Saturday, 28 July 2012

Epilogue of The Rhine Cycle holiday

Highly recommended!!

I thought that I ought to write an Epilogue to this fabulous, adventurous and totally interesting holiday. Thoughts are mingling through my mind, verging on telling you how to organise a similar holiday, to just emphasising the sheer beauty of taking such a journey and frankly, I don't know even where to begin.

It was thoroughly enjoyed. From the planning of it to the riding and stress that always accompanying such an epic journey.

I aim to tidy up each post as I know that there are several spelling mistakes coming from predictive text, upside down photographs and missing words. I also want to add the Garmin routes to each post hoping to help other cyclists who are planning to cycle along the Rhine in the near future.

All that I can say is that it was a brilliant holiday, brilliant with scenery, generosity from locals, encouragement from my brilliant and gorgeous husband and finally, sheer determination from both of us to see this through regardless of the weather.

Thank you Stephen. You made it very, very special.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Day 13 Gorinchem to Rotterdam - last day of the Rhine tour

It was a brilliant day, no wind and no rain and that is such a fabulous thing to finish our unbelievable tour on such high note. We saw Rotterdam approaching in glorious sunshine, welcoming us to its folds.

Lovely cycle which took us through great countryside, took no less than 5 ferries to cross rivers! Could even have been the same river several times but I lost track. One ferry was so fast  with white water churning from its engines; felt like we were on a speedboat. Ferry crossings were good as gave us breathing space to look at the map and take stock of where we are. Saw some really intersting stuff, like once coming off a dyke there was two garden chairs, table and a bottle of water at the side of the road inviting travellers to refresh themselves.

We had a very early lunch in Papendrecht and several Dutch people stopped whilst we were eating to say 'smaaklike ete' which means enjoy your meal; everyone was so friendly.

We are in the Cubic houses near the middle of the city tonight. This afternoon we went to 2 huge bike stores which we passed on our bikes as we were coming into te city, and I bought a great big bell for my bike. A good reminder of our trip overtime when I ring the bell!
Tomorrow will be a lazy start to the day. We have a short lie in planned, breakfast is later as it is Saturday, then off into the city for a quick stroll and hop onto the bikes with the luggage to pedal the 27 miles to Europoort in a lazy fashion. Lots of time to stop and take photos and arrive in good time to get the ferry.
I will be hitting 700 miles when we cycle onto the boat! Not bad for a 14 day holiday ;-)

Day 12 Doorwerth to Gorinchem

This day was so bad that I tried to obliterate it out f my mind by delaying the blogging ! Hence why I am writing it 24 hrs later.
It started raining as we were having breakfast basically it didn't stop. The rainshowers were very heavy and almost torrential at times. There was not enough time to dry out between one when the next one would set in.
I saw some really interesting stuff along the way but if it was raining, the picture got lost :'(

Gorinchem is really lovely. We are in the old part which is almost like an island with walls around it. The place where we are staying is a lovely self catering unit with beds for 4, a small kitchen and a porch that faces onto the canal. Last night we watched some dragon boat racing. Boy can she beat those drums!!
Dinner was some beers, a lovely pasta and some choco marshmallows cakes that we all found in Aldi for €8·74. Cheap!
This morning will start with another ferry ride to Sleeuwijk before we get cycling. Then into Rotterdam and into the famous Cube Houses for our last night.
Ok, I have to get packing now so we can get the 9am ferry!

Out of your car, put off your lights and pull your handbrake up!

Lovely long quiet road on our way to Gorinchem

Our accomodation in Gorinchem

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Day 11 Rees to Doorwerth

Crossing a national border on your bike is always a highlight so today was no exception. We pulled out maps last night to double check when the actual crossing will happen so it was rather disappointing today to find at Millingen an de Rhijn that the only indication of crossing the border is that the language changed from German to Dutch. I expected at least a signpost or something!

Leaving Rees this morning was fine, we got on the bikes at around 8.30, weaved our way out of the town and down to a people ferry (personen fähre) to cross to the other side of the river. Reading the board revealed that it only goes between 10am and 19pm on Wednesdays. Hmmm. A quick look at the map and we are off to take a detour, trying to beat the ferry. Note to self: this antics will come back to haunt you!

Pedalling like mad, the route went north then west, then north and then west (you get my drift?). Times when it went west my speed dropped to about 8 miles an hour due to the strong gusts. When the wind subsided it bounced back to 11, 12 miles per hour.

The cycle route changed as soon as we went over the border, and so did the amount of cyclists! Lots!! The signs started to display the 'knoop punt roetes' or knotted routes on the signs and I felt more at home. I was back in a country where the language is very familiar :-)

Coming to haunt us was the extra mileage did. As the route was planned, it provides you with some sort of idea of now many miles to expect and as we did a detour, we added miles this morning. Our expected 39 miles came and went and instead we got 46 miles! Not good for your frame of mind at the end of a challenging day.

We arrived near Arnhem where the Stayokay is (Doorwerth suburb) and have had showers, did the familiar washing of clothes and is now sitting with a beer relaxing. Tomorrow will be a very long day with 68 miles to do (usually that turns out mire like 73 miles), and adding to that the wind that is forecasted again. We have really been unlucky with this week's weather. Next time...

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Duisburg to Rees for Day 10

Goodness, I could've slept 6 hours longer this morning. Fabulous bed, and a much needed rest. But up we had to go and pulling away the curtains revealed rain. I just couldn't believe it. I can actually not remember when it was just a sunny day here in Germany.
It was drizzling as we left the hostel. As usual the road out was difficult, especially when we were directed down steps with our bikes! The road that followed were atrocious, consisting mainly of tractor tracks full of mud and when it eventually turned into tar, it was all broken up. Nope, this part of the cycle way can really be repaired. Not good enough. A bridge became shelter again but we had to govern when the rain eased off.
We lost the route twice, found it twice and eventually settled in to battle a strong head wind. Lunch was bought in Rheinberg and ate near Xanten. Fun was getting on a people-only ferry with our bikes. As the ferry approached us, it battled with big waves on the river and it swerved from side to side. I was apprehensive about our crossing but it went well in the end.
We ventured into town to buy a bike lock as ours was accidentally left at the previous hostel. I also bought myself a cheap rain cape, hopefully it will keep the rain out of my eyes.
Tonight we are staying in a lovely bed and breakfast with very friendly owners. Another couple from Holland also arrived who is on their way to Prague and Vienna. Lots of great talk in 3 different languages during dinner :-)
Sleeping is now priority number one as we booked breakfast for 7.30am. Goodnight!

Ferry on our way into Rees

Monday, 16 July 2012

Day 9 Dusseldorf to Duisburg

A very short day!
We had a semi lazy start and found our way out of Dusseldorf. The cycle way along the Rhine mostly took us through an industrial part of Germany. At times it was quite windy and with the panniers on, it was difficult cycling but at least we avoided getting wet (until tonight). We had to take a few detours to avoid some flood defences and roadworks, which added another mile.
We found the hostel which is in North Duisburg, but unfortunately the area is less nice. No food was available the hostel so we had to walk and id the U-bahn. By the time we came out of the restaurant which we found in the old part of Duisburg, it was bucketing it down! So got SOAKING wet!
Tomorrow we are off to Rees of which I know nothing so I better check Google!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Day 8 Bonn to Dusseldorf

Wow ! Day 8 already!

Ok, got up, went to breakfast and left at about 8.30.
A bit of a disappointing day until 3pm. The first 15 miles was dry and the rest was super wet. Why does Germany have so much rain? I thought it will be sunny. Although I have to say, when it rains, it is still warm.

We went without stopping into Köln, or Cologne, and had a lovely hot chocolate at the old town bit. Cologne had a spectacular light (fireworks) display last night which saw on television in Bonn, but the aftermath was broken glass galore on pavements. Several times we heard crunching noises and it was just blessings that our tyres didn't go. With the result that we took much longer than anticipated to get out of the city.
As I said, we arrived at 3pm, got our room (fabulous by the way) in this very modern hostel. They even have underground parking facilities! There is a Fair on just on the other side of the road, this side of the bridge,  something we gave a skip.
The huge Fair at Dusseldorf

Walked over a spectacular bridge over the Rhine and off to the Rheinturm. Costs was €8 per person to go to the panorama deck which is 168m high. Gorgeous! See the photos below. After that we went along the promenade to the waterfront where we boarded a Rhine tour riverboat for an hour long trip. Great views and high time to do this as we've been alongside the river now since Basel but not yet ON it.

Our riverboat cruiser!
I want to say something about the German allotments tonight. We've seen a system here where it seems everyone as a small piece of land to plant stuff. Some plant obviously vegetables and some plant just gardens. Almost all of them have summer houses on them, fully equipped with satellite tv if you can judge by the dishes on the roofs. I saw one of the summer houses yesterday where they were just getting ready to host a big BBQ. YUM !

Even if you haven't got an allotment, and you have space at your house, you still grow vegetables. I think they are so self efficient here, it is a wonder that the supermarkets still sell 'gemüse' or vegetables.

The pictures below show the Rheinturn, the bridge we walked over and the Fair on the right hand side. Another show the boat we've been on.

The view from the Rheinturm

Drinking beer at high altitude!

Rhine view from our riverboat cruise

Walking along the Dusseldorf promenade with the Rhienturm in the background

Another riverboat and the big fair on the embankment
More views from the Rheinturm

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Day 7 Koblenz to Bonn

The slow start to the day made us lose our rhythm this morning. The cable car, that took us up to Ehrenbreitstein, was only opening at 10am, so decided to have a 'lie in' which meant that we got up at 7.30 instead of 6.30 as usual.

We had 20miles less to do today so we were pretty relaxed when we waited to get the cable car down. It did upset our usual planning to complete at least half the distance by lunchtime.

Opening the curtains this morning I drew a breath of despair and it was pouring with rain. At one time it was coming down so hard during the ride that we had to seek shelter under a bridge, a cyclist's best friend in bad weather :-)

The ride went well and we saw a huge amount of boats again, some vineyards and a lots of touring cyclists, but not as many as yesterday when we counted 80 coming towards us.

Two tips for a trip like this: a site called Bett und Bike or Bett & Bike is an excellent source to find accommodation that takes cyclists and their bikes.
Second tip: when in doubt where to go, follow the locals! On several occasions we've been shown the way especially in towns, by local cyclists.

Lunch was chocolate French bread like brioche, Snickers, Salami sticks and cheese slices.

The weather was rainy most of the day, often just a drizzle. Bonn soon appeared on the horizon and our hotel got in sight. The clouds looks extremely black this evening, I hope for some sunshine tomorrow.

Distance done so far since starting this Rhine challenge, 400.3 miles.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Day 6 Mainz to Koblenz

A truly spectacular day!
It just shows you shouldn't judge a day how it starts as more miserable it couldn't have started. The rain wasn't heavy, but very persistent, which made me feel very clammy. My pocket rocket hasn't got any vents, so it got steamy!
The hotel where we stayed was excellent. Breakfast was as usual, but again a search for some black tea.
I wasn't really in the mood for cycling when I saw the weather, yes, I have to admit that thoughts of getting a train did cross my mind, but people thatknow me will vouch that I am not someone who usually give up. So off we went.
It rained for pretty much the whole morning so most of the photos I took looks quite bleak. But then the landscape changed and we went into the valley. Oh my word, spectacular!!
The angle at which they planted their vineyards are truly remarkable. It seems that 70 degrees is the norm, sloping down the hillside. We even saw a digger halfway down one of the steep side of the hill. In every town we cycle through were Weingoet (wineries) and most of them seemed like family businesses. No, we didn't stop as we knew we had a pretty long day ahead and we had a later start than usual  (not by much but 8.30 seemed late). That said, we did stop about 5 miles from Koblenz when the sun was briefly out to drink a Koblenzer beer. That tasted so nice!!
There were a large number of cruise boats on the river and the most frequent company was Düsseldorfer - Köln. This is a company that does day trips along the Rhine between those two cities (Dusseldorf and Cologne), and boy did that sound appealing. But unfortunately my suggestive talk didn't help; Mr Bowden said No. I know he was right as the cycling was beautiful.
Now let me tell you about our stay for tonight. We are again in the Jugenherberge, the German Youth Hostel, but this one is very special. It is situated inside an old German fortress called Ehrenbreitstein Festung. There are 2 ways of reaching this fortress which is on the opposite side of Koblenz and that is via a very steep road up the mountain or via a cable car. We took the cable car, see below!

The bikes fitted in well and we all arrived safe and well at the top. The hostel is very modern and we have our own bedroom with proper beds, not bunk beds, an ensuite bathroom and even towels and toiletries were supplied. Tomorrow is a similar day through the valley and we will end up in Bonn. Let the days roll on!

The cable car at Koblenz

70 degree vineyards!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Fruits plentiful!!

It isn't surprising that the Germans invented apfel strudel ! Since we've started this trip, one of the amazing things is the amount of fruit trees, in particular apple trees, that are planted along the way.


If I've seen 300 apple trees it would be understated. These are not in an orchard but just growing along the route, wild. Mostly small apples, looks like crab apples, but a good amount were proper sized apple trees. Even some pears and plums.

Unfortunately they are not ready yet, but if you plan your trip well, you won't need lunch LOL!!


Day 5 Mannheim to Mainz

Our bikes were still safe this morning, thank goodness for that! Although the youth hostel has opened their new building in February, they still haven't got their act together. Their was no bike store room last night and when we got to our room, we had no curtains. Hmmm.
Breakfast was early at 7am and we set off just before 8. All along the promenade until we got to the bridge or Rheinbrücke as they call it, where we had our first of the day disagreement. Stephen went off straight and was convinced that's the way although I had the route on my Garmin. I just stopped and waited for him to find his senses! I think I know why his Garmin doesn't want to display the route. It is complaining about too many tracks which means its memory's full. When I bought it for him, I also bought the Europe Navigator map with it. Four years ago, I got mine and that was the map I bought with it. The Garmin does come with a base map but it is really useless. You need a better map which you can insert via the SD card slot. Stephen's Europe Navigator map was a proper one whereas the one that I got 4 years ago, I suspect is a pirate copy (bought on Ebay). Mine just look like a normal SD card (2GB ) so it has Europe Navigator on it plus some spare capacity. Stephen's map is probably write protected so the only place for him to store his history and his routes is on the base unit. Obviously both takes up too much space, pity.
This has now resulted in only me being able to view the route whilst we are riding.
Breakfast is where the Germans get their chocolate kick! At each of the places where we had our breakfasts, there were chocolate spread and hot chocolate available. I struggled this morning to get black tea (normal ceylon, Assam, or English breakfast tea) at the youth hostel. There is coffee, but I don't drink that, and there are all sorts of herbal teas available. The Germans like their green and lemon teas. Then there are lovely fresh buns with a variety of cold meats ad cheeses available plus cereals and yoghurts.
Whilst we were in Strasbourg doing sightseeing, I saw that there were lots of memorabilia available about Storks. It seems that this is Stork country. I've seen several today, quite an imposing bird! I also saw a black squirrel.
We saw a few Ferries today but didn't go on them although we nearly changed our route and thought we will but didn't in the end. We cycled for a long time along vineyards and almost every town we went through had wine estates where you could buy some wine. Pity the bottles weigh so much! The rain eventually caught up with us but luckily there was a shelter along the way where a few other cyclists were hovering. This was the first time we had rain since leaving England!
There was along stretch today which was off road along tracks again today. Not really my cup of tea as my bike wheels are thin. Generally the German cycle paths are well marked but in a town they suddenly vanish and then you find yourself along a road with cars just to see the cycle path suddenly appearing alongside. Several times today we had to either make a u-turn or dash across the road to get on the path.
Mannheim to Mainz is 46.89 miles, I burned 2295 calories and we arrived at 2.15pm. Not too bad for time! We do try to get at least halfway by lunchtime.
My body is holding up although the nerve in my left hand that runs up from my wrist into my palm has gone dead. It has been stinging the last few days and since yesterday, it is totally numb.
Tomorrow we are off to Koblenz. A much longer day with 63 miles planned. Hope you enjoy the photos.

The cyclists are seeking shelter!
At Kornsand Ferry having lunch
The Mannheim Youth Hostel - still very much a building site
Our accommodation tonight
Miserable off road path along the Rhine!
Vineyards galore!
Only 14 kilometres to go!
Big river cruise boat going past
Lovely morning
Figs at our destination

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Day 4 Karlsruhe to Mannheim

It's official, France has better cycling routes than Germany.

We went twice wrong today and both times were because the cyclepath turned into a tractor track. We did 59.95 miles and it was supposed to 55.7miles. I burned 2995 calories which always good.

The day started on an exciting note as we got up really early, went to breakfast, and left about 8.15am. The route gradually took us out of the city and soon we were on our way. At 15 miles we got too ferry to get us to the other side of the Rhine where our route continued.

Some pictures below. The Rhine flows extremely fast and boats and ships that goes against the stream uses probably three times more fuel than those going down stream. We saw some river cruise boats, barges and Ferries today as the route at one time followed te river right next to it.

One of the exiting bits yesterday that I forgot to mention was that we went through the France Germany border on a cyclepath. Quite something.

It was a hard ride today. The weather was humid but not as sunny as yesterday. Having to double back twice was not good and the wind didn't always play along. My lower anatomy can also feel that this is my fourth day in the saddle. Ouch !!

Mannheim Youth Hostel is very new, but we were not impressed as they don't have a bike store room so our bikes are sleeping outside.
We also did a short walk to the city - not really city to write home about as they say. Their palace or Schloss looks unkempt and everywhere is graffiti. No, Mannheim doesn't get any points, sorry!!

Anyway, as they say, a picture tells a thousand words so here are some to look at.