Posts Tagged ‘Darmstadt’


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