Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Trier the city you can never leave

Trier is one of the all time great German cities. It is without doubt the oldest German city and offers extensive Roman remains, superb churches and the Karl Marx House where the revolutionary prophet was born and lived, before he finally ended up in Highgate Cemetery. There are bus loads of tourists everywhere. Since the city is also the most convenient spot for most Germans to start the Moselle cycle path down to Koblenz, the town and its railway station are jammed packed with the Lycra® clad and other touring cyclists. Most cycling visitors stop overnight to simply look at the place, which is a knockout, especially if you're there when there is a Fest. Cyclists are well catered for. There is a multitude of cycle tracks, well sign posted with one odd exception. The city fathers seem to have decided that so many cyclists stop overnight that they do not need to sign post the connection between the railway station and the Moselle bank. They have enough time to orientate themselves before they head off east or south.
We decided to spend a week in the Eifel hills. We travelled to Trier by train. We'd been there before. We have seen the sights and so we decided to arrive and depart. We arrived in Trier on a cold showery day and after a quick sandwich we set off for the river bank. We passed by the Porta Nigra (signposted from the station) and ran on down the cycle/footpath along Nordallee dodging groups of rubber necking French kids. Then came the punishment for not stopping overnight. We came to a set of traffic lights and there was a sign off to the left, we followed it to a spot where the bicycle signs came to an end and spent a half hour wandering through the old town. (The cure for this problem lies with the city fathers. As you pass the Porta Nigra go through the gate and pick up a city plan from the tourist office on the other side. When you reach the traffic lights at the end of Nordallee, turn off half right down the Lindenstrasse.)
We finally found the river and headed off towards Koblenz into the wind, because this is what cyclists do. If the route is downhill and with the wind, it's the wrong way. We rapidly noticed our mistake and turned round to head for Wasserbillig in Luxembourg. As we left Trier we noticed a sign pointing across the river to Wasserbillig, which is the lowest point in Luxembourg. We followed it. A big mistake, the rain blowing in from the east now was horizontal and we arrived at the Trier Exhibition Grounds, swung right and right again to end up in a large car park inhabited by motor homes packed with bored individuals making cups of tea. We could not find a way up river and turned round once again to follow the right bank to Konz where we crossed the river on a cycle/footbridge adjacent to the railway bridge. This is the best place to cross the river if you are heading upstream. After a few km on the left bank we crossed into Luxembourg and headed up the Sauer Valley to Bollendorf. We stopped in the youth hotel there having climbed up what seemed to be the North Face of the Eiger and then we went on into the Eifel Hills, but that's another story.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Bring, buy or maybe hire

Tim Burleigh, a friend of ours who writes and publishes the excellent BicycleGermany web site on the joys and possible pitfalls of cycle touring in Germany wrote to us recently about some new ideas for the website. It would appear that some airlines are demanding $250 for the one way carriage of a bicycle from the USA to Europe or vice versa, i.e. return costs of $500. At the present rate of exchange $500 is about 370 Euro. For this sum of money you can hire a 21-27 gear trekking bike for about 3 weeks. However you will need to take the bike back to the hire company, which even after a short linear trip like the Romantic Road from Würzburg to Füssen will cost you the better part of a day which for two people and bikes will cost at least 25 Euro each.
It may be more convenient and even cheaper for a longer trip to buy a cheap bike at the start of the trip and get rid of it at the end. If you have family or friends in Europe this is an easy option, otherwise it could be difficult. You could always give the bike to a church or a charity. Obviously if you are planning to come back the year and have no relatives or friends in Europe after you can try to find a bike shop to leave the bicycle there for the winter. Various of the supermarkets in Germany like Aldi, Real or Lidl, the coffee roasters Tchibo and DIY stores sell their own brand bicycles for prices that one can hardly believe. You can buy a bike for less than 200 Euro. They have one major snag however. Most bike shops won't touch them if repairs become necessary or will charge you serious sums for the privilege of repairing the bike. The best option is to buy a Pegasus bicycle from a purchasing cooperative called ZEG. They sell these bikes through local bicycle shops in Germany, not all but a lot and in the Stadler chain of bike supermarkets. These bikes can normally be obtained for between 300 to 500 Euro.

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