Category Archives: Germany

Past meets present in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Two days ago, we cycled across the border from Germany to Holland. It was day 26 of our cycle tour and we covered 101km that day — a first for me, Kaia, and Jake. We are now “centurions”. If German bike paths are excellent, Holland’s are outstanding! Wide, smooth, and well marked, they even have detour signs when there is a break in the path. Yesterday our total trip distance passed 1000km as we came into Utrecht where we spent the night with dear friend Jelda and family. Jelda was another VSO volunteer in Namibia back in 2009.
We are struggling to keep up with the blogs due to: lack of time,
limited access to electricity to charge the devices, and no tables at the campsites where we stay. Lots more to come!

Our cycling route from Frankfurt down the Main and Tauber Rivers took us past many picturesque old towns with stone walls and towers.  Whenever we mentioned to anyone that we were headed for Rothenburg, their eyes lit up and they said something to the effect of, “You mean Rothenburg ob der Tauber?  That is a beautiful place — you’re really going to like it!”  Then they frowned and said, “But you will have to cycle up a steep hill to get there.”  I developed quite high expectations for the place and am happy to report that I was not disappointed.  In fact, my expectations were surpassed by this gorgeous, well-preserved medieval city!

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Looking out over Rothenburg from the town hall tower.
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The most photographed view.

Rothenburg has been inhabited for about 1100 years.  Its prominent families became wealthy for 3 reasons:  the fertile soil, the lucrative textile trade (in sheep’s wool), and the fact that they were well located on both east-west and north-south trade routes.  Over 800 years ago, it was incorporated as a city — and not just any kind of city — a “free imperial city”.  That meant that it didn’t have to pay taxes to as many layers of people in the power structure and was able to accumulate even more wealth! 
A massive stone wall was built around the city at great expense and labour, since large stones were not easy to come by.  Each gate was closed at sundown and guarded throughout the night.  Because of its safe location (up on a ridge) and good protective wall, Rothenburg was not successfully attacked for over 500 years.  Not a bad record! 

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Part of the (rebuilt and restored) wall.
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It is possible to go all the way around the periphery of the wall in a covered walkway (almost 3km).

Of course, life was not easy in a medieval city.  Apparently, the stench from human and animal waste was so bad during the summer months that anyone who could afford to would leave for their “summer residences”.  And then there was the plague… Rothenburg was hit hard.  Among the first to die were the priests, who were exposed to the sick as they gave them their last rites.  And without priests, the local people knew they were going straight to hell; a truly horrifying prospect!
We arrived in Rothenburg (after climbing that tough hill) shortly before noon.  One of the first things we witnessed was the chiming of the bells in the main square.  It is coupled with a cute demonstration of some shutters opening and two figures appearing, one of whom is drinking from a large goblet.

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The clock strikes twelve! Each hour, that guy on the right appears to guzzle 3 litres of wine, which is an event that, according to legend, saved the town back in 1631.
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Part of the central square; a bustling place full of cafes.

We went on a walking tour at 2pm (after making a detour to the local laundromat and a bakery), and learned many interesting details about the town.

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The town hall was rebuilt after a fire. The angled windows on the spiral staircase are a dead giveaway of the Renaissance style, we learned.
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Here I am comparing my arm length to Rothenburg's official measure. The others are the foot and the rod. Since each town had its own standards of measure, the distance from Rothenburg to Nuremburg was "different" than the distance from Nuremburg to Rothenburg!
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Our guide, Daniel, is showing an ingenious piece of German engineering that allowed the medieval nuns to give food donations to the poor without ever having to come into contact with the lower tiers of society. This barrel in the convent wall could be filled with goods and then turned and emptied from the outside.
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The largest church in the city had to be enlarged at one point, but there was hardly any space. They had to expand it by building an arch over one of the main streets!
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A typical street.

Rothenburg’s safety record was finally broken in the 1600s (near the end of the 30 years war) when a traveling army chose to spend the winter there.  Forty thousand troups were too much for the town of 6000.  They defended their town gallantly, but when one of their own townspeople accidentally set off an explosion in the garrison, it blew a hole in the city wall.  The 40 000 soldiers plundered the town over a period of several months and left it destitute.  Then, for 250 years, nothing much changed.  Nobody could afford to upgrade or renovate their homes so everything stayed pretty much as it was — as a medieval city.  When artists from the British Isles discovered it and started painting pictures of Rothenburg, people became interested in it for its beauty and historical value.  Our tour guide pointed out that those 19th century paintings could be considered as the first “tourist brochures”!  A tourism industry began and put Rothenburg back on the map.  Now it is once again a wealthy city, receiving over 2 million visitors each year!

We were so bewitched by this charming city that we decided to spend the night in a B&B.  We got the cutest little attic room and a fantastic German breakfast the next morning (fresh bread and lots of great cheeses and meats!)

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Sitting at the breakfast table.

I went on the “Night Watchman’s Tour” and was spellbound by his stories.  My favourite one was about how Rothenburg avoided being completely destroyed by bombs during WW2.  About 40% of its buildings were in fact destroyed in an allied bomb attack, but only because it was the alternate target in a mission to destroy a fuel supply.  These parts were later rebuilt thanks to a major international fundraising effort.  Near the end of the war, when a German commander brought his retreating platoon to Rothenburg and announced that they would defend it “to the last man”, it became a military target and was slated to be bombed again.  But… someone in a position of power in the US forces had grown up with a painting of Rothenburg in his childhood home.  He remembered his mother’s passionate descriptions of her 1914 visit to this beautiful medieval town.  This man contacted the American commander and gave the order, “Before you bomb Rothenburg, give them the option to surrender.”  Hitler’s generals were under strict orders not to negotiate, but as luck would have it, the #1 leader was out of town, leaving a second in command.  And when the option to surrender came, he took the very risky decision to accept it.  Obviously, this could have been considered an act of high treason and resulted in severe consequences for him.  But perhaps he could see the writing on the wall (it was March 1945), and decided not to sacrifice his men and all the civilians who were living there.  In response to the request that he surrender, he said,  “We’ll be out by morning.  You may have it.”  Rothenburg was not bombed, the Americans occupied it for a few weeks, and then the war ended.  So, in this way, the combined acts of an American and a German, both of whom had the courage to make independent decisions, saved many lives and a beautiful piece of medieval history.  (And the German was not accused of treason.)

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This interesting double-arched bridge was partially destroyed by the Germans themselves to stop advancing American tanks from crossing (before the surrender). Obviously it was rebuilt in the same style.

Rothenburg is now famous for its Christmas market and festival.  There are also some adorable Christmas shops and a museum showing the changing trends in Christmas decorations over time.  Many of our traditions, such as a decorated tree, candles and several Christmas carols originate in Germany.

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Rothenburg's specialty: pastry snowballs!
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Of course we had to try some!

The most spectacular building in the city is St. Jacob’s church. 

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St. Jacob's Church -- notice the "new" addition on the left (the roof colour is different).
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The Gothic spires are really impressive.
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This is actually at the back of the church, where they have displayed their most famous artifact: the altarpiece of the Holy Blood. In the past, it was an important destination for pilgrims.
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This unique scene of the Last Supper (with Judas as the central figure) was carved in wood 5 centuries ago by the German master, Tilman Riemenschneider.

An interesting feature of this carving (apart from the amazing detail in the hair and hands) is that the figure of Judas is removable.  During Holy Week, it used to be removed.  The artist’s purpose was to remind people that each one of us could be Judas.

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Here is a photo of a photo of what it looks like with and without Judas.

We loved exploring the various parts of this well-preserved historical city.

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Some of the defensive towers are in unusual locations since the original city wall had to be moved to accommodate a growing population.
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Old fortifications.
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This shows part of the double-gate defenses. The path from the first to the second gate was not straight so that shots could not be fired directly.
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Enjoying fresh-pressed apple cider in the town square.
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A modern shop in Rothenburg featured bicycles in their chic window display!

Eventually, it was time to leave this fairytale town.  But at least the path was downhill! 

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This was our route.
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We are in the south-west part of Germany, heading into Bavaria.

We rode through beautiful countryside, enjoying the lovely bike paths and seeing lots of evidence of renewable energy production:  solar panels, biogas plants and wind turbines.

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It's not all downhill, though!

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Cam happened to have a shirt that matches his bike -- he looks very colour coordinated!
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The rapeseed fields are bright yellow.
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Very well marked bike paths.
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Biogas facility.
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Rothenburg isn't the only quaint town!
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We "renegade" camped a couple of times. This spot was nest to a small road used by mountain bikers and hunters. Jake is peeking his head out of the hunting hide.
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Here he is working on his blog!
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There is a whole network of guesthouses that cater to cyclists, so it would be very possible to travel without a tent. I'm not too sure what this sign says, but it appears to be cycle-friendly!

One thing that surprised and disappointed us in Germany was the amount of smoking in public places. It’s almost as bad as Indonesia! On café patios, we really had to make an effort to be upwind from the smokers. To avoid them, one has to sit indoors, but that seems like a shame on beautiful warm spring days!

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These cigarette vending machines are a common sight. I was shocked until I noticed that to make a purchase, one must at least swipe an identity card with proof of age.
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Can you believe a cigarette billboard with the slogan "Born that way" ?!? I have never been so tempted to vandalize a sign -- I wanted to cross out 'born' and replace it with 'die'. Anti-smoking legislation is one area where Canada is ahead of Germany.

After 3 full days of cycling, we arrived in Augsburg. Since there was rain in the forecast, we decided to take the train the rest of the way to Munich. A friendly local who saw us with our bicycles at the train station informed us that there was a train strike! But in Germany, that basically means that there will ONLY be 1 train per hour. Imagine! As opposed to the usual train every 20 minutes. He advised us to check out the city and take the train in a couple of hours once all the football fans had left for the big game in Munich.

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Augsburg has a nice walking district with tram service.
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They also have an impressive cathedral. It looks sunny in this photo, but the rain did come!
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We climbed to the top of a tower to get a view of the city.
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The city suffered a lot of damage from bombing in August 1944. It took them years to rebuild.

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And finally, we got on the train with our loaded bikes.

Yvonne

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l’Allemagne – c’est chouette à bicyclette

Nous sommes à Freiburg dans le sud-ouest de l’Allemagne. C’est peut-être la ville la plus écologique au monde. On reste avec Peter et Sabina, en utilisant le réseau Warm Showers. Je peut voir les collines en France d’où je suis maintenant.
We are in Freiburg in southwestern Germany. It is possibly the most sustainable city in the world. We are staying with Peter and Sabina, through the Warm Showers network. I can see the hills in France from where I am right now.
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C’était le plan depuis le début: d’acheter des bicyclettes à Frankfurt et de voyager l’Allemagne, le Hollande et le Danemark à deux roues.  On a envoyé notre équipement de vélo à quelqu’un à Frankfurt, et on a acheté nos bicyclettes au magasin Stadler.  Notre boite avec équipement était très en retard (par une semaine).  Alors comme vous pouvez imaginer, on était très excité quand on étaient finalement prêts à partir! OK, mon père devait relaxer une autre journée à cause de sa chirurgie récent sur sa jambe, mais nous trois sommes partis de Frankfurt le premier mai. On a été là pendant 8 jours… ça faisait bien de partir.  Mon père a dormi chez un hostel au centre-ville, et a prit le train le prochain jour pour nous rejoindre. On a commencé par suivre la rivière Main, et après la rivière Tauber avant d’arriver à la ville de Rothenburg.
Je vais expliquer comment une journée typique se déroule à tour de vélo.
Nous ne sommes pas très dépêchés pour nous lever le matin! Peut-être 7h… 8h… 9h… quand on se lève finalement on range nos matelas et nos sacs de couchages. Pour le petit déjeuner, ce sont les céréales et du lait. Par 10h30, nous sommes habituellement prêts à partir.
Quand mes parents ont fait des tours de vélos avant, ils ont dit que c’est pour la plupart sur des routes d’autos. Mais en Allemagne, il y a beaucoup de chemins pour bicyclettes seulement! C’est beaucoup plus relaxe quand on n’est pas concentré sur les autos autour de nous… on peut parler, aller un à coté de l’autre, ou juste admirer le paysage autour de nous.  Nous voyons vraiment l’Allemagne rurale, et c’est très scénique. Fermes, forets, petites villages, ciels bleues et panneaux solaires. Je pense qu’au moins 80% de notre cyclisme est sur chemins de vélos.  C’est chouette!

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Moi et Jake sur un chemin de vélo dans une région rurale.
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aww... la pluie! Au moins on descend!
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Mon père tracte la remorque. On vol les drapeaux Allemand et Canadien.
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Puisque c'est le printemps, il y a beaucoup d'agneaux!

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Des panneaux solaires, très communs en Allemagne.
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Encore, des panneaux solaires!

Après à peu près 20 km de cyclisme, on prend une pause pour dîner. L’Allemagne est bien-connu pour ses pains, viandes et fromages délicieux, alors le dîner est un repas super bon! D’habitude, on arrête à un banc dans un champ ou un parc dans une ville. Après, on continue à rouler.

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Les pistes de vélo son vraiment excellents!
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Galdis l'orang-outan aime se relaxer dans le panier.

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20 km plus tard, on s’arrête dans un village pour notre repos de boulangerie/pâtisserie. L’Europe et l’Allemagne en particulier ont les meilleures gâteries au monde! Notre première journée à vélo, nos yeux étaient plus grandes que nos estomacs… on a mangé trop de gâteau… on a appris notre leçon. Par contre, puisque nous brûlons beaucoup de calories chaque jour, on ne se sent pas trop coupable de manger plein de sucre et de gras. On adore les gâteaux avec beaucoup de beurre et crème, et les bretzels!

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"Ahh... le pain qui est tombé du ciel!" -Jake Douglas, PhD dans la Philosophie des Bretzels

Une chance qu’on va 50+ km par jour à vélo, sinon nous deviendrions très gros très vite!
Après notre repos, on remonte nos bicyclettes et on continue vers notre destination finale. Avant ce tour de vélo, la plus grande distance que Jake ou moi sommes allés était 42 km, mais jours 3 et 4 du tour étaient 67 km chacune!

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Yeah!

À date, notre record est 70 km dans une journée.  Notre but est 100 km, et on va essayer de faire ça en Hollande, parce que c’est très plat.
On aime beaucoup bouger à deux roues, mais nous ne sommes pas tellement enthousiastes s’il pleut!  Si la météo devient mauvaise, on prend des trains. Le système de trains en Allemagne (toute l’Europe, vraiment) est excellent. On peut amener nos vélos sur les trains régionales, mais pas les trains express. Le système est tellement bon que les Allemands se plaignent quand il y a un délai de 10 minutes, et durant les grèves de train, ça veut dire qu’il y a seulement un train par heure, au lieu de 3 ou 4. Mon père a expliqué comment le système de transport fonctionne à Frankfurt. Quand on essaye d’expliquer au Allemands comment leur système est 100 fois meilleur que le notre, ils ont de la difficulté à comprendre comment un réseau de trains peut être si terrible.
En Allemagne, c’est légale de camper n’importe où, tant que nous respectons l’environnement et nous ne sommes pas trop proche à une maison. Alors, nous économisons beaucoup sur l’accommodation en faisant du camping dans des forets ou des champs.

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Quand on veut prendre une douche, on reste chez un terrain de camping. Malheureusement, en Europe, ils sont faites pour des caravanes, pas des cyclistes, alors ils sont sans tables de pique-niques ou places couverts pour cuisiner. Aussi, ils coûtent chers.
Soit s’il pleut ou c’est 19h et pas de places pour camping proches, on reste dans un hostel. Non, c’est pas cheap, mais le prix inclus le déjeuner de pain, fromage et viandes.
Quand nous sommes dans une ville pour quelque jours, on ne veut pas rester chez un terrain de camping (d’habitude hors de la ville) ou un hostel (trop cher). Alors, on utilise le réseau Warmshowers (douches chaudes). C’est comme “Couch Surfing” pour des cyclistes! C’est un réseau de cyclistes qui ouvrent leur maison pour d’autres cyclistes. À date, on a utilisé Warmshowers deux fois: à Münich avec Götz et Liza, et à Freiburg avec Peter et Sabina (où nous sommes maintenant). Quand nous retournons au Canada, nous allons ouvrir notre maison à encore d’autres cyclistes.

On s’amuse beaucoup à tour de vélo. Nos jambes son musculaires et bronzées avec la ligne de nos shorts de cyclisme.  Puisqu’on a perdu une semaine à Frankfurt, on va devoir prendre plus de trains qu’on y pensait. C’est dommage, parce que l’Allemagne est très beau. Par contre, les trains sont presque les seules places où on peut bloguer. Voici une carte d’Allemagne avec nos routes de train et cyclisme:

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Le rouge représente ce qu'on a fait à vélo, le mauve à train, et le vert notre route proposée pour le restant du tour.

J’aime bouger à vélo! Et je dois dire que c’est chouette à bicyclette!
Kaia

Frankfurt was a pain in the butt

I am typing this blog from my seat on the train from Füssen in southern Germany to Zürich, Switzerland.  I have a table, electricity and a wonderful view out my window (though it’s cold and raining).  We’ve cycled about 550km so far – it’s been wonderful.
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Yes, Frankfurt was exactly that – a pain in the butt.  But through no fault of its own.
We booked the airline tickets for this trip back in July last year.  I had been thinking about Germany since then, and in particular thinking about Frankfurt, because that was the only place I knew for sure that we would visit (that’s where our flight from Abu Dhabi landed).  I knew we would be there for at least a couple of days, because we needed to buy bicycles for our cycle touring.  And we weren’t exactly sure when our parcel from Canada with our cycling gear would arrive, so that might make us wait.  We had packed a large box back in August with cycling shorts, shirts, gloves, racks, paniers (bags that attach to racks), lights etc. and left it with friend Javier.  We needed an address in Frankfurt for Javier to send the parcel to so used the “warm showers” network to locate someone. Warm Showers is a network of cyclists who open their homes to other cycle tourists passing through their town – for a place to stay, perhaps a meal, shower etc.  The expectation is if you use the network for a place to stay, you open up your home in return.  Javier mailed our parcel via surface back in early March, so we were hopeful it would be there when we arrived.
First impressions of Frankfurt were excellent.  Within moments of arriving at the airport from Abu Dhabi we found ourselves on a bus from the airport to the city center.  From there we immediately caught a train north about 10 stops, and walked less than 400m to the city’s one campground and had our tent set up – all in about 90 minutes from the airport.  So far, so good.  Next day we set out to buy bicycles.  We wanted to buy 2nd hand, but there were no 2nd hand shops, and the buy-sell happened on the weekend with hit and miss availability (and apparently these are mostly stolen bikes anyway).  So we headed off to “Stadler” bike shop.  It was HUGE!

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It was quite overwhelming, I have to admit. There were probably more than 300 bikes in the shop, and an equivalent amount of other cycle paraphernalia.

We were there for about 4 hours but in the end settled on 4 bikes and a large cycle trailer.  We were pleased with the purchases – we spent about $350 Cdn (including some missing racks, upgraded tires ..) for each bike, and  hopefully will get about $250-300 back for each when we sell them in Copenhagen after 7 weeks of riding.  $100 each for 7 weeks transportation …not bad!

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Kaia was pretty happy about her new bike!
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The Stadler shop had a large test track set up, in addition to some large aisles for roaring around on. It made a real difference for getting the feel of different bikes.

We were pretty excited when we left the shop, though we did not take the bikes or trailer with us.  They wanted to make sure the bikes were tuned up and needed to put our more narrow (read “faster”) tires on.
Yvonne had been tracking the progress of our cycling gear box and it had arrived in Germany two days before, and was in the Frankfurt area this day.  We were quite excited to pick up the box the next day then head back to the cycle store to do the final setups then hopefully cycle out of town later that afternoon.  HA!
The night before, it dawned on me that our travel insurance that came with our Airtreks ticket purchase had run out when we left the UAE. So that morning Yvonne bought insurance online and we were back in business.  Later that day a small irritating pimple at the top of the back of my leg started to become increasingly painful.  The trend continued into the next day, and the next, to the point where I knew I needed to see a doctor.  Sitting down on both “cheeks” was no longer an option.  This had happened twice already this trip, and in both instances some prescribed antibiotics fixed things up nicely.  So I figured a quick visit to the hospital to see a doctor, run to the pharmacy and I was good to go.  Doc took one look and said it needed to be lanced.  He wasn’t kidding when he said it would hurt a bit … no freezing … ouch!  Told me to come back the next day to have the dressing changed.  Next day, different doctor, takes one look at it and says “surgery”.  I figured a local, with some freezing.  No … full on, general aesthetic, in 2 hrs time!  You gotta be kidding me!  I came in yesterday for some pills, now am heading to the O.R.  Except I’d just eaten … had to wait 6 hrs.

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Waiting for the operation. My room had a perfect table for the family to blog and play cards on. And Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" (1997 Everest climbing disaster) kept my mind at ease.
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Just about to head to the O.R. This super friendly and nice nurse (I really wish I could remember his name) was from Albania and was asking about nursing in Canada. He was ready for a change, and was fascinated by the thought of a family traveling around for a year.

Surgery went well but they kept me in for that night and the following night.  I noted from other conversations that German hospitals do not seem to be in as much of a rush as Canadian hospitals to discharge their patients.  Before being discharged the doctor asked me what I’d be doing when I got out.  I told him very sheepishly that the plan was to cycle tour.  He winced (big open wound, about 1″ from bicycle seat).  He told me that I’d be a whole lot better off with at least 4 days of no riding.  OK, I will hang around a bit more in Frankfurt while Yvonne and kids set off on the bikes.  Then I’ll train to catch up.

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You can imagine how happy I was to see the outside world again.

Through all this time, we had been trying to locate our package from Canada.  We couldn’t leave without it.  It had arrived at the correct address but because it had my name on it instead of our host’s it was “returned to Canada – recipient does not live at this address”  No!!!!!  To make a very long and exceedingly frustrating story short, we finally found someone who could put their eyes on it, in a depot about 50km from Frankfurt (on its way back to Canada).  He said they could redeliver it.  But after about 15 phone calls, emails and a trip to another depot, we’d given up hope with German Post.  So Yvonne and the kids took two trains out of town and walked 2km through farm fields to reach a post depot in the middle of nowhere.  15kg parcel on Yvonne’s head and they walked back to the train station (the passing tractor driver did not have room for all three of them and the parcel).

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YEA, we finally have our bike stuff!
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Yvonne recalling skills honed in her time in Mozambique. Actually, it was the only way to carry this box any distance.

Next day back to bike store to pick up bikes and do final outfitting.  Now things were getting exciting!

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Putting pedal cages on Jake's new bike.
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In Frankfurt we noted that bicycles are ubiquitous. Even this young woman in her chic business attire is test riding a new bike.

Now fully outfitted for 6 weeks of cycle touring, Yvonne and the kids headed out to ride back to the campground … and moments later got pummeled with hail, while I rode the train back with my bike.  We spent a few hours organizing our stuff … most for the tour, big box ready to mail back to Canada, and another big box with all our backpacks up to the farm near Copenhagen to await our arrival.  About to head to post office, then realized it was a holiday and unlike Canada, virtually EVERYTHING closes.  So Yvonne and the kids set out with their loaded bikes and I headed downtown with my bike to book into a hostel for the evening.  I posted the boxes next day then found a train to catch up to my family who by that time had been riding for two days.

The package and surgery challenges seemed to occupy much of our mental energy and time during our week in Frankfurt, and we felt like we saw virtually none of the city.  We did get to know the WiFi enabled cafes downtown and the cozy ethnic restaurants around the campground quite well (campground had absolutely no cooking facilities – not even a table, so we did not ended up using our camp stove). 

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Apart from our street vendor sausages, this was our first authentic German meal. I know it was authentic because we were surrounded by senior citizens eating the same thing. Sauerkraut rolls with potatoes. YUM!

We struggled a bit in our tent at night – it was still April when we arrived and we awoke to frost several mornings.  We are traveling with light summer sleeping bags so Yvonne and I had a few relatively sleepless nights (not sure how the kids slept through …?)

That aside, Frankfurt is actually a very charming city, with an extensive walking street section downtown and beautiful bike paths all along both sides of the riverfront.  Art, theater and music abound. When the sun even hints at coming out, Frankfurters (sorry … couldn’t resist) flock to the riverside in droves with their picnic blankets, food and especially their beer.

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Walking streets extend for hundreds of meters in both directions and are FULL of people, artists and performers.
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Yes, bicycles everywhere.
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The bicycle taxis are quite high tech and comfortable by the looks of it (better than the "rickshaws" of Kathmandu!)
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What's this store doing in Germany? Well, I guess if they can have Tim Horton's in Dubai ... ?
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We liked this guy's setup - he had a propane tank on his back and a little BBQ hanging in front. We liked even more our first go at German sausages!
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Downtown Frankfurt. Note the walking streets.

Perhaps what impressed us most about the Frankfurt we saw was its public transportation system.  The city proper has a population just a little more than 700,000 but there are 5.5 million in the greater Frankfurt metropolitan area. There are trains coming and going in every direction with multiple transfer stations.  We never waited for more than about 7 minutes for any train, and they accept bicycles.  Trains head way out into the suburbs and neighbouring communities.  Where there are no trains, there are trams.  Where there are no trams, there are buses.  All coordinate beautifully.  For 10 Euro ($12 Cdn) our family could travel all day on any of these modes.  I think the crazy complex spider web of the transit map below gives some sense of how effective it is.

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This transit map shows only trains and trams. Add busses and it gets hard to read!

We drooled over their transit system.  Most people admire the Toronto’s TTC.  And the GTA’s GO system works for many people. But they still pale in comparison to Frankfurt.  Put Frankfurt’s transit system together with the city’s extensive bicycling infrastructure and you understand why we never saw a traffic jam in Frankfurt (I know, we were there only 1 week, and there are no doubt snarls).  We were to many places in town and getting there was a breeze.  Never even considered a taxi.  One of our primary sustainability interests in our Europe segment of this trip is public transit and cycling infrastructure.  We’ll have lots more to say about these ideas in later blog entries.

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This tram served the hospital I was in. It reminded us of the ones in downtown Honk Kong.

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The very first house we saw when we left our campground the first morning had solar panels.

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This was indicative of what we’d encounter throughout Germany.  Roofs across Frankfurt – on homes, factories, commercial and institutional buildings – are adorned with solar PV.  This was no surprise – indeed we decided to come to Germany primarily to see first hand how they have been so successful in rolling out their solar, wind and biogas electrical power.

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This little plug-in electric commuter car was plugged into a solar-sourced charging station downtown.

Our setbacks in Frankfurt were clearly “first world” problems.  After all, it was here that we learned of the Nepalese earthquake.  But our trip thus far had been so much without hitches, we did feel we were spinning our wheels.  Or in this particular case, NOT spinning our wheels.  It was great to watch Yvonne and the kids cycle away.  And it felt great for me to board the train south the next day to find them.  Our 2 days in Frankfurt had stretched into 8 days.  And now as I write this two weeks later, we are planning to train some sections we had hoped to cycle as a result.  We really enjoy taking the trains here, but we REALLY are enjoying the cycling and don’t want to give that up.

Cam