I had a very French breakfast with Thierry: croissants, jam, honey, bread and butter, tea. He took photographs of the intrepid cyclist and pointed me across the field at the back of the house: the bumpiest, postholed road yet. I’m sure I’ll encounter worse at some point when I get outside of Europe.
I made reasonable progress until lunch time, when I realised I probably needed to send postcards to use up the three stamps I had left, before I depart the country. I stop in a burger/fast food place with wifi – and the guys working there are very friendly and curious about where I’m going and where I’ve been. When they hear my tale, they not only waive the bill but give me a coffee gratis too – sweet!
Following this I inadvertently find Eurovelo cycle route 15 – all along the Rhin – until I got on the ferry at Selz and crossed the river into Germany.
The ferry ride is short and interesting – the boat is tethered by a line to a cable stretched high above the fast moving water – and the bow of the boat is angled precisely into the flow of the water to execute a perfect ferry glide across (those kayakers and canoeists will understand what I mean by that). The ride was free too.
Immediately, in Germany, there were many more ‘normal’ cyclists around – parents out with children, older folks – and not just the fluorescent, lycra bound serious types zooming around France. Maybe because there is a cycle path alongside the River, I don’t know.
The first shop I come to is an ice-cream parlour with an amazing array of flavours. The sun is shining, so the place looks extra inviting. I join the queue for a waffle cone, opting for a ‘blue-orange’ sorbet topped with cookies and cream which tasted delicious.
I’m feeling a bit useless regarding my lack of German: at least in France I knew how to apologise for my lack of knowledge, and also say ‘Quelle direction…? Or Que c’est que ça? But all I can say in German is bitte, danke or Guten tag
(and sing the first verse of ‘Stille Nacht’ – but the opportunity doesn’t often arise). This guy stops to ask me about my solar panels – I explain my lack of German and he switches to English, just like that. He tells me not to worry as ‘most German people speak English’. It still feels a huge assumption on my part.
I still had about 15miles to go.
All went well, until I got to the outskirts of Karlsruhe. It’s a big place! I got totally lost (ending up in a dead end industrial estate at one point) as 1) lack of decent large scale map and 2) bus and rail/tram stops no longer seem to have maps, as they did in France.
It got so late (I spent a couple of hours wondering around, asking people for directions – following cycle signs for Durlach etc) I finally went into a bar.
There were glass chandeliers, and red walls and old fashioned posters – including two for Schachenmayr wool (which made me feel at home). The Germans seem to do beer quaffing more like the English do – the place had a ‘pub’ feeling to it that I’d missed in France.
I ordered a Pils and bribed the barmaid to get out her phone and give me precise directions. I was about 4.5km from my destination – and it was raining.
The 500mls of beer (in a heavy, glass tankard) went a long way to making me not care about the rain, or the little hill I had to climb, and I finally got to Beate and Andreas’ lovely house in the leafy suburbs at 11pm. I could see them at the window – and they had only just begun to worry about me (I hope).
I am welcomed and fed and ensconsed amongst Beate’s woolly stash and am happy.