Today 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.
You Are Viewing Germany
We 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.
An early start from the hotel enabled us to enjoy a thick morning mist around the area. Thankfully, the route had many cycle paths along the roads, except when it came into each village, so we didn’t have to worry about cars not seeing us in the fog. Obviously the region is known for its apples, berries and other fruit, since we had many rolling hills of orchards. We have a few pictures of them. At one point we found a cycle path taking us to Kehl, across the river from Strasbourg, and followed this for some time. This trail was faily well marked, and we managed to get ourselves into Strasbourg without too much of our normal backtracking by just after noon. The youth hostel as we rolled up to it was closed, so we looked and found another small hotel near by. After doing a bit of laundry and airing out our tent to dry, we ventured into town to look over maps and see some of Friedel’s old university haunts. We finished by finally going to our favourite place, the pub Au Brasseurs, for some tarte-flambee and a beer or two.
Waking up in our French campground, we headed towards Baden-Baden, a fairly short journey. Baden-Baden is a spa town which we’ve spent some time in before. We journied along the tip of north-east France, and eventually took the first crossing back into Germany. After getting into the town, we found the information office, and found our way to the youth hostel, hoping to get a room, and waited for it to open. We spent some time there in the hope of a room and managed to get some photo-editing and journals written, but after 3 hours of waiting and despite a sign saying they had beds, at 3:30pm they told us they were full. Eventually, we did find a hotel and settled in. We then went to the spa, for a couple hours of relaxing of the muscles, €12 well spent.
After a good night`s sleep in the hotel, we woke up feeling well rested at about 6:30am. A quick pack of our bags and an early breakfast and we were on our way not long after 8am. Amazing how differently you can feel from one day to the next. The day before we struggled with every kilometer. Today, it was like we were flying. We`d covered a good 40km by lunchtime and found a picnic table just outside the wine town of Neustadt, where we made a nice hot meal on a chilly, windy day. Just the thing to get us going again for a few more kilometers. By this time, there were rows of vines everywhere we looked. We passed through several small towns in the afternoon with quaint half-timbered houses, vines stretched between homes and across the street and lots of small wine bars. About 20km from Neustadt, where we cut diagonally towards the Rhine river, through towns like Altdorf and Bellheim, we came to a camping spot but were surprised at the price. After paying about 10 euros a night most other place, 18 euros for one night seemed a bit rich so we carried on. By this time, we had a good 75km on the clock but still felt full of energy. Good thing too as it was getting dark and the next campground was another 25km or 30km further on. We zipped along cycle paths and tree-line highways, and just as the sun was disappearing below the horizon we slipped into France. We weren`t even sure if the camping spot would be open – having been warned by countless people that all French campgrounds close in October – but this advice turned out to be wrong. The one we landed at was open for another week, and the lady at the reception gave us a brochure with camping spots across Alsace, several of which are open year round. Just 11.30 euros lighter – including a bottle of wine – we settled into our camping spot for the night. After quick supper and a couple games of cards we were done for the night, tucked up in our sleeping bags by 8pm.