Posted on July 24 2020
A Day on the Mountain Bikes in the Bavarian Alps, Germany
Earlier on this particular trip to Europe, we had once again visited the Czech Republic, with some time in Plzen and Prague after flying into Munich from Perth, Western Australia.
We then travelled by train to the small southern German town of Sonthofen, where we were met by our dear friend Emilie who hosted us for several days in this delightful part of the world in the Bavarian Alps.
Emilie and Jurgen, took us on an amazing Saturday ride into the mountains of the Oberallgäu region, Bavaria, very close to the Austrian border. This is a popular area for skiing in winter, and for mountain climbing, hiking and mountain biking in summer.
The previous day we had hired Merida mountain bikes from the local bike shop in Sonthofen, so we were ready for the weekend activities with our friends.
Setting out on a crisp Saturday morning along the valley of the Ostrach River, which was “picture book beautiful”, we were lulled into a sense that this would be a casual kind of ride. We just followed Emilie and Jurgen, who were leading us into the Allgäu High Alps nature reserve. This was only one day and 50km of cycling, but a day that built beautiful memories of friendship and amazing scenery.
|Sonthofen cycling the Ostrach River in the Hinterstein Valley|
|Even the locals needed to read the maps and signs.|
The riverside trails took us past the village of Bad Hindelang, past the ski gondola to Imberger Horn, to the old Hammer Mill blacksmith (Obere Hammerschmiede) on the river at Bad Oberdorf which was an interesting stop to view this craftsman’s workshop. The valley pastures were so rich in their ‘greenness’ with purple, gentian blue, pink and yellow alpine flowers popping up on the side of the trails. The river flowed strongly with the iciness of a mountain stream, the sky was clear and blue with the contrails from the unseen jets flying overhead crisscrossing the sky.
Our ride continued through Bruck and then we headed into the forest on the trails to Hinterstein – staying on the other side of the river to the town to visit Kutschenmuseum (The Carriage Museum) with an indoor collection filling a labyrinth of rooms and passageways containing everything imaginable with a good collection of early horse drawn carriages and a field of outdoor bronze sculptures.
|Hinterstein - Kutschenmuseum (The Carriage Museum)|
Continuing along this road we climbed through the untouched forest to look down into the steep heavily timbered Eisenbreche gorge (Eisenbreche Klamm) where the Ostrach river carves a narrow path into the Hinterstein Valley. The greenest of trees hanging over the narrow winding road and covering the steep slopes of the gorge, with the snow capped mountains beyond. We were glad to be enjoying the lookout into the gorge as buses squeezed past each other and around the sharp corners with rock walls.
Once through the high slopes of the gorge we dropped back down to the river side and the more open valley passing the quaint riverside wooden Hubertuskapelle (Hubertus chapel) and to Giebelhaus (1067m).
|Natural forest and steep gorge of Eisenbreche gorge|
|Some remnants of snow around Hubertuskapelle soon headed towards me.|
“Now we climb” they say to us; as we turned and faced the heartening sign showing a gradient of 20%. "We will go to Schwarzenberghütte for a beer". A climbing hut which offered food and warmth above the snow line, so we were to discover. “Only a couple of kilometres!” they say.
|Stopping for a breather, they all pelted me with snow!|
The first part of the climb was going alright, steady, steady, but then we turned right into another lesser road through the pine forest and hit the steep section. We were now above the snow-line and had to stop for a snowball fight amongst the trees, ducking for cover with every incoming snow bomb. We were typical excited West Australians, for whom snow is such a novelty even though we have enjoyed skiing holidays multiple times.
From our resting point the road wound higher, out of the forest into alpine meadows partly covered with snow, and 3 out of the 4 of us just had to take a rest and walk for a section where the gradient reached its steepest, before managing to cycle the last stretch to the top to make it look like we’d cycled all the way up as we arrived at the hut. Emilie, pregnant at the time, pedalled all the way. What a woman!
|The final climb up to Schwarzenberghütte|
It was now mid-afternoon and arriving gasping and hot at Schwarzenberghütte, we were eagerly awaiting some refreshments. We couldn’t go inside immediately, as when we poked our heads in the door we were overwhelmed with the heat. We’d just ridden up a mountain with quite a lot of clothes on and we were steaming. It was necessary to have a cool down time first, requiring an immediate strip down to basics whilst still outside, with some more snowball throwing involved.
With a rapid drop in our body temperatures, we were then able to venture inside (after donning our clothes again!) into the over-heated bar to order our beer and soup to fuel us for our return cycle. It was so snug inside with superb views of the mountains with their snow covering and the green forests and valleys below. Fairyland kind of stuff for us Australians, just the back yard for Emilie and Jurgen. The nearby Giebel peak rises to 1948m. Reluctantly we had to leave this mountain hut full of warmth and chattering weekend hikers and start our return cycle.
|Cooling off at Schwarzenberghütte prior to beer and soup.|
The Descent and Return Cycle to Sonthofen.
Pulling all of our layers of clothes back on, it was back onto our bikes for the return cycle. To our disgust on the way down the mountain, at the steepest point, where we had walked, we met an elderly local gentleman gently pedalling his way up for his afternoon pint. He was considerably older than us and his cycling attire was gum boots, working overalls and coat, and riding uprightly on a very old steel bicycle. With a grunted greeting as we crossed paths, this was obviously his daily practice and his legs were well attuned to this mountain climb.
On the downhill rush we had the fun of catching up to large tractor occupying the entire road, who we then had to follow all the way back down to the river valley with our brakes burning all the way. It possibly saved us from tackling the descent too aggressively and kept us safe from all oncoming traffic.
On the return cycle we went through the village of Bad Oberdorf where the local cows were wandering through the street making their way to their evening milking session we presumed, with their cowbells jangling as they clopped along the main street, followed by the farmer.
As the day drew to a close we took the faster cycling route on the main roads, with Jurgen, keen to get home, leaving us all in his wake. Arriving back in Sonthofen we were greeted by a merry group of locals in traditional attire singing and lining up for a Saturday night session at the local bar.
After warming ourselves up with hot showers, we ventured outside again to sit around the fire pit with beers and a heart-warming meal as the sun set and the chill set in. Only one day of cycling 50km, but a day we will always remember as another special cycling adventure. Our heartfelt thanks to Emilie and Jurgen for sharing their home patch with us.
|The locals of Oberdorf|
|The Saturday evening locals of Sonthofen|
|Cheers for friends|
Moving on to the next adventure
The next day Emilie & Jurgen kindly drove us west to Meersburg where we farewelled them and caught the ferry across Lake Constance (Bodensee) to Konstanz, a small enclave of German territory on the south side of the lake where the Rhine River flows out. Crossing the border here into the adjoining Swiss town of Kreuzlingen.
Here we met up with 6 other friends from Western Australia to begin our 7 day Swiss cycling tour. It is always such fun to meet up with friends when travelling in a foreign country. It was hugs all around and a lot of talking as we all compared notes over wine and an evening meal. Stories told of all the adventures experienced by each couple over the previous weeks in other parts of Europe. We were all very excited to be cycling around Switzerland together and unsure of what the next seven days held in store for us. The next morning was the start of yet another cycling adventure. You can read about this adventure in our Swiss Cycle Tour Blog.
Jen & Greg
... Just Ride and Go Explore
We rode this in 2014. We read with sadness that early in 2020 a large part of the Kutschenmuseum (The Carriage Museum) at Hinterstein was destroyed by fire. We wish them well and hope that this interesting museum can be reopened.
We had also planned to visit Emilie and Jurgen (and their 3 daughters) again in 2020 on another cycling adventure. Unfortunately this trip was cancelled due to CoVID-19. See the plan in our Cycle Tour Czech Germany Plan Cancelled Blog.
|Alpine meadow flowers Blue Bavarian Gentians|
Below: Ride map plotted on Komoot - Showing our 1 day ride