to Braunau, 48 Miles by bike
Day 5: Wednesday, May 29, 2002
We woke up and had to blink a few times. Sun! Finally! We had a small breakfast, packed up and headed out. Thankfully, the man of the house had let me use his garden hose the night before to wash off the grit on the bike, so it was pretty clean (I learned a new German word: wasserschlauch = water hose). Our shoes were still wet from the day before, but we figured they would dry quickly in the nice weather.
Rather than press our luck in the domain of the wild piggies again, we decided to bypass the trail through the woods and find our own way on side roads to the next town (Oberndorf), where we could rejoin the bike route. Our perseverance the day before was rewarded by the gift of a perfect day with blue skies and a few fluffy clouds. We were reinvigorated and happy to be riding once again.
The roads to Oberndorf were mostly flat and little-used, and followed the fence of the forest reserve for a while. Ginny swore that she saw a wild pig, but I have my doubts. Oberndorf looked to be a nice town, and we found ourselves wishing we had ridden a bit longer last night so we could have stayed there.
The town is famous as the home of the "Stille Nacht Kapelle," the small chapel where the Christmas carol "Silent Night" was first penned. We made the required pilgrimage to see the church, which is maybe a minute off the bike route. The chapel is on the far side of town, and you can find it easily by riding the path along the river. There is a sign for the chapel on the path that points down a flight of stairs, but if you want to avoid the steps ride another 50 feet and look for another sign that points down a side road and to the chapel.
They certainly venerate the tiny chapel, with a small square featuring a TI (nice, free bathrooms underneath the TI), a biergarten and pension, etc. Thankfully, we were there early and there was nobody else around, so we could enjoy a brief respite, look at the church, and fill our water bottles in peace. It turns out the chapel is not the original one, and was no doubt rebuilt once the town fathers figured out what a good tourist draw it would be. Anyway, it was interesting to see.
The path continued along the river on good pavement, not gravel as our trail guide indicated. We kept waiting for it to turn to gravel, but it didn't until the border with Ober Osterreich (Upper Austria), where it quickly devolved into a really bad dirt and gravel double track with lots of water-filled holes. A fairly boring stretch followed, interrupted by a pedestrian bridge that required lifting the bike across (kind of difficult with a loaded tandem).
The path dropped us onto a small road near Tittmoning, Germany (reached by crossing a bridge to the left over the Salzach). We thought about heading into town to take a break, but decided to keep going as it was still early. We followed the route markers to the right along a small road and then turned left onto a road that would take us up and over the steep hill we saw marked on the map with thick black up arrows (thin arrows denote an easy hill, thick ones a difficult hill).
When faced with the base of the hill, we decided to stop and take the counsel of a nearby flock of sheep. They baah'ed loudly and came to confer with us, but quickly left when they determined we weren't going to share any of our crackers with them (they were unimpressed by our offering of grass). We munched on the crackers and the remaining PowerBar and enjoyed an Eis Tee I had picked up earlier. Not terribly fortifying … we should have detoured into town and purchased something more filling since breakfast was so small.
As we were contemplating the hill ahead, a large group of German tourists rode past and without hesitation they immediately hopped off their bikes to walk up the hill. They didn’t even try to start riding up it. I guess it's only us Americans that are shamed by walking hills. We took our cue from them and started pushing our bike. After about a short distance, though, we figured it was a) more difficult to push the tandem than to ride it, and 2) still a long way to the top. So, we shifted into our easiest gear and decided to ride the rest. The hill had a fairly steep set of switchbacks, about a mile long. We made it to the top, and were greeted by the cheers of a few of the other riders who were awaiting their companions at the top.
We smiled and tried to look like we weren't tired and rode on across a very pretty plateau, followed by a rolling ride through a forest and a nice downhill to Burghausen. We made the big mistake of following the signs for the bike route when it turns left, which led us literally over hill and dale and probably added several kilometers to the ride to the town. Stay on the road!
Burghausen featured a very nice main square, with a large fortress (supposedly one of the largest in Europe) looming over the town. We debated going up to look at it, but decided to save it for another time. We were pretty hungry at this point, so I went to forage for lunch, trying to find an Imbiss or a food market. The one Imbiss on the square was closed for vacation, but I scavenged a pre-made sandwich and some pastries at a nearby Backerei.
As we sat eating our meal the other bikers we passed earlier on the hill showed up and decamped to the square. We thought about going over to chat some, but we were enjoying just lounging on the park bench and relaxing. As we were leaving an older German couple came up to us and told us they had recently purchased a Santana Sovereign tandem for 13,000 Marks! We had yet to see another tandem in Germany, much less a Santana. On a later trip we found out that Santana's European distributor is based nearby in Rosenheim, Germany (near Munich).
Refreshed from lunch, yet somewhat bloated by the consumption of pastries, we rode across the bridge and back to Austria. We were immediately confronted with a really steep set of switchbacks up from the river, the worst uphill of the trip so far. We crawled slowly up the hill and were pretty proud of ourselves (that's the nice thing about riding on the front of a tandem: you always have someone to give you a pat on the back!), until our self-congratulatory thoughts were tempered by a guy on a racing bike who cruised past us without even breaking a sweat. We mumbled things about his heritage under our breath, and continued on. At least it wasn't some little old Austrian lady on a three-speed passing us (hey, it's happened).
The uphill paid off with a very nice section at the top. We chose to stay on the road here even though the route turned to the left onto back roads. The road didn't have much traffic and had a nice shoulder, with a slight uphill gradient. We were feeling pretty good and kept up a good 18mph pace, passing several other tourists en route. We were now high above the river, and stopped at a signed rest area that overlooked the confluence of the Salzach and Inn rivers, with a really nice view of the delta formed by the two rivers. The rest area had picnic tables, a portable toilet, and trashcans. It would make a really nice spot to eat lunch.
One of the bikers we passed rolled in and we exchanged pleasantries. He was from the Netherlands and was traveling alone and was happy to take a photo of us. We exchanged the favor, and he rode on. We relaxed a bit longer at the table and enjoyed some water and the warmth of the strong sun. Two more men rode up, and we talked with them for some time and found out they were from Dusseldorf.
We were sure that if we lounged around much longer we would fall asleep, so off we went. We continued past the turn off for the bike route and stayed on the road for a few miles before we decided to cut back over to the path along the river. A small side road took us right through the middle of a small farm, where we startled some free-ranging chickens. One took off down the road in front of us, and kept crossing back and forth, bringing to mind many chicken and road jokes. Thankfully, he gave up before we ran over him.
We knew we were heading the right way, but had a difficult time finding the bike route, ending up instead on a dirt road beside a high embankment (a dike for the river, it turns out). We finally figured out that the path was up on the dike and took a dirt trail that angled up the dike to get to it. The path went back on a road briefly, where we caught up to the single biker we met up at the viewpoint, and then back on the dike.
The dike seemed newly built, and was very loose gravel with some large stones, which wasn't very good for riding. The dike led us directly to the walls of the town of Braunau, where we had to make a right to go through a small tunnel and up a short hill into the center of the town. To welcome bikers the town built an interesting biker "meeting point" ("Treffpunkt") with information and WCs (dirty, according to Ginny).
We went past the Treffpunkt and took the first right onto Linzer Strasse to get to the Stadtplatz (town square). The town offers a nice main street with cafés, hotels, and a TI office at the end near the river and bridge. We picked-up a walking map of the town in English and a list of hotels. We found a room at the Post Hotel-Garni, a good deal for 54 Euros. It's right on the main square, with nice, albeit dated, rooms and good, hot showers. After we showered and rested a bit, we wandered around following the walking tour and noted the medieval houses, church, and even the house where Adolf Hitler was born in 1889. Hitler’s father was a customs official posted in Braunau; Hitler actually spent most of his early years living near the Austrian city of Linz and didn’t move to Germany (Munich) until 1913.
After our lack of culinary fulfillment during the day, we spent some time finding a nice place to eat dinner. We found "Pizza De Ja Vu," a good Italian restaurant with a wood-burning oven and a wide-ranging menu (excellent tortellini soup). It's on a back street off the Stadtplatz, near the large church (which is worth visiting). We got ice cream cones after dinner to top off the day, and wandered down to the Inn bridge to enjoy the sunset. We thought about walking across the river into Germany for the sheer novelty of it, but decided our legs had worked enough. A long day, with a few hills, but a nice section to ride.