birthday ride, 54 km

Traditionally Phil and I take the day off for our birthdays, do some exercise, some culture and go for at least one meal – all quite difficult in Covid-times in November… But we managed 🙂 . Luckily the weather was dry, and sunny at first.

As the Landkreis is going to decide on the route of the Eastern bike path tangent around Munich, we decided to have a look at this in more detail. This meant cycling to Ismaning (and back), which provided the exercise (and I got to try out my birthday present from Phil: a new bike computer). As it was Remembrance Sunday we decided to look at all the chapels and crosses we came across in a bit more detail, so that was the culture.

On the way back we went to an olive harvest festival in Riem and purchased some olive oil – quite interesting ‘event’.

In the evening we had the traditional lasagne at home, so that was the meal.

Mainz – Ottobrunn, 43 km (9.10.21)

Breakfast while watching the sunrise over the Rhine is quite special.

I then picked up my bike from the conference room, where it had been joined by two other bike in the meantime, and cycled off across the Rhine and along the Main – very pleasant route.

I thought I could catch a direct train from Frankfurt airport station to Munich, but I didn’t know, that school holidays were starting it he area today… no space for my bike till later in the afternoon, and then only from Frankfurt main station.

So I went down memory lane a bit and cycled into Frankfurt, which is surprisingly close. Of course some things had changed (better bike-path surface, better signposting), but many have remained the same (awful atmosphere round the main station, the smell of urine under every bridge/in every corner, bad bike paths in general).

The train has no WiFi – so further delay to the report.

Koblenz – Mainz, 98km, (8.10.21)

Started off in the fog, actually quite romantic along the Rhine. I was the only one in short sleeves, a lot of other people were wearing down jackets and hats already. The fog continued to Boppard, where I had my first break, sitting outside with peppermint tea.

Around this area the bike path was really good, and I had it basically to myself. It was plain sailing to Bacharach, where I stopped for a lunch of Flammkuchen. I am afraid I did not dare to have Federweißer for lunch… This area of the Rhine valley I still know a little bit from over 20 years ago, when I/we lived in Frankfurt and came walking here quite a bit. Different, seeing it from the bottom of the valley, though. All the castles and ruins are still very impressive

From Bingen onwards I saw more and more cyclists, commuters, day tourists and long-distance. Around Ingelheim the bike path was of really good quality, so I understand.

As usual coming into a bigger town/city along the river entails cycling with/through a lot of traffic and industry, not nice. The chimneys on the following picture are nice and colourful at least, though.

I did find a nice hotel, though, the Hilton along the river, where upon my questions of where I could put my bike they were stunned. In the end it is spending the night in a conference room, should be nice and dry and warm when I leave in the morning.

The hotel wanted Eur 14.95 for the WiFi, which of course I didn’t pay! I lived in the Netherlands long enough. So the report is slightly delayed 😉

Pulheim – Koblenz, 108km, (7.10.21)

No rain all day, but magical morning scenes while cycling around Cologne to get to the Rhine.

(Unfortunately?) I did not take any pictures of the industrial/chemical plants along the Rhine just South of Cologne, everybody complaining about wind generators should be made to look at the devastation of the countryside caused by just the oil refineries. The next time I saw the Rhine was much nicer, and showed me how many people are interested in cycling here.

I have cycled many bits of the Rhine before, but not this stretch. As usual there is a lot of history, Roman, Medieval and second World War are the main times referenced on information signs – as usual I am learning a lot. I must admit I had not been aware of the story (and film) behind the bridge of Remagen, for example.

At one point I could no longer follow the Rhine bike route, as a bridge was closed. So I went inland a bit further to find another crossing point, and slowly realised where I was and what had happened: This was the Ahr valley, where there had been major floods and destruction in the summer. Along the street I was cycling up several plots were empty, where obviously houses had been pulled down, several houses were abandoned and the remaining houses had empty ground floors. This was all quite high above the normal level of the little stream I could see. The next bridge was also uncrossable, so I had to go one further still. Again, I did not take any pictures of unpleasant things, but the explanation was then given on the bike path coming from the South.

After I had had ‘Currywurst’ for lunch at a typical kiosk (and all the locals spoke to me) I decided to have tea and cake in Bad Breisig, which seemed made for the generation of my grandparents 🙂

After that the cycle route became much more just an addendum to roads and rail lines. I had to constantly go under and over them, and signs told me to get off and push the bike – not a good solution! At one stage there was a road at the level of the Rhine, the rail track was above that, the bike path above again, and on the fourth level a bigger road (had it rained, it would have sheltered me). Reminded me of Tokyo with the different layers of traffic. By this point I was just trying to get to Koblenz, so did not stick to the Rhine – amazing how one can manage so many different lanes of traffic. But not nice.

Venlo – Pulheim, 73 km (6.10.21)

Rain was forecast for the entire day, and unfortunately the forecast was correct. It rained or drizzled the entire day, therefore I have not got (many) nice pictures. On top of that the route was actually quite nice in the beginning (Nettetal), but turned very industrial.

As Venlo is on the border it wasn’t long before I crossed into Germany. I am afraid I didn’t notice, until I was on the other side, hence a picture ‘in reverse’ – a throughway for pedestrians and cyclists.

After about 20 km I had a break in Dülken. Wednesday seems to be their market day, but due to the rain there was not much life. The next point of interest was Mönchengladbach, that I had only known from football. They have some interesting buildings and sculptures, and my route was mainly through parks. Car drivers there do not seem to like cyclists, though.

I then went through Grevenbroich, where I had lunch. Grevenbroich used to call itself the energy capital (of Germany, I believe), and to the South-East of it you can see why. There are three power-stations in close proximity. The two pictured below are taken from the same vantage point – I know which view I prefer!

Soon after one of the spokes in the back wheel broke, testimony to the poor quality of German bike paths, maybe? I rode 10 km to the next town, Pulheim, and went to the local bike shop. They could not repair it before maybe Friday evening (bearing in mind this was Wednesday) – so I went to an out-of-town big bike shop, for which I did not hold out much hope. Luckily I was so wrong! They told it would take 30 mins, within 15 mins I had paid and left and got a tip regarding a hotel nearby 🙂 . I reckon at the end of this day I deserved a Kölsch (next place is Cologne).

Wageningen – Venlo, 90 km (5.10.21)

The day started great: as I had to deviate form my planned route last night for accommodation, I had to cross the Lower Rhine by ferry. As it was not long after sunrise it was great light!

I started fairly early, as I was trying to get as far as possible before the rain set in, which I partially managed – I only got wet the last 10 km or so. As the wind was southerly again, I had a headwind all day again, though – hard work, but luckily mainly flat.

In a way the whole day was about water. I had to cross several major bridges, and had also decided to cross into Germany later than originally intended so I could follow the Maas valley longer, all the way to Venlo.

Of course I saw several windmills again, and most of the bike paths were very good.

A few people took the opportunity of me having a break (to take pictures or have a drink) to talk to me – very friendly people around here. One of them was a farmer who predicted rain would start at 15:00 – and it did, to the minute. The Lindenbaum on his farm is roughly 1200 old!

The Dutch dialect down here is very strong, so I have to concentrate to understand people.

Just before the rain started I saw a couple of fields of tagetes, something I have never seen before. Wonderful smell.

In the end I found a very nice hotel in Venlo (Mr Jigs) with excellent service! I have a room on the ground floor, the bike is dry in the stairwell right next to me.

Vijfhuizen – Wageningen, 99 km, (4.10.91)

Didn’t quite make the 100km, but am tired. The weather was good, it remained sunny and quite warm all day, but the headwind was also quite strong.

Really pleased that my brother Robin cycled with me to Utrecht, so the first 50 km! Not bad for somebody who has not been cycling much recently 😉 He wanted to go fast on his racing bike, but then of course there was I on my ‘Unimog’ of bikes – ah well.

All the way to Utrecht we had the flat Dutch landscape I love. We cycled along water a lot, saw many birds, quite a few windmills – all in all quite typical Dutch.

As it was Monday morning no caf̩s were open, so we had our first break after 40 km. This is when I found out how ill-prepared Robin was: no water, no food, no lock Рjust as well that big sister had everything, including stroopwafels.

Cycling through Utrecht was more pleasant than I had expected, and easier than any other major town/city that I have cycled through in the last 30 years or so: the bike paths were broad, cycling traffic had the right of way almost everywhere, the traffic lights have a waiting-time indication, the direction signs are good.

After the big city came the national park of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. I must admit the name made me worry about hills, but in general it was easier cycling than even the Dunes on the coast – and absolutely beautiful through the woods and forests! Another advantage: the wind was less noticeable.

I started looking for a hotel after about 85 km. Unfortunately the first one I tried was booked out, so I continued off my planned route to Wageningen, a very studenty town. Unfortunately the service and general standards in this hotel are lacking, but it will do for a night.

‘Leidens ontzet’, 38 km, (3.10.21)

It rained quite heavily during the night and in the morning, Robin and I constantly changed our plans on how to get to Leiden and back. In the end we settled on cycling to Haarlem station and taking the bikes to Leiden on the train. We left them in the bike park in Leiden, while we looked around the ‘kermis’ in Leiden.

The area around the station has changed a lot since I knew it fairly well, which is now well over 30 years ago. We started our culinary exploits with ‘oliebollen’, moving on to the obligatory ‘hutspot’, before we had ‘poffertjes as afters. The bike shop where I got my first bike also no longer exists, the bike does, though.

Although it was still raining we decided to cycle back, very nice route. Due to the tailwind it was not too strenuous, either. It reminded me of a lot of the things I like about Holland – I will be sad to leave it tomorrow.

All in all a great day with lots of memories for me, I realised how at home I still feel here, and how I do miss it.

Vijfhuizen – Haarlem – Zandvoort – Vijfhuizen, 37km (2.10.21)

The morning was wonderful, so after taking Ziggy for a walk we cycled into Haarlem

to see Django in the new location of his shop. Amazingly Joris was there as well! Good, to see ‘old friends’ again 🙂

After having bought fresh stroopwafels on the market in Haarlem we cycled through the Kennemerduinen to Bloemendaal aan Zee and through to Zandvoort. There I walked into the North Sea before we had chips at tijn, sitting outside and enjoying the view.

On the way back we stopped off for pancakes, so I managed several of the culinary pleasures of Holland today. We got slightly damp on the way back, it has been raining all afternoon/evening since. Very enjoyable day with my brother, savouring Dutch cycling infrastructure.