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32. Goodbye my friend, Rhine. (July 5)

This is yesterday’s post. Hotel’s and hostels offer very poor wifi, so the blog cannot be shared when it should be, it has to wait for the next stop, just like many things in life.

The sun is dragging his billowing sky down to the smoking chimney stacks. A giant storm growled through dinner, but not a drop of rain fell on the canvas Erdinger umbrella.

Flammkuchen is a thin pastry crust with high edges. It is smeared with a thin layer of sour cheese, and usually one would have the traditional onions and speck sprinkled on top, but I chose sliced tomatoes and rocket. Eat it while it’s hot.

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Getting here from Monheim am Rhein, took me through Düsseldorf, where an enthusiastic young man at the bike shop sold me a gadget to attach the phone to the handlebars, so now I can see the map while I ride.

Düsseldorf surprised me with it’s simplicity, and I had no problem at all getting into town, and out of it again.

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From there the cycle path took me into a daydream, it was so so beautiful. Large old trees line the road, many old people pedal along too, some in wheelchairs, some on roller skates. You can just go for miles and miles through the fields without interruption.

A lunch place popped up on the edge of the river, tables set out under a dark green canopy of trees. “Poeusgeu”, rather fancy, to be found on the Alte Rheinfäre.

The waiter, dressed in black and white, had a special look about him, he stooped down to get my order, and I nervously pointed around the middle of the menu. The plate came…matjes, with roast potatoes and a creamy dressing. Marinaded fish, really delicious.

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Afternoons on the bike tend to get a bit hot and complicated, and after going around the same wheat field twice, I told Googlely-girl to take a break. I rode alone through many small towns, mostly very quiet, on the edge of a skyline of factory towers and billowing chimneys.

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On one of my unplanned reconnaissance missions around Duisburg, I found myself braking in front of a police station. It looked approachable, so I went in and declared the theft of my glasses. An officer wrote up the report in German.

Typing ferociously on his old clickitty-clacketty keyboard at high speed, I was astonished that he only managed three sentences. Seriously, this report will be sent to the police in Linz am Rhein, where I said I suspect the thief stole the things. There they will investigate the matter further. I hope I’m right about the location. What a bother.

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I’m losing sight of the Great River Rhine (english name). My route will take me eastward and away. It is a sad goodbye. Moving with the fast flow of a big river every day for so long has been incredible. We became friends, I got to know the scintilla, caught glimpses of the dark beneath, felt the heave and the power, and sang with the ancient.

Knowing that it goes on is a great comfort, from mountain to sea to sky to mountain.

Unfortunately we have heaved up dykes of stone and soil to contain it, plastered the banks with cement walls, hemmed it in, and blocked it up with locks. We dump vast amounts of chemical waste into it. We motor our cruise ships and barges up and down without rest, blasting it with fumes and a huge din of vibrations that resonate underwater.

A small bottle of water cost me Euro 5 this afternoon.

 

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Spent the night in a hostel Jugendherberge, Duisberg, Landschaftspark…in a rusty old Industrial zone, which was very interesting. Good preparation for the day to come…a day of Industrial parks.

The girl at the desk gave me their special handicap room, most likely because I looked like I needed help. It was very clean and comfortable with a chair in the shower, and a red switch next to the bed, which I pressed thinking it was the light switch. It blinked for a while, then I blinked off to sleep.

66 kms.

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9. Poggio Pratelli. (June 4)

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The evening was lilac with pink roses, from the high terrace of the village called Radda our glasses of red wine held up in the sun, and the moon floated like a white petal between them.

A choir was singing in the church so we sat on a pew and closed our eyes for a while listening to heaven.

 

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Saturday morning saw us pedalling past green vineyards. Little did we know what was coming.

First a very fast downhill. I whizzed down at 58kms per hour, which is a record for me, and I don’t intend going faster than that ever again. Simon went much faster.

But then the really-really steep uphills began.

We rode up and over wineries, olive groves and oak forests.

I stopped to wait for Simon under a tree, a luxury granted me by me electric bike. Luckily for us, a group of very happy people from Treviso stopped there too, for a sip of Prosecco in the shade of an old farmhouse. Corrado came over and invited us to join them.
We had a lovely noisy rest there and exchanged contact details.
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When traveling by bike you really notice the ground, how it passes beneath you, changing colours and stones. You feel the wind dragging off the back of your arms like silk scarves. Sometimes you hold your breath when a truck goes past or a ditch of sand pulls you into a sideways skid. I’m getting better at hopping off without hooking my foot on the water bottle.

Insects often collide with your face.

Road things: Lizards, and lizard tails, small sharp white stones and flapping butterflies, 3 snakes (2 squashed), some unfortunate hedgehogs, african hoepoes, cuckoos, motorbikes, tractors, vans, and the scent of olive trees in full blossom.

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My camera’s extra-wide-angled lens has an annoying way of flattening the landscape…

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This was our last day of riding together, as Simon must to return to work. So we took it slow until lunchtime, when by chance, we found the perfect spot at Casa Nuova

The owners, a very nice Dutch couple, Ulla and Thierry have renovated the villa and made it spectacular. They are good friends of Maló and Guido (with whom I am staying now).

We had been there together for dinner about a year ago and loved it. Not realising it was the same place (night and day difference), we turned in and recognised the garden. Had a long chat and delicious lunch. Ulla has published a cookery book of their own recipes (written in German).

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It was time to face the last long uphill to our destination, the magical home of Maló and Guido at Poggio Pratelli (we all share the privilege of grand-parenting Elia, our gorgeous grandson in Oslo).

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And so we arrived by way of a gravelly road to find a bottle of excellent Prosecco from the family estate, Torre Degli Alberi, waiting for us in the fridge.

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The garden is dripping with roses of all kinds, lavender and blue cornflowers, rosemary and poppies….

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Iceberg rose…
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Sunday morning sunshine filtered through the vine leaves, dappling the veranda table. Maló makes the most delicious food; salads and wild strawberries picked from the garden and olive oil from her trees.

The four of us “nonni” bragged on about the pure wonderfulness of grandchildren, and made a toast to Elia who was at the same moment enjoying a 1st birthday picnic with parents and friends at the lake in Oslo. And to gorgeous Mikey who had just caught his first Australian fish, aged 2,5 yrs.

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Sunny Sunday morning. Simon rode off to the train station. We watched him go, until he was just a speck on a far-off farm road, then he vanished into a forest.

I felt quite bereft.

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Simon sent me this picture from the train station. So he did actually reach it in time.

I was very pleased to be invited to go with Maló and Guido to their good friends for supper. This is the view from their home overlooking Florence. We talked a lot about routes and bicycles.

2018-06-04_0001.jpgWeather predictions for tomorrow are rain and wind. But I don’t believe it, and will head off at around 9 am. Maló is helping me find the track.

Florence tomorrow…