The wonderful saddle that I’ve been riding on, my Manta, is made by Jon Catling up in Skye. One of his partners, is a guy called Martin from Comfort Line who offer a high-end service for those looking to find a saddle that works for them. They offer a wide variety of saddles, and one of those is the Relax IQ – their name for the Manta. As I was in the region, that was the next destination on my list, and it was only a one-day ride from where I had stayed in Liechtenstein.
It was baking warm and so I took a couple of breaks along the way that made me very glad for riding in a pair of board shorts. The southern area of Bavaria, on the edge of the Alps, is full of lakes that are just perfect to dive in to cool down. When there wasn’t a lake around there were plenty of fountains in town centres that I could soak my cap and buff in, which called for many stops as it only worked for about 15 minutes.
I didn’t need to organise a place to stay in Waltenhofen, the town that Comfort Line is based in, because I was moving up in the world. I had a hotel to stay in, and the company would be paying for it. I met Martin at the hotel on the first evening, so I could check in, and then he treated me to dinner, where we discussed all things related to the saddle. The next day, I rode to the shop and spent the whole day recording a promotional video for the Relax IQ/Manta. I had no rush to leave, Martin told me I could stay as long as I wanted at the hotel, but I still only stayed the two nights.
I used some of the time off the bike to work out a possible route. The trip home to see C and the detour south had probably delayed my original plan by about a month, so my original plan to get as far east as Moldova, head north and get around Scandinavia before it got obnoxiously cold was looking like a long shot. My updated one involved getting as far east as Budapest, and then heading north through the mountains of Slovakia, all of Poland and then Denmark, Sweden and Norway. That was a few thousand kilometres shorter, and probably doable. As that was my plan, I went back to studying German by listening to my Michel Thomas CDs. My trip up to then hadn’t really needed much German. I’d been staying with people on Warmshowers, but the other part of my plan was to head east and only stay with Warmshowers people in bigger cities so I had more flexibility. I’d barely camped, and it was time for a change.
I left Waltenhofen with Michel Thomas playing and learning that “I would like” is “ich möchte”. My trip would take me past Neuschwanstein, the castle that apparently inspired Walt Disney when designing Cinderella’s. Unsurprisingly I didn’t go (€12), happy to get my local flavour by watching the parade at the Füssen medieval festival instead.
Having learnt ich möchte, I felt ready to go and speak to the firemen that evening. Since failing with them in the UK I’d barely seen any, and now that I didn’t have anywhere to sleep I figured that would work well. I stopped at a supermarket, to enjoy a €1 bottle of delicious beer, and then rolled over to the firemen with very ominous clouds ahead feeling that they would see them and of course empathise with my situation.
Even with my track record in the Americas, I still felt nervous about asking them but drips started falling as soon as I arrived, and there were two firemen outside. I was surely in. I had had the conversation in my head a few times in German, but it turns out I’d overrated my German skills and was greeted by looks of confusion. Thankfully one of them could speak some English, and when he went inside to speak to his boss, as so often happens in these situations, I thought all was good. When he came out holding a map, I knew my plans were scuppered. He showed me a map of the town and a nearby campground where I’d be able to pitch my tent for €5-10. When that happens and I’m feeling confident, I explain how that’s not what I’m looking for, but this evening I thanked them, took the map, and rode off into the rain. Wild camping it was.
I rode out of town, happy to have my jacket on as the rain picked up and the wind was starting. I made it about 10 minutes when I saw a farmhouse and a couple of farmers outside. I rode down their drive, tried the conversation from earlier, and ended up gesturing as he didn’t really understand me too well either. It worked, and the farmer pointed to a shed that I could stay in, and set about getting an extension cord so the lights worked. It ended up being very fortunate to be inside, as the wind got strong enough to bring branches down on nearby trees.
The next day I spent some more time learning German, and also wishing that I’d bought some more food the day before instead of the beer. My GPS had shown that there was another supermarket that I’d have gone past after the firemen, but it didn’t appear and my refusal to U-turn meant I was a bit lower on food than I’d have liked. The only thing I saw the next day was a lady selling strawberries on the side of the road, I’d assumed that they’d be nice and cheap but they were double the price of a regular supermarket and not that much better. The joys of shops being closed on Sundays. It is nice that there is that different feel, but it’s definitely frustrating when you’re a poorly organised cyclist.
That evening I found a couple of small villages near a lake where I’d surely find people, and I did, but then for some reason I kept talking myself out of speaking to them. There were at least 4 or 5 options that were perfectly fine to ask, but I came up with some reason in my head to not stop and pushed on until I almost paid for a campground. Realising that was ridiculous I just found a quiet road that went through a forest, waited for there to be no cars and dragged my bike 50 metres off the road to set my tent up there instead.
My lack of food got resolved after 30 minutes of riding through drizzle the next morning as I found a supermarket and got something for breakfast. Then it was towards Austria. I’d originally planned on going to Salzburg, but had been unable to find a host and so instead it was straight to the industrial city of Linz so I could go north to the Czech Republic. I finally left Germany by crossing the Salzach river, at the castle town of Burghausen, celebrated again by a couple of supermarket beers.