“What’s for breakfast?”

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” Said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.  “It’s the same thing,”  he said. 

A.A. Milne

All cyclists know that food, where you get it, what it is and how many calories it has in it are very important. For us, these last few weeks, where it is consumed has also become top of the list of priorities. Standing in a snowy field with very cold toes takes away the enjoyment of eating, so Backerei have taken on a great deal of importance in our lives. The Bakeries in Germany usually have a cafe attached. They are always warm, clean and smell delicious and the people behind the counter are almost invariably friendly – and sympathetic.We hobble in with frozen feet, order milchekaffee and something sticky or greasy, fall into a daze of comfortable thawing out while we watch people come in for their bread. I daydream about working in a bakery as it seems such a nice job.Our faces start to glow and then it’s time to bounce out of the door full of vim and vigour and renewed fortitude that will give us another 20 kms.

Good grub……

The last three weeks have been a blur of snow, ice, freezing temperatures,optimism, gratitude, warm beds and hot meals.

Warm Showers 

Warm Showers is a fantastic online community for touring cyclists. You simply sign up and offer whatever accomodation you feel able to touring cyclists passing through your area. In return when you are touring, wherever you are in the world,  you can usually find a warm showers host happy to accommodate you, your bicycle and your frozen toes. It is a little strange and sometimes awkward,  meeting strangers and staying in their homes but maybe that’s because we are British…….The upside certainly is that you get a glimpse through a window into somebody else’s life.

Our Warm Showers hosts have been the best and have given us such friendly and warm welcomes, sometimes slightly bemused as to why we would want to cycle through Germany in one of their coldest winters for quite a while but the hospitality always given unquestioningly. Staying with them has given us a contact with the country, a glimpse into their lives, what they do, what they think and of course some great and inspirational travellers tales.

We’ve also stayed with Naomi  and Marlene in Erlangen, Naomi being our neighbour Liz’s daughter so a link with home and Hallbankgate gossip which was very nice!  Thanks so much to you two who opened up your lovely flat for us which felt like home.

Since last posting we left the Netherlands rather unceremoniously through a five barred gate in a wood. No glowering border guards , just a man walking his dog and a friendly “Guten Morgen”. The scenery stayed familiar and flat but we could see hills in the distance. We were entering Saurland which someone described as “land of a thousand hills”.

I think we have climbed a few of them but coming from Cumbria weren’t too daunted and anyway they kept us warm. We have slowly plodded our way up into gorgeous forested countryside , gently perspiring on the way up but nearly freezing to death on the way down. The descents were sometimes 5 or 6 kilometres and we created our own wind chill so that at the bottom we looked like someone who had undergone  botox treatment with complete paralysis of our facial muscles and looking a bit like frightened fish.

Our main frustration has been blocked or icy cycle paths. We arrive at the start of the path which we know would wend it’s way through quiet and lovely country side only to be forced onto the roads which are well cleared and gritted. Sometimes we have ventured onto the paths and enjoyed it but progress becomes slow with the constant fear of falling over!!

What cycle path?

We have passed through some beautiful towns with onion domed churches, cobbled streets, timbered buildings and bridges over frozen rivers. All inviting exploration but the need to keep going and keep warm stopping us but mental notes being made to come back one day – in the summer.

Menden.

Despite the low temperatures we have managed to camp. The first time was a test which we were eager to pass so that camping could be added to our accomodation options.

We were lucky as we found a wooden shelter in a forest so decided to camp inside it. Even the bikes had some shelter.

Still rather daunted by the thought of hypothermia I donned just about every item if clothing (including balaclava) I had, to the point where it was quite difficult to get into my sleeping bag. Once in, I pulled the hood over my head, drew the drawstring around my neck and proceeded to cook like a large lump of meat where heatstroke was becoming a possibility and I had to start removing layers. There followed a wonderful toasty nights sleep disturbed only by screeching owls and so the test was passed and we have since had three more nights outside and been absolutely fine.

Yesterday we met the Danube which felt like crossing a rubicon as well as a river. It really was blue and we really did feel like waltzing across it but it was difficult on a bike.

The task ahead still seems daunting but as my wise and learned friend Tricia says “if you are going to eat an elephant do it in bite sized pieces”. Well I think we have eaten one chunk and though it was a bit tough and chewy it was perfectly digestible and we have the appetite for more.

Magical Moments and Musings.

The time we came across a road blocked by snow and ice with a barrier and flashing lights saying ” its not wise to go down here”. However for us it would have meant a 15 mile detour and it was getting dark so we snuck around the barrier. We then skidded, slipped and slalomed about 5 kms downhill through a forest heavy and silent with snow.  It was beautiful but there was also the added frisson of anxiety that we would come across an impenetrable wall of snow and have to turn back so it was with some relief that we popped back out onto yet another busy but iceless road.

The jet shower at Pension Hubertus that did wonders for my acheing shoulders.

Guten farthe means good journey not, you will have extra power today because of the schweine schnitzel and sauerkraut you ate last night.

People we have met.

The lady who said she would send an angel with us to China to look after us.

The man who said he had learnt English by watching 210 episodes of Dr Who.

The landlady at Pension Hubertus who laughed when we told her what we were doing and then couldn’t stop. We could still hear her laughing as we shut the front door and left.

The “9/11″survivor now living in Germany who said he would never go back to New York  (who can blame him now?)

The apple lady who plied us with more apples than we bought from her.

We liked this poster until we discovered it was advertising cigarettes! There are cigarette machines in even small villages and cigarettes are widely advertised on billboards. Surprising.

Beautiful Bamberg.

A dramatically frozen River Main.

Fancy a swim?

In flight navigation system.

Onwards we go.


Time and Distance.  Relatively Speaking.

Time and distance behave in peculiar ways when you are cycle touring.

How is it , when you are camping on a snow covered forest track you can happily crawl into your sleeping bag at 6 in the evening,  read a chapter on your Kindle, and the sleep until 8 the following morning?

How is it that you can get up at home, do some stuff, cycle to Carlisle,  do some shopping, cycle home again, do some more stuff and still have time for evening meal and television.but, when you are touring , the same 40 kms takes all day to cycle?

How is it that you can start cycling at 9 in the morning, reach your destination at 5 in the evening and the little cycle computer says you’ve been cycling for 3 1/2 hours?

A Limerick by Pete.

In order a large elephant to eat

We’d better both start with the feet

Chunk by small chunk

Including the trunk

By China we should be replete.

The gauntlet is thrown down.

 

Comments

  1. Rose says:

    Brilliant! Lots of love, Rose

  2. Fiona McElhinney says:

    You are both so tough and cheerful! Great to hear all about it and see the photos. I guess when you go shopping in Carlisle you’re not trying to eat an elephant! I was seriously impressed by the idea of this trip, even more so by the reality. I hope you get some sunshine and clear cycle paths soon, Fiona x x

  3. Julienne DeV says:

    Wonderful report on your progress so far. Love the photos and so entertaining. It will get warmer eventually! xxx

    1. Thanks for your encouraging comment Julie. Good to hear from you and hope you are well.chris xx

  4. Katy says:

    Great post. Wonderful descriptions, I felt I was there with you…….. although I’m glad I’m at home and it’s warm! I’m so impressed with what you are doing, hope the weather improves and that you can cycle on snow-free tracks soon xx

  5. Jean simpson says:

    So good to hear about your journey so far, the comments and photos are wonderful, all that snow and ice! You are amazing! It is bound to warm up soon. Look forward to next update xx

  6. Sarah Wilson says:

    This is awesome, you are so courageous. Keep us posted of your journey and please keep safe and well.

  7. Heidi says:

    Not sure how you are coping with the cold. I hate it when I get such cold feet on my bike. I am sure there is a reason for cycling in the winter but can’t see it. But I love the description of your bakery / cafe stop. Always a great part of a bike ride. Fascinating to hear of your adventure and look forward to the next instalment.

  8. Tom Whewell says:

    Just amazing. Totally hardcore. Great pics.

  9. Aidan Leonard says:

    Great blog and lovely photos. Thanks.

  10. Hi, Guys – glad to hear you’re making solid and safe progress – are you nearly there yet?! Anyway – fantastic to hear your news, keep it coming, words and photos, a wonderful venture, we wish you all the luck in the world. Andy and Hilary xxxx

  11. Anne Lloyd says:

    thanks! the photos are wonderful, the stories are wonderful – you are wonderful.
    Do take care on that ice.
    Remember to keep enjoying yourselves, it is meant to be a fun trip!
    Annie

  12. Cat says:

    Loved reading this – you guys are amazing and already having such adventures! Very inspiring. Sending loads of love to you both xxx

  13. Renee says:

    Hi Chris and Pete,

    What rare experiences you are having, and your entries are so well-written that one can vicariously experience it through you. Thank you for taking the time to write and share these gem-moments with us. You are uncovering something amazing about the true human spirit.

    Blessings,
    Renee and David

  14. Jason says:

    Hi Chris & Pete,
    So good to catch up with the start of your amazing journey, I’m so sorry I didn’t manage to join in with the send off. I really wanted to join in for an undulating Cumbrian hill or two along the way but sadly couldn’t manage it on the day you were leaving. What an amazing trip to do and thanks for sharing. Wishing you a safe journey and some more warmth along the way, Jason x

  15. Martin Neef says:

    Dear Chris,dear Peter,
    I hope You were pleased by the Donau – Ilz side track and have smooth riding in Austria now !

    You are a wonderful team!!

    The laughing angel will always watch You from above

  16. Darryl says:

    Great to read of your adventures! Take care and have fun!

  17. David Whewell says:

    There was a young cyclist called Pete
    Who daily had well – frozen feet
    When folks asked him “Why?”
    He curtly replied,
    They’re nothing – just look at my seat !

    Bit snowy here today so not driving over to Sheffield to see George
    Love and admiration
    Dave and Clan

  18. Alison Gash says:

    I feel very guilty sitting at my computer with warm feet very cosy in my slippers. What super heroes you are either that or crazy!! Your posts are amazing and the photos just sum up some of your experiences. keep on peddling you are doing brill.
    Lots of love and good wishes x

  19. David Whewell says:

    Hope all well
    Half term here now so not as jealous!
    Keep warm
    Love Dave and Clan
    PS big news here – there’s been an explosion at our local Alphabetti Spaghetti factory – could spell disaster

  20. anthony farrell says:

    So exciting to follow your route and pleased you are making such progress. Here we are having a mild winter what a shame you are experiencing such a cold one. God be with you on your wonderful journey.

  21. Kathy, Phil and collie says:

    We missed you both but hadn’t realised you’d gone off for a ride!!!! The blog is brilliant and am now hooked! Wishing you well and a fantastic year. Will keep reading……

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