the toughest and sweetest trip so far

First of all a big sorry, but internet access prooved to be the biggest hurdle so far, so I am glad to update some stuff tonight. Check out the new images on Flickr, they will tell a much better story than I can do at the moment. For those who have kept watching the blog, I promise there will be a detailed story afterwards, or maybe a book, it has not been an average cycle trip for sure.

So far this trip has been a fight against the oddities of winter, with roads and cyclepaths pretty much unridable ever since last Wednesday. But I still managed to cycle the route as planned, and I am optimistic to finish on time for Christmas. I am currently in Marburg, Hesse, and will cycle further eastbound today towards Bad Hersfeld and into Thuringia afterwards. And as I am getting closer to home, I feel much more relaxed than I used to be.

Last night pretty much sums up what this has been so far: an amazing adventure and a lonely fight, man against nature. An uncivilised attempt in a a civilised country. Cycling from Bonn to Kirchen on Sunday I managed to ride a decent average of 23 km/h, the highest in the trip so far, and almost had no decent snow storm that day. Almost, until 10 kilometres before finishing. By the time I got off the bike to push up an icy 22% hill, the weather was in full force again, as it had been for days now. Arriving at the castle, which was hosting a youth hostel, I would find out that actually nobody was there. Imagine freezing temperatures, heavy snow and a closed door at the place you are really looking forward to. Fortunately there was a great little cafe nearby, and I was invited in for a cuppa, and stayed there. Rainer and Irene, who run the cafe and own the nearby house, kindly offered me to stay underneath in a small room, one of the most luxurious places I stayed so far on this trip. Warming up by the fire we had a great conversation, great food and even a big band playing traditional German Christmas songs. As much as I felt home when I left the plains of the Rhine behind and entered the moutains, as much this rare occasion was exacly what I was looking for when I set off, great experiences. Germany has been the most welcoming place on my journey, and I am more than happy that I met so many great people so far, besides managing to get so far through very rough weather. If I would have to cycle 500 miles for an experience like last night again, I would be on my bike the very next minute.

Since I left Nijmegen on Thursday I have been riding in the worst possible conditions you can imagine. Blistering cold, snow, black ice on roads and headwinds, and added the moutains for the last few days. Hence I felt no immediate need to stop by fro internet cafes, as I have to use the whole days to manage cycling an average of 100k in those wintry conditions. If I would have know what this winter would be like, I possibly wouldn’t have bothered. But with the right kit, I have managed to cycle so far, and will get there eventually. It’s been an ongoing battle with myself as well, as you might imagine, especially with having a train line close by all time. I was very close to bail a few times, but always reminded myself how far I managed to get already, and with an iron will I have got so close.

The plan for today and the next days is to cycle eastbound from Marburg to Bad Hersfeld, then towards Bad Salzungen and over the Thuringian Forest to Ilmenau tomorrow. The final stage should take me into Erfurt on Thursday, to have a great catach up with my sister and her family and good old friends. And I think I will push for the last few kilometres on Friday heading to my parents home finally, and can’t wait for Xmas.