|Hello everyone from Worms (of course you really need to add a bit of a 'v' sound to that). I am enjoying being in my attic single room in the centrally located YHI with a great view out of my dormer window including a church spier. In fact it has very loud bells which just went off at 6.15 for an extended period but does not seem to be doing anything for 6.30 or 7pm. Worms is like many of these medium sized towns - interesting (especially the Jewish history here), invariably a stunning cathedral, good food, cafe culture in the main street, lots of pedestrian only ways, museums, nice street walking etc.
I have been riding on the Rhine now for nearly two weeks and gradually pottering my way ever north. My riding days actual time in the saddle are not too long 4 to 5 hours, but the whole day seems to usually be spent getting from A to B, getting accommodation sorted, hand washing cycling clothes, food, planning for next day, unpacking, packing, checking bike etc - it really is a full time job.
The weather has been quite lovely, although still pretty nippy in the morning. I am still riding with a thermal top and my leggings on. Maybe it is just me because two days ago there were Germans splashing in the Rhine, waterskiing etc. It will need to be way warmer for me to get into the river. I have had mainly grey skies but thankfully minimal attempts at rain.
Each day is just that little bit different and certainly the cycling, and what I am seeing now is very different to the first section in Switzerland. Those snow covered Alps seem a long time ago now. I am also steadily dropping altitude although nothing as drastic as the first few days. I have crossed in and out of Switzerland, Litchenstein, France and Germany, but will now be in Germany for the next couple of weeks I think. This also means goodbye to baguettes and hello to good grainy rye bread and sour dough. But I am flexible - I like it all. At least some sort of lemon custard tart has so far been available in all countries!!
Some of the highlights since the last blog have been:
* Stunning medievil villages and village squares with half timbered buildings and murals including Stein on Rein, Schaffhausen, Steckborn, Kaiserstuhl etc.
* The social history museum set in 3 Renaissance houses in Strasbourg
* Managing to get in to hear a St Matthew's Passion on Good Friday in a church in Strasbourg - high quality choir, soloists, organ, period orchestra - but no applause as in a church
* Some great riding through farming country and it is aspargus (white) season.
* My Warm Showers hosts especially Tobias and Sabene in Karlsruhe.
* The cyclist who was out on a training ride and then escorted me the last 10km into Speyers and bought me coffee. When he found out my age just kept saying 'great respect'.
* Somehow ending up in town of Mulhouse (not on my route) and without a good enough map to get me out of there and when I approached two police officers on bicycles for directions, they escorted me to the book shop, briefed the owner on what I was after and minded my bike while I got sorted inside.
* Catching ferries across the Rhine - literally just riding straight on with perfect timing.
* Three nights in my tent!! And the friendly fellow campers.
* The little green cycle signs which you just have to trust cause they generally get you there in the end but always happy to see one.
* Finally finding some other cycle tourists and having a bit of a chat.
* The Rhine wetlands which are extensive and often are nature parks with cycle paths through them. Bird hides, picnic tables and in Switzerland complete with fireplaces, chopped wood and newspaper!
* Some great buskers in the town squares.
* Good coffee in the sun.
* A hot shower at the end of every cycling day.
* A day off the bike to explore Strasbourg.
* Generally good wifi most places which means I can keep in touch with everyone. Also means I have had some great skype sessions (thank you Book Club girls and also Mark and Teresa).
* Spring flowers in abundance in beautiful civic and private gardens.
* The oversupply of Lindt chocolate bunnies which post Easter are selling for 50c!!!
* No rain to speak of.
* My body is coping pretty well with the everyday cycling. Bike also behaving very well - had to put new set of rear brake pads on today.
I could go on. However of course this cycle touring is not without a few challenges. Some of the lowlights have been:
* The rarity of the Rhine cycle route signs on some legs (Switzerland was the exception). Another set of eyes would help.
* How could you lose a river as large as the Rhine you might ask. Well you do not always cycle in sight of it and hence I have had my fair share of being lost in forest areas which although very beautiful can be very confusing often doglegging around wetlands, canals and river flood dykes. I generally do manage to pop out more or less in the right direction but not without quite a deal of stress.
* Feeling the struggle of the load I travel with and wishing I did not have all that stuff but I guess it is for 5 months. I keep thinking what I could throw out but nothing really do I want to part with so I guess I continue to cycle with 16kg of luggage.
* Large industrial conurbations that have grown up right on the Rhine eg BASF largest chemical plant in the world, 36,000 employees on a site which is 10 square kilometres in size. Generally the route skirts these but this takes you away from the river.
* How bitterly cold it was in Strasbourg - my one day so far off the bike. Even bought another pair of gloves but have not worn them since then.
* Time taken to find and book accommodation - planning ahead seems to be a constant state of being right now.
* Negotiating cycle routes into and out of larger cities - just plain hard work.
The Rhine is now a large wide river and I guess will only get bigger. There are plenty of large barges going upriver (not sure I have seen one going down river yet). There are also pleasure craft at some spots and the ocassional tourist ferry. I have not seen the large floating hotels yet but I am sure they will come. Generally I am cycling about 60 to 70km a day and really that is enough. It allows time for lunch and if I have started in reasonably time, time to explore where I spend the night.
From here I will continue through to Rotterdam. In a few nights time I will be staying with Evie and Elke out of Kobelz and this will be jsut lovely to have some time with Perth friends. Unfortunately my planning to catch up with a German academic friend has been less successful but there still may be a chance. That is one disadvantage of being on the bike - it is not that easy to just deviate 100km to see someone. That is quite a distance with a load.
So I hope that brings you up to date with my cycling adventure to date. Thanks for the comments and feedback - really enjoy getting that.
Hope you all have enjoyed time out over Easter and for those Perthites heading to Fairbridge definitely missing not being there with you.
All the best,