Sunday 11 October 2009

The Lost Boys Tour of Europe 2009: The Roads ‘Round Rosenheim, Part 1

The Chiemgau countryside

After collapsing into bed, and taking care to leave the window open in our non-air conditioned room (after all, we are talking 1604 here), I quickly fell asleep and woke up feeling unusually refreshed.  I normally suffer from very bad jet lag when going to Europe but last year was an exception, perhaps because after landing in Geneva I was forced by my friend Will to walk around in the sunshine and look at Swiss/French cows for a while.  I think that the Mangfall bike path ride had the same effect so perhaps this is the solution to getting me up to speed in Europe.

Anyway, at breakfast it turned out that several people were kept up all night by the loud noises of partygoers out in the street.  My room was at the back of the building, which helped, but these are things you can never be sure of when finding a place to stay.

Today (August 6) the weather was absolutely perfect.  I had been told that it had been a summer with heavy rain in Bavaria but we were enjoyed a hot, sunny vacation.  After the usual German breakfast of buns and cheese and muesli, we saddled up eventually (not always an easy thing with a group of ten!) and rolled past the pedestrian zone and out of town to begin our first long ride.

On the road in our fancy 2009 custom jerseys

I had prepared a series of routes for the trip and loaded them on my Garmin 305 GPS.  This was a new experience for me and I was not entirely certain it would work.  I had followed some routes prepared by Will last year for the Tour d’Enfer but this was my first solo effort.  There was a bit of confusion getting out of town but as long as I followed the big arrow on the Garmin things seemed to be okay.  I had actually been a bit ambitious and found a route that took us off the main streets and went on the backroads, and had done this by using satellite images from Google.  Amazingly, it actually worked and I recognized the little residential streets seen before only from above.

The Lost Boys (and Girls) 2009

We were soon in beautiful rolling farm country, surrounded by intensely green fields and passing traditional Bavarian homes, often with religious statuary outside.  The roads were truly impeccable and well signposted.  When Will had given me GPS files I had been able to see turns coming but for some reason all I had was an arrow on the computer, which sometimes meant we missed the turn coming up as it took a moment to react.  But everything went pretty smoothly as we approached Frasdorf, near Autobahn 8.  I was bit concerned as the route just north of the highway was pretty complicated and went along unmarked farm roads but, again, it all unfolded perfectly even if I had to concentrate on the arrow most of the time.

At last: a bicycle that fits the Thin Man

We passed under the highway exactly where we should have and the farm roads took us past Bernau am Chiemsee towards Űbersee.  We stopped briefly at a large and very well-stocked bicycle shop where we bought some C02 cartridges, which we could not bring on the airline flight over, and had a nice chat with the proprietor.  Most of the store was dedicated to mountain biking, which is very popular in the area, but there were some nice road bikes, including a Basso.  This was the subject of some amusement in our group as people thought it was connected to former doper Ivan Basso, rather than being a long-established firm.  There was an enormous cruiser-type bike out front and we insisted that the Thin Man try it on for size.  The owner said that everyone thought the bike was very cool but that there were no customers for it.  

Unfortunately, our idyllic ride was to end as we approached the Chiemsee, Bavaria’s largest lake and the third-largest in Germany.  The road, St2096, had looked like a secondary road running along the lake, but it turned out to be a primary artery, with heavy truck traffic and lots of private cars as the area is very popular with tourists.  We got everyone in a single line and headed north towards Chieming and I set a steady pace at the front.  One of the group overtook me after a while, so I pulled in behind him, as did two others, Carol and Glen.  After a while I began to think we were going a bit fast considering we still had quite a distance to ride and although I enjoyed riding at more than 40 km/h along a very smooth, albeit busy road, it was bound to be too much for some of the others.  I looked more carefully ahead and realized that the cyclist pulling us was not actually someone we knew but a local rider going like a bat out of hell!  I slowed down and we found a place to stop where we could see the lake and wait for the others.

Our Gstadt Am Chiemsee lunch stop
(photo by P. Dominic)

Reassembled, we continued on our loop around the lake, now on St2095, and the traffic was quite heavy until we reached an intersection in Lambach.  Our destination for lunch was Gstad am Chiemsee at a restaurant that had been recommended by the hotel staff in Rosenheim.  We easily found the place, which was very close to the shore of the lake, and enjoyed an excellent meal on the terrace, watching the ferries leave for the islands in the lake, Herrenchiemsee and Frauenchiemsee.  The former is famous as the location of one of King Ludwig II’s follies, a full-scale reproduction of the chateau of Versailles.  My father had once worked at the hotel on the island and he took me there in 1972, and I last returned four years after that.

It was quite hot as we started on the road back to Rosenheim.  There were some nice hills but soon at Bad Endorf we were on the busy main road, St2095 again, but the way was pretty straightforward.  The group broke up as everyone rode at their own pace back to the hotel.  An excellent effort on a beautiful day: we had covered 94.67 kms, with 850 m of climbing.

The day was not over yet.  After getting cleaned up, seven us caught a bus we had arranged to take us back to Bad Endorf.  More specifically, we were going to a summer opera festival at Gut Immling, located on the top of a big hill and situated on the grounds of an animal rescue establishment, specializing in horses.  The road up was very narrow and twisty and normally you left your car in Bad Endorf and took a shuttle bus up but our driver was very good and quickly had us right at the summit.  I was a bit concerned about how difficult it would be to get us back down when everyone would be leaving at the same time but he was not too troubled by this.

After looking at the rescued animals, we went into an elegant circus tent that served as the restaurant where we had booked our dinner.  It was a very nice arrangement and the food, although a bit too not-vegetarian for me, was appetizing and plentiful.  I particularly liked the new potatoes roasted with some balsamic vinegar.  For Bavaria, the desserts were a bit limited but okay.

Time for the performance and we went off to an enormous barn-like structure for the opera, “La Bohème.”  The orchestra was at eye level, and the stage was raked up sharply behind the musicians, suggesting that the singers had to be pretty sure-footed.  Set decoration was fairly minimal but effective enough.  I was very impressed by the orchestra, but it turned out to be the summer home of the Munich Symphony, and the calibre of the singers was very good as well.

After Mimi sighfully breathed her last (sorry for the plot spoiler), we filed out and called for our bus, which arrived very quickly.  I have to say that one of the reasons I like travelling so much in Germany is that the logistics can be organized and are very reliable.  Back down the hill we rolled and soon were back in Rosenheim and our beds.

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