Distance cycled in period : 337 km. Overall : 1,090 km
So. Onto the land of sausages, Lederhosen and iffy political track records. I didn’t really know what to expect from Germany as I crossed the border near Strasbourg. However I have to admit I’ve been slightly bowled over by this oft overlooked cyclist’s retreat. Germany in general has been great. The people all speak English, including the kebab shop workers. They’re super friendly (big shout out to Jeff from Gasthof Sum Ochsen for his kind donation to my trip and great banter). And when it comes to rules and laws, the Germans have a knack for cutting out all the zealous officiating that seems so prevalent in the UK. Autobahns, say. No speed limit on big straight, flat roads. Sensible. Also smoking is illegal inside buildings in Germany, much like the rest of Europe, but on open train platforms, smoking areas are sectioned off for those who might wish to speed up the ageing process. Likewise, where no cycling route can be easily created within the crammed streets of town centres, the pavements are shared between cyclists and pedestrians alike.
Bringing me neatly on to the other pleasant surprise about Germany, namely the entire country is connected by cycle paths. Every town will have a central signpost directing you to all the neighbouring villages, with each path leading on to yet another beautifully paved, private cycling path away from the main road.
So I made my way east across the edge of Germany’s Black Forest and the gorgeous landscapes that that entailed. Once again the ‘firsts’ are coming thick and fast. I suffered my first experience of cycling day after day while ill. Thankfully only a cold (flu if you ask me) but onwards I suffered. This has led me to perfecting the art of clearing my nose while on the move. I know you’re curious – so basically the mistake I’d been making was using the wrong arm to block a nostril. If emptying the right nostril, go with right hand on left nostril – and job’s a good un.
I also got chased by my first mangy mutt. A little yapper spotted me in his periphery and mistakenly thought he’d spied lunch. Immediately he made a bee line for my right calf, a juicy lump of meat after all this cycling let me tell you, and as I pedalled as if my life, or limb, depended on it, I felt the little yapper’s nashers graze my paper thin cycling tights. Undeterred, he still fancied his chances so I spent the next 100m desperately pedalling away while staring at him losing no ground. What. So. Ever. Think vibrating water glasses and pursuing T-Rex from Jurassic Park. I’d been pre-warned about such occurrences from books I’d read in the build up to my adventure, and the common solution people opt for is to strap a bottle of mace to your handlebars, “mace“, and when the fuckers bare their rabid teeth, you spray them squarely in the eyes leaving them incapacitated for a 20 minute spell. Quite what the owners will think when they call Rover, only to find him blindly stumbling on the road as my dust spits up towards the horizon, I do not know.
Finally, I also experienced my first night of camping. I’d always expected the first few weeks to be physically tough, so to help reduce the burden I’d decided to ease myself into the trip and stay in accommodation each night. So to put an end to such luxurious living, I chose the sunniest day of the week and made my way to a campsite. Obviously before leaving the UK I’d not bothered to practise building my tent, blowing up my roll mat, or turning on my stove so I made sure to arrive in plenty of time to iron out the inevitable wrinkles. I made it through the cold evening without succumbing to frostbite, but I admittedly didn’t have the best night’s sleep of my life. However I set off in the morning proud to now be a fully initiated member of the vagabound cycling community. Wild camping with al fresco toilet facilities will be the next challenge to look forward to.
So I finished up my 5 day stint in Augsburg, which, being a stone’s throw from Munich, I decided to hop on a train to the Bavarian capital for a few days of R&R. Munich isn’t the prettiest city I’ve visited on my travels, but there were a couple of surprises including a museum with a fully recreated mine in the basement, as well as a river that creates such a big wave that it attracts the local surfers. Anyway, like Hannibal (revered army General, not psychotic sociopath) I’ll be starting my march over the Alps towards Italy next week and the weather forecast is looking cold – so wish me luck!