Day 3. 87km. Aachen – Köln

Posted: September 16, 2014 in Cycling, Germany
Tags: , , , ,

An eery silence standing above the empty freeway, a lone bird squawking in the distance. Standing under the ever impressive twin peaks of the Cologne cathedral, waiting for the journalist to arrive. And catching up with old friends, in Aachen and Cologne. Kölle Allaaf!

Der Kölner Dom

Der Kölner Dom

The cycle path passed next to a freeway. But, there was something different about this freeway. There were no cars. Three lanes in each direction, and nobody there. I climbed up a bridge crossing the freeway and looked. There was a light breeze, and no other sound. In both directions nothing. Then a bird squawked in the distance, before the blanket of silence returned.

The empty freeway.

The empty freeway.

A man pedalled up the bridge from the other side to join me in the silence. We stood there gazing into the empty distance.
‘Why is it empty?’ I asked.
‘This is all new,’ he replied. ‘It is 18km of new freeway to replace some of the old A4 freeway from Cologne to Aachen.’
This stretch of road is finished, and will be opened in the next few days. It cost 170 million euros, and later in the day, I was shown all the technical difficulties that were addressed in the construction.
‘But, why?’ I asked.
Brown coal mining. This will be one of the biggest holes in the ground for coal mining in the world. The old A4 and some towns will all become part of the new big black coal mining hole. This has been planned since 1975. The plans continue until 2035. Now, that is planning. So, we are locking in further massive CO2 emissions. *Sigh*

Then a train passed. Bringing coal from the mine to the power plant.

Coal transportation

Coal transportation

The man joined me cycling towards Cologne. We cycled next to the new empty freeway and the new train line made especially for coal transport. He showed me the constructions to ensure proper drainage and other technical elements. It is not all bad news, though. We also passed 2km of solar panels.

Solar panels

Solar panels

Thanks, my friend, for joining me, sharing all this knowledge, and showing me the way when the signposting wasn’t adequate.

2014-09-15 14.34.04

I had an appointment with a journalist from the Kölnische Rundschau newspaper at 17:00 at the Cologne cathedral, and my timing was perfect. The cathedral impresses me every time. It is just so massive, rising vertically upwards with its amazing ornateness from the ground. The base is buzzing with tourists (like myself). The photographer from the newspaper took some photos with me in front of the cathedral, and then I sat down on one of the benches to talk to the journalist.
‘When did you live in Cologne?’
‘From 2007 to 2010,’ I replied.
‘And did you like your time in Cologne?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘It was a fun time here! I like Cologne.’

Most importantly the day was one of catching up with friends. I caught up with Hien – a friend who worked with me at Philips in Aachen, and Arnd – a friend of many years who now lives in Cologne. Good to see you both!



Arnd and me super early in the morning under an unforgiving bright light

Arnd and me super early in the morning under an unforgiving bright light

  1. valerievolk says:

    Love that cathedral, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again in October. And the empty freeway was indeed eerie – sort of dead world-ish.

  2. Bram says:

    Nice to read the update and unbelievable to hear that new coal mines are still being opened (in Europe).

  3. Chao says:

    What, the empty freeway. Look like a scene from the walking dead starring Matthew Harris.

  4. Very nice to read your store about the trip wish you all the best.
    Don’t go to fast and enjoy all the nice parts you see on the trip.
    The slower you go the more you see!!!

  5. Ellen says:

    Hi Matthew,
    Well you can imagine I am also not happy with the opening of the coal mines! But I am pleased to see that you are having lovely sunshine.
    Take care,

  6. carina meurders says:

    Hoi Je bent al ver, Keulen en dat vanuit Schimmert, dat gaat snel.Leuk om je verdere reisverslag te lezen. Ik ben heel benieuwd. Veel succes uit Schimmert Carina

    • Hoi Carina,
      Ik ben vandaag in Bonn, en morgen niet al te veel verder.. Ik ga een vriend in Giessen bezoeken en hij is eerst vrijdag thuis. Morgen ga ik met een vriend naar Drachenfels. Het wordt mooi weer daarvoor. 🙂

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