Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride
My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike
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Sunday 6 May 2012
First I will mention a little about yesterday evening after I finished writing up the blog.
I had a rather fab Wiener Schnitzel for dinner at the Berghof – this truly was a rather good hotel.
I have previously failed to mention a rather unusual item that I am carting around with me:
It’s a pine cone (a very small one) collected from the forest around Potsdam on day 1 of my tour. Why? Well it’s a present for Poppy the dog – I felt bad that I didn’t bring her any presents back from my holiday in Austria over Easter but I thought she’d enjoy playing with a pine cone, especially one that would have travelled nearly 800 miles by bicycle. Well, I’m not sure she’ll entirely appreciate the importance of that fact, but it’s a small pine cone and it is so far surviving in the bottom of my pannier.
Something else I forgot to mention yesterday – I nearly got doored cycling through Holzminden. If you’re not familiar with the term, this is when you are passing a car and someone opens the door into you. When we teach bikeability we warn children to always pass a car with a huge amount of room and to maybe take into account other cues, such as if you can see someone in the front seat. Anyway, I was cycling on one of Holzminden’s very nice pink cycle lanes which were beside the main road (on the carriageway rather than on the pavement as usual) and then noticed they had done that really bad idea of putting parking between the cycle lane and the pavement. This has been installed on Southend seafront and it’s lethal. Anyway, with all this in mind I was proceeding down the cycle path past some parked cars but I had my hands covering the brakes and I was going a bit slower than normal. Lo and behold a woman started opening her door into me. I had been keeping an eye on my mirrors the whole time and knew there was no traffic behind me so I swerved out into the road and shouted at the lady – she looked most startled (or perhaps didn’t understand the meaning of ‘Oy!’) This was my most dangerous traffic situation on the entire cycle tour and it was caused by bad cycle lane design again. Sigh.
Anyway these experiences all go to make one a safer cyclist and I expect that lady will check her mirrors a bit more closely for random recumberating Englishwomen in future.
I took this photo last night which shows what happens if you cycle in Germany in sandals whilst England is being rained on non-stop:
And now to today, my seventh day of cycling in Germany. Perhaps this should have been a rest day, especially as it was a Sunday, but my schedule requires me to keep going and I would be bored if I didn’t have any riding to do.
The plan was to go to Gütersloh. When I programmed the route into my Garmin I worked it out as about 54 miles, thinking this was a 10 mile reduction from the official R1 route. Something went wrong there as actually it ended up being 43 miles and the official route was only 54. It was also largely flat or downhill which was a bonus and the wind was an Easterly, thus blowing me along (although a bit chilly).
Breakfast was entirely on my own (there were only three guests in the hotel, according to the chap) and rather than setting out all the food buffet-style I had a selection delivered to my table. What a surprise – bread with cheese and ham! This is the staple German breakfast, which is also the staple German lunch. For dinner they have ham pizza! When I’m in Germany I usually have some muesli and some fruit for breakfast (as well as the cheese and ham) and every other day have an egg as well (they usually make an appearance at German breakfasts).
The hotel owner had opened the garage for me and told me that Alfie was still there when he looked this morning (that was a relief!) and I was setting off at 8:15am. It was grey and cloudy but not actually raining so I eschewed my waterproof jacket (which means I get a bit hot) and had my windproof instead.
I left Nieheim on a route that I had cobbled together using my R1 book and Google Earth. I went west to Oeynhausen, then turned northwards to Bergheim (which, despite the name, was fortunately not very hilly) and then up to Vinsebeck. I looked back on the scenery – it looked rather English!
After Vinsebeck I went to Oberheesten and then to Horn which was the largest town I had come to so far today, although still deathly quiet (the Sunday factor).
At Horn I had to stop as my feet were getting a bit cold. I was wearing socks with my sandals (I know, I know) but they weren’t enough and I needed to put a second pair of socks on. Whilst I was stopped a man pulled up behind me in a car and got out to ask me if I knew the way to Hermannsdenkmal. Well no, but my iPhone did and discovering its location on the phone I was able to show it to the chap on my R1 map. He seemed very pleased and off he went. I think Hermann saw off a lot of Roman soldiers a while ago, or something.
From Horn the route I was taking and the official R1 route often joined up before separating again. I went through Holzhausen-Externsteine, Fromhausen,, Berlebeck and then headed to Heiligenkirchen. Whereupon I found this strange barrier:
It suggests that only one car is allowed through at a time (this was a quiet side road). I cycled round it, pootled along the road rather hoping I hadn’t accidentally wandered onto a military firing range or something (I was pretty near Detmold where the British Army hang out). I was relieved to see another cyclist coming the other way at one point, so it looked as though bicycling was allowed. There was an equivalent barrier after about half a mile which I went round and then we were back to normal. Random.
Another random thing I saw in Heiligenkirchen:
I pootled on to Hiddesen and then did a slight detour to Schwarzenbrink and then Pivitsheide to avoid some dodgy off-road stuff on the official route. Although the official route was a short cut I couldn’t face the probably surfaces.
Pivitsheide was about at the twenty mile mark and my cake antennae were twitching. I was whizzing down a hill when I saw this bakery so swerved in (slightly embarrassingly, the car behind me had been a police car but they continued on past, presumably deciding it was unwise to get between an Englishwoman and her cake). Here is Alfie outside Wester Bäckerei.
Wester Bäckerei on a Sunday is hopeless. They only had bread rolls! Not only that, she couldn’t make me a cup of tea either! What a disappointment.
I carried on.
After a quarter of a mile I came across an Italian coffee shop. The chap there could do me tea but he had no cakes either. What is it with the dearth of cakes in Pivitsheide? He asked me about my tour and seemed a bit mind-boggled that I was cycling to London and that I had been in Berlin on Monday. We had a nice chat, I had a cup of tea that I didn’t have to pay for and then off I went.
Friedel from TravellingTwo (the people I met on the train from Venlo to Düsseldorf) asked me whether I bring my own teabags as a thrift mechanism. This isn’t the reason (although it’s a useful side bonus – I haven’t paid for a single cuppa yet on tour and have used at least 40 teabags), the reason is that I’m afraid to say the Germans can’t make proper tea. Well, I will qualify that. They have a huge variety of different teas – teas to help you sleep, wake you up, ease your cold, sort out that bunion on your left foot, make your circulation better… you name it, there’s a tea for it. Of course I can’t stand herbal teas and as I only drink tea, orange juice and water it’s important to me that the tea is good.
In Germany what I would be drinking would be called ‘Black Tea’, although if you ask for a cup of black tea you have a 30% chance of being given Earl Grey (yuck yuck) which they think of as normal tea; failing that it might be Assam or Darjeeling. They specify the tea leaf. Whereas we Brits know that there are only a few worthwhile sorts of tea: Tetley, PG Tips, Yorkshire, Twinings. I happen to like Tetley so I have my pot of 110 Tetley Drawstring teabags with me and I’m happy.
Anyway, I left the Italian café and headed off to Augustdorf which was a lovely straight road through a forest with a village in the middle. This was a really nice bit of riding with a very decent cycle path (which I used). There were lots of Germans out on their road bikes whizzing along – this is clearly a much-used cycle route (the roadies were on the road, not the cycle path) as it had a good surface and there was little traffic.
After Augustdorf I got to Stukenbrock where my Garmin got its knickers in a twist slightly. I could see there was a road which went exactly where I wanted to go but clearly in Open Streetmaps there was a problem which meant the Garmin didn’t think I could be routed along that road and kept asking me to do all sorts of random little detours. As I could see the route ahead I ignored all the instructions from the Garmin and it settled down once I had presumably passed the electronic obstruction.
The next place of note was Schloss Hotel which I reached just after crossing the A33 Autobahn. From here it was another lovely ride along a cycle path beside a decent road to Bornholte and then to Verl. I started seeing signs to Gütersloh as only 16km away so I realised at this point my distance estimates weren’t very accurate and I’d get to Gütersloh fairly early.
On that basis I decided to stop in Verl (a large town six miles before Gütersloh) for some lunch.
Verl seemed surprisingly devoid of the obligatory Italian restaurant – or indeed of an obvious town centre – but I happened upon a little bistro which looked like it would do the trick.
A cup of tea was ordered and the teapot came with this fantastic device to keep the tea warm:
The menu choice was a bit sparse for those who didn’t want more cheese and ham (i.e. me!) and in the end I had to go for a complete unknown – “Pickert”. I asked the lady what it was and she described something that vaguely sounded like Kaiserschmarrn (which visitors to Austria will know is cyclist/skier food of the gods) but with potato. Slightly odd was the choice of accompaniment – jam or silver beet. I went for jam. And this arrived:
It was a giant potato pancake thingie and was very good – very warming and hearty. The butter and jam went well with it, oddly.
In the café I did some last-minute hotel choosing (I had a shortlist of two, both of which were the same price, 50€, and in the end chose the one in the centre of Gütersloh as I thought there’d be more to do). I programmed both hotels’ locations into my Garmin and headed off.
It had started to rain whilst I was in the café so I put my waterproof on and was glad of the extra warmth of it.
This is a common sight in Germany – loads of photovoltaics on rooves.
I also noticed in the last twenty miles today a lot of German flags outside houses (rather like you see in America). I hadn’t noticed this on any of the previous days and wondered if it was to do with being in an area where the British Army hang out.
I also today had the unusual experience of being hooted at by a car. Was this because I wasn’t on the Radweg? No – I realised both times that the cars had British number plates so they were presumably responding to my Union Jack flag on the trike. I waved at them both as they disappeared into the distance each time. I also saw one British Army Jeep with a Detmold number plate.
Talking of number plates, the German number plate system has been a really useful guide to my progress across Germany. The number plates start with 1, 2 or 3 letters which signify the local area (B for Berlin, NOM for Nordheim, GT for Gütersloh, BI for Bielefeld etc) and the little circly sticker things afterward tell you which German Land (county) the car comes from as well. As I was riding this morning I saw the number of NOM cars reducing, went through an area where the cars were all LIP and then finally started seeing some GT so I knew I was getting close to Gütersloh. When you’ve been on your own on a bike for a week, these kind of things become more interesting than they should. I am talking to myself more and more every day too! I hope I will return to normality when I get back home to Blighty!
And after just four miles, all on excellent cycle paths, I arrived in Gütersloh.
So why did I choose Gütersloh to visit? There is in fact a reason for this which goes back to a business trip many years ago to Holland. I worked for a record distribution company in the UK and each year we and our European partners would meet somewhere and the American record company executives would come over and tell us about all the new CDs and DVDs over the next few months, the bands, touring and that kinda stuff. Anyway, a few years ago I was in Holland with my colleagues and was involved in a conversation between one of the American chaps and the two German representatives. The American said that he had been to Germany previously, so the Germans asked where.
“Gutter-slaw,” he replied. Slaw as in coleslaw. Gutter as in the thing that drains rain from your roof.
The Germans had to get him to repeat it several times when eventually they worked out what he meant.
“Oh, you mean Gütersloh” (gooters-lo) they said.
“Yeah, Gutterslaw,” he said again. They tried to teach him how to say it but he just couldn’t get it at all. It was an amusing little vignette of the problems of language learning if you haven’t been exposed to particular vocal sounds when a child as I gather it can be almost impossible to hear them accurately if you first encounter them as an adult. You rarely hear younger Germans saying “Zis is ze correct vay” as they are exposed to ‘th’ and ‘w’ on television or in songs and so are able to say it correctly, generally.
Anyway, I fancied visiting Gutterslaw as a result of this memory, and so here I am.
However, I am not in the Center-Hotel, nor in the Lindeman Hotel, as neither had anyone there (I arrived at Center-Hotel, phoned the number on the door and the guy said he was two hours away(!!!) and no-one was answering the phone at the Lindeman which wasn’t too encouraging). I decided to set off towards the Lindeman Hotel and see if anyone where there when I got there – it was two miles away.
I passed this sign which initially I thought was for an event for fat ladies, although I think on further reflection it’s for ladies of all sizes, although why they would want to dance on tables I am less sure.
I also passed a Netto supermarket which was open. On a Sunday! This gave me the opportunity to correct the shocking lack of chocolate in my diet by buying some M&Ms, which I duly did. Here they are on Alfie’s seat.
And would you believe it, 100 metres up the road I found an amazing bakery. I just had to buy a cake for my afternoon snack – but which one?
I made my choice, laid the cake carefully in the top of my pannier and headed off again. The Lindeman Hotel was a mile or so away but I found myself passing the infelicitously-named Hotel Busch so thought I’d pop in and ask the price. 40 Euros including breakfast, said the cigar-puffing chap at the reception desk. Not only that, they had WiFi (he pointed at the Router which looked suitably WiFiEsque) and a locked room for Alfie. Well, a bird in the hand is worth two in the Busch, so I decided to stay at this hotel. It’s the least salubrious I have stayed in on this trip and the cigar smoke smell is all-pervading but it has the usual German Sauberkeit (cleanliness), I had a free cup of tea and the WiFi works well. Oh, and the cup of tea – I had it to wash down this:
I had a message from my friend Stefan who lives in Hamm (not too far from here) that he should be able to come and see me in Münster tomorrow which is fab. I just need too make sure I can find my way there OK and that I get a slightly more salubrious hotel.
Statistics for today:
Distance travelled: 44.68 miles
Moving time: 4 hours 36 minutes 52 seconds
Maximum speed: 28.1 mph
Average speed: 9.7 mph
Average heart rate: 111
Maximum heart rate: 154
Calorie burn: 1,488 calories
Oh, and in case any of you were wondering about the tracker at the top of this blog, I am using an iPhone App which is created by a German chap called Mike Adam called “GPS Logbook”. It enables me to manually mark a waypoint which I do every 15 minutes or so. I don’t leave it running all the time as it eats the iPhone battery, I just switch the logging on for 5 seconds, then off again, and the route is gradually unfolding. Thanks to Mike for such a good app for a very reasonable price! More info here: http://gpslogbook.mikeadam.de/