Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category


I woke to rain, and the rain remained looming all day. But the sun poked out too as I cycled along the beautiful Lahn valley, endowed with steep wooded sides and pretty villages.
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I’m starting to leave the heartland of my life of the last 21 years. I have been here before, but it is not my home territory. And I’m on the road alone. This will be my life for the next 2 years. I love it.

I watch the geese glide over from above, skim, and then land on the water. The waves radiate out and lap on the shores of the green watered river, flanked by steep wooded hills. Perched on the top of the highest hills are castles. The bike path hugs the shore a lot of the time, occasionally climbing to a castle or view before dropping again. The weather stays grey, raining briefly in Bad Ems and Nassau.
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Today also had physical challenges to test my strengthening body. Suddenly the bike path left the Lahn and zig-zagged up to the crest of the valley before rolling down again a few kilometres later. It was steep and moderately long. And I made it. Bring on the Passo del Stelvio.. ­čÖé
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The sun came out for me in Limburg an der Lahn. I was here with my father many moons ago. There is a quaint city centre with a labyrinth of cobblestoned streets and fachwerk houses. The place was swarming with tourist, as well as some bike tourists (like me). The sun was at its brightest when I was at the famous cathedral. Very pretty, and a nice end to the day.
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Day 5. 74km. Bonn – Koblenz

Posted: September 17, 2014 in Cycling, Germany
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Cycling through the sun with Dirk Tenh├╝ndfeld. We climbed the Drachenfels and rolled along the Rhein – Dirk on a heavy public rental bike. The sunset in Koblenz was amazing.
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Tomorrow the big purchases must stop. I now have a new webcam – one that works. I also have a new helmet – one where the strap can be tightened.
Today I had a new cycling companion – Dirk Tenh├╝ndfeld, an old friend from the Aachen days, who now lives in Bonn. He came with a clunky Call-a bike, all ready to make it up the steep Drachenfels near Bonn.

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Drachenfels is an imposing hill on the Rhein River with a ruin perched on the top. There’s also a train that goes up, and lots of tourists (like us). The view at the top is pretty special looking along the Rhein in both directions. The ride down was even better – a good road, and panoramas rolling out in front of us, opening out around each corner.

My ‘Drahtesel’ – as the German newspaper calls my bike – is much better than a call-a-bike (rental city bike). Poor Dirk had to struggle the whole way, and the pace got slower and slower. I wanted to make it to Koblenz today, and so we parted ways, Dirk took the train for the last 35km, and I sprinted to burn off some built up energy. We met for a lovely dinner in the market square in Koblenz.

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Day 4. 42km. K├Âln – Bonn.

Posted: September 17, 2014 in Cycling, Germany
Tags: , , ,

Today was a day with friends in Bonn with a short ride in the sun first to get there. Talking, eating, walking, haircuts, and collecting a new webcam in Bonn.

Friends in Bonn

Friends in Bonn

My trip is feeling more like a big holiday than a serious bike trip. And, it will stay that way for another 3 days as my friend in Giessen that I want to visit will only return then. (Giessen is really only 2 days from here, I think.) Still, there is plenty of time, and it’s quite nice hanging out in the city with good friends I won’t be seeing for a long time. The first part of my trip is a farewell tour, after all.

It was 42km to Bonn along the lush, green Rhein River.

Along the Rhein River

Along the Rhein River

And a warm Bonner welcome,

followed by a nice ferry ride into the city.

The ferry in Bonn

The ferry in Bonn

I had a much needed haircut, and collected the new webcam (GoPro) that I ordered. (My other webcam (Ion Pro) was crashing constantly, and couldn’t be reset – you needed to wait five hours for the battery to die before a reset was possible. Due to this technical problem I have not been able to take any action videos thus far, including on the first day with all my friends joining me to the Belgian border.)

My new gadget

My new gadget


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. K├Âlle Allaaf!

Der K├Âlner Dom

Der K├Âlner 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.
‘Mining.’
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.

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I had an appointment with a journalist from the K├Âlnische 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!

Hien

Hien

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


The pressure and stress of the last week was released like air escaping from a balloon. A short ride through familiar territory with Ed and Frank to Aachen before a relaxing in the beautiful thermal baths in Aachen.

Ed and Matthew at the highest point in the Netherlands. 322m

Ed and Matthew at the highest point in the Netherlands. 322m

Relaxing in the thermal baths in Aachen, I slipped in and out of consciousness. Lying in the pool, the dome high above my head, which changed colours from blue, to green, to yellow, to red. The pattern of the waves was overlaid, putting me into a trance. In the hot bath I lay, what seemed like hours, in a kind of eternal dream. The light shining from below refracted around my hand, forming a red tinge on the top of my hand, and a blue tinge on the bottom. I felt the stress dissipate. I felt at one with the universe.

Frank Thiele, a cycling friend and colleague from my time in Aachen had cycled to Schimmert to return to Aachen with Ed and me. Ed was on an old bike from his grandfather with 3 gears and the saddle way too low. And, after a few kilometres, only one brake.

Farewell at Schimmert

Farewell at Schimmert

We passed the castle where I was a witness at Ed and Judith’s wedding many moons ago.

Ed's wedding castle

Ed’s wedding castle

And we made our way up to the Vaalse berg – the highest point in the Netherlands. What better place to part ways than at the border – the border with Germany and Belgium?

Then it was downhill with Frank into Aachen, through my playground for 12 years – the Aachen forest.

Aachen Forest

Aachen Forest

And passed the old Philips Research labs in Aachen.

Old Philips Lab in Aachen

Old Philips Lab in Aachen

Looking through the familiar gate, nothing seems to have changed. But, much has changed. That was a different time – my time in Aachen. A fun time that has, with other eras in my life, been banished to being fond memories.

Thanks very much Frank and Danielle for letting me stay at their place. It was great catching up!


 


This morning I got up, clicked together my Teva sandals, and said to my bike Lambchop: ‘today we are leaving home’ (Germany – one of my homes).

Day 7. 118km. Stralsund – Swinoujscie. Map and gpx.

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A race against the clouds to Stralsund. Wind and dark grey clouds behind me, I hurtled through the Mecklenburg Vorpommern fields.

Day 6. 157km. Flessenow – Stralsund. Map and gpx.

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One could almost call today hot – if I forget what hot means in Australia. And sunny. From main roads to little side roads, to soft sand challenges. From fields to forests, from rather flat to quite hilly. From cycling in a group of 3, back to alone. A nice day.

Day 5. 126km. Hamburg – Flessenow. Map and gpx.

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Straight road, slight bend, straight road. Bush bash, soft sand and big rocks. Lovely afternoon and evening with Kai and Kersten from the cycling forum.

Day 4. 136km. Bremen – Hamburg. Map and gpx.

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Sun, lakes, swarms of bugs, cycling accompaniment, the Bremen town musicians and fresh asparagus looking out over a lake at sunset.

Day 3. 147km. Bad Essen – Bremen. Map and gpx file.

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