This took my eye as we went on our cycle trip today. ”Ouch, that hurts’ I said. But honestly speaking we were surrounded by rolling fields of rich colors such as Van Gogh’s favourite, yellow, and blue skies heavily laced with white. Our route would take about 4 hours of cycling along gravel and sand paths and delving into marshy not oft trodden pathways. All this in and around beautiful Kruklanki.
We packed everything into two overburdened backpacks. The sausages for our lunch, a knife for honing our ‘kiyek’, or long sticks to you and me fashioned from sturdy sticks. What else, oh, wet wipes, map, energy drinks and snack bars for the children, bread for toasting, matches, ketchup and assorted extra items of clothing.
We stopped in Kruklanki itself for the essential ice cream and couldn’t pass up the chance for a pic of my new mighty steed. Then back onto the road and on into the forest again. This time we headed for a spot by the lake known only to us, and the two carloads of screaming families that turned up! We built our fire and sharpened our roasting sticks.
Then ignition and that wonderful primeval feelin’ of fire and meat in the great outdoors, and ketchup of course!
Replete with meat and additives we cycled for a couple of more hours past rolling fields like these, so easy on the eye.
Before going back into Kruklanki we took in and old Prussian built single rail line, duly destroyed by the German Army, well no, they planted the explosives but it was the locals who actually detonated them as they, the locals, wanted to stop the Russians taking everything, or taking everything into their hands. The detonator was hidden in a shelter on an adjacent hill, over which the rail line itself traversed a small gulley, via a bridge. See below. Imperialism.
And home with plans for the Sunday already afoot.
The plans are laid with meticulous inaccuracy. A new bicycle is in town and it needs to be broken in, hopefully ‘broken’ not being the operative word. A funky black bike with light blue trim, a Kross Black Edition 7.1, which I know is important for some people:-) Now bare in mind we are dealing with a technological leap of immense proportions. For one, the brakes work! I mean with a 10 second time frame. Amazing. It has forks that actually absorb bumps, not transfer them directly in shuddering fashion to my gently ossifying joints.The gears work, they don’t leave my legs windmilling aimlessly. New bike, same body so maybe you have spotted the achilles heel in this set up?
The plan involves refitting our new Thule bike rack for three cycles, and one young ladies bike in the boot, with one small section of the rear seats laid flat. This will mean both children being pushed up next to each other. No problem there, I’m sure! On our circuit of the same lake we checked out last we will stop for a campfire.The crackling of wood and roasting of sausages and bread are all in the plan. Sausages are apparently a very old form of food for humankind. Thank God ours will be modern with lots of reassuring additives an E numbers, and don’t forget the ketchup.
On to a slice of 19th century romanticism on what can be only termed, the grand style, courtesy of Ludwig II in beautiful Bavaria. Our faithful car laboured up the twisting, narrow switchbacks roads (get the picture?) until we finally swept into Hohenschwangau.
After some nifty maneuvering the driver got us parked behind a small restaurant for a nominal fee. Well done driver.Safely leaving and forgetting our bottles of water in the car, so that they would be at boiling temperature on our return, we set off on foot in earnest. Hold onto the hands of young children as motorbikes cars and tour buses pound up the stretch of road to the shops, restaurants and ticket offices serving the castle’s visiting public.
The town was packed and temperatures had risen to 40 degrees. Everything was rather expensive and remember to have plenty of small change for the toilets. Which in an un-German like manner were not very clean. Having decide to visit the castle we joined a long twisting queue for tickets. Being English, queuing is kind of in the genes. However no cover had been provided and it was hot and tiring on everybody, especially people with young children. The lady who sold us the tickets spoke English well and told us that our tickets were for 4.30pm so we had time to eat.
A comment about language. We had to stop a couple of times earlier in Bavaria. On both occassions I spoke to a man over 50 in his front garden, and a woman over 60 at a small provincial hotel. On both occassions they were not only helpful but spoke pretty good English, too. Much appreciated when lost with wife children in the car:-)
Back to food. We went through the town until we came to a restaurant opposite a lake and a small beach for the children to paddle and play in. For ardent sun worshippers there is a larger beach area a little further on.
Restaurant.The menu was in German and everything had a fancy name, and an even fancier price. What turned up on the plate was basically a burger, for the price of a steak! Having secured a second mortgage and settled the bill we left to take a bus to the castle. We had been told by our helpful ticket seller that it would take about 40 minutes to walk. In the stifling heat the bus was the sensible option. We got on in an orderly fashion thanks to barriers that formed a snake like queue. A word on the return. The bus drops you in a small clearing and you continue up to the castle. At the top there are no barriers and people pushed and shoved almost in desperation to get back on the bus for the downward trip. Why? It wasn’t the last bus! Your status as an older person, child, or babe in arms was ignored and the tourists behaviour was atrocious! We stood apart and waited for the next bus.Cattle prod, please. Barriers would be a good idea.
Then we walked up to the castle itself which was an imposing and wonderful view.
We took a minor detour to go onto a bridge that hangs precipitously over a gorge nearby. Oh, how I laughed when a group of people decided to show how it could be made to move a bit. Great!
And finally the castle itself. Good, solid, well made castle. It stands majestically and shone almost white-like in the sun drenched Bavarian vista. The visits were well controlled and we waited patiently for our group to gain admittance.
Inside the castle itself it pays homage to one man’s Wagnerian obsession along with folklore inspired murals and decor. Strangely enough one of the most interesting places was the cookhouse and its ‘state of the art’ equipment. Wonderful to look at, but in the back of the mind was the nagging thought that it is really all a bit of one man’s folly. Great to visit, wonderful to see but not exactly an inexpensive day all in all. Take small change for the toilets, a friends credit card for the restaurants and don’t leave the water in the car on such a hot day, unless you want to make tea. Oh yes, and mind peoples behaviour getting on a bus in a a semi-remote area!!!
Next would be an amusement park for the children and a place for me to enjoy more heights.
Off we set for a drive of about 30 minutes to Kruklanki, specifically to Lake/jezioro Gołdopiwo, piwo means beer in Polish:-) Utilizing our new cycle rack, manufactured by Thule, hopefully not as in ”Thule be sorry.”
The route is roughly, and unevenly, about 15km around this beautiful lake. With temperature around 15 degrees and rain in the offing, we just about had the entire ride to ourselves. The way is sand and meanders through wonderful lush countryside and swamp lands, too.
We rode through the fields and round the lake to the accompaniment of frogs, birds and the song of the wind. In some places natural erosion has eaten away at the roots of great fir trees, leaving their roots exposed to the elements. Bad for the tree but good for us to look at, though.
Even a heavy rain squall, and hailstones didn’t dampen our spirits!
A great ride almost entirely too ourselves, good exercise and a guaranteed appetite builder.
Carefully shoveling everything back into the car we headed off to the rocky shores of Lake Garda. A lake along the banks of which Emperor Claudius defeated Germanic tribes and where Napoleon gave the Austrian army a bad away day. To follow were the battles of the ‘I’m not walking that far’ and ‘what are we doing?’. The route took in Innsbruck and the increasingly mountainous scenery as we ploughed on southwards. The children were fascinated by the mountains and stopped looking at their ipads and tablet etc., for…oh, about 2 seconds! 400km of a beautiful route to drive. The Brenner bridge over the Brenner pass. At 180 meters I declined to look to much at the stunning views, being the pilot, even when invited by the navigator. Although it was late June we did not encounter an real traffic jams or marmalades or other confiture.
For Italy we did not have to purchase a vignette, which was pleasing. Less pleasing was the way the road tolls racked up in Italy. Eventually making the vignettes look good value! At Trento we left the motorway for the sake of our pockets and to better get a feel of the place on lesser roads.And there it was, diamond lights sparking on the surface of Lake Garda. We took the quite road down by the lake to Bardolino which snuggled on the east coast of Garda. Ah…Vacansoleil and our accommodation beckoned. The SR249 is not Russian spy plane, but the funky designation for the road which bisects this camp. I had a choice, pull in on the right and check in. Off course wrong, two receptions, back in the car back on the road and into the left-hand reception. A strange set up as the SR249 (or on alternating Tuesdays, the BR696) was a tad busy and there were many, many families with young children. Later after traversing the road we found out that there is a tunnel connecting the landlocked camp and the shore side area. The tunnel is a cycle and Llama free zone, but cars can go there, too. Super!
The shins explained and our accommodation. After being read the rules we were led to our chalet. Small timber built chalets packed close together amongst very large mature trees.After coating the car in vaseline I just about managed to slip it in next to our chalet, up to the back of the neighbour’s chalet and a big knobbly tree. With children fleeing the car technology in hand we unpacked suitcases and the staggering volumes of blankets and divans. A timber sitting area is traversed and we’re in. Having once visited Chatham naval dockyard on a family visit, and having been aboard an Oberon class diesel-electric submarine , I wasn’t unduly shocked. It was tight. A tiny kitchenette was passed to get to the children’s room which was snugly snug and stifling in the heat. As for the bathroom, well just don’t turn round. If you drop the soap, leave the bathroom and come back in on your knees. Our room was an emaciated double bed with steel legs. Hardly enough room was left to go alongside the bed or get to the tiny wardrobe. Hence the oft repeated, ‘Oh gosh I seem to have hurt my shin again darling, what a clumsy soul I am”.
The camp was packed, noisy and the pool was old fashioned and undersized. An onsite camp shop was not the cheapest, but the supermarkets 10 minutes drive away were very good value.The entertainment reminded me of camps in England as a boy.Noooo! But our submarine sized hut was merely a staging post for amusement parks, sightseeing Sirmione and Verona.