The “Love Route“ ! – September 2015

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 – Füssen to Regensburg

The morning dawned clear and a bit dull. It was actually the first day of Autumn and let us know with that slight chill in the air that indicates Summer is over. However, he sun was glinting through the clouds and before we had finished our breakfast in Füssen’s quiet central square it had warmed up a bit.

We rode the short distance out of town to where the “famous“ castle of Neuschwanstein can be found, perched high on a hill. It is impressive, but, considering that Mad King Ludwig almost bankrupted Bavaria with the cost of its construction, it seemed amazingly small. The castle is also the inspiration for the fairytale castles found in various Disneylands around the world, but King Ludwig did not really like staying there and, apparently, spent less than 180 nights there in total.

Because it is so high up, getting a good photo is almost impossible – we have any number of better ones on the lids of jig-saw boxes that were taken from aeroplanes or helicopters.

In fact, having forgotten to charge our camera battery, we had to wait for quite an embarrassing time for it to recharge from the socket on the Harley before we could get one at all. It took long enough, in fact, for me to discover from nearby notice boards that behind the mountains was Austria and not, as I had thought, Switzerland.

On an adjacent bluff is a second castle, the Schloss-Hohenschwangau which, in “real“ castle terms, actually looks a bit more serious.

We did not go up to either castle, we only wandered around at ground level trying to capture the scene and then, having got to where we were going, we set off northwards towards home.

I mentioned earlier that we were initially thwarted in our hopes to visit the Baroque, UNESCO listed chapel in Kissing.

I do not know whether there is such a word as “re-thwarted“, but if there is not then maybe there should be.

We made a very careful, measured and low-speed approach to Kissing, which somehow sounds a bit like our initial courtship. Yet somehow, we again failed to find the slightest indication of its presence. Just how we both missed it, I cannot imagine, but, when we arrived, once more, in Augsburg, it was fairly obvious we had !

Perhaps, we thought, they just do not want people to go there.

At this point I should put my proverbial hands up to a significant error.

The church which we were seeking was actually not in Kissing at all – but in the town of Wies (and it is called in German, Wieskirche). Wies is a lot farther south, almost all the way to Füssen. My incorrect notes ensured we would breeze past it because we had long stopped looking for it on the way down – and do the same thing on the way back because we had not started looking !

Hopefully, it will still be there if we are ever in the (right) area again !

Another thing we had failed to accomplish on our way south was a visit to Nördlingen’s Rieskrater Museum. As we approached the town, the view across the crater to the distant lip was far clearer than it had been the day before.

The Rieskrater Museum can be found close to the city wall (Eugene-Shoemaker-Platz 1). We were not disappointed by our visit. It is small, but very informative and, besides numerous meteorites, it contains a piece of moon rock. This rock was collected from the lunar surface by the astronaut Charles Duke on the Apollo 16 mission. I had once met Charles Duke in Prague and it was strange to see him, in his protective suit, standing on the lunar surface. The very first “selfie“ that I ever took was of me and Charles and the lady in the museum gleefully printed it out from my iPhone when I showed it to her !

There is a Czech/Austrian/New Zealand artist called Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Whilst the total lack of symmetry (indeed he purposefully avoids it !) of his architectural “creations“ does not sit too well with my “inner Virgo“ they do have a cleverness, maybe even a boisterousness about them which I do like. For instance, he transformed a civic rubbish incineration plant in Vienna into a thing of some beauty the function of which would be hard to guess if you did not know it.

It was always our intention to return to the Czech Republic via a different route and we planned to visit one of Hundertwasser’s “works“ in the town of AbenSberg on our way to our booked accommodation in Regensburg.

Now, you might think that the big S in AbenSberg is a typo. It is not really. I only wish I had included that S when I programmed the SatNav. In life, in a cafe in Nördlingen, I sadly omitted it. Perhaps even more sadly, there IS a town called Abenberg and, more sadly too, the Nördlingen – Abenberg – Regensburg distance is almost identical to that for Nördlingen – AbenSberg – Regensburg ……

As a consequence, no little bells went off in my mind and off we rode. There was no real way of knowing it, but as soon as we left the cafe we were heading in completely the wrong direction.

Whether or not I would have realised my error, I will never know as the weather soon gave me plenty more to think about.

We left Nördlingen is sunshine, but within a very short space of time this changed to dull and blustery and the air took on that metallic “taste“ that any serious motorcyclist will know indicates that rain is on its way.

Soon afterwards, it began to spit with rain which turned rapidly to drizzle. It was not a total downpour, but it was still enough to render the roads a bit slippery and, worst of all, to impair visibility as the spray and our own breathing fogged-up our visors.

In those circumstances our speed was cut quite a bit and my attention was entirely focussed on other traffic and the SatNav.

It was not, in all honesty, a lot of fun. Despite the fact that the Harley is quite heavy, it can be a bit skittish on wet white lines and drain covers. I had to be extra cautious in the towns and villages we went through along the way.

Abenberg crept slowly nearer and, after what seemed like an age, we finally arrived there. It was typically Germanic and had a nice little castle. Despite it being a small place there was no sign, whatsoever, of the Hundertwasser building that we had come to see. You already know why that was, but we still did not.

We found a small pizzeria and had a lunch while we tried to work out what was wrong. That moment when I typed in Hundertwasser into the Google Maps app on my iPhone and watched as page swished hard (and quite a long way) to the right of our location, will haunt me for years. It is one of those moments when you wish the ground would simply swallow you up and I was quite relieved when Lucie continued to use the knife she was holding to slice her pizza !

We had no real choice so I typed Abensberg into the SatNav, taking great care to include the previously omitted S and was a little dismayed to find that it was around 100 kilometres away. It was not the distance that was dismaying in itself, but mainly the fact that we were, by then, well into the afternoon. We would be hard pressed to get to our original destination before it was too dark to see anything.

We set off into the dull afternoon. It had, at least, stopped raining but it was still damp enough, in places, to warrant a degree of caution.

The route, on a sunny day, would actually have been very pleasant. It was basically well surfaced minor roads through a neat, green landscape. There was quite a bit of non-highway traffic travelling, as German drivers will, at exactly the speed limit. Even though I was not hurrying, we ended up going more slowly than we wanted to, or indeed needed to if we were to get where we wanted to be while it was still light.

In the end, although I pushed it as hard as I safely could, time won. Aided by the low cloud, the light had all but failed when we finally rolled into the “real“ Abensberg. We found the Hundertwasser structure easily enough, it was distinctive enough to be visible, at least as a silhouette, even in a small town with poor street lighting. Sadly, it was spitting with rain again and that, coupled with the overall gloom, made any photography impossible. Vowing to return the next morning, we swiftly headed off towards Regensburg.

It instantly started to rain more heavily and we were fairly damp by the time we made it into Regensburg. It was probably the biggest town we had been in on our travels with quite a lot of traffic and the accompanying spray made progress difficult. Guided by our SatNav, we easily located where our hotel was – only it was not there ! Dark, raining and an invisible hotel. We checked the address, which was the same as we had and re-entered it. A “new“ location appeared – but it appeared to be a place which we could see without moving. Finally, we resorted to good old Google maps which rather annoyingly guided us around the corner and there on our right was our hotel. Phew !

What a charming and totally esoteric place it turned out to be !

The Elements Hotel, (Alter Kornmarkt 3, Regensburg), was, at the time, almost brand new. Our charming and spacious room was as clean as a new pin and even the air smelled of newness. The decor was clean, fresh and decidedly eclectic – but whoever had done the decoration had cleverly incorporated the modern into what was certainly an ancient floor plan. Despite its modernity, I liked it and, after a pleasant snack at the Caffe Rinaldi (which was right next door), it was a lovely place to cuddle up while the rain lashed down outside.