20/7/17. The last few days have been spent travelling down to our favourite place in Germany – the Bodensee or Lake Constance where Germany, Austria and Switzerland meet at a widening of the Rhine. We have been here numerous times before (at least 10) and it is our favourite place – it is so beautiful and easy and German and good for cycling and lovely! In fact we often say if we ever had a holiday home it would be here!
We took the ferry from Helsinki to Travemünde, near Lúbeck, in northern Germany, but not before Stephen had a last bike ride in Finland while Christine had her pill “sitting down” session! The ferry sailed at 5 in the afternoon but check in was only between 1.30 and 3 and, because we declined the offer of a cabin at €290, we wanted to be one of the first on board to grab some of the best reclining seats for the 30 hour trip so aimed to get there early.
Of course the inevitable happened! We and the other 8 cyclists were put into one of the last lanes to be loaded. However, it was not really a problem as it seemed that most of the motorists were in cabins and mainly the cyclists who were slumming it. It was an unexciting trip across the Baltic which was at its most placid – thankfully as Christine had not got any sea sickness pills.
We arrived in Travemünde as it was getting dark (a real novelty!) and quickly made our way to the campsite nearby to get some shut-eye as, while better than it might have been because we had used our camping mattresses rather than the reclining seats, our sleep onboard had not been the best.
After a lie-in we slowly made our way to Lübeck, some 20 km away, enjoying loading the bikes on the bus to go through the Herrentunnel as we had almost a year ago en route from Berlin to Dieppe (see The Baltic Bummel 3). We were more than happy to use the same campsite and Christine went for a walk around the city while Stephen loafed around at the tent to rest his right knee which has been giving him “gip” for the last couple of weeks when walking (but thankfully not cycling!)
On Tuesday we embarked on the first leg of our rail trip from one end of Germany to the other. We used a cheapo ticket which meant the second person (and also up to 3 others) to go anywhere for €8. The only problem was that the ticket was only valid on the slower regional trains rather than the fast Inter City ones. Thus we had to make five! changes of train and after 10 hours of travelling we had only reached the northern edge of Baden-Wurttemberg. However, Christine in particular enjoyed watching the changing landscape go past and it was a good opportunity to catch up on podcasts and reading.
The changes of train involved changing platforms and while there were generally lifts, at one station there were none so Stephen ended up carrying the bikes (minus a couple of panniers) up and down steps. At the last stop of the day, there were lifts but the one from the platform down to the tunnel to the exit was out of commission necessitating more carrying. In addition, most of the trains were such that we could wheel the bikes on and off but one, at a station where the train only stopped for a couple of minutes, required the bikes to be lifted up and down 3 steps. Somewhere on the journey Stephen didn’t do a “proper” lift and by the evening his back had seized up in protest. This combined with his dodgy knee left him feeling about 30 years older than he had at the start of the day!
We stopped in the small town of Lauda which appeared to be on a popular cycling route judging by the number of other cyclists in the hotel. The advantage of having reached here the previous evening was that on Wednesday we could buy a cheaper ticket for travel within B-W which would get us to our destination of Friedrichshafen on the shore of the Bodensee.
We arrived at the station in plenty of time in case we needed to use the broken lift so Christine could carry the bags and bikes in about10 trips up and down steps because Stephen’s back was completely out of commission. However, this was thankfully unnecessary.
While we sat waiting for the train a man walked along the platform carrying a cricket bat – something we had never seen in many trips to Germany. We got speaking to Khan, originally from Pakistan, and he explained that he played for Karlsrühe, a team in the cricket Bundesliga. He noticed Stephen wincing when moving and had a quick look at his back. He got out his ice-spray (very welcome) and gave Christine some physio-tape to apply that evening. Clearly he has some role in keeping the team healthy as well as being a player.
Just before the train was due sure there was an announcement that it was running 15 minutes late. We eventually caught the next train which was due an hour later and was itself half an hour late. To further discredit the reputation of German railway efficiency it stopped two stations short of its destination, Stuttgart, so we had to catch a suburban service before we could get on our final train to Friedrichshafen – so our journey across Germany involved 9 trains and one damaged back!
By the time we reached the Bodensee the clouds that had been around since a thunderstorm just after we arrived at the hotel in Lauda the previous evening had blown away and we were greeted by lovely sunshine and a cool breeze for a short ride to the campsite near the small town of Immenstaad, where we have stayed on all our previous visits to the lake except one. Here Christine took responsibility for pitching the tent on her own for the first time ever – but Stephen kept a close eye on her and issued detailed instructions!
The campsite is idyllicly situated right by the lake, with a small area exclusively for cycle tourists in the best spot. From our tent we have wonderful views across to Switzerland and the Alps. Just perfect!