Schnitzel Power.....

Trip Start Sep 28, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Germany  , Baden-Württemberg,
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Our first impressions of Germany were mostly to do with the weather. It really was incredibly cold when we first rode across the border. The first couple of days riding were in a very hilly area and we have learnt the following: cold + uphill = body warmth (good); cold + downhill = frozen fingers and noses (not so good).

After a day or two the hills disappeared and the sun returned, but it stayed cold as we locked onto the Main Radweg (cycleway following the Main river) which led us from Wunsiedel near the Czech border to Frankfurt. Following the Main river virtually from the source was fascinating, at the start it was little more than a gurgling stream, but it quickly grew to a very wide river which snakes its way across the centre of Germany. Following a river makes for mostly flat, fast riding and we were clocking up 80-100km a day without really feeling it. We barely rode on an actual road for almost two weeks as there are so many bike paths, and as well as following the river they took us through lots of farmland and vineyards.

We noticed a few changes once we crossed the border into Germany, the biggest being the cost of things. Yes, our days of living it up on Eastern European prices were at an end, and disappointingly we had to ration out the coffee and cake stops. And our tent got a rather good workout too since we couldn't really afford to stay in hotels. We were very thankful we had invested in some much warmer sleeping bags. Despite the cold weather we were very warm and snug in our little tent. However getting up in the mornings was a different story. Often we were unable to open the tent, due to the zip being frozen and it was a major struggle to get Alex out of the sleeping bag....but once we started our riding for the day we warmed up pretty quickly.

Cycling pace gave us a great opportunity to see the the German machine in full swing. Nuclear power plants and massive chemical factories, producing who know what filled the gaps between the pretty towns and agriculture. The Main river was doing it's share too, tightly controlled by locks and dams enabling massive barges, close to 150 metres long to carry loads up and down stream. The barges had a very similar pace to us and we seemed to ride side by side for days at times. The trains also got our attention, especially when a load of 200 new Mercedes or Audis whizzed by. There were also solar panels everywhere, sometimes just one roof and at other times what seemed like entire villages. We weren't surprised to learn that Germany is one of the largest exporters in the world, and was only recently overtaken by China. However we were very surprised at the lack of internet access. Maybe we were missing something but strangely Germany has so far been the hardest country for getting online.

There's something to be said for being completely disorganised, as we often are. Since we didn't know anything about the areas we would be riding through it meant that each town we visited was a very pleasant surprise. Especially when we expected to be riding through mostly small towns and found ourselves in the rather substantial, and beautiful, cities of Bamburg and Würzburg. The downside to our slightly chaotic cruising was that when we discovered an interesting place we didn't have a lot of time to explore. We probably should have allowed ourselves a few extra days so that we could stop a bit longer when we found somewhere we liked. But we had set ourselves a deadline, we were meeting our friends Markus and Anne at their home in Weinheim so we had a very good reason to keep moving.

Markus and Anne are our mysterious international friends that we keep bumping into on different continents, although this meeting was a planned one. They kindly invited us to stay with them for a few nights and they introduced us to their town and showed us the local sights. When we arrived they had coffee and freshly baked apple cake ready for afternoon tea - they must have been reading about our cake obsession on our blog! Anne was looking very pregnant and both of them are very excited about their imminent arrival. Anne had her last day at work while we were in town, 6 weeks before her due date. In Germany they have what translates to 'Mother Safety Time' and it is compulsory paid leave. And then after the baby arrives families get 14 months paid parental leave which they can divide up between the mother and father however they like, as long as the father takes minimum two months leave. A bit of an improvement on the Australian system! As well as learning a lot from them about life in Germany, we almost managed to get caught up on each other's news, although three days of non-stop talking wasn't quite enough. We had a really lovely time with Markus & Anne, and we hope the next time we catch up with them will be in Sydney. In the meantime we'll just wait excitedly for baby news, it's only a few weeks away.
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