As an engineer, I've always wanted to go to Germany. The land where things are made well and everything makes sense...right? We'll see.
I had plans to go to Eurobike and so decided to stay on the west site of Germany and save the eastern portion for the next trip. The west of Germany is where most of their wines come from, lots of Pinot Noire. There you'll find the famous Black Forest, lots of automative manufacturing and tons and tons of castles.
Among other amazing feats, Germans they invented the bicycle, so they're the best engineering in the world. are the best engineers. I rest my case. 200 years ago inventory Philipp Moritz figured it out. Now, 75% of German citizens are cyclists compared to 12.4 % of Americans and 99% of Dutch. So they're in the top 3. It's part of the culture, so you can cycle anywhere and bring your bike on most of the trains. Because there's so much infrastructure, it's the perfect for place for e-Bikes, commuting to work, bike touring or travelling to the next city. In-fact, In 2017 over 720,000 E-bikes where sold in Germany. All that to say, the bike paths are extensive, it's one of the better places in the world i've encountered for cycling infrastructure.
The Camping was pretty great as well where i was, but i only travelled in a small portion of a pretty large country. I didn't stay in a paid campsite ever while i was there. Lots of people invited me to hang my hammock on their property, but I mostly was free camping in small forests with my Hennessy Hammock. I tried going to a paid campsite once and the guy running place looked at me and said...
"Why don't you just go hang you hammock in the forest over there"....so I did. Germany for the wine.
In general, I'd roll into a small town for dinner, meet some chatty germans, have a couple of beers and then bike out of town around 22:00 after the sun had gone down, to find a small patch of forest. It always worked out. If you're looking for tips on how to find free camping spots, check out my blog post of the topic.
I was pretty interested to conduct friendly experiments in Germany. I'd imagined them to be cold cool and collected, dominated by their more logical senses, but you never and that why you've got to do the friendly experiments, right? My cycling in Norway trip showed me that Norwegians were quite warm and friendly, despite their reputation for being cold.
Such experiments, usually involve walking straight up to a stranger and striking up a conversation. While, the whole time, taking mental note of how they react. Do they look at you like you're weird for talking to them? Do they respond in a dry fashion, or do they try to develop a conversation?
It seemed to me that Germans tend to do what makes sense, and they seem to think being friendly makes sense. Everyone i cold called was extremely open and friendly, each with some great tips, or sometimes a beer with my name on it. I could stop and talk to girls and guys a-like and there was never any hesitance or resistance. I really appreciated the fact that i could approach anyone like there where my friends and we'd have friendly conversation. When you're travelling by yourself, this can be a big deal. If you've ever travelled somewhere you don't speak the language, you'll know what i'm talking about. Speaking of which, most Germans speak english pretty well. Thank goodness because I forgot to pack my German before i left. :)
Germans drink 40% more than Americans. Lucky for me, I was cycling through the Badden wine region, during the wine harvest season, so i got to experience their love for liquids first hand. Each little village i cycled through would have some sort of wine festival going on. It was very reminiscent of my university days at Waterloo ( where they have the largest Oktober fest outside of Germany ). I stopped at one in particular because they had a whole artistic cycling gang of kids doing tricks in the street. One of their dads insisted i put a bicycle wine rack on his kids bike and take some pictures. Obviously i indulged.
By about 17:00, the crowd all of a sudden started to dry up. After a brief inquiry, I learned that most people where leaving to go to the castle party......
"Can I go to the castle party?".....
"Yah, Everyone is going to the castle party!".
I wasn't quite sure what a castle party was, but i wasn't going to miss it..... despite the semi vertical road to get there. When i finally arrived at the top, I was so thirsty and went straight up to the bar......
Yah, they were serving white wine in pint glasses. Needless to say, everyone was have a great time. The band played, the people drank, and i met a couple who lived up on the hill and insisted i hang my hammock in the backyard. We shot bow and arrow together the next morning. Perfect!
When the bicycle wine rack first came out in 2011, I was tossed into the cycling industry overnight. One of the things i did to catch up, was exhibit at Interbike, an industry cycling conference, open to the public, in Vegas. It's a great way to see what sort of stuff is new on the bike market, chat with your favourite brands and, if you sell bike gear like i do, show your wears to stores and distributors. Eurobike is the European equivalent, located in Frederichshafen Germany, so I checked it out!
It was very different, obviously. It's full of Europeans and not in Vegas.
Many of the booths had kegs, but most just gave out bottles of bear. Long story shot, it was a blast and made some new friends. I think this short video describes it the best.
In case you haven't noticed, many of my bike tours end up having to do with wine. That's no accident. It's the bicycle wine racks fault. It's also my best friends fault. He's a wine collector, and our cottage catch-ups usually involve drinking whatever fabulous wine he's excited about or has recently gotten out of storage. I love hearing about the stories behind each bottle and our hangouts have really helped develop my pallet. I called him while in Germany
"...Wait, Jess....You're in Badden?"
"Hold on I'll call you right back?"
When he called back to inform me that he'd set up a meeting at the Huber Winery in 2 days, I was pretty excited. We'd sampled Bernhard Huber's famous Spatbugunder wines up at the cottage in Canada many times and now I'd get to go to the source to see where it's made and sample some of the other wines. Like all great wineries, this one has a story.
Wine had been grown on these hills for over 700 year and it looked like a well manicured lawn. Unfortunately Bernhard, known as Germany's "Grandfather of Pinor Noire", died in 2014 from cancer at the age of 55. At the time, his son, then 27, was at school studying wine making and ended up being thrust into running one of Germany's best wineries. I'd drank his fathers wines and was excited to drink his. Needless to say, the wines where fabulous and are still achieving cult status. I was invited to hang my hammock in the valley of the vineyard over night. Watching the sun go down over those well manicured hills is a memory i'll cherish for the rest of my life. Seeing a farm that's been operating for that long makes you think a lot about quality.
Clearly i'll be going back to Germany to explore more of it. You should too. Maybe I'll see you there!
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Bike touring is different than other types of travelling in that you don't really know how far you're going to get every day. This can make planning accommodations difficult and stressful, but it doesn't need to be.
In this post, I share some of the techniques I use to find accommodation on the fly so you can enjoy the ride and not stress about where to rest your head that night.
Stay tuned for more free-cycling adventures & inventions.