Passau was a chocolate-box little town and our campsite was equally charming, right next to the river. However, even in such a pretty setting there was ugliness. I’m ashamed to say the full force of our tent snobbery unleashed itself. We’ve seen some pretty shoddy looking tents in our travels, but the worst by a country mile was erected in Passau. G and I couldn’t help but descend into fits of giggles when we saw the tent in question and even more so when we saw the owner of the tent sleeping outside it in the morning. See tent picture below for a good idea of what I mean.
Leaving Passau, some bright spark had the idea of making some spheres to scale of the planets and putting them along the trail. I knew that the distances were huge, but this really hammered it home, it took so long to cycle to Neptune I was beginning to think they had forgotten to include it. It was a nice touch on the cycle path which proved itself to be sufficient rather than efficient (as we would expect from the Germans) over the next few days.
That night we found a nice spot in a campsite (we still hadn’t passed poor Pluto – I’m assuming it got chopped when it was reclassified rather than we hadn’t reached the required distance) and watched hundreds of house martins swooping in under the eves of a farmhouse to feed their chicks in their nests.
Our ride the next day began in the best way – with a stop at a bakery for a strudel, chocolate milk and a second strudel… We were then accosted by a cyclist heading the other way who was desperately trying to tell us something. Looking at the map to see what the problem might be we saw that there was a hill in the way and the official EV6 route included a ferry to avoid it. Having not been up a decent hill in a while we were looking forward to it so stayed on the path. For a while everything was going well, then the path became just a gravel track and our wheels just span out with each pedal push. After all the hills we have done this year (and including a mountain or two) it was galling to have to get off and push my bike because the trail was too poor and I was not pleased to find that pushing a loaded bike is harder than cycling it uphill! We used all our mountain bike experience (of which there is very little) to safely get down the other side of the trail and as soon as the road flattened out, it was tarmacked again; work that out.
Like Austria, Germany is festooned with castles and almost every town we went through there was a magnificent building to ogle. It made arriving in towns very pleasant and none more so than when we arrived in Neuburg. Overlooking the river from a small hill is a magnificent cluster of buildings that put even the other magnificent buildings in Germany to shame. We toyed with staying in Neuburg as we knew it also had a campsite but we were keen to get to Zurich and meet Michelle and Nico so had to cover a decent number of kilometers each day. Besides, our map said Marxheim had a campsite so we’d be fine.
We weren’t fine. The campsite didn’t exist and apparently never had. We tried several places to stay – they were closed and so we cycled ourselves into a tizzy. G and I were not very happy but it worked out when we found a pub that rented rooms. Phew.
The following day we were enjoying the undulations of the EV6 in Germany and at the top of one climb found ourselves amongst a group of cycle tourists about to set off. Going downhill, I overtook a fair few of them and once the hill started I reeled in the front-runners desperately trying to make it look effortless. Meanwhile, the tourists had seen Georgi and rushed past her on the downhill as she took it easy and just rolled. This group of guys clearly thought G would not keep up with them on the hill. They were so wrong. Georgi powered past these hapless, very serious looking cycle tourists with the hint of smile lighting up her face. When G caught up with me we had a good chuckle about the number of jaws that were on the floor after she left them for dust. Gentlemen everywhere, and cyclists in particular – underestimate Georgi at your peril – she’ll crush your ego with a single pedal push.
The campsite that night did exist but sadly they didn’t have any hot water and it smelt like it had been sprayed with pig poo recently. Despite having scheduled a rest day the following day, we resolved to stay only one night. The following morning we packed up early and went into Gunzberg and knocked on the door of what our map had told us was a youth hostel… of course our map was wrong. Maps are always wrong when it’s cold and wet. And hotels are all closed to checking in in those conditions too so we warmed ourselves up in the very helpful tourist info office and let someone else do the hard work.
We visited a delicious indian restaurant for lunch and stuffed ourselves silly to make up for the less than perfect evening and morning we’d had and to try and get some warmth in our bones.
When we left Gunzberg we were back to camping and the campsite we stayed at next was again very pleasant, next to a lake with a view of a small town on the hillside in the distance. I chatted to the staff and they took pity on us I think and after returning to my tent one of the campsite wardens came over and gave me two beers. What a legend. They had also mowed a spot especially for us to camp on. It was pretty good service!
Cycling that day there was an amazing moment when Georgi shouted ‘deer’ and then as we got a little closer we discovered the deer in question were in fact hares. Hares are massive – maybe not as big as G’s handlebars as she kept telling me but surprisingly large. It was amazing to see.
Our destination from Gunzberg was Zurich in the most direct route we could manage so this meant we broke up the monotony of the (mostly) flat Eurovelo with some hills. Some were however kinder than others: see picture for reference!
Once we reached Switzerland, it wasn’t only the terrain that was going up – our campsite next to the Rhine in Schaffhaussen was more expensive than any hotel we’d stayed in in Bulgaria, Serbia or Slovakia! Determined to make the most of it, I used the riverside access to have a paddle in the emerald waters of the Rhine. It was an error. So cold.
The river gave us an unexpected delight when we reached Rheinfalls however – an amazing waterfall with a big schloss on one side and big water wheel on the other – it’s a beautiful part of the world.
The excitement we felt about the waterfalls paled into comparison with seeing Nico and Mich who had told us that morning then when we arrived we’d be off to the alps proper for some hiking, mountain air, reclette, games and probably some alcohol. Despite it being almost 9 months since we’d seen the Swiss couple we met diving in Koh Tao, we continued in the same wonderful vein of friendship we’d begun halfway round the world. They whisked us off to the quite magnificently named mountain village of Cunter for two of the best days of our whole travels.
Leaving Zurich and Nico and Mich was a major downer. We parted with long faces and every pedal stroke felt like it was taking us in the wrong direction; couldn’t we just stay?! However, there was a bright light on the horizon; Georgi’s brother was going to meet us in Basel for a few days and mitigate the sadness we felt at leaving our friends.