Run to the hills

Departing Strasbourg veered from the sublime

.... to the ridiculous.

I could take or leave most of Strasbourg with its sprawling subburbs festooned with new building projects, road works, tram extensions, and infrastructure improvements. The city seemed to be attempting a Keynesian stimulous for the entire eurozone. Osbourne take note.

Petit France, hidden away on its almost island, was by contrast undeniably lovely and a fine way for France to wish me Bon Voyage.

Chic streets

Gawping at the cathedral - dripping with Gothic charms it was the tallest building in the world from 1647 to 1874

As I wandered Petit France the sounds of accordion music and french cafe hum filled the air leading me to the canalside for coffee as I soaked up the quentessentially French, if touristified, atmosphere while a gloriously sunny morning unfurled.

But the ambience could not detain me forever 

Without further ado I was crossing the mighty Rhine into Deutcheland. Home of Rome's unquellable barbarian neighbours.

The Upper Rhine looking south

Following a river may sound an easy navigational task...

But I managed to make it interesting 

The heat soon became all but unedurable and solutions were required.

 A swim, a waermelon and some under-willow reading did the trick

As did stopping for a beer in the pretty town of Reigel am Kaiserstuhl

Heading south mirroring the Rhines languid twists the afternoon temperature remained in the high 30's and became ever more humid making every breeze a hot bath. 

 The distant hills and their promise of cooler climbs called out to me

Despite drinking gallons of water I was flagging and started seeing some pretty wierd stuff

  I watched this nest for a good ten minutes before realising the figures were sculpture rather than birds. definely time to invest in some binoculars.

  As the hills rose slowly the heat continued to take its toll. Even my water drenched bandanna trick was prooving ineffective.

 As the odd sights continued...

I'm pretty sure that's this guy

Out of the heat haze I reached Freibourg a full 11 hours after setting out. A city filled with bicycles glorying in its spectacular natural surroundings. I liked the place instantly. 

Freibourg's youth chilling out on the bridge top

The river Dreisam runs through Freibourg providing the water for the city's famous bachles (water-filled runnels which run along the roads in the older quaters. The rivers banks were packed with people enjoying the sunshine.

 Herons in the centre of town

A very nice American archeologist called Kyle who had recently cycled back from Turkey put me up for the evening and we swopped stories late into the night accompanied by repeated flashes of heat lightening offering no thunder or cooling rain but plenty of spectacle.

Up early the next morning to clean the bike before setting off up into the Black Forest I was tired but excited. Kyle had recomended a tough but quiet climb into the mountains and as I began the ascent proper at 10:00 the sun was already blisteringly hot.

Fortunatley Germany is a thoroughly humane country and these water fountains dot the place bringing me great joy. Public water fountains are a perfect signifier of civiliztion in my eyes.

The gradient reached as high as 17 degrees in places and there was little let up from either the heat or the incline.

But it was plenty pretty

I was breathing ragged and sweating buckets after 20 minutes.

Not even halfway
Utterly spent, tired and burning up I threw the bike down dived for shade, while downing water, and put my drenched bandana over my eyes. Two hours later I awoke refreshed ate some lunch and continued on my way.

Now I was getting somewhere - looking back on Freibourg

The cablecar that had demeaned my slow progress from the start disgorged tourists at the summit of sechauinsland (1284m) but only I had fully earnt the view on the other side of the mountain: 

Looking out over the Black Forest from Sechauinsland which apropriatley means "look into the country" .

An added bonus to the 1284 metre climb was the thick forests I entered which provided fresh shade into which I rushed headlong.

Dappled sunlight > Direct sunlight

As I cut across country towards an adjacent mountain using the network of moutainbike trails I soon found a suitably breathtaking place to camp near to Seebuck.

Benches are second only to water fountains on my list of favourite things to stumble on when cycling.

With no one around but me and the hover-flies the view slowly darkned as I listened to the kinks and cooked my usual, cous cous and chorizo. 

Before unleashing a Martian finale

Having set off early the next morning along some tough mountain trails I spent 10:30-14:00 swimming in lake Schulchsee and lazing on the shore.

A brief overcast moment

Before continuing to work my way south with the worst of the mid-day heat passed.

Briefly pretending I'm in Goldeneye.

It was one of my laziest days of the trip so far as i kept stopping for beers and even treated myself to some sausage and souerkrout for dinner

 Before finding another place to camp with a nice view.In a less remote location just outsie Hochenschwand.

Which I inadvisably tried to picture in the reflection of my sunglasses.

there is no way to take a picture of oneself without looking like a right tart. I blame myspace.

After the sun went down i decided to take a walk in the moonlight and was rewarded by stumbling on not one but dozens of either frogs or toads (too dark to tell) crossing the path. So humming the frog chorus it was off to bed sound in the knowledge that, as evidenced by the amphibious abundance, the Black Forest ecosystem was thriving. 

The next day began with an all down hill section of about 16 kilometres. Just plain good fun free wheeling all the way; plus it was blessedly cooler.

Towns that you get to enter through archways on your bike make you feel like some wandering medieval hedge knight.

Having covered 25k before 08:30, but suffering from a newly acquired sore throat and generally feeling a bit piqué,  I decided to relax in Waldshut-Tiengen.

I forgot to take any pictures of freibourg's bachles but Waldshut-Tiengen boasted some impressive ones too

All in all a nice place but the barber I decided to let loose on my hair unfortunately interpreted "shorten" to mean "buzz cut."

From there it was a short trip across the border into switzerland which immedietly ingratiated itself with me as i saw the first lizard of my trip. Arriving in Neuenhof my hosts for the evening, Natalie and Julia both environmental sciences students at Zurich university, were kind enough not to mention the severe hair cut and were wonderful hosts.

Safe and sound in Switerland by the 20th of June I was a full 10 days ahead of my vague timetable. (I had estimated arriving in Zurich at the start of July.) With this in mind studied my maps and started planning a detour to see a bit more of Northern Europe before heading for the Alps. Was I just putting off my first proper mountain climb? Perhaps :)

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