Day 42: Sunday 14th June
Markelfingen – Immendingen (91km)
We re-joined the EV6 route and headed north away from the lake. We had decided a trip along the Donau (that’s Danube in German) wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Donaueschingen and the official source of the great river.
After traveling north for about 20km we decided to cut north-west and make for Donaueschingen. We had no map of the area and used a fair bit of guestimation combined with the odd stop at service stations to peruse their maps. Our route took us on a major road that paralleled the autobahn. A 6km incline took us up 300m to a saddle with spectacular views back to the Alps. The sun was beating down and we were seriously cooking by the time we reached the top. The ride down the other side was a breeze and took us to Geisingen where we joined the Danube and tracked upstream (west) for a few km to reach the source.
We were elated at reaching the spring and with 2160km on the odometer this marked a major milestone on the trip. After a brief break to cool down and throw 2c into the spring (1c each for good luck) we rode back down the river to a campsite with free tenting for cycle tourists. We were the only people to stay the night there and apart from a brief storm we had a quiet night.
Visiting Donaueschingen was worthwhile but we were surprised the town was in the middle of an immense shallow basin, not a mountain valley as we had imagined.
Day 43: Monday 15th June
Immendingen – Riedlingen (112km)
Immendingen is the sight of the Danube sink where much of the river (all of it when we visited) disappears through the gravels and re-emerges in near the Bodensee. We had hoped for swirling whirlpools like the maelstrom but were disappointed.
Light rain persisted throughout the day. The scenery became increasingly spectacular as the river valley narrowed to gorge its way through the limestone. Castles and fortifications guarded both sides of the valley around us and the hanging cloud added to the atmosphere.
Later in the afternoon we reached Sigmaringen with an impressive castle to rival the Chateau of the Loire. The castle was already closed at 5:30pm and campsite looked packed with school groups so we stopped in town to wring out our socks and have a €3.50 margarita pizza. We must have looked in a bit of a state because the Turkish shop owner took pity on us and gave us each a cup of hot tea for free. We were suitably impressed and quickly ordered a kebab to fuel us for the evening ride. Mark became inspired to write a book about kebab shops starting at Nordkapp and riding to Turkey stopping at each kebab shop on route (passing several more kebab shops the next day made us realise this may be a time consuming journey) – anyone keen to join in?
We hummed along at 30km an hour to reach Riedlingen where the first campsite seemed non-existent. The second was a patch of lawn across the road from a farm. The farmer was friendly and after parting with E10 we set up for the night. The main feature of the campsite, apart from excellent hot showers, was the beer vending machine. All our small change was used procuring Radler (basically a shandy at 2.5%). Mark honed his bushcraft skills and after gathering enough sodden wood took about an hour to get a fire going for dinner. We were down to our last gas bottle and gas is very difficult to obtain in Germany.
Day 44: Tuesday 16th June
The fire was still smouldering in the morning so Mark stoked it up and prepared bacon and eggs for breakfast. The campsite was nice, and we were the only people there, so we elected to stay another night. A day trip into Riedlingen and some soccer keep us occupied for the day. Washed our cycle gear and dried it in the sun.
A highlight was buying a German-English phrasebook. It was enlightening to find out the meaning of words like Zelt (tent) and that Geoffnet means open, not internet.
Day 45: Wednesday 17th June
Riedlingen – Riedheim (105km)
Woke refreshed at 9am; broke camp and departed around 10:30am. Rode to Rechtenstein and saw stunning cliff top castle ruins, then on to Ehingen where we turned off the main trail and up the Blau valley.
We rode up the valley past the Liebherr factory (birthplace for many of the world’s cranes) alongside crystal clear streams to reach the Blautopf. En route we passed an intriguing looking Stone Age cave, but it was only open one day a week.
The Blautopf itself is a 20m deep karst spring. We had expected it to be crystal clear but instead it was a dark shade of blue. Very impressive but fenced to deter keen cyclists from having a quick dip (frustrating on a 30+ degree hot day). The tour buses of oldies and German chavs sped us on our way down the other end of the valley and to the city of Ulm.
The Ulm cathedral, at 162m, is apparently the tallest in the world. Mark tested his stair climbing ability and managed to pump up 150m in about 7 1/2 minutes. Felt a bit lightheaded at the top, but muscles were fine.
Ulm itself was nice but uninspiring so we pushed on to a campsite on a farm. It was a long day in the heat, especially with the late start. There had been no other campsites en route as we are moving away from the main tourist trail.
Day 46: Thursday 18th June
Riedheim – Donauworth (78km)
Slow start so back on the trail by 10:30am. Easy to get caught in the trap of finishing riding at dusk and therefore being unable to get going early the next day.
Trail followed forest 4WD tracks on very loose gravel. We ignored possible detours and made good progress. We stopped to eat cherry buns at an old Roman temple in Faimingen and refill our water bottles.
We rode the early afternoon through light industry to the castle at Hochstadt, site of the 1704 Battle of Blenheim. The museum (€3) had just enough information in English for an interesting visit. It made us realise how ignorant we are of history beyond the middle ages in Europe. It was a worthwhile visit and made more sense of our recent visit to Blenheim Palace in England, which was built for Marlborough after his victory.
Lazy afternoon riding to Donauworth were we camped at the local canoe club. €10, on the river and beer vending machine made for a rewarding end to a hot day.
Day 47: Friday 19th June
Rain in the morning, and the promise of a decent internet cafe to update the blog convinced us to stay an extra night. Our rides have also been getting progressively longer, with 75km/day being more common than the planned 50km. The distances between campsites mean either very long, or very short, days.