Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Vive le Moment in the snow

I have reported elsewhere that the Gauloises advertising team is obsessed with semi-naked women. Well, it seems now that that is a bit boring, so now it is just naked women, flanked by men. It being the season, of course, for running around without clothes.

So, what is going on? Seemingly, Bavarians understand the concept of Pistengaudi (me thought it was a drunk architect). It is when you’ve done the skiing for the day and it’s time to get drunk. And naturally, in such circumstances, one sheds clothes. It goes without saying.


Autumn 2017 cigarette advertising in Germany

In recent weeks, the advertising territory has been completely owned by Gauloises. Indeed, Gauloises’ current campaign draws on the company’s favourite advertising theme, semi-naked women (left). I think the scenario is something like this – two women out for the night but have not had time to get ready because they work hard. So they bring their stuff with them and get changed in the taxi or some other vehicle. Whatever, they turn out brilliant.

However, JPS is back with a bunch of ultra-annoying 20-somethings (2/3 bearded men) sat on the roof – because they are so antisocial that they are not allowed inside – thinking up cool business ideas (presumably). A couple of laptops to symbolise work/creativity. One of the bearded men can do laptops and smoke simultaneously. Both the women are smoking but they don’t have laptops (men’s work?). The two other blokes are sockless, one of whom seems to be able to do amazing things with stools. I say no more.

Actually, I love the positioning of the poster next to a no-smoking sign!

All blue on the cigarette advertising front

As discussed for other brands, blue is the new black in the German cigarette advertising world. Gauloises is the latest brand to go blue, uninspiringly so (left). Milder taste. Kein Schnickschnack – I’d buy it for that alone (no “bells and whistles” is a possible translation). I suppose the real whistle is “Krebs” – cancer to me and you.

One good tandem ride – Munich to Tutzing and back

This year’s summer holiday has been walk oriented. The semi-planned tandem tour was sidelined. We did take a ride to Tutzing on Starnberger See, however. The original thought was to ride to Starnberg (24kms) and then ride around the lake in a clockwise direction and pick up the train at Tutzing. We started out in fabulous weather along the Würm Tal (Würm Valley). There is a cycle route taking in Planegg, Krailling and Gauting. It is lovely, though there are plenty of walkers as well. Care is needed. 

From Gauting to Starnberg we found the Mühltal cycle path which we had never used before. Wonderfully forested (right). We picnicked there. The path joins the main road into Starnberg, but there remains a cycle track.

The weather caught up with us. We decided to cycle anti-clockwise straight to Tutzing. The path is again forested with lots of people hiking and bathing. It is frequently necessary to leave the lake to go around private property.

The rain came down in Tutzing. We elected to go to a Greek Taverna to eat. And then at 1840 we elected to cycle back to Munich rather than take the train. The rain had passed, but we would need to do part of the journey in the dark.

We retraced our route back to Starnberg and then took an alternative route signposted to Königswiesen. We climbed out of Starnberg and through a golf course into another forest. When we emerged we were close to Hausen (right). Stupidly we went through the village rather than turning right towards Königswiesen. If there was a signpost, we missed it. This resulted in a bit of detour to get back to Gauting. Lovely sunset, though (left).

Once in Gauting, the route to Munich is fully illuminated and with dedicated cycle paths and good signage. In total, we managed 87km. We were pleased with ourselves.

Observations on mountain trails in Bavaria

If you are thinking about hiking in the Bavarian Alps in the summer, here are some thoughts:

Equipment – mountain boots for sure. The ground is challenging and ankles need support. I have worn successfully my North Face boots. Comfortable, sturdy, quite rigid. My partner used a pair of AKU CF Custom Fit boots (right). They are Gore-Tex lined and have a Michelin sole. They are unusual in that they are actually made in Italy. Combine with walking sticks for stability.

The weather can change very quickly; so, the usual advice is, be prepared. Take layers and make sure you have some waterproof clothes. Weather forecasting in Germany is different than in the UK. The British are obsessed with weather forecasts and can anticipate three new forecasts per day to be broadcast on TV and radio. The Germans seem satisfied with one. We have relied on ZDF. Non-German speakers can get the gist from this forecast. More importantly for making decisions about where to go and how long to walk are the weather radars available on the internet. These have helped us to make decisions even when we have been on the train heading out. If rain is forecast, these radar charts give a pretty good indication of exactly when it will arrive or whether it will stop.

Water – we are using Camelbak Chute bottles (left). They are 750ml capacity and watertight. I loathe bottles that leak. We have four of these. 3l gets us through a day of 6-8 hours with afternoon temperatures between 25 and 32 degrees.

Maps/guides – we started off using the Hikeline Wanderführer (authored by Katharina Spannraft) as our guide, but then bought a map (right) to give us a bit more flexibility and a better idea of alternatives. Paths are numbered and relate to the footpath signs on the route. Easy.

Food – we made our own sandwiches. However, there are Alm houses on most routes where food is often available. We did well when we visited; but they do close usually by 1700.

Transport – exclusively using Bayrische Oberlandbahn from Munich (left). There are three destinations, each with their own walking options – Bayrischzell, Lenggries and Tegernsee. A Bayern off-peak (after 0900) day ticket was €31 for the two of us. Cheaper than buying single tickets.

Seeberg Kopf circular route

We started at Bayrischzell. The walk started at a car park and mini-golf course to the south of the town. Route 645 is a delight. Initially wooded and constantly zig-zaging as it scales the steep side of the mountain.

When one leaves the forest the first of the Alms (Neuhütte) appears. The peak is basically up to the right of the Alm. A couple of kilometers further, Seeberg Alm comes at a junction. Up 20 mins or so to the peak (left). The peak is accessible to nonchalant cows. There will be some people as well. The peak is 1538m

When hikers have had enough of views over Bayrischzell and towards Wendelstein, walkers go back to the Alm and either retrace steps back to Bayrischzell or go right following a path to Osterhofen. It is a steep descent. The path meets a driveable path signposted to Klareralm and further to Niederhoferalm (below right).

The best of the walk is still to come, however. Follow route 645a (Talweg) towards Bayrischzell. The valley is fantastic and vertigo-inducing in places. Eventually the path meets the road, though continues in parallel at a discreet distance. We rewarded ourselves with dinner at the Alpenrose Hotel restaurant (eating on a very pleasant terrace). Vegetarian food available in that very Bayern way.





Hiking up Wendelstein, Bavaria

Wendelstein is an imposing sub-2000m mountain in southern Bavaria. It is accessible on foot by 7 paths. There is also a cable car (Seilbahn) starting at Osterhofen (near Bayrischhzell) and a mountain railway originating at Brannenberg.

We took route 660b from Bayrischzell, first through some forest before the mountain is visible just short of Hockreut Alm (right). Overall, it is only 6km, but it is very steep in places. That said, there are many children to be found scurrying up with ease and, indeed, enthusiasm. It took us a textbook 3 hours to reach the summit (the final section is a constructed path leading to a viewing platform) in increasingly deteriorating weather. Clouds were beginning to envelop the peak – with an attendant temperature fall.

It is well way marked, maintained and engineered. In some of the most difficult parts, robust wooden steps have been provided. They are helpful and make the whole experience safer. There is plenty of exposed rock which will be slippery in rain.

At the top one finds a viewing platform (currently being rebuilt) and a cross (right). There is a television mast and a university observatory. There is also a cafe/restaurant. Expect a lot of people at the top. Savour the climb rather than the summit. That said, there are many panels detailing the geology of the mountain, albeit only in German.

We took the Seilbahn down. It is expensive, currently €14.50 per adult. We had wanted to walk back along the train route to Bannenberg; however, the ascent is probably enough of a middle-aged couple for one day. The weather was also a significant factor for us.

Hike from Schliersee to Tagernsee via Gindalalmschneid

Three days’ earlier we had entertained a walk that was a little trickier than we had anticipated from the guide. For this walk we decided to tackle a point-to-point walk Schliersee to Tagernsee. A total of 12.1 km mostly on gravel hiking paths with a 580m ascent (we think it was a little more than this).

The first part is forest – wonderfully cool, if a little monocultured. Hennererhof is the end of the navigable path by motor vehicles. The walk continues through the forest and emerges for a 30 minute ascent to Gindelalmschneid. The view to the north looks to the flatlands towards Munich (just visible on the horizon). The Alm is tucked in to the landscape below the peak (right). We took food with us and enjoyed it on a bench next to the Crucifix, the ever-present feature of alpine peaks.

Onward towards Tegernsee (left). More forest, but also exposed expanses of meadow with views (right). There are no great surprises, but the approach to Tegernsee has one anticipating a beer at the town’s brewery which, seemingly, was the old monastery. It is an imposing building and can be seen from a distance (left) with its two towers and inner courtyard.

The beer is good, too. On the outside benches, we had a dark beer (5 per cent, right). So good we had two which was enough to facilitate a rather too blase walk to the railway station in relation to fast-moving cars! 

Great walk. Peaceful. Not too strenuous (though the final ascent to Gindelalmschneid can set the pulse racing if needed). The lake itself was benign and evocative. A very nice place to sit and wind down, though it is a wealthy town. A small apartment will knock you back 500K Euros. Best just to visit.

German railways are learning how to screw up

The common myth is that German railways are efficient and reliable. I’ve been using Deutsche Bahn for many years. The InterCity services are brilliant. The coaches are roomy, there’s Wifi, sockets, etc. The Regio Bahn is also pretty good, especially if you have a bicycle – well designed and accessible platforms in most cases. However, some of the routes are being privatised/franchised. So, yesterday we used the BOB – Bayerische Oberlandbahn, a subsidiary of Transdev, itself formed out of the former operation of Connex and Veolia.

BOB is a curious network. It leaves Munich Hauptbahnhof as three,  two-car units – each unit detaches at various points and completes journey to Lenggries, Bayrischzell and Tegernsee. The return journey is made of attachments that are completed at Holzkirchen. Yesterday, however, the service left Hauptbahnhof in short formation arising out of a failure of a unit and no suitable replacements. The train was absolutely packed and left elderly passengers standing for over one hour. As is normal in the UK when this happens, there are no conductors to be seen. The chaos had to be self-organised. To be fair, buses were provided for those going to stations towards Lenggries on arrival at Holzkirchen. Whether this is symptomatic of the hollowing-out of the network, it is difficult to say. But what chance that if Deutsche Bahn had operated the service, there would be a possibility of an additional unit being available? Is this just a case of “sweating the assets”?

But if that were not enough, on Monday arriving back from Neuhaus (on the Bayrischzell route), the Munich S-Bahn (short-haul network of 8 routes each passing through the centre of the city), not for the first time, collapsed. Not clear why, but chaos nonetheless and very little information other than platitudes.

Then it is reported that the line between Rastatt und Baden-Baden is now out of commission due to tunnelling operations. This might seem trivial, but this Rhine route south of Karlsruhe is a significant part of the German railway network linking the north to Switzerland.

Photo BOB: Big87 –

Change of plan – mixed economy holiday

We were planning something similar to what we did a couple of years’ ago – Danube, Altmühltal, Taubertal and Maintal. In the end, we decided to mix cycling and walking. From our base in Munich we are tackling a few Alpine climbs and cycle-route classics. First up for walking, a circular walk featuring a peak called Bodenschneid (1668m). We are using the Hikeline Wanderführer (authored by Katharina Spannraft) as our guide (left). I sense that Ms Spannraft thinks that the German Alps are a bit tame. They are far from that.

We took the train to Fischausen-Neuhaus from Munich. It takes about one hour from Hauptbahnhof. The signage is very good – yellow signs with particular routes captured by coloured dots (right). Navigation, then, is not so difficult; though in bad weather, one would need to be very attentive as some additional green signs are, by definition, not so easy to see.

The first part from Neuhaus to Bodenschneidhaus (a welcome Alm eating house) is pretty simple – though the gradient is not trivial. The path is well defined and and made of stable gravel. However, from thereon, if the plan is to go to the summit, the path becomes less well defined and variously slippery, steep and ambiguous. At times of heavy rain, I suspect it becomes a river (left). At one point, the path is made up exclusively of exposed tree roots.

At the peak, of course, there is the obligatory cross. Bodenschneid’s is pretty impressive. And modern (right). As are the views (the sun thwarted my attempts at a good summit photo).

The signs to the tantalising Untere and Obere Firstalms were there at the summit. The route down is precarious and a stick is a major help as well as appropriate footwear.

We stopped at the Obere Firstalm – and we are glad that we did. Not only was the food ridiculously fine and generous (we had a vegan stuffed pepper), but necessary to complete the walk despite earlier sandwiches.

The route back starts with a steep track cut into the side of the hill. For about 50m one joins the road but very quickly goes left into the forest in the direction of Josefsthal. The forest is dense, but one is rewarded by a waterfall (right). The walk through Josefthal is dull. We missed the train by 6 minutes. They are hourly. There are no pubs – though there is a restaurant just to the South that seemed pretty busy when we passed.