Thursday

Darlington to Vienna - The Route and Blog:

Here is the approximate route I took.  The map is interactive so give it a moment to load.

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I've archived the rest of the blog in order to speed up loading. You'll find it all under 'blog archive' on the right hand side.

Wednesday

Blighty




Setting off from the Education Village was an emotional affair - after months of preparation and training, the time came to say goodbye to everyone and what a turnout! It was lovely to see so many friends, The Worshipful Mayor of Darlington and of course children of the village. There were many photographs taken and I began to get very nervous as the time to leave approached - rituals that were to become second nature were gone through for the first time - the smearing of the Vaseline amongst them - and I began to contemplate the absurd distance ahead of me. I climbed into Myfanwy to change and it was a haven of quiet - I wanted to sit down and stay there - the noise and chatter outside began to make me anxious and I knew I had to move now or I was sunk. Back outside the clamour fills my head and I begin to feel sick – more photographs – I straddle my bike, Becky tells me how proud she is of me, I want to stay and I want to go. “Will you cycle round the roundabout once so we can get some cycling photo’s?” I say I will but as I push down on the pedals for the first time I know that I can’t and head straight down the drive and out into the road. I wave once and then: “It’s just you and
me now Jamie.”
I wonder: should I have stayed longer, should I have said a few words of thanks? But I’m glad to be away at last and at home on my bike.









The Worshipful the Mayor of Darlington - Councillor Ian G Haszeldine.
The weather is good, and after getting through the Darlington traffic, I head out into familiar countryside on a route I've done many times before. I meet Phil and Jenny in Easingwold and get some massive sandwiches from the deli' for lunch. Fortunately we've all watched the David Attenborough programmes avidly and as a consequence are able to dislocate our lower jaws in the manner of cow eating snakes, which is fortunate since our sandwiches are indeed the size of a medium sized ruminant.
Jaw back in place and stomach swaying from side to side I head off again – perhaps a little slower than before but nonetheless in good spirits.



At the end of this, the first day I have reached Pocklington, (or Pock, to the locals) and I’ve covered 72.3 miles. I meet up with P & J again and as we begin to load the bike onto Myfanwy I’m stopped by an old lady who kindly gives me a couple of pounds for the charity.
We’ve decided that since it is not far, we’ll drive home and spend the night there rather than pitch up in Pock’, so there’s a good deal of confusion when I rock up at my local bar in the evening.

Sat 24th May (day 2)


The second day sees me heading through the slightly less familiar countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds and there are one or two stiff-ish climbs that take me by surprise. I pass through the ancient market town of Market Weighton, a place with a colourful history of giants and witches – one of whom, Peg Fyfe, reputedly skinned a local youth alive in the 1660s. Hanged for the crime, she swallowed a spoon to save herself but upon escape was hacked to bits by two passing knights – so not a good day for her.


The first major landmark of the trip is the Humber Bridge which I’ve been looking forward to crossing but it proves more elusive than I’d imagined and I get lost within sight of it’s towers. The delay is frustrating but soon I’m on the bridge and the wind that had been against me changes direction, increases tenfold and whoops me across at brake melting speed. I should have made the most of it since it’s not long before I’m battling into the wind again, and as the landscape flattens out it gets stronger and stronger. We meet up for lunch in the prettily named Barnetby le Wold; It’s name by far and away the prettiest thing about it. There don’t appear to be any restaurants or pubs open so we sit in Myfanwy. So. Pasta for lunch then!
It begins to rain in the afternoon but I’m not worried – it’ll pass over and we are heading south. What with the wind and the rain it is quite a hard afternoon and I’m pleased to finish the day in Hemingby with another 72.5 miles behind me, sore legs and an aching bum – more Vaseline needed!

Jenny has arranged for us to park up in the car park of the Coach and Horses pub. Good Lass! So, after a shower and change we head in for dinner, noticing as we do that the pub holds a couple of ‘Tastes of Lincolnshire’ awards. Here’s a tip: If you’re ever tempted to have a nibble of Lincolnshire – resist! If this is the best, there must be some pretty rotten stuff out there. Anyway, the beer’s good so we get plenty of it down our necks and misguidedly top it off with a bottle of the ‘House’. Who’s going to be waking everyone up in the middle of the night?

A hot day for the Lincolnshire newshounds.


Sun 25th May

We stayed in the car park of the Coach and Horses pub in Hemingby last night and it's from here I set off into the wind once more, bound for Boston where we stop for a loo visit and some breakfast. If I'd thought the wind was a problem I now find it has started to rain and boy, does it rain! Now you'd think, as I did, that things can't get worse. Just as this comforting idea is formulating in my mind I get a puncture.........Bugger! Phil and I spend what seems like hours fixing the damned thing whilst hiding from the weather in the lea of a village hall and then I'm off again. I manage about four miles when I get.............Another puncture. The rain continues to lash down and the wind continues to whip across the endless miles of bugger all and Jenny and I sit glumly in the steamed up Myfanwy whilst poor Phil changes the tube and tyre. We have some pasta for lunch and sit on whilst the rain drums on the roof.


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We try to sit it out but after an hour or so it becomes obvious that I will have to set off again and I'm getting pissed off with wet lycra. On and on; water pouring off my waterproof top and running down into my shoes. It runs down my face and mixes with snot, turning me into a kind of cycling slug and the landscape is remorselessly flat. FLAT. Did I say flat? Well I meant FLAT. I finish the day in Chatteris

In the restaurant - Chatteris
In Chatteris we go in search of somewhere to eat. There are two or three restaurants and pubs along what appears to be the main street so we split up and recce the joint. Jenny recons she’s found the ideal spot – well I think that’s what she said! So in we go. It’s a funny little place – half pub, half restaurant, we get some drinks, plonk ourselves down in some leather armchairs and grow stubble whilst the woman behind the bar decides whether to bring us menus or not; we give up and collect our own. It’s an odd menu, and even odder, I notice is a line at the bottom saying, ‘We do not serve tap water!’ What the hell is that about? After ordering we’re taken through to the restaurant where we order wine and, of course, tap water. The young waitress disappears and returns with the wine and a nervous tick.
“I’m sorry, we don’t serve tap water” She says.
“Why not?” I snap. “It’s not as if there isn’t plenty of the stuff about”.
She squirms with embarrassment and says she doesn’t know; she’s new. This sort of answer cuts no ice with me at all, but I can see I’m in a minority of one – Phil and Jenny clearly feel sorry for her and I soon begin to see their point. She’s as pleasing to look at as a Sumo’s gusset and she’s far from the brightest star in the firmament, so we let it go.
What possible reason can there be for a restaurant not to serve tap water; other than to mug its customers? We are allowing ourselves to be conned and dictated to by silly fashionistas who think that an exorbitantly costly bottle of French bog water looks more sophisticated than a jug of the recently precipitated with ice. Well think again!

Monday 26th May (Bank Holiday) Spitting on to rain!





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First sight of a windmill. No, not in Holland, but in Suffolk A beautiful day as we enter EssexA lovely view of Harwich ferry terminal from my bedroom window on Myfanwy. This is where we spent the night. Below that, the ferry, and finaly, boarding.
Also. I'd like to thank the guys I've met on the cycle ways of Holland and Germany. send me your emails, I'll reply when possible and thanks for your kind comments.




Tuesday

Holland

Holland I can't remember where the photo below was taken but I like its balance so I'm putting it in..... O.k. so it's a bit arty farty but get used to it ..... it's my blog and I'll farty if I want to.
Anyway, here we are - on the continent. Well you know what they say - Harwich for the continent - Ripon for the incontinent.......................Sorry!
We docked at Hook of Holland this afternoon and we've made it as far as Dordrecht. On arrival Jenny throws a bit of a wobbly and refuses to look round the place, so Phil and I go for a bit of a wander. I'm excited to be in a foreign country at last and I like the look of the place. We return to Myfanwy and look for somewhere to stay.
We're in a great campsite in the outskirts of the town/city? and in celebration we've garlanded half the site with my gaily fluttering washing, cheering up the other campers no end. We plan to head into town for some food. By accident we stumble across a brilliant place called the Grand-cafe Boekmans which serves really good, simple food and good wine, but it is without doubt the service which makes the place what it is. The waitresses are smiley and chatty and enjoy using English - they even have a menu in English - Ein Englische Karte - Needless to say we have a great time and I'd go back like a shot. This is a view of Dordrecht.

Holland, as many of you may know, has a tendency towards the flat. And as you can see, not only are the roads flat but they are unchallenging in the steering department too. This piece of straight went on for at least fifteen miles! Despite an unpromising landscape, this is a country I really like. The people we meet are unfailingly friendly and love to speak English and I would very much have liked to speak Dutch back to them, even if only a few words but we are here for such a very short time.And then of course, there are canals. They carry the biggest barges I have ever seen and they are still very much used for carrying commercial goods, thereby freeing up the roads, though the one below may have seen better days.
My first ferry crossing - The first of many. Notice the cycle route: These are all over the place here and it does make for safe cycling. Some of the routes are by the side of roads and quite a few are separate and make for easy, quiet cycling. The attitude to bikes is different here - they are a legitimate means of transport, rather than an oddity. Wed 28th May

Not the best of days. Set off from Dortrecht this morning and got as far as Woudrichem where I had to catch a ferry across the river; I waited 45 minutes only to be told it was the wrong ferry and I would have to catch a smaller one up river. After half an hour's searching I found a small boat tethered to a jetty but the place was deserted I wandered about shouting and getting very cross when the ferryman appears. He’s the most surly, monosyllabic old ……..I’ve had the misfortune to be afloat with and is clearly employed to prove the rule. I pay the man and cycle off in a huff, past the unremarkable Schloss Loevestein and on for a few miles until I get a puncture. Aaaaaagh! Phil comes to meet me and we fix it but as I reach Beneden-Leeuwen where we are scheduled to have lunch it becomes clear that there are further problems with the bike. Bizarrely and very fortunately, since this is a small place there is a bike shop. Phil borrows some tools to affect a repair but it soon becomes clear that the problem is more serious so it’s back to the shop. Michelle, the owner, sends me across the road to the workshop where his Father is hard at work surrounded by bikes – he doesn’t look pleased to see me.
“Er, hello”. I say. “Did your son phone to say I was coming?”
“Yessss”.
“I have a bit of a problem”.
“And now I suppose your problem is going to be my problem”.
It’s not a promising start and I stand around nervously for what seems an age until he’s finally ready to look at my bike…..Apparently it’s his first day back after his holiday and the work has piled up.

Michelle

Arnold in his workshop
We get chatting and he begins to thaw a bit.
“It could be bad news”. He says. “Or it could be very bad”.
It turns out that Arnold worked on the Dutch national cycling team’s bikes in his younger days and he’s been doing the job for 44 years. He clearly knows what he’s about. He dismantles the rear hub, sucks his teeth, tuts, changes the bearings and various worn out bits and pieces and then begins to check the rest of the bike.
“Where you are going you will need new brake pads”. He says worryingly but by now I know I’m in good hands and we’re getting on well. When the time comes to pay, he and Michelle insist on giving us discount and we shake hands warmly. If you’re ever in the area even without your bike, pop in to ‘Geer Tweewielers’, they are great people.
We push on to Nijmegen.


A genuine dutch windmill.Here's a barge that doesn't move.
And here's one that does!
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Our second and final night in Holland is spent at an all singing & dancing campsite outside the town of Groesbeek, near Nijmegen. The showerblock is a memorably misguided extravaganza of Trompe l'oeil and lurid coloured plastic plants, but the facilities are good and we are able to wash all my cycling kit as well as ourselves. Also, when the campsite owner learns that we are raising money for autism he waives the whole fee. Good man! The weather has improved a bit so we can sit outside the bar near the campsite entrance and contemplate tomorrow and Germany. I think the border can only be a couple of Km.
My time in Holland was far too short and I'll be returning for a longer visit soon. It struck me as an open, tollerant and fun-loving society and though the landscape can be a little monotonous the towns and cities are lovely. Also, we found a great wine bar in Dordrecht called the Book Bar or Library Bar or something like that,so if anyone from there reads this- email me the details would you - you were all great. And the girl that served us our drinks and meal smiled a lot - not something I was to witness often over the next week or two.

Monday

Germany

GermanyThe early part of our journey through Germany follows the valley of the mighty Rhine. Huge barges pligh thier trade up and down its length. They seem to carry vast amounts of cargo ranging from coal to cars and that must make a significant difference to the amount of trucks on the road since many of them are piled high with containers.

I suppose it was inevitable that it would happen sometime, but that it should have been such a nightmare! We stop for lunch in the pretty little town of Xanten and as we do so the heavens open. I leave my bike chained to the railings outside the restaurant and we enter the strange old fashioned world of the German middle
Rain through the restaurant window; Xanten.classes - they don't seem overly pleased to see us – there’s a woman sitting opposite me with a face on, and when I get up to go to the loo everyone looks as though they’re sucking lemons for lunch! We choose from a menu that is to become all too familiar over the next couple of weeks - heavily biased towards pork which is odd because throughout the trip I don't see a single pig. Where do they keep them? I sit, damp and shivering, wondering what's going on at home. After lunch I leave my all too familiar calling card – a bum shaped damp patch and head back out into the rain. The day drags on and I cross the Rhine and find myself in the hideous, industrial conurbation that is Duisburg. The place is ghastly with heavy traffic, terrible signage and bridges everywhere so that it’s not long before I’m totally disorientated, and I can’t find anyone who speaks English. I ride through dirty grey streets, past miles of railway sidings and factories for what seems like an age, never really knowing where I am and I feel tired and stressed. One dour satellite town joins another until finally I begin to see fields again. I reach a village called Ungelsheim and ring Phil:
“Where are you?” He says.
“I’m in Ungelsheim”.
“We’re at the campsite on the other side of the river”.
“I’m tired and my phone’s running out of battery and it’s beginning to get dark”.
“I don’t know how to get across the river”. He says.
I’m incensed and snap my phone shut; partly because I’m so cross and partly to save the battery.
“FIND A FUCKING BRIDGE!” I shout; at no-one in particular, and cycle on.
I re-join the river and eventually spot a ferry – it’s across the other side so I wait……and wait. It doesn’t take too long to realise that they’ve stopped for the day and it is getting darker and I have no lights, and I can see things are going badly. Back on the riverside path I see a huge bridge in the distance and pedal like mad; and the path gets narrower and narrower and grassier and grassier and runs out. “Bugger!”
I re-trace my route and finally make it to the bridge – it is enormous, with a dual carriageway crossing it and two cycle paths. Cars and lorries thunder past - all with their lights on. I cross the bridge and ring Phil.
“Where’s the campsite?”
“We’ve left the campsite”.
“Well where are you then?”
“Ungelsheim”.
“Oh Fffff. Look, I’m on this great big bridge across the Rhine; It can’t be far from the campsite; my battery is about to give out.”
“We’ll be there in ten minutes”. Says Phil. And then my phone battery runs out “Oh Great!”
I hang around in the increasing gloom for 20 minutes and no-one appears. I’m fighting a rising tide of panic and I cycle back across the bridge – nothing! Back across the bridge again and I realise that even if they do turn up they won’t be able to stop on a motorway so I leave the bridge and join the riverside path.
“But what if they’ve turned up on the bridge?”
Back on the bridge and there’s no-one there and the panic has taken hold. I try to think rationally and leave the bridge once more. I ask a couple of people on the path if there are any campsites by the river. One tells me there’s nothing to the north but 4 or 5 Kilometres to the south there is a site; and the other tells me the exact opposite – I head south. After a few minutes hard cycling I come across the campsite and spend ten minutes dragging my bike and stumbling through the thick undergrowth trying to find the entrance……..It’s the wrong site. The campers are having a great time on the jollily lit veranda of the campsite bar but there’s no sign on Myfanwy. I’m devastated. I try not to look too wretched as I pass the bar on the way out. What now? I’m in a country where I don’t speak the language, I have no money, no friends, no phone and it is now dark
There’s nothing for it; I pick on the first two people I see, fling myself weeping at their feet and with little hope of a positive reply:
“Sprechen sie Englisch?” I say.
“Actually I speak very good English.” Says the woman - in very good English. I could have hugged her there and then.
They introduce themselves as Carmela and Peter.
I tell them all my woes and Carmela says;
“No problem – you can ring your friends from my mobile.”
“I’m afraid it’s not as easy as that”. I say. “You see, their number’s on my phone and the battery has run out.”
“Is there no-one else you can ring?”
“Well, there’s my wife”, I say hesitantly, “But she’s in England.”
“It’s fine.” She says and hands me her phone.
Phone calls zip backwards and forwards through the ether and we wait for contact from Phil
“We were just going to a bar for a drink”, Says Peter, “Why don’t you come with us and wait there.”
“Well, I’d love to, but you see: I spent all my money at lunchtime.”
Once again it is no problem and we spend a lovely, and hugely relieved, half an hour together sitting in a bar called Sonnendeck, sipping our cold beers and waiting for Phil and Jenny to arrive.
Thank you both, you were utterly brilliant and I look forward to meeting again soon - though under less trying circumstances!
P.S. It turned out that Phil and Jenny had been waiting for me on another bridge entirely……Ah well, all’s well that….etc.


Reunited at the end of a very long day!


I will write more over the next couple of days and hopefully put it on the net when we reach Wurtzburg.

Many, many thanks for all your texts, calls and encouragement. Keep the coming

Much love to all............David

The Dom, Cologne
Great pub at Poll near Koln Railway station at Bingen Cooling down in Rudesheim - What! it's not raining?

Phil praying to mecca in Worth. Thats the wrong way Phil!
OberweselAnd here are Phil and Jenny at last night's campsite in Worth - Jenny appears to be picking her nose! No. She's not really.........
View over the river from our pitch in Worth. Tues 3rd June 11.44 pm
I'm sitting in a hotel room for the first time on this trip. it's been a very long day and I've notched up 102 miles from a little village called Worth, a few Km to the west of Wertheim, to Ansbach. We couldn't find a camp site in the area so, by about 8pm we decided to abandon the search and book in to the first hotel we could find. This place is called the Weinstube in Lichtenau and the delightful owners are looking after us wonderfully.



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The whole journey has been dogged by bad weather and rain means punctures. the worst I've had is three in one day so when today dawned bright and sunny I was hoping for the best, particularly with such a long day ahead. After 80 miles we stopped at a touristy, but handsome town called Rothenburg, where we had coffee and the best cake I've ever tasted and we spent a long time discussing whether or not to press on to Ansbach; it was four 'o' clock and I was tired, but in the end I decided to press on. Within five miles I get a puncture. I think it's the law in Germany that I have one every day!



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Thursday 5th June. 11.30am


I'm sitting in a sunlit square in Regensburg watching the world go by. This is my first day off from the lycra, Vaseline and bottled food as, after riding 190 miles in two days we are ahead of schedule and this means that I can sit around in internet cafes drinking coffee and eating cake. I've never been a great fan of cake in the past but Germany has given me an unexpected taste for it: in the first place, they do make exceptional cake, and in the second place, sadly, our experience of the other food on offer has been dismal; most of it consisting of flattened pork steaks covered in bucket loads of gooey sauce.


A massively tall nun is strolling by licking an ice cream.


There is a quiet, Sunday feeling to Regensburg and it is the most relaxed place since we left Holland. Phil and Jenny are off doing thier own thing and I've had a pleasant, slow morning. I had a look in the Dom St' Peter and fealt immediately at home: the sights, smells and sounds are those of Ripon Cathedral though on a smaller scale and there was a service going on and these are the same in any language.
Friday 6th June. 16.24
Pulled in to today’s campsite about half an hour ago; P& J have already set up camp. We’re in a little village by the Danube called Muhlau about 30Km from Passau and the Austrian border. When I arrive Jenny is in a hurry to show me the showers which are spacious and self contained. I’ve really had quite enough of the sound of half a dozen Germans belching, farting, hawking and spitting in the mornings to last me well into my next lifetime which, having written this, I will have to spend as a Lederhosen moth! I’m pretty sure that when I go for a morning shower, I do so silently, but these guys can make more noise than an Autobahn full of HGVs.

I left Regensburg this morning and travelled down the Danube (or Donau) via Straubing, where there was a market and I bought a fishcake sandwich from a kiosk (I know it sounds odd but it was good), I would have liked to spend more time in Straubing – it looks an interesting town but Vienna calls; then on to Bogen and Deggendorf, neither of which seemed to have much to recommend them. By the time I get to the camp site I’ve covered 73.4 miles which for a gentle day is enough.


As we get further south it becomes increasingly obvious that Catholicism plays a large part in the lives of the people here: There are large, roadside crucifixes dotted all over the place, often with votive offerings, as you would expect to find in Mediterranean countries though not necessarily here in Germany. But along side this is what I can only imagine to be a pagan rite where most of the villages have enormously tall maypoles, some of which have what appear to be heraldic shields attached to them, but some have baby clothes, dolls and prams hanging from them and a figure of a Stork! It’s more like being in Albania than in a modern European country.

Sat 7th June. 13.50



I'm sitting in yet another internet cafe, this time in Passau on the German/Austrian border. I arrived here this morning at about 11.00am, about half an hour after the inevitable puncture. I had a good ride into town with two cyclists I met en-route - Tony and Auguste who kept me entertained on the way in with lively chat. I know they'll be watching the football tonight so good luck to your team guys and enjoy the beer and chips!
Above: Auguste and Tony when we parted company in Passau.
This is an all too familiar sight. My trusty steed taken through Myfanwy's back window at the campsite near Passau. Confluence of the rivers Inn and Danau - PassauCampsite restaurant, Passau. It looks like I'm drinking beer but I'm just holding it for a friend.Well, between the thunder showers the sun is shining and it seems a shame to spend the day in the cafe when a new and interesting city awaits exploration.