Tag Archives: Recumbent Tricycle

Alfie goes to Xanten and Wesel

Today, for only the second time since I’ve been in Germany (and I’ve been here over five weeks), I took Alfie out on a long cycle ride.

This was because it was a ride with the ADFC (the Allgemeine Deutsche Fahrrad-Club), which is the German touring cyclists’ group (like the CTC in the UK). And the ride would be train-assisted which ruled Penelope out.

The ride was advertised in the Rad am Niederrhein magazine which is produced by the ADFC in this area and has loads of useful information about rides, second hand sales and more. Anja had given me this magazine (she’s an ADFC member) and when I finally had a chance to look at it I saw several good opportunities for rides.

Unfortunately lots of the rides seem to be on Sundays. Usually I’d prefer to go to church but since I’m in Germany to meet people (and that doesn’t seem so easy at church!) I decided that I’d take the opportunity to do these rides when suitable ones arose, whether or not it was a Sunday.

This particular Sunday (11 May) is Mother’s Day in Germany. I checked with the family downstairs that they could look after Poppy for what would be a long day for me (they could) and so I contacted the ride leader, Reinhard Hilge, to let him know I was planning to come along.

This is the description of the ride from the magazine:

Sonntag, 11. Mai – Krefeld
Zur alten Römerstadt Xanten und in die Rheinstadt Wesel
75 km, mittel (15-18 km/h)
Tour mit vielen Facetten und einigen Höhepunkten des Niederrheins. Auf Nebenstraßen über Neukirchen-Vluyn zunächst nach Kloster Kamp, dort wahlweise Einkehr oder Besichtingung des Klostergartens. Weiterfahrt durch das Waldgebiet “Die Leucht” über Alpen und Sonsbeck (Aussichtsturm) nach Xanten (Besichtigung einer historischen Windmühle) und schließlich über den Rhein nach Wesel. Rückfahrt mit dem Zug. Zusatzkosten für VRR-Bahnticket. Die Tour kann auch in Xanten beendet werden. Die Strecke reduziert sich dann auf 60km. Rückfahrt stündlich, Fahrradmitnahme aber abhängig von Kapazität des Zuges.
9.00 Uhr, Krefeld, Von-der-Leyen-Platz (VHS).

A 9am start from Krefeld meant a start no later than 8:15 from my house (it’s 7.5 miles away). The weather forecast was a bit rough with 25mph winds (fortunately mostly from the south-west and we would be cycling north-east) but I had a fairly stiff sidewind for my ride to Krefeld.

Escheln to Krefeld track

After a couple of miles it was clear I still hadn’t got the boom length right on Alfie since unpacking him from the car – my legs didn’t feel as if they could extend properly. I wasn’t keen to stop and adjust it on the way as I would rather arrive at the meeting place and fiddle about with it all there, in case I got a puncture on my way as well.

I arrived at the Rathaus which is next to the VHS (Volkshochschule).

1 Krefeld Rathaus

There was one other person there with a bike – a chap on a rather clean-looking Raleigh tourer. The more I looked at this bike the more I realised it was a rather nice example of the sort of bike you see in Germany (but seldom in England) but with a few differences, such as disc brakes. He even had an E-Werk (Busch & Müller charging system for your phone that uses the hub dynamo). The bike looked in very good condition at the beginning of the ride (by the end it was covered in mud).

I imagine this chap offered me his name but I forgot it immediately and never got round to asking again so I will call him Raleigh Man from now on.

He helped me with the trike boom lengthening, holding onto Alfie’s seat as I wrestled the boom longer against the pull of the chain. It is generally a two-person job.

A quick pedal around the square and it seemed the pedal distance now felt right (I’d moved the boom about 5mm maximum).

Raleigh Man and I were both 15 minutes early but soon our ride leader Reinhard arrived. It became clear it would just be us three – we assumed the bad weather had put some people off, plus Reinhard said they had done this ride a few times over the last few years.

We had to fill in our names on a form (I did mine first so didn’t get Raleigh Man’s name that way) and indicate whether we were ADFC members. I said I was about to join but wasn’t yet, neither was Raleigh Man, and it turns out we have to pay 3€ for the trip if we’re not members.

Here is the track of our ride today:

ADFC Xanten Wesel track

We headed off, briefly going along an unmade path through a park before joining up with what turned out to be my route to Krefeld through Hüls.

2 Heading off through Hüls

Reinhard had told us that we were going to Hülser Berg (which is a big hill) but fortunately we sidled round it rather than going over it. Phew!

We had to keep stopping to put on rain jackets for the regular rain-showers, then take them off fifteen minutes later when the skies cleared again. Raleigh Man had a pair of Rainlegs (I own some of these too) as well as a smart Vaude jacket but Reinhard and I just ended up with wet legs (mine were wetter being horizontal).

Once past Hülser Berg we were out in open farmland again on decently surfaced quiet roads with almost no cars to be seen.

3 Quiet roads

I thought that Reinhard had a rear puncture in his bike as the tyre was very low but he said he just hadn’t pumped it up for a while. He did the whole ride like that which must have added a fair amount of extra effort – and confirmed the weird fact that most German bikes seem to have at least one tyre that’s halfway flat but they don’t do anything about it.

I learned from him the names for the different valves in German – what we call Schraeder are “Car valves”, what we call Presta are “French valves” and what we call “Woods” are “Valves”.

As you can see, we passed this wind turbine which had a rather different tower than the solid ones you usually see.

5 Pylon Wind Turbine

We headed through Lamershof, a tiny village, then cycled over the A40 motorway before skirting the western edge of Vluyn.

After this we were back in the field paths and I was interested to notice this big bit of machinery on a hill at Eyller Berg, some kind of works.

4 Works on hill

Just around the corner we arrived at Kamp-Lintfort with its large Kloster (monastery), founded in 1123, visible on top of the hill.

Kloster Kamp is known as the Sanssouci of Niederrhein and, once we had cycled up the hill and parked our bikes round the back, it became clear why.

6 Kloster Kamp Gardens

The gardens were amazing. I’ve found a few photos on Google too which show what it’s like from ground level.

Kloster Kamp from Wikipedia.
Carschten [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

The building itself looked rather impressive too.

7 Kloster Kamp 1

Unfortunately it was undergoing renovation works inside, apparently, so we couldn’t do the usual tour. The church was still open but a service had just finished so I didn’t really want to go in as people were still in there.

Here’s a picture of the inside attributed to Karl Thelen (http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/display/24287155)

kloster-kamp-am-niederrhein-by-Karl-Thelen

Having not had breakfast (it was too early) I was now feeling really hungry as it was 10:55am and so was pleased when the café opened five minutes later.

Rather surprisingly there were no prices for the tea or cake, you just gave a donation. I ordered some Teewasser (hot water for tea) and a slice of cake they said was similar to Donauwelle.

8 Kloster Kamp cake

And gave a donation of course.

The ladies serving were very friendly – I wondered whether they were volunteers and Reinhard thought so.

We chatted over our cake, discussing who was the best James Bond and a bit about the forthcoming elections. I found Raleigh Man harder to understand as he spoke quite fast and fairly quietly but we managed to communicate OK I think. It’s getting less tiring speaking German at length now, at least!

Reinhard warned me that there would be a section after this that I might not like (I’d already had to slow down considerably for a couple of forest paths as they are hard going on the trike with small wheels).

So we set off and were straight away into rather a long stretch of woodland between Kamp-Lintfort and Alpen.

9 Fuzzy forest path

Sorry for the fuzzy photo – it was a rather bumpy ride as I was taking the photos (and that was the best of three!)

At one point I could see in the distance a load of pink and assumed it was a Biergarten with dozens of pink parasols. I was wrong – it was an entire garden fence/wall/hedge of hydrangeas. When I got nearer I could see the front of the house – just – through the amazing display.

10 Amazing Hydrangeas

We cycled across the A57 motorway, plunging back into the woodland again with the rather mucky track.

Reinhard then told me there was an even worse section of path which was one of the official Niederrhein Radwege. It just goes to prove that even the Germans can provide ridiculous cycle routes!

11 Suboptimal cycle route

As you can see, Raleigh Man is also walking. I managed to cycle a bit further than he did before I lost traction and had to walk. Lifting Alfie’s back wheel and pulling him up a leafy path isn’t great for the back and I was pretty knackered after 200 metres or so when I reached a load of large stone chippings and some houses. Reinhard explained that lots of mountain bikers use that track (it would suit them I suppose) and that the people who live at the end don’t like it so they put down these huge stones to slow them down so they have to walk. It certainly worked for me and I dragged Alfie over these stones feeling rather pooped after all the exercise!

We’d seen some signs to Xanten when in Alpen but didn’t head in that direction at all – instead we went towards Bönninghardt on which turned out to be a pretty significant diversion (probably added 10 miles or so to the complete distance) but which was, on reflection, probably worth it!

The detour was to Sonsbeck and to its viewing platform. The rain had started heavily again and I was getting pretty hungry so was keen to press on and we kept up a good pace on the cycle path beside the Landstraße (i.e. reasonably fast) as we headed towards Sonsbeck.

We arrived on the edge on Sonsbeck and Reinhard led us round through the industrial estate and then across a little bridge to a very, very muddy track with puddles all the way along. I struggled to ride this (just about managed) but had a few moments where I thought Alfie would grind to a halt whilst ploughing through inch-deep mud and I’d have to put my feet down. Fortunately not but he picked up masses of muck that was grinding away inside the mudguards for a while making a terrible noise. Even Raleigh Man’s super-clean bike was looking rather mucky.

Rather frustratingly I could see on my Garmin a road parallel to our track (less than 50 metres away) in the industrial estate which was presumably non-muddy. If I hadn’t been left behind (the other two rode on to keep progress up in the mud) I would have told them I’d turn back and take the road but they were too far ahead to hear me so I soldiered on.

Fortunately after 200 metres or so we rejoined proper roads, whizzing through Sonsbeck (I was hoping for some lunch, but no luck), and then heading out the other side. There was a sign that said Xanten 11km so that was a relief – it looked as though Xanten would be lunch stop.

We headed off on the cycle path along the Landstraße and Reinhard said we would visit the Aussichtsturm (viewing tower). This was rather interesting as I could see on my Garmin that the track to the Aussichtsturm wasn’t on the main road but on one parallel to it, as you can see from the track we took here (we were cycling from the bottom of the map in a north-east direction). I am not sure why we didn’t take Bögelsche Weg to start with as it was asphalted – instead we had quite a detour which involved even more hill climbing (this was all rather hilly).

Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm diversion closeup

Anyway, we soon arrived at the base of the tower.

Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm 1

The tower (officially called Der Aussichtsturm auf dem Dürsbeg) was built in 1981. Made of wood, it has 154 steps which take you up 100 metres above ground level.

17 Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm View Stairs

Here is a photo I found on the internet which shows the whole thing with less foliage.

18 Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm

And this is what it looked like to me just before I started the climb.

Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm 2

I was feeling pretty knackered before I started the climb (a ride in bad weather on a bike I have become less familiar with, whilst often feeling chilled from the rain, and riding with non-recumbenteers so not always at the best pace), but it was worth it for the view from the top, despite the less-than-stellar weather.

This is the view back towards Sonsbeck.

14 Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm View Sonsbeck

And this is the view of our next destination, Xanten – you can see the twin towers of the cathedral (you may have to click on the picture to enlarge it).

15 Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm View Xanten

And looking down at our bikes.

16 Bikes from Aussichtsturm

Here is a photo of Reinhard (left) and Raleigh Man.

19 Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm Fellow CyclistsIt was very cold and windy up on the top of the tower so we didn’t spend long there, heading down the stairs again and jumping back on the bikes (or creaking down onto my trike, in my case) before heading off towards Xanten. Apparently there were no more hills before we got there – phew!

Here’s the elevation profile from the group section of the ride (i.e. leaving Krefeld and arriving at Wesel) and you can see Sonsbeck’s hill rather obviously: at 31 miles

ADFC Ride Elevation Profile

It seemed a very quick ride into Xanten from Sonsbeck – the tailwind we’d had most of the day was still blowing strongly and it definitely helped. The twin towers of the Xanten Dom (cathedral) were visible from a long way away so we just headed along a smooth cycle path along a road for several miles, aiming at those towers.

We arrived in Xanten at just after 2pm and I was hungry enough to gnaw one of my legs off (except then I wouldn’t have been able to cycle any further). So I was relieved when we went pretty much straight to the suggested lunch place, a Biergarten next to a working windmill.

1 Xanten WindmillThe mill still grinds flour and bakes bread from it (they had a little shop) and we were able to sit outside (under an awning as it started pouring again) to eat our lunch.

I ordered a pot of tea, of course.

2 Tetley TeaThe waitress asked me if I was a mother. I said no. She said that if I was, they would have given me a free glass of Prosecco as today was mother’s day. I said I am teetotal so it would be wasted on me. We placed our food orders and off she went.

I then realised I’d been a bit dim as perhaps my companions might like some prosecco (they said yes), so when she returned I said I’d remembered I am a mother to a little doggie. So she brought me a glass, with a smile, and I handed it to the chaps to share.

3 ProseccoThen our food arrived. I had ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and hadn’t paid that much attention to the description – it also had an egg (yummy). Less yummy were the slices of gherkin which I don’t like and I piled them to the side.

4 SandwichInterestingly Raleigh Man asked if I wanted them and when I said ‘no’ he asked if he could have them. That was fine, I was happy to share, but I think British remoteness would mean that one probably wouldn’t ask that of a chance-met acquaintance on the first day. Which would mean gherkin-lovers miss out, I suppose. It’s also probably part of the waste-not, want-not mentality. Reinhard had some of the spare coleslaw from Raleigh Man’s plate so it’s clearly the done thing. Sensible really.

I noticed this rather unusual name for a cake in the Cake Stand.

5 Hugo's FriendAfter a fairly leisurely meal and then the fun of paying three separate bills for our meals when we all only had large denomination notes, we headed off in more drizzle.

I liked this old building down a side road.

6 Xanten HouseReinhard had explained that most of Xanten was flattened in the war but they rebuilt things like the Dom in the same style as before. The windmill, too, had clearly been repaired from a shell. In the UK we tend to build something modern in place of something that’s destroyed. I think I probably prefer the German way as you tend to get more attractive buildings (although I guess it costs a lot more).

Before we left Xanten we had to look at the Dom:

Xanten Dom from Wikipedia: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Xanten_dom_IMGP1422_wp.jpg

I couldn’t get a good photo of it so have used a Wikimedia one.

We didn’t go inside either but here’s a picture taken by Heinz Kottysch, found on the Internet.

7 Xantener Dom Heinz Kottysch

On the way out of Xanten we passed signs for ‘Schokoladen und Konditorei Museum’. What a good thing it was Sunday and therefore closed otherwise I might have had to have a look around!

1 Schokoladen Museum

Earlier in the ride I had thought I would bail out at Xanten as I was feeling so tired and often chilly. However the lunch had revived me and as Wesel was only 15km (9 miles) away I thought it worth carrying on.

Although the drizzle was still annoying we soon joined the path near the Rhein with occasional glimpses of the river over the dyke to our left.

2 Wesel in the distanceThis was very amusing – as I was cycling towards this gate I watched a herd of cows crossing. The gates were locked shut and we saw the various farmers corralling the cows into the cowshed to the right. But no-one seemed to be coming to open the gate. In the end Reinhard asked if I could lift the bike over and I said I thought it’d be better to wait for one of the farmers to open the gates.

In the end a lady shouted up to us ‘open the narrow gate’ and it turned out that the right hand gate wasn’t actually locked! We felt right fools opening that, having waited for about five minutes!

3 Gate LockedAs we continued along the dyke Raleigh Man was chatting to me about his bike. Unfortunately because of my hearing difficulties and his softly-spoken and fast German I wasn’t really able to understand all that much. But I did notice when he said “You can see the old Rhein bridge.” And indeed we could!

4 Old Wesel BridgeThis bridge was apparently blown up by the Wehrmacht during World War 2, along with lots of others down the Rhine.

The newer Wesel bridge is rather impressive – I went over it by car last week, it was good to have a chance to photograph it from the bike.

5 New Wesel Bridge

6 New Wesel Bridge

7 New Wesel BridgeThe view from the bridge of the Rhein isn’t particularly scenic.

8 Rhein from Wesel BridgeWe crossed the bridge and then followed the signs to the railway station. Wesel is apparently twinned with Felixstowe in the UK (not far from where I live in England).

When we got to the railway station we had about ten minutes before our train. Some train ticket purchasing was required and there followed a traditionally-baffling German ticket sharing experience.

Reinhard appeared to have some kind of train season ticket. He said that one of us could travel on his ticket but the other would need to buy a ticket. So I turned to Raleigh Man and said I assumed we’d pay half each for the extra ticket to be fair, and he nodded.

Reinhard then proceeded to buy a ticket from the machine. I assumed this was the third ticket but no, he said I had to buy one (if I had an EC Card, which I did). He asked if I wanted the ticket to Kempen (and typed in the details of Kempen for the ticket) and it was 13,10€. I asked how much it was to Krefeld and he didn’t know (which surprised me – hadn’t he just bought a ticket?), so he went through the ticket query thing again and Krefeld was 11€ so I said I’d go for that one (I am happy to cycle another 5 miles to save 2,10€, clearly). So I used my card and the machine printed out my ticket. I was about to go when he said “you also need your Zusatz ticket”, which is another word for a bicycle ticket. Apparently I couldn’t buy this in the same transaction as the main ticket. So he pressed the buttons for me for the Zusatz ticket and whilst I was putting my card for the 3,10€ cost in he asked Raleigh man for 6€, which he gave to him. And then that was apparently that. I had paid 14,10€, Raleigh Man a mysterious 6€ (for what?) and Reinhard had bought something from the ticket machine but who knows what. I can only guess that Raleigh Man paid for both bike tickets (minus 0,20€) for him and Reinhard for his contribution. But overall I came off worst.

13 Wesel railway ticketsTime was marching on so we went quickly to our platform and I was able to get Alfie in the lift. The train arrived and was one with a large bicycle compartment; Alfie’s wheel was crossing the line but I got away with it.

10 Alfie on train 1After a couple of stops some of the other bikes (and their riders) left the carriage so there was room for us to sit down. I was faffing about charging my phone when Reinhard said “we’re changing here”. I thought I was on a direct train but no – we were at Duisburg and needed to change. He said we had 15 minutes for the change so at least it wasn’t a rush.

So I got off and wheeled to the lift, Reinhard having told me to go to Platform 4.

When the lift eventually arrived I discovered it was too short for Alfie. Bummer. I’d have to carry him down the stairs.

So I picked him up and carried him down three flights of stairs – not very easy to be honest. Still, I made it.

I wheeled along to Platform 4 and decided to check that this was indeed the right platform (didn’t want to walk up the stairs if it was wrong) but I couldn’t seem to find our train on the departures sheet anywhere. I looked and looked again – nothing was going to Krefeld. Weird.

In the end I gave up and thought I’d go up to the platform anyway, so I hoisted Alfie up onto my hip and staggered up the stairs, feeling pretty exhausted. When I got to the top Reinhard and Raleigh Man were waiting, wondering where I had got to. “The lift was too small” was all the explanation they needed!

Raleigh Man showed me the Timetable on the wall and our train – it turned out the timetable downstairs had been for the S-Bahn, not the RegionalBahn, thus why our train didn’t show.

The train duly arrived and we had to walk briskly along the platform to the front where the bike storage was. Reinhard indicated to me to get on at a different set of doors as the carriage was full, so I squeezed him into the little vestibule by some doors.

11 Alfie on train 2Fifteen minutes later we were in Krefeld and a couple of people helped me lift Alfie out (hurrah!) There was yet another too-small lift so I had to carry him down yet more stairs. The Krefeld to Duisburg line is not one for people with weird bikes or Tandems!

At the bottom of the stairs, at a narrow pinch point, Raleigh Man and Reinhard were waiting for me, causing a traffic jam. I went off to the side to make some space and Raleigh Man said goodbye as he was going out the other way. I didn’t get much of a chance to say goodbye properly (I was still flustered from the stairs) which was a shame as he had been quite gentlemanly on the ride, often cycling with me for company and chatting to me. And we’d had a wonderful speedy section between Xanten and Wesel where we were riding as hard as we could with the tailwind – we got up to 35 km/h. Reinhard with his flat rear tyre was left behind on that bit.

I hadn’t got a pre-plotted route back to St Hubert from Krefeld railway station so Reinhard led me back to our original meeting point and I picked up my outward route from there.

return route Krefeld to EschelnThe disadvantage with following a route in the reverse direction is that places with one-way streets – like Hüls – become a bit awkward. I did some pavement riding the wrong way along a one-way street but in the end gave up with that and trailblazed a slightly different route (shown by the wiggly line in Hüls in the map above).

There was an unexpected benefit – I came out of the shadow of some large buildings and saw this impressive water tower which now seems to have a youth club attached to it.

12 Hüls Water TowerI soon rejoined my familiar route through Hüls and fighting against the head/sidewind made my way back to St Hubert.

On the ride I was doing a bit of mental arithmetic and realised that my route would be slightly under 100km if I went directly home (I’d reset the trip computer on my Garmin so didn’t have a definite figure to hand but had a vague idea). So I thought it worth doing a 2 mile extra detour at the end to ensure I made the 100km. And it worked – I did complete a metric century. I felt pretty pooped afterwards and my lovely hot shower was just wonderful after the chills of the rain. I’ve got out of practice at riding a bike in bad weather due to having the velomobile.

Anyway, I had a very enjoyable day and will be joining the ADFC before the next ride, which is on Sunday and meeting in Grefrath for a shorter 35km. As I can ride to and from Grefrath I’ll take Penelope for the fun of it – here’s hoping there won’t be too many awkward gates or forest paths.

 

Statistics for today’s ride:

First the section of the ride with the others
Distance: 45.01 miles/72.43 kilometres
Moving time: 4 hours 35 seconds
Moving average: 9.8 mph/15.8 km/h
Average heart rate: 123
Maximum heart rate: 185
Maximum speed: 30.2 mph/48.6 km/h
Calories burned: 1,972
Total climb: 818 feet/249 metres

Now the ride combined with my outward and return trips to Krefeld
Distance: 62.88 miles/101.2 kilometres
Moving time: 6 hours 17 seconds
Moving average: 10 mph/16.1 km/h
Average heart rate: 126
Maximum heart rate: 185
Maximum speed: 30.2 mph/48.6 km/h
Calories burned: 2,822
Total climb: 956 feet/291 metres

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

Romantische Straße – Schongau to Königsbrunn

Sunday 8 September 2013

After a good night’s sleep we woke up to blue skies and sunshine again, hurrah. The weather forecast was for rain late morning here in Schongau and rain from 5pm in Königsbrunn, our destination for today. If we were lucky we could dodge the rain as we travel.

Breakfast was once again very good, with scrambled egg and really nice bacon available. Here is a photograph of both of us at the breakfast table.

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Here is today’s route (starting at the bottom):

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We paid our bill and then fetched the bikes out of the wine cellar.

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The forecast today was for rain late morning in Schongau but we could see blue skies and the sun was pretty warm, even at 10am.

We headed off down the hill, realising almost immediately that the Garmin-plotted route involved us walking up a huge flight of steps. No thanks! We turned round and did a road route instead, although it was really hard work cycling up a very steep hill just after breakfast and with no warm up!

However, once we got up the hill we set off on our way northwards, passing through Altenstadt. The view before us was much flatter than of late.

20130908-174833.jpg

We arrived at Schwabniederhofen and I noticed something unusual as I zoomed past a log store. Firstly it had been made into the shape of a house, although it was just a series of logs. Secondly it was leaning rather towards the road. Thirdly there were two goats sitting on the windowsill of the house. I kid you not!

20130908-174906.jpg

We had a brief section of unmade road (compacted crushed stone) but it wasn’t too bad compared with yesterday’s very difficult road surface at times. This only lasted about 1km so it wasn’t too bad.

We then pootled through Hohenfurch which turned out to be a surprisingly interesting village. Firstly, they seemed to be having some kind of fleamarket and there were loads of people milling around a barn. Secondly, they had put this waterwheel into the little stream the Schönach:

And thirdly they had a huge pole with the Bavarian colours and lots of images on it, presumably of the trades in the village.

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Here is a close-up of the pole, we recognised a beehive, chicken, windmill, boot and shoemaker, delivery company, pretzel maker (bakery?) and more.

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There was a bit of a climb up out of Hohenfurch and then we were on a wide, flat plain with pretty good views back towards the Alps.

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It felt as if we had a tailwind (although it was supposed to be a northerly today) and we zoomed along the excellent cycle path, enjoying the speed. We saw some other cyclists, including lots with big panniers who were presumably also doing the Romantische Straße, but were mostly on our own.

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Here am I trundling along (slightly uphill, as it happens)

We rode through Kinsau and could see from our map that the Lech river, which we first met as a small stream in Füssen, was getting a lot wider here. It was also a long way below us, as wee realised when we got a glimpse of it past Kinsau.

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What became clear was that the river had cut quite a steep gorge at this point in its travels. We discovered this when it was time to cross the river at Epfach – we had a fantastic, swoopy descent which was great fun. But then crossed the bridge and had the most horrendous, long and steep climb on a road with no cycle path.

I twiddled up there in my very bottom gear at 2.5mph, finding myself shockingly sweaty by the end. James rode it in three sections, having a break periodically (as he was faster than me he was able to stop and wait). He was surprisingly unsweaty at the top so I clearly deserved more pastries today than him (and, indeed, did have one more than him!)

However, the view from the top made it almost worth the effort. Almost!

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This is an example of one of the many election posters we’ve been seeing so far. Most are people’s faces, names, their party and their number on the ballot paper. But this one is from a political party who want Bavaria to secede from Germany. I suspect they’ll be out of luck but they had a lot of support in the villages we went through today.

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Here is James waiting at the top. His bike appears to have collapsed!

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On we pootled, relieved to find we were now on a mostly flat section of the route with just a few gentle undulations. Our speed was picking up which was good as we had 42 miles to do today and the first fifteen had seemed to take rather a long time. This is partly because I kept stopping to take photos of things of course!

We arrived at Vilgertshofen which is a very small village notable mainly for its church, the Wallfahrtskirche Mariä Himmelfahrt (Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption).

From our guidebook:

It was built between 1687 and 1692 by Johann Schmuzer… adopting a centralised Greek cross plan but the exterior has a slightly lopsided effect as only one of the two planned towers was built, and that belatedly.

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James and I had a good look at the church exterior but to be honest it didn’t look that weird to us!

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When cycle touring it’s often strange little things that catch my eye. I really liked the different woods on this barn door.

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After Stadl we continued on to Stoffen, once again enjoying the lovely smooth road surface. It was also notable that the view behind had some darker clouds amassing so the forecasted rain looked like it was indeed falling in Schongau.

At Stoffen we headed westwards a little towards the Lech river, enjoying a super-speedy downhill into Pitzling where we joined a riverside cycle path made of compacted crushed stone.

This was clearly a very popular route from Landsberg am Lech, about 4 kilometres along the riverside. There were lots of walkers and cyclists but everyone seemed to get along fine.

Although this was a river it looked rather more like a lake a lot of the time as it was very still.

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I dipped my toe in the water…

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Here is a helpful plaque showing the Romantic Road route – James’s finger marks the point we had reached (we started at the bottom of course).

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This was a really lovely part of today’s ride and we went fairly slowly, soaking up the scenery.

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The reason for the still water became clear fairly soon – a hydroelectric plant.

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Another surprise a little further on – a cable system stretched across the river. There was one thick cable and then two thinner ones below (a pulley system?) but we couldn’t work out what this was for. There was no sign of a ferry/landing stage.

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We arrived at Landsberg am Lech, one of the larger towns on this trip, and a wonderfully historic place with very impressive town walls, lots of tall towers and attractive old buildings.

First things first though – cake!

I had some Obstkuchen:
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James had a nut pastry thingie (I had one of these later on in the day when at the hotel too!)
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Unfortunately for James he had chosen a pastry that wasps seem to really like and he had three helping him eat it. In the end we sat inside the café (we had started off outside) and only one bothered to come in to help James with his pastry. We survived unstung.

We didn’t hang around too long as we still had twenty miles to ride and wanted to get going. A quick ride along the high street showed us some interesting buildings but it was a shame cars were still allowed through. They were also relaying the cobbles so it looked a bit like a building site in places.

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Unfortunately the roadworks obscured this building a little, the Rathaus.

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Our guidebook explains:

Unusually the Rathaus (Town Hall) is sandwiched among a row of mansions on the northern side of the square. It was built between 1699 and 1702 but the exuberant stuccowork facade, Dominikus Zimmermann’s only major secular commission, was not added until 1719.

Dominikus Zimmermann was the architect of the amazing rococco Wieskirche we saw yesterday, and lots of other local buildings too.

Here is James cycling towards the Schmalzturm (‘Lard Tower’), named this because lard used to be traded in its passageway, apparently!

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Our route out took us past the very tall indeed Jungfernsprungturm which was too obscured by trees to get a picture when we were able to stop. There were also lots of towers and walls, including this tower which had a Jewish memorial beside it, remembering the Jews from this region who were sent to Dachau.

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Our way out passed the Bayertor (Bavarian Gate), a very impressive structure. The guidebook states that it is:

the most imposing mediaeval gateway in southern Germany and nowadays the symbol of Landsberg. Completed in 1425 as the crowning glory of a complete revamping of the municipal fortifications, it stands at an elevation 40m above that of the lower town. An outer barbican guards a 36m high tower, whose outer face is adorned with a monumental carved scene of the Crucifixion.

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As we were heading out of Landsberg we received an SMS from friend Melanie who lives fairly near to our route – she and her partner Konrad would be able to meet us in Meitingen tomorrow evening for dinner. That was great news – it would be lovely to see them again!

As we left Landsberg we saw this series of signs welcoming you to the town. I have never heard of ‘Failsworth’ in the UK but it turns out it’s between Oldham and Manchester.

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Here’s another political sign, you can probably work out what it’s on about.

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From Landsberg we headed north on very quiet asphalt roads towards Kaufering. When we reached Kaufering the track was supposed to become crushed stone again but it continued as tarmac for a couple of miles, it turns out because E-on had a hydroelectric plant here and had obviously improved the access road. Once again it was alongside the river Lech.

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This is looking upstream from the hydroelectric plant – the water is beautifully still this side. There was a fair drop to the other side.

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Unfortunately after the hydroelectric plant the track reverted to crushed stone so we couldn’t go as fast but it was a reasonable quality of this kind of path so we were just slowed to about 10mph. We had been cruising at 14-15mph before this on the asphalt.

Fortunately after three or so miles we joined a different section of path which was now asphalt.

We reached the village of Scheuring where we thought we might stop for ice cream. Unfortunately we didn’t see any open Eiscafés or other eating establishments, but we did see a couple of amusingly-painted fire hydrants. Here’s one.

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We saw another one painted as a man wearing a blue-and-white horizontally striped top. I was going too fast to photograph him though!

We hoped that the next village, Pittriching, might provide us with some ice cream. We were going really fast now with heavy clouds behind us, hoping to outrun the rain.

We did stop for five minutes at this rather lovely little chapel.

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It’s the Pittriching Assisi-Kapelle which was built in 2005-6.

Inside it was fairly simple but very attractive with copper-painted walls etc.

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This is the roof skylight.

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Here are our bikes waiting outside! Note the field of sweetcorn behind Alfie – today we have seen mostly sweetcorn and cattle forage being grown, with grass as well of course.

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We rode into Pittriching and did a bit of cycling around in search of an ice cream or cake but failed again, which was a bit of a surprise (after all, this is Germany where Eiscafés are everywhere). Still, we only had about six and a half miles to go to our hotel so decided to press on and see if we could find something when we got there.

The cycle track was lovely and straight and fast. At one point it took us past a solar farm, of which we have seen dozens already in Germany. These are huge – my pictures don’t really do it justice!

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According to a plaque outside the farm, this was built in 2007 and provides 3,318 megawatts peak [EDIT: this was a typo, I failed to remember that Germans use full stop for thousands separator, comma for decimal, so this was actually just over 3 megawatts or 3318 kilowatts] which apparently provides electricity for 1,389 households per year.

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We saw yet another hydroelectric plant (we cycled past at least four today and there were several others where our route was away from the river). This little sign was at all of them – I think it’s great as the chap’s expression is so funny!

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We cycled right over the top of the dam, stopping at the top to take a look.

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We then had a long, swooping ride down the other side of the dam and then turned onto a crushed gravel path which ran beside a fast-flowing stream, that we think is a bypass stream for the Lech (perhaps to feed the canoeing area which is further downstream than we reached today). This stream had rapids periodically along it but also very low bridges so wouldn’t be navigable for canoes.

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We ran alongside this stream for about two miles and then the stream flowed into the Mandichosee. Unfortunately here the track surface became rather unsuitable for three wheelers but I persevered!

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The official cycle route carried on north here but our hotel in Königsbrunn was off to the west so we turned left and followed my Garmin GPS the two miles to the Besthotel Zeller.

We arrived and were met by the hotel manager (who seemed to just be standing outside as we got there). He had a little chat with us whilst we sorted out our luggage.

I meant to mention previously that I have been using my Radical Banana Bags again for this tour. My last tour with them wasn’t 100% successful but experience always helps and this time round I had bought some waterproof stuff sacks, one for each side, to keep the contents dry if it rains. It also means that I can actually leave the Banana Bags fixed to the bike, I just have to remove the blue dry bags. The fluorescent orange bag is a light rucksack that contains all my important stuff; I am happy to leave the other bags on the bike when we stop for cake during the day as there’s nothing of great value in them.

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Here are the statistics for today’s ride:

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After we put our luggage in our room we decided we needed the long-awaited ice cream. Conveniently there was an Eiscafé directly across the road so we headed there.

Outside the Eiscafé is this interesting marker post sign.

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James had three scoops of home-made ice cream (cookies, hazlenut and vanilla).

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And I had a Banana split. It was not particularly like the illustration/description in the book as it had blackberry ice cream and raspberry ripple ice cream (and hazlenut) rather than the expected Vanilla and Chocolate. Still, it filled a hole – and the fruit helped towards my 5-a-day!

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We went for a little walkaround afterwards and came across this most perturbing sculpture.

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It’s enormous – James barely reaches his chin!

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There’s also a pink-headed girl. I didn’t like these at all!

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After writing up some of this blog it was time for dinner. True to form the rain had started at exactly 5pm (James heard the pips on Radio 4) and so we thought we’d eat in the hotel’s restaurant to save getting wet. We had remained entirely dry on our cycle ride today which was a bonus.

The hotel’s restaurant turned out to be very nice indeed. James had a beer (of course)!

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I like the way it says “Original Münchner Hell” which isn’t exactly enticing!

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We had a starter of rather attractive salads.

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I had a special Schnitzel with cheese.

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James had a curry.

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We enjoyed our meal very much and the holiday is clearly successful as my trousers are already feeling tight!

Walking back to our room we passed this Table Football game on top of some beer crates.

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Tomorrow is a shorter day, just under 36 miles, to Meitingen. We’ll go through Friedberg and Augsburg on the way, both of which are fairly signficant towns on the Romantic Road. We also have the option of a short detour to the village of Kissing; with a name like that it might have to be visited on this tour!

The forecast is for drizzle tomorrow and much colder temperatures, probably only 16-18 degrees all day. I have fished out my windproof jacket which will hopefully be enough to keep the worst of the rain out. Tomorrow we also meet up with Melanie and Konrad which will be great.

The rain is drumming on the windows of the hotel room so we are clearly doing the right thing by hiding in our room rather than exploring Königsbrunn by night.

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Romantische Straße, Trikes & Velomobiles

Romantische Straße – Füssen to Schongau

Saturday 7 September 2013

After a good night’s sleep we opened the shutters to discover a beautiful blue sky. The weather forecast of thunder and lightning seems to have avoided us, at least for the morning.

The Hotel Christine has an extremely high rating on the hotel website and up till breakfast we hadn’t thought it anything particularly special. It was a nice hotel but like many others I have stayed in in Germany which only warrant 8/10. Hotel Christine was 9.2/10.

However, when we went down to breakfast, the reason for the 9.2 rating became clear.

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They also bought over a basket of bread and rolls and a plate of scrambled egg each. Everything was absolutely delicious and we probably managed our five a day fruit and veg just this morning!

Our washing had not quite dried overnight as we had ended up wearing our cycling kit until eight in the evening, but hopefully it will finish drying tonight.

The forecast for after this weekend is cooler with a bit more rain so we will make the most of today’s great weather as we cycle 32 miles, taking in what is considered the most beautiful Rococco churches in the world, the Wieskirche at Steingaden.

Here is today’s route:

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We set off at 10 AM in beautiful sunshine, retracing yesterday’s route towards Neuschwanstein although cutting a corner and missing out the main route to the castle.

James posed beside this huge propeller near the hydroelectric plant.

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We were heading north easterly for the first few miles, running alongside the edge of the Alps with them always to our right.

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Here I am with Neuschwanstein Castle in the background.

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We cycled on what must be an old floodplain and saw to the right hand side the St Coloman pilgrimage church built in 1673. Neuschwanstein Castle is visible behind it.

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As the weather was good I decided to take off my mudguards and see if they would fit in my panniers – they did!

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The route took us past the Bannwaldsee (lake), the smaller of the two lakes near Füssen, with views across it to the Alps behind.

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We were slowly getting our eye in with regard to the signposts as the little signs for Romantische Strasse seem to be quite hard to see.

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Here you can see the sign just above James’s shoulder.

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We continued on, making a small detour to a village in which our guidebook said there was a bike shop. The bell on my bike had broken on our train journey and it’s really useful to have a bell when out cycling in Germany on busy paths. We found the shop but it was closed – undoubtedly they were out cycling instead, and I didn’t blame them on such a beautiful day!

The route continued on but unfortunately changed from asphalt to loose chippings, something that you often find in Germany and which is a pain in the neck for a three wheeled bike like mine.

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This carried on for a couple of miles which meant we were going a lot slower. There were also some fairly steep up and down hills which slowed me down/sped me up so we were moving at a fairly variable pace. The views were always lovely though so we were happy to trundle along slowly, even if it was getting a bit hot at times.

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These photos were taken near Trauchgauer-Ach, as is this panoramic video with cowbell accompaniment.

Here James went ahead up a hill to see the view whilst I trundled up in a very low gear.

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My Garmin said that we were at 2870 feet, having started at Füssen at 2500 feet.

We were heading for the Wieskirche in Steingaden which is one of the most famous rococo churches in the world.

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It was awarded world heritage status by UNESCO in 1983 and as soon as we stepped in we could see why.

The church is famous for Johann Baptist Zimmermann’s ceiling fresco in the trompe l’oeil style.

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I loved this candle with the Hebrew for Yahweh at the bottom, along with the rainbow (gay pride in a church?!)

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Even the pews had beautifully carved ends.

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We spent a little while in the church and once we stepped outside were pleased to find a café. It was 1pm so time for a drink. My attention was caught by some special things being cooked…

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They were freshly made giant ring doughnuts with sugar and cinnamon. I requested one without cinnamon as I’m not keen on it. Within minutes both had arrived – mega yummy!

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Light and fluffy inside too!

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And as it was the first proper day of cycling James had a Radler (half beer, half lemonade).

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It was 10 to 2 when we were ready to set off after a nice break and food and chance to chill out. We were halfway to our destination – it’s a short day of 32 miles but we had a fair few ups and downs to come.

This is looking back at the beautiful Wieskirche.

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From this point the official cycle route splits two ways. We decided to take the easternmost route which our English guide book suggested took in more of the beautiful towns on route.

This was possibly a more hilly route though as we discovered as we made our way up the very steep hill into Wildsteig. This photo is looking back down the hill – James had gone up quite fast and managed to twist the end on his handlebar as he was hanging on to it as he powered up the hill!

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A bit of forward planning and studying the Bikeline German guide book maps showed us the next section was off road with loads of ups and downs, including several very steep bits. However the main road took a less hilly route and was only slightly longer so we decided to use that instead.

This turned out to be an excellent plan as we had a fantastic swooping down hill and I got up to 38 mph!

We joined up with the official route just before Rottenburg.

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At Rottenberg we nearly went wrong and missed an underpass but a man standing in his front garden told us the correct route. Very helpful chap!

We continued on along the official route which was through a very quiet hamlet which rejoiced in the name Moos. Cue lots of photos of cows and the village sign!

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I liked this road name too.

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We then followed the cycle route beside the main road the B23 with a couple of short climbs but nothing too strenuous. There was one more significant climb which went over a small hill where the main road diverted round it. This included a rather exciting 20% descent – you can see the sign here. I waited for the tractor to pass before I headed down.

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Sadly I couldn’t get up much speed down here as I was following a car and he was being very careful.

We saw four tractors go past in close succession. They were all very interesting old ones and one of the drivers was wearing traditional dress so we wondered if there was some kind of Bavarian tractor rally going on.

Here is a look back to the Alps just before they went out of sight for good on this tour.

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We had to cross over and under the main road on a few occasions and I was rather impressed by this set of paths as it gave wide vehicles like mine a good turning circle to make the corner!

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Here is some local wildlife.

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As we approached Peiting there was a disagreement between our satnav route and the cycle route signs. We ended up going with the satnav route into Peiting which passed the road sign for the Romantische Strasse.

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The road route and cycle route are actually quite different, I believe the cycle route is 30% longer, for example. As the bikes are kept away from the main roads we don’t see these signs all that often.

At Peiting I saw an Aldi supermarket so stopped to get some biscuits to keep us going when we got to the hotel.

Here we are entering Schongau, our town for this evening.

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Schongau turned out to be rather hilly and we did a detour to reach our hotel to avoid going over an enormous hill. The hotel itself was up a hill and we ended up walking the final 10 metres to the hotel reception area.

At the same time as we arrived a large group of cyclists rolled up. They had no luggage with them, it turned out to have been delivered for them. They had enormous suitcases – that is cycle touring with all the luxuries.

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The receptionist told us that the bicycle parking was back down the hill again under the hotel which is built into the hill so we got to cycle or walk down that steep ramp again.

The bike parking turned out to be the wine cellar – it was dark and cool and had a small stream running down the middle. A very unusual alternative to our shed at home for the bikes.

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I took a photo of my Garmin for today’s figures. We cycled just over 32 miles and at a very leisurely 8.8 mph. It was lovely to stop regularly and look around at the scenery so we were very happy with how we rode today.

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After the traditional shower, writing up of the blog, washing clothes, generally faffing about it was time to go out for our evening meal.

We are staying in hotel Holl which has a restaurant but it is closed at the weekend. The receptionist told us about the Brewery down the road which I had seen on our way here. They did food.

So we wandered down together, took a seat and enjoyed the surroundings of a brewery plus restaurant.

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James ordered a Weissbier which was brewed at this brewery.

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(The glass is from a different brewery).

We ordered food, James had a chicken kebab from their barbecue, I had a German style burger.

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Both were very tasty.

After our meal, although it was dark we thought it worth visiting the town walls which are very impressive.

This is the view of the outside of the brewery.

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From here we walked for five minutes to the town walls. They were nicely floodlit – I’m not sure how effective the photos are but hopefully it gives you an impression.

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We had a little walk through the town inside the walls and then came out of the Maxtor Gate and walked back to the hotel.

We had a message from a friend who lives near here to say she may be able to meet us on Monday with her partner whom we also know. That’d be great, hopefully we can sort it out. They are both keen cyclists so perhaps we’ll be able to have a bit of a ride together.

Tomorrow we are heading to just south of Augsburg to a place called Königsbrunn. The weather forecast is reasonable although we may get a small amount of rain. Monday onwards looks a bit cooler and wetter, but it won’t dampen our spirits at all!

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The Joy Of Essex Cycle Ride

I don’t only tour in Germany – I also cycle in England!

I’m a member of two cycling forums, CycleChat and YACF (Yet Another Cycling Forum), and have previously organised some cycle rides in my corner of Essex which people from those forums have attended.

Having not led a ride for a couple of years I thought it was about time so organised one for Saturday 22 June, entitled The Joy Of Essex.

This was my planned route (zoomable map)

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The plan was to meet at Manningtree Railway Station at 10 for the start of the ride, but I would be at the station an hour earlier for breakfast (they do an excellent cooked English breakfast).

Alfie waiting outside the Station Café

I headed in for breakfast; after all, I needed plenty of energy for a 34 mile ride…

Half Breakfast at the Café

I was soon joined by audaxer Lindsay who was having a rest day (just cycling 35 miles with me) as the following day she was doing a tandem trike time trial (she ended up with the Ladies Time Trial record!).

Before long we were also joined by Tim Hall, my husband James, friend Mark and a new face from CycleChat, Paul.

Paul, Lindsay, Tim, James and Mark

After a short session of trying on my spare CycleChat jersey, we headed off on the first leg of this epic ride, an eleven mile jaunt over to Boxted.

Tim Hall had his camera with him and always takes excellent pics – he’s given me permission to reproduce some of them in this blog post.

He took this one of my suntanned feet following my German cycle tour.

Auntie Helen’s feet – I need to give ’em a scrub!

We headed into Manningtree (the station is on the west side) to take the scenic route along the walls to look at the river Stour. We passed the Manningtree clock with its rather unusual number arrangement.

Manningtree Clock (photo Tim Hall)

We headed along the Stour briefly, turning south and up a bit of a hill once we reached Mistley Towers.

Mistley Towers (photo Tim Hall)

At the top of the hill we had to ride along the main A137 for a short while but the traffic wasn’t too bad. A group of six can spread out a fair bit but we kept a reasonable pace (although knowing Lindsay was on a rest day we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous).

We were soon back onto quiet country roads, taking Mill Hill towards Dedham and then heading along Long Road West to Lamb Corner before heading into Langham, where we briefly stopped at Boxted Airfield (which is in Langham), an old World War Two USAF base.

Bikes at the memorial

Boxted Airfield Plaque (photo Tim Hall)

From here it was just a couple of miles until we arrived at Fillpots Nursery, a garden centre with a very good café (although Mark seemed to have been overcharged for his scone).

I enjoyed a piece of sponge.

Oh look, a piece of cake!

It was nice and relaxing after the enormous energy expediture of the previous eleven miles!

Tea ‘n cake

We headed off for the next leg of our journey – another 11 miles. We aimed towards Dedham, pootling along the quiet country lanes that are my regular cycle routes.

Another random stop to look at something-or-other

We went down Gun Hill (which is always fun) and then turned off towards Dedham, riding through it and then back up the hill the other side.

Mark was finding it rather warmer than he had expected!

Mark seems to be overheating! (photo Tim Hall)

As we were cycling up the hill out of Dedham I saw my friend Kirstie’s parents. I reckon I see them about half of the times I visit Dedham. Kirstie’s mum said “I saw a group of cyclists and thought that it might be you!” and I pointed out that I was leading from the back (everyone except James was up ahead).

Tim took a great photo of James and I as we reached the brow of the hill!

Auntie Helen and James (photo Tim Hall)

After another 11 gruelling miles we arrived at The Haywain, one of my local pubs and probably my favourite.

Parking the bikes at the pub – and the sun has come out!

I decided to have a reasonably light lunch as breakfast and cake had not been that many miles ago so enjoyed a chicken and stuffing baguette.

Food!

After lunch Paul had to head back to Manningtree Station and Mark needed to get home so he and James headed back to our house (where Mark had parked his car), so now my little band of cyclists numbered just three as we forged ahead on our final 14 miles.

We headed south from the Haywain towards Little Bentley, again on roads I cycle several times a week. Tim liked the new use for the old BT phone box – a book swap and noticeboard.

Little Bentley phone box (photo Tim Hall)

We were riding into wind now along the NCN51, the route to Harwich that I took on the way to my Konstanz to Koblenz cycle tour a month ago. It was nice to be on quiet roads and able to chat.

At Wix we turned north, crossing under the A120 and following the undulating road to Bradfield Heath which then heads for Mistley Heath and we were soon whizzing down the hill towards Mistley Towers past the Edme Maltings.

We arrived back at Manningtree Station and had time for a cup of tea before Lindsay’s train to Bury St Edmunds and Tim’s train to London. After the cuppa we said goodbye and Lindsay headed to the other platform to await her train.

Waiting for the train

Tim’s train arrived and he put his bike in the Guard’s Van before heading towards the Big Smoke.

Tim heads to Lunnun

My ride to and from Manningtree increased the total ride distance for me to a heady 42.84 miles (which I covered in 3 hours 39 minutes, so an average of 11.7mph which is pretty good for a group ride). Sadly the relatively relaxed pace meant that I only burned 1,967 calories – I leave it up to you, having seen the photos of my breakfast, cake and lunch, whether I burned them off!

I’m going to re-run this ride (or a slightly longer version) in a month or so’s time as lots of people wanted to come on this one but were unable.

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Ko2Ko – Koblenz to Köln

Here is the map of where I have got to so far on the whole tour:

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Quite a long way really!

And here’s today’s ride, also a long way.

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Once again I had a hotel room without breakfast (which was 8,50€ extra so I didn’t bother), so I was out of the door at 8am ready to head off on my rather long journey. This was the longest planned day of my tour and I wanted to make sure I was underway without too much faffage.

I didn’t choose the most direct route to the bridge over the Mosel as I wanted to see Deutsches Eck again, so I pootled along the pedestrian/cyclist bit beside the Rhein.

I wouldn’t fancy this job – there are chaps on that contraption right under the bridge!

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I also caught sight of another recumbent, a Challenge Wizard.

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I arrived at Deutsches Eck and Alfie had a look at the Mosel (left) and Rhein (right) in the misty morning.

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After Deutsches Eck it was time to head over the Balduinbrücke. I’ve done this loads of times so have finally got to grips with where to go by bike to avoid steps and stairs etc; however, when I got there the bridge was being resurfaced and there was one-way traffic only, although fortunately bikes could still go over in the north direction.

I was now the other side of the Mosel and was on familiar ground – we had a week’s holiday here in Neuendorf last September. On that holiday we had watched them building an enormous flood barrier – I thought this was an ideal time to check if it worked. It did!

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The cycle path had some diversions because of the flood barrier building and so I followed those signs which took us along the quiet roads from Neuendorf to Kesselheim.

In Kesselheim there’s a short bit through a woodland which was rather pretty.

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However, at the bottom, where the cycle path starts following the river, there were two chaps working on clearing up after the flooding and their van was completely blocking the cycle path. They were very friendly and offered to help me lift it round their van but they warned me that other chaps from their work detail were further up the path and I might do better on the road. I’d stopped next to a flight of steps to the road and so they lifted Alfie up for me, including heaving him over a barrier. The young, talkative chap had very oily hands after this (he’d gripped a bit of the chain) and I apologised but he said it was no problem, he was at work and was meant to get his hands dirty!

So now I was cycling along the road towards St Sebastian and Kaltenengers. This road was nice and quiet and led easily to Urmitz, at which point I took a short cut (the main road does two sides of a triangle). After Urmitz there’s a long stretch of road with nothing to see except for this rather unattractive chimney.

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Although I saw the cycle path again at Weißenthurm I decided to stay on the road to be safe and whizzed along all the way to Andernach.

I’ve cycled through Andernach several times but always on the cycle path. it turns out there’s a fairly large town lurking behind the path including a lovely pedestrian precinct crammed with shops and some old buildings and an old arch and tower (Runder Turm).

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I’d spent a lot more time today looking at the map (after yesterday’s missed opportunities) and realised that after Andernach the cycle path goes the other side of the railway to the river so is therefore away from the flooding zone. So at Andernach I rejoined the path

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Which does some complicated manoeuvring to end up under the road (the B9 again).

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I’d thought vaguely about stopping for breakfast in Namedy but it didn’t seem to have any shops so I continued on.

After Namedy there was a nice bit of country route with fields all round. I had forgotten how attractive this section of the Rhein route can be!

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I was getting close to Bad Breisig which has lots of restaurants/cafés so decided to stop there for breakfast. I rode through Brohl-Lützing and then had to do the fiddly under-the-railway-line underpass which has some rather sharp bends!

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I’ve photographed this marker several times as I can never work out what the scale is. At this point I was about 40 miles from Köln and 23 from Koblenz so it just doesn’t add up!

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Edit: John Cave who I meet below has contacted me subsequent to his tour to say that this is the distance in Prussian Miles (i.e. 7.5km). Thanks John!

I arrived at Bad Breisig and noticed a Thorn Tandem parked up. I commented to the chap that you don’t see many of those in Germany and he replied that he didn’t speak German – another Englishman. We had a nice chat; he and his group of four in total had ridden from Andermatt (the beginning of the Rhein) and had taken several days in Frankfurt to let the flood waters get out of the way. They were hoping the worst was now over as they had originally planned to camp but had been staying in hotels due to washed-out campsites. Their bikes were as muddy as Alfie!

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I have had a mention in their blog too: http://rhine-sourcetosea.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/andernach-to-koln-warm-and-flat.html?m=1

They headed off and I settled down to breakfast – Sachertorte!

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The waiter was very chatty and was telling me about Sachertorte (I think he said he was from Austria) and also about the flood waters which a week ago had been up to the bottom of the steps of his restaurant. Everything looked perfectly normal and he said they’d all worked really hard to clean up.

When I headed off I could see the evidence of the clean up – presumably a road sweeper or something has been along and piled the mud up on the right hand side.

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There was an unexpected bonus in that this surface is usually pretty bumpy with the gaps between the bricks but as they had all been filled with silt it was all a bit smoother!

After a couple of miles I met this chap who was from Japan (I think) and riding to Budapest. He was asking me about campsites further down the Rhein but unfortunately I couldn’t help him with much info apart from what JenM had told me about flooded campsites.

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He said there were problems with the path about 3km further on so I bore that in mind.

I remember this little bridge just after Sinzig.

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But round the corner was some rather deep water on the path.

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I supposed this was what the Japanese chap had warned me about but I’d have a fair detour to go back and avoid it.

While I was faffing an elderly gentleman arrived behind me on a rickety old bike and set off into the water. If he can do it then so can I, I thought.

I’m writing this so I clearly survived but it turned out to be deeper than I expected and deeper than the water on the way in to Worms. The hubs of my front wheels were underwater and I was once again holding the banana bags up out of the water as much as I could, although they both dragged through the water a bit when I had to steer. I had wet feet and Alfie’s mudguard flaps got a good clean!

There was about 100 metres of water so I was most relieved when I got to the end – where there was a group of four cyclists contemplating going through. I recommended they went on the road at this point (Interestingly, when I got to my hotel this evening everything in the bags was dry – clearly the insulating tape over the holes in the bottom did the trick!)

The people waiting at the flooded bit told me all was fine towards Bonn except a bit muddy so I headed off, enjoying the fact the sun had come out and it was a beautiful day.

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This is the apporoach to Remagen – a weird dark stone thing on the far riverbank.

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Oh look, there’s one on my side too!

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Clearly it used to be a bridge. Wikipedia tells me that the capture of this bridge by American troops was a very important part of World War 2 as it was the only significent bridge still standing over the Rhine from the West into the heartland of Nazi Germany. It collapsed into the Rhine ten days after its capture but by then it had been used to move lots of heavy artillery etc.

I continued on, really enjoying the day and the chance for speed on tthe smooth Radweg. This is the Apollinariskirche,

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And across the river from Remagen is Erpel.

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Auntie Helen was pleased to see somewhere named Unkel!

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More blue skies!

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I saw this and thought of my cycling friend Tomsk who runs an Audax (a long-distance cycling event) called the “Asparagus and Strawberries”. It’s not 100 metres though, but 300km. Or is it 400…

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I liked this random arch on this building somewhere near Oberwinter.

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And a view of a pair of castles across the river – these were at Bad Honnef.

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More cycle path.

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The castles again.

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And again, from a different angle. The lower-down one looked fabulous!

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And here is Bad Honnef with tour boat disguised as Moby Dick.

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On the approach to Bonn I discovered evidence of German efficiency in the clean-up efforts.

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There was still a fair bit of muck by the side of the path though. Sometimes I had to put my right-hand wheel through this if passing some other cyclists so I felt like I was still getting a bit mucky.

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I arrived in Bonn having ridden 40 miles and with 25ish to do. It was time for lunch (1:30pm) and so I stopped at a rather posh café as my attention was drawn to its sign for waffles.

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I looked out over the river as I had my waffle and cuppa.

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It was time to set off again, I wanted to get to Köln before it was too late to give me time to have my customary wander around before dinner.

At Bonn the official cycle route crosses the river to the other side but I wanted to stay on this side (it was a shorter distance, plus I was going to do a short-cut across a meander) but I found the signage rather lacking once the main Rhein route had gone.

I also found a rather dramatic gate blocking the way, even though this was cycle path.

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I squeezed by on the right hand side, following in the wheeltracks of hundreds of bikes.

Unfortunately, two miles later I met this obstacle I couldn’t safely negotiate.

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This was at Graurheindorf and there were plenty of decent roads so I gave up with the Radweg and became a motorist for a bit!

At Uedorf I rejoined the Radweg although it was quite mucky.

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And then at Urfeld I was a bit unsure of where the route was and was concerned about getting stuck somewhere. I decided to take the safe option and use the roads again, which would probably be slightly further but a bit more predictable. I ended up going round the other side of this monstrosity.

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I rejoined my old friend the B9 (the road that went to Mainz from Worms), although this time it had a cycle path beside this. A brief look at the map showed me I could follow this road all the way to Köln, missing out the meander at Sürth and Weiß, so I decided to do that.

I liked this unfortunate name in Wesseling – it works in German but sadly not in English!

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And I really liked this huge flowerbed outside a rather boring-looking industrial unit in Godorf.

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My Garmin was now set to head to my hotel and I only had seven miles to go, hurrah! I sped along the cycle path on the B9, being a bit careful when setting off from stationary as my right knee was slightly complaining if I put a lot of pressure on it. I’m being careful with it this evening and expect it to be back to normal tomorrow.

The last few miles went very quickly and I passed the bridge for the A4 Autobahn.

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And look what I could see in the distance – the twin spires of Köln Cathedral!

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The route in on the left bank is fully of new, shiny, glass-fronted buildings and posh cafés. There are a few old things though, like this crane with a sign hinting at my weight after eating all those cakes!

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I followed the path, knowing where I was going and looking forward to seeing the cathedral up close again. I had decided against going straight to my hotel – I wanted to arrive at the central point in Köln, having left the central point in Koblenz that morning.

This is some of the back of the cathedral.

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The front door.

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I went up a side street to try to get more of a view!

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My hotel was a mile away although there were lots of one-way streets which my Garmin insisted I took the right way (it didn’t realise there were cycle paths both sides) so I probably did a bit extra.

I arrived at the hotel Leonet Novum, having done my longest day of the tour.

Imperial:

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Metric:

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My total tour distance is (roughly) 672 miles/1,081 kilometres.

The very helpful receptionist chappie unlocked the luggage storage room and helped me to lift Alfie in (he had to be tipped on his side as the door was too narrow) (Alfie, not the receptionist).

I had been slightly concerned about this hotel as it was ridiculously cheap (33,50€ including breakfast) but it was absolutely fine! The wifi works well, I have my own bathroom and my room is larger than I expected. My window is very high so you can’t really see out of it which probably partly accounts for the price but it doesn’t bother me at all.

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I had my shower and washed my clothes. I noticed that the seam on the backside of my favourite lycra shorts seems to be coming apart – oh dear! Too many cakes! Or too much sitting down, perhaps.

I am displaying very effectively the disadvantages of recumbent cycle touring with regard to an even suntan.

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I was pretty hungry so headed out early for dinner. I found myself at Rudolfplatz which was clearly a very cool bit of Köln as it was heaving with young people and very vibrant and exciting.

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I had a pizza which was very good value too.

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I had a little walk around afterwards to get the feel of the place. I’ve always found Köln a bit disappointing, and too full of English people/Americans, but this bit of it was much more appealing (although too noisy and towny for me).

I bought myself a banana from Rewe and couldn’t resist a pastry too for my dessert!

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Tomorrow I am finishing my Rhein riding by going to Kempen (which isn’t on the Rhein). What I shall probably do is ridde to Düsseldorf (or Neuss, the other side of the Rhein to Düsseldorf) to ‘join up’ my ride as I started out at Dü a couple of weeks ago. I’ll then head cross country to Kempen which should make it a shorter day at probably under 50 miles. I’ve been invited to go to the choir singing evening in Sankt Hubert again (which I did when I stayed in Kempen in March) which is rather lovely! And then it’ll be riding from Kempen to Venlo on Thursday morning and catching the train back to the Hoek van Holland. The holiday is nearly over!!!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Konstanz to Koblenz, Trikes & Velomobiles

Ko2Ko – Stein am Rhein to Waldshut-Tiengen – via Koblenz

I slept in a little this morning, not going down to breakfast until 8:30am.

On offer was the most sparse breakfast of this holiday (and in fact of any German cycle tour I can remember); just bread, cheese, two choices of cereal (both muesli), preserves, butter, orange juice and tea/coffee. One of the ‘breads’ I chose was a croissant, and on my other roll I decided to have some cheese (after all, that was the main option). It was proper Swiss cheese though – huge hunks you had to carve a slice off.

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Before heading out I checked my emails and saw one from a ICE rider’s newsgroup which said they were enjoying my blog and had put my photo on the front page of the Yahoo group. And so they had!

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I think they misunderstood my message to the group (which started ‘Grüße aus Österreich’)!

I settled up the bill for the room and the Strudel last night and then fetched Alfie from his overnight storage.

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This is today’s route:

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Off I went, enjoying the fact that it wasn’t raining! There were some mountains visible in the distance as I headed up (and ‘up’ it was!) to Hemishofen.

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As I was cycling along I heard an aeroplane engine which sounded very World War 2 to me. I tried to take a pic (not very good) but it was a twin engined plane. I saw it several times today so I think it might have been doing flying tours of the Rhine valley.

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I had taken the slightly-less-used north bank of the Rhein route for today; this route spent more time in Germany (cheaper food!) and also my planned stop in Tiengen needed me to be on the north bank. However I was in and out of Switzerland all day, crossing the border between Germany and Switzerland nine times in total. You can tell from this photo that I am in Switzerland because of the red cycle route signs; I find the red ones easier to spot than the German green-on-white cycle signage.

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After Hemishofen there was quite a long climb and I started warming up (I was wearing my windproof jacket which wasn’t 100% dry from yesterday’s rain, even though I attacked it with the hairdryer before I left). Then I reached a very sharp gradient up and the windproof had to come off!

The road surface now turned to the standard German off-road designed, crushed gravel, but a very light colour (which has made a right mess of my trike!)

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Still I quite enjoyed this bit of the ride as the woodland was full of wild garlic and the smell was heavenly!

After a couple of miles of this I came to a barrier and the path turned to a more earthy kind!

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This carried on for about a mile and then I was back on asphalt. I was glad it wasn’t raining as that would have made Alfie even more mucky.

I had a nice speedy downhill into the town of Gailingen which had the most wonderful wooden bridge.

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The bridge is actually the border between Germany (Gailingen) and Switzerland (Diessenhofen).

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I thought it would be nice to get someone to take a photo of me and so accosted a passing family to ask if they could take a pic. The young lad was game to have a go of my iPhone and so I posed.

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And this time with a church spire growing out of my head.

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I had a really nice chat with the family who were asking about my travels and then they said I could take a picture of them, so here it is.

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They were holidaying here from Kaiserslautern. When I said I couldn’t really understand the Swiss accent they saidd they couldn’t either. I gave them my blog business card and said they could have a look although they don’t really speak English so could only just look at the pictures really.

This is looking at the Rhein from the edge of the bridge.

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Having had an enjoyable 15 minute chat with the family it was time to get the pedals turning again.

The patches of blue sky were getting larger as I headed along to Büsingen.

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After about an hour and a half’s total ride time I reached Schaffhausen.

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I loved this speed limit sign for cyclists!

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Schaffhausen had a very attractive quayside with lots of punts you could hire although I reckon punting would be pretty scary with the speed of the water!

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I followed a group of other cyclists through Schaffhausen which was handy as there was an underpass to get under the main road and I think I would have missed it oon my own.

There were a few more ups and downs and then I reached Neuhausen which is the nearest town to the Rhine Falls.

As I approached Neuhausen there was some rather complicated signage which showed different ways to get the the Rhine Falls. In the end I saw that one route was preferable as it headed off to the next town I needed to go through; I think the other route would havee switched me over to the Swiss side (atlhough I crossed into Switzerland a mile later on the north bank anyway!)

The route had a very steep uphill and then an underpass below a railway line. The other side of the underpass was steps – I didn’t fancy them and found a lift that fitted Alfie in. It seemed rather random to have a lift for a cycle route, but there you go!

It was a long climb up at Neuhausen and then I had the most fantastic descent which tested my brake discs very effectively (yes, they do get very hot if you descent a 12% hill for half a mile and have to stop to avoid falling in the Rhine!!!)

And this was at the bottom of the hill:

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The view was fantastic and the noise very significant too. I’ve partially lost my hearing and white noise does terrible things to my ability to hear but the awesomeness of this made it not matter that I couldn’t hear anything else!

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There are people standing on that rock in the middle – a boat takes them to the bottom and they climb the steps. You can see the yellow boat in this photo.

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This is a view back at Neuhausen.

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I fancied a break at the Rhine Falls (and a chance to watch them for a bit longer as they were rather fascinating!) but the café had plastic-looking muffins and no exciting pastries so I went for an ice cream instead. As this was Switzerland this cost me 2,50€.

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Notice that the sun has bleached my eyebrows so they’ve virtually disappeared. Very uncool!

Here is Alfie enjoying the view. It took me a long time to get this pic as most of the time groups of Japanese tourists were standing round him looking and taking photographs.

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As I was riding along a German man ran after me, stopped me and asked if he could take a photo – which I was happy to grant. That hasn’t happened before!

Now it was time to leave Neuhausen and head off away from the river to Jestetten and Lottstetten. I had researched some hotels in these towns but the weather was good and I was making reasonable progress so decided to carry on to Waldshut-Tiengen. But first I had to climb the hill to the plain that Jestetten and Lottstetten are on.

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Leaving Jestetten there was a wonderful piece of newly-completed tarmac cycle path. It was so smooth!

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I arrived in Lottstetten and decided it was time for lunch. After Lottstetten I would be back in Switzerland for ten miles or so and wanted to make the most of the cheaper food. 5€ got me some asparagus soup (it is Spargelzeit!), a side salad and a cup of tea.

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After I ate my dinner I telephoned the hotel in Tiengen I thought was the best choice to see if he had any rooms – he had several, the cheapesst single was 64€ including breakfast and wifi. Sounded good so I said I’d turn up in three or four hours.

I cycled up another hill to reach Switzerland and went through Rafz. I liked this wood store under the stairs of this house.

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After Rafz I cycled through Wil at which point I thought there was a problem with my bike as I could hear a weird noise. My hearing loss means that certain sounds are very confusing and it seemed as though something odd was happening. When I stopped the noise continued and I realised it was ccrickets/grasshoppers in the grass beside the path!

There was a bit of on-road cycling through Wasterkingen at which point once again I changed countries and was back in Germany. I felt peckish so had the banana I’d filched from the breakfast fruit bowl.

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I now arrived at Hohentengen am Hochrhein which looked very quaint, although the official cycle route didn’t take us through the town.

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On the way out of Hohentengen I saw the obligatory cement factory; James has commented when touring with me that we always seem to see loads of ’em. Here’s a photo for James.

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I rode on, getting closer to Tiengen all the time. I climbed the hill into Lienheim and then enjoyede the downhill to Reckingen. I was making very good progress and started thinking about doing a small detour – to Koblenz.

At Rheinheim I crossed the bridge to the south side of the river. There were a lot of men in uniform from the Feuerwehr wandering around over the bridge – a look over the side and I could see that the gardens of some buildings beside the river had flooded and the Feuerwehr were trying to help. Good luck with that, the Rhein looks very full and fierce.

My plan was to cycle from this side of the river (Bad Zurzach) along to Koblenz and then cross the river to Waldshut. I had my Bikeline book which showed me the cycle path but I didn’t have a Garmin track for the route this side of the river and it proved surprisingly difficult to find the correct path. My GPS track of this bit of my day’s ride will see me going round in circles until I found one of the signposts.

We climbed out of Bad Zurzach through some new housing.

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The track followed the railway for a while, then swooped down into Koblenz. This is, of course, not the Koblenz where the Mosel and Rhein meet but a different one, a Swiss one. However I could theoretically pack up and go home now – but why on earth would I want to do that when I’m having such a good time?

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The Garmin has the track from Konstanz to Koblenz and look, it says I have 357 miles to go!

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I crossed back over at the bridge in Koblenz and headed off eastwards (back towards my starting point) to go to Tiengen. My detour added about six miles to the day’s ride but I had plenty of time so was happy to do it.

This was a very nice pedestrian and cyclist bridge on the way to Tiengen.

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I watched these chaps canoeing down one of the four rivers that makes up Tiengen (the Rhein, the Wutach, the Steina and the Schlücht).

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My hotel was in Bahnhofstraße which always makes it easy to locate – head for the railway and find the station!

The Hotel Bercher was very nice outside and in!

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I had enjoyed a good day’s ride – here are the stats from my Garmin in Imperial and then Metric.

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Alfie was stored inside a garden room which they weren’t using.

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This is my room which seemed palatial!

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It was so nice, in fact, that after my shower I went downstairs to check that it was the room I had ordered, the cheapest single room at 64€. The lady said they had put me down for an 85€ room but because I had said to the man on the phone that I wanted the cheapest room they would just charge me the 64€. Bargain!

As you can see, my cycling sandals foot tan is coming along OK!

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I had a shower and washed all my clothes as usual. It has been noticeable over the last few days (in Austria and Switzerland) that my hair is a lot nicer; there’s something about German water that makes it go lank and heavy. Now I’m back in Germany I’ll have to tie it up or put a hat on or something to hide it!

I was feeling really hungry so went out to search for food. Being Sunday lots of places were shut but I did find some Apfelstreusel. This and a cup of tea cost me 2€. Germany is SUCH better value than Switzerland!

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I then had a bit of a walk around Tiengen.

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This Christian bookshop has in the window… a bike!

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The Stork Tower.

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Saddly access to this woodwork staircase was shut off.
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After writing up some of this blog I went out for my evening meal – I had an absolutely enormous pizza!

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Followed by a crepe with banana and ice cream. They forgot to put the ice cream in it which I discovered after taking this photo so they then added it.

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It was then time to finish writing up this blog and check out some hotels for tomorrow. I plan to cycle to Basle but not actually stay there but find somewhere either before Basel (but in Germany) or after Basel (but in Germany). The forecast is overcast and 16 degrees but seeing as today’s forecast was for 4mm of rain and I didn’t feel a drop I’m hoping for blue skies and sunshine!

By the way, if you’re wondering why there are quite a few double letters sprinkled about the text, and sometimes double spaces, it’s because I’m typing this on a keyboard built into the case for the iPad. It’s not quite full size and it has a tendency to duplicate letters. I don’t want you all to think I can’t spell!

I hope you’re enjoying these reports – please leave a comment below if you feel so inclined!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Konstanz to Koblenz, Trikes & Velomobiles

Ko2Ko – Düsseldorf to Konstanz by train

Wednesday 29 May – Düsseldorf to Konstanz by train

I was woken to the sound of rain on the window – yesterday’s fantastic sunshine was most decidedly gone! I had my breakfast and then packed up my bags, spending five minutes trying to separate out the flagpole on my trike (so I could stow the flags and 3 flagpole pieces in my luggage rather than having them on the trike). It seems the flagpole metalwork at the join had corroded together a bit but eventually I managed to separate it and pack it away in my Banana Bags.

I headed out very early – almost an hour before my train. This was due to my paranoia about missing this train, and also to give me time to buy some supplies for the journey of seven hours on the one train.

I walked/wheeled the trike the 0.15 miles to Düsseldorf rail station whereupon I was faced with an abundance of choices for my lunch which made it very hard to choose one. In the end I got myself a ham roll for lunch and also bought some crisps and chocolate.

I was glad to see my train listed on the board of departures for its platform – that is always an encouraging sight!

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I followed the signs to the lift at the station and when I got to the lift serving Platform 16 I discovered it’s too short for a recumbent trike. Ho hum (I have since discovered that apparently some German chap has done a website which lists the dimensions of all the lifts at German rail stations). So I was back to my usual German railway station skill of carrying my trike and my luggage (separately) up a few flights of stairs.

When I got to the top I wheeled Alfie along the platform until I found the information poster which tells you where the different trains stop and where each carriage is. My ticket told me I was to be on Wagen 6 and that was at the back (as usual); the info poster showed it with the bicycle symbol.

A man and a woman came over to chat to me, asking me about my trip and cycling in Germany and England and more. The man said he was getting the same train as me (as far as Koblenz) and was very happy to help me to lift Alfie on board. That was a bit of a relief! The lady was very interested in what it’s like cycling on roads in England with all the cars whizzing past you.

When the train arrived, bang on time, it stopped a bit short so I had to wheel Alfie along the platform. The man carried my luggage for me which was rather helpful!

He helped me lift Alfie in through the narrow door and we found the bike compartment pretty full of bikes. I folded Alfie and tucked him underneath a pair of hanging bikes.

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Each bike has a ticket to say where it’s going and I noticed all the rest were going to Trier (therefore changing at Koblenz) so I knew I’d have to make sure my trike was out of the way as we approached Koblenz.

I decided to sit in the bike area for a bit to make sure that Alfie wasn’t sliding around too much (once he’s folded he tends to roll around) and the chap sat with me and chatted about bikes and other stuff. He regularly cycle tours but was this time going on a walking tour. He had a little tip to stop your brake cables corroding – wipe vaseline on the cable before it goes into the outer sheath. An interesting idea!

We passed through Köln (Cologne) and I noticed that the thousands of padlocks have been removed from the bridge although some new ones have already been added. At Köln another lady with a bike got on and my companion helped her lift the bike on and found a stowage spot. She was going to Konstanz too so Alfie wouldn’t be the only bike on board after Koblenz.

I decided Alfie was suitably well installed and went into the main seating area to find my seat. The seat in front of me was occupied by a rather nice Schnauzer dog, sleeping on a towel on the seat. His owner told me that she has to buy a child’s ticket for him. He woke up to say hello to me and then went back to sleep again.

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The train stopped at Bonn where the conductor came round for the second time to check tickets – they’re taking it seriously obviously! Mind you, at just 29 Euros for this seven hour journey there’s no excuse for Schwarzfahren!

At half past eleven we reached Koblenz and the great bicycle exodus began. Six burly chaps packed themselves into the bicycle section and tried to squeeze their bikes out around Alfie, plus keeping their multiple panniers in a reasonable pile. We all survived and I unfolded Alfie once they had gone – it was just Alfie and the lady’s bike left. She asked me if my trike counts as one or two bikes – not something I’d ever really thought about but I said it was one.

Virtually everyone had got off the train at this point so I was left with the entire section of the carriage to myself.

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It’s lovely taking the train along the Rhein as you get fantastic views. The river level seems much higher than normal which might be an issue for some riverside campsites and everything looks extremely green. It’s always fun watching the barges whizzing downstream or pootling upstream.

The train sped through Spay, somewhere I have stayed several times, and as we approached Lorelei/Sankt Goar it looked as though the rain was easing and the clouds looked lighter. This was all very familiar cycling territory for me (I’ve done this bit of the Rhein Radweg at least four times) and it’s good to look down on the cycle path from a slightly higher vantage point.

I had my lunch of a baguette and some crisps at one o’clock, washed down with water from my bike water bottle.

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There was a buffet car at the other end of this train and periodically a member of staff came through the train with a tray with a couple of coffees on it. Shame I don’t like coffee! I thought I might treat myself to a cup of tea (if they have such a thing) mid-afternoon as an excuse to take a stroll down the train too and stretch my legs but in the end I was happily ensconced in my carriage with my luggage and didn’t bother.

We stopped at Mainz and then the train headed off through bits of Germany I haven’t previously visited, including Worms and then to Mannheim and Karlsruhe.

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I’ll be cycling back through these towns over the next couple of weeks and am looking forward to exploring them at a slightly slower pace.

The Rhein river was out of sight now that the valley was wider. We stopped at Baden Baden and also at Offenburg which are slightly off my route. The towns were very quaint and attractive here with lots of churches in the style familiar from Bavaria/Austria, although I believe this is Baden Württemburg.

It’s interesting travelling on one train for seven hours as you become aware just how big Germany is and also how much territory you can cover through cycling as I will be travelling most or not all of this distance back.

The terrain became hillier after Offenburg with some vines on hillside terraces and of course an obligatory impressive castle or two. The skies had cleard a little and the rain had stopped after Mainz but as I reached the mountainous area further south there were more clouds and a very misty vista of the green hills.

Some of the villages were picture postcard agricultural villages nestled amongst the high hills. At Hornberg there was a sign about the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) so I probably missed out on a cracking slice of cake by not getting off the train!

The route through the Schwarzwald had us clinging to the sides of mountains and going through lots of tunnels. The train’s speed was significantly reduced as well which meant I had plenty of time to see the outside world, which was absolutely beautiful.

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It was also noticeable that the driver’s information over the PA, for example the next station and any other train connections from that station, were now given only in German rather than the previous German and English.

After a very long climb we reached St Georgen which appeared to be the top of the local hilly area at 806 metres above sea level – at which point I got phone signal again, having been without for quite some time.

Continuing on now on a flatter plain, the train stopped at Donaueschingen and then at Singen where I noticed some blue skies to the west. The forecasted complete day of rain hadn’t been quite as bad as that so I have hopes that tomorrow’s day of rain may have a few dry patches in which I can do my 40 miles.

I helped myself to a few squares of Ritter Sport chocolate which I bought for the journey but decided against voyaging to the buffet car (I’d have to leave my panniers behind). The cup of tea at Konstanz would be tastier for the delay and of course I could also maybe have a cake with it.

My first gimpse of Bodensee (Lake Constance). Look at that blue sky!

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We arrived at Konstanz station bang on time and the lady whose bike was also in my carriage helped me lift Alfie out.

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She was having a camping tour around Bodensee so the weather forecast was rather ominous for her. She asked where I was going and when I said I was planning on 60km per day she seemed to think that was an amazing distance. I told her I had done 100km yesterday and she looked mind-boggled. I didn’t like to mention that my friend Andy rode 1000km (600 miles) in three days a couple of weeks ago!

Unfortunately Konstanz appears to be one of those stations without a lift so I had to carry Alfie down a double flight of stairs under the railway line and then up the other side. I couldn’t see any impressionable young men I could persuade to help me! In fact, all I saw were elderly and smartly-dressed people, several of whom were speaking English.

The hotel is right opposite the railway station and above a McDonalds (which I shall not visit). My room is very nice and Alfie has a very spacious Fahrradgarage although unfortunately it was down a flight of steps which was rather awkward to manage with him (a narrow staircase) but I succeeded and he is safely tucked up for the night.

My 3G data wasn’t working on the phone today (I had a text message from Vodafone.de to say there was a fault) so I was offline for my whole journey (I read a couple of iBooks). When I got to the hotel and found that their wifi works perfectly (hurrah!) I took the opportunity to look at the forecast for tomorrow (Thursday).

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So that’s looking a little bettter than before, at least it’s warm and there will be some sunshine.

However, on Friday I shall be cycling from Meersburg – take a look at the predicted amount of rainfall!

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I think I may need to build an ark around Alfie.

Having showered and freshened up it was time to explore Konstanz a little, mainly in search of food.

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As I was walking around the town I found an Indian restaurant. You don’t tend to find that many Indian restaurants in Germany so I thought I’d give it a go. Mayura seemed fairly posh inside and the prices were Konstanz-worthy, but when my ordered Chicken Masala (no tikka, seeing as we’re not in the UK!) arrived it was served in a little bowl made of two puppodums. Fantastic!
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It also came with rice and a naan.

I enjoyed the meal and then fancied a pastry for dessert. Unfortunately all the bakeries seemed to have closed (it was now 8:30pm) so in the end I settled for a Smarties McFlurry and a cup of tea, despite generally avoiding McDonalds.

When I got back I had a chat with James on FaceTime and Poppy the dog also peered at me across the miles.

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I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s cycling (the dry bits at least) as I saw the cycle path from the train and it looks very decent. It looks like the best of the weather is in the morning so I will make the most of it and make a reasonably prompt start.

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Konstanz to Koblenz

Ko2Ko – Great Bromley to Düsseldorf

Monday 27 to Tuesday 28 May 2013

It’s time for the off! After two beautiful days of sunshine in the UK the forecast for Bodensee when I start cycling round it on Thursday is looking a bit awful (heavy rain for four days at least).

Rain, rain and more rain!

Rain, rain and more rain!

I slightly amended my packing in consequence, changing the small rain mac for a proper waterproof jacket (my winter one!) and adding a thicker windproof jacket.

Alfie needed three new tyres so I did those, plus I sewed on the new www.auntiehelen.co.uk embroidery onto my trike seat. This embroidery was done by Mrs Miggins from YACF who is a superstar!

Embroidery courtesy of Mrs Miggins

Embroidery courtesy of Mrs Miggins

Embroidered Website Address courtesy of Mrs Miggins

I also gave Alfie a huge clean on Monday morning as the sun was out and wasn’t leaving until six in the evening. With no work (I’d got it all done) and James out sailing I spent a good hour with various cleaning cloths, getting rid of the worst of the accumulated grime from 14,000 miles. I don’t think Alfie has been this clean since the day he arrived here!

Poppy was fairly unimpressed by my efforts.

Dog unimpressed by my bike cleaning skills.

Dog unimpressed by my bike cleaning skills.

Poppy checking the trike is clean enough

Shiny trike – with special mudflap flags!

I also discovered that the front right hand side wheel has corroded on – James and I couldn’t get it off (we were intending to grease the axle) and we didn’t want to do anything too fierce to it in case we damaged it! I shouldn’t need to take it off as I change the tyre without removing the wheel but I’ll have to have a proper look at it when I get home. We didn’t even try to remove the left hand side wheel. Both wheels spin perfectly fine, I’m not sure where the corrosion is but it seems par for the course after this awful winter.

So all was now ready for my tour – I’ve been looking forward to this for months!

As planned, our friend Mark came round at 6pm with his bike so he and James could accompany me to Harwich, where we’d have a pub meal before I got on the ferry and James and Mark rode back. They did this last year on my Berlin to London trip.

I had also been contacted on Monday morning by a sailing acquaintance who lives near the Hague in the Netherlands (and is doing lots of cycling). He mentioned that he might be able to come along to the Hoek van Holland on Tuesday morning to say hello – that would be fun!

I packed all my things into the Banana Bags and then discovered, rather perturbingly, that it all seemed very heavy. I put the bags on the trike and they looked pretty stuffed full!

Luggage for three week's touring in rain and sun

Luggage for three week’s touring in rain and sun

I had a brief panic that the bags weren’t strong enough for my luggage (I estimate it weighs about 13kg) and phoned Radical Design to see if they had any weight limit. No, they said, and they’d seen photos of bags on tour absolutely stuffed full of luggage. I decided to go for a quick spin around the block which I did and all seemed OK and it didn’t feel particularly heavy on the trike. I don’t travel light but the main weighty items are all my tools (of which I carry a fair number) and the iPad in its case. Can’t do much about those!

Mark arrived at six and the three of us headed off to Harwich via the scenic route (partly following the National Cycle Route number 51 but deviating from it at times too).

Here am I, about to leave the front garge for foreign parts!
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It was a lovely evening although the promised tailwind gave us occasional blustery headwinds as well. I reminisced that when we had done this ride last year, before my Berlin to London ride, dusk was falling as we rode eastwards. This time, a month later, the whole journey was done in daylight.

The pub where we like to stop, the Cherry Tree in Little Oakley, doesn’t serve food on a Monday so instead we went to the Brewer’s Fayre pub, the Mayflower, on the main roundabout outside the ferry port. The food was pretty mediocre but it was a chance to sit down and have some food before I got on the ferry.

On the way out we spotted several trike motorbikes in the car park and I decided to get a photo of Alfie next to one. The owner appeared, a Dutch chap, and he offered for me to sit on his trike – so I did.

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It felt remarkably different than a recumbent trike! I offered for him to sit on Alfie but he declined.

James, Mark and I then rode all of a mile to the ferry check in where I waved goodbye to my companions on the other side of the fence.

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I then headed to the waiting area before loading. There was a family with a tagalong bike and a trailer (a French mother and English father) and their two children were very interested in my trike – right until the six motorcycle tricycles roared up. I had a little chat with the French lady who said they are doing the same trip as me but in reverse; we thought we might bump into each other around Koblenz.

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Bikes were let onto the ferry first and we were right at the front of the ship. Alfie was tied up and chocked and then I headed off to my cabin for a quick shower and then some sleep.

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It was bright and early when we disembarked from the ferry and the bicycles were allowed to go first. I headed onto the North Sea Cycle Route towards Den Haag; rather than catching the train at Hoek van Holland and changing at Rotterdam I was going to ride the 15 miles to Den Haag and get the direct train. This saves faffing about waiting for the end of rush hour (you can’t take bikes on trains until after 9) and was a chance to enjoy this wonderful cycle route across the sand dunes (but nicely tarmacked).

This was my planned route (which I followed pretty closely apart from a couple of small detours due to roadworks).

Pre-planned cycling route from Hoek van Holland to the railway station at Den Haag

Pre-planned cycling route from Hoek van Holland to the railway station at Den Haag

There’s a chap that James and I met through a sailing forum called Vince who lives in the Netherlands but has come over for various sailing events in Essex. He is also a keen cyclist and contacted me to say he might see if he can spot me on his way to work (he would take the scenic route) and lo and behold after about three miles who should I see coming the other way but Vince. We had a good chat and he posed for a photo, took one of me and then had a little sit down on Alfie.
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Vince headed off towards Vlaardingen for work and I continued on, really enjoying the gently rolling asphalt as I trundled up and down the dunes. Vince had warned me about these rather large sleeping policemen!

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I got a couple of glimpses of the sea as well, looking much more blue than it does on our bit of the Essex coast.

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With a few miles to go I headed inland through a more built up area and saw a lot more cyclists, including one lady on a bike wearing very high heels, a fur coat and with a bunch of flowers strapped to the back of the bike.

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After sixteen miles I arrived at Den Haag station which was having building work done so was a bit confusing. I bought myself a bicycle ticket for 6 Euros to go with my Stena ticket for me.

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I discovered there was a train due to leave for Venlo in five minutes. They are every half hour but I decided to jump on this one – it didn’t give me time to get a cup of tea but I thought I would survive!

It was one of the older trains so didn’t have as large a bicycle storage area as some but as I was the only bike on the train it didn’t matter too much. Alfie was tucked in a corner and I settled down for the two and a half hour journey.

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I was really looking forward to my arrival in Venlo so I could cycle the few miles to Germany and then stop and have a cup of tea and my first piece of cake in four weeks!!!!

Venlo arrived slightly quicker than I was expecting so I hadn’t packed my iPad away when the doors opened. Another passenger seemed desperately keen to help me with my trike (although it’s very easy to lift on and off these trains) so I let him grab the pedals and help carry it out. Fortunately the pedals are super-clean following my mega bike clean yesterday.

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This was my planned route to Düsseldorf, although I thought I might jump on a train at Viersen to reduce the distance by 20 miles.

Planned GPS route from Venlo to Düsseldorf CVJM Hotel

Planned GPS route from Venlo to Düsseldorf CVJM Hotel

From Venlo I headed following my track which took me through very familiar scenery – when I holidayed in Nettetal last August I regularly cycled this route. After a few miles I came to Secretis, a café which had a most wonderful cake when I visited last year. However their cake selection was disappointing (only plum cake) and as I’d waited four weeks for cake I wanted to break my fast with something more enjoyable, so I drank a glass of orange juice and pedalled on.

I found myself cycling through the hamlet of Sassenfeld (where I stayed last year in August) and in fact the route (one I had first cycled three years ago) went within 100 metres of the Ferienwohnung where I stayed. As I came round a corner I approached the house where the owners of the Ferienwohnung live and lo and behold there was Silke in her car (a new one, an open top BMW), so we had a little chat. It was rather cool to see two different people I knew in one day!

I decided to deviate from the route at this point which was doing a big circuit around Lobberich, the town. I wanted my cake so decided to head to Lobberich and find a café there, which I duly did – and had a lovely slice of strawberry cream cake and a cup of tea. Yum!

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I continued on, having enjoyed my tea and cake – some welcome food as it was 1:30pm and all I had eaten so far today was a couple of weetabix at 7am.

I was cycling through the Niederrhein area which I love. It has lots of potatoes growing, also some wheat (which was way ahead of what’s being grown at home) and of course the obligatory asparagus!

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As I approached Viersen, my train stop, I thought about whether to carry on cycling. The day was so lovely and sunny (and the forecast is so poor for the next week!) that I decided to cycle all the way to Düsseldorf.

I pootled along at a reasonable speed and with ten miles to go thought I ought to have some more food so stopped at an Eiscafé at Osterath. My German chum Olaf had suggested I had a spaghettieis so I did!

Here I am enjoying it!

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Note that there is a lady sitting at my table. She and her husband joined me and we had a lovely chat. They thought it was a bit odd I was touring on my own but seemed interested in what I was doing.

It was 5pm by the time I left the Eiscafé but I could see the large tower of Düsseldorf in the distance so I knew my destination was approaching.

As I was cycling along the Rhine path I saw another recumbent trike coming towards me – lo and behold it was another ICE Sprint!

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I stopped and chatted for a good half hour to this chap. He had a very nice Sprint although seemed remarkably underinformed about its specification. He had no idea it had front suspension (it took me a while to convince him, but it definitely had!).

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He also had a SRAM dual-drive hub at the back which he didn’t seem to know about; he had a gripshift for what he thought was his front chainring but he only had a single chainring up there so I suppose the gripshift ran the dualdrive at the back. He also had a nine speed derailleur.

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He said at one point “I wasn’t expecting an English woman to give me technical information about my trike!”

I gave him one of my cards with this blog address on – it was really cool to see another Sprint, and this one is only a year old.

I needed to head on though so said goodbye and followed the Rhine route towards Düsseldorf, crossing at the Theodor-Heuss-Brücke.

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I had the usual mad dash through the Düsseldorf traffic, dodging the tram tracks, and arrived at my hotel, the CVJM near the station, just before 7pm.

Here’s my Garmin’s statistics for the day; a whisker under 60 miles.

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After a shower and the obligatory clothes washing I headed out for a pizza.
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This was followed up by a crepe – yum!

It was then back to the hotel to write up my blog although my iPhone refused to connect to the wifi so I initially could only use low-res photos that I had posted to Facebook during the day.

All in all it’s been an excellent day and I’ve really enjoyed myself. Tomorrow will be less exciting – 7 hours on one train – but then it will be the start of the official Tour route, Konstanz!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Konstanz to Koblenz, Trikes & Velomobiles

Kempen 19 March – Helen and the Biscuit Factory

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Oh dear.

Oh dearie me.

Last night whilst chatting to the Rodday family who live downstairs Frank happened to let slip that there’s a biscuit factory in Kempen which has a Werksverkauf (a factory outlet shop thingie). He said Gudula was there buying some more Prinz-Rollen (the factory is for the manufacturer Griesson de Beukelaer). Well I don’t particularly like Prinz Rollen but he said “they sell other stuff too”, I assumed more biscuits and waffles. He thought I ought to go and visit. Gudula duly arrived with a box of things which included chocolate biscuit fingers and stuff, it looked good. She said things were half price there.

So when I woke up this morning rather early (6am!) I plotted my day – which would include packing and loading the car to leave here by 5pm – and a cycle ride to the biscuit factory seemed well within my capabilities.

Poppy and I went out for an early walk. Long shadows but a clear day.
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Poppy was bumbling around as normal in her yellow jacket.
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We walked for about half and hour and then I had breakfast, plotted a route on my Garmin and set out on my trike.

This was today’s route:
19 March map

It was cooler today than yesterday so I needed my jacket and my buff around my neck.

I headed off towards Wachtendonk (north west) and passed this field of red cabbages.
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You see a lot of these buildings in Germany – they make me think of East German watchtowers but I think this one is something to do with electricity.
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I arrived in Wachtendonk.
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In Obereyell I saw this rather lovely little chapel.
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A recent build!
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The view towards Aldekerk.
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Interesting display outside a house – had they just got married?
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I recognised this huge tank and series of buildings from a ride several days ago (when I went in the opposite direction). It seems to be a garden centre/nursery which also has a bit more going on…
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This explains it.
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This is looking across to Tönisberg and other areas which are this big lump of earth dumped by a glacier. I assumed I’d have to go over it. Fun!
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The hill approaches!
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Fortunately my route took me up a very gentle bit of hill and I soon arrived in…
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And then…
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It was getting a bit chilly now and some rainclouds were massing so I put my foot down a bit and tried to cover the remaining eight miles as quickly as possible.

I passed a golf course with lots of chaps out playing, plus passed lots of cyclists trundling along (generally older people going very slowly with shopping in their baskets)

As I approached Sankt Hubert the rain started and I half thought about going straight home but it was only a three mile detour to the biscuit factory and I thought I might as well have a look.

I arrived at Griesson de Beukelaer, parked my trike and locked it and took my bags in with me.

As soon as I passed through the door I saw this:
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Those aren’t biscuits, they’re Lindt Chocolate! Yes, this factory also stocked Lindt stuff.

Fortunately it was only a fifth of the size of the Lindt factory outlet I visited in Aachen a couple of years ago. That factory did serious damage to my waistline!
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Look at all these little Easter Eggs!
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And a whole load of Ritter Sport!
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I bought a selection of goodies (not THAT many really)…
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I then headed back to Sankt Hubert where I bought some bakery goodies to take home to James (and some for me too, of course).

Once I arrived back at the apartment I put Alfie straight in the car.
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Statistics for today’s ride:
Distance – 28.13 miles
Moving time – 2 hours 33 minutes
Average speed – 11.03mph
Maximum speed – 23.18mph
Average heart rate – 126
Maximum heart rate – 155
Calories burned – 1067
Climb – 147

It’s worth noting that whilst I’ve been in Kempen I’ve cycled 196 miles and my total climb is 1767 feet. I can do that climb distance cycling to Sudbury and back (50 miles) where I live. It really is FLAT around here!!!

The dog was beginning to look a little worried (she can always tell when things are going on and hates me packing) so I took her for another hour’s walk before doing some serious packing. I had this nice little pastry to give me energy for the tidying up!
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On my last walk around the lanes I reflected on the really obvious difference between Germany and the UK – infrastructure. The German roads are almost all really decent and none have the wretched surface dressing that the UK uses so much at the moment (and that never works properly). Signage is largely clear, trunk roads seem to carry the majority of the traffic (there aren’t lots of rat runs that I’ve noticed) and the whole place is clean, tidy and neat. Cyclists are treated with much more respect so consequently there are loads more of them. People try to shop local and they enjoy their fresh bread at the bakery every day.

Of course, not everything here is great (I gather German TV is pretty hopeless – I’m definitely going to miss the BBC!) but it is interesting visiting somewhere which is roughly comparable in population and farming to Great Bromley, where I live in England, and seeing the differences. It’s noticeable that they don’t have hedges around the fields here, and I haven’t spotted any public footpaths (if such a thing exists here) so everyone walks on the roads, but when there’s only one car every five minutes that doesn’t seem to matter.

I’m really looking forward to coming back in thirteen months time to live – I have plenty of paperwork-type things to sort out in the meantime, but this will give me something to do next Winter!

So I’m packing up the computer now and getting ready for our voyage to the Hoek van Holland with the rush hour traffic. I may be some time!

And now I am home…

The journey to Hoek van Holland was fine. I parked the car near the Albert Heijn supermarket and Poppy and I walked up and down the main street looking for somewhere to eat. In the end we found a pizza place that didn’t mind Poppy coming in and I had a pizza. Afterwards I still had about an hour to kill so wandered off to see if I could find a cup of tea – there was a café just a few doors down that allowed dogs, did cups of tea and various bits of food and had free wi-fi, so I hung out there drinking tea and chatting with the café owner.

Pops and I went back to the car and got on the ferry. She wasn’t any more keen to get in the kennel on the ferry and I had to go back and check up on her after half an hour in my cabin (I could see her sticking her paw out of the kennel and kind of paddling it as if she were distressed). In the end I just had to leave her – she can’t come to harm in the kennel. There was a border terrier in the room with her and he was whining and howling a lot so I don’t suppose they had a particularly good night’s sleep.

The ferry arrived at Harwich on time and I was on the road back home by 6:45am, arriving just after seven and waking James up (well, Poppy woke him up by jumping on the bed!)

All in all an excellent holiday and although Poppy doesn’t seem to like the ferry she survives it and it makes for a much less stressful journey for me.

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Filed under Kempen 2013

Kempen 18 March – Vaterrhein und Apfelstreusel

Monday 18 March 2013

So today is my last full day in Kempen. However the holiday has been a real success as I’ve found the area is great, I really like the Ferienwohnung (and the family who live downstairs!) and Poppy seems very at home. I have just signed the contract for renting the place for 12 months from April next year – now all I have to do is sort out all the minutiae of moving to a different country (albeit temporarily) within the next thirteen months.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. First I need to tell you all about today, a day with eight hours of sunshine, blue skies and – of course – cake!

What a lovely view out of my window this morning!
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Today was the day of Poppy’s vet visit to have her worming treatment for the pet passport. Here she is before we headed off – she looks slightly po-faced so she may have got an inkling of where we were going.
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(If Gudula the landlady is reading this then no, Poppy isn’t really sitting on the sofa, it’s all done in Photoshop!!!!!)

Off we went for our mile and a half walk to the vets. Down lovely quiet lanes with almost no motor traffic.
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With all the snow gone everywhere looks really green – quite a contrast to when I arrived last Tuesday!
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The small amount of traffic we did meet was mostly two-wheeled. Poppy likes giving chase!
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And a fuzzy close-up.
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Note that she had already said hello to the doggy and been very submissive and calm. Once they’ve gone past then she can be fierce and chase after them – because they’re not going to do anything. She’s a wimp beneath it all really!

I came round the corner to see this building which initially looked like it was thatched; it turned out to be the ivy or whatever is on the right hand end.
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We were twenty minutes early for our vet appointment but he was just finishing up with the previous customer (whose bill for a huge Rottweiler cross dog came to over 200 Euros) and let me go in next. He patted Poppy, gave her a worm tablet (which she ate – she doesn’t always), told me she was sweet, filled in the passport and we were done. He only charged me 11,10€ which is pretty good value (I paid 15€ in Nettetal and 32€ in Koblenz). He was a rather dishy vet and Poppy, being a girl, appreciated that.

The dog that came in afterwards was a Neapolitan Mastiff (huuuuge) which does make his statement that he is a Kleintierpraxis (small animal practice) seem a bit random as the other two animals have been enormous!

We walked back, enjoying the weather (I was actually getting a bit too hot with my coat on) and then, after a quick cup of tea, it was time to go out on my trike to make the most of the weather.

Because it had been so warm on the walk I decided to leave my waterproof cycling jacket behind and just ride with the windproof. I thought this might be a mistake but no, I was just the right temperature all day.

My plan was to cycle to see the Rhein at Uerdingen (the nearest bit of Rhein to here) but, as you can see from the map, once I got there I did a bit of detour to Willich. All will be explained in due course!

Map 18 March
I liked this block paving – this is a shared use cycle path/footpath so it has both colours (cycle paths are often pink)
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I decided it was time to get another photograph of me so stopped a couple out walking and asked them to take one. I had a nice chat with the elderly gentleman and his wife – he was pleased to identify my flag as “A Union Jack”.
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The route I was following was one I’d put together using Open Streetmaps. I wondered if it would be lots of off-roading but it turned out to be a really good route – wide, smooth roads with no traffic – and I was averaging 11.5mph which is way more than I can usually do in Germany.

I was really enjoying the cycling and Alfie was going well. As I was zooming past the Stadtwald on the northern edge of Krefeld I got a text message – it was from Babs (who was at the Stammtisch on Saturday) saying she had time for a quick cuppa with me after 2pm if I fancied it. As it was 12:30 and I ought to be at Uerdingen by 1pm I texted her back to say that would be lovely if she could find a venue ten miles away from Krefeld or less (so I could get there for two).

After some back-and-forth texting we decided to meet at the Landcafé Streithof outside Willich (where we had our cuppa in December). This had the advantage of me knowing where it was as I would have to rely on my Garmin to find the way. Babs was disappointed to discover Poppy wasn’t in the basket with me so she wouldn’t have a chance to meet her.

After that I zoomed towards Uerdingen. I passed a school at chucking-out time which was rather interesting (lots of yoof trying to be cool and step in front of the recumbent trike, moving away at the last minute). Still it was all good natured and my brakes are good so I played chicken with them and they always stepped back!

The last couple of miles were on a road with tram tracks which I never enjoy but soon I found myself at the Rhein. I parked beside a flood defence and walked up the steps to see what I could see. And this was what I saw:
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That was looking north, this was the view south.

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And this is Alfie in front of the flood defence, built in front of an old gate to the Rhein (you can see some carved stone at the top). That’s a very high wall!
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I cycled round the corner to Uerdingen pedestrian high street and bought a filled roll (filled with a schnitzel of course), eating it quickly before programming my Garmin to find me a way to the Streithöfe. Which turned out to be almost 10 miles away, I’d have to get a move on.
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Town riding in Germany is always slower because of all the traffic lights and because you are absolutely definitely totally not allowed to cross on a red man, even if there are no cars in sight for a mile in either direction. I am a good tourist and obey this rule which means in towns with lots of major routes I spend a lot of time waiting at traffic lights. Ten miles in an hour might be a bit of a a struggle but I knew Babs wouldn’t mind waiting a few minutes for me. I had those scary tram tracks to negotiate again!
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Krefeld is twinned with Leicester. That feels about right – both places seem a bit unexciting to me.
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I was now heading south west into wind which wasn’t too strong but was enough to be noticed. I went through the areas of Bockum and Oppum and then reached Fischeln. Whilst waiting at some traffic lights I checked something on my Garmin. Another cyclist, an elderly chap, came up to me and asked where I was going. “Willich,” I replied.
“Krefeld?” he said, “it’s that way.”
“No, Willich.”
“Krefeld is over there!”
“I have been to Krefeld, I am going to Willich now.”
“Do you mean Krefeld-Willich, it’s that way?” (pointing the way I had come).
“I have a bike Satnav,” I said, getting worn out by it all. “It says to go this way.”
“Oh, well, if you have a Satnav that’s fine!” he said, and trundled off in a different direction. Weird!

From Fischeln onwards I was in open country again on pretty fast cycle paths so was making decent time.

I arrived at Streithöfe at 2:15 which was five minutes before Babs was due to get there (she had driven from work). I had a quick glass of orange while I waited and considered the cake options.

This is the inside of the café.
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But when Babs arrived five minutes later we decided to sit outside as it was such a lovely warm day.

We ordered our drinks and cake – here is Babs looking mighty pleased with her Rhubarb Streusel.
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And here is my Apfelstreusel.
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It took me over an hour to eat all that! And very yummy it was too.

Here we both are after the Streusels have been dispatched.
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We spent about an hour and a half there but then I thought I really ought to be getting back as it was another thirteen miles back to Kempen and Poppy had been on her own for quite a long time.

Before I left I tried out one of the tricycles at the café. It was a bit small!
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My journey back was fabulously fast with the wind behind me and mostly fast roads. I cycled to Willich and from there headed towards St Tönis, straight through the town centre and then the speedy route back up to St Hubert. I was averaging about 16mph on the way back with the tailwind and Powered By Streusel.

I got home at 5pm and Poppy was very pleased to see me. After a short walk and some domestic chores I had a nice chat with Frank and Gudula and Frank helped me stick the headlamp deflectors on my car (which I should have put on when I arrived in Holland but I didn’t get round to it and wasn’t driving in the dark at all). We have stuck them on with sellotape as they are ones I’ve previously used and peeled off so have no sticky left. I am stingy like that!

I signed the contract for the Wohnung and met their son as well who was visiting for a meal (he lives in Mönchengladbach at the moment). It feels like I am becoming part of the family which is rather nice! Poppy certainly appreciates the attention.

Tomorrow I shall leave here at about 5pm which should give me plenty of time to drive to the Hoek van Holland for my ferry which leaves at 10:30pm. Poppy won’t be pleased when I start packing I am sure, and I suspect she’ll be disappointed to leave such a doggy paradise!

Statistics for today’s cycle ride:
Distance – 35.69 miles
Moving time – 3 hours 7 minutes
Average speed – 11.44mph
Maximum speed – 23.36mph
Average heart rate – 140
Maximum heart rate – 181
Calories burned – 1698
Climb – 292

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