Monthly Archives: July 2015

Germany – Great Cycling for All Ability Levels

A view from our hotel in Rudesheim.
A view from our hotel in Rudesheim.

Two weeks cycling in Germany and I’m still in awe of and have a great appreciation for the abundance and ease of cycling here. It’s easy to find routes,  use public transportation with a bicycle, find parking places,  find food and lodging,  find interesting sites…it’s just easy…I can’t recommend it enough.

A recent day of cycling in Koblenz is an example of the ease of cycling which made sightseeing a breeze.*

Bikes on the cable car.
1. We took our bikes on the cable car up to the Prussian Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.

 

The ancient tunnel from the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress downhill to Koblenz.
2. We walked our bike through the Fortress Ground and then cycled back to Koblenz downhill through the tunnel.
Still cycling downhill beside Fortress walls and gates.
Still cycling downhill beside Fortress walls and gates.

3. We joined hundreds of other cyclists sitting in one of many plazas to sip beer or wine and people watch. Our bikes had plenty of companions that were also parked on the many bike racks, to the lamp posts, or next to the empty walls of the square.

We cycled at sunset
4. We cycled at sunset along the Mosel River passing locals and tourists enjoying the same activity.

 

A bicycled repair station equipped with Park Tools.
6. We admired a bicycled repair station equipped with Park Tools.
A vending machine selling tire tubes in many different sizes.
7. We had never seen a vending machine selling tire tubes in many different sizes.
A small passenger and bicycle ferry to cross the Rhine River.
8 We rode several ferries across  the Rhine River.

And, if our ONE day of cycling near Koblenz has not been convincing enough to try a cycle trip in Germany, here are a few more reasons:
Germany, along the rivers, is mostly flat and very easy to navigate…just follow the rivers on either side.

There are many styles of bikes to rent including electric making it possible for all abilities.
The drivers are very respectful of the cyclists probably because they are cyclists, too.
The food – wine, beer, bread, cheese, ice cream, berries – is great!

One of our many delicious meals..
One of our many delicious meals..

The distances between sites is short.
Many people speak English, but it’s also fun to speak German.
The summer flowers are look and smell beautiful.

I couldn't resist a photo next to these lovely scented flowers.
I couldn’t resist a photo next to these lovely scented flowers.

The weather is lovely.
The days are long.
*10 months, 13,000 km, and 8 countries later – the bicycling culture of Germany is the best we’ve ridden on so far!

Jet Lag Recovery Near the Frankfurt Airport

These beautiful woods are between the Frankfurt Airport and the city center.
These beautiful woods are between the Frankfurt Airport and the city center.

I almost hate to admit it, but we spent most of the past week at the Element Hotel near the Frankfort International Airport.

Normally, I prefer staying right in the heart of the city, and that was our original plan for Frankfurt, but having slept so well and discovered the easy, eight kilometer cycle path into the Frankfurt city center, it just made sense to take advantage of the “luxury to us” Element Hotel:  super comfortable beds, handy business services,  friendly staff with good English speaking skills, and  beautiful wooded forest that made me think of Hansel and Gretel* every time we cycled into town.

This wood cabin made me think of the witch's house in Hansel and Gretel.
This wood cabin made me think of the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel.

I know I sound like a Trip Advisor review but what I’m really giving is 5 star review to the flexibility of cycle touring. In other words, without the bike, the hassle of a 15-minute walk to the airport to catch a 30 minute train into town or the expense (almost 50 Euros) of a taxi ride into the city center make staying near the Frankfurt airport inconvenient.

With a bicycle, the airport hotels are OK for travel into the city center.
With a bicycle, the airport hotels are OK for travel into the city center.

But, for us cycle tourists, we were able to utilize the facilities of a new, modern less-expensive hotel and enjoy the scent of newly cut pine in the shady forest on our daily cycle to errands/apppointments/sightseeing trips to and from the city center.

After almost 10 months of the road, our list of “to dos” has gotten quite long: American Consulate, doctors appointments, re-filling prescriptions, browsing bookstores for maps, faxing or express mailing paperwork, sorting and purging cycling bags, etc.

Time to put away the Merino wool from Australia. We each need another short sleeved shirt.
Time to put away the Merino wool from Australia. We each need another short sleeved shirt.

The commute to “work” has been pleasant and the return “home” at night to a good bed and a quiet room has really helped with the jet lag.

A small detour took us to through this nice village on the commute "home" to our airpot hotel.
A small detour took us to through this nice village on the commute “home” to our airpot hotel.

Now our “to do” list is empty and our internal clocks are adjusted to German time

Rhine River , fairy tale castles, good food and drink…here we come!

*We did get lost in the woods a couple of times and I thought of leaving a path of bread crumbs just like Hansel and Gretel. We did use a cell phone and a good map and GPS – and still got disoriented and wondering if we would find the witches candy house.. But after a week of commuting, I can confidently say, “Don’t stress if you get lost”. You know the saying “All roads lead to Rome”? Well, in this case, all paths lead back to the airport or Frankfurt or somewhere.

A “Vacation” for a Cycle Tourist

 

This lovely, wooded trail is 1 km from Frankfurt Airport heading towards the city center.
This lovely, wooded trail is 1 km from Frankfurt Airport heading towards the city center.

If cycling in SE Asia, New Zealand and Australia became our “way of life in retirement”, then cycling in Germany has become our “vacation.” What a dream to cycle in a country where cycling is the norm…where the bicycle lanes outnumber the highways (at least it feels like it)….where the cars yield to the cyclists….where the number of safe and scenic cycling routes into town is more than I can count…where the bicycle parking places are plentiful and convenient…where men in suits and women in high heels use their Ortleib touring bags for their briefcases.

Nothing like a cold beer at the town square.
Nothing like a cold beer at the town square.

We’ve gone from being the minority and standing out like a sore thumb as middle-aged foreigners on bicycles, to being part of the majority and not even close to the age of many of the cyclists we’ve seen.

A giant frankfurter in Frankfurt.
A giant frankfurter in Frankfurt.

For the past two days we’ve commuted into town via bicycle from our airport hotel. Merging on to Cycle Route 4 felt like entering a freeway for bicycles. We’ve cycled to appointments, done some shopping, grabbed a sandwich, sat at a fountain, listened to accordion music and soaked up the summer vibe along with thousands of other cyclists.

View of local bicycle parking.
View of local bicycle parking.

I might even go so far as to say we actually blend in. As a matter of fact, a handful of people have struck up conversations with us in German. It could be Eric’s grey hair or my sturdy build or cute Byron Bay skirt  but I prefer to think it’s the bikes.

Cycling through old villages.
Cycling through old villages.

Making the cycling experience even better is the long, sunny 15 hour days, cold pilsners, crisp white wines, grilled bratwurst with sauerkraut, brown bread, tasty cheese, and apfelkuchen with coffee.

I know we’re going to have a lot of fun enjoying this cycling “holiday.”

Saying “Goodbye” to Australia

I’ve always hated goodbyes and it’s especially hard when I love a place. Sitting here at the Brisbane airport packed and ready to fly to our next destination would be easier if I hadn’t loved Australia so much. As it is, I’m actually a little sad about leaving. We’ve had a great cycling experience.

I couldn't get enough of the Brisbane River and the skyline.
I couldn’t get enough of cycling along the Brisbane River and the enjoying the beautiful skyline.

To make leaving even harder, we’ve spent just over one glorious week in Brisbane, the longest we’ve stayed in one place in months. It’s been awesome to relax and not be on the move every day.

Sunny with blue skies - what's not to love?!
Sunny with blue skies – what’s not to love?!

Thanks to the really nice people we’ve met, and the recent great bike rides (we loved Mt. Glorious, Mt. Nebo, and Mt. Clootha in Brisbane), and the perfect weather – sunny but not too hot -, and the excitement of being here when Queensland won the State of Origin decider in rugby (no offense to our New South Wales friends). We will leave Brisbane with smiles and good memories.

Enjoying a long walk before a long flight.
Enjoying a long walk along the river before a long flight.

Our week in Brisbane has been a fabulous end to our glorious two months and 2600 kilometers in Australia!

Even the sunset at the airport is beautiful.
The sunset is beautiful and the boxes are under 20kg each. Both bring smiles!

We love you, Australia! See ya later….

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The Final Stretch in Australia – Kingscliff to Brisbane (145 km)

What a change crossing a state line can make! After what seemed like weeks of cycling, we got to put away the ragged New South Wales map and open the crisp new Southern Queensland map.

One of the last times we saw this NSW Cycleway sign.
One of the last times we saw this NSW Cycleway sign.

Kingscliff to Gold Coast (46 km)

Sailboats and paddle boarders filled this bay.
Sailboats and paddle boarders filled this bay.

After a leisurely morning wake-up cycle watching the graceful paddle boarders near Tweed Head, NSW, we were immediately thrust into the frenetic energy of Queensland cycling up to  a large Sunday morning surfing tournament just across the border. Loudspeakers blaring beach music and commentary about surfer stunts and wipeouts woke us from our reverie.

Our first sight in Queensland was a surfing tournament.
Our first sight in Queensland was a surfing tournament.

The cycle path was packed with sun worshipers and coffee drinkers. Looking out to sea were waves…lots of big waves…We couldn’t believe the change in less than one kilometer.

Captain Cook Memorial
Captain Cook Memorial near the southern coast of Queensland.

I couldn’t help but think that if Hollywood movies and television shows define American culture for Aussies, then the videos of surfers surfing huge waves, and surf life saving club competitions on long sandy beaches was my picture of  Australia.

Several of the larger towns on the Gold Coast.
We were headed to Surfer’s Paradise for a couple of days rest.

Seeing the Gold Coast vibe in person on a Sunday and during the Aussie winter school holiday where hundreds of families were enjoying their vacations made the bike ride even more entertaining.

Surfer's Paradise
Surfer’s Paradise

Plenty of sunshine, pristine beaches, cycle paths, ice cream and coffee shops,  tropical flowers and palm trees made the kilometers of this ride pass with little effort.

Even the rainy extra day we spent in Gold Coast did not dampen our spirits. We used the break from cycling to walk to the Australia Fair Mall where we watched the great movie “Inside Out” to pass the rainy afternoon.

Gold Coast to Garden City (77 km)

These blue V-1 signs were our guide into Brisbane.
These blue V-1 signs were our guide into Brisbane.

The goal of today’s ride was to stay on the V-1, the cycle route next to the M-1 motorway. There were lots of signs and most were helpful, leading us across traffic circles, under bridges, through parks, and along motorways.

Traffic circles like these can be tricky to navigate especially when the sign point the wrong way. Even a road worker agreed that the one sign was wrong.
Traffic circles like these can be tricky to navigate especially when the sign points the wrong way. Even a road worker agreed that the one sign was placed incorrectly.

We did very well navigating for the first 60 or so kilometers until near IKEA south of Brisbane. There we lost the V-1 and never found it again this day.

This is the last time we were on the right road...We got lost after this..
This is the last time we were on the right path…We got lost after this..

Luckily, just as my “witching hour” when I get grumpy and cold arrived (3:30 pm), we were found a nice, clean affordable motel located near the huge Westfield Shopping Center. After a burrito and a Pacifico beer, we called it a day.

Garden City to Brisbane 22 km

The final ride into the city was easy on cycle paths most of the way.

Found the blue bike sign less than 500 km from the hotel.
Found the blue bike sign less than 500 km from the hotel.
This bridge as three separate lanes - one for bicycles, one for buses, and one for pedestrians.
This bridge over the Brisbane River has three separate lanes – one for bicycles, one for buses, and one for pedestrians.
This green trail is a like highway for bicycles. The skyline of Brisbane is in the distance.
This green trail is a like highway for bicycles. The skyline of Brisbane is in the distance.

N.B. This ride from the Gold Coast to Brisbane could easily be done in one day. As a matter of fact, we crossed paths with another cycle tourist who rode the entire way from Byron Bay to Brisbane (around 200 km) in one day. But, I’ll bet he didn’t have time to stop for lots of coffees. 🙂