It is THE poster picture icon of Germany, the subject of countless jigsaws, and Disney tried to recreate it: Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, just a few kilometres from the border with the Tirol region of Austria. It’s also one of the major tourist destinations within Germany, but few realise how good the cycling opportunities are in the area. And not everybody realises that King Ludwig grew up in another palace called Hohenschwangau, just a stone’s throw away – which is in our main photo. From Hohenschwangau you can see across to Neuschwanstein, as per the photo on the left.
There are inexpensive flights from Stansted, for example Germanwings to Stuttgart; Ryanair to Memmingen (which they renamed “Munich-West”), and Easyjet to Munich itself.
German trains are known for their punctuality and there is a good network. Deutsche Bahn offer a “Bayern Ticket” (Bavaria ticket) for just €23, which you can book online; it gets you one day’s rail travel throughout Bavaria with up to 5 people accompanying you included in the price. But Stuttgart isn’t in Bavaria, so the ticket wouldn’t work from there.
Several of the hotels and inns around Schwangau and Füssen offer bike hire and the Todos bike shop in Schwangau itself has a selection of bikes available at reasonable rental rates, as well as providing service and spares. They don’t have an online presence, but can be emailed or phoned on +49-8362-987-888. These were their rates when we visited a few weeks ago.
Bike Hire Charges
|Bike Type||1 day||3 days||1 week|
|City bike||€ 9.00||€23.00||€45.00|
|Trekking/ touring bike||€ 9.00||€23.00||€45.00|
|MTB bike||€ 9.00||€23.00||€45.00|
|MTB bike Fully – 29er||€12.00||€35.00||€55.00|
|E-bike MTB 29er||€25.00||€65.00||€140.00|
|Trailer for child||€5.00||€15.00||€30.00|
Apart from visiting the two castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, there’s a wonderful ride into Austria and past the incredible green water of the Plansee, which is just visible at the bottom of the map shown at the bottom of this page (a “See” – pronounced Zay – is a lake) to another palace of Linderhof. This is about 45km and has about 265m of ascent. There’s a choice of different routes back: a shorter 29km ride with 733m of ascent, or a more gentle but longer 48km ride via the picturesque Oberammergau with only 215m of ascent.
Oberammergau – in the photo on the left – is where the famous passion play takes place. This small town also has a tradition of wood carving and there are several shops selling carved figures, mostly but not all with religious themes. Remember to plan enough time for visits to the Linderhof palace, where there can be waiting times for timed visits, as well as a look around Oberammergau, and the outward and returnlegs if you decide to do this journey.
We discovered a butcher’s shop called Sebastian Gerold in the Verlegergasse which offered a good thick slice of “Leberkäs” – a Bavarian meat loaf – in a roll for a very modest price, which depends on how big a slice you order. That was followed with a Rothenburg Schneeball (snow ball), from Stefanie Diller’s “Schneeballenträume” (snow ball dreams!) shop in the Ludwig-Thoma-Strasse, which leads off the Verlegergasse towards the main street through the town. This is a cake that comes in various flavours, costs between €2 and €3 per snowball, and provides plenty of calories for the ride back to Schwangau!
The Tourist Information in Schwangau offers a map of the area (already referred to, see below) with a number of marked bike routes. These are:
Tour 1: about 31km completely on tarmac, just 150m of ascent. In the summer season between 1st June and the beginning of October, this can be combined with boat rides on the Forgenssee with 8 different ports of call.
Tour 2: About 25km mainly on tarmac but some sand/gravel. 270m of ascent. This is a bit more strenuous than route 1 and can be extended by 15km to Reutte in Tirol, with return journey via Musau. (The route out to Reutte is the first leg of the ride to the Plansee, Linderhof, and Oberammergau.)
Tour 3: Around 55km return trip mainly on tarmac but with a 500m stretch that is off road on firm ground. This is to the incredible baroque church of Wies with its stunning interior decoration, predominantly on a white background, but with intense decoration (photo on the left). Some of the figures are 2 dimensional in paint, but with, for example, their leg extending as plaster work out of the ceiling or wall. I’m not a church goer, but this style of Bavarian church is a must-see if you are in the area. About 20km of the route is on quiet byways, but there are some ascents in the last 9km or so, totalling 250m. There is a pleasant little “Gasthof” (café cum restaurant cum pub) alongside the church where refreshments can be had.The route back to Schwangau just reverses the outward trip.
Tour 4 is 75% off-road and is a mountain bike route of 25km, 75% of which is off road, with 620m of ascent, 390m of which is in the first 8km, and the remaining 230 is in the final 4 ½ km. This goes up to a chalet and also passes a mountain inn called the Berggaststätte “Bleckenau”.
Tour 5 is another mountain bike route, this time of 55km, of which 20km are off-road, with 700m of ascent.
Tour 6 is a flat ride with just 30m of ascent over its 12km length on a mixture of tarmac and gravel surfaces. This calls at the Cable Car that goes up the Tegelberg. From the top, there are superb views – as long as there’s no low cloud! The return trip costs €19.40, but this reduces to €18.90 with a guest card: ask at your hotel or campsite for this. There’s also a summer sledge track which costs €2.80 for a child and €3.60 for an adult.
Tour 7 is a ride around the Hopfensee (literally “Lake Hops” – as in beer, but actually named after a small village called Hopfen, so it’s Lake Hopfen). This is mainly tarmac for 23km with just 40m of ascent.
Tour 8 is 22km, mainly tarmac, but with some sand/gravel and 150m of ascent. This goes out to the Weissensee and AlatseeThere is a good selection of accommodation in and around Schwangau. We stayed at Landhotel Huberhof which is a typical Bavarian chalet style building. Just 100m or so further along the road is a campsite by the Forggensee Lake, with a great restaurant and bar just before you get to the camp site entrance and registration. The food there and at the Huberhof is to be recommended – and we enjoyed the beers!