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  • Jamie Shannon

To Munich!

Cycling the last stretch from Austria to Germany

Making my way north and towards the German border was super easy having just to follow the road signs towards Rosenheim and Munich. Even though I had no maps now, I did have a few screen captures from google saved to my kindle and so I always had something to follow and knew vaguely which towns to head for.

Despite my toothy adventure a few days earlier, I still had a couple of full days in which to reach Munich. I did however want to get their fairly early to see some of the city and so pushed on as much as possible in order to make this a reality.

I cycled as far as I could until the light began to fade and then found an area by a lake where I could make my dinner. Whilst doing this, some older Austrians came over and began asking me numerous questions -the usual ones which I answered politely enough. They then actually told me that I could probably camp here which surprised me very much as the area was wide open public land and so I insisted that this probably wasn’t a possibility. This thought evaporated completely when I was finishing off my dinner and several cows walked over and began circling the bench where I sat. There was no way I was going to camp with thought of several cows milling around during the evening. No way.

I cycled on, staying on the cycle paths that I had been using intermittently throughout the day and found a small grove of trees just off to the side where I stayed for the evening.

I spent the next day cycling north east through the remainder of Austria and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Having cycled steadily uphill the previous day, the entire morning, and afternoon for that matter, was spent going downhill and with the sun shining. What made it even better was the fact that in a few days’ I would be seeing my friend’s at a wedding. Life was going rather well I thought.

By mid-afternoon, I crossed over the border to Germany and headed for a small town on the other side of the motorway where I could begin to make my way north and onto Munich. With some screen shots saved to my kindle, this all seemed easy enough but I realized quickly that I really should have turned the contrast up when I saved them as I really couldn’t see the roads properly and thus the names of the various villages were a little too faint to be understood.

My original plan was to head north to Rosenheim and then north west to Munich; a route that was flat but a little longer than the other option. I wanted to cut down on the km’s and so I took the second option and headed directly across the countryside instead. This route couldn’t have been more different than the one I had expected to take as I cycled through endless rolling hills that tired me out beyond belief. Add to this the fact that it started raining and I was quickly rueing my decision to take a short cut.

By late afternoon and with none of the roads or signs remotely matching up to my hopelessly inadequate set of 'maps', I stopped in a small village to ask which was the best way to head in order to reach Munich. It was late, cold and I was very wet and just wanted a straight forward answer but the guy I asked had other ideas. It turns out he was a little simple, and so in the nicest possible way, he just wouldn’t shut up. I didn’t want to be rude but I really needed to get going and I was becoming increasingly frustrated by his prolonged route suggestions. After ten minutes, I said I really would be fine and got the hell out of there.

A little later, I found a small track leading off into a wooded area and decided this was where I was going to sleep. The ground was absolutely littered with branches of all sizes but I just put my tent up in the hope that one didn’t come crashing down on me during the night.

I woke up the next morning to rain, rain and constant rain. My train was booked for the following morning at 05:00 and so I had to get going regardless. I had perhaps forty kilometre’s to go.

I headed out and found a road that went in the correct direction and so headed on down there. After realizing this would take me a longer way around, I headed back and took the opposite road. This led me to a motorway which of course I couldn’t use and so I cycled back off into the surrounding farmland and countryside, constantly checking my compass to make sure I was heading northwest

It felt like I was getting nowhere; the small rural roads headed off in several directions and so I had to just make a choice as to which one looked best. This usually fell to the widest and most well maintained, my thinking being that the most important looking roads must be heading in the direction of the next most important town which was of course Munich.

With my hunches mostly correct, I finally came to a road that took me out of the farms and fields and onto the main road towards Munich. I felt elated with this new development and so allowed myself a break at a bus shelter but mostly just to stay out of the rain.

I set off again a little later and travelled along the a wet highway which straddled the forest on both sides.

At about twelve and with only ten km’s to go, the sun came magically out and I decided to stop for a while in order to dry out my kit because who knows when it would be sunny again. By half one I had arrived in the suburbs proper, and I must admit, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was here, I had made it and it fell like a milestone had been reached. I had cycled through twelve countries and I had done it mostly with a smile. Most of all, I couldn’t really put my finger on one bad incident that had happened in the course of the past five months. Although this gives me a warm and good natured feeling about the people of the world, it gives me an even greater feeling of confidence that, when I continue this trip east, things will be alright and that makes me very happy indeed.

Arriving in Munich - I have made it after cycling around Europe!

As is usual in the big cities, I got completely lost in the outskirts. Every sign seemed to point to an indiscriminate spot in the near distance, perhaps one km away and never to the centre of Munich which is of course where I wanted to be. I pulled over at one point and asked a girl if I was going in the correct direction, and when I asked where she was from, was surprised when her answer was Bosnia. I told her I had come from there a couple of weeks ago and which she seemed pleasantly surprised about too. She ran into her flat and took out a metro map that she thought might be able to help me better. You never know who is around the corner you know.

I cycled the last couple of km’s alongside a German guy whom guided me into the city centre whilst we talked about random things including films, what I should see in Munich and where he might go in the future.

When I at last arrived in the centre I was just overjoyed to be there. All my effort, sweating and hard work had guided me to this one place and yet, as strange as it may sound, I had an overwhelming urge to carry on. Despite how tough it was sometimes, this sort of thing is, well, addictive and I vowed to continue my journey in the New Year when the seasons would allow it.

Being in a big city always gives me an anxious and unnerving feeling no matter how many times I have done it. There is just so much traffic and activity that every turn brings with it a new and exciting way to crash. Having been out in the sticks for so long, it’s always a shock to the system. I cycled tentatively around the centre.

With my train not departing until 05:00 the following morning and with no hotel to go to, I found myself at a bit of a loose end. I considered cycling to a hardware store to buy some tungsten tip screws or perhaps cycling aimlessly around a roundabout for several hours but instead settled on a stagnated afternoon in a park, the gloriously named English Gardens. I liked the sound of it.

I acquired some treats from a supermarket and spent several hours under the sun and chatting to anyone who happened to pass by. It’s a strange thing that, although you might never do it in your own city, because you’re on holiday you simply don’t mind striking up a conversation with the nearest complete stranger. Circumstances almost invite you to do so.

Anyway, by early afternoon, I grew sufficiently bored of this and decided to head to the station in order to put my bags in storage thus allowing me to blend in with everyone else for a change. With this done, I walked with my bike outside the station and was greeted by the detritus of humanity. Why is it that wherever you go in whatever country, the plebs of society are always drawn magnetically to the main train station’s steps. I just can’t fathom why they are. In between all the people stood many filthy little kids counting their hard earned takings from their non-plussed victims. I left straightaway and headed in the direction of, well any direction from there.

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