from the opposite direction. At first a hostess leaves the gangway to inform the following crowds of their departure. They are all American tourists. "See you at ten thirty at this place". We are impressed by the colourful Amercan fashion expressed by hats, spectacles, make-up and Hawai-shirts. As everyone is ashore we can enter the boat.

Lange Wand
It is a nice trip to glide down the Danube and to see famous places like Lange Wand, Peter and Paul, Hohlenstein or Klösterl, a recent erimitage. Finally the Befreiungshalle (Hall of Freedom) appears up above on a hill. Another American couple at the boat shots photographs all the time even if there is a duck only swinging at the water surface.

At Kelheim the 20 min trip ends. At this place the Altmühl with it's bike trail and the Tour de Baroque join. Now we have to use the road for a while, the Danube runs straight ahead and some years ago they built the disputed Rhein-Main-Donau Kanal, a century project. But the valley becomes more narrow and curved again. So we enjoy a tail wind for a while near Kalkofen. Once we have a rest and have some corn cobs where Heidi discovers two storks at the slope of the opposite shore. Some time later those storks prove to be golf-players.

We reach Regensburg, a big and touristic town. On the way to the tourist bureau we pass a tramp who had got his sleeping medicine from some empty bottles. We have a visit to the cathedral one after the other, one goes in and the other has to watch for the bikes. Heidi spends 5 minutes whereas I manage to need 3 minutes for the sight-seeing. Now we are more interested in a Turk vegetable shop and we sit on the stairs to enjoy our bananas. But we can watch some knights on horses riding against each other with their drawn swords or lances. They promote for a midieval festival somewhere. At the Steinerne Brücke (Stony Bridge) we find an open air restaurant offering sausages from a barbecue. You get 6 of them all at once and Sauerkraut (not to be translated, for Kraut is the American nickname for the Germans). At this bridge there once was a praised whirl at the Danube and there is a German folk song about this which I cannot translate (Als wir jüngst in Regensburg waren, sind wir über den Strudel gefahren...). Today there is a dam and the waters have flooded this whirl (so we hear from the speakers of a sight-seeing boat passing by). But many canoes stroll around the piers of the bridge.

We are happy to be on the trail again. Then we pass the next sensation, the Walhalla, this a hall of fame for celebreties of the past. But we go on and on and on and reach Wörth this day, the castle above is to be seen much earlier. I got a hint of a colleague who had had an accomodation here some weeks ago. It is Gasthaus Butz and we get a room there though a marriage is in full swing. We have a nice walk and a fine meal here, the quality of the dishes is to be seen from the round hips of the waitress.

Castle of Wörth

Sunday Wörth - Vilshofen 105 km

The breakfast is not as fine as you would expect of the butcher's shop right by. We start into a wide valley beneath the mountains of the Bayerischer Wald but the clouds hang around there. We pass Straubing where the great fair named Gaubodenfest takes place, this is the greatest fair of Bavaria next to the Oktoberfest at Munich. We ask if there would be a parade today but unfortunately just now there is none. We see a lot of people wearing the typical Bavarian clothes (leather pants, braces, green hats with the beards of the chamois (Gamsbart) etc.). We enter the pedestrian area and look around for a while. We will have a very Bavarian adventure tonight but at the moment of course we do not know about this...

Bike ferry at Niederalteich
We continue and reach Deggendorf, the gate to the Bayerischer Wald as they call themselves. We cannot visit the church for it is closed because of its dangerous state. At Niederalteich a bike ferry is waiting for us and this is true for it especially  comes from the opposite shore to take us over. Meanwhile we can read a sign of the monastery nearby to be a Dialogue born from Stones (steingewordenes Zwiegespräch). The rest today is boring and we finally use the road to enter Vilshofen. At a tree we find a sign of the private Pension Wagner, Kapuzinerstraße. Of course we soon arrive there and they offer to choose one of three rooms. The selection is due of Heidi (as usual) and we get the largest room with a provisional shower bath (you have to switch on a pump to soak the waters into the downleading pipe) and we feel well. The estate is a former restaurant of a brewery but today the bikers come in.

Vilshofen is known to be a local capital of Bavarian politicism. Once the year at Ash Wednesday they meet here to have enthusiastic speeches and drink lots of beer. Does someone remember Franz Josef Strauss, who was the hero of all this? So there is a traditional rivalry between the Northern and the Southern part of Germany, they call the northern people the Preußen (Prussians) and this is an abusive name. We come from the North!! So I try to warn Heidi not to talk too agressive at the restaurants otherwise we are threatened to be beaten by the natives straight upon the mouth. We will see this not to be the case, but wait for a while...

At first we look for a typical Bavarian restaurant and have no problems to find one (Gasthof Höltl). Heidi orders somewhat appearing as a pyramide of sausages, fried meat and Kraut whereas I have a trout filled with garlics (Knoblauch). May be I should not have scoffed (stopfen) all this stuff inside (do you know this special inner and outer smell following this stuff, the next and probably the following days?).

The beer seems to be not as strong as we are used to it so we look for another restaurant on the way back. And we find one named Münchener Hof. But only some few individuals sit around there and we ask if we can get one or two beers. "Come up and sit here" they shout (I cannot translate the Bavarian slang). If we would not do so - may be we were beaten straight to our mouth - we think about this situation. So we sit at the bench to those companions steering with swollen eyes at us. "We are the rest of a party in the woods last night" they cry. The chief of this group seems to be a bareheaded macho-like guy decorated by a drilled beard. I forget the "macho" as they offer the first liquor to us.

Furtheron they dice (würfeln) who has to pay the next drink. They introduce Heidi to the game Chicago meanwhile I look for our belongings not to vanish somehow. But they have recognized that we are bikers and are friendly more and more. Heidi never has a loose with this strange game and we get one drink after the other. One of our companions quits and leaves the party. We stay! Gradually we get known to our new born friends: there is Schudi, the chief, another one is called Zoddel and there is Fredi, the host. Fredi is graduated and they all laugh about this. Another one declares the problems of all his life and tells his story to Heidi. Tomorrow he should start his new job at the public office but does not know if he will be able until the next morning.

Schudi is still OK, his job is a dive inspector and he owns a self-acting architectural office as well. Finally the drink supply has gone and we end with Fernet Branca, a liqueur. Friends as we are we change the address, we promise to come back and are invited whenever we want - but the long distance from North to South will never close the gap, may be one of those guys will read this report one day.

So at last not completely master of our own we stagger back home. Somewhat drunken in vain I try to unlock the door, the big key will neither turn to the right nor to the left. I argue that onother key sticks from inside and so we finally ring the bell. The host has to get off his bed and we feel shameful. We find our room and sink into Bavarian dreams - but may be this night was dreamless after all.

Monday Vilshofen - Passau

The rain pours down today and the headache is the price for the Bavarian evening. So we can slowly prepare for the day and after breakfast sit for a chat into the kitchen. They are very surprised that we know that "Schudi". But this Schudi had told us that there is a mysterious wine cellar beneath the house. We ask the host for this and he gets a huge key and leads us down a staircase. Down there we find a large whitewashed room without wine barrels but wine bottles instead. An air-conditioning system works to generate the correct temperature. This all is not as romantic as we have thought of.

At last we have to start into the rain. At a book shop we meet other bikers who are going to Passau with the 11 o'clock ship. This is a very good idea for the bike path leads aside of traffic roads from here to Passau. At the landing-place we soon are about 15 bikers who offer a sad looking impression under their rain coats.

When the boat arrives we find out that this is brand new and it's name is Deggendorf, it is in action since 4 weeks ago now. The special equipment of theis ship are the propellers at bow and stern, so the ship can rotate like on a turntable. Various cameras send their information from the front and backside to the comander's cabin.

Near Passau there is a sluice to compensate 9 m height difference. We drive in and sink like in an elevator. After this the 2 hour trip ends and we find ourselves at Passau, the final point of our bike tour at the Upper Danube - now there still are some outstanding days of our holidays yet.

 Chapter 3: The Tauern Bike Trail