Today's Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/744435501
A long day as I followed the Rhine on the German (east) side, 129.9 miles (208 km) with a modest 1039 feet of climbing. That's my longest ride out of ten days, as far as I can recall, since leaving Hamburg. Despite the few ups, the distance combined with cool, wet, overcast weather was enough to wear me down by the time I arrived to my intended destination for the day, Offenburg, Germany.
Offenburg is directly east of Strasbourg, where I stayed in France at the conclusion of day seven, on the opposite bank of the Rhine. At this implies, I rode for about 1.5 days on the west side of the Rhine ultimately concluding in Laufenburg, Switzerland. After today's effort, I'm back where I started after just one day of riding in the opposite direction, all close to, and often directly on, the east bank of the Rhine.
On my way to Offenburg, I intentionally bypassed the famous town of Freiburg, Germany. This decision allowed me to avoid inevitable route finding challenges and in effect maintain an average 15-16 mph pace all the way to Offenburg. Along the way, other than a few exceptions, most notably the route I took to bypass Freiburg, I took full advantage of the well marked and cycle-friendly Rhine Cycle Route (EuroVelo Route #15). My priorities on this trip aside, Freiburg will be well worth visiting on a future cycle touring adventure. A small sample from Wikipedia leaves an appropriate impression: "[Freiburg] was strategically located at a junction of trade routes between the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea regions, and the Rhine and Danube rivers. In 1200, Freiburg's population numbered approximately 6,000 people. At about that time, under the rule of Bertold V, the last Duke of Zähringen, the city began construction of its Freiburg Münster cathedral on the site of an older parish church." In the middle ages, "the need to find a scapegoat for calamities such as the Black Plague, which claimed 2,000 area residents (25% of the city population) in 1564, led to an escalation in witch-hunting that reached its peak in 1599. A plaque on the old city wall marks the spot where burnings were carried out." The word parish refers, in this context, to a territorial unit of the Catholic church. The foundation of the "older parish church" was no doubt part of a human presence in Freiburg dating back many more centuries beyond 1200 CE, and perhaps into antiquity (ancient times).
Offenburg has it's own colorful history to offer the curious traveler: "Remainders of Roman settlements have been found within the city's territory. Offenburg was first mentioned in historical documents dating from 1148. [By] 1240 Offenburg had been declared a Free Imperial City [same as nearby Freiburg]. [Dreadfully,] in September 1689 the city - with the exception of two buildings - was totally destroyed [by naughty French troops] during the Nine Years War. [And a century later, following] Napoleon's dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1803 and [the] reorganization of the German states, in 1803 Offenburg lost its status as a Free Imperial City and fell [instead] under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Baden."
By this point on my trip, I was occasionally concerned, but not overly so, about the number of days I could, comfortably, allocate to the cycle tour given existing work commitments. I had this concern in mind when I set-off to Offenburg from Laufenburg, a nine hour ride covering about 130 miles, and the same when I made plans, in my mind, to depart Offenburg tomorrow morning without stopping to sample the city's exceptional history. Despite these conclusions, Offenburg and Freiburg nonetheless provided a delicious morsel to fuel my mental gymnastics even if the bulk of that inspiration, a main course, will have to wait for an adventure with different priorities. For what remains of this trip, my priority is to ride from somewhere in the Czech Republic to the River Elbe then follow the Elbe River Cycle Route back to Hamburg. I hope to return to Hamburg within about 16 days of my departure date (5 October). As the "somewhere in the Czech Republic" implies, I'm reconsidering my route to, and including, Cheb. I'll hatch those changes, if any, soon.
The EuroVelo Route #15 on the German side of the Rhine is fast, for the most part well signed, and scenic. Unlike the same route on the French side, the Rhine Cycle Route in this part of Germany is often alongside the Rhine rather than alongside canals. My only complaint for the day, other than my own blunders that led to three cul-de-sacs (more below), is that I could have done with less riding on the tops of levées. From the vantage of a levée a solo rider has a lovely view of the river and adjacent wetlands but they also experience the full wrath of the wind, which was blowing into my face and over my left shoulder most of the day with moderate intensity. It was the wind that drove me, not mad, but towards alternate routes, some of which I cannot recommend.
Despite more than sufficient signage and a GPS staring-up at me, today I still managed to ride myself into not one or two cul-de-sacs, but three! Each time, I was faced with the river or a canal on my left, the end of the road ahead of me, and a canal on my right. Each time, I had to turn back and repeat, in one case many miles, the ride back to where I'd gone awry. On the third and worst trial of them all, a attempted shortcut back to the main route resulted in a rendezvous with bait used to draw in pigs and the offending hide directly ahead of me. Fortunately, a man on a bike starkly contrasts with a pig on a hoof, and so perhaps, for this reason, I was not shot dead. However, for reassurance, I offered a few verbal "don't shoot, helloooo" requests from my RLT 9 Steel bicycle as I made my way past the hides inky shadows, no doubt in a verklempt state. By the time I recovered from the third cul-de-sac of the day, I was searching for wisdom from which I can offer this sage advice: when navigating within the network of river and canal along the Rhine stick to the main, well signed, route; taking shortcuts will almost always lead to disappointment and perhaps even a morbid conclusion.
Cul-de-sacs and the inky shadows of a pig blind withstanding, I did survive to tell the tale of a memorable and enjoyable adventure today, the tenth day of my tour. I'm going to recall the day this way while my subconscious smooths over any rough edges. In the meantime, my eyes, wet and running most of the day because of the wind, will be getting some much needed rest in the space allocated to me within Susanne's lovely AirBnB which includes, for 56$, all the Illy Espresso I dare to drink (a fair bit in the morning), an espresso machine, and a secured basement for stashing my bike. From the city that witnessed the "first democratic demand" in what is now modern Germany, I offer you a Gute Nacht und freche Träume.