Posted on Leave a comment

Day 48 – Rødbyhavn to Køgel

Denmark sky watercolor by Leanne Talbot Nowell

Part 3

Early morning hangs grey in the Danish sky.

While loading the bike this morning the front door blows shut and cannot be opened again. My panniers are still inside the foyer. I have already put my key into a box at the automatic reception. A man smoking in the carpark says “oh my yes I also forgot my key inside.” So we ring the doorbell a couple of times, knowing full well the automatic reception desk is not a walking robot. Luckily the chef is in the kitchen at the back of the hotel. After some vigorous window tapping he comes to open up.

According to La google, there is a train station nearby, which raises the important question, would it be ok to take a train for a little way? Yesterday’s slow day has put me behind schedule. Funny to have a schedule at all, but my Danish family have made plans to meet me.

The distance from Rødbyhavn to Vordingborg for lunch with Helle at 11am, and then go to Faxe to meet my brother Bruce and niece Kealena and then ride with them to Køge for the night, was beyond my abilities even on a winged ebike.

So, feeling slightly guilty I go in search of the train station. There were some big fences barricading the rusty railway lines, and it’s tricky getting around all the stuff that lies around the back of railway sidings. Weeds and broken up bits of cement. However, after almost giving up and with an extra push of perseverance I find a pathway which takes me around the end of some rails into a square building. A ticket machine pops up with complications. Then we go out on a vacant platform with no signage. After standing for a while, two men in luminous green jackets yell over from the far side of the fence, that I must “come over to that side…the train comes off the ferry and stops over there”.
So I pounce on my bike and scuttle around the little path to the far side of about 5 railway lines. A school group arrives to join me with a teacher who, in a her teachy voice, tells me she knows this is the “right platform and I have done it many times before.”
Just then a little train arrives from the Copenhagen direction on the furthest platform which I had so hurriedly left. There is a large bike symbol printed on the side of the carriage. It hums for a while, then a conductor shouts over to me “come immediately and board the train.”

Much to the astonishment of the school group I leap onto my bike and scuttle back around the end of the rails, and make it in time before he blows his whistle.

One learns in life, that most people are very kind, helpful and full of “hear-say” but it’s best to ask the Conductor of the Train. If you want to really sure of anything at all.

So there is my bike, the first train trip of her 3300 km life, strapped to a seat.
It was a short trip, 24 minutes to be exact, and we were soon gliding along on bike wheels again. The road would still see us do 130 kms before evening.

Vordingborg

I was very happy to meet up with Helle and share an interesting lunch and arty conversation. She is an inspirational artist. Then fast pedalling and swooping along smooth farm roads onwards towards Faxe where Bruce and Kealena were waiting for tea and apple pie at the big white quarry. We rode to Køgel, taking the scenic route through golden fields of ripe wheat, dark green woods, and a soft velvet sea to the west. The clouds vanished and the scenery blazed to life.

Køgel

Dinner this evening at the harbour is an Italian affair of “linguine allo scoglio” (thicker spaghetti noodles sozzled under an array of shellfish) and Chardonnay! Again gulped every scrap on the plate – wild animal me.

The three of us and my bike, shared a small room at a hostel on the edge of town.

See the route map here.

Posted on 4 Comments

Day 22 and 23 – Rorschach to Tägerwilen to Waldshut

Cycling colours

My paper supply has run out so I had to use my colour tester blotting page for the illustration today.

Jumped on the bike at 7:30 this morning to find only 30 kms of battery life on the display…of course I could pedal without power, but it’s going to be like riding a cow instead of a black stallion. With a lumbering 42 kilos of haulage to push along. On the flat shores of lake Constance that should be ok for a while.

A cyclist told me yesterday that the weather will be bad. The Norwegians say there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. 

Lake Constance or Bodensee in German is a soft tone of Schminke Paynes grey. The fine brushstroke of land on the opposite bank is Germany. Shafts of sunshine beam through the gaps in the clouds.

At an empty lakeside cafè the barista makes me a cup of milky coffee. He doesn’t speak English or Italian, and asking for coffee used up almost all my German words “Kaffee bitte, danke schön”. I have no idea how to ask him if it would be ok to recharge my battery? You would think having a German husband would have forced me to imbibe some phrases, but I seem to have trouble stringing words. Even remembering the words to string.

“He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Like languages there are many choices of bike tours in this area, the sign posts hold up dozens of arrows pointing to various routes. I am taking the Eurovelo 15 which runs along the Rhine valley via Basel. Every time I see a 15 at a bivio I’m thrilled. For the first time the route is clear and I don’t need to stop and get my phone out to check the map. The wifi service is not so wonderful. My Italian phone number complicates matters.

There are more tourists riding this route as the day clears up. It’s a beautiful ride among vineyards, apple trees and pretty gardens. The water of the lake changes to a sensational blue. Perfect cycle tracks lead through the fields, and more fields…kilometers of them until there is just 1 km worth of power remaining in the battery and no sign of a village. I resign myself to my fate, but at that moment a restaurant appears like a genie from a bottle and we fizzle into the parking lot.

The highly recommended Swiss menu at Gasthaus Ochsen in Tägerwilen offers a delectable little bowl of sunshine – Il Risotto al pomodoro with fried feta, crunchy mixed salad leaves…and a banana-berry smoothie. Yesterday’s long ride has left me feeling kaput, so instead of charging up my battery in the restaurant, I simply book a room. Power up all my electronics and check the map. Bike stands lonesome in the foyer.

Odometer 1410.4 – only 44 kms today…

Day 22 – Tägerwilen to Waldshut – Emerald River blues

Another early start along the southern shore of Lake Constance, the border between Switzerland and Germany. All so calm unlike me who woke up in the night with vertigo! I am horrified and anxious. Moving my dizzy blonde head up or down is hazardous, the world swoops around, flinging butterflies around my tummy for a minute or two until it slowly stabilizes. Keeping my head as level as possible is difficult when checking for traffic coming up from behind.

Other than that problem the cycling is going well, I’m getting better at ‘handling’ the bike, and can almost always manage a u-turn in a small street without falling over. Not that the number of u-turns have diminished over time. Getting lost and doing u-turns are a constant challenge. At every corner and every intersection, there’s a choice to make.

Zipped passed the ancient city of Constance and went on to Stein-am-Rhein to see the frescoes.

Video of this area

Very quiet little villages along the way, only builders and road workers to be seen. After an hour of looking out for a coffee shop I eventually stop at a little bakery. Apparently you can sit and drink coffee at bakeries. Not something you can do in Italy, there you go to a bar for ‘un caffè’. Two ladies come in with three dogs and join me at the table. Chatting away as if we are a friend group who do this every week. Good for the vagabond soul. The apple pie is delicious!

At Stein-am-Rhine a Chinese tourist group are being herded by their guide, he’s yelling at them to look at this look at that, and they all had their phones up to their faces taking photos of whatever it is. I’m sure they are not having fun. The frescoes make the main street is a magnificent artwork.

The colour of the Rhine is a mesmerizing swirl of emerald greens, sky blues and turquoise greys. Surging whirlpools sigh against the embankments. You get into a good flow feeling following a powerful river like this. It has a long history worth mentioning but I’m wondering about the pre-history and how fabulous it must have been when it was wild.

 Made it to lunch in Schaffhausen at the corner restaurant on the main square. A delicious mango-curry-coco soup served in a jam-jar, a prawn with herbs and baked yellow mini tomato, all served on an old chopping board. The bottle of water is called ‘Silence’.

The river cascades noisily at Neuhausen am Rheinfall… eels manage to wiggle their way up these spectacular falls. The cycle track is full of people wiggling their way on bicycles. Summer is here and a good way to keep cool is to go for a bike ride. The air cools you as you go.

How is my body status going? It has been noted at the 1500 kms mark. Hearing is tuned in and the bum is as hard as a rock! Unfortunately the allergic sneezing and cough persist. Leaving me with itchy piggy eyes. And there’s the vertigo. Otherwise all good. Oh, and my hands are like two robotic claws that have been badly installed. I need to unhook them from the handlebars.

Arrived very tired at Waldshut-Tiengen to find my pre-booked motel located in an industrial zone, 3 kms away from any food. There is no reception, only a long row of rooms behind a factory parking lot. Room number and code are sent by sms. You need to type the code on a little box outside the door. The room is fine, just big enough to squeeze my bike in with me. After a hot shower and dressed in my dinner outfit I gingerly ride into town and eat alfresco at the pub.

(PS. about the vertigo, it’s not acrophobia which is the fear of heights. I’m taking some sort of medicine the pharmacist gave me. One must sleep on high pillows, never let your head go lower than your body.)

Todays ride – 100kms

Odometer 1510.9

average speed 18 kph.

See map day 21 -Rorschach to Tägerwilen

See map day 22 -Tägerwilen to Waldshut

Click on images to enlarge them.

Posted on 3 Comments

Day 20 -Landeck to Stuben – the Arlberg pass

Alpine lupins, watercolour by Leanne

The thought of cycling over any Alpine pass makes me nervous, especially this one, so I delay it and dabble with my paint-box instead. Sitting flat on the road in the still sunshine and painting the river bank full of chaotic lupins, dandelions, daisies and the bright water. I’m trying to have poetic thoughts but all I can think of is the upcoming monster.

According to the hotel manager, I must most definitely go by train through the tunnel, but Simon says “Go over the top, you’ll be sorry if you don’t”. It’s true, my goal is to ride all the way to Oslo. Some people suspect me of cheating which is understandable, they probably would in my position, but I really don’t like cheats so why be one.

Almost immediately the road turns up through an avalanche gallery crowded with zooming cars and buses. The booming echo sets off my tunnel panic. I look up and see a bus full of people staring down at me. A big sorry sob comes bubbling up, and I need to make an imaginary emergency call to my backup team.

The answer is immediate “Mom. Just pedal!”

No sympathy at all!

Well, I go through 550 meters and come out the other side where the views are astonishing. Scree slopes at oblique angles, all dotted with Norwegian Spruce. Pointy peaks streaked with white ice. A luminous sky leaning toward the colour of purple lupins.

I plug in my earbuds and play some music to get me up the hill. Not something I do very often because my phone runs out of battery too soon. Today I plan to stop overnight in St. Christoph which is just up the hill. So for once the battery power isn’t my main concern.

Oliver Sacks said “Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears — it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more — it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”

Avoided a second tunnel by going over it on a service road. Stopped for lunch at an Alm in St. Christoph am Arlberg, where I’m sitting under a bright orange umbrella at a dizzy altitude, eating delicious Tiroler Gröstl. A copper pan filled with roasted potatoes, fried eggs, bacon and onions. A bowl of krauti salad on the side, and an Almdudler to drink. Most satisfactory. Seems as if my appetite is coming back. Good thing because my arms were beginning to look like two brown chopsticks.

I ride around to find a room at one of the hotels. They are all closed for the summer. So I’m forced to ride on. The battery is almost empty…and the thought of another vertical climb puts me in a spin. But the road wiggles along some curves and then gratefully falls, zigzagging steeply. Harley Davidson motor-bikers come up against me, blasting with noise and shining colours.

I stop at a panoramic viewpoint to check the app and book a room at the next village – Stuben. The Après Post Hotel is the only accommodation available and at a reasonable rate. After almost falling down the cliff, I arrive at the hotel and think “oh golly” this is going to be expensive. Way too posh for my budget. These new polaroid glasses of mine probably blurred a zero when I was making the booking.

However, my happiness level soars when the receptionist confirms the price. Golly, how lucky! To top it all, the pretty waitresses dressed in traditional dirndl costumes, help me carry my panniers to the room.

Use of the spa is included in the price, so after a good shower I find myself wallowing in a large whirlpool made of stainless steel. At first the dark shimmering shadows play games with your imagination (jaws) but if you calm down it turns into a fabulous undulating rainbow-flecked reflection of the steely peaks above. There is also a basket swing chair pod to snuggle into, making it really easy to fall asleep and almost miss dinner.

Only 40 kilometres today. Over the Arlberg pass which is 1793 mt high at St. Christoph.

Lessons – avoid shortcuts….. and expect the unexpected.

At the dinner table now thinking about all those people on the tour bus, and how they missed the transparent stream hidden by the barrier rail, missed the cow that talked and the two running weasels. They didn’t catch the scent of that marvellous flowering tree in the fresh air… and they missed having a sob in the tunnel.

see the route map here.