Seasonal greetings from a chilly Viernheim
Enough has been written or spoken about bad banks, even worse bankers, property crashes, economic plunges, swine ‘flu and other disasters elsewhere so we’re going to ignore them here and concentrate on more pleasant activities.
Our year has been dominated by several cycling breaks but we kicked 2009 off in the Alpes Maritimes, S. France tramping about in deep snow on snowshoes with Space Between, often in brilliant sunshine. A sudden blizzard meant that we spent New Year’s night most comfortably sleeping bagged up on our tour leaders’ floor with other snowshoers after a most jolly evening and dinner party.A couple of days later, after enjoying a post Christmas Marché de Noel in Nice we caught the sleeper back to Strasbourg and arrived home next day.
The next few days were dominated by a deep freeze - temperatures below 0°C for about a month so our car went into hibernation and our neighbour’s cellar flooded. Fortunately we discovered this as water began lapping round our feet in our cellar and for the next few hours it was all hands to the mop as we sought to prevent the waters rising far enough to damage a new freezer and the rather more expensive new boiler. The neighbouring house is unoccupied, opinions vary as to whether they really are still looking after an elderly relative, said to be at death’s door (for more than 4 years), fleeing from justice or abducted by aliens (someone does still collect their post once a week). By the time a phone number was obtained, the flood water was being contained using a borrowed pump on which J had ripped her finger so badly that medical help was required. The neighbour finally showed, installed a new pump in his cellar, apologised for the inconvenience and offered to pay for any damage. We got the floor dry, no damage was sustained to appliances and J’s finger healed quickly.
After that being carless in the cold was compensated for by some excellent winter walking over crisp snow in our nearby hills, until the temperatures finally rose above freezing and SZ (our ancient car) just started without any trouble.
The year then followed its usual pattern with work in house and garden gradually giving way to more cycling. Chance acquisition of an updated maps of our nearby province Rheinland Pfalz (Rhineland Palatinate) (http://cms.radwanderland.de/) revealed many more cycle routes than we’d suspected. The Eifel hills on the left bank of the Rhine form the northern part of this province and were accessible by train from Mannheim. Our account of this trip, one of three with the theme ‘Weathering summer storms’...) can be accessed in this blog. It was a taste of things to come, the Bodensee was colder and wetter and the first Kiel Canal trip was windier and also wet!
In between we concentrated on day trips southwards into Rheinland Pfalz as far as the border with Alsace and considered the best way to project our enjoyment to English speaking cyclists. A combination of research and chance lead to our discovery of Gecko Guides, a Singapore-based organisation who publish guides to cities, walking areas or cycling routes see: http://www.guidegecko.com/ Our first is called A Cycling Guide to the Lauter Valley and is available in electronic form for a small fee from Gecko, as is our extended Kiel Canal route - entitled Cycling in Northern Germany, a Loop through Schleswig-Holstein.
After the dismal summer rainy season August through to October was characterised by long sunny spells though fortunately without too many brutally hot days. We used our pensioner’s tickets to hop on and off local trains delivering us to the 50 km distant S. Pfalz from where we made loops in and out of Alsace or enjoyed the delights of the Cabbage and Carrot trail,
or the Vineyard route among the ripening grapes. We discovered that Wednesdays were to be avoided (someone unkindly said that Doctors surgeries were often closed so the pensioners all went cycling, as if...) as some trains could only carry 16 bicycles, rumour had it that some cyclists were forced to detrain, once back in Germany.We intend to continue our explorations next season and make them public via Gecko.
Future trends: Printing costs continue to rise and it seems likely that we may turn more and more to online information, for which we’ll charge a small fee. All our books are still available from us in paper form, or from Omnimap in the USA though we will probably be updating some of them and having them printed on demand by a company in Germany. Our book for Cicerone ‘Cycle Touring in Switzerland’ did very well intitially but sales appear to have fallen, perhaps due to the unmentionable events in the world of finance. Do suggest to your nearest and dearest that they order it as a New Year present for you, please.
After our second trip to Hamburg, Kiel and points south and west in September we have completed the Schleswig-Holstein loop guide, which leads through an area we can thoroughly recommend to families or anyone wanting a gentle and varied return to cycling.
As I write this on December 19th 2009, the year seems to have turned full circle with the car dead at the front door after night temperatures below -15°C! Both of us are still alive and able to cycle 90 km per day. Neil’s doctors encourage both of us that ‘business as usual’ is the best way to deal with his form of Lymphoma - obviously this includes regular check ups in Heidelberg. Up to now he has not needed any treatment so we continue to enjoy life and taking the bikes out for a spin or more often walking in the winter.
We continue to be happy to help anyone planning a trip particularly to Germany to cycle and feel that despite the fall in the value of the pound sterling against the Euro that many Euroland countries still offer value for money. On our Schleswig-Holstein trip, once in the area we spent an average of € 100 per day for the two of us. This included accommodation - a mix of B&B, family hotels and Youth Hostels, meals, some travel on ships and local trains. When we read of B&B prices in the UK or ridiculously expensive meals in the ‘Sunday supplements’ Euroland and even Switzerland outside the real honeypot locations seem fair enough.
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