In the afternoon I found a signposted cycle route that went exactly the right direction, and used almost exclusively traffic-free paths (sometimes pretty rough, but the bike survived)
. I had to leave the cycle-route for the last five kilometers of the days journey, however, to get to my campsite. The map wasn´t clear about the best way to go, so I asked some people in a nearby cafe for directions. When I said I was going to the campsite in Hutten eyebrows were raised. A local man obliged me with the directions, before adding ´you know it´s at the top of a mountain?´. Not a hill, you understand. The Germans have a perfectly good word for hill, which he chose not to use. What this campsite was at the top of was a mountain. I hadn´t known, of course, but there were no other campsites around so I bit the bullet and pretended I knew all along. The last 5km took 2 hours.
The campsite itself was owned by a friendly middle-aged man who´d inherited it from his father, who had inherited it from his father. It was founded in the 1920s. I share this information with you not only because it is inherently fascinating and useful to your life, but also to boast of how I came by it. I eavesdropped the conversation between the owner and the man in front of me in reception. Eavesdropping is, in my opinion, far harder than conversing in a foreign language, as people speak rapidly, use slang and you have no control over the direction of the conversation or the vocabulary used. I was very pleased with myself.
I left mid-morning, the sun was shining and the forecast predicted it would continue to do so all week, so I was in high spirits. However, I was also for the first time starting the day in unfamiliar terrain- my penance for taking the train- and this terrain was hilly. And my map didn´t have contours. And if it did I probably wouldn´t have understood them. The first few hours ride were hard work, though the scenery compensated. German countryside is not like English, French (well, the north anyway, I admit the Alps may have some drama), or Belgian. It´s better. Rather than endless cultivated fields covering a fairly flat landscape, the German countryside is extremely varied. In one morning I rode through meadows, crops, forests, (actual proper forests you could get lost in) pasture and paddocks, passed stagnant ponds, lakes, rivers, streams (possibly even laughing brooks) and a resevoir, as well as pretty little villages with houses painted in bright colours so they look from a distance like plastic toys.