Saints and spinners
Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
149Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
The next day was all about the ride, as my next stop, Eisenach, was too far away to reach in one day. I followed another off-road route and had a really peaceful day, stopping around 4pm in a tiny campsite with cold showers (come back 50cents for 7mins, all is forgiven), no reception and only one other occupant. I pitched my tent, assuming someone would eventually come and ask me for money. They never did, so I forgave the cold showers.
I left early on the 7th, planning on covering the 10km to Eisenach before 9am, spending the morning investigating the home town of J. S. Bach and the castle where Martin Luther translated the bible, and then pushing on to Erfurt (the next big town) in the afternoon. There was only one potential problem with this plan. The bike wasn´t behaving itself. It was ok in the lower gears (the ones I use) but wouldn´t go into the top two, so even if in a fit of lunacy I felt like pedalling downhill, I couldn´t. Regardless of the low level of inconvenience, I wasn´t keen to leave a fairly obvious mechanical failure to get worse. I passed a bike shop on the way into Eisenach, so I had breakfast in the town square and went back there at nine o´clock. Jens Ladicke, the owner of said bike shop, was waiting behind the counter. Among his many virtues are the ability to speak near-fluent american and an enthusiasm for meeting foreigners (he´s heavily involved in the town´s many international ´twinning´ projects
This was the third thing to break on the bike. The first two were both on day one- the bell, which I have since fixed (Totally pointless though they are in England, on the busy cyclepaths of Holland and the shared pavements of Germany they are invaluable). The other was the cycle computer which tells me how far/fast/long I´ve cycled, which I fixed with no help at all from the miserable, rude and obnoxious folk in Faversham´s bike shop. If you live in Faversham and need a bike, go to Eisenach. When he´d finished Jens told me I must see the town and the Wartburg, and I could leave all my baggage with him to do it.
A house has, for the purposes of historical convenience, though not, I suspect, accuracy, been nominated as Bach´s childhood home and converted into a museum. It has the benefit of being quite small and specific, so you can´t really stretch it over more than an hour even if you read everything, so you don´t have that vague guilty feeling of leaving a museum before you know all the stuff. What made it worth the 5 euros though, was that after having a look round, a curator gave a half-hour presentation, in which he played various pieces of Bach´s music on loosely contemporary instruments - two differently powered organs, a well tempered clavier, harpsichord, piano. I am not a musical person, but even I found this kind of ´interactive edutainment´ appropriate and interesting
The Wartburg, where Martin Luther translated the bible, is beautiful to look at, even more so to look from. I didn´t fancy riding up the mountain for the pleasure, however, even without the bags. I asked the bus driver if I was allowed to bring the bike on the bus, ´there´s no room´ she replied. I took this to mean that if I could make room, its allowed. Through strategic use of ´excuse me´ and gently pushing it turned out there was room after all. The inconvenienced engaged me in semi-polite conversation;
´where do you come from?´
´From England by bike?´
This exchange put me in an excellent mood, as it included, in perfectly natural conversation, my favourite two word exchange in the German language- "Quatch!" , "Doch!". With only these two words you can argue all day.
The clouds were gathering as I rode to Erfurt and I arrived just before they burst. (I have had a lot of good fortune with the weather so far on this trip- touch wood) I installed myself in the ´Opera Hostel´. Brussels was the first time I´ve ever stayed in a hostel, and this was only the second, so there may be a whole culture and etiquette that I haven´t learned
The next morning the combination of a hangover and enjoying the company of Stefan, Susi, and Sven (another German from the Opera Hostel) kept me from moving on until after 2pm, so I only went as far as Weimar 25km away. Weimar was, according to my Dad and Google, the seat of the inter-war government administration
From Weimar halfway to Leipzig I was able to follow first the river Ilm cycle route and then the river Saale, so the only hills were to the sides, which was fine by me. It being a Saturday there were plenty of other cyclists on the paths, and I recognised a few at the campsite where I stopped. A middle-aged man called Rudi approached me as I was looking for a pitch, "how far have you come today?" - German competitiveness, always charming
"not far then!"
its not far, but still, there´s no need to be like that...
"well, I have a long journey, so I don´t do too much in one day"
go on, ask me. I dare ya. British competitiveness, much the same.
Seeing I was alone and enthused by my bold plan Rudi invited me to dinner with his friends and family, I said I´d come, but I had to pitch my tent so maybe I wouldn´t make it
I then met Kay and Heidi, a young couple riding to Hamburg in a week, who I´d seen on the road that day. (We had passed each other, because I was going in the wrong direction, so they were a little surprised to see me there). We met up in the bar later, had a drink and some food (for which they insisted on paying, despite my genuine protest) and arranged for me to join them for breakfast. (That is, for me to eat their food and drink their tea.) Since I left I´ve read Patrick Leigh Fermor´s book ´A Time Of Gifts´, about his journey on foot through Germany in 1933. I can see what he means.