Day 33, 6th August 2003

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Updated by Nina. Covers up to Saarbruecken, Germany.

Outside Johns flat
Photo 195. OUtside Johns flat

Only a pitiful two hours sleep was had by me, before the soul destroying announcement for checkout came on the youth hostel tannoy. Feeling rough, we said our farewells to the friends in Basel, and cycled into town. I took a photo of a redbrick building from the very same spot that my dad had stood. It was quite eerie looking at the photographs and the angles of the shadows, and working out that he must have been exactly here. Except now it was the entrance to an underground parking lot.

Not a bad view from a parking lot
Photo 414. Not a bad view from a parking lot

After an error and a detour to the Three Countries Corner, and spending our last Swiss change on sweeties and postcards, we headed in to Germany. Simon still was disappointed there was neither passport control nor inquisition neither at the border. We needed Euros again now, so we found a cashpoint, but unfortunately neither of our bankcards worked. Simons was out of date by a day, mine was just simply out of money. We thus had only €17 (£10) between us to last us the next three days to Heidelberg. This is part of the reason our web updates took such a long break!

A quick break
Photo 410. A quick break

We were shown our way to the dusty Rhine River cycle path by a woman who kindly got in and drove her car to show us. In all honestly it was like every other hot and dusty cycle path, just with a river on your left for a very long way indeed. We made it to beautiful Freiberg late in the evening, and we asked a girl Maran the way to the youth hostel. She described the route, gave us her map, and offered us a room in her flat for the night if we could not find it.

I think that kindness helped me to love Freiberg, and I cycled out of the city towards the Black Forest, with a warm feeling. There were some stunning towers and squares that crept up around corners surprising us. There were tonnes of cyclists and roller-bladers here, and the cafes were buzzing. We tried to sleep the night in the newly built youth hostel (the old one had burnt down in 1978) but had not enough money. We instead slept not far from it, next to a woodpile in a forest, and listened to pine cones crashing sporadically through the night.

No room at the youth hostel for us
Photo 411. No room at the youth hostel for us

A confused and barking dog woke us, but yet the woman walking him seemed very apologetic to have disturbed US. It seems that we would have to go to the grounds of a police station to be told off for sleeping rough. We carried on the next day cycling but with no money for a map, we spent a long time getting no where. A long haired older women washing clothes in a barrel filled with rainwater soon took to her bike and delivered us back on to the river cycle track. I felt kind of childlike to be hand held like this; and also felt like saying to her 'we honestly have managed to cycle two thousand kilometres on our own you know', but I guess that would make us look even more silly. Perhaps she would think we took a wrong turn at Topsham?!

One of two famous towers in Freiberg- had we got the right one?
Photo 415. One of two famous towers in Freiberg- had we got the right one?

We stopped for a long time under a bridge. Correction I stopped for a long time and had my feet tickled by tiny fish. Simon instead shopped for a budget meal and resisted buying the minimum order of onions 5kg. The onward journey was very boring, extremely thirst inducing, and I began to be too coy to stop and ask to use someone's toilet. We forced ourselves to cycle until the moment that the sun hit the horizon and we found a pebbly beach to camp on.

We skinny dipped, and had a delicious and bohemian meal of pasta, tomatoes and anchovies (but no onions). We crawled into our sleeping bags at a wonderfully early 21.45, as it seemed the nights were drawing in significantly earlier than before. Soon I woke though to a very loud sound of pebbles moving near by. I kept still and roused Simon perhaps he could shine his torch on it/them? I used sign language to spell out the word torch but he simply passed me some spare earplugs. Honestly! Our potential as an undercover detective duo was ruined from that moment on. I could not sleep well after that, as in addition waves would crash noisily on the beach disturbing the usually silent waters edge with a bizarre 20 second delayed wake that seemed unrelated to the boats that were passing.

Anyway we woke early and passed giant sand mountains before being misdirected by a sign back into a wildlife reserve in the middle of the Rhine owned by France. A confident German woman told us to forget the cycle track we were on and take the D3 main road after all. Ah! The instant relief of no stony vibrations on our bottoms and hands helped us to go so much faster. So much faster that Simon lost me (fortunately in a plum and pear orchard) and we had to make some frantic text messages and conversations to meet up again.

Baden Baden; I forked out €0.50 of our tiny budget for the use of a toilet, and none of the ten people we talked to actually lived in the city. We also had our ears bent by a Yorkshire accent. Although he asked us the way to the campsite, I think it was just an excuse for him to talk at us about his trip to the Nuremberg Race Circuit. He could not hide his excitement! We later found Baden Oos where my dad had slept the previous night so to speak, but all the trolley buses and their shelters had gone.

Wot no trolley busses
Photo 416. Wot no trolley busses

We were looking forward to getting to Heidelberg, where the parents of a friend of Simons lived, and who had invited us to stay for two nights. We were pushing to get there that night, and so it was frustrating that the puncture menace returned that day- I was oily and sweaty again just like the good old days. If only I could treat these set back as a university type test then it would not have phased me at all. But punctures are just in a league all of their own- bikes with wheels that don't work are a bloody nightmare.

We continued on, and I was optimistic we could make it- little was I aware that Simon had telephoned ahead to say that we were not coming that night. We were late. We skirted Mannheim with its beeping, and stopped in Brusaal where I nipped in to the bar toilets to fill our water bottles. As I came out, I got told off first in German for not asking for permission, and then to add to the humiliation an absolutely faultless telling off in English. Fabulous- add that to no money, no food, no bed, and a bike with a slow puncture. Even Simon had so little talk left in him, that I had to use that magical conversational opener 'Well go on talk to me then'. Well at least there were blackberries for breakfast- except that a fire ant chose to nip my tongue when I ate my first.

True to Gordon and Roy's budgetary style, we bought eight ham and bread rolls for only €0.90 (£0.75) in a shop, and now having less money was now getting to be fun! We still had coins left. We splashed out on two orange squash drinks while I fixed one more puncture, and yet still had money for chocolate. But boy we were relieved to arrive at our destination- where a new working cash-card had been express air- mail posted to.

Our surrogate parents
Photo 316. Our surrogate parents

We sat in the chilled kitchen of our new hosts, babbling in German about all kinds of things, but mostly the weather. After coffee and cakes, there were jobs to do, and it was not until six that we finally sat down to eat proper food. The Gaertners maintained their own fruit and vegetable garden, and so we ate home grown potatoes, tomato salad, meat cutlets, and tangy raspberry and blackberry desert. It had been grown and cooked with such care, that it all tasted fantastic and I think we had about three portions each.

We were memorable guests though- we spilt olive oil on the patio, blocked the toilet, broke the bed, so the fact that the Gerners were such gracious and generous hosts made it worse! We even rang the doorbell after midnight as we made our way back from a night out in the city of Damstadt. Two interesting friends of Simons, Rickard and Carmen, had taken us out to a biergarten, and then later to the castle on the hill which inspired Mary Shelly's Frankenstein book. They drove in their car with their foot to the floor and the windows wide open, which tangled up my hair no end.

Rickard and Carmen
Photo 307. Rickard and Carmen

The next day we woke at precisely 07.30 due the opening of the electric shutters and the sunshine flooding in. I spent the morning flip-flopping (on my own for the first time in four weeks) around hot and historical Heidelberg, as well as writing postcards, which was very pleasant. We later had lunch together, and then we bade farewell to the Gaertners who had almost become our temporary parents for a while.

Heidelberg and its castle on the hill
Photo 311. Heidelberg and its castle on the hill

German precision such as the electric shutters, and the second hand at the railway station (which rather than sweeping round the clock face, kind of stuttered, so to leave no doubt as to which second it was) still gave us cycle lanes which suddenly came to a complete halt. We were forced to ask our way again, and a funny military type man shouted directions back at us- 'rrrrrrrrr-rechts!'.

A leafier cycle route
Photo 317. A leafier cycle route

40C Mannheim was a city of doubters. We asked directions from a number of people. A drunk's face made a somersault when we said we wished to cycle 30k that evening, before he directed us down the wrong street. The Greek (?) immigrant said the town of Bad Durkheim had good air and lots of birds, but we would never make it. And later on some car passengers wagged their finger and pulled over to tell us the best road for cyclists would be... and as they did that another car overtook them and wagged their finger at us all. Blimey.

Mannheims sister- Ludwigshaven
Photo 321. Mannheims sister- Ludwigshaven

Bad Durkheim, with the largest wine vat in the world, was where we stopped in a cafe for dinner. The cafe owners were curious as to why we had chosen to cycle in this heat- Ive just got a big blimmin legacy to follow that's all I thought. My dad's diary was so very detailed, it was like a direct invitation from him to follow his path. They gave us a large bottle of mineral water to take with us. We made our way out of town slowly, pushing our bikes up forested hills, while illuminated haunting castles looked down on us. Our bed was found in a signposted park which Simon initially read as belonging to a 'mentally ill care' home, but turned out on checking the dictionary to translate as a 'care for monuments' centre. We went to sleep each on a bench, but we soon gravitated to the floor.

Tomatoes and cashew nuts for brekkie, we continued on twelve kilometres to Frankenstein village and then on to colourfully painted Kaiserslautern. Here there were many American military bases and signs for No Left Turns, and McDonalds 500m. Metric distances are so much easier than miles to judge- in France we saw a sign for 350 metres to Nimes, and lo and behold according to our bike computer on Simons handlebars, in 350 metres we were at the city limit sign.

A selection of breads in a German bakery window
Photo 324. A selection of breads in a German bakery window

Saarbrucken was stunning, although we had not the energy to sightsee. We stayed in the youth hostel on the edge of town, and slept. Breakfast was a choice of delicious nutty breads of all shapes and colours, together with yoghurts and fresh banana milkshakes. Coffee and chocolate and fruity teas were flowing freely too. What a nice meal to break our fast with!

The not so stunning youth hostel, but good showers never the less
Photo 323. The not so stunning youth hostel, but good showers never the less

We cycled on past the non-event again of the border, and although sad to leave hospitable Germany, it was exciting to be back in lovely France. Fifty years ago, I suspect my dad had not expected much of Germany but we enjoyed ourselves greatly here, in spite of our three shillings a day budget for half of it! But was this the right road, did Sarrebruck really mean Saarbrucken in French?

The road on out
Photo 326. The road on out