We have spent some wonderful meandering days cycling the serpentine Rhine through medieval villages their church bells chiming calling the faithful. Past country roads full of ripening barley swaying in the breeze. Crops of freshly sown corn springing to life and carpets of flowering broad beans that run right up to the town’s outskirts. Rural Germany is friendly, happy and welcoming ,dripping in history while radiating warmth and beauty , Even in the regional cities people go out of their way to be helpful, always interested in our travels and interesting folk themselves. It’s the people you meet that make a journey memorable.
We have cycled through ancient villages such as Xanten where it seemed the whole town was heading to church on Sunday morning. One family walked out of their home which was built in 1453. I marvel that the house is still standing and has evolved in time to be a modern home, if only those walls could talk !
Visiting cities on the bike is not always easy because we don’t want to leave all our gear unattended. We had a great day in Cologne (Koln) exploring the cathedral, the waterfront, the buildings and the multitudes of tourists making memories The Gothic cathedral is a magnificent example of faith & architecture combined .I found it encouraging to see a priest in the Cathedral posing for photos with groups of giggling Chinese tourists, as I have seen Buddhist monks in Asia pose with Western visitors, some of the more sombre of the faithful looked on disapprovingly.
The former capital of West Germany, Bonn was spectacular almost too beautiful, cycling the expansive riverfront I was a little overwhelmed by the grandeur . We bought fresh strawberries and Rye bread from the market in the city square where you know that people have been shopping for 1000’s of years, Beethoven was born there and I thought about his music his inspiration and the legacy he left the world.
Collectively we have a smattering of German words and phrases, however we make an effort and are learning we seem to be able to get by as many of the younger people speak a little English. However, even when both parties can’t speak each other’s languages we manage.
Most of our days are spent getting lost. While receiving a good soaking from the heavens above, our newly acquired tourist maps are rudimentary. Sign posts can be confusing and Google maps tells lies. I have assumed a Zen like acceptance rather than surrender to frustration, just follow the Rhine .
On average we cycle 75k a day at a leisurely pace which leaves plenty of opportunities for sightseeing , eating and attending to the bicycles , ourselves and chores around camp.
Eventually we always find a Caravan Park or campground hidden away somewhere. Like the one on the outskirts of the historical city of Xanten, which we shared with Helen a Dutch Art Historian and fellow cycle tourist and around 100 Outlaw Motorcyclists who had gathered for a run. Some patched and wearing their colours, but mostly good natured weekend warriors interested in Bikes, Beer and Babes. We fell asleep to the excruciating sounds of the hired band singing AC/DC covers. The most memorable was Highway to Hell in English with a thick German accent!
We crisscross the Rhine by ferries and bridges along paths once used by Roman Legions in a country where cycling touring is common. Camping close to the river we are lulled to sleep by the dull monotone of the passing ships engines and the water as it laps the shore.
A few lessons from the road:
1. Whatever it is your looking for, its in the other pannier.
2. Trust your intuition not the road signs.
3. Cycle touring is easier and more addictive than you might think.