Well some very delightful days in the cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Took a bit to find our hotel as disguised as a bar and hidden away upstairs was the reception desk. Hotel Clino a great place and only €60 a night in the center of town. Bike parking difficult but our room was very large so we just parked the bikes in room (carrying them up the narrow spiral staircase) we were not going to use them anyway, as seems everything within walking distance.
And most interesting as auto traffic is minimal. Rotterdam has a population of about 700000 in the same urban area as Anchorage, (about 80 square miles), and traffic is much less, although parking would be an issue. Even in the rain people take bikes, and they do not change clothes just work clothes on the bike( suits, skirts, heels, etc.)
We have friends who used to live in Anchorage and have purchased a canal boat here in the Netherlands and next summer intend to cruise the canals of Europe). Lyn and Eric took the train from Roermond near the Holland German border and spent two days with us, which was great
Seems on our bicycle ride we never had bad rainy weather except one very short time but when we reached the cities bad weather came in. We went up the Euromaast tower but could only go to 80 meters due to the wind, whereas the full tower observation point is 185 meters. It was too windy. On a good day one can rappel from the top. But we had a great time just walking the city, going in for coffee and beers, food, and visiting with Lyn and Eric.
Lyn and Eric stayed the night and then the four of us hopped on the train for the 40 minute ride to Amsterdam. (80 kilometers). Quite a difference in cities. Rotterdam was pretty much destroyed in World War II hence a lot of new modern architecture and sky scrapers. Amsterdam is a city of canals with the central part built in about 1650. The buildings are 3-4 stories and next to one another, and as I understand it courtyards in the middle of the block of buildings. The buildings were usually built leaning slightly outward to make them look larger and also to allow the hoists built into the roof to lift furniture into the building without hitting the building. (The furniture is taken through the windows). But the 450 years since the original have allowed for a bit of settling also on the water and sand Amsterdam is built on.
The canals which is what the city was designed about circle the central area with usually a one way road on each side sometimes with a tram too and of course the bicycles. Amsterdam is the city of bikes. We took a canal tour which was great and the captain noted that the canals are 3 meters deep – 1 meter of water, 1 meter of mud, and 1 meter of bicycles. There are usually no railing about the canals, except on the bridges.
And I have noticed often at train stations there will be two stories of bicycle parking.
Tried to attend the Anne Frank museum but was not going to stand in the hour plus long line so contented ourselves with a picture
Then on to the red light district. Prostitution is legal here, controlled , taxed, the workers have a union and the red light area is also a tourist area, with “no pictures allowed” signs in front of the windows of shall we say the ladies on display. Once in a while someone would go to the window door the lady would open it and the red curtain closed behind them.
But many stores and store fronts. Would have liked the prostitution museum but again time constraints. Kind of interesting such a common thing as sex has become a tourist attraction.
And little stores all over grocery stores, souvenir shops, sex shops for specific variations, and pot shops.
Lyn and Eric departed on train back to Roermond and Jeanne and I to Rotterdam. I am still amazed at the trains. Even though supposedly slow still fast by U.S. Standards.
Joost from the Andes trip came in for dinner from his village and we had a superb evening of stories and sharing. A very good Vietnamese meal. I will miss the ice cream for desert and the expresso to finish off the meal. A true delight.
One should measure oneself not by ones dreams but the fulfillment of those dreams.
Well we departed Xanten Germany with its 4000 years of history and found ourselves back riding the dikes along the river, occasional dropping down into a village or just riding along side, every once in a while climbing back to the top. Once I thought I would rush up and rest, while waiting for Jeanne to catch up, but alas as I hit the summit 4 or 5 meters above where we had been and looked back to begin my rest; alas there was Jeanne right behind, just cruising along without a care. So much for rest.
Then we noted a beer garden ahead and beside it along side the road coming up to the dike was a German flag and on the other side of the road a Netherlands flag. The border. Barely a line and being European Union no control between countries, but a very distinct difference. From the beer garden we heard German being spoken and at a bench on the Dutch side three people were speaking Dutch, which we had not as yet heard. Only a political line but things change, hard for me to describe. I never have figured out how come there is such a distinction just with an arbitrary line.
The dikes were shall I say neater, (maybe) and the bikes changed. German bikes were cruisers and would easily be recognized in the United States as general bikes. The bikes in Holland for the most part were more utilitarian, no fancy lightweight things but bikes built for everyday use to and from somewhere for something, often with baskets or boxes, almost always with kickstands, and full chain guards. (Bottom and top chain protector) one sits upright. And still a large number of e bikes with little old fat ladies roaring past us.
Then there were the road bikes. We saw very few in Germany but now there were pelatons of 20 or so riders racing along in a whir. Side by side and 10-15 deep. But the track is a two lane track and they did not slow much for oncoming traffic which scared Jeanne a bit. I usually kept riding to the right but Jeanne usually stopped and pulled off. They were generally flying along at speed.
But in general it was a delightful afternoon. Had reservations in the city of Nijmegan through booking.com and the GPS took us winding through some narrow streets. On arrival from the countryside we joined numerous bike riders just going wherever in the city, along the bike path beside the road next to the sidewalk. We are learning to watch the signal lights. There are car signals, pedestrian signals, and bike signals, of which going the same direction can all be different. More than once we wait
then a signal for bikes to go, it turns green but the pedestrian signal does not. And when you hit the button often it does not just wait for the car signals to clear but gives a specific right of way to bike or pedestrian. But
we rode into town with a continuous line of bikers going here and there. But the GPS took us to the Prikkels sign which was our hotel except this was an ice cream shop. I went in inquiring about the hotel and it was the right place, just no hotel sign, only ice cream, so I bought an ice cream cone. Now this is a hotel.
A delightful place only open as a hotel for two months and the steepest staircases yet to the second floor. No wasted space on staircases here.
And another delightful evening wandering about and another superb meal. Is there bad food anywhere along this trip? We have not found it
But booking rooms is becoming a necessity as we realize We cannot just wander about looking for a guesthouse, hotel or whatever as often we do not know what to look for. And now getting closer to the end, hotels, seem difficult to find, so we agree to nearly 90 k tomorrow and get to Rotterdam in another 70 k. Will be some of our biggest days.
So we ride skipping the GPS directions and sticking to the dikes along the river and a ferry ride across to the north side and the city of Gorinchem and our first motel similar to ones along the freeway at home. And no restaurants nearby except Macdonalds so we eat at the motel restaurant and it was bad. Deep fried breaded stuff. Went to Macdonalds for desert and coffee. It was nice riding today but not our best day together, but only 80 k as overrode the GPS. For whatever reason it does not like dikes even though it shows them and definitely does not like ferries.
Then our last day riding through the city which is no problem as seems there is always a bike path. The GPS often guides us through countryside in the midst of the city. Delightful. Over the bridge and the Rhein river is big here, especially when compared to 26 days ago between Andermatt and Disentis Switzerland.
I had concluded when putting in waypoints and for the map it was going to be a navigational day, and it was. I can’t count the number of times I told Jeanne we are lost again. 4 ways of navigating, GPS, the map, directional bike signs for the route, and just heading downriver. If 3 out of 4 agree that is good, but often total disagreement. GPS wants the shortest without ferries, and today it shows a total of 150 kilometers getting near Rotterdam and going back to the last bridge at Gorinchem to cross to the north side, signs in Holland have become sporadic and one does not necessarily know if they point the route to the east or west. And the map shows no detail but does show what may be a more scenic route which is where I get my GPS waypoints from.
And it was delightful, through little villages and out into the countryside of farm fields. On and on but getting lost and going backwards, generally having a great time just riding our bicycles.
We had seen on the map an area which said national park. Now what could be here to make a national park? Well it turns out quite a lot. We are in the delta area of which people told us the Rhein is not really a river at its mouth but a series of canals all over. Well we came to the park headquarters and museum hidden in a mound of dirt. DeBiesbosch National Park.
A movie was shown in English and learned the history of the area from the year 1421 when work began on utilizing the area often flooded with either River floods or high storm tides from the ocean. Over the centuries various things have worked well and harvest in the area were of the bull rush reeds then willows. Complicated system of dikes, channels, canals were developed each changing the landscape and preserving a little bit. Then in 1995 and 1996 there were floods which required more extensive work and large dams and holding areas were developed. But people have realized with climate change the floods from the river will only increase and sea level is rising. For a country below sea level that is not good, so a change in attitude is coming about. They seem to realize you cannot just build the dikes higher and in the future they are going to give the river more room, not less, which means some farm country is going away.
The park I believe translates to beaver national park and they have introduced beavers there to help with habitat, and apparently they are helping, but as noted time will tell. It was a wondrous museum although mostly in Dutch, but pictures, artifacts, and diorama most helpful to our understanding. And the mound of dirt did not look big from the outside but from the inside seemed huge.
Then on taking a total of 4 ferries (which the GPS hated) one a bicycle, pedestrian only ferry across the Rhein. Again we were wandering about the countryside going through the towns of Dordrecht and Papendrecht before approaching Rotterdam which the building are beginning to be seen some 16 kilometers to go. (Did I mention there are no mountains here to block the view and it is flat). A most delightful ride winding our way about various canals.
Then we find ourselves riding between two canals with old windmills all about. The famous windmills.
We ride for several kilometers the crowds getting thicker as we approach the other end. Turns out this is a tourist area and it is Sunday afternoon and we heard Spanish, Japanese, German, Dutch and English languages. From our end of entry it was free but from the other end there was a charge walk amongst the 20 or thirty windmills. Awesome. They use the windmills to pump water to and from various canals and water systems.
Then another ferry ride and into Rotterdam.
Be careful as pedestrian sidewalks, bike paths, trams, cars and all with separate signals.
What a concept bikes have right of way. Roundabouts with bike lanes. But be careful bikes can move a speed and you must watch when crossing or stepping into a bike lane.
But directed ourselves into town center which seemed to be the railroad station hoping to find a sign which said end of trail. Instead we found some folks from Perth, Australia (who speak excellent English although Australian English) who took our picture at the end of the trail.
departed our friends house in absolutely no hurry. Was a good rest day although did nothing, for the rest day. I suppose that is what a rest day is. Jeanne enjoyed talking with Britta. I realize she, who is the more social one of the two of us, has been unable to converse as I have because I at least have the ability to ask for a hotel room or know a little bit of the language. I will sometimes start a conversation with how are you and progress from there, but it usually ends shortly hereafter when my German language vocabulary is done.
We thought the day would be easy with just riding to the other side of Köln, but it did not work out that way. A delightful ride from the Mannings home in Lohma into and along the promenade of Köln, but by end of day we had gone further than the expected 40 k. We came to a delightful town of Stadt Zons just before Düsseldorf and thought a good place to stay but alas everything with no room or closed up tight. It was a cute little walled village of midevil times. Once we decided to stop we were tired without much energy. 4 pm seemed a reasonable time to quit and look for a room.
Ended up on ferry across river and progressed. Stopped at a 4 star hotel but no double room but he did call and there was one hotel with a room and it was 95€ euro for a double nearby. He only had address though but inquired if we had a navigation system which we do. (GPS). But the street address would not register. We rode on, Jeanne saying maybe we would have more luck in the congested areas rather than along the bike path. On a lark I went up a side street and a hotel/ restaurant sign, was there. I checked and available although it was going through some construction and the stairs were just plywood. The room was nice and the Italian dinner exquisite. The bikes were stored in the wine cellar.
Next day from the southern end of Düsseldorf we rode mostly without a clue of where we were, just head in the general,direction of river flow. Düsseldorf is 11 million people hence bigger than we expected and we meandered along the river enjoying the scenery and after the fact enjoying the navigation problems. Finally reached the city center and on a lark went by the huge tower near city center. On a lark went up it, locking our bikes in bike racks at base, storing bags at ticket counter and took the elevator to the 168 meter observation tower. Delightful. Looked down on the bike path we had ridden with bike foot specific bridges. A superb view of where we had been and where we were going.
Next a large lunch along the promenade and then we must progress.
About 3 pm, I began to tire although had only gone only 43 k. Again we thought no problem with a hotel. Wrong again. At first looked in town just off route and no hotels but found one within a kilometer, but they had no rooms. One clerk looked up on computer rooms available and said only oneswere in the city. I had to ask what city, as our map only covers approximately 2 k either side of river and names seem different than listed on direction of bike routes or on our GPS. He said just follow railroad tracks into town. Hmmm. 7 kilometer, but now we are tired. Is finding a hotel that difficult? I guess so. Seems common for us now to think no problem and then ride 20 k trying to find a place.
But made it to city hotel near the main train station In the middle of town of Kablenz. Not a bad ride but city. Asked the registration clerk about busy rooms and he said his idea of why it was difficult for us was the smaller town have only a few rooms and may be full but many do not want to rent to bicycles, as they are only one night stays. Hotels prefer business travelers who stay 3 and 4 nights.
But I was tired and Jeanne commented it appeared so. I admit it then realized this was day 21 of bike riding, and as on the great divide 21 days proved a turning point. Tired, frustrated, and feeling just not into it even though it is wonderful and exciting, I am tired of the language difficulty, tired of the navigation and errors, tired of being on all the time, and not knowing what to expect. And the frustrations get taken out on all sorts of idiotic things. I complain because it is not like home and complain because it is like home and it should be different. Arrrghghh. Just tired.
But made reservation for next night guessing at 65 kilometers on down the river. Tried to stay away from booking dot com as I know they charge 15% and would like hotel to get full amount. Booked on Internet but after I found much cheaper places on booking.com. I tried.
Then today’s ride just cruising along sometimes along the river and dikes and sometimes inland on
small roads and bike paths. Ended up 74 kilometers in the delightful historic town of Xanten with a 4000 year history. Anchorage is a 100 years old this year so a bit different. Hotel in midst of town and again a bit of luxury but part of adventure. Dinner in square again outside where blankets are made available, as it is cooling off in September. Delightful meal, and cost for
a 750 ml of great wine, appetizer, two wondrous full meals, desert, coffee, and great company for only 85€.
And Internet. When you have it you do not think much about it. But not having It in today’s world is difficult. And it is difficult to get just passing through as a visitor Hotels have very iffy wifi. And may not have. Paid 5€ last night and worked very sporadically. Reminded me of 5 years ago at bike school in Colorado Springs with the hotel wifi, which was ok but not great, but ok. The two Koreans asked me if anyone had wifi? I responded the hotel had wifi and it was ok, but they just shook their heads. I then remembered Korea standard is 100 MBytes/ second everywhere. Geez we think 10 MBytes is good. Everyone has their standards of what is acceptable. But thinking of how poor people survivewithout it.
And thus another rambling story is over. I could make it more concise I suppose but then the purpose of trip is bicycling and not writing. We leave Germany today and into our 5th country of this trip (excluding Canada and Greenland on flight here). One week to go before return home. Passed the three week mark and feeling better again. Something about three weeks to get going and get a rhythm. (We were here a week before starting bike ride). Good times!
First a correction, thanks for those who helped with my misunderstandings. Apparently there is not a 8%religious tax but for those who choose 8% of their income tax goes toward their church of choice. Slightly different than I stated.
I am interested in the religious aspects, but have realized Germany is different than the U. S. Imagine that. Not better not worse – different. I myself wonder about the time and money spent on churches and religion, but have come to realize this is a magnificent place because of it. The numerous cathedrals in nearly every town, village and city are truly magnificent
Sort of like in South America when I was complaining to Buck one day about the dogs. Buck corrected me in saying it was the culture and often there is a reason for it, even if you do not understand.
Once again the diversity of ideas makes things wonderful. I do not play hockey but believe having hockey rinks in anchorage makes it a better place. Many people in the U. S. think space explorations is a waste, but I believe it adds to our human experience and enriches all our lives.
Ok rambling and enough.
We met Britta who had taken the morning train from home near Köln to ride with us for a few days. Jeanne and I have been together basically just the two of us for several days and once again we began to unload stories on her. Had to have a coffee at train station in Mainz as too excited to start riding immediately.
Finally began working our way back to the delightful river promenade and back on the trail. Just nice riding although not really beside the river. Near Bingen came across some old bridge works with an explanation of the bridge was destroyed in January of 1945. Somehow that struck me. Guess they were looking to finalize the war and having destroyed nearly everything else of any military value were beginning to destroy things of value to the general population. Ugh.
In Bingen we had no hotel but the first place we came to the proprietor said we appeared to be capable of the 3rd floor and we got a wonderful room with terrace overlooking the river, carnival, and Main Street. (Capable of third floor means able to walk up as rarity to have elevator)
We went for a most delightful meal at a nearby restaurant and headed towards the wine festival, but had to stop at the hotel room for a jacket as evening weather cooling off. Well we made it to our terrace and spent the next 2 hours there just watching, talking, and enjoying life. Never made it to the wine festival.
Then we got to ride our bikes from Bingen to Koblenz. Everyone had told us this was the best part of the ride and it lived up to its reputation. A river went into a valley maybe 200 meters deep (estimate 700 feet) with castles galore. At the end of the day I asked how many we had seen. I thought dozens and dozens, and Britta said she thought she had a picture of each one, as did I. I had pictures of 14 but there were many more I realized hidden away.
We picked one castle in the village of Bacharach to visit. Delightful town and a short hike up to the castles for coffee and cake.
Then a very short discussion of distance to the Manning residence and we decide to go for it, meeting Todd enroute just before Bonn. Another great day of riding although I think how come 85 kilometers is a big day for us? Well we stop for our lunch, stop the bakery, (we have adopted the standard of can’t get bread the day before because then it is old), stop for coffee and Radlers and just stop to whatever and enjoy.
And now it is raining and we have decided on a day off. In 19 days of riding it is our third rest day and first in 14 days. And in those days we have worn rain coats only for a total of maybe 10 minutes.
Now washing clothes, cleaning, organizing and just enjoying a break. Riding the bicycle is fun but back to diversity. Just a bit of change.
“The Rhine combines every quality a river can exhibit. The rapidity of the Rhone, the breadth of the Loire, the rocks of the Meuse, the sinuosity of the Seine, the translucency of the Somme, the historical reminiscences of the Tiber, the regal dignity of the Danube, the mysterious influence of the Nile, the golden sands of the glittering streams of the New World, the phantoms of some Asiatic stream.” Victor Hugo
Strassbourg was impressive. Seemed much to do – museums, exhibits, walking, culture, European Union headquarters, universities, old buildings and incredible architecture- the list goes on and on. What to do what to do. It would take weeks, months, years to explore, and we have one evening.
The folks we met on arrival to Kehl suggested the light show on the cathedral. We chose to wait and see. Arrived at hotel showered and just enjoyed the room awaiting the heat to diminish. Finally about 6 headed for city center, thinking we would catch the tram which stopped just outside the hotel. But we began walking and discovered we were downtown in 2 kilometers amongst the narrow streets and wondrous architecture of the old city. Then we rounded the corner.
The cathedral here had the cornerstone laid in the year 1014 and it was finished in 1469. I guess that was before iPhones and instant gratification. 450 years to build. We sat in the plaza and ate another incredible medal and enjoyed it all. The Catholics certainly no how to do grandeur.
Religion is interesting here as no separation of church and state. Statutes of Jesus are frequent along the roadside and at various places. But folks here declare the church they belong to and 8% of income is taxed for the church. You can opt out but no baptism, religious named, burial is like a pauper grave in the U. S. , no religious wedding ceremony. So I ask! What is the problem? Whatever, that is a separate subject and I believe Richard Dawkins covers it well in the “The God Delusion”. Ok I am biased.
But back to the cathedral. It was impressive and would have like to have seen the light show but no way am I staying up until 10:15. Thus we wandered about managing to get lost, finally turning us to the right street from several obvious choices.
Up somewhat early and off we go back to the two rivers bridge and a delightful day just riding the dike keeping the river in its correct path. And again hot peaking at about 35 (95F)but again with humidity and we were sweating profusely but a bit of breeze along the river, but intense sun and searching out shade was off the route. Stopped at some locks for the river and a beer garden where Radlers were consumed. A small amount of beer and lemonade for energy. Awesome drink for bikers. Then onward thinking it a short day, but alas things change.
This is an example of reservations and no reservations; everything planned out and itineraries full and mapped out. No surprises. We started looking at 50 kilometers saying no problem, but first town where we looked had one guesthouse but closed. Proprietor said no problem as Au am Rhein had several, thus 5 k farther of pleasant hot riding. But first place is locked up tight. I ask next door at the bakery and the lady says just around the corner a hundred meters is a good one. Alas also locked up but someone opens a shutter to say closed but points us to another one just down the street and around the corner. It was the original one we went to. Three within a hundred meters and all closed. We discovered later not only is it holiday season which we knew, but that means the people who run hotels and such are on holiday too. Imagine that. So off we go the the next village about 5 k down the road. Here we manage to go in circles for a bit trying to find a guesthouse, following signs, asking people and just going to the center of town but finding nothing. Once Jeanne asked if a building was a hotel but it was a building supply store. So on to Karlsruhe 12 k further, and now we are out of water, very hot, very parched, sweaty and I might add getting tired. At a stoplight Jeanne asked a lady if she knew of a place and she pointed down the street to where we had been but fro the other direction. Finally came to a place but locked. The a lady comes running down the street and wants to know if we want a room. Yes, yes, and yes. I say we will,take it before even seeing it or asking the price. She runs down the street to the restaurant and gets the key and we have a room. Our biggest day of cycling 89.6 kilometers and we started looking for a room at 50 k. And a wonderful room, shower, wifi, and down the street to the restaurant, where we began our assault on refreshing our thirsty bodies with beer.
The owner (same lady who came to our rescue for the hotel) was trying to explain the menu in English but she did not speak English, so enlisted the help of a couple sitting a few tables away. Soon they came over explained the menu and suggested the weinerscnitzel salad for a hot day like this. Amazing and perfect. Cool and refreshing. We had a great time with the couple who ended up buying us a round of local after dinner liqueur. They then offered to take us on a tour of their neighborhood, which meant the Catholic Church. He grew up in the neighborhoods and she was from a distant 20 kilometers north. She apologized that her Protestant church was a mediocre building, with no prominent features. The difference between Catholics and their grand offerings and the Protestants with their humble whatever. Anyway it was a delightful evening and would not have happened had we prearranged our lodging or trip. As with the day before and coming into Strassbourg the adventure may be a pain but the rewards can be great.
One note on restaurants in Germany. As noted one does not go there for fast food. Go to macdonalds for that. But Jeanne and I both like water. Seems the only thing here is bottled water, with or without gas. Jeanne asked a few days ago for just plain tap water but could not explain it. I thought the waiter was going to flip out. The water tastes good as we commonly give our bike bottles to beer gardens and they fill from the rap without problem, but at the table a big problem. What has the world become, we encourage drinking water but then make it difficult. I view the current ideal of bottled water as a refute on the badness of tap water. Even at home where the water tastes excellent people drink bottled water. Another dilemma J. R. can’t figure out.
Then there is smoking. Seems many people smoke here in Germany although I am assured it is no more than elsewhere and much less than France, just more visible. Ok I can live with that but a restaurant. Apparently illegal indoors but one eats outside here, and the table next to you is puffing away. Weird. And difficult.
Ok enough ranting. Back to the hotel this morn and again Jeanne asked where a market was for lunch material (bread, cheese, meats). The lady offered to get us some. When we opened the packages it was fully made delicious sandwiches. Life is grand.
And off we went taking 5 k to find the river whereas the couple last night said it was only three, but it began our day of route finding misadventures. Crossed the river as apparently the west side more interesting and less industrial. And we found it so but there was no just follow the dike along the river. Up a dike, wander a forest trail, go through a village where GPS said go one way, signs point another, and our sense of directions was way off. But arrived near Speyer and left the trail in search of a place to stay advertised on the trail. Alas no rooms and others closed until 5 pm for the Monday rest day. (Today is Tuesday). But the proprietor calls and a room is available in next village no more than 2 kilometers away. Easy to find next to the church (always a prominent feature). 3.5 k later we found three churches and I went up to what I thought was the hotel but was the fire hall. Continued looking and found it. Again very nice place.