Cycling East Part 2 – Western Germany

We left Holland on the river Rhine cycle path, a flat gravel path meandering its way along the river heading into Germany. The river itself is a bit of a work horse, carring some huge barges and also passing through some big industrial sites.wpid-wp-1405239876328.jpeg

It should’ve been the easiest route to follow, but this being Holland there are canals and rivers everywhere, we kept changing paths without realising. We also caught the ferry across it as per the picture. The abundance of cycle signs and tracks in all directions made it pretty hard to navigate. Despite all this we expected at least some indication we were entering Germany, 1km past the border a German flag flying high told us we had changed countries to support in the world cup!

The next few days pushing on across Germany were a gentle transition from pancake flat to rolling hills before the peaks reached up to 1000m in central Germany. The cycle paths continued east. meaning we cruised through empty forests, along quiet back lanes and on yet more river paths. For the first night we rode up to a canoe club in Wissel that we thought possibly had camping. The place was empty, just a few kids playing on a rope swing into the river. We cooked dinner and planned to just camp in the grounds by the canoes after sunset. However just as the tent was unpacked a car pulled up, then after much broken German we were directed to a field by a pretty lake and to some much needed hot showers all for €10.wpid-wp-1405239927845.jpeg

For the first couple of days we thought we were only doing about 85km which was pretty disappointing, until we realised Marion’s computer was in miles, 130km sounds much better given how tired we were!
The next day it was time to leave the Rhine and head directly east along the river Lippi. First stop was Xanten a town with a gigantic Roman archeology park and some fantastic castle walls with epic towers, it’s well worth a visit.wpid-wp-1405240962563.jpeg

So far the bike had been excellent but there was one constant issue that finally came to a head. The seat post kept slipping down as I rode, and then I over tightened it and stripped the bolt head. We rode into Dorsten and found quite possibly the friendliest bike shop ever – BOMM RADSPORT. We were treated to cold drinks and cookies while the mechanics extracted the old post clamp and then tried to fix the slipping post. They finally solved it with a double bolted seat post clamp and some friction paste. A super gesture for our trip of a free tube and a present from Lezyne and we posed for pictures and set off much happier! Thanks Hans & co!wpid-wp-1405117703029.jpeg
This is us flying the flag and my smart new black seat post clamp.
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The buildings began to get more traditional in the rural farming heartland of Germany, with many village signs proclaiming 850 year anniversaries. We did pass a Ski area which seemed a bit out of place at 530m altitude, it was well set up for DH biking whem we passed by.wpid-wp-1405240719457.jpeg
The area sees very few tourists but it is very pretty with rolling meadows and fields of golden corn rapidly being harvested. One exception to this was Hamms, a sad and ugly concrete city. I mentioned how rough the place was to a German chap at a Campsite in Kallenhardt, he responded that 96% of Hamms was destroyed by the British in the war, I wasn’t sure how to respond to this, nor the festival celebrating the rebirth of a town after another British campaign. It seems that Hamm’s was next to a strategic coal mine targets that later closed down too, depressing stuff. Near the town is another eriee legacy, a huge plutonium power plant that never worked. It cost millions but never produced a spark. It was one three in the same era and of the same design that got mothballed. Since the Japan disaster even more lie sleeping.wpid-wp-1405117659917.jpeg

We had a long chat all evening with a German truck driver who was watching the world cup with us. We covered most topics, firstly we discussed how Europe is a good thing, then considered that Angela Merkel is the Germans Mutter and how David Cameron is an idiot uncle. He had also motor bike toured in N.Africa and thought we were much better than Ewan McGregor’s long way round as they had a support crew of 27 and I have just Marion. Marion disagreed. In the football game he was rooting for Holland against Costa Rica, so there could still be a repeat of the 1974 final that another Muller (Gerhard) played in and won for them.

We thought Marion might struggle to eat out in Germany as a vegetarian however we next rolled into the town of Soest at lunchtime to find a vegan food festival. First we had tofu doner kebap followed by huge veggie wursts! To accompany us eating there was a Irish folk musician and later a hippie ensemble playing bongos and didgeridoos, this I felt completed the stereotype! Soest was a great little town, but don’t say that to people from neighbouring Lippestadt, it turns out there’s a rather fierce rivalry, it’s a dramatic tale of German administrative district changes in 1974.wpid-wp-1405240922252.jpeg

We had had enough of bike paths, they are great but they just wind about like a snake swimming. It takes forever to get anywhere, so we drew a direct line on the GPS and followed that east. Most busy roads have paths beside them and we got on much better. This approach took us a way from the river to Soest and it’s festival so it was fate!

From Soest we visited Kallenhardt a town on a hill with a castle, we stayed in a random old fashioned and very German campsite. This is where we watched the football in the gloomy beer filled campsite lounge. Next day and fate or just the beauty of cycle touring dealt us another good hand. We rolled into Korbach for their annual culture festival. One local asked if we had come especially as it was such a good event, in fact he said it’s the only day anything happens in Korbach all year!
First we saw Germany has talent and a hip hop dance group:wpid-wp-1405240933594.jpeg

Then we saw the oldies song German Beatles covers in traditional dress. A rock band was on another stage. The real eye opener was the rather awkward older belly dancers wobbling allover the place!wpid-wp-1405240707491.jpeg

The event had great food too with wurst BBQs, all sorts of mushrooms with sauce, strudel and cakes etc There was also a massive trampoline, sadly I was turned away its for the kids only.wpid-wp-1405240942832.jpeg

Another local took a keen interest in the Tripster bike and had loads of questions about the setup in broken English. I do love a bit of bike chat, and he then offered us a friends garden where we could camp for the night! Sadly we headed south from the festival a bit late. The garden was in the Edersee National Park, accessed via a foot ferry that we missed. Every cloud has a silver lining though, after we found friendly little campsite, we were the only tent pitched in a loaded cherry orchard. Cherries had become a theme of the trip, the fields are lined with trees. We stop regularly to fill up, although picking the best ones involves some dangerous manouerves. wpid-wp-1405240732887.jpeg
At the campsite it was time to eat and relax, well until the mother of all storms rolled in, thunder and lightning with squalling winds thrust the cherry trees about and our tent too. Luckily everything survived unscathed! Tomorrow should be a detour to a local castle at Waldbeck, before we cross the old Berlin wall line, a key milestone in the whole cycling east trip! But the nature of cycle touring and making up the route as you go means there is no telling where, what or who we will encounter in the next 24 hours.

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