Day 27: Landsberg am Lech to Farchant, Germany

My bicycle takes me to unexpected places

As a Jew, I'm always aware of the history of this part of Europe. Many of my friends are German Jews. Most of them lost most of their families in the Holocaust. Two thirds of European Jewery was murdered, and their culture, which was more than a thousand years old, was destroyed. This part of Germany, Bavaria, as well as Austria, was the ideological birth place of the Nazi party, so it is especially hard for me not to always be aware of that history when riding here.

Yesterday, I was very aware that I would be riding through Oberammergau, the site of the famous Passion Play that taught contempt of Jews - actually it taught something much worse than contempt; it taught Blood Libel, that the Jews, all Jews, are responsible for the killing of Jesus - for many centuries, but I wasn't thinking about that or the Holocaust when I left Landsberg.

I planned to follow B 17 south to Schongau and then follow B 23 to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, but I missed a turn leaving Landsberg. I wondered that B 17 had so little traffic, but the riding was good and I was in no hurry, so I didn't wonder too much. Since I am in Germany and there was a radweg by the road, I rode on it. Some German drivers get upset when bicyclists are not on the radweg even when there is no reason to ride on it. After a mile or so the radweg separated from the road and I followed it rather than the road. Then I saw a sign.

KZ means concentration camp, Kaufering is town/main railroad junction just north of Landsberg

It said that there had been a camp here, named for Kaufering, which makes sense since that is the main railroad junction just north of Landsberg and railroads were used to transport Jews to camp. The sign pointed to an area which was delimited by stone posts connected by chains and there was Hebrew writing on the posts by the entrance to the area. I photographed it and rode on.

A few hundred meters later there was another sign saying KZ Kaufering, 250 M and pointing down a rocky dirt road. I rode on. Then, when I got back on the actual road and came to a roundabout, I realized I was on the wrong road. I turned back and, when I got back to the second sign, I decided to follow that rocky road to see what was back in those woods.

At about 250 M, a grassy track led off to the left, but there was no sign and it looked almost like someone lived down that track, so I rode on. The rocky road ended at another small paved road, so I rode back and, there being no sign, I rode down the grassy track. It ended at a beautiful, and very well kept, memorial garden / cemetery.

The monument to the victims of KZ Kaufering

The monument is a large obelisk at one end of the garden, with Psalm 37 in German, a large blue on white Star of David, and a brief inscription in German saying it was dedicated in 1950. It has protrusions on two side where small rocks have been placed, one on each side. Jews place rocks on graves in memory of the dead. There were also a small number of gravestones in the garden, one of which, on the right side, was for a non Jewish French Soldier who died at Kaufering in 1945. The others, on the left side, were for Jews, some of whom seemed to have died a few years after the war. All of the Jewish grave stones had many small stones placed on them.

I don't know quite what to make of this. There was no sign for the garden/memorial on B 17, or even on the smaller road. You would only see the signs from the bike path. The first area related to this camp wasn't even kept up and the second is well hidden, but is also very well kept. I wonder if there are Jews here who keep it up? I wonder why it is hidden and what its history is. I wonder at the chance of my stumbling upon it. I rode back to Landsberg and south on B 17, wondering.

B 17, just south of Landsberg

B 17, cruising, but only at 9 - 11 mph uphill

B 17, after lunch, a steeper hill

B 17, no shoulder and moderate traffic in bursts of trucks followed by cars

There was a great radweg along B 17 for the first eight miles. When it ended abruptly, I was faced with riding a road with no shoulders, moderate traffic in bursts of trucks followed by a line of cars, and a hill. I did what any sensible person would have done: I stopped for lunch. Believe it or not, I stopped at a place called Truck Stop. There weren't any trucks there, or even any good parking for a big truck, although there were lots of big trucks on the road. It was German style fast food, and, for a bit over 8 E, I had a OK lunch with half a liter of beer. I liked the place because it wasn't pretentious.

Riding after lunch was bit more stressful for the next fifteen miles or so until, south of Schongau, I got on B 23. B 23 had a radweg for a while, but it didn't have as much traffic a B 17, especially truck traffic, so it was a more relaxing ride. It was also hillier. I had been climbing steadily all day, but now I had to climb over a ridge and then ride in rolling hills looking ahead at real mountains - the Alps.

B 23 - the ridge

B 23 - the view on the other side of the ridge

B 21 - coming into Rottenbuch

B 21 - heading for Oberammergau

I stopped in Rottenbuch for a snack/nap. I don't usually nap on the roadside, but I was running a pretty serious sleep deficit and there was a nice shaded grassy spot that was just too tempting. I didn't get much sleep, but it helped. Today's ride was only a bit over 50 miles, but it was mostly up hill and I was sleepy/tired most of the day. I had a hard time pressing on between Rottenbuch and Oberammergau even though I had only ridden 30 miles or so. I did go off onto some bike paths for variety, but they ended up bringing me back to B 23. The views, both of local culture and the mountains were better from the bike paths, but the road had less climbing.

On the bike path to Oberammergau

At Oberammagau, B 23 became car only with no bike path. I needed a snack/break so I rode into town, noting a bike shop on the way, and stopped at a grocery store. While I was eating part of my purchase in front of the store, a man came up to ask me about my touring. Fortunately he spoke English, so we could talk easily. He was more interested in why I was touring than in the technical side of touring, and we had a nice visit. Then I rode back to the bike shop and asked a police man who was standing near the door, how to get around the car only section of B 23. He told me to follow the main road through town and look for the bike path to Ettal. He said I would have to get back on B 23 at Ettal.

On the bike path to Ettal

The bike path to Ettal was one of the best parts of todays ride, running alongside the river through a great mountain valley at about 3000 feet altitude. I did notice that the cars only section of B 23 ended shortly after Oberammergau and it looks like you could simply follow the main road all the way through Oberammergau and get back on B 23 without using the bike path, but, even though I could have gotten back on B 23 near there, I stayed on the bike path and even rode a few extra miles on it. Nice.

Coming into Ettal

The convent in Ettal

Ettal was quite a spectacular place, much more so than Oberammergau, and I was tempted to stop there, but put off by the touristy nature of the town. I rode on, and very much down, on B 23 which loses 250 M or more in the next few miles. A nice hill. At the bottom of the hill was Oberau, which B 23 bypassed, so I headed for Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the big city in these parts. A few miles before Garmisch-Partenkirchen, bicycles were kicked off B 23 - it goes through a tunnel - and routed through Farchant. Farchant seemed like a good place to get a good nights sleep, so I stopped at a likely looking Gasthous, Kirchmayer, which turned out to be an excellent choice. Nice folks, good food, reasonable prices, a great room and a good nights sleep. I took a nap between 6 and 7 PM, then went to sleep at 10:15 and got up just before 9:30 AM. I needed that!

Part of the reason I was able to sleep so late was that the morning was quite cloudy. At breakfast. the innkeeper asked me if I would be staying another day and I said I wasn't sure. After breakfast - good breakfast! - I went outside, looked at the low, heavy, clouds, felt the chilly temperature (about 65 F as compared to 90 F yesterday), and thought about climbing from 2200 feet to 6 or 7000 feet. If the weather was like this here, at best I'd be riding in cold, wet and heavy fog at the top of Brenner pass. That is no fun and could be dangerous. I went back in and told the innkeeper I'd be staying another night. It started raining less than a hour later and has been raining ever since. The innkeeper told me that they hadn't had a rainy day in six week, where usually they have two a week in the summer. I hope all those rainy days don't come in the new week < grin >. I like this town, and this Gasthous, very much, but I'd also like to be able to ride over Brenner pass tomorrow.

Farchant, a small town in a really pretty place in the mountains