Germany. Sweden. Denmark. Sweden.

If it sounds like we can’t make up our minds where to go, that’s partially correct. We took a train from Dresden to Rostock, planning on staying somewhere out of Rostock and closer to where we planned on catching a ferry to Sweden.

Our first glimpse of the Baltic Coast from Graal-Müritz.

We rolled into Graal-Müritz pretty late in the day, but with plenty of sunlight. It is a popular vacation destination for the eastern part of Germany, and we again felt like the only Americans in town. It’s fun to see the surprised reactions from people when we say we’re from California – what are you doing here? As confirmed by German friends, most Americans visit Berlin, Munich, maybe Frankfurt or Hamburg, but rarely make it to the smaller destinations. That is one of our favorite things about bike touring, staying in the small places, being the only foreign tourists.

Enjoying the late sunset on the beach at Graal-Müritz.
Admiring the view as we ride towards Stralsund.
Heading out through the coastal forest, if you keep moving the mosquitoes can’t catch you.

Our ride to Stralsund was 94 kilometers, one of our longer days. With so much daylight, it’s not as daunting to agree to a long day. You know there is time to take loads of breaks. The tailwind helped a lot too.

The wind turbines help you see which way the wind is blowing.
This is what you want. The turbine facing the same direction you’re heading. Tailwind!
Cookie cabana break time. Oh, this is too nice, too easy. Cue ominous music.

We were only about 20k from Stralsund when my right shifter, for the rear chainrings, broke. Suddenly I’m riding a single speed bike loaded with gear. Rich managed to get me into a more realistic gear in the back and we limped to town. Now begins the strategizing and planning on how and where to get my bike fixed. Oh, did I mention it was Saturday afternoon when my bike broke? And we know that nothing is open on Sunday. No bike shops, barely any grocery stores. Now what? Stay in Stralsund for two nights and hope the not very encouraging looking bike shop can fix my bike?

German trains for the win again! With our 9 euro monthly tickets it’s an easy decision to catch the train to Sassnitz, which is we plan to catch the ferry to Sweden.

We took the train to Sassnitz on Sunday where a bike shop fixed my broken shifter on Monday morning, which allowed us to catch the Tuesday morning ferry to Sweden. And, gave us a bonus day in Sassnitz to hike the UNESCO listed beech forest and amazing chalk cliffs.

Jasmund National Park. Beech forest.
Chalk cliffs.
Fun with chalk at our beach lunch break.
Chalk 2022!
The forest is so peaceful and beautiful.
With opportunities to be silly.
Our hike day was a good reminder to mix up activities. After two weeks of cycling we both felt like hiking was so so hard. Really harder than it should have been.
Picnic dinner in our hotel garden, relief at having a working bike again!

So what do you do on a two hour ferry ride? I read. We have tea and pastries. And Rich travel plans, since we got on the ferry knowing only where it landed in Sweden. Ystad. Rich was still deciding where to go next. We had gotten a recommendation from a friend to go to Bornholm Island. Beautiful and great cycling, he said.

Securing the bikes on the car deck of the ferry.
It was an early morning to ride 9k to get to the 8:00 am ferry. Caffeine and food was welcome. This was about 20 minutes before Rich said, hey, let’s catch the ferry from Ystad, Sweden to Bornholm Island, Denmark.

The second ferry left about ten minutes after the first arrived, so if we hustled off and rode fast around the corner we could spend only ten minutes in Sweden before leaving again. Assuming we could find the second ferry and get on in time. We did. The ramp was pulled up just after we and two other cyclists rolled onto the ferry. Phew. It feels good when it works out.

Waiting to disembark on Bornholm Island.
The happy travelers on Bornholm Island.

More on Bornholm Island next time.

Shifting Gears in Saxony

Happy June everyone and hope that you are are enjoying the summer so far. Getting out on the bikes has been nice, but we’ve hit a few bumps in the road along the way, and rambling without a detailed plan in the beginning of peak European travel season is a bit more challenging.

On the Elbe river valley north of Dresden

So we’ve been mixing up some regional train hops and full cycling days to make our way out of the state of Hessen, across Thuringia, and well into Saxony. The scenery has been beautiful in late Spring with full greenery and loads of wildflowers.

Relaxing in he Schlossgarten in Fulda. June in Europe is so green to these California eyes.

We’ve managed to learn a lot more about the local history via some great museums and historic sites. It’s an area steeped in history from the early Middle Ages to the tumultuous 20th century of 2 wars, partition, and reunification. The Forum museum in Leipzig is highly recommended as it’s an extremely well curated and interactive history of the GDR.

The former interior border at Gerstungen. Amazingly, six days later, a connector strip had been paved. A shocking change for the residents and the world.

As much as we thought that we knew the basic history of the former Eastern Block, this museum will add to your understanding, and you can’t help put it in the current context agression in Ukraine, as well as a lot of the variances in prosperity that still divide the former East and West.

Inside Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther famously translated the Bible as part of the Protestant reformation in 1520.
The great hall in Wartburg Castle, a fascinating mix of 15th century construction, with more ornate 18th and 19th century “renovations”

The biggest challenge of the past week has been that Cheryl has been less than 100% due to a nasty stomach bug, which hit her hard for a few days, with a slow recovery. Cycle touring and stomach bugs are not the best combination, so we’ve had to scale back our cycling distances and incorporate a bit more rest and recovery into our agenda. It was kind of rough for a few days. But she stayed in the tour and carried on.

A needed break on the old Hessen rail trail east of Frankfurt

Luckily, the train system has helped to shorten some days and get us on to places of more interest, such as Leipzig, and now Dresden, both vibrant and interesting cities. But Cheryl is a trooper, and despite running on fumes, continued to cycle most days, with my challenge being to make sure the day was not too tough or long! She’s on the mend now and we anticipate heading out of Dresden tomorrow with more oomph in our pedaling!

Cheryl reflecting sunset over the Elbe in Dresden. Both Leipzig and Dresden have extensive tram systems approaching 100 miles in length. Low boarding, fast, and free with our €9 monthly train ticket!

On the mechanical front, I started to notice as we left Bad Hersfeld that my back tire seemed to be rubbing the fender more and more. It turns out that my long lasting Schwalbe Tire had a bulge developing in one spot….definitely time for a new tire! Luckily we made it to Fulda, which had a half dozen bike shops listed, so I engaged on the hunt for a new tire.

Did we mention how friendly the ducks are?

The first place in town had a single lovely Schwalble Marathon 700×38 tire. These hand finished German tires are the clear global favorites in the bike touring and commuting community. Unfortunately, with my tight fender and frame, this tire was one size too big and they had no other similar tires. The next shop on the edge of town had no Schwable touring tires, but was able to sell me a right sized 700×35 Matrix touring tire. I’d never heard of the brand, but his shop was full of their parts. As it turns out, these Thailand made parts are some of the most available. I figured I better take it.

The glamorous life of cycle touring in Eisenach

Since he spoke English, I was able to get an informative update on the global supply chain issues still facing the bicycling industry. I asked him about bike parts for a full group replacement on my touring bike, as all my well loved Ultegra parts are close to failing. (Hang in there right shifter!). He said that parts are still on short supply and that it may be cheaper or more plausible just to buy a new touring bike! Zoinkees.

The cherries are delicious, and especially when you’re a bit taller than most pickers!
Foraging is a nice option as summer fruits ripen

He said that e-bikes, mountain bikes, and kids bikes are now more available, but that touring/hybrid/road bikes are still hard to get. He also noted that aluminum supplies have been disrupted from Ukraine war, so frame and part manufactures may have more issues! The last few years have really opened up the worlds eyes to the fragility of global supply chains, and the relative bounty we all had in the past 30 years of massive global expansion.

You must be this tall to fight in medieval war

So I put on the new €20 touring tire and hope it holds up for even half the life of my trusty Schwable. So far so good.

Disobey this divine don’t walk signal in Fulda at your peril!

But where to next? We are still discussing some options as are now eager to get further north to the Baltic Coast and cross to Sweden. We love Germany, but it does have many quirks, and we can tell that we may have had our fill for now of small town Germany (And even brats, schnitzel, and potatoes… hence our pull to the vibrant cities for Vietnamese food and burritos!).

Cheryl captured in the burning lens ca. 1728, at the fantastic Zwinger scientific and astronomical collection in Dresden

The city and town connections via cycle routes are wonderful here, and it’s safe, pleasant, clean. The bigger cities, such as Leipzig and Dresden are diverse, fantastic to explore, and have very low automobile traffic. (So quiet in most central neighborhoods!). But there is indeed (a somewhat stereotypical) rigidity and other quirks to life here that can make make cycle touring more challenging. Like what, you ask?

Mostly so pleasant to cycle tour in Germany and a million miles of paths to explore.

No public drinking fountains…anywhere! Not along cycle routes, not in parks, not even outside bathrooms….and by the way, public bathrooms are also EXTREMELY rare. Museums or restaurants are your best bets. So if you can’t pee al fresco, frequently without hesitation, then cycle touring here is not for you. The only solution to the lack of water fountains is to buy water (which we only do as last resort) or bring a lot of water for the day (which we do).

A rare sight in Alaunpark, Dresden

And what is rarer than a public bathroom in Germany? A convenience store. They are not part of the culture, even in cities. They are everywhere in Denmark and Sweden, with fresh foods, and takeaway options….perfect for cycle touring.

A near riot prior to 6pm Aldi closing. It was the only open supermarket in central Dresden over Whit Monday holiday weekend.
There may not be convenience stores anywhere, but there are so many bakeries!

But we have found that below the sometimes abrupt exterior of some Germans, there is a deep care the environment and the plight of others. We saw the heartwarming handling of the 2015 Syrian refuge crisis in Munich, and again have witnessed the real welcome signs for Ukrainians on 2022. And they don’t brag about it, they just do it.

Welcome signs everywhere; and housing, food, and other refugee support.

So we head north this Friday morning by train, feeling our privilege to be healthy and free.

The intrepid travelers carry on…outside Wartburg Castle, Eisenach.

And we’re back on wheels!

After seven months of backpack travel we’re reunited with our touring bikes. Izmir, Turkey to Geneva, Switzerland was another one of those dislocating travel days. We’re super lucky to have a place to land in France, very good and generous friends who allow us to leave our bikes and extra bags at their place, so the switch from Turkey to a mountain side French village was a known and comforting destination.

Picnic spots of the world. Did we sit a bit too close to an anthill? Yes.

The lush green views were a big change from the blue waters and Mediterranean climate of Turkey as well. We hit peak spring in France. So green. Flowers blooming, bees buzzing, ants crawling. We dusted off our bikes and went for a ride up the valley to make sure everything still worked, both on the bikes and our bodies.

Yup. Still love to cycle.

Then the tougher part. Where to next? Our original plan had been to ride the Baltic Coast but the war in Ukraine made us decide that getting around Kaliningrad was a bit too difficult for the time frame we have. So we’ll save that for another year.

The hard work of travel planning.

After a fantastic week in France we headed to the Geneva train station to catch a train. It’s nice to start off with a lovely long downhill ride.

Heading out. Thank you EA for the photo and the escort down The Valley.
Our local guide for the down the valley ride.

But where? You’re still asking. Where are you going?

At the train station in Geneva.
A fountain in Basel, Switzerland.

The first train took us to Basel, Switzerland. We had a nice evening and morning walking around and enjoying the city and then a second train took us to Mainz, Germany.

A nice cafe and pizzeria by the train tracks in Basel.
Beer AND trains? Yes please.
Anticipating the train boarding scramble. Most trains have a few steps up, which means taking off bags before lifting the bikes up. With only a few minutes to accomplish we have a system.

The worst train boarding is when you don’t know where the bike storage space is. This is when you find yourself trotting down the platform wheeling your bike in a bit of a panic. Thankfully German and Swiss train apps let you know where the bike storage is. So, the only scramble is getting the bikes and bags on the train. Rich does the bike lifting and I do the bag lifting. One final count of bags every time we get on or off a train, and we settle in.

Bikes in the background, lunch, and a book on my Kindle. Set for this train ride.

From Mainz we’re riding East/Northeast towards Dresden and towards the German Polish border. That’s the scenario for now. As we all know, plans are never set in stone. I always need a few days cycling to convince myself I can still do this. Get on the loaded bike day after day and turn the pedals over, cranking out the miles. The first day’s euphoria turns into the second day’s tiredness, and the third day’s exhaustion.

The happy bikers on the Main river path. Day three.

But with my best travel companion in front of me (I draft behind him shamelessly), I push through the tired cranky afternoons and know that the pedaling legs will come back. More fun cycle touring to come.

What to eat along the way.

Week four of nearly daily cycling means quite a bit of eating and being sure we have plenty of water during the day. Breakfasts are mostly included at the hotels we stay at, so that’s one meal sorted each day.

A typical picnic lunch, but with an actual picnic table. Quite the timely find. Our hedgehog patterned tea towel/tablecloth/napkin, and the striped bag which has bamboo cutlery, a sharp knife, and a corkscrew are picnic necessities.

Our lunches are usually picnic style, with sandwiches purchased at a bakery in the morning. We feel qualified to critic sandwiches by county so far: Switzerland – too much mayo or salad cream or sauce! We resorted to scraping and squeezing excess goop off the sandwiches which were mostly purchased at supermarkets.

Sandwiches on board, ready for de-mayonnaising.

Switzerland doesn’t seem to have the quantity of bakeries we are enjoying in Germany. And, German ready made sandwiches are mostly mayo free. Butter on the bread holds up much better, and cucumber, lettuce, tomato and even a slice of hard boiled egg makes for a very nice lunch. Oh yes, and lovely seeded rolls! German sandwiches get the nod so far.

Apples have been a constant presence in my front bag.
We pick them here.
We pick them there.
The tall guy can pick them anywhere!
These little red ones with very white flesh are my favorite. The green ones with a touch of red are so tart!

Why so many apple trees along the roads? I’m not certain. We only pick from those that are obviously not part of an orchard which is someones living, and I’ve read a few different reasons for why so many apple trees dotting the landscape. Perhaps from 17th century laws requiring grooms to plant oak and apple trees before marrying, maybe the more common sense and practical notion that tree lined roads are lovely and apple trees do well. We also had a week of plums gleaned from trees in villages which were so overloaded they were dropping on the street.

Finding benches in the shade is a never ending quest. Should have removed my wet laundry from the back of my bike before taking this photo.

We have also learned the difficult and squabbling way that we have enough energy after a long day cycling to check in to a hotel, unpack (ie dump panniers upside on the floor), shower, and get drinks and dinner at ONE place. Not drinks at one place and move on to dinner at another – that doesn’t end well for hangry cyclists. Pick a place that meets both needs. Thankfully, Biergartens abound!

This pumpkin soup at a Biergarten in Beilngreis was fantastic.
Why yes, I am about to demolish this huge plate of food.

Stay well fed and carry plenty water, refill water when the opportunity presents itself, and happy pedaling!

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

It was not a long day biking to get here, but some good hill climbs, especially since the town sits on a ridge above the river. Let me amend that, the gorgeous town sits on a big ridge, far above the river.

Viewing the town and saying, oh yes, it is on a hill.
Rich riding through the tourists into town.
To our super cute hotel.

On the advice of Rick Steves, we went to view the alter carvings and paintings at St. Jakob’s church. St. Jakob is St. James, as in Camino de Santiago, or St. James’ Way.

St. James is the one with the scallop shell on his hat. Rich is the one with the mask on his face.
Statue outside the church. I’m not sure if this represents a pilgrim, or St. James himself.
His scallop shell and a finger shiny from being touched. (Yes, we did all the ‘pull my finger’ jokes.)
Camino markers outside the church. It is 2,102 kilometers or 1,300 miles to Santiago.

Rothenburg is one of three walled towns in Germany with an intact wall. And the town itself was spared from being too badly bombed during WWII by a quickly arranged surrender. The throngs of tourists attest to the charming nature of this town. The wall is amazing to walk, and our after dinner wall walk was thankfully quite free of thronging tourists.

Captivating views from the wall.
We were quite far along before I realized that Rich literally has his head in the rafters and has to bend down to see what shorter me sees.

We also took Rick Steves’ advice to skip the Schneeballen, the local pasty, but after a nice breakfast I did take some photos as we rolled out of town.

Breakfast with a view down into The Valley.
Closed up the morning we rolled out.
Couldn’t resist some photos.
Pasty dough deep fried is how it was described. I’m sure it’s delicious though.

The ride out of town to our next destination, Schwäbisch Hall, was 70k and three river valleys. But I didn’t think about the long day ahead as we rode over cobblestones to leave Rothenburg. Happy Pedaling.

Happy cyclist.
Ready to roll.
Stop for map check under the wall.

Riding to Regensburg.

The ride was worth it. A lovely warm evening in town.

The ride to Regensburg was an initial steep climb out of the Beilngries area to the continental divide area of the two drainages, the Altmuhl into the Danube, versus the Aisch ultimately into the Rhine. Oh, divide. That sounds flat. Nope. Rollers up and down all day. With sweeping views. And a shifting headwind.

When there is a headwind, this is my view. Tucked in behind the wall of Rich, drafting happily.

We met another cycle tourist at our afternoon tea break and rode the rest of the way into Regensburg with him. Hi Tobias, so great to meet you!

I fill my Kleen Kanteen with hot tea at breakfast and by early afternoon it’s perfect drinking temperature. Something sweet and caffeine gets us through the afternoon.
Rich was happy to have someone not only keep up, but challenge him on the hills. They waited for me.
Oh yes, we did spot a few cats.

Since we’ve been bumbling a bit on this trip, no firm itinerary, we don’t read up a lot on our destinations. In this case that resulted in a lovely surprise- Regensburg is amazing! And we arrived on a lovely warm afternoon, the first day of school for most kids, and a population determined to enjoy the lovely summer weather. Fall is in the air, I know because I got smacked in the face with a fall leaf on a decent yesterday, so there is a felling of enjoy this weather while you can! We’re here for two nights so we get time to really embrace the city.

The Danube splits into canals, making two or three distinct islands.
The canals mean swimming out of the strong currents of the main river. And slack lining.
We had our first river swim of the trip.
And our first dog rescue attempt. Sienna, a four year old lab, was pretty sure Rich needed help.
Sunset with a happy selfie.

Next stop is a 3 night cat sitting gig through TrustedHousesitters. We’re very excited to get to spend some down time taking care of a kitty. Happy pedaling!

Our trip so far, with town names!

1) Habére-Poche, France. Where we are so lucky to have wonderful friends.

Sitting on my butt on a ski lift going up the hill.

2) Évian-les-Bains, France. Where we shockingly saw people buying bottled water, and had to eat take out pizza on our balcony since our CA COVID QRs didn’t work and you needed them even to eat outdoors at a restaurant.

Balcony, enjoying the view.

3) Montreaux, Switzerland, 2 nights. Where our fancy hotel (it was our Anniversary) had fire alarms going off our second night. I felt like Bill Murray in a Wes Anderson film standing on the street at 2am in my fluffy hotel bathrobe. (Sadly no photos…)

View along the promenade.
Umbrellas on the terrace at night.

4) Sallion, Switzerland. In the wine area of the Rhône valley. We kept looking around thinking we were in Italy because it’s a dry valley.

A confluence of the glacier chalky Rhône and a clear side stream.
Vineyards for more white wine for me!
Old town of Sallion on a hill.

5) Eischoll, Switzerland. Which we had to take a train and cable car to since we could not find a hotel in Sion – totally booked – but which ended up being a joy up in the mountains with a long long decent the next day.

Well deserved cold white wine after a long day, and what a view!
Our first Bisse sighting. Historic irrigation canals are a draw of the area around Sion.
We were captivated by the historic buildings in Switzerland, they were protected early on and add such a fascinating dimension to the towns. This is an old mill.

6) Brigerbad, Switzerland. Where we visited the Thermalquellen Bridgerbad – outdoor pools still filled with vacationing Swiss and French, and 2 lone Americans who enjoyed themselves very much (again, no photos allowed.)

Dinner at our hotel restaurant, impossible to get a bad glass of wine in Switzerland.

7) Zermatt, Switzerland. 2 nights. Yay, a lovely train ride up to the largely car free town with a view of the Matterhorn always near, clouds willing.

Mid hike lunch on a mountainside terrace.
The ride out of town was interesting, showed how much infrastructure is required to support this “car free” town.
All sorts of domestic animals on our ride down, including this big guy who had just walked slowly through irrigation sprinklers and came over to slobber and shake on me.

8) Feisch, Switzerland. Where we started debating whether or not to ride over the Furkapass. We decided on a train boost after the next town, but had a lovely gondola ride up the mountain.

Up we go! Love the gondola views.
Happy Hour at a restaurant at the top of the gondola.

9) Obergoms, Switzerland. Where, after riding up its valley for days we got to peep at the source of the Rhône river! (Almost, not quite the glacier but it’s pretty tiny here, that mighty river.) And we got our train hop to the top of Oberalppass. And rode down. Feeling a bit sheepish seeing all the cyclists coming UP the pass, but it was great fun that downhill.

Look how small the Rhône river is!
Happy train riders.
Rich descending. So many switchbacks.
Pause for view appreciation.

10) Disentis, Switzerland. Another town, another gondola. You generally get a free or discounted pass to the gondola – we just made it on the last ride up and had to be sure not to miss the last ride down.

Our own personal gondola ride. Room to play.
Another Swiss alpine view from the gondola.
A good dinner on the terrace of the youth hostel.

11) Ilanz, Switzerland. 2 nights. Where we swam in a stainless steel swimming pool, took a day trip to Chur and decided to head to Germany.

Train boost! This was a Sunday so we think the big bike cars were added to the train to handle the weekend numbers.
Briefly in Austria, that little yellow dot is Rich., forgetting to stop for the obligatory border photo.

12) Wangen im Allgäu, Germany. Our first stop in Germany after a crowded ride along and away from Bodensee holiday bike traffic.

Met some lovely German cycle tourists headed the other way. We bonded over our non e-bike status and exchanged emails.
A good way to practice German? Gossip mags and wine.
Age is not important. Unless you are a cheese. Words to live by.

13) Memmingen, Germany. On the ride here we continued to be amazed by the number of solar panels on rooftops and had to seek shade for our picnic lunch.

So much solar! So impressive.
Roadside shrines and monuments generally have trees. A fairly good place to stop if we can’t find a shady bench.

14) Landsberg am Lech, Germany. First proper Biergärten, odd fun fact: Johnny Cash was stationed here during WW2. He was a Staff Sargent and a crack Morse code operator.

Enjoying beer and wine on the Lech River.
Riding out of town down the Lech.

15) Augsburg, Germany. 2 nights. Wandered the old town enjoying the canals, and got Rich’s bike fixed! No easy feat with bike shop repair demand and an older touring bike chainring failure.

Loads of farmland riding in this part of Germany. On the upside the corn can block the wind, on the downside- little corn gnats if you rode too close to the corn.
Will Singer to the rescue. He was super nice and let us leave the bags and bikes until he could find time to fix the bike. He had it done by noon.
Really, lots of farmland.
Good tram system in Augsburg.

And on to our next destination. Happy Pedaling.

Cycling while cat spotting.

Ready for cat pics? Germany has been a cat bonanza. Usually I confine my cat posts to Instagram, but the last two days cycling in Germany have been so cat rich I can’t resist sharing.

This cat in old town Memmingen was very fond of Rich.
This farm cat in Kißlegg was very interested in a cuddle.

First we had a six cat day, which we considered a lot, and then today we had a fifteen cat day while riding almost 70k to Landsberg am Lech.

Calico cat warming up in the sun.
This cat was enjoying the last rays of sun outside old town Wangen im Allgäu. Up for pets? Yes.

Many of the cats spotted were in fields hunting or sleeping, not close enough for decent photos or interaction.

“There’s one.” I think this was #12.

It makes the miles/kilometers pass. Happy pedaling.

Cat mechanic.