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Monday, May 12, 2008

Ebersberg/Salzburg/Traunstein Tour

Salzburg Trip

It was a 3 day weekend in Bavaria, so I took the opportunity to do a longer, multi-day. I packed my saddlebag with the usual touring equipment, and met with Chris Brown at 9am to catch the train to Ebersberg to start. The train to Ebersberg took 45 minutes, so it was 10:15 by the time we got started. I discovered that unless you get your waypoints absolutely correct on Garmin's Mapsource program, the GPS unit's routing algorithm differs from what runs on your PC, which results in discrepancy between what you see on the computer screen and what finally shows up on the GPS unit.

No matter, I picked a direction and immediately started riding. It didn't take long, however, for me to hear a rubbing noise coming from the tire. I stopped to check, and discovered that it was indeed the fender rubbing against the tire --- the right rear screw holding the fender to the eyelet had fallen off. I cannibalized an unused screw and all was well, but it wasn't an auspicious start to the tour. Since I no longer trusted the GPS, I got out a map sheet I had torn out of the Deutschland Atlas the night before. After conferring with a local, we headed towards Jacobneuharting and Roti am Inn. The day was beautiful and warming quickly, and we climbed and descended from one river valley to another.

The GPS unit finally kicked in at some point and routed us towards the Inn river crossing. There was a strong north east wind blowing, but it didn't bother us very much --- at the bottom of the river valleys, we were shielded from the wind, and we were heading south-east anyway, which meant that half the wind vector was helping us.

We headed across the Inn river, and saw on our left hand side the Mozart bike trail, which looped around the greater Salzburg area. It wasn't heading where we wanted to go, however, so we stayed on the busy highway and turned off within 2km towards Berg and Vogtareuth, where we found some of the nicest riding we had seen so far. From there, we headed towards Sochtenau and Bad Endorth via the narrowest roads I could spot by eye and on the map, and eventually ended up having lunch between the Hartsee and the Langenburnge See in a restaurant/bier-garten by the side of the road. There was only one busy highway there, so after lunch we followed it until Weisham where a right turn brought us finally to Breitbrunn and our first look at the Chimsee.

Just before Mitterndorf we headed onto the bike path for a while (which was dirt), but discovered quickly that the path was literally too buggy to ride on --- you couldn't even open your mouth or an insect would get in. Poor Chris swallowed an insect this way. "Tasty," he said. So we got back onto the road and rode around to Seebuck, where the views got much better. Once there, we found n unpaved bike path along the estuary towards Chieming. This one wasn't as buggy, and we happily rode along it, enjoying the shade, the views out to our right (no car driver would ever see this view), and the large number of cyclists out enjoying the day.

At Chieming, we stopped for ice-cream, and stared at the private beach in wonder --- it looked idyllic, but neither of us were willing to pay the entry fee just to get a photo, so I leaned over the fence and shot a few pictures. Once we left the Chiemsee, the traffic picked up, especially towards the freeway, but so did our tail wind. We zipped along past the freeway, towards Grassau, but once over the freeway the road narrowed and the traffic got annoying. As we rode over the Ache river, I noticed a bike path along it and pulled over.

A close examination of the map showed that the river led directly to Marquartstein, where we had reservations for the night, so we abandoned the pavement once again and rode up the river on the glorious bike path. It was a beautiful bike path, with wide vistas of mountain views, and a relatively good surface. Near Grassau, we got diverted off the bike path because of construction, and didn't bother getting on again because we were so close and i didn't want to miss a turn into the Hotel.

I needn't have worried, since the hotel's location was pretty obvious, but when I got in, the hotel didn't have a record of my reservation. That being the case, I got out my blackberry and showed the owner the record of my reservation. He apologized and gave us an apartment suite --- the largest hotel room I'd seen for a while, for the sae price (69 Euros for both of us, including breakfast). We both delighted at this stroke of luck, and promptly took showers to wash off the road grime before heading into town for dinner, where prices were much lower than I'd gotten used to in Munich. Chris was surprised that we stopped so early (5pm), but I noted that he was plenty tired even so. In fact, he was so tired he turned in at 8:30pm. I read for a bit more before going to bed at 10:00pm.

We both got up around 6:30am, and after a shower and a brief discussion of what was to come today, we headed down and found a fabulous breakfast. The PrinzRegent Hotel definitely has my endorsement --- Chris was on his first overnight bike tour and commented at the favorable price --- I pointed out that we had deliberately stayed off the beaten path to get these prices.

We headed up the mountain towards Riet im Winkl. Along the way in Oberwassen, I noticed a sign for the Achetal bike loop. We got off the road to have a look see, but the loop was exceedingly short and we didn't save any time because of it, though we did have a nice diversion because of it. Back on the main road, the hill started going up, and finally we crested Maserer-Pass at 793m. This was Chris' first mountain pass, so we stopped for a photo before descending into Entfelden, where we turned off onto the Deustche Alpenstrasse. The traffic here was very annoying, so I was glad to find the Mozart bike path here did indeed go where we were going. The dirt path was a little looser than usual, and my rear wheel spun here and there, but it was quite manageable on 25mm tires. I wasn't willing to put up with dirt on a descent, however, so once the road leveled out, we abandoned the otherwise scenic Mozart path for the main road, which wound around the Weitsee, Mittersee, and Lodensee here, making for a gorgeous ride.

It was a short descent into the junction, where we turned away from Ruhpolding and started the climbg towards the Zwingsee. Here the traffic dropped and the scenery started to look really good. We rolled around for a bit and then hit the sudden, steep descent where we turned towards Bad Reichenhall. The traffic picked up, and I decided that German engineering for fast roads does not a good cycle road make. We tooled along, using bike paths whenever possible but staying on the road where not. While German drivers are generally competent, there's still something harrowing about a big bus over taking you with 12 inches to spare. I was glad when the road started descending steeply and I could take the lane, since I was going as fast as or faster than the cars. The roads were engineered such that even I had not used my brakes at all on any of the descents in the Deutsche Alpenstrasse.

In Bad Reichenhall, Chris decided that it being mother's day, he should go see his mom, so we ate a quick lunch, and said farewell to each other. At this point, the GPS kicked in, and I followed the directions into Salzburg, where I passed the airport (which looked like a great airport to ride into or out of) before finding my way near the university and finally across the Inn river once again. As before, I spotted a bike path and ignored the GPS to follow it out of Salzburg. This one was paved, and being along the Inn river, was flat and crowded with Sunday cyclists. I played "dodge em" for a bit but once out of the city proper, the bike path quickly emptied and I could tool along until I hit Bergheim, where the GPS once again beeped at me to exit the bike path. Seeing that I was but 20km away from Seeham, I acquiesced and to my delight found that I was out into the small country roads that I so loved.

My delight was further compounded when I discovered that the route took me steeply up into the woods, where it was shaded and the climbing was steep enough for me to switch to the inner chain ring. I rode up into Voggenberg, Trainting, and other towns with such names, and soon realized that I was following the ridge-line. I guess I deliberately put in way points to stay off the big roads, and this was paying off. Seeing the icons of cyclists along the way made me realize that this was a major cycling recreational area. The wind had picked up at this point, so it was slow going even up the hill, though the wind also meant that I never overheated. Neither words nor pictures can overstate how pretty this area was --- the last time I saw something this pretty was in the Lakes District in England, during our 2006 Coast to Coast walk.

Just as I was tiring, the GPS guided me down a steep hill and I was in Seeham, where a quick jog along the main road followed by a steep climb led me to Hotel Walkner, where I did not even have to introduce myself to the receptionist/waitress before she greeted me by name, being the only Asian person showing up that day. She showed me to my room, and the Englishman drinking a beer at the bar showed me where to stash my bike. I then ordered an ice-cream (well, they didn't have any, but they gave me a cake with ice cream over it), then took a shower. The pool was too cold to swim, so I read for a bit before having dinner.

At dinner, the hotel manager made a point of coming up to greet me, and had something sent to me from the kitchen as a greeting. The Salzburg snitzel was also excellent, as was the asparagus minestrone soup. I was impressed by the whole lot. As other guests filed in, I greeted Peter, the English lorry driver, and got him to recommend a few places to go, since he holiday'd in the region quite a bit. I then spotted 3 other cyclists who'd come in a bit after I did, and inquired as to where they came from. It turned out that they had ridden in that day from Salzburg, and were on the EuroPro self-guided tour --- they were handed route sheets, their luggage got ferried between stops, and their hotels were pre-booked. They had a GPS unit with them, so I gave them a card so they could e-mail me their GPS logs when they were done.

I woke up the next morning hungry, and headed down to eat as much as I could. I then grabbed an apple, paid my bills (45 Euros for the room and breakfast --- no complaints from me, given the service they provided), and headed out and around the lake before heading north to Berndorf where I would start my return towards Trauntstein, where I could catch a train back to Munich. I had prepared a different route earlier that would have me circumnavigate more of the Austrian lakes (and seeing as they were very pretty), but that would have taken me through Salzburg again, and I decided there that two Salzburg traversals in one trip was one two many. Besides, I had laundry to do, and it would be nice to get some rest.

The ride to Oberndorf was pretty and as scenic as the day before, and I once again took advantage of a high ridge road. Past Oberndorf, I was impressed by how my GPS unit had picked a route that other cyclists had also picked. Hoping to pick up more rural roads, I turned off the main road at the sign pointing towards Strass, and soon found myself lost in the twisty curves, relyng on my GPS to guide me. At some point, it became too much trouble to get out a map, so I just followed the GPS along the Waginger See and over the bridge separating the eastern end of the lake from the western end of the lake. The unit gave me a nice route to follow but as is wont to do too often, dumped me onto a main road 10km away from Traunstein. Fortunately, I spied a bike route sign and quickly left the main road, where the traffic while not too annoying was not what I wanted.

The bike route returned me to the main road about 3km from Traunstein, and there I gave in and followed the GPS's directions, which led me to the train station at 1:10pm, where I had enough time to buy train tickets and eat an ice cream before the train arrived.

All in all, the trip was 273km with 280km with 2705m of climb. There was only one mechanical (loose fender bolt), and the weather was perfect in every way. I can't wait to explore more of the lakes area of Austria.

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