Main/Rhein 2009 – Schweinfurt to Würzburg

Day 4 – Tuesday 1 September –  Schweinfurt to Würzburg.

Distance: 60.76 miles; time: 06 hours 00 minutes;  3836 calories.

Pippa and I met for a hearty breakfast this morning at 8am, having planned to set off at 9am. This is because we were doing 100km today to reach Würzburg, a rather lovely town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (or part of it is, anyway). As you can’t really do a very fast average speed on the Radwege, 10mph being something to aim at, that meant six hours of cycling excluding stops, and we wanted to get to our destination by 5:30 at the latest, really, to start the hotel search.

From our hotel in Schweinfurt we headed roughly south to find the Main Radweg – two German passers-by helped us when they heard us sounding confused. It was easy to find the Radweg, as it happened, and we were soon heading off westwards again.

Today’s path has been fantastic quality – smooth asphalt that seems to have a light rolling resistence. The signage is generally excellent again and there were long stretches of path that were dead straight, going alongside vineyards whose fines had huge bunches of grapes hanging below ’em. Very picturesque.

In our first 20 mile stretch there was a rather unexpected obstacle as we rounded a corner – a large truck was parked across the Radweg. There was just enough room to squeeze a normal bike around the passenger side, but the driver’s side was in a bunch of nettles on the verge. I don’t have a normal bike… so we took the panniers off and carried them past the obstacle, Pippa squeezed herself and her bike past, then handed me a stick and I used it to beat the nettles away as I cycled slowly past on the other side. My wheels crunched over brambles and general vegetation and it was quite a job to thwack down the nettles but I made it eventually.

What was amusing about this was that Pippa and I had been drafted by a German chap on a bike who had remarked (in English) “Great fun” to me as I passed doing a minor bit of off-road having missed the cycle path earlier. As he kept behind us we both wondered if his “great fun” wasn’t a comment on my trike but on him as a travelling partner, although he had that unwise German facial hair thing going which so many of them do. Why? He also didn’t have Ortlieb or Vaude panniers so can’t be a proper German. Anyway, when we arrived at the obstacle of the truck I thought at least he might be useful and help me lift the trike round but he just sailed past. Huh! He travelled a couple of miles drafting Pippa and didn’t help us ladies – a poor specimen indeed.

About half a mile later we came to a ferry to cross the Main (Mr non-Ortlieb was there so leaving us to our mercies hadn’t got him any advantage in time; we studiously ignored him after his lack of gentlemanly behaviour). The ferry was at the other side of the Main so we ate a banana each and got a nice German to photograph us together whilst we were waiting.

After the Ferry we stopped a few times for photographs (including a jet aeroplane outside a small museum) and eventually found ourselves mostly alone on the Radweg. We were going quite fast and eventually caught up a bunch of cyclists. Then from a side path we were joined by a chap who was rather reminiscent of Aperitif. We cycled behind him for a while, enjoying the view, and then decided we wanted to go faster and passed him. Well, he was on a mountain bike…

We stopped at Volkach and found Zur Schwane, a restaurant that had been recommended to us by Andy in Sigmaringen. However it wasn’t yet open for food so we went down the road to an ice cream cafe and had Spaghetti Ice Cream Banana Split. Yum!

We were rather amused by a particular bike; it was a shopper with a wicker basket, in pink, and we realised it was a Bianchi. I managed to surreptitiously photograph it. It could unilaterally turn Bianchis uncool, I think.

We set off from Volkach with the plan to lunch in Kitzingen, after 15 miles, and then to do the final 25 miles to Würzburg in one go.

Somehow we ended up on the other side of the Main river to the GPS routes, following the signage for the alternative Main Radweg. It was a perfectly decent route but a bit weird to have both our Garmins bleating “Off Course”. The day was really really hot by now, our water in our bottles was warm and we were really looking forward to lunch.

When we got to Kitzingen we bought some drinks (wonderful!) and a sandwich at a bakery with outside seating. We didn’t feel like eating too much due to the heat. We sat there for half an hour watching cyclists come and go but only had one suitable recipient for our secret cyclist code word.

We set off from Kitzingen having filled up our water bottles, knowing we had 25 miles to go. The temperature was probably approaching 30 and we both felt sweaty and a bit red in the face. We immediately had to negotiate our way through a diversion to the cycle path as it was being re-asphalted so that involved a bit of head-scratching and peering up and down roads to see the signs, but we were soon back on the correct path.

We arrived at Ochsenfurt where we are supposed to cross the Main to go down the other side. Our Garmins showed a nice bridge… but when we arrived the bridge had fallen into the water! There were hand-written signs to a ferry so we followed those and found it – not one of the usual ferries but a small tour boat that appears to have been pressed into ferry service.

I had to put the Trice on last as it had to poke into the captain’s steering area. He didn’t seem to mind at all, was happily telling Pippa and I that the boat was called Queen Mary Fünf, and another passenger took photos of Pippa and I and the Captain who happily turned round and smiled at the camera rather than watching where he was going on a narrow river with a fast current. You wouldn’t get that in England!

The Captain told us that the bridge was the third oldest stone bridge in Bavaria and that it fell down three years ago. So our Garmin routes were a bit old!

We continued on after our second ferry of the day (each was 50 cents per person) and we noticed, as 5pm came and went, that there were a lot more younger cyclists on the paths. Presumably they have finished work and are out for their evening constitutionals. There were also lots of people swimming in the river and sunbathing,etc.

At last we arrived in Würzburg, seeing the very impressive Residenz building that towers over the river. We went to Tourist Info to find a hotel. Again, they were all pretty pricey, but I managed to negotiate one down from 60 Euro each to 55, and it turned out to be pretty decent and very near the town centre.

After showers that we had been looking forward to for hours, and anointing of some pink bits where the sun got us a bit strongly, we ventured out for Internet Cafe and then food.

As we’re both so tired we think we may alter our plan for tomorrow (which was to cycle to Wertheim, another 100kmo or 60 miles), as it’s meant to be even hotter. We think perhaps to just do 50 miles and make up the extra on another day. We’ll see how we feel in the morning.

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