We’ve had some ups and downs the past week or so. There has always been either blistering heat or biblical thunderstorms. There have been long stretches (particularly either side of Frankfurt) that were completely void of shops, cafes or toilets. And there have been days where they have been plenty of those things, but none of them open. We’ve learned to plan ahead for Sundays in Germany, getting food for the coming day the evening before, because absolutely every shop both small and large is shut. We’d checked the list of public holidays, when everything is also shut, and there weren’t any more until October. Then we were cycling through various small towns with nothing open at all in the middle of the week. Odd, but they are small, so perhaps things open later. Then we passed through a large town with an Aldi and everything was shut there. We suspiciously looked up the date, and found it’s a regional public holiday. On a Thursday. Which means everyone also took the Friday off and campsites were rammed for the next 4 days. We got turned away from one, and the others we just had to squeeze in where we could because we hadn’t made a reservation. One site was almost entirely taken up by a multi generational family reunion and we barely found space to pitch. While turning in for the night, one of the dads came over and chatted and said he’d wanted to come over earlier and ask about the bikes and what we were doing, and now wished he had invited us to join the BBQ. It would have been nice, but we had walked into the town of Lohr am Main just to find some shade and have a beer. It was one of those picture perfect towns, and would have been a shame to miss out on.
One of the things I love about Germany is the food, but we’d not tried much traditional fare in the first week which has left some itches to scratch. We don’t stop for a proper lunch, and we don’t tend to camp near towns, so we’ve had the odd snack bar currywurst, but not much else. In Frankfurt I ticked off pork knuckle, which was great but it came with roast potatoes, which are not the ultimate kind. And then I hit the jackpot in Wurzburg, finally finding kartoffelkloesse, potato dumplings which are denser than the Earth’s core, and were served alongside roast pork and creamed cabbage. It was 36 degrees, but I soldiered on.
Having followed parts of the Rhine, Main and the Danube canal, we’ve been on the Danube proper for the last few days. It’s veered between dramatically beautiful, and run of the mill farm land. But it’s been flat and we’ve been able to churn some miles out. We passed through a section with some lovely manmade lakes and since it was the weekend, there were people out with lilos, kayaks, marquees set up on the shore and even some paddling pools. I loathe hot weather. I am quite happy at about 18 degrees, uncomfortable above 24, unhappy above 29, and once it gets into the 30s most of my brain functions shut down and I am just a sweaty pool of misery. This day was in the mid 30s, so it’s amazing to me how much effort people put in to being out in the sun. I would much rather have air conditioning and stay indoors.
Towards the end of our stint in South East Germany it was Johannistag (St John’s night) a kind of bonfire night, and a merging of Pagan Midsummer and Christian homage to John The Baptist, which seemed to be a very big deal. Though thankfully not another holiday. It’s Germany, so the bonfires were perfectly built, with many people displaying beautifully carved representations of St John. This is not like the piles of crates and old furniture we have, or the Guys you’d make out of your dad’s old trousers and wheel round in an Asda trolley. There was an open invite to attend what looked like a large bonfire and BBQ next to a campsite we stayed at. We favoured getting an early night though. It might have been fun, but it might have been a bit Wicker Man.
Our last morning cycling in Germany was flat and beautiful (though hot) and I had mixed feelings about leaving. Then Richard declared we were playing “Last one to Austria smells,” before cycling off. I hadn’t had nearly enough chocolate milk to be bothering with that, but raced on anyway.
It’s no secret that I love this country. The food, the people, the beer, the scenery, they are all wonderful. And I might have painted Germany as almost relentlessly pleasant. But there are still packs of ham which are impossible to get into, bags of pasta which split when you open them, and Audi drivers who are knobheads. And now we are both itching to move on, because the point is to travel, and see new places.
Here’s a playlist for the last week in Germany: