Trans Europe Trip: Week 7 (Ingolstadt, Germany to Feldkirchen an der Donau, Austria)


St. Stephen's Cathedral

Ingolstadt (May 16 -17, 2015)

Our stay in Donauworth was pretty noisy at night. I remember still hearing the kids still playing outside well after 11PM. Harry confirmed this as well. Luckily I had my earplugs on so I was somewhat oblivious to their screams and laughter. As with most nights, the dew from the air quickly settled in and damped our tents once again.

Everything became wet and damp in the morning. We got up around 6:40 thinking that we would be the first ones up. That was certainly not the case as 2 fishing poles was propped up next to Harry’s tent. They were watched over by 2 young boys. A couple of the guys from the canoe group was already up making a v-line to the bathroom. Rather than compete for space with them, we decided to quickly pack up and leave to town for some breakfast.

We got into the adjacent town where we sat down and have a cup of coffee and pastries. We were joined by a couple who asked us about our trip. They told us they used to bike tour with their Santana tandems and have ridden to Paris from the Black Forest. They were genuinely curious about our trip and I could tell the guy really wished he was touring as well. He told us we didn’t need tents. We can camp in ATM lobbies. I thought that wasn’t a very good idea and his wife also agreed. It was a funny exchange. He told us the way out of town and so we took his advice and got ourselves riding again.

Storm clouds looming above.

Storm clouds looming above.

Today’s route was mainly on bike paths that went up and down through small towns. We got in some pretty good climbing until we got near Neuburg an der Donau. It was there where we were treated to a few gravel descents down some farm lands until we found ourselves navigating the north banks of the river. When we finally got into Neuburg a.d. Donau, we found a restaurant on the South bank to enjoy a sunny and relaxing hour of lunch.

After lunch, we headed east towards Ingolstadt. We rode until we saw a sign for Ingolstadt that told us to go north. We blindly followed only to realize that we shouldn’t have done that because the route took us to the Northwest side of Ingolstadt but instead of back tracking we forged ahead and got into town by 3PM. It took another few miles before we found the campgrounds that was located at the Southeast part of town.

When we got into the camping spot, we were greeted with another Biergarten and several restaurants right outside of the campsite. The site was filled with RVs and people playing miniature golf next door. It was a happening little site except that it cost us close to €30 to stay. That’s with no WiFi. An additional €8 got us laundry. Good thing the showers were free.

Harry and set up camp, took our showers, and started the laundry before we walked over to the Biergarten to enjoy a half pint and a pretzel. There was a duet singing playing the part of the oompa band. The guy was on keyboard synthesizing all the different instruments while the girl was playing the guitar and harmonica. They were great! They even threw in some John Denver and other American classics that Harry had a kick out of.

We got back into camp to prepare our dinner. I cooked the pasta that I’ve been carrying around for weeks and Harry opted to make a sandwich. It was the first time we did our own dinner and we were both okay with that. I just have to make sure to finish the pasta and sauce soon so that it doesn’t go bad.

Haufbrau Haus

Munich’s famous Haufbrau Haus

After dinner, Harry went to check on his electronics that was charging in the bathroom and was shocked to discover that his entire bag of goodies: iPad Air, iPod Nano, Garmin GPS, USB battery pack, multiple USB port plug, and the universal power converter was stolen! He yelled out to me while I was cleaning up my dinner and went straight to the office to tell them. The guy at the office basically snickered and said you shouldn’t have left it there.

There was little Harry could do to recover his electronics. We both agreed that he was lucky that the laptop wasn’t part of the mix or it would have been a disaster. The first evening was rough as Harry had no books to read for the trip. This was something important to him. So important that he proposed to me in the morning to go to Munich to replace these items.

Munich was part of the plan when I planned the trip in our itinerary but we actually decided against it a week ago thinking that we should stay along the Donau. It would have been tough to find a place to replace the items in the little towns that we were going to ride past so we got directions to the train station only to find out that there were no trains to Munich until the next morning.

We opted to stay at a near-by hotel to minimize our commute time and dry out a bit. Ironically, the weather was not too bad but it was nice to be inside again. We spent our time in Ingolstadt at their town center enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon. There was a group of guys singing and hollering. We believed it was probably a soccer match that was going on. Perhaps that was why the streets were so empty.

We wrapped up our Sunday night at Ingolstadt at an Indian pizza place. Harry ordered his usual Marguerite pizza and I opted for Chicken Biryani. The change of flavor was absolutely needed for me as I was pretty much over indulged in cylindrical round meats and Snitzels.

Marienplatz

Marientplatz in Munich

Munich (May 18, 2015)

We woke up at 6:30, a good 2 hours before the train arrived and packed up our stuff. We went downstairs to retrieve our bikes from the hotel storage room and loaded them up once again like pack mules.

When we got to the train station, we had about an hour left so we bought some pastries and coffee for breakfast. When the train arrived, we had efficient time to find the bike cart which was located at the front of the train. The 2 conductors got off the train at that cart and told us to remove our panniers before loading the bike on the train. We obliged. They removed the center pole to give us room to carry our bikes up to the cart. We shuffled all our bags on a quick as possible. There were 2 other bikes on board when we got on. We had plenty of time to tie our bikes down and find a seat near them.

One hour and 8 stops later, we exited a full train in Munich at a very busy train station. Probably as busy as the train station in Paris. The station here was much easier to find the entrance and exits compared to Paris. We got outside and prepared for a ride to our hotel. We asked a cab driver the street where our hotel was supposed to be at he pointed to the next street over. We proceeded to ride down for about 2 blocks and found the place: Hotel Atlas.

Harry checked us in and we were back at unloading our bikes onto a shopping cart and locking our bikes in the back of the hotel where the door was open the entire time. The hotel was in shambles. The floors were dirty, the sheets had some dark smudges, and even though we have a stove in our room it was filthy. This is probably the worse one yet.

We quickly got out of our room to run our errands for the day. We went and fetched our bikes and started to look for this bike store that Harry found on the Internet the night before. Where I thought it was, it was not there. We finally realized that it was at the north side of town which was about 6KM away. We rode our bikes for almost 30 minutes to get there only to discover that it was in a shopping mall.

Oompa Band

The Oompa Band in the Haufbrau Haus

Just to give you some background as to why we’re going to a bike store; Harry had been wanting to swap out his handlebars for a while now. This was one of the things he wanted to do when he got to Munich. So we finally found this place only to be told that they can’t do it. They only sold bikes and accessories. This was where he picked up his Garmin Tour to replace his 810.

Across from the bike store there was an electronic store. This was where the iPad Air was replaced with an iPad Mini, the iPod Nano with an iPod Shuffle, and a new battery pack was part of the purchase. In one shot we took care of pretty much everything. The bike shop gave us directions to go to another bike store to have them swap out the handlebar. This was another 6KM of riding on the West side of town. So we hopped back on Munich’s incredibly convenient bicycling infrastructure to get us to the store.

This was no ordinary store. This was the biggest bike store we’ve ever seen in our lives. It’s so big that you can test ride in the building if you like. It is probably as big as a Costco in the States. We were in such disbelief coming into the store. They immediately tagged our bike with a security device to indicate that the bikes we wheeled in was ours.

We walked over to the service department to see if they can help Harry out. Unfortunately, they needed an appointment even though the other bike store had called in and confirmed with them that they could do it. So instead, this mega store gave us directions to another store about 3KM away which maybe able to help. Again, we rode over to this store.

Long story short, Harry is happy with the handlebar conversion and we made it back to the hotel right before dinner. We then locked the bikes up and walked over to Munich’s main area featuring a huge “glock & spiel” at their famous Marienplatz. The plaza and the shopping area around it was filled with tourists. Amazing considering that it was a Monday night.

We then went to look for the famous Haufbrau Haus. This place was loaded with tourists and people indulging on some of Germany’s finest cuisine and beer of course. The environment was noisy and stuffy but festive. We opted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe across the way to avoid the crowd and grab something more familiar. After dinner we haled a cab back to our hotel and got to bed. The next day was a riding day and I heard it was going to be a stormy one. In fact we’re suppose to get rain until Sunday. That’s right, 6 days in the rain. Let’s see how this turns out.

Flooded

Our flooded campsite.

Taufkirchen (May 19, 2015)

We couldn’t get out of the hotel fast enough in the morning. We were probably out of the door by 7:30 and was rolling down the street in search of breakfast. There was a drizzle as we made our way to a bakery.

After breakfast, I navigated us out of Munich using Google Maps. I had looked up the route the night before but knowing that the GPS would eventually stop working to tell us where we were I had to guess at some of the places based on the cities we ride past. This will be the way to navigate ourselves back to Passau for the next 3 days as we don’t have maps of the area.

This worked out well as we made it to Erding for lunch. The lunch place served a local beer called the Erdinger which comes in a variety of beer types. After lunch, we followed directions given to us by the waiter towards Taufkirchen. Unfortunately, this was where the terrain changed for us. We were riding through hilly parts of Germany. It wasn’t steep but long. We eventually got to the town of Taufkirchen and Harry grabbed a milkshake at a local ice cream parlor. We asked where the campsite was and they told us it was 15KM away. That was more than what we expected.

We snaked through country-side landscape and climbed up several hills to finally arrive to the camp site which was located at the bottom of a 14% hill. Getting in was great but it’s going to be a pain getting out tomorrow. We quickly checked in and the rain started to come down. It wasn’t too bad but I simply didn’t want the inside of my tent to be wet so I got the tent and rain fly on the fastest I’ve ever done. Harry even commented about my motivation from the rain.

As soon as the tent was set up, the rain came down. We basically spent about an hour and half in our tents waiting for the right opportunity to get out to shower and have dinner. Fortunately, the rain eased around 6PM and we had our chance. I quickly showered up and we went to the restaurant next to the camp site. We ordered up a really good dinner filled with protein, carbs, and carbohydrates. As soon as dinner was over, we stepped outside to see that the rain was coming down with full force. We retreated back to our respective tents for the night where we remained as rain continuously fall from the sky through the night.

Art Alley

Art Alley

Passau (May 20-21, 2015)

We woke up in the morning to discover that the perimeter of our tents and under our tents were completely flooded. It made the floor of my tent cold and uncomfortable. Luckily the water didn’t seep through but because of my body heat and the cold floor, my sleeping pad was completely soaked underneath due to condensation.

It was probably the most miserable both of us has ever been. We discussed the few options we had:

  1. Ride to the next camping place in Bad Birnbach which was about 80KM away not knowing how the terrain would be.
  2. Stay in our tents for another day and hope that the rain would stop.
  3. Ride to a train station and get to Passau.

We opted for #3 naturally.

When the rain started to ease up again, we made our move to the bathroom to clean up. On our way back we stopped by the store next to the camping office where the lady tried her best to find out about the train stations that would get us to Passau. She asked everybody who came in about train information for us. She was really sweet. Finally, the camping office was opened when another lady came in and the first lady told her about our predicament. They finally agreed that we can catch a train at a town called Schwindegg which was about 5KM from our campsite and then from there take a train to Muhldorf. From Muhldorf, we can catch a connecting train to Passau.

We hurried back to our flooded camp site and started to break down our camp. Packing in the rain with puddles and slugs all over your tent is no fun. When we got close to finishing, the lady from the camping office told us that she called a taxi for us who will drive us to Muhldorf in order for us to take the train directly to Passau. At this point, we just didn’t want to stay out in the rain and agreed to this better version of our plan #3.

Umbrellas

Sure wish we could use one.

The taxi came in a Mercedes-Benz van which easily fitted both our bikes and bags. The  driver told us about the train schedule to Passau. The ride costed €50 but it was well worth it to avoid the rain and enjoy the country side from the back of a car for once. We got to the train station at 9:30 and just missed the 9:31 train when we bought our tickets for the 10:34 one.

Our train started at Muhldorf where we had plenty of time to carry our bikes into the bike cart. We knew we were riding the train all the way to Passau for about 2 hours stopping at 18 stations in between. It was a long but warm ride. We even stopped at the town that we were suppose to ride to (Bad Birnbach) if it wasn’t for the rain. Looking at the terrain, I was glad that we opted to take the train. It was certainly as hilly as the prior days and the approach coming into Passau did not look like good riding conditions.

When we arrived in Passau, the platform that we ended up on did not have elevators for bicycles. We were told that the elevators are coming 2 to 3 years, which really doesn’t help us now so we had to lug our bike and bags down and up stairs. Once we were reloaded again, we quickly got out of the train station to find the town’s information office across the way. The girl at the counter was very helpful and helped us locate a hotel close by. She told us how to get there by bike and gave Harry a list of Internet cafes for a Skype meeting Harry was preparing for.

We met our good friend, the Donau River, once again and followed it all the way where it merges with 2 other rivers: the Inn and Ilz rivers. Our hotel is located right where the merge is. The view from the hotel is truly magnificent as we can see the fast running Inn River flow by our window.

Once again we are dry and warm sleeping in our own separate beds while it is about 40 degrees and drizzling outside. I can’t believe how we got here in the last 12 hours.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

One thing to note was that my front left rack snapped right off at where the lower bolt attached to my front fork after using it for about a year and half now. I found a bike shop who told me they can’t weld it because the broken piece was too small. They suggested to drill a hole and reattach the rack through there but I felt that may compromise the structural integrity of the rack and may fail again. I asked if they have a front rack. They did have something that looked promising from Tubus so I left my bike there and will be going back to pick it up tomorrow. Keeping my fingers crossed that this all works out!

The next morning, Harry and I went downstairs at the hotel to have breakfast before exploring the quaint little town. We walked back to where we came into town at the train station. Because it was about 9AM, a hand full of shops was opened for business. The town has a great “Art Alley” where the cobble stones painted a colorful trail between all the art-related stores. Above hung a few decorated umbrellas as artistic display.

Harry had mentioned that there was an organ recital happening at the St. Stephen’s Cathedral which housed the former world’s largest cathedral / church organ (Cadet Chapel, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York is the largest)  at  noon. We went to check out the cathedral and boy was this church beautiful in the inside. Breathtaking sculptures and painting lined the walls and ceiling. Other areas was completely plated in gold. It was probably the most beautiful church or cathedral I have ever been in. We both said we’ll come back for the 12PM recital (we never did) and walked back to our hotel.

On our way back, we walked by the same bike store where I dropped off my bike to have them install the new racks. The guy ushered us back in when he saw us walking by. He told me that they couldn’t get the front rack to work and instead, came up with a fix to extend out the broken eyelet. Instead of spending €160 it only costed me €20.

Front rack fixed

When we returned to our hotel, we spent about 2 hours figuring out some of Harry’s new electronics out so that we get everything working. Cleared out some disk space on the laptop and configured both his iPad and iPod with what he needed. Unfortunately some applications like Amazon Kindle didn’t download. I am suspecting it is because of our location or Internet access that is preventing this as my own iPhone couldn’t update certain apps.

We then went out for lunch at a local cafe bistro place that served German food. I had roasted pork with sauerkraut and their version of a potato salad which is a gelatin ball of some sort. Very delicious and Harry had his sausage and bread. We retreated back to the hotel as the rain started to fall once again. I went out to see where the 3 rivers joined at the tip of the peninsula where we were staying. You can see the blue water from the Donau and Ilz join the green water of the Inn River at that location. It wasn’t as prominent as some of their aerial photos but you can still see the distinctions.

We remained in our hotel room for our afternoon naps and was glad to watch waves of heavy rain fall on the Inn River. It would have been miserable riding in such conditions. The forecast looks good for us on Friday as the rain will stop at least for that day and start again during the weekend. I’m hoping by then, we would have ridden further away from the storm. I’m always hoping this when we ride.

Conjunction point

Conjunction point of 3 rivers: Danube, Inn, and Ilz

Feldkirchen an der Donau, Austria (May 22, 2015)

Leaving Passau was fairly simple. We just crossed over 1 bridge and head east once again. We picked the North side of the Donau River to follow this morning. If we wanted to get into Austria sooner, we should have taken the South route which was only 3KM away from Passau, instead we rode over 20KM to get to the town of Jochenstein, Germany before we entered Austria. Crossing the border was uneventful as they didn’t even have a border crossing station like the ones I saw between Switzerland and Germany.

The route with completely paved and flat which was to our liking. We were heads down putting on the miles as we past town to town until we reached Schlogen where we needed to take a bike ferry across to the South side to continue our journey. The guy on the ferry said the South side is better as there were more facilities and accommodations there. The ride costed us €2 each and was a quick 5 minute ride across the Donau.

We continued to ride the beautiful path along the Donau which was lined by a never-ending forest. The path was also very popular amongst other cyclists on the road. We got to see so many people enjoying a bike ride along the way and going the opposite way. Luckily the weather held up nicely as we didn’t get rained on. However, it was really cold. We had a problem staying warm during lunchtime as we were sitting outside for our meals.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

After lunch, we continued along the bike route until we reached the town of Aschach an der Donau. The map said there was a campsite right outside of town. It turns out to be a RV only site and when we tried to look for it, we couldn’t find it. We opted to ride another 7KM over to thee next town of Feldkirchen an der Donau to a campsite next to a couple of lakes. It’s located in the middle of nowhere but the grass area for camping was well-kept. Much better than anything we’ve seen in Germany. We spent some time to make sure we won’t be flooded again as the forecast calls for more rain for the weekend.

We both setup our tent once again. Harry had his tent dried in our hotel room in Passau so he was able to be up and running and enjoying his home before I could. I had to let everything air out before I can settle in. It didn’t help as it started to drizzle a bit so I had to set my tent up sooner than I would like. Fortunately, the inside of the tent dried up fast so I was able to duck out of the rain.

What we’ve noticed about Austria on our first day here is how friendly the people are compared to Germany. They seem to want to help you and genuinely seem warmer than the Germans. Let’s hope that’s the case during our short stay in this country.


About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He's also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association's Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.

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