Tag Archives: cycling Munich to Basel

But….There are Hills! – Cycling Munich to Basel

The splendor of mountains makes cycling them worth the effort.
The splendor of mountains makes cycling them worth the effort.

Traveling solo I’ve noticed a lot more people feel like they need to stop and offer help. If I pull out a map, or my phone, or stop to get my bearings from a map on a sign post someone generally stops to offer help. This has been a common conversation the past few days:

Cyclist on electric bike (CEB): Hi. Do you need help? Where are you going?
Me: I’m going to Bad Tolz. Is this the path?
CEB: It’s that way. (pointing in the direction I’m headed) But…(and here they take a long, deep breath and looking with pity at my loaded panniers) THERE ARE HILLS.
Me: (Shrugging it off…no big deal) It doesn’t matter. Thanks for your help!

And off I pedal thinking I can handle hills. I like hills. I like challenge. But, the CEB’s comments seem like foreshadowing.Will my smug reply come back to haunt me?
Day One – Munich to Bad Tolz – 82 km – (Ascent 485m Descent 295m)

Leaving Munich I followed the Isar River on the Isar Radweg. (Radweg is German for cycle path or bike trail)

Swimmers at the Isar River.
Swimmers at the Isar River.

The trail starts out flat and crowded with Munichers riding to their favorite swimming spot in the river. I’m lulled into the lazy days of summer mentality until I reach a downed tree blocking the path. Perhaps I missed the “detour” sign but soon I found myself on single dirt tracks in the woods: rolling hills, switch backs, rocks, gravel, sand, you name it. But I was enjoying myself. I could smell the scent of pine and feel the softness of pine needles under my tires. I was relishing the cool shade from the canopy of pines. And I only had to push up one small hill. So far so good.

Lots of mountain bikers were also enjoying these trials.
Lots of mountain bikers were also enjoying these trials.

Day Two – Bad Tolz to Benediktbauren – 80 km (Ascent 528m Descent 420 m)

At Bad Tolz, I left the Isar Radweg and joined up with the Bodensee-Konigssee-Radweg. The trail is well-marked but not always the most direct route. Usually when the route took, what I considered a detour, it usually brought me by an interesting landmark or view.

Most of the hills were gradual grades carved through rolling hills of farmlands. There were beautiful vistas of fields of clover, daisies, and sunflowers dotted with cows wearing clanging bells and baroque style church steeples in valleys and distant hill tops. The reward for the long, slow climb was a breathtaking, winding downhill with all the thrill of the Tour de France minus the danger of collisions with other cyclists.

Day Three – Benediktbauren to Fussen- 85 km – (Ascent 660m Descent 498 m)

This would be a peaceful place to spend the night.
This would be a peaceful place to spend the night.

Before getting into rhythm of cycling, I stopped at the Kloster of Benediktbauren. If wish I would have know about the Kloster (which I think means cloister and peaceful nuns) beforehand because I would have spent the night in one of the guest rooms. The church, the nunnery and the Kloster grounds are beautiful and worth a visit.

There are lots of crosses dotting the hills.Some of from the 1800s.
There are lots of crosses dotting the hills.Some of from the 1800s.

The rest of the day was cycling up and down hills with plenty of stops admire the views and take photos. Long before reaching Fussen, I got my first magical views of Neuschwanstein Castle. If I had more time, I would have spent another day in this area to visit the castle and swim in the lake.

Day Three – Fussen to Lindau 124 km  (Ascent1060m Descent 1429m)

One of many ski areas.
One of many ski areas.

This was a long, hard day made even longer and harder by the fact that I was using both a Open Street Maps route that I loaded onto my Garmin and trying to follow the Bodensee-Konigsee-Radweg signs. There were many places they conflicted. At one point, trying to avoid a very steep uphill on a very busy road as Garmin suggested, I detoured and followed the Radweg signs. This change added 20 km longer to the day’s ride through some beautiful places, but…….I STILL had to climb the very steep hill (16% according to the sign). My smugness to CEB was coming back to haunt me.

Riding along the edge of the hill.
Riding along the edge of the hill.

In spite of the hills and the length of the day, I was happy. I cycled past ski areas and beautiful mountain towns and got ideas for further winter cross-country ski vacations and summer mountain biking trips.

Day Four – Lindau to Berlingen, Switzerland 80 km (of which 17km is on the ferry between Meersbourg and Konstanz) (Ascent 151m descent 140 m)

The ride was flat but lots of grapes were growing on the hills.
The ride was flat but lots of grapes were growing on the hills.

This ride was a pleasant reprieve from the grueling hills of the past few days. And, there are TONS of cycle tourists making a trip around the Bodensee. (4 days 150 km) so it was always interesting and entertaining. The paths were packed with bicycles, trailers, tandems, electric cycles, toddler bicycles, wheelchairs, dogs in baby carriers, todders walking two-wheel pedals bikes and trying to keep up with dad on his touring bike, families in matching cycling shirts, women’s clubs, men’s clubs and soloists like me. It was a hoot.

Ferry from Meersburg to Konstanz
Ferry from Meersburg to Konstanz

However, after the ferry ride when I saw the mobs of tourists crowding downtown Kontanz, I lost all desire to sight-see and decided to move on. I stopped under shady tree, booked a hotel 19 km down the road and left the hustle and bustle of tourism central.

I crossed the border into Switzerland barely 1 kilometer outside of Konstanz.

I even remembered to walk across the street to the German customs office to get my shopping receipts stamp for the VAT refund. (lots of clothes shopping to send Eric back to work.)

Day Five – Berlingen, Switzerland to Waldshut, Germany -82 km (530 m ascent 590 m descent.)

I found tranquility in this town. I ma have been the only tourist.
I found tranquility in this town. I ma have been the only tourist.

After a restless night’s sleep in my very new, 100% handicap accessible hotel – the room was hot and the adjustable hospital bed illicits too many memories of hospital stays- i headed west along the Swiss side of the Rhine river. I crossed back into Germany at Steig am Rhine, a great little place to spend the night, stop for coffee or visit a museum. But, the bus loads of tourists causing a 20 minutes wait at the WC motivated me to cycle on.

I got quite lost due to road construction detours near Schaffhausen, and never really got back my navigation confidence for the day. As a matter of fact, at one point I was out in the mucky, dark, rocky 4WD boonies wondering if my cell phone had enough charge to send pings if I never made it to my final destination.

I thought I was lost when I cycled through this lumber mill in the Black Forest.
I thought I was lost when I cycled through this lumber mill in the Black Forest.

But, I needn’t have worried. The beautify of old countries is that all the land has been claimed, mapped, and cultivated for centuries and eventually leads to somewhere. Sure enough, a road sign deep in the middle of the dark forest assured me I was on the right road AND told me I only had 29 kilometers to go.

The last half of the ride was predominately downhill. While dropping 500 meters in elevation (1500 feet) to almost sea level the temperatures climbed disproportionately. When I finally reached civilization (to me this means a well-stocked ice cream cafe) I stopped, gobbled up a five scoop bowl of ice cream and began my search for hotels.

Wouldn’t you know that this was the first time in 10 months that lodging was scare? The best I could find was Goal Motel/Tennis/Soccer. (Yep, that’s the name). But, I was happy to have a bed AND to meet our friend Manfred (see Dalat ride) for a beer and dinner.

This is the perfect motel is you're a soccer team having a week sports camp.
This is the perfect motel is you’re a soccer team having a week sports camp.

Day Six – Waldshut to Basel, Switzerland -72 km (Ascent 311m descent 359 m).

I woke up on the wrong side of the bunk bed because a) who puts flannel sheets of a bunk bed in the middle of summer in a non air-conditioned room and b) who charges for a quad when the hotel is closer to empty than full and c) what sucker uses booking.com to book a bunk bed in a youth camp? (Don’t answer that last question.)

The water on the river is still calm early in the morning.
The water on the river is still calm early in the morning.

Anyway, the good thing about bad accommodations is that it gets me on the road much earlier in the morning. This is a big help due to the stifling heat and baking sun of early August in Germany/Switzerland.

There were two exceptional parts to this day’s ride and they both happened at Bad Sackingen: The first was eating a pint of fresh raspberries that I purchased at the street market, and the second was crossing the border on a covered bridge.

The covered bridge between Germany and Switzerland at Bad Sackingen.
The covered bridge between Germany and Switzerland at Bad Sackingen.

The remainder of the ride on the Swiss side of the Rhine got very industrial with many manufacturing plants for large pharmaceutical companies: Roche, Bayer, etc. By the time I got to the old town (Stadtmitte) it appeared that most of the residents of Basel were floating down the Rhine River to escape the heat of the city.. I was ready to jump in and join them but I didn’t have one of the floating “pillows” that bob behind them so the river boats can see them.

There is no beach on the sides of the river so there are these sunbathing platforms dotting the river in Basel.
There is no beach on the sides of the river so there are these sunbathing platforms dotting the river in Basel.

I’ve highly recommend this ride especially because there are hills!