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74km Frankfurt to Niedernberg

Posted July 30th, 2007

The bike path we followedA warm house can be a real blessing sometimes and as we watched the rain pelt down on Sunday from a snug flat in Frankfurt, we were very happy not to be cycling. A big thanks to our friend Peter, who put up with us put us up for a few nights, showed us the town and helped recharge our batteries for the next leg of our journey. Peter also makes the best coffee in Frankfurt, quite possibly in all of Germany!

Our departure from Frankfurt means we are finally making a definitive move to leave Europe – yes, really! Our sights are now firmly set on heading steadily south through Austria, Italy and Eastern Europe, towards Turkey for the autumn. From there, who knows. But one thing is for sure, we will not be back in Europe next summer.

With this big challenge looming in our heads (how to arrange visas for many tricky countries and other administrative delights), we made a quick stop before we left Frankfurt at an amazingly well stocked camping and outdoor store, Globetrotters. We have never seen a shop that had so many things. Even Canada‘s famous Mountain Equipment Coop didn’t quite measure up, although it’s a close second. At Globetrotters we were very kindly given, absolutely free, a replacement pole section for our tent (a great relief after we stupidly put a crack in ours a few days ago) as well as other goodies like waterproof covers for our shoes in case of rain, two nifty bandanas that can be hats or scarves or any number of other neat things and new underwear for Andrew. Lucky man!

It was close to midday before we rolled out of Frankfurt and back along the Main river, jostling with the hordes of other cycle tourists. The route along the river is certainly pretty but like the Danube Cycle Path it’s also extremely crowded at this time of year. Even with a bit of rain and chilly temperatures, there were still plenty of people to share the trail with, well into the evening.

By the time we got 60km or so down the trail we were quite tired so, even though it was reasonably early, we looked for a place for our tent. There don’t seem to be any campsites around here so we had to settle for a cornfield again. This one is not so secluded as our other “farm stays” though, since a secondary trail runs nearby and is used by joggers and walkers. We were pooped so we set up regardless – with a bit more energy we might have carried on to find a quieter spot – and no one really seemed to give us more than a passing glance as they went by. Being in the country, we think we’re pretty safe.

118km Lohr am Main to Frankfurt

Posted July 27th, 2007

Frankfurt viewCyclists on the riverAfter much indecision on which route to take this morning, we decided the shortest way into Frankfurt was going to be up into the woods, cutting off one loop of the curvy Main river. But after so many days of riding along river paths, any venture inland was going to entail a climb or two and our legs weren’t used to all the work! The landscaped changed drastically, from low-lying farm land to logging forest and the trail stopped being an easily cyclable paved road and instead switched to a gravel trail. Normally this would be a nightmare, with loose stones and potholes to swerve around, but Germany seems to take care of all its cycle paths well so we didn’t have any trouble. Just our tired calf muscles were complaining as we climbed the Spessart hills. Around midday we reached a peak and then cruised downhill from there back towards the Main river, joining the hordes of other cyclists on the riverside path. There were plenty of locals out, making their way into and out of Frankfurt, but equally lots of touring cyclists. During our whole detour off the river path we only saw one other touring bike, a tandem. It’s too bad more people don’t try going off the path for a little while since the scenery makes for a nice change from the river and you can have the whole trail nearly to yourself. We really took our time in the afternoon, stopping to pick fresh blackberries from bushes alongside the trail and then for a long while on a bench to eat supper and watch the traffic passing. Finally in the evening we finished up the last few kilometers into Frankfurt, where we met our friend Peter, saw his flat and then went out for supper and a few drinks in a bustling district just outside Frankfurt’s core.

68km Würzburg to Lohr am Main

Posted July 26th, 2007

Wurzburg bridge in b&w“Stop! Doping control!”

We turned our heads to look at the cyclist passing us, laughing all the way. Obviously he decided these words were as good as ringing his bell when he pulled out to pass us on the trail leading out of Würzburg – a funny take on the Tour de France and so many of the riders being caught taking drugs.

When we stopped for a coffee just a little further down the path our attention was drawn to the sorry state of the Tour de France once again, with front page picture of one of the cyclists on the front page of the Bild newspaper with a headline that roughly translated as “Just doping and silly games”.

We have to agree. Undoubtedly there are some great riders in the Tour de France, but you have to be exceptionally stupid and selfish to take drugs, try and get away with it and then make your whole team suffer when you are found out. Why haven’t the competitors got it through their heads yet that this is not the way to earn cycling fame?

No doping here on our tour though, unless you count the cup of strong coffee we had by the Main river. It was nice to finally find a simple little cafe with cheap but good filter coffee instead of frothy cappucinos at high prices. (more…)

A train ride to Würzburg

Posted July 25th, 2007

Wurzburg castleToday we did what we haven’t done since the trip began: we caught the train to save a couple days of cycling. We had a lot of debate about this but finally we decided it wasn’t cheating since we were using the train to go “backwards” on our trip – nearing places we last saw in November. Soon we will have to start making real progress east but for now we are taking a last chance to see friends in Frankfurt and Munich before we head south again through Italy and towards the Middle East. The train ride was an athletic event in itself. German trains are efficient but not so great for heavy bicycles. The trains stand a few feet above the platforms and we had to lift our bikes quite high and through narrow doors to get them into the carriage. And of course we bought the cheapest ticket, so we had to change trains and platforms about four times, up and down sets of stairs, before we finally got to the small city of Würzburg. We weren’t the only ones struggling. On one train we travelled with a man going around Germany on his bike for a year. He not only had his bike but also a large trailer to lug on and off the train! Between the three of us we managed to get all our things on the train in the eight minutes we had to switch trains and platforms. On our last connection of the day we started chatting to a man on his way home from work. As these things go, it wasn’t long before he kindly invited us to his home (only the third time this has happened to us in Europe!). A lovely evening followed, meeting his family with two great boys and listening to some of the local history and tasting wines from nearby vineyards with his wife Ute. It’s always very touching when we are brought into people’s homes. Not only do we get an insight into the local area, but we also come away with new friends. It’s a wonderful part of bike touring that other types of tourism really can’t match.

96km Ottensheim to Passau

Posted July 24th, 2007

Tents in the rainDouble rainbowWe knew we were in trouble when we saw a tank charging towards us. This was no military vehicle but something much scarier: an angry woman, steaming in our direction, loud German words flying out of her mouth.

Andrew, who was cooking dinner just outside the tent, was first in the firing line. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t understand a word of the verbal assault coming his way and put up the equivalent of a white flag. “Ummmmm, in English please?”

From inside the tent, Friedel heard something about “cooking” and “verboten”, the German word for forbidden. Out she came, from the tent into the crossfire.

“Sorry,” Friedel said in German. “Where can we cook, if not in front of our tent?” Every campground we’ve been in so far has allowed us to cook by our tent, so this seemed odd.

The woman kept on yelling and pointed towards a little shed, half open, only a few feet long and filled with bicycles and clothes hung up to dry.