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?”
“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.

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!

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.