Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Tuesday 15th July - Mainz to Heidelberg

Today felt like a loooooong day of cycling, possibly a little taste of the searing heat that I can expect once I roll down the Alps into Italy and onwards. The latter part was a blast however, as I cycled the last 60 odd kms with a slightly crazy German called Cristoph, making his way 700 kms south to meet his wife and mother-in-law, with just two tiny bags on a gorgeous 1970's steel Cinelli. So he hammered it along at 35 kph and I just about managed to keep up with him. Then, just as the going was getting tough, he confronted me with the immortal question I have heard repeatedly since Amsterdam; '"How would you like to have a schmoke?".

The ride to Heidelberg, endless vineyards...

It turns out that Cristoph, as well as being a part-time randonneur, is also a full-time stoner and finds it impossible to get through a long ride sober. Fair enough, says I, and so he rolled a monster spliff from goods that he had been growing 'in the forest behind the house' and I cycled into Heidelberg happy and tired, with a big grin on my face and a severer than usual case of cycling related hunger.

Christoph - guru of lightweight cycle touring.

The city is an odd mix and leaves a initially sour impession on cycling in from the west. It is set in a little enclave on the banks of the Neckar river and the aldstadt (old city) is beautiful and bustling, but is dwarfed by a surrounding post-war industrial wasteland of fast food joints, concrete tower blocks and American car dealerships. I later discovered this was to cater to the enormous US military presence in the city, although once you reach the cobbled streets of the aldstadt and integrate into its easy pace this becomes less apparent and life is dominated by the student population there; the university of Heidelberg is the Oxford of Germany, founded in 1386 and credited as being the birthplace of, amongst other defining inventions, the humble bicycle in 1817.

Heidelberg aldstadt and the Neckar from the Schloss (castle)

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