20 July 2012: Day 2 – Salzburg (Austria) to Schonau am Koenigsee (Germany)

41.53 km (25.81 mi)

We started our day with another hearty Austrian breakfast, but because it was raining steadily (not great news for the first day of riding…), we couldn’t sit out on the veranda as we had yesterday.  There were so many people in the breakfast hall that we had to sit quite close to another couple.  We speak almost exclusively Lithuanian when we travel, which is always a fun conversation starter for other travelers and locals alike who most often assume we don’t speak English.  It can be quite funny.

The couple next to us turned out to be Germans living permanently in Boston.  Their English was superb, but they thought it was important to speak to us (Kovas) in German so as to have him practice.  The couple had traveled to Lithuania, and believe it or not, the husband’s sister has a home in Telluride, so they have visited her often!  We decided yet again that it is truly a very small world we live in.  When we explained our intention to ride our bicycles to Rome, the husband laughed and said he had once ridden his bike to Florence, though admittedly took the train up Brenner Pass, which we were planning to ride in a few days.  He then warned us vehemently about Italian drivers.  Wonderful.

Once packed up and ready to go, we spent some time studying our massive Austrian atlas (we are carrying two Italian atlases and excerpts of our Austria/Germany atlas) to make sure we had the correct route out of Salzburg.  Riding out of the city was the most difficult part of the day, the rest was country riding all the way to Koenigsee.  While poring over our maps, the same German passed us as he was leaving the B&B for a walk.  He looked at us and said, “Where is your GPS?”  We laughed and held up our maps and said, “Right here.  We ride the old-fashioned way.”  He smiled at us, shook his head, chuckled, and said,” Good luck.”

Riding along out of Salzburg we stumbled upon a bike path that followed the Salzach River.  It was following the road we were supposed to take, so we thought, why bother with roads when there’s a bike path?  It was lovely and gave us a real appreciation for Austrian efficiency, cleanliness, and well-marked signs…except when we hit a small town just 15 or so km outside of Salzburg – Anif.  So we got a little confused.  Somehow we just couldn’t locate ourselves on the map and kept finding ourselves riding back towards Salzburg, i.e. the wrong way.  After riding back and forth along the same main street, we decided to ask a local for help.  Or rather, Kovas decided since I am notorious for never asking for directions.  Kovas pulls over and politely calls out in his best German which way to Koenigsee?  Wouldn’t you know it…of all the people he could have asked he chose a man who spoke no German, no English, no Lithuanian.  “Polski,” he exclaimed as he walked away.

Thank goodness all our years of traveling with maps and no GPS came in handy because we used those skills and redirected ourselves.  It was a quick ride to Koenigsee, and the rain held off after its morning visit.  As we rolled into Berchestegadan, a lovely town just 3 or so km from Koenigsee, we followed the signs to Schonau, not knowing it is a loop road that gets you there, meaning, one direction is straight up a steep hill and the other is civilized and level. Both take you to the same place.  We took the steep road of course.  Nothing like a fully loaded bicycle, a 15% grade, and granny gear to inch your way up this windy road.

Our guest house in Schonau is interesting.  The outside is a traditional Bavarian guesthouse, straight out of a Bavarian postcard – white stucco, engraved pine trime and accents, and of course the colorful cascades of window box flowers.  But once inside….wow…imagine 70s-era Sedona-esque vortex energy hippie crystals meets IKEA.  There are large ion-salt rocks, both large and small, glowing all over the lobby, hallways, and our room.  Our apartment is spacious – two large rooms and a massive bathroom filled with ultra-modern and crisp furnishings.  A low-profile platform bed, zen-design couch, and more ion rocks.  It’s very clean but perhaps a bit “cold.”

After settling in, we decided to walk into Berchestegaden to catch a bus to Ramsau, where we were meeting the wedding couple, the wedding party, and all the guests for a pre-festivities drink.  The Koenigsee area is a national park and well it should be.  It is beautiful.  The walk to Berchestegaden is lush with waterfalls, rivers, forests, and of course mountains surrounding.  There are all kinds of hiking and biking trails as well as opportunities to hike the surrounding mountains, including Mt. Watzmann, the highest mountain in the area.

It started absolutely pouring in Berchestegaden when we arrived, but we were starving (notice a theme here?) and so we dashed over to a bakery and indulged in perhaps the most delectable apple strudel known to man.  It was, without question, out of this world.  Sadly, no photos of this wonder of nature because I don’t think it lasted long enough for a photo opp.

Ramsau might be one of my favorite towns in the Koenigsee area.  It is everything you imagine a small Bavarian town to be, complete with the Kirche at the center of town, its bell tower the tallest structure in town, and its bells tolling to mark the hour.  Small white homes dot the mountainside while a few shops, restaurants and gasthauses line the river on the valley floor.  The town is a naturopath’s dream with trails and waterfalls around every street corner.  Despite the clanging of kirche bells at 8pm, this is a town that sleeps.  We stumbled into Gasthaus Oberwirt, wet and hungry, and dined on my favorite goulash thus far (ok, so there have only been two, but it’s a start).  The Hungarian paprika was especially present and gave the goulash a spicy kick.  Along with our Bavarian biers, alles gud.

We met the wedding guests and party at one of the Ramsau hotels for a drink and met Marius’ and Monja’s (the couple) many wonderful, multi-cultural, and international friends.  They hailed from the UAE, the US, Germany, Switzerland, and Lithuania among many others.  We had a funny exchange with an old Lithuanian friend from the Chicago area.  When we told him about our upcoming adventure, he simply said, “You’re joking.”

Koenigsee is quite possibly one of the ten most romantic places in the world for a wedding…if it wasn’t for the persistent rain.

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