Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Getting back on the bikes

We never really get off the bikes completely since our small German town is almost flat and even in a ‘normal’ winter there are few snowed in or iced up days. Last Friday temperatures were a spring like 12°C so we headed into Mannheim by bike to visit a friend in hospital. It’s a trip of about 10km or so, beginning in fields and woods and ending up on a cycleway alongside a busy city artery, then a short swing along the Neckar flood embankment into the blessed quiet of walkers and the occasional chugging boat’s diesel. On our return trip we opted for a spell along a leafy dual carriageway and then by allotments and underpasses back to Käfertal (Beetle valley!). Then parallel to the tramline, past the US army barracks and into Viernheim to shop and collect our post. It is not the most romantic bike ride in the world but we tried to keep the revs going, surged past a few surprised mountain bikers and certainly blew a few cobwebs away. Next day both of us were a bit surprised to notice tenderness in the nether regions, so we unearthed the padded bloomers before we set off again on our Bromptons. Close by there’s a chunk of forest, mixed deciduous and pines, a tiny remnant of a once great hunting forest belonging to the former monastery at Lorsch just to the north of us. It is crossed by a couple of Autobahns and for many years was a training area for US tanks and soldiers playing war games but most of it has now been returned for recreational use. Walkers, joggers, cyclists all with or without dogs find it a good place to be but once away from the major access points encounters fall off rapidly. Direction finding is not that easy but thanks to the Autobahns (crossed by bridges and tunnels and heard intermittently) it would be difficult to get lost completely. On Saturday we managed to find a new hill, an Ice Age sand dune, short and very steep and were surprised by two deer that exploded across our bows in a remote spot. Then we came upon a known place, the site of the Hunter’s Lodge, where generations of earlier Viernheimers picnicked, chatted and had assignations. Then it fell into disrepair, vandals burnt it from time to time and now there are memorial stones and a notice board with pictures of Victorian gents with trophies and guns, stern-faced matrons and serious children, just like those we have in our family albums of grandparents. Back home finally along the tarmac past the Small Animal Club, the Friends of the Carp and the Pigeon Fanciers clubhouses, with 18km on the clock and arms well shaken from the gravel trails.
More fine weather tempted us on Sunday to repeat the trip, this time on our Dahon folders, Big Apple tyres nicely inflated after a winter rest. Though we don’t really attempt to train both of us treated this as a time trial, upping our average speed by about 3 km/h over the Bromptons. We steamed up and over the new hill without difficulty because we changed down through our bigger range of gears in time. Since we remembered the way we were home in an hour and six minutes, thoroughly bounced about and with a top speed on the home tarmac of 30 km/h. No deer unfortunately but not bad for a couple of oldies who have spent the last few weeks desk bound writing up our Swiss adventures.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Cycling in Hungary

I was sorting through the pile of maps we got at the Mannheim Tourist Fair and discovered an excellent map of the cycle routes in Hungary. This map and comments are in German, but it would be worthwhile contacting the Hungarian tourist Office in London to see if there is a map in English available. Hungary is nothing like as flat as I thought, although there are large areas of flatness for family holidays. From what I have heard it is a reasonably cheap country and you are not likely to meet many Brits. It might be worth thinking about.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Rhineland Palatinate

The recent warm weather has meant that many of us are looking at old and new cycling areas. The Pfalz as the Germans call the Palatinate is a wine-, fruit- and vegetable growing paradise in south-eastern Germany. The local farmers have got together with the regional tourism authority to develop a new map that links the 1400km of cycling routes in the area between the French border in the south, Ludwigshafen in the northwest and Bad Dürkheim in the northeast with the farms offering direct sales of produce including wine. This coupled with the nearby cathedrals in Strasbourg, Worms, Speyer and Mainz, and Heidelberg just to the west means that this is an ideal holiday area both for families, and wine loving souls. Not that the presence of the former rules out the latter. The new map is called Radkarte Pfalz and can be obtained from Pfalz-Touristik, Martin Luther Strasse 69, D 67433 Neustadt/Weinstrasse, eMail info@pfalz-touristik.de. The web site is www.pfalz-radtouren.de.

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