Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Riding to Fulda without full weight

In Kassel, we went to the Natural History Museum with my cousin Raimund (Ray) and his daughter Nathalia, which is quite fantastic, and hung around the Orangerie and in the park, playing with the paper airplane Ray made at the Museum.

After a few fun days in Kassel, we headed out again. We had planned to spend some time in Hilgershausen, a very small village due east of Kassel where my aunt Sibylle has a house. Timing was such that my dad was flying into Frankfurt that week, so we decided to do a little riding and camping, leaving behind some of our stuff, and then take a train north again to a town close to Hilgershausen. My dad had a huge layover, so he took a train to meet us halfway, in Fulda. Conveniently, the Fulda River passes through both Kassel and Fulda, and the Germans have generously put in a Fulda Bike route. Unfortunately, southward is upstream.

We left Kassel after 2:30pm. Late. We had two 70+ days ahead of us, plus another morning of riding, to arrive in Fulda when my dad's train arrived around noon. So, in the face of scattered rain and wind coming from everywhere, we managed to tear through about 70km between 2:30 and 8pm. It's amazing what we can do when it's not blazing hot out.

We were making such great time that when we came to a fork in the bike path, both directions claiming the same destination not 3km from where we stood, we wanted to pick the fastest route. But we didn't know the difference. One said 'Landstrasse' which we can only assume means it's a street. On land. The other says 'Seilfahre'. Fahre means ferry. Seil means... sail? No - luckily the iPhone english/german dictionary was clever enough to inform us that seil means cable. But there was no translation for the whole word, and that could mean many things - it's a cable ferry; it's something cabled but has nothing to do with normal ferries; or it is something altogether foreign and language would not help us. We went with land street to be safe, only to turn the corner and see a big hill in front of us. So we turned around - how bad could it be? There were quite a few signs, letting us know that it was in fact a seilfahre, almost as if we should beware. Yet it was a bike path, and the signs were the bike path signs.

We decided that the worst thing to happen would be that we'd turn around and re-trace the 2+km - a ferry that's only open sometimes, perhaps. The best possibility? A self-operated ferry of some kind! Aaaaaand....

Our km/hr average plummeted! In the best possible way! I took a lot of photos.

That night, Joshua made a shelter tall enough (almost) to walk right into, and we were camped right on the Fulda River with a bunch of kayak campers.

Our second day towards Fulda was somewhat similar - we left late. After noon, even, reveling in our success the day before, and just pushing ourselves to do it again, I suppose. We saw lovely German countryside all around, and don't remember going through hardly any towns. Along one stretch of the path was a to-scale succession of the solar system - pluto to the sun - size and distance accurate. Every few hundred meters, another tiny (but again to scale relative to its neighbors) planet was displayed with details. At the end we stopped and sat by the sun for a dried fruit and nut snack, and Joshua got a photo of the poster for the Planetenweg.

Our destination for that evening was the town of Schlitz - no we didn't have any beer. But the bike shop was evident.

The morning road to Fulda was wet. It rained. And rained. We had some lovely paths through the woods, but other parts through the middle of fields with no shelter in site. It was fun, and we arrived soaking wet. We changed, found lockers to put our bags in, locked up our bikes, and ran into my dad as his delayed train arrived.

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