I'm sitting in the train heading for Offenburg in the southern part of Germany. From the outside it was hard to find out in which wagon the bicycle should be placed, but I found it in the end.
Spoke with a french couple with a tandem. They didn't have a reservation for the bike, but succeeded to buy a ticket for it in the train - so that's the way to do it...?
Getting it onboard isn't easy. It's just an oldfashioned train door, so I have to remove the bags, and up the stairs it goes...
I sit down in a compartment with the french couple. They've been around most of Denmark. The camping site in Hillerød was the best experience. Just to let you know.
When the ticket inspector arrives he tells me where to sit. It wasn't the wagon and seat I expected - that was for the bike. In the sleeping compartment sits a family consisting of father, mother and daughter. The mother is black and the daughter around 13. The father asks if I mind if the daughter reads aloud from Harry Potter? No, I answer, it'll just remind me of my flight to South America, where I saw my first Harry Potter film - in the plane. The daughter reads in english - she's good. The family is more or less double-languaged due to the mother. Nive people.
When "the ladies" are gone for the dining wagon I come to talk to the father. He has studied comparative east asian languages, namely altai, korean, japanese and chinese. He's able to speak korean and read chinese. He tells about it especially confucianismn, and I get some of my chinese experiances in a clearer perspective. I think my opinions are mainly correct, but it's fantastic to have them confirmed by an expert. He's generally a very interesting person. Has been teaching at the University of Copenhagen for many years, but is unfortunately currently without job. In Sweden they are about to start chinese as a language in the secondary school, he tells. That's probably the way it goes in Europe. And in the future we will have to adapt to chinese values more than they will to ours.
We stand talking in the aisle on our way down through Jutland and finally I feel I understand China by talking to - a dane.
Later, when papa and the daughter is in the dining wagon, I talk to the mother. She's american and they've met in New York and she's emigrated to Denmark - I think she said 26 years ago. She spoke mostly english with the eldest daughter, while the younger one - whose the actual one - wants them to speak danish, especially when her girl friends are there.
It's a bad night. We're stuck in Hannover and I haven't slept yet. A voice in the loudspeaker warns from time to time to watch out for passing trains.
Later I doze away and don't hear when the train staff knocks on the door and announces Frankfurt in 20 min's. The family has to change to another train there.
2.94 km (to the station in Birkerød)
It's a hazy grey morning. I look into a row of backyards with small garages. The first car has M for München, but then comes F for Frankfurt, but numerous OF's. Could that be Offenburg, where I have to get off? But it should be another two hours? The explanation comes when we slowly roll through a station. Offenbach (Main) - so there's a bit left. I see a single tower like building rising in the mist, but the skyline that's to be seen from the autobahn is nowhere around.
Now at 7.30 the sun is breaking through and it seems to turn into the sunny day, DMI had forseen yesterday.
We stop in Mannheim, and seems to be 10 min's late. After having passed a long tunnel, we emerge again parallel to the autobahn. The autobahn I've been following so many times on the way to Mulhouse and summer vacation in France.
Some waving hills are seen to the left, and now when we've stopped in Karlsruhe there's no doubt: it's Schwarzwald.
Just after comes a female member of the staff and tells that next will be Offenburg - and we're not late - which means at 8.56!
With plenty of time left I go to find out how to get my bike out of the rack. As I expected it isn't easy. They are really packed and the front wheels are hooked up. I have to remove the one to the right first - then I manage. And put the other one back. Then I'm ready to get the bags I had with me in the compartment.
All my bags are placed near the door and the bike is ready at the wall to be managed out the door, and we hammer on the flat Rhein land to one side and the hills of Schwarzwald to the other.
When one is used to just push a button these old german train doors aren't that easy, but I find out that you have to push the door while you turn the handle like described. And out I get - with the bike - and in again for luggage - and out - and in the get the last, and finally I stand with my bike on the platform with all the bags thrown around.
Soon I'm ready and within short I'm sitting in a "Bäckerei" with a cappucino and a cheese sandwich.
Later I'm rash and show my map to the waitress to ask how to find the red marked bicycle route? It's obviously beyond her qualifications, but how to get towards Ortenberg, one of the first villages, she seems to know.
My first goal is to visit Angela and Johannes in Alpirsbach. Angela I know from China. Johannes is her boy friend and they both came to visit me on Bornholm last year. I call her as ageed and tells her I'll be there around 16.
Like around Berlin there are a confusing lot of bicycle routes and signs, but it soon gets clear that I have to follow Kinsigtal (tal = valley) and the signs appear and reappear in a confusing way but the villages in the map helps me finding the right way mainly on bicycle roads.
It's been a nice summers day until now but after a couple of hours
scarce drips start and it ends up raining - not much, but anyway...
I stop at a Aldi... to shop some food. The scoope is a german version of St. Albray at 2€. It costs more than double at home.
Now I'm sitting sheltered outside eating lunch - unfortunately the rain seems to go on.
It's not raining THAT much, so I go on. Decide not to take out the rain covers for the bags. I'll see how it goes without them...
The rain intensifies. Soon I feel the water coming through my newly coated rain jacket. It's from '94. Will have to buy a new one when I'm back home. I also neglect the rain trousers - they're too warm and unconvenient - so my jeans are soon drenched.
It rains less and I start drying, but the route... I've written a list of villages I have to pass, but the bike road doesn't follow the main road completely... It would be bad to go up the wrong valley...
That's exactly what happens. I start wondering why none of the villages from the list are on the few signs I meet. Some old men - my age? - are heading against me on MTB's. I make them stop to ask. I'm all wrong. Have to go back. One of them is heading my direction, so later we separate from the others, and I follow him. How far did I go? 4-5 km I'd guess - which means 10 km extra.
How did that happen? I should have turned right on a bridge across the river, gone a bit right and turned to the left, I didn't notice. Don't think there was any sign!
Well, shit happens. Now I'm on the track and thank my companion and say goodbye some km later. Now I just have to keep on and I'll be there at 16 like I told Angela.
Then it happens! Pschyschhh! A flat rear wheel. It's still raining so I'm lucky to be at an "Imbiss": "Tina's truckstop". There is a shelter where I go stand.
Off with the bags. Off with the rear wheel. Out with bthe tube. The crack is too big to be found. The air comes out as fast as I can get it in. The spare tube! I put it on. Fingering cautiously inside the tyre - there's nothing there. Must have been a large upright nail? There isn't anything from the outside either.
Ready again. I take a cappucino at Tina's. How far is it "bis Alpirsbach?" 15 km she thinks. So I don't have to call, I'll be there just after 16.
I go for 15 m'. Pschyschhh! Exactly the same. Now I'm really in trouble. Like hell....
I call Angela and explain. She ends up offering to come and get me. There's room for the bike in the back of the car, she thinks.
In the meantime I manage to locate the crack in the tube - the first one - it's the white powder inside that leads me to it. A crack of 0.5 cm. Can a normal patch do it? It appears to.
She arrives, I remove the front wheel, and in no time the bike and all my gear are in the back of the car and we take off for Alpirsbach.
Just to give you an overview: Angela lived in the house with her grandfather until he died two years ago. Then she lived on her own for a while. Now she's studying in Konstanz and is only here for the weekends, but she's with Johannes most of the time, in his flat. He's just bought a big house - former kindergarden - which he's basically reconstructing. So it's a BIG project. The plan is to finish the 1. floor and rent it, while the ground floor is finished, so they some day? can move in together. Her mother comes to look after the house - the other one - and stays there for the night sometimes. Tonight I'll stay there alone. The wheather is not for testing the tent.
Johannes comes home and we eat together. In the meantime her mother, who's been here too, is gone back to Donaueschingen some 50 km away.
56.75 km distance
16.3 km/t average speed
36.2 km/t max. speed
3:28:32 tim time