“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.
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.
The last three weeks have been a blur of snow, ice, freezing temperatures,optimism, gratitude, warm beds and hot meals.
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!!
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.
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.
A dramatically frozen River Main.
Fancy a swim?
In flight navigation system.
Onwards we go.
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.