Because we didn’t bring a laptop, I wasn’t able to blog as we cycled. This post is based on notes I kept at the end of each day. I’m not going to include photos of the towns because you can find those on line. What I really wanted to know before we left was what the path looked like. I tried to take photos of it every day. The one photo I missed was the interlock tire tracks through a farmer’s field. It went on for a few kilometers and just seemed so out of place. If that’s what you want to know, scroll to the bottom of the post.

Day1: Arriving in Germany

We managed to pack up our suitcases and stay within our weight limits and fit all of our clothing and cycling gear into our wheeled carryon bags. Once we got to Frankfurt, we took the ICE (pronounced “ee-see-ay”) to Würzburg. It was a bit more expensive than a regional train, but very comfortable. You pay on the train and can use credit cards. All of the conductors spoke at least some English.

We found our way to the hotel relatively easily, but it is a pain dragging suitcases along the old cobblestone streets. For supper we went to a real biergarten across the river. I had the biggest mound of salad ever.

The Internationales Strassenmusikfestival, a free music festival, was underway in the Altstadt. Most of the platzes had bands in different corners, and the river had a few areas with buskers and musicians. The Altebrucke was packed with people having wine or beer and sausage.

Day 2: Exploring Würzburg

We decided to only wear our Bavarian clothes once we were done cycling. So my carryon had my Dirndl, blouse and a push-up bra and NosyNeighbour put his lederhosen in his bag. We then put the carryon bags inside the suitcases. We had made arrangements with the Gasthof in Fussen to send our luggage ahead. We thought it would be like Canada and take a week for it to get there. We had researched the cost to leave them at the airport in Frankfurt. It would have been about €200 and would have meant unpacking and reassembling the bikes at the airport. This way we had a few days in Wurzburg to assemble the bikes and make any necessary repairs. It only cost €19 to send the two suitcases and they arrived the next day. The Gasthof did not charge us for storage.

We walked up to Marienberg Fortress, taking refuge in a covered staircase when some rain arrived. It would be a sign of the weather to come. You get a great view of the city from the top and pass rows and rows of grapes during the ascent. It wasn’t too steep, and I was able to walk it in my flip flops.

Then we headed over to the Würzburg Residenz. The gardens are really nice and the building’s architecture is interesting.  We’d read reviews about not going inside, and they were correct. Despite a high entry fee you weren’t allowed to bring in even a purse. There was no way I was going to leave my nice DSLR camera and all my identification so we opted not to go in. On the plus side, they did give us our money back when I refused to leave my purse. But really, who isn’t going to take photos with their phone?

Our hotel breakfast was quite good. We both ordered boiled eggs, and when they arrived, they were wearing the cutest little hats to keep them warm.

Day 3: Würzburg to Bad Mergentheim

If you follow this blog, you’ve probably figured out that we’re a bit frugal. This spills over to holidays as well. Because German breakfasts are so big, we brought a couple of ziploc bags down to make sandwiches for the road. On our way out of the breakfast room, we grabbed a couple of apples as well.

We had visited a bike repair shop and chatted with the old German guy about our holiday. He recommended a different route to get to Bad Mergentheim. This did present a challenge because we now had no GPS route on our phones and no detailed map to get us out of Würzburg. It is a city, not a village, and this meant getting lost a lot, asking for directions a lot, and trying to figure out the responses we got in German.

Our problem was that we crossed over to the other side of the river from our hotel because that was the way signposted for the Romantic Road. But the path we needed to get to was on the same side as our hotel. We kept following the bicycle signs but would get dumped onto an industrial site or a neighbourhood. Eventually we made our way to Ochensfurt.

Once in Ochensfurt, we crossed back over the river, went through the town, then just out of the town we found a new bike path, which was a former railroad track. During the long gradual climb, I kept humming to myself: “This is the hill that never ends. It just goes on and on and on …”

After Ochesenfurt we followed the bike path through small villages, including one called Bieberehren. Being from Canada, we couldn’t help but laugh at that one. Did they have Bieber fever there?

We got a bit lost in Röttingen, which is where we hooked up with the Romantic Road, albeit the next day’s trail. It was this stretch to Bad Mergentheim that we saw the most cyclists since we were going against the grain.

Weatherwise we had showers and lots of wind. We stopped for lunch on the hills outside Bieberehren, scarfing down our sandwiches quickly so we wouldn’t cool down too much. We couldn’t find the path and ended up on the road for a short stretch, with buses and tractor trailers whizzing past. I’m glad the whole trip wasn’t like that!

Once in Bad Mergentheim, we stopped at the information centre to pick up a town map. From there it was easy to find our hotel, which wasn’t too far from the Altstadt. We walked back and found a biergarten the town’s main Schloß, where NosyNeighbour had Leberknodelsuppe and Wildschweinbratwurst. I had Tomatensuppe and Salatteller mit Rumpsteak.

Day 4: Bad Mergentheim to Rothenburg

Breakfast wasn’t a buffet like at our first hotel. Our table had a basket with four buns, two medium containers of yogurt and juice. Cereal was available on a hutch behind us. I was disappointed, but then they brought out two plates with lots of meat, cheese slices and tomato and cumber. We made sandwiches for the road, popped them in Ziplocs and ate the rest.

The weather wasn’t too bad, or maybe I was just getting used to it. It drizzled off and on, and the ground was damp in most places. We stopped in Creglingen at the information centre and chatted with the German guy who had married a Brit. He tried convincing us to cycle an extra 2k up the road to see a church. Maybe next time. We walked our bikes through the Altstadt, took a few photos then had lunch on a bench.

From there, it was a series of climbs and descents. But you never knew where the path went so you had to slow down at all the intersections.The climb into Rothenburg wasn’t too bad except for the vehicles … and the clobbles. There is no cycling on cobbles with a fully loaded folding bike, especially when you don’t know your way.

In the afternoon we wandered around the Altstadt like all the other tourists. Rothenburg is the most visited medieval town along the Romantic Road. It is one of three towns with intact walls surrounding the Altstadt. We popped into a café to have a beer and a Schneeball. It’s a very tasty local dessert that comes in multiple flavours. It is messy so be prepared to smash it first before you eat it!

We had supper at the Spätzle-Schwab restaurant. Rob had the lentil, sausage and smoked meat spätzle. I had the Wiener Sccnitzel spätzle. Both were very tasty. But it was a bit strange because despite good food and reviews, it was mostly empty.

After supper we did the Night Watchman Tour. Our guide George was excellent. We didn’t walk very far, and the rain held off until it was almost over. George brought Rothenburg’s history to life with humour and a booming voice.

When the tour was over, I wanted to get one good night shot. The rain had started and I lost a piece of my mini tripod, which made me grumpy. We decided not to walk the wall at night and headed back to the hotel. We got back just before the rain really came down. It rained like that most of the night.

Day 5: Rothenburg to Dinkelsbühl:

Breakfast was interesting. Our seating was reserved by room number. We were seated at one end of a very long table. At the other end was a German couple. On the table was juice, sliced watermelon, yogurt and a basket of bread.

Initially we wondered where the rest of breakfast was. Eventually a very keen German woman brought the meat and cheese. And she kept coming around the restaurant calling out in her shrill voice: Möchten Sie Brot? Möchten Sie Wassermelone?

We made our lunch with the buns and when she wasn’t looking, put them into our Ziploc bags. Then we concentrated on eating the rest of our food. We had a brief conversation with the Germans at the other end of the table. It had rained a lot overnight and was still raining as we finished breakfast. We waited for it to end and then cycled to the Altstadt and walked our bikes through it.

We had some challenges leaving because the bike path was under construction and we had to share the pedestrian path. Then we had to work our way through a suburb to get back on the D9 Romantic Road path.

Going into Schillingfürst we had a big climb on the road. I suspect we missed a turnoff to avoid sharing the hill with cars. At the top, a bakery was conveniently calling our names with Schokocroissant. The rain stopped long enough for us to refuel with these vary tasty baked treats.

The next climb was leaving Feutchwagen, where we ate our sandwiches by a fountain, with wasps buzzing around us. After Feutchwagen, we went throught the forest and opted for the shorter route to Dinkelsbühl somewhere around Thürnhofen. Or so we thought.

We got lost and ended up in Weikersdorf, where we spoke to a man who was just getting out of his car with his family. The rain was really coming down and our phone batteries were under 20 percent. Lightning was lighting up the church spire on the next village a few kilometers away. His daughter, in her late teens or early 20s spoke no English, so I asked him (in German) if there was a bike path to Dinkelsbühl.

He said no, but started listing off all the villages we should cycle through to take the back roads to Dinkelsbühl. I was focusing so hard on all the names that I didn’t realize he had no arms. Instead he had plastic prostheses that flapped around when he moved his shoulders. At least that explained why he wasn’t pointing in the direction we needed to go!

We made one wrong turn, heading to Haslach thinking it was Halsbach. After backtracking, we found a cycling path (yippee!) and went through the woods to Dinkelsbühl. It was mostly downhill on a crushed gravel track and we were getting some pretty good speed when all of a sudden a farm tractor was coming up the path towards us.

When we arrived in town, my written directions to our hotel were all wrong because we’d arrived from a different direction. We finally found the hotel but nobody was at the tiny reception desk. I spoke to a new employee who was Russian. She couldn’t find the “boss”. I stayed inside, ringing the bell and finishing my post-cycling stretching.

Suddenly he appeared, like an absent-minded professor. He showed us the bike storage area, and gave us the keys to our room. It was a really cool old inn, right in the heart of the Altstadt. After we unpacked, NosyNeighbour went to the reception desk and the old man got us some beers from the closed restaurant.

For supper, we went to the Weib Brauhaus just around the corner. It was full of locals, many older local gents who were playing a German card game.

Day 6: Dinkelsbühl to Nördlingen

Breakfast wasn’t the best (boiled eggs weren’t cooked, coffee was cool), but there were waffles on offer if you wanted them and the fruit salad was very good.  We didn’t make any lunch buns and ended up not having any lunch, except for a Schokocroissant and a predinner snack of paprika chips at the JUFA (an Austrian hostel chain).

Thankfully the rain ended once we unpacked and washed our cycling clothes. Our room was great, with a large balcony, our own bathroom, with linens included. We even had a view of the wall and one of the towers. The only challenge was the wi-fi wouldn’t work with our phones. But we were able to use a public computer in the lobby.

We went into the StGeorgskirche, then paid to go up the tower. It’s definitely worth the view on a clear day. You can see all the way to the crater walls and get a great view of the Altstadt.

We had supper at Sixten, a local hangout, and shared the Sixten Plate for Two: pork, sauerkraut, Swabian pockets, dumplings, spätzle and salad. Wow! is all I can say. We were the  only English tourists and the service was amazing. Our waitress’s voice made the usually gruff sounding German language sound so melodic.

We got lost several times trying to find the restaurant because the Altstadt has streets that spoke out from the centre. If you’re off by one street at the centre, it becomes more than a block by the wall.

Overnight, the church bells kept ringing and ringing. Eventually we got up and closed the windows, which thankfully soundproofed our room.

Day 7: Nördlingen to Donawörth

We spent almost the entire day cycling in the rain. I’d worked out a shorter route, but we decided to cycle the extra through Katzenstein, where there was nothing to see but the sign.

We did get a peak at Harburg Castle, which looked interesting. It had stopped raining briefly and we discussed visitng the castle. But I didn’t want to climb the hill to discover it was closed, too expensive or had no place to store our bikes and panniers. Or, even worse: no cameras allowed!

It was definitely one of the worst weather days so far. My rain cape came on within minute of leaving and only came off briefly.

When we arrived in Donauwörth, it was the first time we saw other cyclists looking for their hotels. We made it easily to ours, but had challenges with the wi-fi again. The hotel owner kindly let us use the office computer to check e-mails.

Donauwöth’s old town centre isn’t nearly as nice as the other towns. Or maybe it was just the rain dampening our spirits. We decided to go inside the Barocke Kloster, which was really ornate. Afterwards we scoped out restaurants but didn’t see very many so we decided to eat at the hotel.

No such luck … it was closed on weekends to allow the family some time together. At least we caught her before she left. Her recommendation, the Goldener Hirsche, worked out well. For €35, we had five beers and two main courses. Plus it was a Max hotspot so I go my free wi-fi after all. (One of the previous hotels used Max so I already had an account).  NosyNeighbour had the Jagerbraten and I had a salmon salad, which was very tasty.

Day 8: Donauwörth to Augsburg

Breakfast was missing tomato and cumber for our sandwiches but was otherwise fine. We were the first to show up at 7:30ish. We left just as the rain began (again!) Highlights of the day’s ride include:

  • arriving in Rain, only to have the sun appear
  • having to carry the bikes over the bridge (including up two flights of stairs) between Rain and Oberndor am Lech
  • finding a teahouse in the woods,
  • getting lost at least five times
  • cycling 15k on a rough track from Langweid am Lech
  • finding beer tent with oompah band installed on the path at a church with weird horse/crucifix display in Albertshofen

Getting in and out of the cities is a challenge. In trying to find a direct route form the Romantic Road path to our hotel, we stumbled across the city’s hockey arena on game night! Not fun trying to work your way through the crowd. Lots of construction in Augsburg’s Altstadt, which meant the only photos were of a really cool graffiti wall under the train tracks.

We had supper at the Riegele Wirtshaus after wandering around the Altstadt. The rain began again as we ate.  Nosy Neighbour had the pork leg (almost at a whole pig by this point!) and I had the char, which was okay. The ambience more than made up for any food shortcomings. And a visit to the washroom is definitely worth it.

We stayed at the Ibis Budget hotel, which was a really good deal. Checking in was a bit awkward, trying to use the kiosk at the front door. But if you buzz, the receptionist lets you in and you can do everything in person. It really is a budget hotel, with no shampoo or hairdryer in the room. But you can get these from reception (with a €5 deposit for the hairdryer). It had an excellent bike storage room, complete with video surveillance. On the down side, there was no closet or drawers, and the bed was like lying on a piece of wood.

Breakfast wasn’t great. It was buffet style, but didn’t have much choice: one type of meat, one type of cheese slices and lots of pre-packaged squeezy tubes of processed stuff. But we did make sandwiches, sneaking them into our Ziploc bags.

NosyNeighbour was having some issues with his handlebars from all the rough riding the previous day and decided to visit the gas station next door to see if he could borrow a large allen key to tighten the bolt inside the folding mechanism. They sent him to a BMW dealership, but he got lost. And again, but he did manage to get it fixed.

Eventually around 10 a.m. we set off toward Friedberg. This is the day where you cycle a lot of extra distance to see some smaller towns. WE took a few wrong turns on the way out, dealt with some construction issues and some really poor signage arriving in Friedberg, which resulted in our not seeing the old part of town. But it was a fun downhill through the forest leaving.

And then the rain returned and didn’t let up all day. NosyNeighbour loved the climbs. It was a long gradual one up the Lech River.

When we arrived in Landsberg am Lech, our hotel guy was great. He made reservations for us at the only Deutsch restaurant in the Altstadt (Firshwirst) and directed us to Meüller for choclate and offered to drive us to Schongau the next day so we could see more of his town. He used to be a professional hockey player in Germany and had visited his NHL-playing friends in Kelowna, BC.

Dinner was great. Service was really attentive. NosyNeighbour had Kellerbier and Wiener Schnitzel and I had the Angus beef salad. Our hotel guy explained that if you see Weiner Scnhitzel it means its veal. If it says Schnitzle v. Art it means it’s a cheaper cut.  I was able to use my German a lot in the restaurant.

Day 9: Landsberg am Lech to  Schongau

Breakfast was okay, but not great. The soft boiled egg was cold and we only got one cup of coffee. We did make our lunch buns though!

After breakfast we walked up the hill, around the wall, then down by the water. It was such a beautiful morning, with the late summer sun warming us up. A group of school children had gathered in front of one of the gates for a hands’ on art class. It’s not something we’d see back at home.

As we packed up, the rain began …sigh…. again. We waited it out then paid. Our hotel guy said that if we got stuck we could call him and he’d pick us up to drive us the rest of the way.

We set off, following the signs instead of the GPS track and ended up in the woods. There was a deer reserve and boars (safely fenced) and a waterfall. We got lost again. For the first time on the trip I was forced to walk my bike up a few hills because the stones wer so big, round, wet and loose I was afraid of wiping out.

For a better part of the day, it was really cold, with a crosswind until the last 5k when it changed to a head wind with rain. We had some gearing issues with one of the bikes and had to stop to fiddle with them a couple of times as well.

Just before crossing the river, we had a huge downhill with lots of turns. It would have been so much more fun if we hadn’t been sharing the road with cars and had better working brakes.

Around a small village named Altenstadt we took cover under an overhand as a deluge of rain was approaching. It turned into our lunch stop. We were outside a games room at a B&B. Whoever had built was a great carver. Nearby, goats were taking cover from the rain as well.

When we arrived at the outskirts of Schongau, we climbed a hill and stopped to check the GPS for directions. And then I realized it was so cold I could see my breath. Would we ever have a nice sunny day of cycling?

After we’d checked into our hotel, we bought some cheap gloves at a discount clothing store on the outskirts of town and then had supper at the Lindauer, a restaurant around the corner from our hotel. Schongau reminded me a bit of Donauwörth, but maybe it was all that rain again.

Day 10: Schongau to Fussen

Breakfast was much better than I expected. There was an excellent fruit salad, choice of cereal, goiled eggs, buns, meat and cheese. It was probably the best part of the hotel. We grabbed some apples to accompany our lunch buns and set off in the rain … again.

The rain let up about an hour into the ride. It was also warmer than expected and very windy.

We opted for the western route to Steingaden, partly for the church and partly because of the wind direction. Most of the big climbing was done before the Wieskirche.

From there it was along the valley, with a very strong headwind to Schwangau, Hohenschwangau and then to Füssen. The best part was being able to see Neuschwangstein after all the rotten weather.

Our Gasthof was on the outskirts of town. Our room was on the main floor and included a patio. The décor was dated, but it was clean and had the best water pressure all trip.

Our hosts recommended to German restaurants and we tried Gasthof Krone first. It was a bit like Medieval Times. You got a bib put on you instead of a serviette, and the food was served so you could eat with just your hands, but you did get cutlery. Beer is served in porcelain tankards.

We took a wrong turn on the way in and ended up with a bus load of Chinese tourists. It was hilarious. The small wooden barrel full of beer was making the rounds at all of their tables. Eventually all of them had had their turn tilting their head back and having their server pour beer down their throat until they raised their hand to stop. As the liquid poured, a crowd gathered round chanting English numbers to see who had drank the most.

We were taking photos and movies of all the goings on, and then suddenly their server approached our table, saying it was our turn. NosyNeighbour pointed out that we weren’t part of the group, to which the server replied, “I know.”

NosyNeighbour went first. The Chinese group had gathered around our table, clapping and counting in English: One, two, three, four …. up to ten. After his hand went up and he swallowed the last of the liquid, the first word out of his mouth was “schnapps” followed by “it’s not beer!”

Day 11: Around Füssen

Breakfast included the best soft boiled egg of the trip. And Carmen was so pleased with herself when we shared this with her. Her sister is usually the breakfast cook, but because her sister had been sick, Carmen was on breakfast duty. It turns out the family used to have a bakery too and Carmen used to wake up to roll out pretzels when she was growing up. I could so do that job!

While NosyNeighbour packed up the folding bikes in the suitcases, I walked through the Altstadt looking for the second restaurant. I found it right where we’d first walked into the Altstadt.

Once the bikes were backed up, we took the regional bus to Hohenschwangau.  You can take the #73 or 78. It costs €2.10  each way. But get in line early because standing is nicht so gut.

We’ve already been inside Neuschwanstein castle so cheeped out and walked up and then over to Marienbrücke for the obligatory photo. All that cycling paid off in spades as we overtook a lot of people who were having to stop to catch their breath. And those were the ones who’d waited in line to take the bus almost to the top!

For supper we went to Madame Blau. NosyNeighbour had local Alpen rumpsteak, which was very tender. We may have even passed the cow on our ride into Füssen. I had the zwei Filletfischsalate.

So that was our Romantic Road adventure. The next day we took the train towards München for Oktoberfest.

Lessons learned:

  • Getting lost is half the adventure.
  • Weather happens, get over it!
  • Eat salad to counter all that pork!
  • Distance signs lie.
  • We were missing a few tools that we’d definitely bring next time. It wasn’t a big deal because we were able to buy or borrow them. It is, after all, Germany and there are lots and lots of bikes there.
  • If I were to do it again, I would only have booked  hotels in Würzburg, Füssen and Augsburg. There were lots of Gasthofs that had zimmer frei along the way. I also would have added another night in Augsburg because there was so much to see that we didn’t have time for.
  • I would have only brought 2 pairs of cycling shorts. That would have left me room to pic up a few more souvenirs.
  • And I’m contemplating writing a letter in German to the tourist board to recommend that they come up with a reward system for cyclists who complete the whole journey. Maybe you get a passport stamped in each small town and then get a t-shirt at the end. I just felt like I wanted something to commemorate my first long cycling trip.
  • Have a discussion with your partner early if you’re getting frustrated. Day one had some bugs that we needed to work out or we might not have ended the tour together. Don’t let things fester!
  • As a budding photographer I wish I’d had my gorilla pod instead of the too-small tripod.

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