Friday, July 30, 2010

Updated! Kartoffl Schnecke

For Max

We made potato salad for Sibylle one afternoon. She said it was delicious and asked for seconds. Credit Ramona for the inspired craft skills. Slugs have been a big part of the trip. Slugs on the tent, slugs on the tarp, slugs in our shoes in the morning, slugs on the road before, during, and after rains. Slugs eating smashed slugs on paved bicycle paths. Yuck! Is the official animal of Europe the slug?

I had to peel a particularly black and hideously sticky slug off one of our cooking pans one morning. I used salt and spiritus (ethanol) to get the slime off.

:: rolling post. ride on.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Visiting Sibylle in Hilgershausen

Viveka is the dog and Cleo is the cat.

They belong to Sibylle, Ramona's aunt. We stayed with Sibylle in Hilgershausen for several days after visiting David in Fulda. Sibylle gave us a nice bed to sleep in, warm showers, and lots of space to spread out our stuff. She also let us takes lots of naps and sleep in.

I had a great 'make and mend' day; cleaning and adjusting brakes, tightening nuts, and straightening tent stakes with the vice in her barn. Ramona and I had a fun time exploring the barn and I wish we had some pictures of our finds.

Hilgershausen is a very small village on top of a mighty big hill. Sibylle's house directly in the center, across the street from the small church. It was quite late and getting dark when we arrived and we had no address, so we navigated by memories of photos that Sibylle had sent the previous winter and spring. After circling the town a couple of time and attracting the notice of everyone, we found her house.

Here is picture of a typical house in the village. If I had to guess, there were no more than 25 or 30 houses in the village.

The village is situated due west and up from Bad Sooden-Allendorf. Sibylle took us to eat at a hotel in Allendorf and we walked around for a bit. Lunch was fantastic - we had a mushroom soup/stew.

This is a church near the hotel.

Sibylle gave us a nice tour and pointed out that many of the building were empty or only partially occupied.

Ramona and I took a lovely stroll through the fields and forests above the village. The farms and trees reminded me of Vermont but even more bucolic. We picked berries and ate cherries the whole way. The first night we were there, Sibylle took me out on a walk above the back side of the village and told me that she felt the village was very special and very beautiful. As the days passed, I came to agree with her.

We also walked past this war memorial for WW1 and WW2. The grass here was filled with frogs the size of my pinky finger nail.

On Sunday, Raimund and Nathalia came to visit.

We played some serious dog circus with Nathalia. Here she is on the prowl.

and now she attacks Ramona!

Ramona is not impressed.

Raimund is there to capture it all on film.

After dog circus, it is off to the fish farm for dinner. We had some excellent fish and good times. Ramona and I stayed after everyone left and utilized our superior European bicycle touring training to drink a bottle of sloe berry wine and stayed until the restaurant closed around us, talking about where to go next.

:: rolling post. ride on.

Map from Bad Sooden-Allendorf to Hilgershausen to Kassel

From Fulda we took a quick train north to Bad Sooden-Allendorf, and arrived in town around 8:30pm on the 28th. We managed to get up to Hilgershausen, where my aunt Sibylle has a house. We stayed for a few nights and had some nice days seeing the neighboring towns, and then on Aug. 2nd rode the long way around back, through a National Forest and then along the Werra River north, and the Fulda River south to Kassel.

When Ramona says, "We managed to get up to Hilgershausen," she leaves out that the hill out of town was one of the steepest and busiest roads we've climbed. The fading day light was almost completely filtered out by the dense beach wood forest on either side of the road. The grade was easily +13% and brain dead moron teenage boys in cars were flying up and down on the road like maniacs. At one point about 1/3 of the way up, I nearly recommended that we turn around and head back into to town for a hotel. We toughed it out and were rewarded by a wide open field at the top of the hill and nice sunset. The remaining 3 km were *all* down hill.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


In Fulda.

:: rolling post. ride on.

Meeting up with David in Fulda

And Fulda! We were tourists, hanging around the old town and orangerie, going to cafes, visiting the Dom - well worth a good hour or two.

Outside the Dom:

Inside the Dom:

It started to pour as we walked out of the Dom and so we ducked into the nearest hotel/restaurant, where we encountered this fella:

My dad saw us off, his train was leaving a little later than ours, and we headed north again to Bad Sooden-Allendorf, a mere 6km east of Hilgershausen, apparently we looked like this: surprised!

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.

Monday, July 26, 2010

This says...

Fucking awesome.


rolling post. ride on.

Map From Kassel to Fulda

My dad happened to be flying through Frankfurt, with a healthy layover, so we decided we'd take a couple of days and ride south, meeting him halfway in Fulda. We stayed the first night outside of Rotenburg and the second night in Schlitz, making it to Fulda by noon on July 28th.

View Larger Map

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Missing Switzerland

Going back in time about 3 weeks now, we were in Basel. There are some things that we miss about the Swiss bike route system (although the German system has shown us some fantastic things, too), but there are other less concrete things that we miss about being in Switzerland in general. Instead of trying to explain, if that is even possible, here are a few moments from the last day or two we had in Basel.

In a park. A life-sized dinosaur.

Bike parking at the football (soccer) stadium

Mmmm. Designed by hand in the 80s. But the beer, it is good.

There's this kind of freeway off-ramp/bridge over the Rhine where bikes get on and then merge over if they want to go left.

And the signs are... rad.

And water... everywhere we biked in Switzerland, fresh drinking water was flowing from beautiful old water stops like this one (although this photo is from after we crossed into Germany, where we have seen so very few public drinking fountains):

We drank the water from this fountain, but it is possible that it was not meant for that. Although, it does look like the statues are gathering by a water source...

Below, a typical example of what we saw in Switzerland, but from our first day in Germany. We have seen a few more of these in Germany, but most of them have signs that say 'Kein trinkwasser' (not drinking water).

Since our first day or two in Germany, we've seen almost no public drinking water and that is very sad. In France, we were lucky enough to happen upon some cyclists from Epfig who stopped at a cemetery to get some water, so we filled our bottles. But water is not to be found most places. People are friendly, though, and when we have stopped to ask people if we can fill our bottles from their taps, everyone has said yes. Nothing compares to the water we found all over Switzerland.