Ben and Nick's European Vacation

Nick and Ben cycle from Sweden to Switzerland and beyond. Check out our cycling trip to Patagonia.

Ben Heumann
Nick Cowan

Sunday, July 10, 2005

KOLN: Day 8

Original Posting:
Since we last checked in with our heros, Nick and Ben have cycled many more kms, including an imperial century (100 miles). We have continued camping in farmer's fields for the most part, with good luck (one farmer wished us luck, and another harrased us with his tractor spraying fertilizer on the tent, but never ask us to leave...). On the day of our long 100 miles, we had 3 ranges of hills to climb, whihch was a nice change from the flattness. On our first hill, Nick cried to the German Gods "is that was all they have!?"; it proceeded to downpour so great that the cars had to pull off the road (Nick and I kept riding through the rain until we found a bus stop to change in). We ended up camping in a camp ground because of a lack of fields and the need to shower.
Yesterday's cycling did not go so well. We had to stop to fix Nick's bike and were stuck on highways most of the way. We entered the beautiful forest hills west of Koln, which have the classic German roads, weaving among the hills. Top speed: 62 km/h. Distance only 112km. For food, we have been eating at bakeries, Nutella and bread, trying different cheeses, and stopping for the occasional Tuckishe Doner sandwich.
With Nick's bike needing attention, and my leg's a break, we caught a train this morning from Pletterberg to Koln, which makes up for the day we lost because of rain when we first got to Germany. Seeing as the Rhine is heavily populated with many great cities, like Koln, we are going to slow down the pace to 100km a day to take in the sights. Today we are touring Koln by foot to give our bikes and legs a rest. Overall, Germany has been great so far, reasonably priced, the people kind, and ther cycling good.
Sorry that there are not any pictures yet, I will try to upload some tonight.
Cycling Notes:

Day 6: Imperial Century (Rethem to SchloB Hoite, Germany) 162km

With the fear of an angry farmer, we hit the road early. 23km early morning ride to Nienburg, where we bought groceries, spare inner tubes, and made plans for the day’s route to avoid the town of Minden. This route would take us over three sets of little hills. As we approached the first set, it became cloudy. As we started to climb, it began to rain. As Nick cried out to the German weather Gods, who’s wrath we had already experienced, “Is this all you’ve got!?” it began to pour, and pour it did, so hard that cars were forced to pull over because visibility was nil. We had not prepared for the rain and I chose to cycle until I found shelter. I climbed the hill and made my way half-way down the switch-backs of the other side before I found a bus shelter, to stop and change in. When Nick caught up to me (he chose to put on his raincoat during the storm), the rain stopped.
We cycled on to Bad Oynhaussen (100km at this point), changed into dry clothes. Shortly thereafter, the weather Gods threatened us again and we raced their merciless wrath to Bad Salzoflen. In this a beautiful, picturesque valley village, we hid from the rain in a German fast food joint, ate fries, drank coffee, read our books, and waited for the rain to end.
As though we hadn’t had enough, when we left Bad Salzoflen, we got lost in German suburban sprawl, which consists of lots of little villages, on little roads that are not on our maps. I was tired, lost, and it looked like it might rain again. And with this, I became angry and decided there was only one thing to do, cycle over the next set of hills in hopes of finding better pasture, even if it meant cycling an imperial century. I so we did, up and over the hills to a campground on the other side near SchloB Hoite, where the weather gods left us alone.

Crusaders next to Crusader Statue in Nienburg

Nick cycling in Oerlinghausen

Day 7: Keep It Moving (SchloB Hoite to Achen, Germany) 130km
It is hard to beat an imperial century, although Nick tells tales of 200km and even a 300km ride when he cycled across Canada. As far as I’m concerned, these are tales of legend, not to be carried out by normal men. We cycled southwest into the hills where we were greeted by forests and mountain roads. We dined in Arnsberg, a beautiful town built on the sides of bluffs, giving the town considerable topography. From there we continued south, 7 km up and 10 km down towards Achen, where we found a sufficient camping sight.

Nick fixing his bike.

Camping in field near Achen, Germany

Day 8: Falling Behind and Getting Ahead (Achen to Koln, Germany) 30km
When the going gets tough, the tough take a train. Upon examining the map, we realized we had at least 150 km of very hilly terrain to cross to reach Koln, our first pit stop. Given the lengthy amount of time it took us to get this far, Nick and I decided to climb up and over the next set of hills to the nearest town with a train station, Plettenburg, and go the Koln for a “rest day”. In Koln, we checked into a youth hostel, and proceeded to spend the day walking (far too much for a “rest” day) around Koln, gawking at the cathedral, eating doner kebabs, playing go, and drinking beer until after dark.

Koln Cathedral

Gothic Architecture of the Cathedral

Cathedral form across the Rhein River