Cycling Day 43: Aachen To Cologne

Click here to see the detailed statistics of today’s cycle.

Yesterday I made clear my (self-inflicted) frustration at not being back on a campsite but couped up in a small hotel room in Aachen. As I sit here by the banks of the Rhine at tonight’s campsite just to the south of Cologne once again the contrast is stark. It’s been a beautiful evening so far with sun beating down on me, the bike and the tent, I’ve just cooked myself some food (yesterday it was ‘currywurst mit baguette’ from the train station) and I’m surrounded by likeminded cyclists enjoying the freedom of being on their bicycles, in their tents or, put bluntly, doing bugger all. It’s wonderful! (Despite the roaring noise of traffic from the bridge just a couple of hundred metres to the south…) 

Back to Aachen. An early escape from the hotel (there was nothing to keep me there), pretzels (actually they weren’t; they were the wrong shape but they tasted just like pretzels) and a coffee from Starbucks (the only cafรฉ open at 8.30am) before setting off under a blue sky in an easterly direction towards Cologne. I’m back to using 1:350,000 scale maps here in Germany and the difference from the 1:200,000 maps I’ve been predominantly using up to this point was frustratingly all too evident in that it would be difficult to accurately pick out a route using the paper maps alone. In addition, as I wasn’t following a recognised route that was signposted I couldn’t rely on that either so, for the first time (I think) I used Google Maps to work out a cycling route for the whole of today’s ride. It did a pretty good job and for most of the time I was either following paths running alongside roads or paths well away from roads. Where I did deviate away from Google was when I was able to follow the cycling signs – see the example below – although these did tend to take me round the houses as is so often the case. That said, a pragmatic day of route finding using all available resources (online, signs and the paper map for the bigger picture) worked well and I shan’t hesitate to use a similar approach again.

Nothing of great import happened during the cycling. In the far distance great chimneys poured out their smoke, in the mid distance wind turbines slowly rotated and in the near distance fields full of early season crops softened the otherwise industrialised skyline. I paused for an early lunch (my first peach of the season!) in a town called Dรผren. As I ate I watched three UNICEF chuggers (= charity muggers) ply their trade. In the twenty or so minutes it took me to eat they cheered (clearly part of the sales pitch) every time someone signed up. There were three cheers. Nine new ‘customers’ per hour. That’s not bad going I suppose. 

It wasn’t a boring day, just one on which very little happened. There is a difference. A couple of prostitutes sitting in white plastic chairs in the forest, the chap who told me he thought they were from Romania. How did he know? One thing kept my mind ticking over; getting to Cologne for 3pm to meet Janina, a former language assistant who lodged in my flat in Reading for about a month a few years ago. It was fun chatting with her, about her new career as a primary school teacher, her marriage proposal at the top of a tower in front of all her famility and friends (“could you have said ‘no’?” I queried), Cologne, its rivalry with Dusseldorf (my destination for tomorrow), my route through the fatherland, the fall of the Berlin Wall when she was a month old, David Hasselhoff and, err… Olly Murs (she wasn’t able to meet me later as she had tickets to go and see him in concert!)… 

So, while Janina jiggs away at an Olly Murs concert (it’s true by the way; he is in concert nearby and it wasn’t just a rouse to avoid meeting me) I’m having a lovely peaceful evening in the suburbs of Cologne. I just hope they don’t find any more bombs… 

Categories: Cycling

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