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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.