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Around The World: Bicycle Touring Germany

Wild Camping in a School

We had ridden far enough. Kat’s broken knee was giving her lots of grief while bicycle touring Germany. We ended up stopping at an Italian restaurant where Kat got a whole heap of assistance from a bunch of English speaking customers, who unfortunately delivered the news that there was no where to stay in the area.

We continued on not 500m, but Kat’s pace indicated that there was no way we were going to make the 30km extra to our destination before nightfall. Alee decided that we would rest, eat, change clothes and maybe we would feel a bit fresher for the road ahead, but sitting down resulted in becoming a bit too relaxed; our bodies seizing up in next to no time. Alee went for a walk to scope the area out for camping, even though he knew that Kat wouldn’t be keen on wild camping from the numerous times we’d tried to find a suitable location. This time was a bit different though as Kat really couldn’t move, giving us little option.

Luckily for us, school was on holidays in Germany, so there was a relatively low chance of people walking through the school grounds. We found a very hidden location up on a well-tree’d ridge where one would expect the cool kids at school would smoke whenever they pleased.

bicycle touring germany
Can you make out our tent on the ridge?

After a night of sleeping in the bushes, camping at school was a smooth operation, allowing us to get the rest we needed to make the extra 30km the next day. The only downside was that Kat, suffering more dubious “luck” managed to get bitten by a Lyme disease carrying tic – read more about that tale in Croatia!

bicycle touring germany

Köln and Friends

We had planned to meet Kat’s god-sister (the wonderful super-woman that is also named Alice) in Köln.

One of the first things we noticed on arrival was the street art – some of the best we’ve seen in Europe! While Kat was busy taking pictures of spray painted art by day, Alee was getting excited by the nighttime photography here. The Germans know a thing or two about lighting and making their city look great!

bicycle touring germany

bicycle touring germany

At the hostel, we made some friends from many corners of the world (Norman, Facundo, Peter and more) over a drinking game. It is refreshing to escape the campgrounds every now and then to get to know (and drink with) the often much younger or much older, urban travellers.

For more on Alice and Köln, read on HERE.

Bicycle Touring Germany: Riding the Romantic Rhine

One of the most popular bicycle touring destinations in the world MUST be the Rhine River. Every summer the Rhine provides an ideal flat cycling route for bicycle tourists through its historic and picturesque landscape. It actually got to the point where there were so many bikes around that we stopped waving and saying ‘hi’ – a strange contrast to other countries where the rarity of the species meant we’d pretty much tie bike tourers down and make them talk to us!

The Romantic Rhine starts as a trickle up in the mountains of Switzerland and flows all the way to escape nearby where we started our trip, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Our Rhine experience started in Köln and finished near Offenburg, taking us through roughly 500km of riverine landscape.

The first day from Köln was pretty hard for us. We couldn’t find any information about which side of the Rhine to ride on so we picked the east side. This turned out to be a bad decision, offering very few bike paths and even took on a decent detour up many steep hills on ordinary roads. We eventually worked out that this had to be the wrong side to be cycling on, and found a ferry which got us to the safety of the west bank.

bicycle touring germany

The next few days were wonderful! The weather was perfect. Our favourite little town along the way was Koblenz, situated on the intersection of the Mosel and Rhine Rivers. There was lots of public open space around the riverside creating the perfect place to have a beer or some ice cream at any one of the bars.

This lovely summer time love gave Alee the time to think about what meditation and cycling means to him.

bicycle touring germany

bicycle touring germany

We were able to avoid roads almost all the way to Speyder, where we finished our romantic riding.

For the full detail experience of the Rhine, read Kat’s post HERE.

Train-ing

Kat’s knee hurt most mornings that we rode the Rhine, but more so on one morning near Speyder. Rather than waiting this one out, we decided to meet up with my friend Paul, a professional cyclist based in Offenburg roughly 150km away. We hopped on a train with no issue other than a lack of space – bicycle tourers were clogging up the bike space on the train, leaving us with the title of “annoying-tourists-with-bikes-stopping-everyone-from-using-the-toilet”. Pictures HERE. We arrived at Offenburg station, saying goodbye to new train friends Simon and Julia; Simon had just completed a ride from Germany to India so we had plenty to talk about over 30 minutes!

To our surprise, Paul was standing in lycra out the front of Offenburg station with his road bike. “Hurry up you two!”

Offenburg

We were planning on spending three or four days in Offenburg, but ended up spending a total of two weeks in this farming region of Germany. The reason for this extended time was to sort Kat’s knee out, which had been a problem for around a month by this time. We luckily had an incredible amount of German support from Eric, Paul’s host in Germany, who offered us a spot in his house for as long as Kat needed to recover. Then there was Paul’s professional cycling team masseuse, Andy, who strapped up Kat’s knee on more than one occasion and Franz, Eric’s neighbour who provided the humour (and sometimes German BBQs).

After a few days and no signs of improvement on Kat’s knee (we still didn’t know it was fractured at this time) we decided to go to the hospital to get some x-rays to check if everything was ok in there. The X-Rays were taken and analysed by a doctor in emergency who delivered the news that all looked ok, other than some swelling. Frustratingly, we took this information, picking up another course of anti-inflammatories from the chemist and deciding that if it was still sore once this course was completed, we would come back to hospital for an MRI scan (3D X-Ray if you like).

There was no improvement on Kat’s knee, so she got an MRI a few days later. “You have two fractures – one in the patella and the other in the top of the tibia” announced the the surgeon analysing the imaging. He noted that doctors only have a basic understanding of xrays, so although the fractures were shown in the xrays, only a specialist could pick up on them. The only way recommended to heal fractures like this was to stay perfectly still for six to eight weeks; ideally in once place. Kat’s interpretation of this was to do quite a bit less bicycle touring and walking long distances for a month or so.

Kat’s full account of the knee saga is found HERE.

This gave Alee some time to get dirty on mountain bikes in the Black Forrest with Paul. For more info on professional mountain biker Paul, have a read of my interview with him HERE. In short, Paul is amazing on a mountain bike and knew all of the good trails, so Alee spent many days chasing him around the trails. Offenburg life – not a problem! More details HERE.

bicycle touring germany

Freiburg

We caught the train south to Freiburg, our first official trip avoiding knee usage. Alee worked with a German guy named JoJo (say it like YoYo) in a Melbourne bike shop a couple of years ago and over post-work beers, JoJo would showed him pictures of his bikes and the trails in Freiburg and said, “If you ever come to Freiburg, you can stay with me and I can show you the mountain biking trails”. This offer was too good to refuse!

JoJo was happy to look after us, despite the fact that his house was roughly the size of a shoebox… and this shoebox was always bulging full of Freiburgian friends in addition to Alleykat!

We ate good German food, went out drinking boutique beer, made a trip to watch some downhill mountain biking in France, relaxed by and swam in an awesome nearby lake and made numerous trips up and down the mountains hugging Freiburg.

bicycle touring germany
Alleykat painting the Freiburg Horse, CyclingAbout style!

Paul drove to Freiburg from Offenburg for more Palleykat times, where and he and Alee went on an adventure in the Black Forest on his bikes. They found many steep hike-a-bike trails but also some incredible sections of single track trails through the glorious forest.

The Freiburg experience can be read about in full HERE.

Eurobike

Eurobike was crazy. It is the biggest bicycle expo in the world, with almost every manufacturer in the industry making an appearance. A series of aircraft hangers house thousands of stands promoting their products; you really truly definitely absolutely need multiple days to see everything!

JoJo gave us a ride there in his car from Freiburg. According to JoJo the traffic is always horrific around Eurobike, but to our shared surprise we’d left early enough to avoid it. We found some car park space in a choc-o-bloc-full area and pitched a tent for the next few days. We were lucky enough to get day passes from our friends at Supernova, but realistically needed multi-day passes because the show was just so large! Alee was able to run around taking photos of the bits he was deeply interested in and also go for a test ride on a few of the more interesting bikes on show.

bicycle touring germany
Jojo and I riding the Hase Pino e-bike!

On days two and three of the Eurobike show it rained. Lots. Alleykat cracked the sads and basically sat in the tent reading and writing (and sleeping!) for two days straight!

Our Eurobike Gallery of bicycle touring gear is found HERE.

Paul’s Mountain Bike Race

Whilst we were at Eurobike we got a slightly depressed Facebook message from Paul who clearly missed us and wanted to hang out. We had already booked train tickets to Munich at this time, but with some gentle coaxing from Paul we ditched them and caught a train to Albstadt to watch Paul race. Some of the motivation of this move was to also get a lift down to Austria to watch the Aussies at the Mountain Bike World Championships.

Missing our train at the stopover station resulted in arriving over one hour late to Albstadt. Not to worry, Paul is a smart lad and after finding that we weren’t at the station when expected, he came back to pick us up when the next train rolled in.

The mountain bike course was horrendously muddy, but Paul still gave the short race a crack. Unfortunately, his 90kg frame sunk his tyres further into the mud than the 55kg whippets who danced off into the distance to take the podium positions.

The muddy start to Paul’s race in Albstadt

We stayed with Paul in a single-bed room in a nearby hotel booked by his team. All seemed to be ok until the morning when we stupidly tried to eat breakfast with Paul. “Can I make you a coffee?” asked the lady overseeing breakfast. “Sure” we replied. “Ok, and your room number is…?” she responded. “Errrrm… umm… arrr… well” and then Paul chimes over the top with “115”. She seems satisfied enough with that answer, but then a few minutes later the hotel manager comes over to explain that room 115 is a single room, so we can’t all have been sleeping there. Paul took the horns on this one for us by saying that there was a room booked for us, but we arrived late and didn’t have the key, so we slept on his floor. The hotel lady reluctantly bought this story (because by luck there was an additional room booked under the team’s name) and we were able to escape scot-free.

We departed the Alpstadt cross country race with a new face in Paul’s van. The epic and enigmatic Chris Jongerwaard is a five-time elite national champion in the cross country discipline for Australia and was getting a lift with us to Austria for the World Championships. We were on our way to pick up Australia’s best under-23 rider too, Jack Haig. Jack was staying at the old-Gerolsteiner road team base (yes, Tom Boonen and other awesome riders have slept, dined and probably taken drugs here), hosted by the super kind couple Ronnie and Vanessa.

Hang on, let’s recap here – we are chilling at a former pro-cycling team base with three of Australia’s best and most down-to-earth mountain bikers… well done Alleykat!

The next day we road tripped to Saalfelden, Austria for the Mountain Bike World Championships with this awesome bunch of pros, plus the two Australian Olympic MTB competitors, no biggie. You can read the Austrian part of the adventure HERE.

*A week passes*

Munich

After spending a week in Austria with Paul and the Australian mountain bike team at the MTB World Championships, we got dropped off in Munich to visit Alee’s friend Helen and her boyfriend Christoph. Alee met Helen in Myanmar a number of years ago and the two have kept in contact ever since – she was another “if you come to Europe, you can stay with me” host!

Helen and Christoph swept us under their Munich wings, looking after us in their apartment only a week after they themselves had moved in. Christoph had just managed to install a kitchen (apparently when you rent a unit in Germany, you have to install one yourself if there isn’t already one there!) but Alleykat have the ability to sleep anywhere, so despite the half-filled, half-furnished house – it was a wonderful place to be.

Munich is a neat city and is generally very well off – we understand that there are more millionaires in this city than any other in Germany.

Our Munich time consisted of multiple adventures to Globetrotter – a four-storey adventure/camping shop complete with arctic simulator and water sports pool. This place is like nothing we have back in Australia.

Lots of quality time was spent with Helen and Christoph, with a mountain biker friend, Alee, who lived in Australia not long ago and excitingly too, with Stef and Angela, a couple who contacted us on twitter to ask if we’d like to meet up. Stef and Angela rode their bikes from Poland to New Zealand a year ago, so they were as excited about hearing our trip plans as we were about hearing their experiences from the road. Check out their videos on their VIMEO channel.

Alee squeezed in a day to check out the slides in the Munich Technical University, which were installed as art (how awesome!?), as well as the natural wave in the local river that surfers love having a crack at.

Watching the river surfers in Munich.

Bicycle Touring Germany Galleries

Click HERE. And HERE. And HERE.

Bicycle Touring Around The World

01. Bicycle Touring The Netherlands
02. Bicycle Touring Belgium
03. Bicycle Touring Germany
04. Bicycle Touring Austria
05. Bicycle Touring Italy & Slovenia
06. Bicycle Touring Croatia & Bosnia
07. Bicycle Touring Montenegro
08. Bicycle Touring Albania
09. Bicycle Touring Greece
10. Bicycle Touring Turkey Part 1
11. Bicycle Touring Turkey Part 2
12. Bicycle Touring Turkey Part 3
13. Bicycle Touring Georgia
14. Bicycle Touring Azerbaijan
15. Bicycle Touring Iran Part 1
16. Bicycle Touring Iran Part 2
17. Bicycle Touring Iran Part 3
18. Bicycle Touring Turkmenistan
19. Bicycle Touring Uzbekistan
20. Bicycle Touring Kyrgyzstan
21. Bicycle Touring South Korea
22. Bicycle Touring Japan
23. Bicycle Touring The Philippines
24. Bicycle Touring Cambodia
25. Bicycle Touring Vietnam
26. Bicycle Touring Laos
27. Bicycle Touring Thailand
28. Bicycle Touring Malaysia & Singapore
29. Bicycle Touring Australia

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