Thursday, 24 May 2012

From the Main to the Danube 13th - 17th May

I have now cycled 147 kilometres in a day. It did funny things to me. From Mainz where the Rhine meets the Main, I headed to Frankfurt. The cycle way goes right under the international airport, so I let a couple of Lufthansa jets buzz me before carrying on. Frankfurt skyline guided me in, it's scrapers reminding me a little of the isle of dogs. It was a warm Saturday and my route took me along the busy waterfront. Everyone was out, couples hand in hand, lots of dog walkers, families with small children and the curse of the walkway: rollerbladers. I said to myself as I weaved in and out of groups of gum chewing american tourists and well healed frankfurtians - Frankfurtii, Frankfurters - 'Richard, with your bike loaded high and unmanoeuvreable as it is, you will be lucky to pass through Frankfurt without running someone down.' Moments later a small blonde child backed into my path, I passed safely, keeping my eye on the child until I had passed. My concentration was suddenly averted forward by a shout, a warning, a panic stricken primeval yell of quite some volume and I saw a bloody great big frankfurter on rollerblades hurtling straight for me. In a split second decision I decided doing nothing was the best course of action. The massive guy on blades careered off the path and onto the grass taking a tumble that could have included a couple of rolls. Thankfully I was unharmed. I pulled him to his feet. The child was given a ticking off. The next day I came across a wondersful palace on the riverside at a place called Ascahffenberg, it was closed but I understand it has a wonderful collection of model buildings made from cork. The ladies in the tourist office said it had been rebuilt as only one tower had remained after being levelled during the second world war. I feared it may have been our boys in their flying machines, so I didn't press. Turns out it was the Americans. The ladies in the tourist information office get five stars - they gave me half a dozen very useful maps - I have decided travelling with maps useful - one of which we highlighted my route from Aschaffenberg all the way to the Austrian border. In Wurzburg I staid in a nice hostel. I told the receptionist I had a bike with me. "You have a bike!? Then you must leave, no refund." I shared a room with a Japanese celloist, who rightly took me for mad - or an idiot, left me to my devices, and two German train spotters called Mike and Tom. Mike showed me the days highlights. A train. But wait: this train had about a mile of freight trucks attached. I watched them watching their footage, their faces alight with child like delgiht. I had done only 60K getting to Wurzburg - I'd cut across land when the Main went north and had found more hills than I would have preferred. Such a small tally drove me on. At the breakfast bar, where I introduced Tom and Mike to a free lunch - If the Germans will eat ham and bread for's an unspoken rule anyway, I think - we were joined by some middle aged cycle tourists. They asked me where I was going today and without thinking I blurted out "Nuremburg!" And that was that. More hills, more wrong directions - I have a love hate relationship with German cyle paths now - some quite large German Shepheards - a grazed knee, lots of choclate, some pretty churches and 130 something kilometres I was on the outskirts of Nuremberg. I followed the river path into the heart of the city. The old centre, which was levelled during the war and again, rebuilt after, is a walled citadel with the youth hostel right at the top. Dark now, tired, no water, I pushed my bike up a steep cobblestone ramp towards the youthhostel. It was closed for renovation. I asked some students where was a good cheap price to pay and they recommended Motel One. I have now come to the conclusion students don't know anything. Seventy nine euros is not a good deal. Smelly, sweaty I checked myself into a hotel that looked like it was a set from hollyoaks, wheeling my bike between Ikea furniture and white canvas shoes. At midday I rolled my bike out of the haircut motel. Directly opposite was a hostel. Not able to find somewhere quiet to shout expletives I checked into the hostel and paid twenty euros, breakfast included. I shared a room with a young American solider on leave, who when he wasn't running around with a massive machine gun - he showed me on his ipod - he liked nothing better than to skateboard. He said he was going to Afghanistan next year. Later that night I retraced my weary steps of the previous night, I had walked right past the hostel's reception, but from the approach I had taken, there was no way I could have seen the hostel. In the day its billboard was visible, but unlike Motel One didn't illuminate them at night. I stopped beating myself up about it and went for a kebab.

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