Summer 2021 provided many of us the first time to get out and properly explore in a while. Dimitrios Sardis used the prime time of the year to get out and escape into a beautiful part of the world that showed that you don't have to travel far from home to experience true natural beauty.
Here's the story of the ride, in Dimi's own words.
If the last year and a half has taught me something, it's that I don't need to travel to faraway places to discover new things and experience solitude in remote places. The adventure is on my own doorstep, I just have to want to find it.
I was born and raised in Bavaria, but only a few years ago I discovered that besides good beer and good food, there are also areas that are perfect for Bikepacking. A reason that has led me to take every opportunity to set off with luggage and a bike!
Our planned adventure takes us in eight day stages from Nuremberg via Ingolstadt into the Bavarian Forest, along the Czech border into the Bohemian Forest and along the Isar back home. 800 kilometres, 10,000 metres of altitude and an 18-kilo gravel bike with luggage. The ingredients for an excellent week!
We have decided against a tent and sleeping bag and for paid accommodation for this trip. A colourful mix of private guesthouses, hotels and holiday flats made life easier for us on the road. Besides a proper bed, a decent shower and less luggage on the bike, one thing is important: breakfast included!
Our first two days are used for our approach. I pedalled from Nuremberg to Ingolstadt in order to head for the Bavarian Forest on the second day together with Laura and reach the small town of Cham. With a distance of 152 kilometres, this is one of our longest stages on this trip, but it is pleasant to ride. The landscape in central Bavaria scores with an excellent network of cycling paths and moderate climbs. The Danube is one of the oldest and most important European trade routes and connects different cultures. We however, are primarily happy to be able to cycle alongside it towards the east without any major obstacles.
Our days three, four, five and six will be shorter, but they will be much more riding uphill. The Bavarian Forest or Bayerischer Wald is a low mountain range about 100 km long and up to 1456 m high on the border between Bavaria and the Czech Republic and offers countless steep climbs and descents. Especially the German side offers solitude, partly wild nature and beautiful views into the neighbouring lowlands. Pass the Großer Arber (second highest mountain in Germany and known as the "King of the Bavarian Forest") on whose summit region two Air Force buildings with radomes stand. They were built during the Cold War to monitor air traffic in the Eastern Bloc. A structural feature that also catches the eye on other peaks in this region and always reminds us of the region's history.
We also pay a visit to the Bohemian Forest (Czech: Šumava) and are amazed by the remote high moorland and dense pine forests along the mountain range on the Czech side of the border. As a border region, Šumava also has a complicated history behind it. In the 20th century, it was part of the Iron Curtain and large areas were removed from human settlement, leaving scars on the landscape that can still be seen today. But even before that, settlement was sparse. For centuries, dense forests dominated over human dwellings and trails. These unique circumstances have led to the preservation of much untouched nature and several forest ecosystems that have remained relatively untouched by man.
As soon as we leave the mountains behind, we cannot escape the flat kilometres on day seven and day eight of our tour. Characterised by agricultural land and abandoned small villages, the Landscape along the Isar does not offer much variety for the eye. Here, too, the reliable network of cycle paths is a pleasant companion that makes the midday heat at the beginning of August a bit more bearable. The 265 kilometres to ride from the outskirts of the Bavarian Forest via Ingolstadt back to Nuremberg cost energy, but round off the experience of eight days on the bike.
If you're thinking of heading out to the area yourself and exploring the forests by bike, here are my recommendations:
Always have the right gear.
Think about the right mountain gearing! Especially with luggage, many of the climbs should not be underestimated and are often in the double-digit percentage range.
Bring enough stuff!
Always bring enough provisions / drinks and don't rely on the opening hours of grocery shops / restaurants via Google Maps. The villages are often very sparsely populated and many shops close as early as midday.
Chunky tyres are your friend.
Use tyres at least 45mm thick. The ground in the area is often very rough and can push your gravel bike and you to the limit.