The Road to the Alps

The white pyramids, built by nature for Kings, shone on the horizon. They puffed up their chests to taunt me, eager to show their size despite the distance between us. Excitement and fear coursed through my veins. The mountains weren’t so far now. The road sloped upwards as we left the flat shores of the Lake Konstanz behind. Endless hills, blanketed with green pastures, redden our cheeks and tested our muscles. The mountain’s exhausting breath pushed against us constantly, so strong that we deliberated many times whether to take a train. The wind made it impossible to cycle in a straight line. Slowly, the mountains stood towering behind the hills, their presence in-escapable as they filled the sky in every direction. We had reached the Alps.

Our destination that day was an alpine house, the home of Verena, at the end of a gravel road which led to Großer Alpsee. Each of its green shuttered windows framed a real life painting of the lake.  The mountains were slowly shedding their winter coats, revealing their faded green and grey outfits beneath. There was an electric energy in this place, nature was showing off. The evening was spent eating pasta bake and relaxing, regaining strength for more climbs the following day.

The never-ending spine of mountains unfurled with every corner as the road ascended to meet them the following day. I pushed hard against every metre of incline, determined to reach the top. Nearing the top of the mountain the weather grew colder and snowflakes landed on my shoulders. The thick snow on the roadside hadn’t yet released its icy grip on the landscape. Spring had been forgotten. I stopped, alone on the roadside, feeling as though I had entered a hidden world. 

The weather after the descent was warmer as the mountains succumbed to the hills once more. The reward for the climb was a gentle downhill leading all the way to Füssen. Beautiful alpine villages dotted the green fields and terracotta farmland. I cycled through quiet forests and farms enjoying every minute of the breathtaking scenery which I shared only with the occasional tractor.

Throngs of tourists and Asian tour groups interrupted by solitary bliss when I arrived in Füssen in the late afternoon. The town sits under the watchful gaze of fairytale castle, a man-made ruler amongst the mountain tops, Schloss Neuschwanstein. The low sun illuminated the castle as we reached Marienbrücke, a stomach-churning bridge which spans the Pöllat Gorge over a waterfall. Suspended between the mountains, the view of the fairytale castle was breathtaking. It was easy to see why the castle inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Commanding the surrounding nature of stretching planes, waterfalls and towering mountains, this was a regal castle like nothing I had seen before.

Our journey into a fairytale ended in the rain as we pedalled to Lidl to stock up on supplies, buying Kartoffelpuffer for our lunch the following day. Excited to eat our greasy circular potato cakes we headed to the kitchen on the top floor of our hostel. The door was locked. Not to worry, we thought, we can try and fry them on our stove. We sat outside on the tarmac floor of a car park and unpacked our cooking utensils. Disaster struck again as we realised we had the incorrect gas canister for our stove. Half joking and half desperate, Hayley attempted to warm the frozen surface with our lighter.

“What are you doing girls?” a voice called from a doorway beneath a red lettered sign for a restaurant, “you cannot possibly cook them like that.” An olive-skinned man with a friendly smile walked towards us, making no attempt to hide his amusement. He took our Kartoffelpuffer and instructed his staff to fry them for us. Minutes later, we were delivered greasy, hot potato cakes, as dreamy as the castle the previous day.