It was not an auspicious start to biking across Germany. It was pouring with rain in Luxembourg and I was in love with France. Life was good with Ellen and Manou: sodden only with wine. I waited an extra day, drank more, and smoked almost a pack of cigarettes while packing my bike and doing laundry one more time.
It took a couple days to get used to Germany, to forget about France, and enjoy myself. This is fairly easy along the Mosel. Flat, well marked paths and many charming villages to go through. I never even bought a map. Learning to take Germany on its own merits was helped by stumbling into wine fests and the fact that Germans love meat.
Traveling on your bike down the Mosel is not a rarity. My bell finally got a decent workout, however, I could not figure out where all the cyclists were going. I was not seeing them in camp. I also “cheated” on my goal to bike the entire distance to Budapest. I got a sunny ride on a ferry to cut off one of the biggest bends in the river and saved about 10 miles. Know you know: I am a cheat.
I have decided that castles are best from the outside. The tours never show you the dungeons and most of the time are in the native language and focused on the odds and ends of furniture that may or may not be from the castle. The last castle tour of Europe I’ll take was at Burg Eltz due to a page I cut out of guidebook by Rick Steves. Evidently it’s his favorite castle. I spent my time there trying to catch the eye of a very cute fellow I had seen earlier in the day at another tourist hot spot: Belstien. The thing with the tourist spots in the Mosel is that they are swarmed with buses and ferries. But at night all the grandmothers go somewhere else. Start early I say.
One book that got it right was a Biking Through Europe book by the Mountaineers. The track down the Rhine is, at times, hard to find, a mud track, and a complete confusion. I left route-finding to a German mother and her two young sons who were doing a week tour in their homeland. The family that bikes together stays together.
As a side note, except for this bit of the trip where the book was generally ok, I find the biking guide books almost useless. They tend to be very confusing (e.g. “turn at 68A until you see the bridge the then turn left at the church past the center intersection”) and not terribly useful. I’d like to see one that had a bit of a phrase book, a bit of a restaurant guide, and with better information on actually functioning in the country you are in. They should also be designed with tear out pages so you can get rid of the pages and maps you are done with. They should also have a pocket to store other scraps of paper. I carried a stack of photocopies with me from various guidebooks, but never got them as organized as I anticipated on my rush out of Seattle.
I don’t think I’d come back to the Mosel on my bike and I’d definitely skip this bit of the Rhine now that I’ve seen all the castles perched on hills. Perhaps I’ll pass through again on the way to somewhere else as it is lovely, easy biking. I could see an interesting trip up the Mosel to it’s source. And I’d really like to see Köln. More than likely, I’ll be getting off a bus when I am eighty and thinking about the lovely steaks, wine, and the folks that kept me found the summer of my first bike adventure in Germany.