9-11 August: Bavaria – we’re back for bread, beer and barbecues

Author: Mr A

Location: Ottobeuren, Bavaria, Germany

Three years ago we came to the small market town of Ottobeuren in southern Bavaria in response to an invite from a friend of Catherine’s to come and visit. On our way to Zurich from Austria we were again invited to come and hang out in this small town that epitomises all things good about this corner of the world. Fields of potatoes and corn dominate the rolling countryside, interspersed with the brightest green fields of lush grass for the grazing beef and dairy cattle.

A beautiful area to explore by bike – quiet lanes and endless cycle ways

We have spent a delightful few days here, eating and drinking and chatting with Catherine’s friend Stefanie and her family.

The gorgeous Stefanie and her youngest, Luna
Lovely Luna

We even got to meet all the neighbours at a BBQ, it was just embarrassing to not speak German! A few beers and conversation seemed to flow pretty well anyway. We love hearing about people’s lives in other countries, and picking out what’s the same globally, and what’s specific to their country or region.

Street party BBQ – helps neighbours and visitors get to know one another better
Manu and Stefanie’s daughter Luna decides Mrs A is ok after all
Ottobeuren Market Square – looking picturesque late at night as we cycle back to camp
Ottobeuren’s Basilica, founded in the year 764

Bavaria seems a very family based culture, and again like Austria, very keen to preserve its culture and traditions. The town has a real buzz about it, with a central town square full of cafes, and empty of cars at weekends and now evenings for a trial period. Families can let their children play in relative safety. Cyclists are everywhere, whole families out to meet friends over an ice cream.

Banana and raspberry sorbet for Mrs A
Mr A’s choice of ice cream includes chocolate, nuts and a dash of rum
One happy little boy post ice-cream
Mr Three, Tristan, demonstrates the real use for the stream running through the centre of town
Miss 15 months, Luna, decides her dry shoes and socks would make good boats….
A bustling town centre on a Sunday afternoon

There is a very strong community spirit….oh…and the locally brewed beers…fantastic! A Bavarian tradition is to sink a couple of wheat beers with white sausage, sweet mustard and pretzels over a breakfast they call “weißwurstfrühstück”. Any culture that has beers for breakfast gets my vote!

Welcomed into a family breakfast
You need to clink the bottom of the glass!

Ottobeuren is maybe not on everyone’s list of holiday destination, but there is more than just ice cream here. It is home to Ottobeuren Abbey which was founded in the year 764 with a spectacular Basilica (completed in 1766) which has been described as one of the best examples of Baroque architecture worldwide. The interior is breathtaking, with every inch covered in carvings, sculptures, beautiful marble pillars and frescoes. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area – Stefanie and Manu were married here, and each of their three children baptised.

Ottobeuren Abbey overlooks the whole town, its twin towers visible for miles around
Gorgeous artworks everywhere
Really need a guide to help interpret the stories shown here
Some of the artwork incorporates sculpture to help the characters literally step out of the paintings

Ottobeuren also has a museum of contemporary art, which Catherine and Stefanie went along to see. It’s housed in a purpose built modern building just off the market square and is somewhat controversial among local residents, some of whom see it as a waste of public money.

It was the final fifteen minutes of the final day of an exhibition of works by Markus Lüpertz, a German painter, sculptor, graphic artist and writer – one of Germany’s best known contemporary artists. Due to the lateness of the day they were allowed in free of charge. Sadly information about the exhibition was only in German and offered little insight into his work – a range of compositions in watercolour, acrylics and oil pastel alongside prints and sculptures, many seemingly themed around star signs.

Works by Markus Lüpertz
A lovely space for artwork but one wonders whether it could not be used for charity dinner parties and suchlike
The light in the building is as much art in itself

Manu and I solved the problems of the world over a couple of beers while we waited.

Catherine and Stefanie

It’s been a great insight into life in small town Bavaria, where you needn’t lock up your garage, you know your neighbours, and cyclists say hello to other riders. We’ve loved it. Ok so the fact that things are changing more slowly here means that’s there’s no nod to the thousands of foreign tourists who visit the local basilica, with menus and other signage exclusively in German. We struggled to find dairy free options for Catherine, cash transactions are the norm again and cigarette smoke hangs over every outdoor seating area like the death pall it is. The latter is the only real negative for us, and that has applied all over mainland Europe.

It’s made us appreciate how Australia is moving faster than Europe in some areas such as banning smoking in public areas and making transactions much easier with a strong and innovative digital payments infrastructure. But to us the big attraction here in Europe is not having to jump in a car to get everywhere, but instead having the ability to safely cycle through towns and countryside, stopping when we want, parking with ease, and having nothing but courtesy from other road users.

….even in the pouring rain!

Dramatic skies approaching us on Sunday night

8 August: Venturing into Germany

Author: Mrs A

Location: Pfronten, Bavaria, Germany

What we love about travelling in Europe is the the ability to amend our plans on the fly, make decisions at short notice and even change countries – all a great challenge in Australia, where at busy times of the year campgrounds must be booked well in advance (restricting any spontaneity) and as for changing countries…well, that takes both funds and planning, and it would be very hard to take a vehicle.

It was a message from our friend Stefanie pointing out we were only a couple of hours away from her in Bavaria that prompted us into pointing Truffy’s nose north upon leaving Innsbruck and head into Germany. It was a spectacular drive, through mountains and following rivers, through alpine tunnels and past countless castles and fortifications.

Yet another fine view out of our windscreen as we wind through the Zugspitze – part of the Northern Limestone Alps

The language, food and scenery sounded and looked very similar to Austria, but in just over an hour’s driving we arrived in the town of Pfronten.

I would love to say it was some secret knowledge that brought us to this village en route to see Stefanie, but it wasn’t, just a site written up on an app with good reviews – and we really hit the jackpot in terms of location. It turned out that a tavern had added motorhome parking to its car park – thereby increasing customer numbers and earning a side income. It was so much cheaper than we had experienced of late too, a total of €14 (AU$23/£13) for the night including drinking water and electricity.

I sat down with Google maps and plotted out what I hoped might be a good circuit cycle ride, taking in a few sights on the way. The region is literally riddled with cycle and hiking paths, and we had spotted a few castles and lakes on our drive through.

The paths started right at our campground, car-free tracks heading across the countryside, amazing views in all directions.

Five minutes ride from camp and we cannot see another human

Our first point of interest was the castle of Eisenberg, built in 1313. It has been owned by Germans and Austrians, attacked by peasants, built up, renovated and raised to the ground again in its 706 years lifespan.

Castle Eisenberg
A commanding position…ensuring peasants all around can be reminded who is in charge
Looking back towards the main castle
Enjoying the lookout from the tower

In the 1980s there was significant restoration of the buildings and interesting finds have been stored in a museum in the nearby village of Zell (open at weekends only).

Setting off on another typical pathway towards another amazing view…not too busy either!

We set off next towards Hopfensee, a large lake surrounded by villages and walking tracks, skirting the edge of the lake through the village of Füssen towards another lake, Weissensee. All tracks were off road, cutting through woodland, old farm tracks along fields, or purpose built alongside the busier roads, but felt really safe at all times. There were plenty of other cyclists around, big smiles on their faces, enjoying the sunshine, perfect temperature and stunning scenery after several days of rain and cooler temperatures.

Weissensee Lake – popular for swimming, paddle boarding and fishing
Looking over to the lakeside village of Oberried
Do these birds appreciate their view? Looking down Weissensee lake from Oberkirch

Our 40km circuit ride finished back at our local tavern for a refreshing beverage. Other than potatoes and vegetables there was nothing on the menu that was dairy-free, so we settled for a beer and glass of Riesling before heading back to Truffy for showers and to cook dinner. An awesome day.