Author Topic: Munich - Venice July/August 2017  (Read 3821 times)

Munich - Venice July/August 2017
« on: October 03, 2017, 01:18:56 pm »
We rode the Munich Venice cycle route (with a short warm up in Holland) in the summer so thought we should put a few words and pictures on here:-

Part One, the rest will follow over the next few days

Day 1-3 Suffolk & Holland

We rode with some friends from home in Ipswich to the passenger ferry terminal in Felixstowe to cross to Harwich. It transpired none of actually knew how to get to the foot ferry terminal so after a few minor diversions we created a rather interesting Strava plot and finally found the terminal. A quick coffee and cake later we trudged/ran along the beach having misjudged the distance to the ferry and just made it as a squall blew up and we got soaked unloading the panniers and hauling the bikes onto the remaining bit of foredeck available.

The crossing to Holland was uneventful – even we can’t get lost on a cross channel ferry and we awoke in Hook bright and early for a blat across Holland.

Rule number 1 – when there is an opportunity to buy food, take it. We passed a Lidl after only 15km and not wanting to carry food all day we ignored it and pressed on. It turned out this was our only opportunity on a sleepy Sunday in Holland to buy anything so we were rather hungry by the time we arrived at our campsite in Woudenberg. Fortunately the on-site restaurant solved that problem.

The next day, after waiting for the tent to dry from the previous night’s thunderstorm we had an easy ride to Arnheim and our waiting train. Having never combined cycle touring and trains before this proved an interesting learning exercise. Especially when we discovered you needed a special bar code to open the unmanned gates at Arnheim station and the one on our German railways issued tickets didn’t work. Some local strangers took pity on us and had us run through the barrier behind them. No-one batted an eyelid when the alarms went off.

We then caught a change for the night train from Dusseldorf to Munich where the main Munich-Venice ride begins.
The night train was a highlight and something we had long been looking forward to, lying in bed watching hills, towns and villages roll past in the darkness and waking up in a completely different town 8 hours later but still in Germany is an experience not to be missed – even if the compartment is rather small for two people and two weeks-worth of cycle touring gear.

Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped

Re: Munich - Venice July/August 2017
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2017, 01:40:40 pm »
Part two

Day 4-5 Munich - Achensee

Munich was cool and slightly damp, a sign of things to come. One day I’ll come back and spend time in all these places but for now it was a short walk (pedestrianised shopping precinct – no cycling) to the Deutsches Museum a few photos at the official start sign and it was onto our bikes and off on our journey.

We followed the river Isar south out of town against a rush of inward bound cycle commuters on the very pretty cycle path well away from the road – a theme of the route.  Within the hour we came across our first climb of the day, a steep man-made hill at 17% gradient up to a double decker bridge; pedestrians and cyclist underneath and trains on top.

We followed the Isar all day, it was a lovely ride and we took our time. On the edges of Bad Tolz it started raining, we didn’t think much of this we’d had rain in Holland.

After a brief stop to help a local chap on an old mountain bike who was having difficulty with his gears we found our campsite and set the tent up. Dinner was cooked under a small overhanging roof as the rain was falling quite heavily by now.

We woke up in a swampy, wet downpour, the air vent at the back of the tent had allowed water between the tent base and the groundsheet so we did our best to mop that up and then looked at the plan and the weather around us. We procrastinated a while longer, cooked breakfast under the same overhanging roof as dinner last night and finally made a decision. The locals suggested the weather forecast was rain for the next three days. It was a bit miserable stood around waiting for the rain to stop especially if it was going to take three days so we packed the wet tent into a dry bag and set off.

Around four hours later I was regretting that decision, having only packed summer kit and a waterproof walking jacket we were cold, wet and not capable of riding very fast. It had been an uphill day so we knew it would be slow but this was particularly slow.

Rule number 2 – don’t always follow the prescribed route. Somewhere near the Austrian border the route took us off the public road which wasn’t particularly busy, down a steep gravel track to a flooded bridge. The route planners wouldn’t have known the bridge would be flooded when we got there but we were to learn quite quickly such detours just to avoid a bit of road are quite common along the route and not always necessary. We waded the bikes over the bridge and were forced to push them up the return track to the road, a steep gravel path with little grip which made pushing a loaded touring bike near impossible.

On return to the public road there was a similar path further along the road and we started up this but it got steeper and more broken, after 20 more minutes of pushing uphill, I gave up and told Karen I was returning to the road. Here the road was busy, we were 4km from the edge of a town and lorries and cars were paying little attention to two wet cyclists in the driving rain. We finally got to the town and both feeling cold wet and miserable walked into the tourist information and asked if they could find us a hotel whilst we dripped all over their nice clean floor. They were very good about this and 1km later we pedalled into a hotel car park, checked in and started unloading absolutely everything to dry it out in the room.

Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped

Re: Munich - Venice July/August 2017
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2017, 01:45:14 pm »
This is looking good!  Nice to see they have proper summer abroad, too!

Re: Munich - Venice July/August 2017
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2017, 12:54:28 pm »
Day 6-7 Achensee – Sterzing ( via Brenner Pass)

The following morning dawned bright and with some relief we packed our remaining gear and headed out into the sunshine. After breakfast shared with a couple of German walkers who were heading to Sterzing the civilised way by using hotels we hit the road.

It still wasn’t warm but at least it wasn’t raining. We followed the Achensee lake it’s entire length and arrived above the Inn valley. Here the route went off-road once again, we expected this so it wasn’t a shock but seeing the nearby railway line with a gear drive demonstrated what faced us next. A 400m descent through the woods to the valley floor, off-road in a distance of about 10km. Dropping down the steep switchback road with 35kg bikes was challenging. The touring bikes performed admirably as they would throughout the trip but this is mountain bike territory so we eased our way down with hands cramping on the brake levers but the views were great.

At the foot of the descent the Inn valley stretched out before us and we rode along flat, smooth terrain for the first time since Holland. We even had time to stop for lunch.

With the thought of the Brenner Pass tomorrow and 1000m of climbing in 40km, our planning had diverted us off the official Munich –Venice route. We were supposed to go into Innsbruck, tour the city and then head towards the mountains ahead. The campsites weren’t well located to do this and climbing from the valley floor to the top in one day didn’t appeal so having not done any climbing all day we turned uphill from the valley floor and headed for a small campsite we knew some way up on the valley wall.

This involved another steep off-road track more suited to mountain bikes but we pushed up the worst bits and were rewarded with scenic Tyrolean mountain views at the top. The campsite was nestled up against a small village church and provided spectacular views back down the valley – the shop also sold Ice cream as the sun was now warming us up.
At this point we debated taking a day off and staying here but decided we would be better off getting up and over Brenner and then taking the day off.

The Brenner Pass at 1376m above sea level is the ancient crossing point between Italy and Austria and the lowest of all the crossing points of the Alps. We still faced a formidable day of climbing, even with our short cut from the day before but it was warm and not hot so we set off into the unknown – coming from Suffolk, hills of this magnitude are somewhat rare in our part of the world!

Neither of us had slept well, a party had taken place in a hotel just across the road from our campsite and I don’t know when the noise stopped but it was late. We were both nervous with what was to come which didn’t help and the first steep ramp up to the village of Patsch did little to calm our nerves or ease slightly aching legs. Getting off to push so early gave us both the feeling this was going to be a long day.

As it turned out the climb to Patsch was probably the worst it got and after then we were able to ride all the way up the valley to the town of Steinach Am Brenner where we stopped for lunch – our usual exotic fayre of ham and cheese rolls eaten in the car park of the SPAR supermarket. We did afford ourselves the luxury of fresh coffee made on the gas cooker (Rule 3 - never tour without a proper coffee maker).

The official Munich-Venice guidebook advises the next section is shared with quite heavy traffic and with no cycle path available combined with a long climb suggests cyclists take the train to the top. Our planning had left what to do next a little vague. With no real idea of what lay ahead and advice from the guide book telling us not to, we decided to carry on riding and see what the road was like. taking the train felt like cheating after all this.

 It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, the sun shone, a small river bubbled merrily alongside and the views were amazing. The traffic was fairly light and gave us plenty of room. Other intrepid touring cyclists had made the same decision (in fact most I spoke to hadn’t read the advice we had found) so it was quite an atmosphere. Near the top it got particularly steep and we got off to push but other than that it was acceptably difficult for riding up a mountain and we found ourselves at the top around 3pm. Even more fortunately just at the Italian border we found an open bar and ordered a beer!

From here it was downhill all the way to Sterzing, a further 20km. In a taste of what was to come, we found ourselves on a segregated redundant railway line on perfectly smooth tarmac (the new railway ran alongside next to the motorway). We were pretty tired so care was required and occasionally the path headed back uphill up the valley wall which was mean. At a small village on one of these uphill sections we sheltered in someone’s nearly finished garage and rang the campsite as it was approaching 6pm and we wanted to ensure someone would still be there when we arrived, possibly another hour riding from here.

Finally the town of Sterzing/Vipetino (all the towns in this part of Italy have an Austrian and an Italian name, the population all speak German) appeared in the valley below and after riding along the high street with many pedestrians still shopping we detoured off to find our campsite. Here we met a family of cyclists all on fully loaded mountain bikes. The mum said she had seen my bike somewhere near Brenner and where were we heading? It transpired they had also crossed the Brenner Pass and as the youngest of the family appeared to be around 12 it kind of put our efforts into perspective. We met many touring families like this on our trip and I was impressed at the energy and enthusiasm of the kids every time.

The following day we took our rest day so did our washing and headed into Sterzing/Vipiteno and took the cable car up to the ski resort for lunch. Our campsite was in a woodland and we had two nervous evenings sheltering in the tent during substantial thunderstorms as the temperatures had started to increase. Apparently UK tourists heading on their holidays were being warned about a heatwave expected across southern Europe, nicknamed Lucifer.

Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped

Re: Munich - Venice July/August 2017
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2017, 01:13:16 pm »
Sorry for the delay. It's been a hectic few weeks!

Days 8-10 The Dolomites

After a day off our bikes and an opportunity to use the campsite washing machines and carry out a few minor repairs we were ready to hit the road again

Surprisingly neither of us felt particularly rested, our legs were stiff and the bikes felt heavy. The plan for the day showed a lot of climbing over a series of short sharp climbs that would leave us at the same altitude as our start point. We followed a winding valley past ancient castles and over pretty wooden bridges. It was a lovely ride.

We were heading for Bruneck a distance of some 60km but knew of a campsite before the town so could stop there if necessary and make the distance up the following day. We followed the same valley all day and the mountains stared down at us from high above, it was fairly hot but we pressed on only stopping for a soup and sandwich lunch on yet another disused railway track. Lunch was leisurely and we got the folding chairs and Trangia cooker out which drew some amused looks from the cycle tourists following the same route.

We arrived at the intended first campsite around 3pm to find it a large commercial site well suited to families and children. Never mind, we could wander into town and find some dinner if we wanted to get away from the crowds. It turned out the campsite was completely full, the only one of the trip. They offered us a small grassy area by the swimming pool but we would have to wait until 6pm before they cleared the pool and let us set up camp. We would have to be off by 10am and this was offered at a discounted rate of €30! Thanks but no thanks we said and carried onto another campsite we had plotted on the GPS the other side of town.

Rule number 4 – Do not make up routes on the fly. Bruneck was busy, it was the August festival in the region and the town had been closed off for a street fair and hundreds of people were milling around. There were temporary bars and folk dancing everywhere and if we had the opportunity it would be great to come back and experience some of the fun.

I knew where to head for but the exact location of the campsite entrance wasn’t exactly clear on the small screen of my GPS. We crossed a busy road and preferring to stay off it I took us up a track running parallel which rapidly deteriorated into a farm track with huge tractor ruts completely unsuited to riding a bicycle. At the end of the track, both tired and dusty we met another busy road with an Armco barrier between us and the road. We worked our way along the edge and I was certain the campsite was somewhere nearby so we rode along a slip road and found it led to a major dual carriageway with no sign of a campsite. Looking at the road ahead and the GPS screen it was clear we shouldn’t proceed along the carriageway, it was just too dangerous. The paper map suggested it might be accessible from the other side of the river but that meant backtracking up the slip road and all the way back into town. Karen wasn’t talking much at this point and we were both tired and frustrated but given no choice we worked our way all the way round through the festival in the town again and followed the river to a railway crossing the other side of the main road where we finally were able to route round to the campsite. An hour after we had first stopped on the main road (and three hours since we decided not to stay at the first campsite) we peered over the wall from the campsite and saw the spot we had turned around.

The campsite was lovely and had an on-site bar so I believe I was forgiven after the first half litre of lager had been consumed. However it was too far and we were too tired to return to the festival which was a shame, we could hear the music for most of the evening as the now daily evening thunderstorm rolled in.

The location of several campsites allowed a handful of shorter days in the Dolomites rather than a full rest day it felt better to move on each day even if only a little way towards Venice. Today we climbed uphill for most of the day day for 30 kilometres heading towards stunning mountain scenery to a lakeside campsite at Toblacher See, we even had time for a walking lap of the lake and a pizza in the on site restaurant. Tomorrow will be a much more significant day.

Today we climbed our final mountain pass. The Passo Chimabanche. Higher than the Brenner pass but from a higher starting point. The climb was on a gravel path which ran parallel to a road all the way up and was busy with local mountain bikers. Helped by the fact we have become much more competent at packing our gear and getting started earlier each morning we made it to the top around midday and it felt a little early to celebrate with beer so ordered a bowl of chips and a glass of coke instead. The summit marks the historical border crossing with Italy and Austria but since 1915 it has been 50 miles further north at Brenner. The local people finally started speaking Italian around here.

After a few pictures at the top as the temperature continued to rise we began downhill. Again, the path was gravel all the way and we took it slowly – perhaps with hindsight we could have just cruised down the main road but later on the path left the road behind and headed into some lovely villages up on the valley wall so I think we made the right decision, if it did take a little longer to get to the campsite. It’s mostly downhill to Venice from here.

Our campsite was down in a steep valley just south of the upmarket ski resort of Cortina D’Ampezzo and as we had a few hours to spare in the afternoon, we decided to do some sightseeing and caught the bus back into town for a nose around (well it was a steep hill back up and we’d done enough of those today). To be honest there wasn’t really much there. It’s a lovely little town but we came to the conclusion we were seeing enough sights on our travels anyway. We walked back down the hill as we couldn’t work out where the bus left from and it actually took the same amount of time as the rather convoluted route taken by the bus.

We had another shorter day the next day and although mostly downhill only rode 38km to the next campsite. There were plenty of opportunities to stop and take photographs so we didn’t rush. The Dolomites are unlike anything either of us had seen. Large monoliths of granite rise out of the valley high above into clear blue skies, it’s quite spectacular.

We camped alongside a lake just north of the town of Pieve Di Cadore. This was some way off the main Munich-Venice route but we found we were beginning to run out of campsite options. Even less appealing was its location down in a steep bowl far below the village which was going to leave us with a difficult climb back to the route the next morning.

One constant of cycle touring is that you never have enough clean clothes. Most nights we would end up hand washing in the sinks at the campsite and here the local campers with static homes seemed to take some concern on our washing technique, although one kindly lady was quite impressed (entirely in Italian but it was clear what she meant) Karen had got me doing my own washing and could we explain to her husband he could do his too!

Not really looking forward to the steep climb, we skipped breakfast and aimed for the Spar in the town above us. It wasn’t quite as bad as we feared – I think we were getting quite good at climbing now, Suffolk will never quite look the same - and we made it there for some nice fresh croissants and made up some rolls with cheese and ham (standard lunch for the whole trip) for later in the day.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful apart from the heat. By now Lucifer was beginning to be quite noticeable and we found ourselves riding along a newly paved road without a single car to be seen next to a wide river. We took the opportunity to get the camping chairs out and sit in the shelter of the trees and paddle our feet in the river to cool down. We probably spent an hour here before rather reluctantly carrying on our journey. This stage was pretty flat and we cruised into a large campsite next to a big lake – Lago di Santa Croce which was full of wind and kite surfers taking advantage of the winds blowing down out of the mountains. The beer in the bar was particularly refreshing in the heat.

Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped

Re: Munich - Venice July/August 2017
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2017, 01:18:49 pm »
Day11-13 the end

Our last day in the mountains took us due south and downhill out onto the plains of Northern Italy. We followed a road out which was abandoned by cars. A new motorway ran parallel on the other side of the valley and we coasted downhill with no concern of traffic for 20km, something you never get in the UK.

The last views of the mountains as we descended were spectacular

Out onto the plains and the heat intensified. We stopped in Conegliano – the home of Prosecco and found a café where after three Panninis between us the café owner took pity on us and filled our drinks bottles with Ice, it had melted within a few minutes. We passed a pharmacy sign and the temperature read 39.9°c. The wind was blowing from the south straight at us. It felt like we were cycling into a hairdryer. The official route meandered along a river and was probably quite pretty but in the heat, official routes went out the window and we blitzed it down the main road to our destination. Not exactly pleasant but needs must.

During planning it was noticeable how few campsites were located in this part of Italy. In fact, the only one we found, only a week before we departed was between Conegliano and Treviso and we aimed here which was a little way off the route but suited our needs for distance (around 50km) that day. After a long hot day in the saddle we found a farm but no evidence at all of a campsite. Hot and tired and wondering if we had to carry on to find a hotel in Treviso, an elderly farmer appeared on the drive and I quizzically asked ‘campeggio’ (my Italian is limited to a few words hastily looked up in the phrasebook) and he said ‘si, si’ and opened the gate.

Inside the gate was a beautiful orchard, three hard standings for camper vans, two huge wine vats on their side – you can stand in them. Our host suggested (at least we think he did) we could camp in the wine vats but we chose a small spot by the orchard and pitched the tent. We’d made some friends by this point, a British couple and their son on his break from university and we had told them about the dearth of campsites in the area and where we were aiming for earlier in the morning. Realising they would never find this place we headed back out on our bikes and fortunately caught them on the main road heading towards us so we guided them in. By now the farmer’s son had appeared and his English was better so explained the toilet was a bit broken but it was OK to use – this actually means the building had no roof which lent itself to some interesting stargazing later on!

The final day on the road was no cooler and we made the decision to stick to our plan from the day before and head down the main road to Venice rather than the meandering official route which would have made for a very long day in the heat. According to the guidebook, the route has two finish points, either Mestre railway station, which is the town on the mainland closest to Venice or Jesolo which is round the coast towards the Venice Lido and beaches. We had decided on the former option as the Jesolo route would have added another day riding and we were meeting family in Venice on the following day.

The ride to Mestre was fairly uneventful apart from getting the only puncture of the entire trip for either bike in my front tyre so we stopped and changed that and carried on into the town which was quite attractive on the outskirts but as we neared the centre the buildings and atmosphere changed somewhat.

The end of a trip like this is always an anti-climax. Not having to get up and ride your bike the next day leaves you with a feeling of emptiness. Arriving in Mestre did nothing to ease this empty feeling. For one thing the Munich-Venice signs ran out about 5km from the train station, our guiding beacons for the past two weeks just fizzled out into nothing. At the station there was also nothing, no sign, not even a small poster congratulating us on our achievement. Instead we bought a panini and Orangina and took a couple of pictures before heading off to our final campsite.

My Garmin showed a pink line heading due south from the other side of the railway lines but at the station there was no evidence of a bridge or tunnel and we rode up and down the main street outside getting hot and frustrated and in the end ran across the dual carriageway which was not exactly ideal but it solved a problem. Naturally we found the exit of the tunnel we had been looking for on the other side of the railway lines so vowed to explore on our return the next day.

Our final day had us riding back to Mestre – rapidly becoming our least favourite place on the planet where there is a ‘Bici park’ secure manned bike facility. What we hadn’t realised is that it is now Sunday and it’s closed Sundays which left us with a problem. We had no intention of leaving our bikes locked up on the street and bikes are banned on Venice Island but a quick google suggested there was an unmanned smaller bici park near the bus station on the Island so we bought a couple of train tickets and took the bikes to Venice itself, which hadn’t been planned but it left an opportunity to take some pictures of our bikes in Venice as they had got us all the way without complaint.

They spent the night in the bici park (which smelt faintly of urine) and the following morning we took them back to the secure facility in Mestre (yay, Mestre again) where they took four well earned rest days amongst the commuter and touring bikes occupying other spaces in the facility.

We had four days off in Venice where family had joined us and we all wilted in the heat amongst the tourists which was a shock after two weeks of only our company and the occasional camper or cycle tourist on the way.

That's it. Our first grand adventure by bike. Hopefully the start of many more to come.

The pictures above are a selection of the hundreds we took, most of these are off my phone but the main camera has a load as well. I'm slowly uploading them to an album on the link below so more will follow over the next few weeks.
Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped

Re: Munich - Venice July/August 2017
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2017, 01:58:51 pm »
Enjoyed that, thanks. Envious!
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Re: Munich - Venice July/August 2017
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2017, 09:53:09 am »
I missed this. What a great adventure. I love the Dolomites. Fairytale scenery.
Rust never sleeps

Re: Munich - Venice July/August 2017
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2017, 10:27:30 pm »
Having done a similar route on 4 wheels (en route to Corfu), it's good to know there's a viable 2 wheel route
Thanks for posting this  :thumbsup: