Bogen, cycle touring along the Danube, cycle touring Bavaria, cycle touring Czech Republic, cycle touring Germany, cycling Bavarian Forrest, Danube Cycle Path, Donau Radweg, Passau, Pilsen, Plzen, Regen-Donau cycle path, Vilshofen
Some fifteen years ago we were right where we are now, cycling along the banks of the River Danube. It was our first long tour, and to add to the excitement we had flown our bikes and bags to Berlin. Quite possibly, it is the best first tour to do and we learned a lot. With no idea how to fly our equipment, and before helpful videos of such filed the WWW. I checked in 21 pieces of luggage, packing frame, wheels and bags all separately. British Airways allowed you to do such things in what was the tail end of the golden age of travel. Which is how we lost 21 pieces of luggage when they misplaced every one them. Our tickets and claim forms were as thick as the book of common prayer.
Right from the door of our friend Thomas, in Plzen, we realized that we could pick up Czech Bike Route 3, which was a stroke of luck. It goes from Regensburg to Prague, and we picked it up at the village of Dobrany. It was shaping up to be hotter than a summers day in Scotland, but the landscape rolled under our wheels in a way that could not be more like the border country there. Clouds shadows were being chased across huge open fields by a wind at our back, wonderful. And thank goodness it was as our legs were feeling rubbish. it took 30Km to get them moving with anything of the fluid style of road hardened touring pros.
30′c, and we are both in summer jersey and warm weather smiles. Highway 22 is busy, but there are lots of bikes on it, which gives you confidence that it is not a notorious black spot for cycling tragedies. We cut into the town of Kdyne. It looks like nothing on the gps screen, but does a strange trick of being quite big. It has a good restaurant and a campground, which we use in that order. We are the only tent on the campground, which is just how we like it. Everyone has gone home, and with no shower tokens, it is the one legged dance around a basin to restore body to fragrant perfection.
We are having a run of breathtakingly vivid night sky’s. Within an hour of darkness falling, everything is dripping with dew and by morning it is a dense fog. We are at 554m and as we eat breakfast we begin to surface from the fog as it falls into the valleys. Within minutes of starting off on our bikes, we have dived back into it. The town is unaware that just 3Km away it is a sunny morning for some.
The German border is coming up and we needed to spend our last Czech crowns before entering Euroland. A number of enterprises occupy the border zone in an attempt to relieve you of your money. Most involve the purchasing of alcohol or the Czech speciality, bird tables. We spend our crowns on a coffee and cake blowout and continued on our way.
We enter Germany just beyond the town of Vseruby. The theme of stunning landscape continues, but now the farms are impeccably neat, with bigger, brighter and newer tractors pulling bigger bits of kit. It is all grass growing and cow husbandry, but Daisy and her pals are inside, and the grass served up to them as hay or silage. It all looks extraordinarily prosperous. The farm houses are huge, with ornate wooden balconies with flowers cascading down them in floral perfection. They can teach the world a thing or two about hanging baskets. Esther is once again on home soil – Vaterland, with the advantage of Muttersprache – mother tongue.
Yet again, we are on the Compostela route, well one of them. Having a route would appear to be very popular in Germany and I am sure a thousand committee meetings are devoted to them. Other than the main bits in France and Spain we are yet to see anyone on them, and not a single shell dangling from bike panniers or rucksack of a devout pilgrim. We stop to load up on heavy supplies for a wild camp. Straightaway, quite literally within one turn, the road goes up at 15%. We get off and push and curse in equal measure.
A wild camp in Germany is always a thing full of anxiety. You know if you ask they will point out the campground that is 40Km up the road and leave no room for negotiation. We become sneaky and downright furtive here as we trespass onto land to camp. We are helped by it being dark by 8.00pm. Within an hour the last glow of light has gone and the stars fill the sky from horizon to horizon. We have the doors of the tent pulled tightly open to watch the sky as we lie in our down bags. Perfect, just the sort of experience to make 15% grades worth it. A shooting star, and it is brighter than any we have ever seen. It leaves a green tint of neon as clear as a rocket trace. I love wild camping, possibly more than the actual cycling.
You know by now that we do almost no planning. Which is why, early next morning when we pick up the perfect route, the Donau – Regen – Radweg, it is by accident. A rail to trail route that is well surfaced and picks the easy line through the hills. With not a cloud in the sky, it drops us down first to the town of Haselbach. If you want a holiday with good weather almost guaranteed, you could do worse than find out where we are. Since starting in Malaysia 10 months ago we have probably had no more than 5 days of riding in any sort of rain.
We are both excited to be back on a route that we know. Meeting the Danube at Bogen turns out to be a bit of an anticlimax. We have a road between us and the river and then for quite a few kilometres it is being all coy, not giving us a full view. It does eventually come to run by our sides and we end the day with a wild camp just a few metres from the river and a wash in it.
I have noticed before with the Danube, when we met it earlier this year and last, just how little hight it has to drop in thousands of Kilometres. We are less than 300m and it has a time zone and huge distance to reach the Black Sea. It is before 9.00 and we are away, but there are already touring cyclists with us. Today and yesterday there may be a couple of hundred. I have not looked it up, but it must be the most popular long distance touring route in the world. We rode from the source at Donaueschingen to Vienna all those years ago. It is still a wonderful route and we recommend it as the first European tour for any cyclist.
We break the first coffee rule and stop after just 7Km. We have an easy day planned and a campground in Passau that we want to revisit. Vilshofen, becomes significant for us, as we pass through the 11,000Km this year and 38,000Km in total for our journey. It all feels quite impossible. Passau is just as wonderful as we remember it, and this time we will stay for more than one day. There are castles, churches and more than enough cake icing baroque architecture to satisfy the biggest fan of the era. Since we were here last, it has gone bicycling mad, which is great to see.
The forecast is for rain in a day or so. You watch me start moaning. We have had such a perfect run of weather and once again the day ends with not a cloud in the sky.