I am writing this in Strasbourg while watching ‘mon mari’ doing some maintenance on his Brompton in the garden behind our Airbnb apartment … in just his underpants. The ‘what to wear’ question for various activities can be challenging because we only have a limited wardrobe. When the ‘what can I wear to get covered in oil and muck’ question arose, the obvious answer was ‘nothing’ … so there he sits, practically naked, changing his back tyre (which is now bald after 2687 kms).
As for what we have been doing of late, I have updated the map BTW, we took a train from Utrecht in the Netherlands to Cologne in Germany and have since been making our way down the Rhine. This has mainly through the west of Germany but it crosses over into France, just north of where we are now, and continues on to Switzerland.
I can’t say either of us were particularly keen on Germany … the scenery was very nice and the architecture and history is all very excellent but somehow it just didn’t inspire us the way France does. We also found it very hard to communicate, which undoubtably affected our perception. Given that the Husband took one term of German at school and I know nothing, apart from the occasional phrase picked up from watching war films as a child, our conversational abilities were woeful. The Husband compensated by just making up German words as necessary … this was of no help what-so-ever and generally just created a lot of confused Germans. We went for a meal in a restaurant and the Husband ordered a wheat beer in his best ‘German’ … the waitress looked a little puzzled but returned with two beer mats which she carefully placed on top of our wine glasses … no beer appeared. We can only assume that “I would like a wheat beer please” sounds very similar in German to “our wine is evaporating, please cover our glasses with beer mats”. Another problem is that nothing on the menus takes our fancy … partially because the words on the menus are a complete mystery to us and seem to be swearing at us rather than describing food, and partially because our tastebuds just don’t seem to ‘get’ German food. It all seems to be very heavy with a lot of bread and meat and the portions are HUGE! As a result, I didn’t eat a lot in Germany and even the Husband transferred to mainly a liquid diet of beer, beer and more beer. We even stopped our afternoon ‘cake stops’ because ‘cake’ seemed to translate to ‘bread with sugar or fruit on top’. Lunches were also a bit of a problem because our cheap baguette and cheese lunch was not possible. We did try it but it didn’t really work. The Husband popped into a supermarket for bread and cheese and came out with rollmop herring, which was lovely, some bread that was shaped like a baguette but would have sunk like a U boat, and some ‘cheese’ that turned out to be fresh yeast! Yum, yum.
However, the campgrounds are maintained to a very high standard and the facilities are spotless … they even provide toilet paper, which most French campsites do not … but we also found that people with tents rather than camper vans were treated like second class citizens and we were generally relegated to rough ground behind the toilet block or next to the road … behind a special rope that separated the tent people from the camper-van/caravan people.
I love watching people arriving and setting up all their gear – it’s sort of like reality TV but without the actual TV. You learn a lot about people just watching them set up camp. Some people, like us, are pros and the set up is quick and coordinated (yes, I know you can hardly believe that but it’s true … the Husband and I have actually achieved a teamwork gold star in campsite setup), and some people have full-on marital breakdown (that was us at the beginning). Some people are very organised and everything has a place, and some people just sort of leave things where they fall (that’s myself and the Husband respectively). Some people have all the latest gear and some people just make do. We saw some enormous and very well equipped camper vans in Germany. I was especially impressed with a setup that even had it’s own lawn mower … presumably so that the pitch could be mown if it was not up to standard. Another camper van that I spotted contained two people but had 4 bikes attached – two mountain bikes and two city bikes!
One problem that we encountered is that the campgrounds are often spaced too far apart for cycling, which meant that we had to plan quite carefully rather than just rock up and find the local campground. We got into difficulties one day when the campsite we planned to stay at had closed (seven years ago! Someone really should tell Google about it) and there was a festival in the town so there was literally nowhere else to stay. This was a very low moment. So, with no other options, we carried on peddling to the next campsite, which resulted in our longest ever day of 108Km (nearly 8 hours of cycling). When we arrived at the next campsite it turned out to be a very basic affair with no shower, only a toilet, and some loud drunk Irish men. It was not a good night … we left very early the next day.
We are now back in France and enjoying baguette and jam for breakfast, baguette with cheese and saucisson for lunch, cake for afternoon tea and a ‘picket de vin rose’ to celebrate the pitching of the tent in the evening … happy days!
Strasbourg is lovely and fabulously cycle centric. I have to say that it is definitely our most favourite French city to date. We’ve spent the last couple of days frolicking around cobbled streets and exploring little alleyways, local restaurants and bike shops.
Tomorrow we head further south and on into Switzerland if the Husband’s bike tinkering hasn’t destroyed his Brompton altogether … there is probably some very important bolt or washer hidden in the grass outside! Our current plan is to head over the Alps into Italy, which will be tough but I think our thighs are up to the job now (and the electric motors should get a work out too 🙂
‘D’ = distance & ’T’ = time
14th July Utrecht to Cologne: by train then cycling D 19Km / T 1:55 mins
15th July Cologne to Bad Breisig: D 66Km / T 4:35 mins
16th July Bad Breisig to Koblenz : D 35Km / T 2:43 mins
17th July Koblenz to Bacharach: D 56Km / T 3:56 mins
18th July Bacharach to Mainz: D 52Km / T 3:49 mins
19th July Mainz to Manheim: D 108Km / T 7:43 mins
20th July Manheim to Heidelberg: D 36Km / T 2:45 mins
21st July Heidelberg to Germersheim: D 58Km / T 4:20 mins
22nd July Germersheim to Lauterbourg: D 53Km / T 3:43 mins
23rd July Lauterbourg to Strasbourg: D 74Km / T 5:00 mins
Total ‘Trip’ distance so far: 2687km
Check out the map