Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category


Four countries, mist, then bright warm sun. And a tail wind surrounded by spectacular mountains. Ah! The alps!
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Last night I discovered it was a longer ride to my warm showers host in Chur than I thought. Early to bed and early to rise. Healthy, wealthy and wise? Well, healthy, and very very happy!

Today saw me cycle through 4 countries.
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The Bodensee was misty and was mostly one long settlement. It was flat and meant that fast cycling was called for.
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When I left the Bodensee, the sun came out, a wind started blowing in my back, and the mountains rolled past me.
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Did you know they grow grapes in Switzerland?
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And some more nice views..
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I was fascinated by Lichtenstein. How did such a small country become established? Cycling past and through it is interesting. You see the natural borders which gave rise to the country. The Rhein River, and a rocky cliff face that goes all the way to the river. The high mountains at the back make an unpassable barrier.

Thanks Suzanne for letting me stay over in Chur. She has travelled everywhere – always doing adventurous things. When looking at my route through the alps – ah – that is beautiful. And that. And that. Her stories and passion for her country make me all the more excited. Maybe we will meet sonewhere. In Georgia? In Armenia? In Iran?
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Goodbye Inge, Stefan, Jan and Jonas in Meßstetten. It was great to see you again. The mist in the Schwäbischen Alb dissolved as Stefan and I rolled downhill to the Danube valley, and further across green fields and forests, following little streams on their way down to the Bodensee at Konstanz. A beautiful sunny cycling day!

Stefan in the Schwäbischen Alb

Stefan in the Schwäbischen Alb

The bike paths in the hills are beautiful. They cross the rivers from one side of the valley to the other. They follow streams, rail lines, and sometimes the main roads – but more often than not they are away from everything, leaving the cyclist to enjoy the nature of an imposing valley, an open rolling field, or a cool shady forest. It is not all easy riding. Even following streams down, there are regular climbs as the path crosses the valley from left to right.

Cycling along a beautiful stream

Cycling along a beautiful stream

A rolling field

A rolling field

On the Bodensee it is flat, and the cycling masses are present. The at one with nature feeling is gone, but, it is pleasant cycling without any major hills, and the Bodensee is pretty. We also passed some nice sunflower fields.

Bodensee

Bodensee

Sunflower fields

Sunflower fields

Thanks, Stefan, for accompanying me. We bade farewell at the market square in Konstanz. Tomorrow I continue alone.

Farewell to Stefan in Konstanz

Farewell to Stefan in Konstanz


Wow, wow, wow! Amazing weather along one of the most beautiful routes I have ever cycled. The Danube between Tuttlingen and Sigmaringen is incredible. And then, the route up from Sigmaringen to Albstadt and Meßstetten – cycling through my own personal wooded valley in the evening light. It was hard work, though! 🙂

The Danube

The Danube

Thanks Emil from 2radforum.de for the tip. The Donau is one of the hidden pearls of Germany. From Tuttlingen the river winds its way through a narrow valley with amazing cliff faces flanking each side. The bike path runs along the valley away from the road and train, through the sun and shady woods. Around each curve a new vista opens out. In several places there were castles perched on the top of a cliff overlooking the valley.

The morning mist on the way to Tuttlingen

The morning mist on the way to Tuttlingen

The Danube valley

The Danube valley

Castle perched on a hill

Castle perched on a hill

Castle perched on a cliff face

Castle perched on a cliff face

After leaving the Danube at Sigmaringen, I climbed and climbed and climbed to Meßstetten. The valley I cycled up was amazing, lit with the soft evening light.

Climbing to Albstadt

Climbing to Albstadt

I arrived in the dark. It was a bigger climb than I had anticipated. Hello Inge! It´s been 15 years!

Me and Inge

Me and Inge


A day extra before visiting friends in Meßstetten. I’m really in purple cow Milka territory now. Pine covered steep hills, and green fields. I can’t stop thinking of the alps in Switzerland. Due to a miscalculation, I find myself in a camping ground just 20km from Meßstetten. My plan of cycling a bit along the Danube before Meßstetten will be challenging.

In the forest before Tübingen

In the forest before Tübingen

The friend I am visiting in Meßstetten will only be there on Friday evening, so I have an day to kill. Emil from http://www.2radforum.de suggested I cycle along the Danube and see the beautiful caves and cliffs. Based on this, I planned to cycle along the Neckar to the source, and tomorrow, skip over the source of the Danube, and follow it to Sigmaringen. So, today: first to Tübingen (again) through the beautiful forest.

Bebenhausen

Bebenhausen

The Neckar is long, and it winds back and forth.

Path along the Neckar

Path along the Neckar

The Neckar valley is quite deep

The Neckar valley is quite deep

In Sulz I investigated possible destinations for today. I noted that there was no way I was going to reach the source of the Neckar today. I also noted there are no camping grounds after Sulz along the Neckar. So… I cut cross country, to a camping ground just 20km from Meßstetten. I’m not sure what I will do tomorrow. I need to end in Meßstetten. Any suggestions?

Oh. By the way, I passed 1000km today. Yay!

1000km mark

1000km mark


Dirk, the bringer of good weather, came from Bonn and blessed us with sun today. My ‘rest day’ was a gentle meander downhill with Dirk to Tübingen through a beautiful forest. The rain started the moment Dirk got on the train home. I hope he joins me again.. 🙂

Kloster Bebenhausen

Kloster Bebenhausen

Tomorrow my trip continues with luggage. Today was with a naked bike to the castle at Herrenberg, and then through the forest to Tübingen. I found it hard to believe that we were high enough to continue downhill all the way to Tübingen. It was wonderful, rolling through the peaceful and sunny forest. Birds were circling above, and I saw a fox bound away into the forest. We also passed a monastery just before Tübingen.

Herrenberg

Herrenberg

Dirk and me in the forest

Dirk and me in the forest

Dirk in the forest

Dirk in the forest

In the forest

In the forest

My precious at the monastery

My precious at the monastery

I’m glad that I can see one of my best friends, Cristina, before I leave Europe. She has just arrived in Ehningen after a business trip. What a good reason to have a rest day today!
Also, thanks Radwelt Ehningen for helping me out with a broken screw on my Ortlieb pannier!


The long way from A to B is best. I am not used to taking time on bike trips, and am slowly learning this new art. On the wide curves of the Neckar River are the most amazing vineyard views. And, as the day proceeded, the sun emerged, bathing them in a beautiful light.

Grapes on the Neckar

Grapes on the Neckar

The day started grey, cold and damp. Marius joined me for the first kilometres. It was great feeling his excitement about his upcoming world bike trip. I was there 6 months ago. It’s hard to wait.

Marius

Marius

But, great things are given to those that wait. In the past I would have never followed a windy river, but rather cut off the curves. These wide curves are where the wine is grown. These wide curves were the highlight of the day. The great panorama opens out before the cyclist as he slowly passes around the bends. Magic.

Vineyard on the Neckar

Vineyard on the Neckar

Vineyard on the Neckar

Vineyard on the Neckar

Me in the Neckar

Me in the Neckar

The weather was perfect in Stuttgart.

Stuttgart

Stuttgart

And the weather at Philips was great too. I’m still a Philips employee – until the end of September. Hello Philips in Böblingen. 🙂

Innovation and you

Innovation and you



After a dry start crossing rolling fields, the heavens tried to outdo their effort from yesterday regarding downpours – and they succeeded. Marius – my warm shower host – is preparing for a world cycle trip. I love the twinkle in his eyes. We are both about to experience it. Living on the road.

Rolling fields on the way to Heilbronn

Rolling fields on the way to Heilbronn

I am toasty warm, writing this blog in front of a wood fire in Heilbronn. Thanks Marius and his parents for their wonderful hospitality. This is the first fire of the trip. The weather has got colder, and has remained grey. Heidelberg was grey.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg


Heilbronn was grey.
Me in Heilbronn

Me in Heilbronn


And then Heilbronn was wet. Really wet.
Torrential downpour in Heilbronn

Torrential downpour in Heilbronn

Marius is leaving for his world trip in February. I know how excited he is feeling, and how impatient he is. I was there a few months ago. His eyes are shining, and he is experiencing the world at every moment. Good luck to you, Marius. It will be the trip of a lifetime!


The famous route through the ‘romantic’ tourist villages – the ‘Bergstrasse’. I cycled half of it with Benjamin, while he checked out the status of the bicycle path signage.. Then the heavens opened and rained on the runners in a triathlon, the connoisseurs of the wine tasting event, and little old arctic-cycler.

The black clouds loom.

The black clouds loom.

We both arrive, like drowned rats, in the hotel parking lot. The hotel front door is locked – they will be back at 5. So I wait, in the pouring rain. She is already browsing through the books.
I look at her bike – an everyday bike, like someone would use in Holland to do the shopping. Strapped to the bike is everything she owns – three old suitcases, stacked one on top of the other over the back wheel. On the handlebars is a bulge – more possessions strapped under a drenched blanket – used as protection from the rain. Later she reveals a tattered violin case, and other bags from beneath the blanket.
Protected from the rain under the eves is a strange collection of books – three or four shelves, meant for people to use as a book exchange. What a strange thing to find here. I wheel my bike to join her, feeling very conscious of the difference of our bikes, and where we find ourselves in our lives. Today we are united by the rain, and our homelessness.

‘Is there anything interesting?’ I ask in German.
‘I’m looking,’ she snaps back in French.
She looks sad, and hardened from a life I can only imagine. She is wearing a drenched and weathered dress and shoes, topped off with a hat that, in another life, could have been part of an outfit for going to the theatre.
I am here at this hotel because of the rain. I have been trying to watch my money, now that I no longer have a job. But, I am so lucky. When the weather sucks, I can find a place where it is warm. Because of my life in the middle class, people accept me in their homes to stay the night (warm showers and couch surfing). She does not have these options. When it rains, she gets wet.

After 5 minutes of perusing the books with me watching awkwardly on, she leaves.
‘Found anything?’ I ask, in French this time.
‘I’ve found a few things,’ she says, as she packs them away.
She pats her violin case.
‘I spend all day playing this,’ she says. ‘What a crap life.’
She mounts her bike, and leaves.

The Heidelberg book exchange

The Heidelberg book exchange

The day didn’t start quite so wet. Just the odd shower. My warm shower host Benjamin accompanied me for half of the way to Heidelberg, checking on the status of the bicycle signs for the ‘Bergstrasse’ cycle route. Which of the signs are missing, turned to point in the wrong direction, are dirty with mud and dust, or are vandalised. Benjamin, and people like him, make my cycling life easier and more enjoyable. More and more bicycle infrastructure is being built, and more people are taking to their bike for everyday transport as well as for leisure. Today I learned a lot on planning of such routes, what things need to be taken into account, and the role that politics plays.

A sign pointing in the wrong direction

A sign pointing in the wrong direction

The ‘Bergstrasse’ is well known (so I learned today) as a flat stretch of beautiful villages at the base of steep hills jutting out of the plains. It is also a wine growing area. As the rain really set in, I cycled through a triathlon course full of drenched runners, and also through a walking route of wine tasters. The rain was certainly not damping their spirits. 🙂

As the rain got heavier, I decided to book the cheapest hotel I could find in Heidelberg. Its not really in Heidelberg, but about 5km out of town along the Neckar River. Nice people are working here, and the warm shower and room did just the trick. I am so lucky to have money to be able to so things like this when I need to. I’m not a hard core, seasoned world cycler (yet).


Thunder and lightening in the distance. Around me were rolling hills shrouded in mist, and a long, straight, flat road. In Frankfurt was a fair on city planning and mobility. In Darmstadt, I am staying with a bike city planner. A real bike infrastructure day.

Sunflowers in the mist

Sunflowers in the mist

My route has changed. Following Mathias’ advice, I headed south straight to Frankfurt and then Darmstadt. All set for tomorrow cycling along the ‘Bergstrasse’, a flat road bordering on hills, from Darmstadt to Heidelberg. I cycled along dirt roads through fields, and along dead straight roads between small towns, always under cloudy, sometimes rainy heavens..

The clouds after a storm

The clouds after a storm

A road through the fields

A road through the fields

In the central square in Frankfurt, there was a fair on mobility in the city. They had a stand from the German cycling organisation, from the public transport company, and other companies promoting modern city planning. The Dutch cycling infrastructure was taken as a good example of how to do it right. Cycling and public transport are both very important factors for making the cities of the future sustainable.

I am staying with Benjamin – my warm showers host in Darmstadt. A really cool guy who is working on the cycling infrastructure in the region. He is planning and maintaining a cycle path along the ‘Bergstrasse’ from Darmstadt to Heidelberg. We have lots to talk about.. 🙂

Darmstadt

Darmstadt


A grey day in the Lahn valley. Cycling on through the mist, rain and cloudy skies. The sun arrived in Gießen, where I caught up with my friend Mathias. We had a lovely evening chatting.

Misty morning in Limburg

Misty morning in Limburg

While cycling, I always look out for beautiful sceneries for a photo. Where is the sun? What is the best angle? What to include in the photo, and what not? Always looking for photos, you stay focussed on the now, and what you are experiencing at this moment. Today, I felt tempted to take photos just to be able to say that I took a photo. Nowhere, today, did a photo jump out and hit me. I didn’t take many photos.

While cycling, I look for an anecdote, a story, a scene that I can write about. Something that makes this day special. Today, there was nothing. I have decided not to try to make one up. Today it was cloudy, wet and grey, and that is OK.

After 82km I arrived in Gießen, and took this photo.

Gießen

Gießen

The evening was lovely, catching up with Mathias – a friend from my Aachen times. We talked, ate and walked and went shopping. Oh, and the sun came out for me in Gießen, in time for our city stroll.