Saturday, 12 May 2012

I accidentally went to Holland. I had intended to cross Belgium straight into Germany headed towards Aachen what the bicycle map showed. But I got to an area called Trois Frontières or Drei Land Punkt - and whatever it is in Dutch - and entered a town one end of which spoke French, the other end Flemish. On the road through the village I saw a car with Belgium numberplates followed by a Dutch then a German car. Anyway, after asking the directions to Aachen (through the Dutch town of Vaals)I crossed into Germany at Aachen. It looked like rain so I wimped out of camping and sought the Youth Hostel in a southern suburn of the town. I reasoned with myself that since my bike needed a bit of work, this should be done on the even surface of a youth hostel bike shed and no where else. Oh yes, Mitch my Belgium host pointed out that my front forks where on the wrong way round. I dismissed this suggestion: how could it be, the brakes should be in front of the forks, no? No. Later that night I finished turning my forks round and reconnecting the wiring et al. I had a shower and strolled out of the hostel in search of food. It was pushing midnight so I was looking for a kebab, or pizza, or anything at this point. I asked a man who had jsut emerged from his car; he offered to drive me to a food joint as there were none nearby. I said I was just passing by and what started as a search for food turned into an impromptu tour of historic Aachen. I think Markus showed me round for possibly one of two reasons. Reason A: He was, he told me, travelling to Guildford for a seminar on sustainable energy and I believe he wanted to brush up on his English. Reason B: Only a knuckle head would "just pass through" Aachen: it is a beatiful old town, once Charlemanges capital, with an intriguing cathedral at its heart with three distinct influences, the oldest part Roman style octagon. The city is also home to around 45,000 students most studying technical disciplines. I could see why Markus, a researcher at the university himself, wanted to show me Aachen. He was understandably proud of the place. "I must get to the Rhine" became my peddling refrain, but I knew it would take me at best two days from Aachen. There were some hills to cross as well and after Aachen I camped at a site in the Eifel national park. I cycled up and down pine forest cycle paths stopping in a small meadowed vale with a stream running through. I passed a man who said he was a 'Jaeger', he mimed pulling a bow and the horns of the antler. I offered him some nuts, he gratefully took some. We parted and I was glad he hadn't mistaken me for a deer. Perhaps the antler bicycle helmet is a potential hazard afterall. Weather improving, but still the occasional heavy downpouring. After a mammoth day of 94 kilometres I crossed the Rhine at Sunset on a car Ferry. This river is immense - It looks a third or more wider than the Thames. High slopes either side, a lot of vineyards on the high slopes which are crested every now and then with a Gothic Castle. One night I slept in my tent metres from the Rhine. Just as I was settling down for the night, what sounded like an air raid siren went off in the village on the far bank. 'Oh christ! What the hell is that?' I assumed it was an early warning for a flooding of the Rhine, and thought nothing more on it and slept soundly till the morn. Turned out it was just a forest fire. And now I am in Mainz at the moment. I now - sadly - leave the Rhine and head along the Main to Bamburg. From there, the Main Donau Kanal and then the Danube. Here are some funny german letters: ö ä ß

1 comment:

  1. Hey Richard, I have the answer, watching TV I discovered the canon agains hailstones. Farmers use it during Thunduerstorm to avoid hailstones on the cultures...It's said the system is working fine, sending a warm wave in the air to avoid it... It sounds like an enormous metalic door banging... This might remember you sleepless nights in belgium and france... Enjoy your trip and keep us informed... Mitch