Guten Tag

by Paul
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To all the followers of my blog (Mum, Dad) I’m writing to you from Ulm, Germany. Birthplace of Einstein and home to the world’s tallest church. I’m staying in a youth hostel that truly lives up to its name, and I feel more than a little judged by the school children surrounding me in the dining hall. School children who, by the way, are freakishly tall. I wish you had fed me more sauerkraut when I was young.

I know it’s been too long between updates ( I’ve crossed two international borders since my last post!) but it’s been so hard to find the time to sit down and write anything. So here goes:

Yesterday was hard. Real hard. I started off in Konstanz, which is right on the German side of the Swiss/German border. Home to an 18 tonne rotating statue of a naked prostitute holding the Pope in one had and the Emperor in the other (I’ll let you guess the story behind that), the second largest lake in Europe (the source of the Rhine), and home to Julius. I know Julius from his Broome days a few years back, and I went to stay with him for a rest day. As always it was good to have a local show me the sights of a new city, and it was good to share a few (too many) beers with an old mate!

Because Konstanz is a little bit off the path I’m actually following, I added a few more kilometres to my total, which is fine, but I forgot to factor in my horrendous sense of direction and the extra time it would take to find my way back to the Eurovelo 6. Needless to say it was a frustratingly back and forth start to the day, made even more so by the fact that the German SIM card I’d just bought lost all its credit within 10 minutes because it was sneakily connected to the Swiss network from across the river. Brilliant.

By the time I’d finally gained some distance and momentum I started to notice that as the roads were gradually getting narrower they were also steadily getting steeper. Stupidly oversized tractors were passing me at an uncomfortably regular rate and none of it was feeling right, so I stopped to double check that I was going on the correct path. As I did so Alfred, a German lawyer wearing all the road racing gear and casually cycling 100km home from a meeting, stopped to check if I was ok. I explained my concerns and he told me I was going the right way, but that we were just at the beginning of a 900m ascent. I was on the verge of completely losing it and turing round to find a train station, but he said he’d ride it with me, so I couldn’t back out. What followed was easily the hardest section of the tour so far, and probably the toughest hour of exercise I’ve had in my life. Every time I wanted a break Alfred would point to the approaching storm clouds and tell me we had to hurry. By the time we made it to the top I was absolutely wrecked, but I was thankful he turned up because I genuinely wouldn’t have made it otherwise. Plus we were rewarded with an incredible 360 degree view of the Black Forrest, Lake Konstanz and could just make out the outline of the Alps. It was epic. Although all that effort was wasted because It took us about 13 seconds to get down the other side at 60kph, which was kinda scary with a headband for a helmet.

To top the day off I ended up in Sigmaringen where I had my first ever couch surfing experience, although I’m not sure if you can call a private room in a German mansion real couch surfing. My host Juliane was amazing; we sat up drinking beer and chatting for a while, then in the morning I was treated to a proper German breakfast and before I set off she took me down the road to where there was an epic view of the local castle.

Sigmaringen is near the start of the Danube, and it’s this river that I followed to Ulm today, and will continue to follow now to it’s Delta at the Black Sea. Which means down-hill, baby! The day was pretty uneventful aside from one point when I passed a lady going super slow, then turned around 10 minutes later to see her crouched down three feet behind me stealing all my hard work. I was having none of that, so I casually sat up and pretended I was resting, then did the same to her after she passed me. Proper badass.

Tomorrow I’ll cross the border into a strange land where the men wear leather shorts, white sausages (that you have to peel…) are served for breakfast, and beer is not just a beverage but the actual meaning of life. I’m talking about Bavaria. Germany’s largest state and the home of Octoberfest which, coincidently I promise, is about to start. To say I’m excited about the next couple of weeks would be an understatement.

For now I’ve missed out on my summary of the last section in France, and that’s intentional. I’m still trying to collect my thoughts on a country where you can buy 18,000 different varieties of cigarette 24/7 from any corner store, but it takes 40 minutes of cycling around a city of 120,000 people before you find a single place that sells things you can, you know, eat rather than inhale. So i’ll come back to France. Oh, and Switzerland. Anyway, nobody said I had to do this in order!

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