How about a different tour? Not a race of some of the elite cycling professionals, but a gentle tour of parts of Bavaria, by bike?
Like London has its M25, Munich (or München) has its Radlring. The difference? The M25 is for motor vehicles and the Radlring is a bike ring around Munich. As the map puts it, showing “the most beautiful beer gardens”! The German word “Rad” means a wheel, and also a bike. The Bavarian word is “Radl”, showing the difference between the Bavarians and “the Germans”, as these Southerners regard their northern neighbours as foreigners.
Munich solved its airport expansion problems quite a few years ago by building a huge, modern airport well outside the city to the North East. From there, you can either take the inexpensive S-Bahn – a cross between an overground service while well out of the city and the tube once it is in the centre – or there is a cycle route heading towards the centre, as well as towards the Radlring.
We stayed at a small hotel which is also a brewery at “Lohhof” – a one minute walk from the S1 S-Bahn route and alongside a bike trail. The beer was just over €3 for a half litre and was great, sitting in their beer garden, before enjoying a generous portion of evening meal at reasonable prices in the restaurant. We paid €89 for a double room including an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.
From Lohhof, it’s a little over 5km south on a bike path to join the “Radlring” at Schleissheim, where you simply have to stop and visit the different palaces on this site.
The smaller, old palace was one of the homes of the Elector of Bavaria, who built the larger, new palace (shown here) only a couple of hundred metres opposite, thinking that this would help persuade the other Electors to make him Emperor, but he was unsuccessful in his bid. Nevertheless, the Bavarian State is no doubt delighted that he built the palace and left them such a wonderful treasure.
There is also a much smaller palace in the same grounds, so you can easily spend half a day here – if you like palaces! Most palaces and stately homes throughout Germany could learn from the National Trust in the UK, as there is not often a cafe on the premises. But – Bavaria being Bavaria – there is a beer garden with a chalet style restaurant cum café.
The Bavarian government has its own ministry to administer the incredible number of castles, as well as lakes and parks of Bavaria and they do a bargain multi-entry ticket for a couple, which is valid for 14 days from your first entrance of one of the palaces. You can buy a 14 day ticket for 1 person for €24, or a ticket for two people for €40 (i.e. €20 each).
Unlike the Disneyesque Neuschwanstein palace (which is also worth a visit!) these palaces at Schleissheim had more staff than visitors so you can go round easily and without having to queue to get in.
Just 5 ½ km to the West of Schleissheim on the Radlring is the town of Dachau. It’s about a 1km diversion from the Radlring, but still on a bike path, to the site of the former concentration camp, the first to have been established in Germany, with its infamous slogan on the gates saying “Arbeitmacht frei” – “Work liberates you”.
There is an extensive museum in the former guards barracks with a brief but excellent film, with an English version on the timetable, along with other languages. A visit cannot be described as something you “enjoy”, but it’s something that everybody should see once, to see what man can do to his fellow human beings, and in the museum how many small steps moved a country away from democracy to a fanatical dictatorship until it was too late for the democrats to do anything about it.
When so many were united in misery and then death at Dachau, I found it disapointing that different faiths wanted to have their own separate places of worship on the site.
While at Dachau, you really have to go in to the town centre. Little is left of its palace apart from an excellent café serving the most delicious cakes on the ground floor, and the hall on the first floor with one of the most spectacular wooden ceilings (pictured to the left).
Dachau has an “old town” which is compact and attractive and comes with small hotels and a brewery. It does however seem so strange to see such an attractive place in such proximity to the terrible camp on the edge of town.
It’s easy to follow a bike path into the centre of Munich. We found that the German website called hotel.de had some smaller, inexpensive hotels that were great value which didn’t always feature on some of the more international websites like booking.com.
There are several bike rental companies in the centre of Munich and also some good guided bike tours, one of which finishes up in a brewery – it wouldn’t be Bavaria without the beer! Going on a tour not only shows you some of the main sites, and helps you get a feel for the layout of the city centre, but also eases you into cycling on the right in a different country. A guided tour of the city by bike costs €209 for up to 8 people and €25 per person after that, including bike hire. The tour takes 2-3 hours and you have to book beforehand, which you can either do online at spurwechsel-muenchen.de (use Google Chrome to translate into English) or you can find them on the edge of the Viktualienmarkt (the central food market – which is also a great place to get snacks and, you guessed it, beer!).
We chose to stay in the very central hotel Hotel Schlicker, which set us back €155 for a double room with superb breakfast. The hotel is only about 100m from the Marienplatz, the central square of Munich, outside the dramatic town hall.
The greatest discovery, however, was not the famous Hofbräuhaus only 4-500m away, but the Schneider Weisse wheat beer brewery opposite the hotel. I have enjoyed wheat beer before, but had not been aware of the numerous different types that Schneider brew: 9 different types, ranging from a 3.3% to a powerful 12%, and from €3.95 per ½ litre up to €4.70 (£2.95 – £3.50). The food was great quality and inexpensive (around €13 per main course) for the centre of a major international city, and came surprisingly fast considering how busy they were.