We have now been in Bavaria for almost a week, having left UK on the ferry Dover to Dunkirk at 2 am, Tuesday 21st August. We are going to stay here for a few more days before heading for the bigger, snow topped hills we can see in the distance when we are walking around here. This area is truly wunderbar! Good food, especially the cakes, and the walking, biking and climbing are perfect. The hills are respectfully high (around 2000 metres) but the landscape is lush, heavily wooded and somehow comfortable to be in. We are camped by the highest lake in Germany - Spitzingsee.
We travelled through Germany and stayed a couple of days at a place called Annweiller in the Pfaelzer Wald area. We explored Trifels castle. This classic castle on a hill is the youngest of three castles built on three hill tops in the area. Inside the castle was some incredible history told of a time when Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned here on his way back from the second crusade. Although it was impressive to see the history illustrating the lands and influence of the English Plantagenet monarchy in 12th C Europe, the reasons behind his capture and eventual release (after a couple of years) were every bit as complex as European politics is today.
We moved onto the Bavarian Alps, making a small village called Bayrischzell our base for a couple of days. Having just enjoyed a day in Munich with temperatures in the early 30’s, a change in the weather came as storm clouds were brewing and temperatures dropping. We had not run for days so we got out for a run straight away. A 3 mile up and 3 miles down the big hill (Seeburg) behind the place where the camper van was parked. We got back just as the rain started in earnest. It rained all night, some of the next day and all of the next night.
Bike ride, Rund um di Rotwand
It was quite chilly on the 30K bike ride, and we had underestimated the amount of hard cash needed in Germany - very few places take credit cards - only the largest and most swish eating establishments. This meant that although we called in at a Hutte (a casual place to eat and stay in the hills) we could not eat, but it was in the hutte that I spied a large dish of what looked like pancakes chopped up. This indeed was what it was, covered in apple sauce. This looked like a meal made in heaven and I was very keen to try this myself. Its’s called Kaiserschmarrn and a couple of days later we did manage to eat this local delicacy. It’s not as easy as you might think to make (just pancakes gone wrong, surely?) because you have to separate out the eggs, and then beat yolk and white separately until fluffy before combining to make the pancakes. The pancakes are sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and torn apart with forks, before serving with a large quantity of apple sauce.
A note on the buildings and hotels in this area.
Buildings are beautiful, large, wooden and based on the Swiss Chalet type of design. Many of the buildings have painted exteriors of delicate country scenes, shepherdesses or cows. The names of the owners of the houses are also painted in a heavy gothic script on the front. Houses are not often bought and sold, but remain in the family, with several generations living together. Even the local supermarket looks rather like a chalet. Beer drinking places are plentiful and welcoming.
In this area too the local costume is worn, at least, by anyone working in the service industry. This for the men is the Lederhosen (or long trousers and waistcoat with Tyrollean hat) and for the women is the full skirt with petticoats and short sleeved blouse with puff sleeves and a bodice tied at the front. This looks odd on older people, but maybe it’s just my modern view of clothes that make me think I would not want to wear this uncomfortable looking outfit. Local people I am assured are very proud of their heritage, but the villages and people do have a quant air.
An interesting thing about eating at a hotel, was that as we arrived, with muddy boots, rucksacks and waterproofs, we were welcomed to sit where we liked in the midst of people fine dining in smart clothes. I felt awkward at first as this is not something that would happen in UK, but no-one took any notice of us at all.
The country side around and about is hilly, with deep forests up to the tree line. Lush green meadows filled with pretty cows, intersperse the wooded hillsides. There are often privately owned chalets situated on the slopes, and some are cafes. There are many footpaths fairly well signed and some lovely bike rides and long hilly walks. These can be challenging depending on the route chosen.
The rock is mainly sedimentary limestone, with lots of fossilised coral. The climbing routes although worn in places are quiet. We were the only ones climbing in good sunny weather.
Yesterday we got out climbing and we also met up with our old, but new friends Vicky and Martin (who you may remember we met in France). They are making their way gradually back to UK. We had a great day together climbing on the Ruchenkoepfe (1805m). We did a rock scramble grade 2 followed by a grade 4, trad climbing route to the summit. It was a very long day and we finally got back to the van at about 10.30 pm and after a swift beer, went to bed, too exhausted to cook.
We have now been in Bavaria for almost a week. We are going to stay here for a few more days before heading for the bigger, snow topped hills we can see in the distance. That's Austria over there! And it's time to get the drawing paper and pencils out and get some sketches done.