Well it has been a good week, wiggling my way southeast through Germany, from Düsseldorf to Nürnberg (Nuremburg), through steep hill country, rolling countryside, forested slopes, and many other variants of the undulating landscape variety.
The first couple of days, continuing east from Düsseldorf on day four, and on to Siegen on day five, were tough. Day five turned out to be my major ‘hump day’ – being cold and wet, with steep climbs and tired legs, boring towns, and eventually a flat phone battery. Siegen did have a nice castle on a steep hill at its centre however, which made for a pleasant diversion before scrambling out east of the town, up another vicious hill, to camp. It must be noted that my somewhat limited gear range is not overly suited to the hills of central Germany, particularly on the cycle paths which often climb at gradients of 20%.
Fortunately, the weather improved from day 6, with long sunny spells – sufficent to pump a little power into my phone so that I could review and photograph my route, and navigate via the photos on my camera. Also, as I swung south via Greißen and onto Würzburg (a reversion to an earlier plan) the towns and cities became more scenic, with beautiful timber-framed medieval centres, pretty churches, and, significantly, longer gentler hills (the steepest being perhaps 15%); allowing for fantastic fast descents over, often, kilometres. My top speed capped out at 38 miles per hour.
Particularly pleasant were the towns of Büdingen and Lohr am Main (where I stopped for a tipple of local beer – not a great idea before another big hill climb). The woods I camped in that night, above the village of Karlsburg, to the north of Würzburg, were beautiful, with scattered wildflowers amongst mature trees.
Würzburg was pleasant, interesting, and unusual. The town, evoquing a quasi-Prague feel, was famed for its romantic architecture (Baroque and Rococo) from the 18th century, and marks the start of the Romantic Road; a famous route running south through Germany. The area is also famed for its wines… Which I am yet to try. During the Second World War the town was flattened, loosing much if its significant stock of historic buildings. Following the war there was a toss-up between leaving the city as a barren testimony to the follies of war or rebuilding. The latter option was chosen, with modern approaches and architectural twists incorporating, restoring, and repairing the major buildings of the city – including the Residenz palace. The palace’s grounds were beatiful (I didn’t pay the €7.50 to see the heavily restored interior) – with fresh exuberant plantings, and comical carvings festooning the walkways.
Onward, and ever eastward, the landscape became more modest in proportions, with lightly rolling farmland with the occassional coppice, windfarm, or solar farm to break the monotony. If any country has embraced wind power it is the Germans!
I peddled past a walled town called Mainbanheim a few kilometres on from Würzburg, with allotments spread along the front line of the walls, and later houses built into and onto its fortifications. A short while later I encountered another, bigger and perhaps better preserved, fortified town at Iphofen. Looking around it was clear that a recent stint of extensive restoration of the town had beem carried out; with a new swanky (and fortunately equipped with a WC) visitor centre, charming church, and a range of small wine bars and cafes. The timber framed medieval, or early post-medieval (16th century), buildings in the town were well preserved, with fresh plastering or daubing, applied in a manner whereby it is apparently forced through the framing, or built up around it so that it projects, and is decorated with coloured lines – to pleasing affect. It was also clear, from the notched timbers of the houses’ frames (so notched to provide a purchase for plaster), that many were previously fully plastered externally.
Following the, often erratic, cycle routes on towards Nürnberg I once more camped in woods, along a dirt track, above Markt Bibart.
Today, through scattered rain showers, and two spectacular wipeouts – a skid on a corner, and a skid on wet cobbles – I rolled on into Nürnberg, bruised, scratched, amd worryingly cheerful. I’ll take a day or two of rest here, to do some climbing and to let my sore legs recover.