A joyous Bavarian e-bike pootle in the playground of the super-rich – Germany’s stunning ‘Lake District’
There’s much to be said for the Bavarian Alps. For a start, they are smaller than those in Austria and Italy, so you can walk up them and cycle around without first having to update your will. And there are also lakes, for this is Germany’s Lake District.
We are in south-east Bavaria’s Tegernsee Valley — about an hour’s drive from Munich — near the Austrian border to do some pootling, a combination of cycling and ambling, preferably between cakeries and bierkellers.
This part of Germany has been a playground of the super-rich for centuries — from Bavarian kings, Russian tsars to Nazi elites. Now it’s pop stars, footballers and a sprinkling of oligarchs.
Our base is the Karma Bavaria hotel, which is nothing fancy but is ideally positioned.
On our first morning, the hotel bus takes us down to Tegernsee lake, where the low-lying mist is broken by passing swans and colour coded teams of rowers. We pass through a parcel of modern Russian history in minutes: first, the portals of the late President Gorbachev’s summer dacha and then the magnificent swagger houses (for there are three of them) of a close chum of President Putin.
Lakeside view: Mark Porter goes on an e-bike tour around south-east Bavaria’s Tegernsee Valley. During his trip, he spots swans and colour-coded teams of rowers in Tegernsee lake (above)
The following day we hire a couple of electric bikes from a shop on the shores of Lake Schliersee, near our hotel. The owner gives us a map on which he pencils a route around the three lakes in the valley, plus GPS devices and heavy-duty batteries ‘good for 100 km’.
‘I hope that will be more than enough,’ says my friend, Amelie, an avid motorcyclist who has not ridden a pedal bike in 20 years.
Then we are off south, along the sun-dappled shoreline. At the southern tip of the lake, we spot a man in bathing trunks poised to take a plunge. I would like to join him — but only in the height of summer.
We stop at the waterfall at Josefsthaler before heading uphill towards Spitzingsee, a mini-lake surrounded by pine-topped mountains. Then we head on, almost effortlessly, towards the Austrian border, past squat, half-timbered houses.
At the foot of Mount Schinder, we tack north towards Tegernsee. These bikes are a godsend. They allow you to whoosh up steep hills if you set them in ‘sport’ mode and Amelie is an instant convert.
Mark spends a night in Rottach-Egern (above), a town that was put on the map by Bavarian King Maximilian I Josef in the early 19th century
We arrive at Rottach-Egern at the southern tip of Tegernsee, where we notice a smart, lakeside hotel. Would they take folk in sweaty Lycra? They could not have been more welcoming.
It seems that Rottach-Egern has been the epicentre of local wealth since it was put on the map by Bavarian King Maximilian I Josef in the early 19th century.
Tsar Nicholas I of Russia came to stay, and later Hitler was a regular visitor at the lakeside villa which is now reportedly the favourite home of Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek-Russian oligarch.
We cycle the 15 miles around the lake before heading into the forest and hills, hopefully in the direction of Schliersee. At a row of cottages a woman is feeding chocolate treats to a tabby cat with a broken tail. I ask if we are on the right track. ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘but you’d better get a move on. It will be dark soon.’
She has a point. So, with the bikes in sport mode, we hurtle along the forestry track before coming to the edge of Schliersee, just 17 minutes before darkness snuffs out the fairytale landscape.
Back at the Karma hotel we warm up in the steam room before taking a pre-dinner swim.
Schweinsbraten — roast pork braised in beer — has never tasted so good.