Friday, April 8, 2016

Germany: The "Journey", Political Borders and the Kindness of Strangers.

Summary:

  • Train journey from Rotterdam to Bonn (for a night hanging with CHCH friends) and on to Tubingen, a old school university town complete with castle, cobblestone streets, gelato icecream and our amazing warm showers hosts, Sonya and Sebastian.
  • Cycled along the Neckar Valley, up to Schamberg and onto Triberg (Home of the cuckoo clocks!)
  • Spent an amazing few days cycling down past Lake Titisee and Lake Schulsee and the Alb River Valley before meeting the Rhine.
  • Followed the Rhine to Konstanz, crossing the Swiss/German border multiple times!

This week I have been pondering the freedom found in being on a journey. It has been awesome setting off each morning with our route to follow, but not knowing where we will spend the night. There has been a real sense of adventure, as we accept challenges as they arise and relish the sweet downhills that appear when we least expect them. Part of this feeling has been because we haven't actually known heaps about the route - we have stumbled (cycled) into cool old towns from the Middle Ages, come across brass band celebrations, discovered waterfalls and been surprised by towering cathedrals and scenic river valleys. It has been cool just rolling with it! I have enjoyed having no set end point and just being free to travel for as long as feels good.

Navigating a wee rockfall on the road.....thankfully no OSH standards to turn us round!

Enjoying the down...

Enjoying the grand....

Enjoying sleepy villages...

I have also been so thankful for the blessings found in the kindness of strangers! One day stood out as having particularly hard navigation - which made for slow travel. As we pulled out the map (yet again) at about 5pm, a friendly local came out of his house to help. After helping us figure out what we were looking for, he convinced us to stay and spend the night with his family. This turned out to be such a cool night - we were treated to classic German food and beer and Gerold and David (father and son), both biked with us the following morning to give us a taste of the local mountain bike routes! It was awesome being able to follow their local knowledge, which took us over snowy tops and long downhills, even up a shortcut walking track which ended up being too steep to bike. I was pretty stoked when Gerold insisted on pushing my bike (much appreciated!). It was so much fun having some friends on the bike beside us and we really enjoyed the few hours riding with them! We bid them farewell at the top of a hill and rejoined the road down through the Black Forest.

Turning round after deciding snow at the bottom might equal snow at the top...

The shortcut route instead...

Black Forest cycle paths

Cruising down the Alb River valley

We enjoyed a few good nights camping down the Alb and Rhine River valleys and have ended up in Konstanz. Being by the Rhine was actually pretty cool - we came across Rhinefall, a huge step in the river which made for an impressive waterfall as well as Stein en Rhein, a really old town with intricate paintings on all the buildings.

It has also been interesting wondering about the borders in this part of Europe. Instead of following the Rhine, which makes for a sensible natural feature, they seem to be all over the show! We stuck to one side of the Rhine and crossed in and out of Switzerland two or three times over the course of an afternoon. Apparently, this relates back to the middle ages when Monastries held all the power and land. As people died, they would gift their land to the monastries and borders were eventually made along these lines. Politics at its best! Even the town of Konstanz has the border running through the middle of it, with food 30% cheaper on the German side of the border (but the good Swiss chocolate on the other!)

Stein en Rhein village

Along the Rhine

Lunch - WINNING!

Last night we met up with a Konstanz local (a friend of our neighbour in CHCH) who was able to give us some more inspiration for the route from here and again, we were blown away by the kindness of strangers. Gero met us, fed us and was super eager to help out, even giving our bikes a good grease and oil up before we biked off again into the night - warm, well-fed and full of ideas of the what the next week or so might look like.

Konstanz has felt like a bit of a milestone - our route from here through the Alps into the Dolomites has taken some time to plan so it has been nice to spend a few days here thinking about the next phase (which will see us through Italy, Croatia and into Greece.)

Not so long ago I read that if you need to be inspired by the kindness of people again you should go cycle touring - the people we have met so far are definitely making an impression on me and I am so thankful for their kindness!!
A fun night route planning with Gero in Konstanz

Warm Showers Hosts - Sebastian, Maya and Sonya in Tubingen

PostScript: Three Things Germany does well...


Wood stacking
Statues of Jesus
Solar Panels







4 comments:

  1. Wow nice work you guys, Germany is a really cool place to go. Things sound like they are going well. Go Well Pete, Suzie and the Girls

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  2. Tubingen! I have been there, such a beautiful little place. Such a great story of discovering Europe guys, thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Cool... Thanks for your feedback Chris!

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