Today’s trip was to Venlo, Holland, by train, cycling back.
The train to Venlo is one of the new Eurobahn trains which have loads of room for bikes and are very comfortable. However there’s this weird issue where they’re not allowed to be used in the Netherlands (something to do with validating the type of train for Dutch railways) so the train only goes as far as Kaldenkirchen (a couple of miles from Venlo but still in Germany) and then you have to change to an old Deutsche Bahn train which chugs its way to Venlo, a journey time of four minutes.
Because the DB train from Kaldenkirchen to Venlo is old-style it’s a mega pain to get the trike on so I decided not to bother with that bit of the trip, but to start my ride in Kaldenkirchen and head to the border so I could have a few minutes in Holland. The train ticket was much cheaper too, a bargainous 10,50€ rather than 15,00€ to Venlo.
Anyway, I hopped on the train at 9:48 and off we pootled towards Venlo. Except, weirdly, when we got to Mönchengladbach we were told we had to get off this train and get on a different one which was waiting for us on Platform 5. Mönchengladbach’s lifts are too narrow for the trike so I had to carry it down the stairs and then back up the other side to Platform 5. I’m actually getting very good at carrying the trike so that wasn’t too much of an effort, as it happens.
The train didn’t leave Mönchengladbach for another ten minutes so we must have been significantly delayed compared to the timetable. A lady in the seat opposite struck up a conversation with me, saying that German trains were terrible and she really likes trains in England (she’s travelled from London to Brighton a couple of times). She talked to me about various holidays in England although couldn’t always remember quite where she’d been.
She had no idea why we’d had to change trains at Mönchengladbach and was also unaware of the Kaldenkirchen change bit. There were notices about it on the platform in Düsseldorf, plus it was also mentioned when I check Deutsche Bahn’s website this morning, but the lady thought it was bad form the information wasn’t on the train as well.
Anyway, we pootled our way westwards whilst I chatted with this lady. As we were approaching Kaldenkirchen there was an announcement from the conductor – this train would carry on to Venlo, no need to change at Kaldenkirchen. Result!
Except I only had a ticket to Kaldenkirchen. So I got off when we arrived there and stood, looking down the platform at nothing. It was like a ghost town, I couldn’t even see where the exit was. Right, I thought, I’m not having that – the train was still in front of me so I got back on. I would be a ‘Schwarzfahrerin’ for one stop. The train passengers thought it was very amusing.
Four minutes later we were in Venlo. As we got off the train I could hear an announcement over the tannoy explaining that people going towards Mönchengladbach/Düsseldorf/Hamm will need to change trains at Kaldenkirchen, so the Dutch still thought this was happening too, despite the fact it was a shiny new train that had pulled into the station.
So, anyway, enough train preamble – now I was cycling.
I was feeling a bit peckish when I arrived at Venlo so I bought a chicken sandwich and ate it out the front watching the world go by. It seems I was also being watched too – the sign is a good example of what life must be like in Venlo: confusing as it seems to be a mix of Dutch and German everywhere. I think I heard more German being spoken at the station than Dutch.
The route to Düsseldorf was one that I had downloaded from the Internet somewhere, and it turned out to be an excellent one. Previously, on my cycle tour last month with James, Wowbagger and Mrs Wow, we had cycled from Venlo to Mönchengladbach which is pretty much in the same direction, although not as far. We’d done that on roads, following a route that I had devised, but this route today was much better as it was on very quiet lanes and through parks and woodland, but always asphalted.
Within 5 minutes I was on paths like this:
I passed a field where people were flying gliders which they were re-assembling from trailers behind their cars.
My original plan was to get a photo of me standing with one foot in the Netherlands and one in Germany – there was an obvious border point when I cycled through at the end of May with James and the Wowbaggers, but on this scenic woodland route there was no border visible. I realised I must be in Germany when my Garmin started showing roads and features (I only have the Germany map on it at the moment so when in Venlo it was blank). This was confirmed by a sign I passed that showed Venlo as in NL.
It was a relief to know I was in Germany. It’s odd, but I always feel slightly uncomfortable in Holland – possibly because I don’t speak the language, but mainly because it just doesn’t feel right to me, in the way that Germany does. I had the same thing last week when I went to Arnhem to visit my friend – a real feeling of relief when driving home and I crossed the border into Germany.
There were lots of people cycling through this country park and I got a glimpse of this rather attractive lake.
I then found I was following a rather odd vehicle. It turned out to be a six-wheeled, articulated multi-person cycle which had six people on it (four in front with four wheels, and two further behind with two wheels articulated onto the back of the four-wheeler). I saw another of these round the corner so I imagine they were for hire somewhere.
I was cycling through the Nettetal which is a lovely route that had been recommended to me by Redfalo of CycleChat (who also very kindly lent me his maps of Düsseldorf and surroundings as he used to live there – they have come in most handy).
Eventually my route turned off the main signposted cycle route and I ended up going further east, including through a farmyard which had HUGE cow byres with a rather interesting roof. Take a look at all those photovoltaics!
In a little village (which I think was Lind) I came across this tiny church.
I then stopped for lunch in Dülken (near Viersen) which had a somewhat larger church
My lunch was a Jäger Schnitzel and orange juice at a real bargain price of just 7,60€ for the lot.
As I was making my way through Viersen I saw these bicycles which contained flower arrangements (which had rather dried out). I think I must have seen at least 20 of these bikes.
I then spent ages cycling through a very flat and featureless section of farmland (mostly wheat and sweetcorn). There were several wind turbines and at one point the path went about 10 metres from one. Goodness me, they are large things! And the blades make a very interesting noise whistling through the air.
It was starting to spit with rain at this point and I was about 15 miles from home so I decided to stop for a cup of tea. I hadn’t bought my own teabags with me (I am running dangerously low, and am awaiting a parcel of teabags my mum has posted to me which hasn’t yet arrived) so I had to dare some German tea. I had a long discussion with the waitress and I ended up with some Darjeeling which was OK but which didn’t quite hit the spot the way Tetley would have done.
The tea was washed down with some cake, of course.
I then sallied forth, noting that the drizzle had stopped. Good.
Except, as I found myself almost at the Rhein (with a fair way still to go as I was rather far north) the rain started again, significantly. In the end it was so heavy that I decided to seek shelter and stood in a group with several other cyclists under an awning next to the German Rescue Service headquarters for Düsseldorf. After half an hour the rain eased off a bit and I was pretty bored so decided to head off. The sky looked pretty dodgy so I expected to get wet again.
Which I did, ten minutes later, as I was crossing the Rhein. Rather than following my route alongside the Rhein (scenic cyclepaths) I got my Garmin to take me on a direct route back. It was hard to see the Garmin as there was rain all over the screen and I had to stop for shelter to change the batteries. Unfortunately I didn’t have my waterproof Vaude panniers, I was instead using the showerproof Sidepods which are lighter but I was a little concerned about my camera getting wet. Fortunately it was OK.
When I got home I was utterly drenched. The trike went in the car to dry off and I ended up having to wash my windproof and all the clothes I was wearing; they were so wet anyway, I might as well finish the job. Although the lady who is renting me the room does washing, she takes about a week to do it – and I don’t have enough clothes for that – so I’ve started washing my own stuff. I wonder if she’ll notice!