The ramp comes without a warning. I was just wheeling sportily through the forests not far from Lake Tegernsee, and now my speed is almost zero. I change gear too late. The chain slowly rattles to the lowest gear on the cluster. While I am busy trying not to fall off the bicycle, my girlfriend rides away in no hurry. At the end of the ascent, she waits graciously. That will happen more often over the coming days.
We are on our way to the Königssee. Four days by bicycle taking our tent and sleeping bags with us. This was pretty much all we had planed when we headed off on a long weekend in early summer. We did not want to go too far away from civilisation but still be somehow away from it. So we chose the long distance Lake Constance to Königssee cycle path. And that avoids having to do much navigation. The route is well signposted, runs away from main highways and often on dedicated bicycle paths between meadows of grazing cattle and corn fields. If we happen to go the wrong way, a quick look at the GPS track on the smartphone helps. The mediative rhythm of cycling, eating and sleeping – against the backdrop of a great landscape – is exactly what we are after.
A slim trailer is the solution for the lack of carrying racks
As we do not have time for the whole tour starting in Lindau on Lake Constance, instead we start in Bad Tölz. It is almost the half-way point of the original route. So there are around 200 kilometres until we reach Köngissee. On this stretch there are also less metres of altitude. How many? No idea, we did not want to make plans.
There is only one problem we have to solve before we start: we do not own bicycles with carrying racks. The solution is a slim trailer with bags for camping equipment. Along with two little day packs. It’s enough for the few things we have. We will buy fresh food on the way. There is only one emergency pack of freeze-dry food at the bottom of the bag in case there is no supermarket around.
The trailer is the reason for my spontaneous performance weakness on the ascents. While my girlfriend cheerfully paddles up hill, I experience the full force of physics thanks to the little monster attached to my back wheel.
Our first stage goes from the train station in Bad Tölz to Gmund at Lake Tegernsee and further to Lake Schliersee. On the camp ground with our little tent we get a pitch directly in the reeds near the shore. We set off early the next morning to avoid having to cycle around pedestrians on the circular lakeside path. Prior to this stage, we had been in between the mountains, now we are off into the foothills. Just after Fischbachau, the view opens up and we contour around the last hilly section before zooming down towards the Inn. While we lose a lot of altitude, I can just make out a little range of hills on the opposite side of the valley with the highway running over it. From our perspective, the Irschenberg area seems ridiculously flat.
Collywobbles and shaky legs – we bonked out proper
Not only do I gain a new impression of the Irschenberg – a horror route for all caravanners on their way to Lake Garda. I have lived in Munich for over five years but usually I ignore the Bavarian Alpine foothills. The higher mountains on the main alpine divide usually have more going for them: more snow or more adventure. We are now exploring a region by bicycle which I have avoided wrongfully so far. The landscape is beautiful, and despite the pretty nice weather, we rarely meet other cyclists.
While I am dreaming around, we “hit the wall” in Chiemgau: A proper bonk-out with collywobbles and shaky legs. The tyres appear to be almost glued to the tramac on the way to Aschau. While my girlfriend keeps an eye on the bicycles and luggage, I wobble into the supermarket. The situation escalates a little too: one box of ice cream, two packs of pasta, bananas, cake, crisps and a six-pack of shandy. I have never been really good shopping with an empty stomach, but today it is for a good reason. After all, we still have to make it to the next campground. Except for that moment, we have found our rhythm. In the morning, we start cycling at a comfortable pace, look for a supermarket at lunch time, eat, and check the location of the next campground on our smartphones. No plan is not a bad plan.
From Traunstein, we turn towards the mountains again and are greeted with a clichéd view of Bavaria with onion-domed church towers against a gorgeous panorama backdrop of the Alps. Our next campground is in Piding, directly on the bank of the Saalach. I am impressed when two families cycle onto the campground shortly after us. The four adults have six children with them, and only one of them can cycle alone. All the others are either in children’s seats or trailers. Plus all the camping equipment for ten people – and toys. How do they manage the ascents with such a load?
The Watzmann on the horizon triggered the final spurt
Shortly afterwards, we leave the trees behind us and there it is on the horizon: King Watzmann. The highest summit of Berchtesgadener Land is something like the “flamme rouge” of the Tour de France. The signal for the final spurt. Another short stretch to Berchtesgaden before a small forest path leads us to the Königsseer Ache, a river clear as glass. Then, suddenly, food stalls, souvenir shops and tourists from Japan. We have arrived.
My girlfriend told me later that she could imagine doing an Alpine crossing for the following year. Maybe I better buy a trailer for her too.
Always along the edge
General: The Lake Constance to Königssee Cycleway starts in Lindau and ends in Schönau in Berchtesgadener Land. The tour is 418 kilometres in total and runs along the edge of the Alps. There are 4,000 metres in altitude, and the first stretch through the Allgäu has the lion’s share. The second stretch is flatter. The tour is well signposted and runs away from busy streets, often along fields and dedicated bicycle paths. Because of the hilly characteristics of the tour, well maintained brakes and a large range of gears are necessary.
Getting there: You can easily reach the start, destination and many other places along the tour by train, so you can also just cycle stages of the tour.
Accommodation: You will find accommodation of all kinds, from hotels to private boarding houses to simple campgrounds.
Guide: Bodensee-Königssee-Radweg, Verlag Esterbauer bikeline, €13.90, Globetrotter order number: 14.91.26.
Further information: GPS tracks, tour descriptions and brochures for download: bodensee-koenigssee-radweg.de.
05. März 2015, Text: Julian Rohn