A Travellerspoint blog

Freundenstadt to Urmatt (France) 123km

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We were good to our word this morning and up bright and early. I was first up as usual with my natural body clock kicking in at just before six. I was over to the kitchen almost immediately to prepare breakfast which unlike the previous day would set up perfectly for the long day ahead.

We have arranged to couch surf with a young German student who studies in Nancy and we need to arrive there by Tuesday evening. It's only a distance of some 230 kilometres but we've had some really slow rides on the bike the last couple of days so really needed to pick it up today.

By the time I returned from the kitchen with a steaming pot of porridge and fruit Tom was still inside his tent. The only way to entice him out was with the promise of hot porridge, there was no way in the world that I was going to treat him as I've done in the past to breakfast in his tent!

The porridge proved to be the perfect fuel for the days ride and despite the cold morning air we hit the first climb of the day with renewed vigour. We were both in high spirits but Tom soon pulled away ahead simply to get away I think from my early morning singing.

In the end the climb which neither of us were really looking forward to proved to be relatively straightforward, sure it was a steep incline for about eight kilometres but in our now super charged conditioned state we made light work of it.

It was a spectacular view across the valley once we got to the top and the pictures really can't do it justice partly due to the fact that it was still really early and the sun hadn't fully come up.

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"Look no hands"

As I've preached on many occasions before 'what goes up must go down' and we had a real treat today. The sign indicating a 12% gradient was just what the doctor ordered. As usual with all descents I give Tom a gentle reminder to be careful. I love the feeling of the wind zipping past my ears but I'm so conscious these days of being so close to home. Entering a bend too fast on these kind of descents could have disastrous consequences and with that in mind I was pretty heavy on the brakes all the way down. That said even at my reduced speed it's the kind of ride downwards that makes all the pushing, sweating and panting uphill worth while. The bends were deliciously long and it had those wonderful cut backs where the bike almost has to come to a complete standstill before picking up pace almost immediately and cruising downhill.

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Our ride downwards lasted for a good 9 kilometres and there was plenty of whopping and fist pumping when we reached the bottom. A more gentle roll downwards followed and we rewarded our early mornings endeavour with a cup of tea and pastry at the first sit down bakery we saw.

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Check out that cake on the table, a few more of those and the weight will be back on in no time!

Any fears of further climbs disappeared pretty quickly as we seemed to simply carve our way through the exquisite valley that presented itself before us. It was the perfect backdrop to our last day of riding in Germany.

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We eventually reached the final town in Germany Kehl just after lunch having covered a pretty impressive 72 kilometres in the morning. By now we were both eager to get into France and push on past Strasbourg. We cycled over the river Rhine and just like that it was Auf Wiedersehen Germany and Bonjour France.

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Despite some minor problems with a small section of German motorists Germany really was an absolute pleasure to pedal through. Stunning scenery, great food and yet more incredibly friendly people to help us along the way.

We still had some further distance we wanted to cover which meant that Strasbourg only received a cursory glance. Nevertheless there still remained the tricky job of negotiating our way around the city to head west and like all other occasions before it required steely nerves and extreme patience. It made me think at the time what an enormous job it will be to work our way out of Paris on the 27th.

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Our pace unsurprisingly slowed somewhat in the afternoon I guess it was a combination of our early morning start and elation at entering the final country of the trip. We still managed to cover another 50 kilometres in the afternoon but by the time we reached the small village of Urmatt to the west of Strasbourg Tom was almost pleading for me to stop. I had hoped we could push on a further ten for the day but sometimes you have to say that enough is enough.

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We spent the last hour of the day passing through small villages and numerous cafés on the side of the street all of which seemed to have people sitting outside enjoying a post work beer. It all proved a little too much for Tom and he made the call that we in fact needed to celebrate our arrival in France with some of France's best liquid refreshment. We sat on the chairs in almost silence, sipping on our ice cold beers looking back at a great days work.

The problem with having a cold beer after such extensive exercise is that it makes getting up out of the seat all the more difficult. Thankfully we were on the edge of Urmatt and only had a couple of minutes ride before we were outside it. Tom made a sharp turn off to the left down a small country lane and with that we'd found home for the night. It wasn't the most ideal of camp-sites but it would do for us.

While Tom pitched his tent on the slightly uneven ground by the trees I chose instead to venture into the dense wood to find myself a nice flat piece of ground. It was dark in there but I figured that the extra tree coverage might mean a less damp morning for me the next day.

We were a little concerned when we saw a farmer coming down the track in his truck knowing full well that like Germany before wild camping is prohibited in France. We waved him down and tried in our best broken French to ask if it was okay, we needn't have bothered he didn't seemed the least bit concerned where we put our tents.

I think it was the earliest that I've and certainly we've gone to bed on this trip at around 7:45 and with a similar distance to cover tomorrow it was probably a very wise call.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 05:37 Archived in France Comments (0)

Calw to Freudenstadt 61km

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It was an extremely damp start to the day and upon waking one would have been forgiven for thinking there had been a downpour the night before. It meant that we had to hang around a little in the morning while the morning sun dried off our tents, nobody likes putting away a wet tent after all.

Our rather paltry meal the previous evening meant that we set off with our stomachs rumbling. What with this being Sunday nearly every shop and more crucially every bakery we passed was closed for business.

You really need something inside of you when you start the day and the bananas we had just before setting off proved to be wholly insufficient.

We became so desperate in fact that after riding round a small village for ten minutes at the start of our ride for the day Tom took it upon himself to go into a beautiful five star hotel. This was a stunning hotel set at the end of a flower lined boulevard and one should remember we'd only just woken up an hour or so ago. I decided to wait at a distance with the bikes and have no idea what they most have thought of the sight of a rather dishevelled looking man walking through their front door. Nevertheless he returned five minutes later with a beaming smile and a bag of six bread rolls.

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The pretty little village where we managed to secure the mornings bread!

We cycled on through the morning but our lack of food continued to effect us. We almost jumped for joy as we passed through a small town to see one of the many discount supermarkets that are so prevalent here in Germany. Our joy however was short lived when we realised it was closed for lunch and wouldn't open for another forty five minutes. We decided that due to our almost zero energy levels it would be best to wait and promptly sat ourselves down on the small patch of grass opposite the shop.

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Going over the big one four.....not much further left and I guess the trip overall will total less than 15,000km

It was also the chance to get out the tents and some clothes once again to not only give them a vital airing but also a chance to dry off any remaining wetness. It's funny how after a while you stop caring what other people passing by might think it needed doing so we did it simple as that. There is nothing worse that getting into a slightly damp tent the next night.

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After a massive stock up on food we hit the road again but by now it was already 2 o'clock and we'd really made very little progress for the day. It was another magnificent sunny day and we managed to pick up a good rhythm for the afternoon burning off the piles of food we consumed for lunch.

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The terrain continued to be very much up and down and our original plan to enter Strasbourg France went well and truly out of the window. It didn't matter and by the time we entered Freudenstadt we were both able to look back on a really enjoyable ride through some simply spectacular scenery. France could certainly wait until another day.

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First French signpost sighting

We knew there was one big final climb out of Freudenstadt but on leaving the city saw a camp-site and decided it would be stupid of us at the end of the day to try and tackle the climb all for the sake of just covering a further ten kilometres.

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This was by far and away the best camp-site we have stayed in and our early arrival really gave us time to enjoy all the facilities on offer. It had a kitchen for a start which meant we were (sorry I was) able to cook up a gigantic bowl of spaghetti basically throwing in nearly all the other ingredients we had. It's amazing how well these kind of meals actually work out when you just put everything in together; or perhaps it could just be that after so much riding we are constantly hungry.

The cherry on the cake as it were came in the form of the camp-sites wash rooms. These had obviously been recently renovated and by the time Tom and I came to use them the upstairs section which had two private bathrooms were completely empty. They were incredible and we both took full advantage of them and emerged from our respective showers some forty minutes later feeling like new men.

So it is my final country tomorrow that of France. It almost doesn't seem real that after all these thousands of kilometres tomorrow will be the last time I conduct my small ceremony of changing the flags over and having my picture taken at the border. In the past I've felt a certain sense of excitement when crossing a border now in some ways it's more a sense of relief that I've nearly made it home.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 04:30 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Stuttgart to Past Calw (Calwf) 72km

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What with staying in the comfy confines of a youth hostel for the past two days both Tom and I were a little reluctant to get back out on the road too early in the morning and as a result we left Stuttgart pretty late at around 11; not before Tom had prepared scrambled eggs with bacon no less to set us up for the days ride.

Germany has by far and away the best bakeries I've ever been to and the bread we ate this morning has to be up there with the best I've ever tasted.

It was as usual a little difficult to get out of Stuttgart. We met up with my friend Julian last night for a couple of beers in the centre and he'd informed us that Stuttgart is a city situated in a valley so whatever way we looked at it we knew we had to climb up to get out.

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Our original plan had been to head north-west to Karlsruhe some eighty kilometres away. We'd studied the maps the day before and it looked by far and away the flattest route available if not the most direct. However once we were out on the road we decided to make a beeline directly west which would see us travel through the Schwarzwald National park. It involves a lot more climbs but we figure those climbs are worth the effort once you get to the top; plus when else are we going to get this kind of opportunity again?

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Bike paths when they work in Germany

The days ride turned out to be really nice, not too fast and we once again found ourselves well off the beaten track on some really lovely trails. It took us a while to get going but we're at the point now with time to play with that we can take our time a little.

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The town of Calw was particularly beautiful set in a deep valley and surrounded by thick, dense pine trees. It wasn't the longest of days on the bike by any means and upon leaving Calw we once again started to pull back up out of the valley. Instead of taking the road we took the designated cycling path which after five minutes of riding looked to be the wrong decision. How anybody could ride up this path was beyond me and Tom and I were both forced to dismount and push upwards breathing heavily at the same time.

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Tom was all for heading back down as the cycle path cut through some pretty thick forest all on a near vertical angle which made pitching our tents here almost impossible. I pressed for pushing on and we were glad that we did in the end because after twenty minutes of straining every muscle in our bodies we came across a sign for a camp-site.

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The beautiful town of Calw

You could say we've become a little soft but after numerous occasions of wild camping I've come to view 'official' camp-sites as a sign to stop and take advantage them.

The camp-site in question was pretty good and positioned high up above the valley which meant we still got to enjoy the late evening sun. It was cheaper than the other camp-site we stayed in in Regensburg but had the slight disadvantage that you had to pay for the hot showers, 40 cents for five minutes. No more half and hour hot showers for me then!

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The dinner of champs

We have run out of fuel for the stove now and as the evening set in and the temperature dropped we were in desperate need of some hot tea to warm the bones. The camp-site was like most others in that people seemed to use it as a semi-permanent home in fact Tom and I were the only two people brave or perhaps you could say foolish enough to be pitching our tents in mid September.

I decided the best course of action was to simply head off in the direction of the numerous caravans with my Thermos in hand and hope that someone would offer us some hot water. It wasn't long before I passed a middle aged woman and a young girl outside one of the caravans. We exchanged a few words in German but when it became clear to her that I was in fact English she went off in search of her daughter-in-law. A couple of minutes later she appeared again with Katharina in tow. I explained our situation and within no time I was inside their lovely wooden cabin attached to their caravan.

Now it is important to remember at this time of night the temperature outside must have been touching somewhere in the region of zero degrees yet the inside of this cabin it must have been thirty plus. It was unbelievably snug I think is the best way to describe it. I started to chat to them and they offered me a boiling hot mug of tea. It was only then that I remembered poor old Tom back outside in the cold and asked them if it was okay if I went and got him.

Five minutes later both Tom and I were back inside the warmth and surrounded by the family all eager to know what two Brits were doing in this neck of the woods. Tea was served which was duly followed by a nice glass of beer.

It turns out that this was their weekend home which they came to throughout the year and not only in summer months as I first thought. There was Karl-Heinz the father, Urusula the mother, Stefan their son and his wife Katharina and their young daughter Amelie. Stefan and Katharina did most of the translating and we learned that he was in fact a fireman. I explained also that my father was a part-time fireman for many years. In a very strange coincidence I enquired as to what his father did, rather bizarrely he told me that his father too had been a part-time fireman and not only that but his full-time job was that of a printer the very same occupation as my Dad!

We must have stayed there for a good hour in the warmth and part of me could have just slept right there on their small living room floor but it was time for us to get back out into the cold and back to our tents. Before we left Karl-Heinz was kind enough to pour us a large measure of an Italian spirit which immediately warmed my insides.

It was such a pleasure to meet them all and so kind of them to invite us in to their cabin. It's just another sign of the friendship and extreme kindness that I've experienced through this whole trip.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 03:01 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Nordlingen to Stuttgart 125km

Getting cold and getting lost

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At the time of writing we're now well past Stuttgart but still in Germany and actually in a place some 70km from Strasbourg. What is more is that this is the very first blog I've actually written from the inside of my tent furthermore the time is now ten thirty and by rights I should be well and truly asleep!

In addition I'm now just running off my battery as my adapter which I bought in Kazakhstan like many things has packed up! So this maybe the last blog for a few days until I can locate a new one.....so make the most of it,

Our ride to Stuttgart was very interesting to say the least. We were really keen to get there as we knew that more than likely it meant a roof over our heads. I'd made a small list of places prior to leaving and we also had a 'campingplatz' as a backup if need be.

The weather wasn't the greatest as we left in the morning in fact it was downright cold; I'd go as far as saying the coldest since way back in March in China. I got up early in the morning to try to sew up a small hole that has developed in my sleeping bag and by the time Tom got up I was a shivering wreck.

The blood was soon pumping through the body as we hit the road but we were still freezing by the time we hit the first café of the day some half and hour down the road. Even two cups of coffee and German pastries didn't seem to warm us up.

Aalen wasn't too far away and I wanted to get there quite early to primarily check my email. I met a German guy called Julian from Stuttgart when I was in Uzbekistan and had contacted him to tell him we were headed his way. There might we thought be a chance of a room.

There was some nice scenery in the morning so I was eager to try and catch some of it on film. Like I mentioned before taking photos can be hard sometimes as it's breaks the rhythm of riding but today I was in the mood for a few snaps.

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About the point where our problems started!

Tom was riding up front and as usual we kept a good distance of about ten metres between us. As it was early morning a few motorists had given us some honks on the horn but we are getting quite used to that by now.; as far as we were concerned we were very much on the right road and not harming anyone.

We did however run into a problem this morning and one which without the magic of technology could have proved more serious. After one small climb I stopped to take a few pictures and Tom rode ahead. After snapping my second picture another car whizzed past and I though it better to jump onto the nearby bike path. I've written about these before and this one proved to be a classic example. It ran parallel to the road for a while before going upwards and then left and as is quite common before I knew it it just came to a stop and I was now in a field.

I had to backtrack a bit and work my way back to the road. I had expected to see Tom waiting on the road but there was no sign of him; I guess about five minutes must have passed and I eventually decided to put the foot down and try and catch him up, the problem was that despite riding hard for a good ten minutes he was nowhere to be seen. I stopped thinking that perhaps he'd gone back along one of the bike paths to look for me. So I waited at the side of the road, still no Tom.

By the time I reached a junction with a petrol station and a McDonalds I was very worried, I hadn't seen him for nearly half and hour now and was sure he would be there waiting. I thought that I might even be in front of him now. I waited and waited and waited but nothing.

I was just about to start riding downhill to Aalen when a silver convertible Mercedes pulled up alongside me and the driver speaking very aggressively in German while waving his hands in the air told me to get off the road. I was a little shocked at his attitude and as we were on road with single lane traffic and not a motorway I thought I had every right to be there too. Nevertheless the high number of trucks also powering along the road made me think it might be a better option to look for another route.

At this point I just had to hope that Tom was actually in Aalen waiting for me. It took me about another half and hour to get there and I headed straight for the centre and the bus station. After riding around for about ten minutes there was still no sign of Tom; by now I was really quite worried. I managed to find a café with Wifi and sent him and email. I was just about to give up and leave the café when I also received an email from him and to cut a very long story short five minutes later and massively pleased to see each other again we were reunited.

We decided the best course of action as it was now lunch time was to have lunch at the café before setting off again. Our little 'little drama' had however left us behind schedule. We pushed onwards in the afternoon sticking almost entirely to bicycle tracks but the winding nature of these meant we were making slow progress as we headed for Stuttgart.

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I thought I had more photos but it appears not.....just one of me trying to hide how cold it was

When the bike paths in Germany are good, they are really good but like I keep saying when they are bad they are terrible. I grew up in England having it drummed into me that riding on the pavement in a village or town is strictly forbidden but here it's totally normal. In my eyes it's also pretty dangerous but these are the rules so I guess we just have to follow them.

For me it's also a real pain; for most bikes it's very easy to go up and down kerbs but for me carrying such a huge weight it's a real problem and every time I have to mount the pavement I find myself going fast and then having to stop as I take the bike down and up kerbs.

I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to full-fill my promise of a bed tonight for Tom when we stopped about 35km from Stuttgart. I really think Tom had had enough for the day and he needed some encouragement and persuasion from me that we could still make it there. We might have to ride into the night but I was determined for us to arrive there that evening.

We finally arrived in one of the suburbs of Stuttgart around seven and by this point we were both already thinking of alternatives to camping. We managed to find a café with Wifi and celebrated our arrival with a nice cold bottle of Becks each. We were also able to find a hostel and after a quick call to check availability we were off again riding like the wind into the night towards the bright lights of the city centre.

It's amazing what kind of rejuvenating effect the promise of a warm shower and bed will have on weary legs but we managed to find some extra energy and sped our way through the night time traffic covering the twelve kilometres in no time.

The hostel was centrally located and pretty modern but a little on the expensive side we thought just for a dorm room but it was a roof, bed and shower. For a man who always tries to keep his word it was important for me that we'd made it.

We rounded the evening off with a short walk down onto the main shopping Plaza. It was now gone ten and we joined the throngs of mostly young people out walking the streets going from bar to bar. Tom and I were slightly different in that we were simply looking for something to eat to fully celebrate our arrival and incidentally the longest distance in a day for Tom on a bike. We found a Kebab house and feasted on the kind of food one only usually eats at around three in the morning but to us it tasted like paradise.

I think it's time for us to put our feet up so a day of rest and one more night in Stuttgart is on the cards for tomorrow. Time for bed.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 13:46 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Ingoldstadt to Outside Nordlingen 106km

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The sound of ducks flying over our tents was this morning wake up call and we soon realised we had camped in what looked like some sort of hunting trap as we were surrounded by these large raised wooden shelters on kind of stilts which I'm guessing aren't used for bird watching.

The mornings are certainly getting colder and as a result getting up is becoming harder and harder. It's becoming quite the norm now to have to pack away the tent etc. slightly damp which never really makes for a good next nights sleep.

Germany has been a beautiful country to cycle through so far with friendly people and great food to boot. However we have had a couple of problems; the first is with cycle paths, they are literally everywhere however following them is another matter. We've found ourselves on a number of occasions riding quite happily along a designated cycle path only to see it go from smooth ash-plat to stones to grass and the next thing we are pushing our bike through a field.

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The picture says it all

The second problem we've had is with some motorists in Germany. It's funny but I remember speaking to a couple of Germans earlier on the trip and they commented on the difficulties of cycling in Germany. There do seem to exist some problems between drivers and cyclists. We believe we've done everything correctly and haven't ventured onto any roads we shouldn't be on but we've met with some instances of driver aggression and plenty of horn beeping. Like I said it's not everyone but one or two. It's certainly made me very wary of riding on the roads at all and despite the rather out of the way nature of cycle paths I prefer to stick to these at all times.

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We reached Donauworth at lunchtime and were eager to get online and more importantly to eat a decent lunch at one of the numerous restaurants in this pretty little German town.

We've reached the big decision of once again changing our route. We've cycled a small section of the Euro velo 6 now and as nice as it is we think it might be better on hindsight to take a more direct route. Our original plan may have left us doing a lot of cycling and not a lot of resting over a period of 16 days. I'm totally happy with this decision and it takes the pressure off a bit and means we can fit in some well earned days of relaxation.

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To be honest my mind is now very much set on getting home. I've loved this trip but I'm beginning to tire of cold mornings, damp clothes and not having a bed to sleep in all the time. There comes a time when one needs some of those lovely creature comforts and my trip has certainly taught me to not take any of these things for granted. This isn't to say that it's put me off doing future trips; on the contrary I can see myself doing something similar in years to come.

Our new route will see us head north to Stuttgart and then West into France. We pushed on from Donauwurth today to the city of Nordlingen. The weather forecast had told us of a significant drop in temperature and it wasn't wrong. It was one of those afternoons where just getting through it was the important thing. The wind battered us and by the time we stopped just outside of Nordlingen we were cold to the bone.

I sensed Tom wasn't really looking forward to the prospect of wild camping once again and neither was I. We were fortunate to happen upon a farm on a hillside and instead of pitching our tents stealth style I decided to knock on the door and ask if it would be okay to pitch them on a rather nice flat piece of grass next to one of their barns.

Thankfully the woman Petra spoke some English and she agreed that this would be okay. It was a massive relief and immediately both of our spirits were lifted knowing that we didn't have to hunt for a place to sleep. As we set up camp Petra came outside with a Thermos full of steaming hot tea and what had previously looked a rather bleak situation as the sun went down was all looking rather good now.

We're off to Stuttgart next and I've assured Tom that no matter what we will be sleeping under a roof tomorrow night. I've made my promise, now it's time to deliver!

Posted by Ontheroadagain 06:24 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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