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Monday August 06, 2012 Munich to Friedrichshafen, Germany
We arrived at the Munich Airport about 8:30 in the morning…about 20 minutes late. We had a fun chat with the immigration officer who was curious about our visiting Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and the Ukraine. He seemed satisfied with our explanation about a bicycle tour and then stamped our passports and welcomed us to Germany. We found our luggage and then proceeded to the Europcar desk to collect the keys to our rent car. The Munich Airport rent car facility is the best I have ever used…all the cars are waiting in an attached covered garage. We found our place, loaded the luggage and attempted to input our destination into the nav system. After several attempts, we finally were ready to insert the ticket into the gate machine and enter the autobahn for the 225 kilometer drive to Friedrichshafen. It took a few miles to become comfortable with the navigation system, but as we became a bit more confident, the miles passed by as we were making good time on the autobahn. Becky was ready the map and pointing out the landmarks as we passed through the beautiful German landscapes. The temperature was about 68 when we landed which was 20 degrees cooler than Bucharest. We left the freeway an exit earlier than the nav system wanted us to, but we had selected a route which seemed a bit more picturesque through fruit orchards and fields of Tettnang hops. We had to stop to take a picture of the hops and soak in their pungent aroma. Now we let the navigation direct us to the Buchhorner Hof Hotel. We found our friend (who is the hotel owner) at the front desk as we entered. Hal and Lucy met us in the lobby as well; we enjoyed catching up with Robert and learning about his 3 week old baby. We found our room on the first floor which was an upgrade to a large suite…nicest accommodations of the trip for sure. Next Hal and Lucy guided us to the closest ATM machine, next to a bookstore to buy maps and guide books and then to an outdoor biergarten on the Bodensee shore where we had a few beers and light lunch. I had three things to do after lunch: first I needed to buy some epoxy putty to repair our headsets, second I had to fill the rent car and third return the car. The baumarkt was a little too far to walk and a slight rain started to fall as we drove to the Bodensee Center. We found the putty and drove to a gas station and then returned the car. As we were driving from the hardware store we got a phone call from Conrad senior; he and Inge were in Meersburg and wanted to meet us for dinner in our hotel between 6 and 6:30. Of course we were thrilled to learn they would join us for the evening. Now it was time to reassemble the bicycle; Hal and Lucy met us in a small area behind the bar where we spent the next two hours reassembling our two tandems. We had a few minutes to dash to our rooms and clean up for the evening with the Deges. We met Conrad and Inge in the bar and introduced them to Hal and Lucy then spent the next hour catching up on the time that had passed since we had last seen them at the wedding in Gorlitz. Neither Conrad nor Inge speak much English so we communicated the best with could with my and Hal’s German. We decided to dine in the hotel restaurant…the menu was full of gourmet selections. We each made our choice; the presentations were wonderful, the food was the best of the trip and the portions were quite large. The Deges lingered until 10:00 before bidding good night and returning to Meersburg. We did plan to meet the next day in Überlingen for lunch.
Tuesday August 07, 2012 Friedrichshafen - Überlingen, Germany
We met Hal and Lucy in the breakfast room for the most elaborate buffet of every item one could wish for. There were cold meats and cheeses, fruits and yoghurts, cereals, breads, juices, eggs and other hot selections. Fortunately we knew we had a full week to try tasting all of the choices. After breakfast we were ready to start on our tandems on the bike path in the direction to Überlingen. We soon learned that biking on the Bodensee in August is a very popular family vacation as we encountered thousands of cyclists of all ages enjoying the fabulous scenery that surrounded the lake. We soon learned how to read the green lettered signs that indicated the routes for the bikes and there were plenty of turns to keep you alert. The route passed through quaint villages, beautiful gardens, fruit orchards and vineyards on the left with the lake and vistas across to Austria and Switzerland. As we were approaching Meersburg, the shift cable on my rear derailleur broke and I was unable to change gears. We tried to find a bike shop there but learned that the closest shop was 6 miles away in Nussdorf. We continue as best we could and eventually found the shop just as he was closing for lunch. He did sell me the cable and then closed the door until 2:30. In the meantime Conrad phoned to ask where we were, he said he would ride to Nussdorf to meet us while we changed the cable on the bike. As it turns out changing a cable is a simple job if you know what to do, but it wasn’t so easy to figure out at first glance. Without going into a lot of detail we did manage to change the cable with the help of a neighbor of the bike shop who invited us into his shop to work on the cable coupling. Fortunately he had the required tools and we soon had the cable reinstalled; however I couldn’t get the shifter to change gears. By now Conrad and Inge had found us and we decided to have lunch in a nearby café while we waited for the bike shop to reopen at 2:30. The Gasthaus turned out to be very good and away from the crowed tourist venues along the lakeshore. After lunch we returned to the shop where the owner determined that a piece of the broken cable had stuck in the shifter; he managed to extract the piece and then allowed me to put it all back together…this was easy now that I had the experience of doing it earlier. In a few minutes the bike was fixed, adjusted and ready to ride. We rode with Conrad and Inge as far as Meersburg where we stopped at a winery for a farewell toast. They had to return home on Wednesday…this would be our last opportunity to visit with them. The time had slipped away to almost 6:00 as we rode the final 10 miles into Friedrichshafen. We stored the bikes and then changed for happy hour and dinner. Hal found a Thai restaurant on the lakefront which was a 10 minute walk away. Dinner was good and spicy and a nice ending to an adventurous day. Mileage for the day: 40 with no elevation change
Wednesday August 08, 2012 Friedrichshafen, Germany –Bregenz, Austria – Fussach, Switzerland
During a breakfast we discussed a plan for today’s ride…we would ride around the eastern end of the lake through Lindau, Bregenz, and Rorschach to Romanshorn and then return to Friedrichshafen with the direct ferry. We would pass through three countries on this 50 mile ride and we thought this would be a pleasant easy ride. As we were checking the tire pressure on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, Robert arrived and we started discussing our adventures from the previous day our plans for the day. Robert agreed that we had a good idea but he thought we might like to add a fourth country to the itinerary and visit Vaduz, Lichtenstein. We look at the map and discussed the route and the likely distance we would ride; it seemed doable and we agreed to try the four country ride. The ride along the lake shore to Lindau coursed through orchards and quaint towns packed with tourist and bicycles. The homes on the water front were magnificent estates fit for royalty and usually hidden behind the iron gates and high hedges. As we passed through Lindau, we decided to stop at the next café for a break….we had seen several along the route and assumed that one would soon appear. Why is it when you’re looking for something it’s never there? We were in the six kilometer stretch between Lindau and Bregenz and the only place we could find to stop was a huge camping platz. This turned out to be a perfect rest stop with super restrooms and all sorts of snack opportunities and places to refill the water bottles. We continued through Bregenz to Fussach where the Rhine flows into the lake; here we turned inland and followed the Swiss bank of the Rhine in the direction of Vaduz. The section of the bike path was much less crowded with beautiful mountain vistas on each side of the Rhine valley. We had a strong tail wind helping us outbound, but we knew we would be fighting a strong headwind on the return. We stopped for a sandwich about 1:00 and checked the GPS for the remaining distance and realized we had 18 more miles to Vaduz…with the tail wind we thought we could be there by 2:00 but when our nicely paved path turned into gravel our pace slowed to the point where we would be challenged to complete the ride and return before dark and as we added the remaining distance we realized that we would ride over 100 miles if we continued as planned. We turned back with 45 miles on the odometer and crossed the Rhine to the Austrian side to begin our grind into the wind towards the lake. The Austrian side turned out to be the better path with no gravel sections. We found a café at a swimming park where we pause for snack and drinks. We thought we could arrive back in Bregenz by 4:00, but the signage was inadequate to keep us on the correct path….we did eventually wind our way back to the ferry landing and caught the 5:10 boat for Friedrichshafen. The cruise was 2 hours long with 5 intermediate stops before we arrived. We did have one advantage with the tandem bicycle…we were charged for only one bike thus saving us 5.50€. We found a table in the lounge on the ferry and enjoyed a couple of beers as we watched the sailboats on the lake and the shoreline slide past. The Ferry landing in Friedrichshafen is less than a mile from our hotel; it was 7:30 when we arrived at the Buchhorner Hof; I called Conrad and Diane and arranged to meet hem at 8:30 in the lobby. They arrived with the three children…Vanessa, Johann and the 14 day old Constantin. We walked to the Lamm Biergarten for dinner and conversation. This was a good location because the children could play without disturbing the other diners in the restaurant. The hour grew late and it was time for the kids to be in bed. We planned to meet the next day at the Zeppelin Museum and then bid farewell for the day. Total mileage for the day: 72 with only minor elevation change.
Thursday August 09, 2012 Friedrichshafen – Lindau, Germany
The program for today did not include any riding; instead we had planned to visit museums, attend the Rotary Club meeting and go shopping. Conrad and family agreed to meet us at the Zeppelin Museum at 10:00 when it opened. We enjoyed a later and leisurely breakfast before walking to the museum which is located adjacent to the harbor. We found Conrad with Joann on his shoulders and Vanessa playing on the Zeppelin playground apparatus. We entered the museum, bought our tickets and began to tour the extensive exhibits which chronicled the era of the blimps in the 1930’s. I never realized how enormous these air ships were, but they were literally flying cruise ships, with cabins, lounges and restaurants for the passengers. The ratio of crew to passenger was almost 1 to 1 which provided first class service for the 2 ½ day flight from Friedrichshafen to Lakewood, New Jersey. Of course much of the museum chronicled the May 7, 1937 disaster of the Hindenburg when it crashed and burned as it landed in Lakewood. The tour ended with a short film which had actual newsreels and some animations of this period of aviation. We had to return to the hotel for the noon Rotary meeting and Conrad wanted to start his return trip to Gorlitz. We said our farewells outside the museum and then walked back to the Buchhorner Hof to change for the meeting. This club is not large with less than 30 members in attendance. They were very cordial with everyone eager to meet us and speak some English. I tried to speak in German and managed to some degree to converse about our visit in Germany. The program was a comparison of the culture of Switzerland and Germany. It was too difficult for me to follow, but we sat and smiled as if we knew what the presenter was saying. The question and answer period following the speech got a little long as the Germans had to get in the last word. The meeting broke up about 2:00; Becky and I planned to take the train to Lindau, while Hal and Lucy planned an easy in afternoon Friedrichshafen. Becky wanted a Dirndl dress for Oktoberfest at home and because Lindau is in Bavaria, we were advised that this would be the best place in the area to find the dress. We had looked up some addresses on the internet and discovered they were very close to the train station. The bahnhof in Lindau is on the island with the old town with everything in walking distance. The Old Town is completely pedestrian with beautifully painted buildings and typical quaint Bavarian architecture. Of course this draws hoards of tourist who stroll the streets to shop and enjoy the outdoor cafes. We found the Trachtenladen which was really a hat shop that also had some Bavarian clothing. We would have probably walked passed it except for the sale rack of dirndls on the street in front of the store. We looked at the sale selection, but none was Becky’s size. Inside we found a better selection with one she wanted to try. Becky went into the changing room as a tourist in shorts and tee-shirt and emerged as a Bavarian maiden ready for a beer festival. The proprietor kept adding the proper accessories…the scarf, the stockings and jewelry to complete the outfit…we decided to buy the complete package and made our deal. This has never happened before when Becky can buy the first dress she tries…the entire process was less than 30 minutes. We had plenty of time to explore Lindau looking for a souvenir beer stein (which we never found) and enjoy a cold drink at a café with a view of the lake and harbor. We were on the return train at 5:30 for the 30 minute ride to Friedrichshafen. We stopped at the Edeka to buy some wine, cheese and bread for out evening snack…the Rotary Lunch was all the dining we needed for the day and a small snack would be adequate for this evening. Hal and Lucy met us in our suite for a glass of wine while we noshed on the cheese and bread. We planned our route for the next day and then called the end to another wonderful day in Germany.
Friday August 10, 2012 Konstanz – Schaffhausen Switzerland
We planned for an early breakfast so we could catch the 8:02 Catamaran ferry to Konstanz. We found the kiosk with the automat for the tickets and then boarded to boat for the fast and direct crossing. The bike path out of the harbor was not well marked, but somehow we managed to find the correct direction and with the help of one bystander who advised the better route, we were on our way to see the beginning of the Rhine as it spilled out of the Bodensee and over the Rhine Falls. We rode along the west bank of the river and crossed into Switzerland. The path coursed through fields and orchards and very quaint Swiss Villages with the painted half timber houses. Most of the way was paved although we did have some hard packed cinder track as well. We stopped at the 15 mile point to enjoy some coffee and a short break. We rode on to Schaffhausen and asked for directions to the falls. We were advised to cross the river and follow the East bank. As we approached the falls, the pedestrian traffic became too heavy for us to negotiate the bike so we walked the final 300 yards across a railroad bridge and up some stairs to the schloss overlooking the falls. We had not realized that we needed tickets to see the falls so we walked down to the boat landing to get a nice view. The falls are large and powerful, certainly not as grand as Niagara but certainly worth a visit if you are in the area. After taking a few pictures we returned to the café at the schloss and purchased drinks for lunch…we had made some sandwiches from the breakfast buffet which we supplemented with an order of French fries. While we were eating we decided to take a train from Schaffhausen to Konstanz and then ride on to Romanshorn and take a ferry back to Friedrichshafen. We found the bahnhof and eventually got tickets for us and the bikes. There were too many people with the same idea and getting everyone and their bikes onto the train car was a challenge especially with two ladies refusing to move out of the vestibule because they were getting off at the next stop. This prevented everyone else from moving into the car so we stacked bikes in the crowded space to get everyone on. Once we arrived in Radolfzell and the ladies exited, we were able to arrange the car so everyone had room. We had to changed trains in Singen and finally arrived in Konstanz about 3:15. Somehow we found the path towards Romanshorn and were on our way for the last 15 miles of the day. This was a fast path along the southern shore of the Bodensee. There were some very popular beaches along the way but overall the ride in the morning had been much more interesting. We arrived in Romanshorn just as the 4:30 ferry was pulling away. Now we knew we had an hour to find a pub and enjoy a beer before boarding the boat. There were plenty of inviting places near the harbor for us to enjoy an outside table and visit with the locals…we seem to attract a lot of attention everywhere we go with a tandem bicycle and matching jerseys. On the boat we sat up in the lounge and tried a local St. Gallen beer…an excellent amber brew with a strong character. Volker was waiting for us at the dock when the ferry arrived…he had flown in from London to meet us for the weekend. We went to the Edeka to get supplies for the evening and returned to the hotel with plans to meet at 8:00 for happy hour and dinner. Following some drinks and snacks in our room we went to our local restaurant on the water front and then retired for the day. Total mileage for the day: 52 with only minor elevation changes.
Saturday August 11, 2012 Mainau – Reichenau, Germany
Our plan for Saturday was to see the islands of Mainau and Reichenau. After our normal breakfast in the hotel, we rode to the ferry landing where we met Volker for the 9:02 catamaran to Konstanz. We learned that Saturday was the biggest festival day of the year in Konstanz with the battle of the fireworks display between Germany and Switzerland…more than 100,000 tourists would pack the town to see the fireworks and enjoy the carnival that was a big part of the celebration. As we arrived in the harbor we could see that preparations were well underway for the event. Volker had to rent a bicycle for the day; fortunately the bike shop was adjacent to the harbor so we needed only a few minutes for him to be ready to ride. The Isle of Mainau was only 5 miles from the harbor….the route was a little confusing getting away from the harbor with all of the temporary construction, but we managed to find our way to the parking lot at the entrance. We locked the bikes to a bike rack, bought our tickets and walked across the short bridge onto the island which is a phenomenal botanical garden and nature park. It is a privately owned island by a Swede who is a royal descendent; thousands of tourist stroll the walkways every year to see the marvelous gardens, topiaries, church and palace. Only a few rooms of the palace are open to visit and all of these are for retail to sell souvenirs to the tourist. We did find a nice outdoor self-service restaurant where we bought lunch and sat outside. Following lunch we continued our walking tour through the gardens toward the exit and back to our bicycles. The ride across the peninsula to Reichenau was only 6 miles but we had to climb up and over to get there. Reichenau is a larger island that is very agricultural…primarily vegetables are raised on the micro clime. The island is best known as the place where Christianity was first established in Europe in the church of St. Peter and Paul in the 7 th Century. We did find the small church; it had been remodeled in baroque style but some of the original frescos had been uncovered to see and appreciate. From the church we continued our tour of the island through the fields of vegetables and back to the bike path that led back to Konstanz. This path followed a railroad track so it was level and fast. As we entered the old town we could see that it had filled with tourist to the point that riding was impossible and walking was a challenge. We returned Volker’s rental bike and then bought our tickets for the return ferry. We had an hour to wait for the boat which provided us plenty of time to relax in a restaurant overlooking the harbor and the mass of humanity that was gathering 5 hours ahead of the fireworks show. By now the carnival was in full swing with bands playing, dancing troops, marching groups and everything else you might imagine that would be present at the largest festival of the year. We were happy to sail away from the crowds and back to the peace in Friedrichshafen. As we exited the ferry in Friedrichshafen, there was a long queue of people waiting to ride back to see the fireworks…I doubt that the boat could accommodate all of the people who were standing in line. We had time to clean up and change for happy hour in our suite before returning to our favorite shore-side restaurant for dinner. Back in the hotel lobby, we discussed our plans for a ride on Sunday and then said our goodbyes to Volker who had an early flight back to London on Sunday. Total mileage for the day: 26 with 200 feet of climbing.
Sunday August 12, 2012 St. Gallen, Appenzell, Switzerland – Vaduz, Lichtenstein
We have bicycled five days around the Bodensee and we were ready to try some more adventurous rides. At breakfast we planned a route into Switzerland that would begin in St. Gallen. After breakfast we caught the 8:41 ferry to Romanshorn and there we purchased train tickets to St. Gallen. The landscape changed immediately from flat to hills as the 20 minute train ride headed South away from the Bodensee and into the foothills of the Swiss Alps. We purchased a bicycle specific map at the bahnhof and asked for directions to Appenzell; we learned that there were no bicycle specific paths but we would be on normal roads riding the shoulder or perhaps a path alongside. As we left St. Gallen, we immediately started to climb into the mountains. The road was never flat and mostly uphill for the 10 miles to Appenzell, we were happy that it was Sunday morning because the traffic was light and courteous to us. We did notice that the highway was more gently graded with a smoother surface than we would have encountered on a bike path. We could see Appenzell in a valley below us and began one of the most thrilling descents into the town…the road had only gentle curves with no traffic…this allowed us to let the bike run free down into the town. We did stop to marvel at the view and take pictures and then continued to the Café Adler located in the heart of town. Here we paused for a bowl of goulash soup and studied the map as we tried to plan the best route to Vaduz. We chose a path that would have some climbing, but seemed to be the most direct. We climbed for a few miles through beautiful meadows dotted with farm houses and cows grazing while their bells gently clanged their location. We were following the signpost to Eichhorn and Oberriet; this route led us on a small road and into a forest. As we climbed out of the trees we had the most spectacular view over the Rhine valley into Austria; little did we know that we were about the experience the most thrilling descent ever in our biking experience. We started down a winding road with switchbacks, twists and turns for three miles into Eichhorn…the roads was too complicated to allow the bike to run free so we constantly had to use the brakes to control speed. The ride was a good reminder to buy and install a new disk brake caliper when I return home. At the bottom of the mountain we were in the Rhine valley; we turned south towards Buchs…we were on a rolling road through small towns until the Garmin directed us to cross the river into Lichtenstein. We did eventually arrive in Vaduz and stopped at a hotel to rest and enjoy a cold beer. It was 4:00 in the afternoon as we planned our return. We wanted to ride as far as Rorschach, but agreed that we could stop at anytime and hop a train to the ferry landing. Our route took us along the Rhine on the levy path; unfortunately we were riding into a strong headwind which after a full day in the mountains we were expending more effort than we wanted to continue. We decided to stop in Oberriet and catch a train, but the bahnhof was closed for reconstruction so we had to continue another 5 miles to Altst ätten. A security guard helped us with the ticket automat as there wasn’t an open ticket window. We waited about 30 minutes for the train to arrive and then boarded with our bikes. There wasn’t a lot of space for two tandems in the vestibule, but we managed. Our connecting train was waiting for us as we arrived in Rorschach so we rolled out of one car and into another for the final 20 minutes into Romanshorn. We had about 30 minutes to wait for the for the 7:36 ferry back to Friedrichshafen. The waiter in the ferry lounge remembered us from previous crossings as we enjoyed a cold St. Gallen beer. Back at the Buchhorner Hof, we showered and changed for dinner in the restaurant. Our hosts arranged a table for four in a private dining room. The service and setting were perfect as we reveled in the elegant dining experience. Exhausted from the ride, but revived by the fabulous meal we bid good night and agreed to plan our final ride the next morning. Total mileage for the day: 61 with 3000 feet of elevation change.
Monday August 13, 2012 Friedrichshafen – Tettnang – Markdorf, Germany
Our breakfast today was later than usual…a reward for the effort from the previous day. We met Hal and Lucy in our suite afterwards to look over the maps and decide on a route for our final ride of the trip. We thought a circular route through Tettnang and Markdorf would be a perfect distance as well as some new territory for us. Tettnang is in the center of a major hop growing region; there are fruit orchards and vineyards, but the hills above the Bodensee are perfect for growing hops. The distance to Tettnang was only 6 miles and passed by a dirndl and trachten shop which caught the eye of both Lucy and Becky. We found a bakery in town and stopped for a drink and short break. As we were leaving, we asked for directions to Markdorf…the first people we ask were hesitant to respond unsure of the best route for a bicycle, but another gentleman approached us and asked if we needed help. He advised us the best route, but we soon learned that he was living in New York and married to a girl from Richardson, Texas. Somehow during the conversation we learned that his family owned the local brewery in Tettnang which was less than 100 feet from where we were standing. We walked over to the brewery and met Fritz the owner. We explained that we were owners of a brewery in Fredericksburg and he invited back into the bottling area to look at his bottling line. Fritz was very accommodating answering all of my questions about bottling and distribution. It was a little early in the morning for a tasting, but we thought we would try to find some of his Tettnanger brew at lunch. We rode on another 10 miles to Markdorf stopping once to take pictures where the famous Tettnang hops were growing. The city center was perched on a hill, but due to traffic congestion we missed the road to the top but eventually found a foot path that led us to the top. We soon found an inviting café where we stopped for lunch and beer. They did not have the Krone-Tettnanger beer but that did have a nice export from Konstanz. The 10 mile cruise back to Friedrichshafen passed through fruit orchards, vineyards and hop growths. Lucy was navigating our route with her Garmin and led us directly to our hotel. The next item on the agenda was to disassemble the bikes and pack them for the return to Fredericksburg. In about an hour the bikes were packed and ready to fly; now it was time to clean up for the afternoon adventures. I walked over to the Europacar rental office to get our car for the return to the Munich Airport. We wanted to return to the dirndl shop we had passed by on the way the Tettnang earlier in the morning…we did not take the most direct route but somehow managed to drive to the shop. There was a huge selection of dirndls and accessories as well as lederhosen and shirts. Lucy tried on several and eventually selected a nice blue dress with the proper accessories…she will be ready for Oktoberfest this fall. We decided to find a café in Tettnang where we could try the beer from the brewery we had visited earlier in the day…there was a place adjacent to the brewery which served exactly what we were looking for. The beer was disappointing…it seemed sweet and needed hops to compare favorably with other German pilsner beers. This restaurant had an interesting menu and we decided to stay and have dinner. Hal chose the venison, Lucy got the maultauchen, Becky ordered beef and I had a pork dish…we all agreed that this was another great dining experience in Germany. As we returned to the Buchhorner Hof, we thought we would finish some of the wine we had purchased earlier in the week, but we were interrupted with a phone call. Robert, Vicki and 3 week old Leopold were in the lobby and wanted to wish us a good trip and thank us for our stay in their hotel. Leopold was sleeping, but we enjoyed seeing him and visiting with Robert and Vicki. Now it was time to get to bed a little earlier because we had to get us early for the drive to the Munich Airport. Total mileage for the day: 27 with 600 feet of elevation change.