Tuesday 24 June 2014

A Ride in Upper Bavarian Ski Country

Hot, hot, hot... for an entire week Germany melted under seriously summery temperatures although it was still a week to go before the season officially started.  En route to Austria, I found myself staying with my friends in Lenggries, south of Munich, in the beautiful region of Upper Bavaria.  The area is much more notable for winter sports than for cycling but having persuaded my friend Uwe of the joys of riding a racing bike and loaned him my Basso for as long as he likes, we had clearly no choice but to go for a ride together even if it was 34C under very sunny skies.

The plan was to ride to Jachenau and then proceed to the Walchensee before turning back, perhaps a ride of 50 kms.  We rolled out onto the main road and began the 18 km stretch to Jaschau.  Beautiful clouds, no traffic to speak of and superb scenery.  And as we gently rolled along (the combined ages of our two steel bikes is 65 years, to say nothing of us) we were rapidly overtaken by a gorgeous blonde woman who hammered past us on a high-end carbon bike.  She had a fantastic tan and superb muscles, making me wonder again why more women don't ride to get fit.  I caught up to her fairly easily but stayed back as we had begun to climb and I did not want to hear my heavy breathing and get the wrong idea!

Passing through some little clusters of picturesque houses, we stopped momentarily at a bus shelter for a drink and noticed that there was going to be a butter-making demonstration the next day at a local farmhouse and Uwe thought he would take his older daughter there (the younger one is just three weeks old!).

"Make butter they way they used to..."

We reached Jachenau 19 kms into our ride.  There was a fancy hotel with lots of customers in the beer garden and the volunteer fire department across the street had a painting of St. Florian, the patron saint of firefighters, and I was to see this image many times in Bavaria and Austria.  Apparently there is a prayer that runs something like: "Oh, St. Florian, send the fire to burn down my neighbour's house and not mine.  Amen." Apparently.

St. Florian with his water bucket


We rode past a charming onion-domed village church and soon found ourselves on a pleasant descent that brought us to down to the shore of the Walchensee.  We had considered turning right to track the eastern shore but the path deteriorated immediately into dirt so we decided to continue onwards.  This turned out to be wise as we had an excellent road to enjoy.  Soon we came to the beach at the south end of the lake and stopped to enjoy the beautiful views.  The lake, one of the largest and deepest (maximum depth 193 m) in the German Alps, is a popular destination for visitors.

Our route along the western shore brought us past a little cabin where a gentleman was collecting tolls.  Bicycles were free but the road itself was private.  It was also excellent and we enjoying spinning along in the sunshine on the smooth asphalt.

We left the toll street at Einsiedel, where some of the reserves of the Reichsbank were hidden and eventually handed over to the occupying Americans (minus 100 gold bars and a lot of foreign currency!) and now rolled northwards up the first of our big climbs for the day as we came over a ridge and then quickly zoomed downhill into the village of Walchensee proper.  Time for an Eiskaffee!

We started to realize that this trip was going to take us somewhat longer than we had planned as heading back east over the mountains would require some brutal climbing, even if we had suitable roads.  The decision was made to continue north and around Bad Tölz before backtracking to Lenggries.  So having fortified ourselves with refreshment, we continued along the lakeshore until we reached Urfeld.

Here we reached the biggest climb of the trip and it brought us to around 845 m ASL before we plunging down a twisty road, hairpin turn after turn, dropping 250 m in only 6 kms until we found ourselves riding along the Kochelsee, a much smaller lake.  We passed a museum that had once been the summer home of famed Blue Rider artist Franz Marc and leaving the village of Kochelsee found ourselves on a long boring straight road and straight into a nasty headwind. 

Uwe vs. Headwind
This brought us to Benediktbeuren, where a famous abbey is located.  Established in 739 AD, the abbey is noted for being the location of the discovery of the manuscript of Carmina Burana in 1803, subsequently set to music by composer Carl Orff in 1935/36.

We soon found ourselves in the nearby village of Bichl but were confronted with some very heavy traffic on the main B472 road.  I convinced Uwe there had to be a bikepath nearby and, sure enough, the Germans did not let me down.  We headed east now, towards Bad Tölz and some little climbs and descents. We reached the spa town at Km 71 and then on the final stretch to Lenggries turned south and attacked for the big sprint finish. Uwe was starting to suffer from hunger knock but I still had enough to chase down two riders on time trial bikes but could not keep up anymore on the climbs.

Uwe's massive victory sprint
Tired but happy we pulled into the driveway at Uwe's place, having covered 79 kms in just over 3.5 hours of actual riding (minus standing on the beach and Eiskaffee time).  The surprise was that we had put in nearly 1000 m of climbing on our old bikes.

The next day was my birthday so that evening we celebrated in proper fashion with beer and pizza.  It had been an excellent adventure and I told Uwe how lucky he was to live in area like this where you could do these kind of rides just out of your front door.  He enjoyed himself and learned something about cycling longer stretches as well!

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