Wednesday, May 30, 2012


After almost a month on the road, we found ourselves (quite to our surprise) biking past the familiar buildings of Copenhagen. We were surely in Nørrebro and this must be the Strøget shopping street.

But then, we passed this royal palace we'd previously visited in Rome? Or maybe it was in Paris?

But we must trust our maps: this is Vienna. It's a beautiful city filled with grandiose architecture ('Baroque' I guess you'd call it), wide boulevards and a confusing system of bike paths and pedestrian sidewalks.

Truly distinguishing this city from other European capitals are a few buildings designed by the Viennese architect Hundertwasser:

Hundertwasserhaus. Some apartments have "tree tenants" who "pay their rent in much more valuable currency than humans."

Toilets at KunstHausWien (art gallery). The floors are uneven on purpose since "the straight line is godless."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

River-powered ferries

Every so often, the bike path crosses by ferry from one side of the river to the other. In Austria, the ferries have been a bit different - they have no engine. Instead, they are tethered to a cable upstream, and simply angle themselves into the river current to be pushed across to the other side.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The mystery of the riverside paths

Our route has been following the Danube river, often right along the river banks. We'd been puzzling over why this ideal waterfront property hadn't been developed. Even when we passed through towns, the buildings are set back from the river bank with a wide promenade.

This type of boat seems to be the answer. A long time ago, it was the main cargo ship along the river, able to carry up to 20 tons. Downstream was (relatively) easy, but going upstream the ship was towed by horses. It took up to 60 horses to get a speed of 10 km per day!

Our riverside bike path is the old horse trail.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is Germany the perfect country?

Germany has great beer…
Every town has its own brewery making the local beer. Alt beer in Düsseldorf, Kölsch beer in Köln and Weiss beer throughout Bavaria. Very tasty stuff.

Germany has embraced renewables…
There are solar PV (electric) panels on many homes, factories and farms in every little town. There are hydroelectric dams all along the river. And methane digesters at sewage treatment plants and farms. Not as many windmills as I'd like, but you can't have everything.

Germany has the best bakeries…
See our earlier exaltations of the German bakery.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bike-only roads

Through Germany, we have mostly been travelling on roads that are exclusively for bicycles. But sometimes there is other traffic on the path…

Monday, May 21, 2012

Becoming a tourist attraction

This morning, as we sat with our bikes in front of the cathedral, a large (North American) tour group passed us, and their guide explained:

“Here you can see some bicycle tourists. They are biking along the Danube river from Ulm to Vienna. This is a very popular route – the same one that you will be following on your river boat cruise. Everything they need is packed into those colourful bags on their bikes. They will bike about 80-100 km each day and they are carrying camping equipment.”

Some of the group then took our picture and a man joked if he could “give us a lift.” The group laughed and continued their tour.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

An ode to the German bakery

Previous to this trip we'd sampled some of German bakeries offerings, but until we recently we hadn't realised just how amazing and ubiquitous these little gems are...

German bakeries come in many forms: the independent small town bakery, the cafe bakery, even the discount supermarket bakery. While the quality and types of bread and baked goods may vary between bakeries, the sweet smell of freshly baked bread emanates from every one.

Our favourite things so far have been the breads, the buns (Brötchen) and the soft pretzels (Brezel). German bread is very dense, filling and delicious. We've been using it to make our sandwiches at lunch everyday. Almost as frequently, we've been eating brutchen in the mornings. Brötchen come in several varieties often with a generous coating of various seeds. We've been enjoying these tasty buns with peanut butter, chocolate spread, jam and hagelslag (although not all on the same brutchen of course!). Brezelen, are most often sold with a sprinkling of coarse salt but we've also had them coated with seeds! These can be enjoyed anytime and are quite addictive!

As far as we can tell, every city, town, village and even tiny hamlet has at least one bakery. As we cycle along, it almost becomes a game to spot every town's bakery, and ponder all of the amazing things it would offer. And, thanks to full days of cycling, we've been able to regularly indulge guilt-free!

Photos online

We've finally found some wifi and posted our photos to Picasa (the link is also in the right sidebar). We'll try to update them every week or so...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rolling on the river

We've been following rivers through Germany, mostly since there are well marked routes and it's pretty flat (it's especially nice to follow one downstream since that's also mostly downhill).

We were familiar with the parts of the Rhine near Düsseldorf and Köln, filled with barges laden with shipping containers. But the big industry soon melted away and there's been surprising variety in the landscape...

We passed through the German wine district with vineyards going up the steep river banks and medieval castles on every high point. We have found ourselves biking through forests and fields of asparagus, strawberries, wheat and potatoes (etc, etc). The Donau (aka Danube) river has practically no boats, probably due to the regular hydroelectric dams.

There's plenty of nature and wildlife, but every little German town (there's one every few kms) still has some industry or other. This town makes door locks, the next egg noodles, the next has a pulp and paper mill, etc, etc.

We'll continue following the Donau for a few more days in Germany, then through Austria to Vienna.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Easy does it…

We’ve been on the road for over a week and covered about 700 km.  This is at least twice as far as we’ve ever biked before. To ease ourselves into the rhythm, we’ve started along a fairly easy route. In Holland, we followed the familiar ‘knooppunten’ which led us clearly from point-to-point. 

In Germany, we spent the first few nights with friends and camped a few nights at well-equipped sites. 

We’re now following a guidebook called Reitsma’s Route that has detailed maps to guide us along bike-friendly roads. We’re mostly going along a marked bike route that follows the Rhine.

And we’ve got a GPS loaded with European bike maps in case we get lost.

There are even road-side stops with public bike tools
So, the navigation has been simple, the accommodations are comfortable and the terrain along the Rhine is very flat. So far, so good! We’re loving it and looking forward to a more challenging route ahead.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

And we're off!

After several hours of packing and getting our apartment packed away, we finally left our house at noon!

So far our ride has been fairly flat and along set bike routes.

Yesterday we cycled with our friend Alex through the rain from Dinslaken to Duisburg (we started in Wesel), eventually giving up cold and soaking wet after about 50km. We spent the rest of the afternoon in a city museum with an exhibition on Mercator (the guy who figured out navigation), then decided to take the train to Alex's place in Dusseldorf for the night. After drying off, we'll be cycling back up to Essen, to stay with people that we met travelling on our last trip. Essen is about the same distance north as Duisburg so we'll essentially be covering the same distance that we skipped by train yesterday!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Its the Final Countdown...

The last few days have flown by. We had our last days at work, cleaned out our apartment, had goodbye parties with friends and colleagues, somehow finding time to finish building a kayak and going to triathlon practice. Yesterday, the whole country partied together for Koninginnedag and Marieke´s brother and his girlfriend have just arrived for a few days in Holland!
 (One of Marieke's colleagues made chocolate bicycles as a goodbye present!)

We´re pretty much ready to hit the road on Thursday, so next time we post we'll probably be somewhere in Germany.