I had a wonderful stay with Andreas, Beate, Sanja and Patrick and am sorry to leave but happy to have made new friends.
I was planning on going to Bensheim today, but late last night, I realised that I had an offer of a stay in Neustadt – which is closer – and a chance to meet another knitter that I will miss out on if I don’t go today – so I have changed my mind. It’s also not as far – and, lets face it, I’m lazy!
So much for it not being far – I made a real hash of the navigating (or maybe just the organising) and got lost several times – arriving really, really late again (about 11pm) and probably cycling twice as far as I needed. Fortunately, in and around the frustrations – the weather was GLORIOUS! Perfect weather for cycling: sunny, breezy, not too hot or cold.
I set off with good intentions, with instructions written out laboriously from google. I think I only got as far as the fourth instruction when I realised I couldn’t find the next street listed anywhere. So I decided to go back into the city proper (about 5km the wrong direction) and buy a map. I was guided by a rather handsome, young man/cyclist who, once again, spoke perfect English and who took me right to the door of a map shop (best in town!). I now have a map of Deutschland Süd to draw red marks all over. It’s rather small scale again, but at least I can deduce general direction.
While I was back in Karlsruhe, I took the opportunity to buy a sim card and now have a German phone no. that works. By which time it was lunchtime (of course). I spotted a fast food outlet called Schlemmermeyer and ordered (well, pointed at a sign) what I think was a ‘curry-wurst’ , and not quite knowing what I was getting. It turned out to be a spicy bratwurst, chopped up in a tray, with a sweet, spicy curry sauce (just like the stuff you could get from the chip shop) and turmeric over that, with a sliced white bread roll to mop it up. It was very cheap and quite delicious. “Guten Appetit!”, the serviette said. Then I found wifi in a Starbucks – by which time it was gone 2pm. If I’d set out when I intended, I’d have arrived at Katja’s by 6pm.
I began by cycling up the spoke of the fan that flares out from the Palace. Karlsruhe is one of the most wooded cities in Germany – and I cycled through kilometres of it – lots of wild garlic growing in amongst the trees.
Another very helpful cyclist spelled out directions to the Rhin – which worked well. People seem to be much more visible in Germany than France – though it’s probably just the sun and warmth bringing folk out of their homes.
Things started to go a little awry when I got to the Rhine and hopped on the ferry. I couldn’t find 2 euros for the fare so, while the conductor stood and watched with amazement – I dismantled my luggage looking for my purse. The more she watched with her mouth open, the more flustered I got. In the end, I found it (almost where I’d first fumbled – it was hidden by a coat) and paid up, by which time the ferry had gone back over the Rhine again. The conductor patted me on the shoulder with pity (I think) and wished me a “happy day”. Still – I got three rides over the river for the price of looking ridiculous.
I was using my compass to try and stay heading generally to the North or North West. Sometimes this didn’t work, however. I followed a trail into a park – and for an hour, went around in a very large, one-way circle before being deposited more or less back where I’d gone in. IN the end, following that little excursion, I had to go down a road in the opposite direction to the one I thought I wanted, only to see a cycle sign pointing to the right place and all would seem OK again. Trouble is – bicycles aren’t allowed on the major roads (and nor would I want to go on a major road) but cycle paths sometimes get deviated all over the place to go round them and railway lines.
I started to get into Weinstrasse area – this is the ‘wine trail’ which tourists flock to every year for festivals and wine tastings. There are vineyards everywhere – I guess the hills to the East of the valley protect the area and ensure perfect growing conditions.
Every village around here has Neustadt Weinstrasse on the sign (in front of its name) which is very confusing when one is looking for THE Neustadt an der Weinstrasse. It started to get dark as I followed cycle path signs with kilometres marked which all seemed to contradict each other – one would say Neustadt – 5.2km, the next would say 6km. I felt like I’d plopped down the rabbit hole into Wonderland – and this feeling was exacerbated by the numerous posters for tribute bands like ‘Mad Zeppelin’ and ‘Dire Strats’.
I was led around in a big circle so I actually entered the city from the North (after approaching it from the South!). I finally asked strangers where the main station was – there are three stations in the city, which doesn’t help navigation.
When their directions tallied, I followed them to the letter, though I had my doubts. AS it got darker and darker I considered just camping out or finding a hotel – when, all of a sudden, there was the Station! And just past it, Katja’s street. I found the doorbell and was gratified to get a response immediately: Katja had fallen asleep on the sofa and had been worried she wouldn’t hear me ring, but it all turned out well in the end. I finally collapsed into a comfy bed and slept for 12 hours.
Despite the anxieties and frustrations of the day, I had ridden through some wonderful places, and Neustadt looked beautiful in the dark, with its cobbled streets and ancient cob houses - like someplace straight out of a Grimm’s Fairy tale.