german and determined

Germany was beautiful. And it was just as much a cycling Mecca as sources had led us to believe prior to our arrival. There are cycling routes everywhere, and they are all well-labeled. I would go so far as to say there are even too many labeled routes, as the propensity to label everything tended to leave us wholly unprepared outsiders confused and lost due to the endless route options. With better information on the cycling routes, or preferably a map, we would have better known what was up.

The most thrilling part of cycling these German routes, for both of us, was hands down the varied terrain of the cycling network. We pedaled over the freshest, smoothest Tarmac. We passed oak logs piled down along a muddy double track forest road. We snaked our way across country lanes, through a narrow rooty single track in an ancient woodland, and perhaps most memorably, across several miles of rural road that was pure sand and nearly impossible to traverse. I’m grateful to Eli for having the foresight to purchase the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires that have seen us across 6000 km of riding without a flat between the two of us. The tires are heavy, thick, and have proven to be boss hogs. 

We saw as much in Germany as we could within our travel timeframe of just over two weeks. We arrived in mid-July and set our sights on the city of Braunschweig. We had never heard of Braunschweig (Brunswick in English) before meeting a German family while in Sweden who invited us to stay with them at their home were we to pass through. So we made Braunschweig a destination, which proved to be the best decision we made on the entire trip, as we spent several welcoming days and nights with this family, learning about German culture and customs, and also learning importantly that chanterelle mushrooms are called pfifferlinge in German — and they are just as delicious as they are at home.

Germany was about currywurst, and Bitburger beer, and the search for the perfect cream puff, and our continued obsession with waffles.  We spent a whirlwind day in Berlin without the bikes, where my favorite activity was downing massive plates of deliciousness at The Spätzle Club, and my least favorite activity was watching Trump’s live confirmation as the 2016 Republican nominee for prez.

After leaving our friendly Germany family, we headed west towards Düsseldorf, and then to Köln (Cologne). Our stop in Cologne was an eye-opening few days, and I think we visited more museums there than we have on the rest of the trip. Cologne was a large Roman outpost in ancient times, founded in the 1st century AD and formerly known as the mouthful that is Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium. One of their principal industries was glassmaking, and the region was prolific. The amount of glass that has survived intact for that many years just floors me,  and the care that must have been taken when excavating these pieces at archeological digs to keep them in one piece? It’s truly remarkable.

Cologne was heavily bombed during WWII, with 95% of the city center destroyed, but the city has recovered beautifully. I can’t recommend the Cologne museums enough, and so much has miraculously survived the destruction. The Wallraf-Richartz Museum is a compact art museum with (too) many religious paintings and a lovely collection of Impressionist-era works. I love art museums small enough for me to see everything without succumbing to exhaustion. The Römisch-Germanisches Museum contains relics dating back to the city’s founding, including the aforementioned large collection of glassworks, as well as an ancient mosaic from Roman times still in its original location, old jewelry, pottery, stone tablets, and a hell of a lot more. Three hours passed quickly while we explored the museum.  My favorite stop was at the Archäologische Zone, underneath the historic town hall (Rathausplatz), which houses the partially excavated Praetorium. The Praetorium was home base to the Imperial Governor of CCAA back in Roman times, although if I’m remembering correctly there are building remnants that predate Roman times. Archeological excavation is ongoing at the present time, although what they’ve already unearthed is fabulous, and walking through the ruins gave me a great sense of what used to exist. Signage in English is sparse at times, which is the only downside. This museum also houses more glass, pottery, mosaics, and other finds from the dig onsite.

From Cologne we headed south along the Rhine River. Suddenly we were surrounded by hordes of cycle tourists, including a granny who passed me and left me feeling disappointed in myself until I realized she was riding an e-bike. There were so many cyclists that the campground in Koblenz herded us all into a small patch of turf rather than allowing us individual sites, resulting in us having neighbors mere feet away on all sides. And hilariously, by the time we leisurely rose at 8:30 or so the next morning, most of them had already packed up and gone.

Off of the Rhine we continued our up-river stroll, this time on the Mosel River. Surrounded by vineyards and ripening grapes, we succumbed to an alluring guesthouse/restaurant and spent the better part of a day enjoying the fruits of their labor, while watching a constant stream of spandex-clad fit people cycle past on rented tandem bicycles. 

If there’s one thing I’m glad we’re not doing on this trip, it’s riding a tandem bike.


11 thoughts on “german and determined

  1. My parents had a tandem bike… and lookit how that turned out! Wise ideas and beautiful writing again Emma! Miss yer face. And dang! Your hair is almost back!

    1. I bet that bike was a honey, being back in the day and all. There’s such a thing as too close for comfort though! I wish my hair was back but it is still so so green, it’s lasted so much more effectively than the orange did. I’ll dye it soon I think!

  2. Wonderful tales Emma, I long to ride along behind you…this Granny could never keep up!

  3. Hi Emma!

    Sounds like a great visit. Germany is a lovely place!

    I have been taking a break from instagram and missing your posts. Just popped on to see that you went to Machrie Moor and have a photo of Eli next to my favorite rock there! Completely agree that there the rocks there seem to contain a magical amount of LIFE. After visiting, I could not get that rock out of my head and knit myself a sweater of Scottish wool based on it.

    Safe riding,

    1. That rock was so lovely, and it’s interesting to me that we were both drawn to that one. I saw your post on making a sweater inspired by Machrie Moor and that’s how I knew we needed to visit — I was even musing on the possibility of commissioning a similar sweater from you, though if there’s anything I don’t need, I suppose it’s more wool sweaters! Take care!

      1. Emma, so glad you went there, and I’m flattered that I might have influenced a little part of your trip. Quite the compliment that you considered a commissioned sweater! Take care. -E

  4. Beautiful as always :)

    Thanks for the insight into Cologne, it’s on our current plan for next year (I say current ‘coz the plan has changed 3 times already!). I find the number and variety of museums and art galleries in European towns overwhelming … knowing which ones are worth a look in helps, as both The Sparky and I tire of them easily.

    Glad to see you’re still having fun!

    1. I could visit museums all the time, but in trying to balance both our interests on this trip we’ve visited a relatively limited number. Cologne was definitely an exception, and one that we were both very glad of. The food there was delicious, and there was so much to explore! I give it two thumbs up.

  5. Was Eli gazing at a bullet riddled pillar? You have everywhere been surrounded by so much history? It must give you pause…exciting, tho, no? I love the beautiful photo of the wheat! Thank you for writing down your thoughts, and posting photos of your trek for all of us:-)

    1. That is indeed a bullet-riddled pillar, in Berlin among a group of UNESCO-recognized buildings that are all museums now. We didn’t have the time to visit any, beyond wandering outside of them and appreciating the architecture. Really beautiful buildings, and you’re right, so much history everywhere we turn.

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