Dear Followers! Its time for me to write my first update from the Danube. It has been exhausting, surprising and interesting, and I am getting along well. At present I am in a cafe in Metten, near Deggendorf. 10 days ago I have left the Black Forest from Donaueschingen, the official source of the Danube, and followed her path by bike, train, ferry and car. Because I have only limited time, I decided to use all kinds of transportation I feel like, so I can be in Brasov, Romania by the 7th of August. My main means of conveyance, however, is my great bicycle that I named “Gwenyver Feather India”.
I will be describing each day shortly and add a few pictures. This post is more logical than insightful, for those who know me as a rather emotional or spiritual blogger. I am sure I will be able to write more personal articles once I arrive in Romania. Right now I am mainly focussing on the path and finding a place to stay for the night and a shower. ;) Anyhow, enjoy!
Donaueschingen – Fridingen [54 km]
For the first two days, my absolutely amazing dad accompanied me (who had also helped me a lot with my project beforehand, drove my bike around town when it needed fixing, provided a few fixings himself and motivated me with his optimism, always standing behind my ideas. Thanks dad!) . He is super fit on the bike and on his way back, he drove in one day what I needed two for.
On day 1 we made it from Donaueschingen, the source of the Danube to Fridingen, which is 54 kilometers. It was a beautiful day, sunny and hot.
Fridingen – Sigmaringen [43km]
On the second day, my father already had to almost force me to move further. I was tired from the last day, taking in count that I was not trained at all. But he won – and we headed from Fridingen (with a stop at the monastery in Beuron) all the way to Sigmaringen, where we stayed in a hotel room. Again it was a very hot and sunny day, and I was very, very tired that night.
Sigmaringen – Mengen by bike [15 km]
Mengen – Ulm by train [70 km]
In Sigmaringen, my father’s trip ended and he drove back to Donaueschingen – and for me, the trip was just about to really start! All alone, I started to cycle further the path along the still small Danube, but the tiredness of the last two days caught me, and I decided to take a break and jump into the train in Mengen. The “jumping” part did not work out that well though… I had my heavily packed bike that needed to be lifted around one meter up the stairs into one of these old Regionalexpress trains. I had to let pass by two trains, until I found the courage to try and enter that bike without help. But I finally made it, and found myself in Ulm on a friday afternoon.
I made my way to the only hostel in Ulm and, surprise, it was fully booked for the whole weekend. (It was the biggest weekend of the year in Ulm – on Sunday Neil Young was going to perform in city center for the big celebration of the annual Ulmer “Schwoerwoche“).
The nice girl from the hostel described me the way to a small camping area in the city, where I placed my tent for the night. Soon after I was ready for bed, a huge amount of modern RVs landed on the few parking spaces and a bunch of Berliners started to pitch their enormous tents and blow up their mattresses. I had forgotten how crazy Germany is in the summer months! I had been very spoiled from quiet Ireland. Here we talk about 85 Million people trying to have some vacations in July and August….
Day 4 Ulm
I decided to take a full day”s break from cycling that day. I got up early in the morning, sat in a cafe and started writing Couchsurfing requests. Quickly after, I had a positive response from Vaclav and his girlfriend Claire. Awesome! That day the weather had it’s peak at 36 degrees, and it was incredibly humid. I spent most of the day in a small and nice cafe called “Kaffee & Panini“, where I observed the young dreadlocked waiter screwing things up frequently, until I started feeling sorry for him, and then went over to the bookshelf and picked the first book that my hand found randomly. It was called “Geh, wohin dein Herz dich traegt” (Go, wherever your heart carries you”). Despite the slightly cheesy title, it turned out to be a great book and the more I read, the less I could put it down. It were letters written by a grandmother to her niece, who had left to travel America and hadn’t talked to her since then. I was very happy that the book found me and I couldn’t get comfortable with the idea to leave it at the cafe unfinished, so when I asked, I was very happy to hear that I was free to take it with me.
At 4 pm I found myself pushing my bike up the hill to the place where my hosts lived. I had to take occasional breaks in the shadow of a tree – for the heat was almost unbearable. It has been a hot summer so far, sun on my way every day, but I was craving the rain by now. When I finally made it to the apartment of my hosts Vaclav from Czech Republic, Claire from France and their cute newborn Nina, it was like heaven. I took a cold shower and sat down for nice conversations, and they made sure I have everything I needed. I could even wash my clothes. Thanks guys!
Ulm – Gundelfingen [40km]
According to the forecast, there was supposed to be rain and thunderstorms that evening. I left my hosts house around 10 am and cycled through a not very easy path. I stopped at two lakes to refresh myself from the strong heat. After I had already lost my way once for a few kilometers, I struggled over the last ones and gave up the fight in Gundelfingen, where it was starting to rain a little. I wasn’t feeling very well, in retrospective, I probably should have taken it easier, given the high amounts of ozone in the atmosphere that day. As I didn’t make it to the camping ground I had planned for that night, I stayed in a guesthouse with an enormous room and bathroom for 42 Euros; a price that I hope to have been the highest I pay for a night! However, it was worth it, even though it finally didn’t rain that night.
Gundelfingen – Donauwoerth [50 km]
That day was the easiest so far. The path was always straight and for the first time there were clouds over the entire sky, so the temperature was very comfortable. What was special that day: I experienced the first strong rain of my trip. For 10 kilometers I had to cover under my rain poncho :) Arriving at the planned destination Donauwoerth, that was still dry, I found the slightly hidden campground and pitched my tent right before the heavy rain reached us again. It then rained the whole night including thunder and lightning… but I slept like a baby and my awesome trekking tent stayed superdry inside.
Donauwoerth – Stepperg [26 km]
After the last day being the easiest cycling day, this has been by far the hardest. The path from Donauwoerth going east starts with 15 kilometers of heavy slopes! I spent most of the morning pushing my bike. The weather was incredibly humid and even though it almost constantly drizzled, I only wore my t-shirt because everything else made me simply sweat too much to handle. Strangely, that morning there were a lot of people with me on the way, compared to most other times when I was completely alone. I saw everyone struggling up the slopes, but nobody had as much luggage as I. I killed my thigh muscles pedaling or pushing upwards, and was released near Marxheim, where I had to take just another easy 10 km along the Danube until the next big town. I hoped to make it to Neuburg, but after all that I was happy if I reached Rennertshausen without dropping dead.
The last hurdle I had to take shortly before Rennertshausen, when the cycle road was flooded by a stream. There was no way around, and my motto is “no turning back” – so Feather and I had to go through, which was more fun than expected.
When I finally made it to a guesthouse in Stepperg that had a last free room, all the exhaustion came over me. Again I was very lucky with the room – it had cold beer available, and I could relax on the terrace using the fast WiFi provided. I didn’t manage to leave the house again – and allowed myself the big luxury of ordering a pizza into my room.
Stepperg – Neuburg [10 km]
This day I decided to take it easy again, and head to the closeby city Neuburg. I pitched my tent already around noon at the local campground. Staying the day in Neuburg was the best decision! The weather was nice and sunny again, without being too humid. First I went sun bathing and swimming in the local “Freibad” and after that, I hung around cafes and organic stores. Finally, in the evening, I went into the old town which is very beautiful to have a beer in a place with the best view over the Danube (Restaurant “Schoene Aussicht”) and watch the sunset, before I went to sleep at the luckily very quiet campground.
Day 9 – 112 km
Neuburg – Neustadt by train [50 km]
Neustadt – Weltenburg by bike [15 km]
Weltenburg – Kelheim by ferry [10 km]
Kelheim – Poikam by bike [12 km]
Poikam – Regensburg by train [25 km]
What an exciting day. I decided to skip a few kilometers and head straight to Regensburg. Again, the weather was hot and sunny, but luckily not too hot. I jumped in the train from Neuburg to Neustadt, passing the big town Ingolstadt. From Neustadt I cycled to the monastery of Weltenburg, where I could take a ferry through the “Donaudurchbruch“. Me and my bike cost around 8 Euros from there to Kelheim. It was obviously full of tourists, that oftentimes covered the view to the pretty cliffs, but with the fair sky it was still a comfortable ride. In Kelheim I quickly stopped to drink a local Weltenburger dark beer, which was GREAT. I decided to rename my trip to “Bavarian Beer testing trip” and continued towards Regensburg. It was starting to get very hot again, and I had a quick swim in the Danube (which I will probably not do too often, due to the doubtful state of cleanliness of the already very big river) and after 15 km I used the train station of a VERY tiny town called Poikam to take the train into Regensburg.
In Regensburg I was very well taken care of by friends of my family.
Unfortunately, the camera, that I was using for almost a year (and was a present from an acquaintance in California last year) has stopped working, so it is not clear how many pictures I will be able to provide in the near future.
Regenburg – Deggendorf by car [73 km]
Zeljko, the lovely friend from Regensburg took me and Feather all the way from Regensburg to Metten, where I was provided my own room at a family’s house. That was just incredible! The afternoon I spent in their cool alternative Cafe in Deggendorf “Cafe Holler” and started writing this article.
So now I am still on a break – told myself not to leave Metten town before finishing this blog post. It is still hot and sunny, the weather beats all the forecasts of rain and thunders. I will see how it will be the next days, when I will start heading to Passau, Linz and then Vienna! Wish me luck! :)