The Allure of the E-Bike

No, I don’t have one. But living in Germany, biking, bike equipment, and the merits of various models of bicycle are a frequent topic of conversation. It seems that not a week goes by that I don’t have a discussion in one of my groups that involves someone in the process of buying or repairing a bike, and nearly everyone has opinions on which types or methods are best.

As a walker, not a biker, I don’t really have a horse in this race. Which type of bike is best? Well which activity are you doing? Are you going for speed or comfort? Mountains or streets? Is an e-bike an option? Are you too old for a normal bike? Or too young for an e-bike? So many questions.

To be 100% honest, I don’t even know that I was aware of the existence of electronic bikes before moving here. And at first, I was a bit perplexed. Why? But then I heard people passionately defend them, or alternately, firmly state that they were NOT that type of person and most definitely far too young to even consider it yet. Okay. Cool.

I’m quite sure that I had seen an e-bike for the first time zip past me in the city at some point along the way, but it didn’t register for me until one specific day in the Alps. And then, the advantage finally became clear.

BV, his brother M, and I had spent the night at the Tegernseer Hütte. After an exhausting, damp and speedy hike up the night before, the next day dawned bright and sunny. As we were quite sure that the steep forest path that we had climbed the evening before would still be fairly wet, we opted to take the other route down. This led us down a path to an Alm, and then turned onto a gravel road that would take us back down to where we’d left the car.

The long and winding road…

As is typical with these roads, it was long with juuuuust enough of an incline to make me glad that we were going down it instead of going up. We hopped along, greeting the grazing cows as we went past, and enjoyed our last looks up at the Hütte, perched high above between the two peaks of the Roßstein und Buchstein. 

A post from the Alps without cows is not possible. Sorry.

Tegernseer Hütte, Roßstein and Buchstein

Going down was no problem of course, but the few other hikers we passed on the way up were breathing a bit heavier. More than the hikers though, were the bikers. A few mountain bikers labored past us, bent low over their bikes, leg muscles straining, breathing hard. The few times I’ve been on a bike in recent years, I’ve struggled with any sort of incline, and I always wonder at the folks in the mountains. I prefer my feet, for sure. Here are a couple of them, high above us (the ones in the brightly colored athletic wear, not the cows).

Just a few minutes after a particularly hard-working biker huffed by us, we noticed something approaching from below. Another cyclist, but this time, something was different.

No sportswear, no bent posture. No helmet, but a jaunty Tiroler hat. A typically Bavarian coat (think, one of these), and a few more gray hairs than the other bikers. He was sitting straight up, and zipping up at an improbable pace.

As he passed us, he greeted us with a “Servus” and didn’t even need to pause for breath. Not a drop of sweat was to be seen, and then, if you hadn’t already figured it out, the whirr of the bike and the giant battery pack gave it away. I so regret not getting a picture of him, but I assume I was too busy giggling like mad.

And that, my friends, is when I figured out the appeal of the e-bike. Compared to the other people who were working hard, this fellow was out, having a lovely day, enjoying the mountains and a leisurely ride no matter if he was going uphill or down.

Since I’m not a big biker now, I don’t see myself rushing out to buy an e-bike anytime soon. We’ve already determined that neither of us is old enough to become bus people, so I think we’ve got a few years to go before e-bikes or buses become a more appealing idea. But I can certainly see the appeal of a gentleman of a certain age, who wants to reach the Alm, with a fraction of the work.

And with views like these, who can argue?

The view from the Tegernseer Hütte

 

And you? Team e-bike? Or team ‘not that old yet’?

 

18/52

 

The Other Side of the Story

Shout out to Cynthia over at Adventurings for reminding me of this incident after her comment on my 2019 wrap up post!

In that post I mentioned that when my old friend Angie came to visit, we took a day trip from Garmisch-Partenkirchen over to Neuschwanstein. What I didn’t mention was the less-photogenic part of the day.

It was a beautiful summer morning when we set out over the Bavarian countryside, seemingly defying the weather report which had called for showers that day. Everything looked great as we got closer to the castles, but after we parked the car, picked up our tickets, and killed some time walking around the Alpsee, I started to notice something. Something dark.

Eh, a couple of clouds. It was windy, it would probably blow over.

We headed up the hill to the Hohenschwangau castle first, and bopped around the gardens snapping more pictures as we waited. Hmmm, what’s that?

The knights say, “Yeah, it’s still moving away. You’re fine.”

Our tour time arrived, so we piled into the castle with the rest of our group. Plus or minus 30 minutes later, we spilled back out to find a bit of precipitation coming down. Nothing too bad, and we all had prepared with our raincoats, which is more than I could say for some of the other visitors.

Note that they don’t all have umbrellas.

If you haven’t been to Neuschwanstein or Hohenschwangau before, they really have it down to a science there. If you buy a ticket to both castles, you must pick it up at least one hour before your first entrance time, and you have at least two hours between each castle tour. That should give you plenty of time to walk (uphill, naturally) between them, or catch the bus or horse carriage. We planned to walk, but were getting hungry so decided to make a quick stop at one of the bratwurst stands.

No sooner had we gotten there, but the heavens opened up. We sheltered our sausages as we ducked from under the stand’s awning to one of several free umbrella tables. Where it rained. And thundered. And rained even harder. I mean, pouring rain. Gushing rain. Rivers cascading off the ends of the awning rain. Girls dressed for Instagram, not for weather, sprinting through the rivers running down the hill in front of us to huddle as close to the souvenir shops and under their overhangs as they could get.

The three of us were pressed to the table, all but clinging to the center pole, our backs getting soaked as I tried to protect my non-waterproof camera bag. The terrace of the restaurant next to us, which was covered by an awning, was quickly abandoned as it wasn’t strong enough to hold all the water. Waiters hustled people inside as other waiters poked brooms up to get the standing water off before they tried rolling it back up. It was Biblical.

I thanked my lucky stars that BV and I had both opted to wear our hiking shoes that day but our jeans were absolutely soaked through. Poor Angie only had sneakers, which were quickly reduced to athletic sponges. The leggings would eventually dry, the shoes… less so.*

After 15 minutes or so it started to lighten a bit. We had to make a decision though. Do we attempt to walk up the hill in the deluge, or join one of the lines for the bus or a carriage? All options led to getting wetter, but our reservation time was getting closer. Angie finally made the decision, so it was to the bus!

Shockingly when we got to the ticket desk, there was nearly no line. Why is that? Ummm… no roof. We thought we were in decent shape. The rain lightened up shortly after we got our tickets and mostly stopped, thank goodness, but there was no bus. We waited a solid 30 minutes before one finally arrived, by which time the line was getting a bit aggro, and had expanded significantly behind us. Or at least, they should have mostly been behind us. Turns out, they can’t drive down a mountain road with hairpin turns when it rains like that.

One steamy, funky-smelling bus ride later, we were up the hill.

My new favorite game at this point became, “spot the unprepared instagrammer,” most of whom were descending from the castle with summery dresses and hair that probably had looked very photogenic at an earlier point in the day. Now it was a little more, ‘had a few cocktails and jumped in the hotel pool mid-photoshoot.’

The smart people up the castle waited in the line area under their umbrellas, while the masses packed into the area under the gate to wait for their tour number to get called.

It was nearly as fresh smelling as the bus, despite being outside. Still not sure how that worked.

We shuffled through our tour alongside a large group of either Spanish or Italian (can’t recall at the moment) seniors, most of whom were much more interested in loudly chatting with each other rather than listening to the audio guides, or the actual humans who were responsible for hustling us through the rooms. Delightful! I know when I was there years ago, they did have people giving the tours rather than the audio guides, but no idea if that ever happens now.** I definitely prefer a human to an audio guide, but c’est la vie.

Tour finished, we were herded towards the gift shop (natürlich), the restrooms, and the balcony overlooking Hohenschwangau and the Alpsee. And thank goodness, the view had most definitely improved! Compare this to the nearly the same (just from lower down) view above…

Not bad!

Thankfully, that seemed to be it for the rain. We made our way out of the castle, coaxed Angie out onto Marienbrücke so she could get those money shot pictures of the castle from above, and watched the Instagrammers who had arrived post-storm glory in their dry and breezy dresses as they threw elbows to get a spot on the bridge. Less Biblical, but entertaining nonetheless.

Moral of the story: even if you’re focused on getting that perfect shot, maybe at least have your friend/IG boyfriend/handler throw an umbrella or some sponsored rain gear in your tote? I did mean to go back and check the location tags for that day on IG and see how many wet photos had been posted, but I forgot in the next few days. I don’t really want to scroll that far now, but for anyone who does it was June 20th, 2019. Huh, just realized that was my 8-year Germaniversary. We ate sausages, we walked up hills, we got drenched… could be worse!

 

 

8/52

*The shoes did dry in the end. She took them off for the drive home, then we put them in the sun on the balcony back at our flat, and then on the heated towel rack when the sun went down.

**They still do the tour in English with guides at Hohenschwangau.

Sunday Snapshots: Storing Up

Bavaria, 2015

Hiking down from the Tegernseer Hütte couldn’t have looked more different than the hike up. For one thing, we could see. The whole uphill hike had been through a rainy mist, so when this day dawned perfectly clear, it was a most welcome change. Lingering in the sun on the way down is important for soaking up as much vitamin D as possible before winter sets in!