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