Wednesday, 8 August 2012

14. Fred's thoughts from abroad- July 10th.

July 10th.  More like it.

It was not difficult to leave the Freunde der Natur site, ultimately voted the worst site of the trip, with nul points. The weather was better, and after a refreshing cup of fruit tea, we set out.  Our perambulations near Leverkusen the previous evening in the somewhat confused search for the campsite had a benefit in that we were ready for some of the signs that would get us through and eventually out of the town.

We were helped by another German shepherd as we perused the map yet again and we followed a good path until we cam to a T junction with no clear message as to which way we should go.  After making a decision which seemed to be more and more false the longer we rode, we asked for directions and our next shepherd mentioned we were not far from a ferry!! – one of those things we used on numerous occasions on the Rhine, Main and Danube, but this one got us on the side of the river we wanted and put us on the Rhine cycle way. We met a young German cyclist and struck up conversation with him and his helpful English, finding out that he was going to a Biergarten in Bonn – which happened to be on our way.

We were feeling very happy – the sun was shining, there was no rain, we were warm and dry and bowling along the Rhine in a way that we all imagined the whole trip would be like.  Even so, we ended up in the early afternoon sheltering under a bridge [with other cyclists] to let a heavy shower pass by.  Dave had taught us the mantra that ‘bridges are our friends’ and this one confirmed how true the mantra was.  [ Dave also came up with a solution to every tight corner or dispiriting moment we had – ‘Let’s find somewhere nice to have a drink’ he would say.  Worked every time.]

We passed through Cologne, and it was great to see the cathedral spires get ever closer.  Not only were we making progress [60 miles today], but we had passed through a major landmark.  We even had time to stop for photos, postcards and an ice cream, and the memory of the torrential rain began to recede somewhat.  We were looking smooth on the broad promenade by the river, when a couple on cycles came powering up, explaining that they were Mexican – were we English?  We never understood what made him ask the question, but assumed it was our nonchalant air of relaxed confidence, and subtle dress sense.  He wanted to know if we knew any good cycle routes, so we suggested a couple.

The inefficiency of the German signage unfortunately came back into play, and we were again left looking at road signs and fearing a repeat of the Dusseldorf experience when yet another German shepherd came to our rescue, suggesting we double back and take a turning we hadn’t even seen.  At this point we met our young German cyclist friend again, whose progress to the Bonn Biergarten had been scuppered by the same problem with signs, and we took some comfort from our shared fate.

Once on the right path again, we kept up good progress, still mesmerized by the size of the barges powering up the Rhine against a remarkably strong current. It was a statement of the purposefulness – and success - of German industry, much like the countless freight trains we saw.  The river was still muscular and powerful, but we noticed that we were riding into a more mountainous landscape, which was attractive and intriguing.

We continued with these thoughts past Bonn, and kept up a good pace to reach our next campsite at Remagen.  We were aware of a film ‘The Bridge at Remagen’, and saw a huge railway bridge across the river, a remaining track from the two that had originally existed, since the other had [like our very own railway bridge] been destroyed in the war.

The now customary stops to ask local people directions to the campsite led us to what was at least one of the best we had – a complete change from Leverkusen.  The showers were wonderfully warm and copious, the cubicles spacious and it had – a tumble dryer, luxury of luxuries.  Our early morning routine included a load of washing and having it dried before we set off.  Those who have camped/hiked/cycled over a period of time will appreciate just what a delight that was.

A final mention must go to the lady at the restaurant, who had closed before we turned up through lack of custom before we arrived with our sorrowful eyes.  She opened up to serve us drinks and chocolate bars and then provided us with a great breakfast the day after.  Her kindness was very much appreciated.

Dave gives his own verdict on Dordrecht

The rain on Day 3 – welcome to Germany!

 Dave looks determined . . . .

. . . whilst Bruce is philosophical

Dry and warm again.

Who pays the ferryman?

We approach Koln

Lunch is served – Guten Appetit!- I [Dave] found that the German diet of meat, cream and pastry left me craving for fruit, greenery in any form and fish. Luckily, and with an effort, we did manage to balance our diet- I could see a situation occurring where we would arrive in Vienna with excellent muscle tone and scurvy at the same time.

‘Bridges are our friends’

Moving away from the industrial heartland

Gets better

The memorable breakfast at Remagen.

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