05 & 06 October 2015 – last days on the Danube; Donauworth and Ulm

These were my last two days pedalling alongside the Danube river, which has been a great experience, and a bit of a bonus after completing my two main tour objectives of Nordkapp to Tarifa, then on to Istanbul. I’d thoroughly recommend the Danube cycle route; the scenery, people, food and culture are all brill. Here are my routes and stats for the last two days; you’ll notice I went a bit wrong on 05 October:

–> 05 October – to Donauworth (170km)
So, yep, 170km pedalled today. I’d love to tell you they were all intentional, however that would be a bit of a fabrication on my part. My main learning was that if you reach a fork in a river, make sure you take the correct fork. To be fair I hardly noticed the river branching, and found the cycle route signs very confusing, and it was foggy, however really it was my own fault for not concentrating more. I added on about 30km to an already long day, and ended up having to go over several large hills, meaning over 1,000m in climbing, resulting in jelly like legs by the time I reached my hostel for the evening.

Thankfully I left Regensburg early, so had enough time to get back on track after my unintentional detour. It was a damp and chilly morning, with thick fog for the first few hours as I made my way up the Danube cycle path. The river meandered somewhat as I made my way to Kelheim, which is where I think I went wrong, heading North West instead of South West up a river that flows into the Danube; the Main Donau Kanal.

I pedalled for miles up my ‘alternative’ route, blissfully unaware of my error as the sun came out, revealing beautiful countryside and lovely small villages and towns. This part of Bavaria, and perhaps Bavaria in general, is simply delightful. I pedalled along saying hello to several other cyclists, passing lots of churches with their bells ringing. I think I was following the Baroque Cycle Tour route, however there are others signposted.

I reached the town of Beilngries and finally got a bit suspicious that perhaps I wasn’t going the right way, and decided to check the map on my phone in a bit more detail. There followed a ‘small’ amount of cursing as I realised I was miles off course, followed by a big and somewhat ride South, fuelled by haribo, on busy roads and over some big hills, to get back to the Danube.

The corrective ride itself was quite pleasant, despite the climbs, as it passed through lots of cool forest; I spotted lots of interesting bird life, and got laughed at by Green Woodpeckers several times, which seemed fitting. It also proved what I’d thought was the case; the terrain is a lot more hilly away from the river! I made it to Eichstätt, then cycled down to Neuburg on der Donau and rejoined the right cycle route. By this point I was feeling quite tired, and still had 40km left to pedal, with several more hills that frankly just hurt.

Needless to say I was pleased to finally make it to Donauworth, after 170km, and glad to have a bed for the night in the Youth Hostel, rather than having to pitch my tent; hostel staff also really friendly, helpful, and sympathetic! I walked down to the nearby supermarket to get some food, and ended up buying far too much as I was famished, however I’m sure it’ll all get eaten eventually.

After eating and a bit of planning I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so retired for the night; my blog might get a bit behind over the next week or so, but I’ll catch up eventually. Planning a short ride tomorrow, to Ulm, with hopefully no further route confusion. I’m also hoping Smaug doesn’t break; my chain is just starting to slip occasionally, the back tyre tread is getting a little sparse, and my brakes need adjusting – fingers crossed he’ll make it back to the UK without having to do much maintenance.

–> 06 October – to Ulm (89km)
As planned (phew) it was a relatively short day’s riding today, and my last alongside the Danube, at least for this tour; I’d quite happily come back. I’ve decided not to follow the river all the way to its source in Donaueschingen, which would mean another day or two of riding, but instead to turn North West tomorrow and head for Strasbourg and France, on my way back home; feels weird thinking that home is only about 700 hundred miles away now.

The hostel breakfast was an excellent affair, with warm bread, cheese, cold meats, butter and jam, fruit and hot chocolate; all hearty fayre for a cycle tourer with lots of miles to cover. After eating my fill I set out, a bit later than usual, and a bit slower, intending on a recovery ride after yesterday’s epic if somewhat unanticipated lengthy ride.

The route didn’t always follow the Danube; for the first section I was next to the main road, on a cycle path, before joining quiet country roads.

I passed through several picturesque towns, then stopped for a picnic with about 20km to go to Ulm.

I made it to Ulm in good time, mostly thanks to no erroneous detours, and found the Brickstone Hostel I’d booked for the night after a quick look around the town; it started to rain so I didn’t linger long.

Instead of heading straight out for a further explore I had a snooze, as the cold I’m suffering from is making me feel a tired, even if it’s not directly impacting my cycling. I’d arrived just in time, and a snooze turned out not to be a bad idea, as the light rain turned into storms for the next couple of hours.

Post snooze I chatted to the hostel hostess Anja for a bit, who offered me a few route tips, and some pears from a neighbour’s garden which were very nice, then I headed into Ulm to find some dinner, and to have another look around now the rain had stopped. It was getting on for dusk as I walked around the old town streets, which has some lovely old buildings sitting next to river channels.

For dinner I headed to Barfuber, a traditional Bavarian Pub type place, and had one of the best meals I’ve had in a while; Roast Pork shank with potato salad and dumpling. I think I could get used to Bavarian food, it’s delicious, especially when accompanied by a cold beer. Germany also appears cheap to me, compared with France away; meal was very good value.

I know some people don’t like eating out alone, but I’m used to it now, especially as I do so quite a bit when I’m away for work. I just enjoyed watching what was going on around me, and read my book for a bit. The waiter also supplied me with extra beer gravy, which went very well with the dumpling, and earned him his tip.

Feeling replete I headed back to the Brickstone Hostel and relaxed for a bit before bed. Despite all this fine dining, I noticed my belt needs another hole in it to prevent my trousers falling down; still losing weight, which I guess isn’t too much of a calamity on the health front, but will mean some clothes shopping is needed when I get home.

On towards the Black Forest tomorrow, the land of cuckoo clocks, fairy tales, werewolves and gateau; not sure about the latter. The weather is starting to look a bit dodgy but should be in France in a couple of days.

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