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Hank's Europe summer 2023 blogish updates

I'll try to update regularly!

Flight PDX - FRA uneventful, which was great. Slept 3.5 hours, less than usual but felt okay.

25/07

Assembled bike at airport, easy enough but fairly ugly/industrial ride to Mainz. Early enough to grubby train station that I had time to visit St. Stephan's church and see the gorgeous Chagall stained glass. All of the glass in the church is Chagall. Wonderful, and pretty upscale medieval neighborhood on a hill surrounding.

https://imgur.com/a/8Jo4cGX

https://imgur.com/a/Sx9Kfic

Train situation to Offenburg a mess, as documented in another thread in the Germany forum. Had some good fellowship though, invited for coffee the next day by a nice German Pakistani man. Train to catch so hade to pass.

25/07

Slept a solid 8 hours. Can recommend the Offenburg Holiday Inn Express. Clean, comfortable, nice staff and very good diverse breakfast with all stays. I don't use a lot of chain hotels, but prefer them for first nights as usual not surprises interrupting that key first sleep.

Gorged breakfast - had eaten very little previous day with the typical jet lag anorexia effect. Biked off into light rain for Strasbourg Gare. It was a pretty, quiet county ride. I'd fairly forced my Garmin to track a canal levy to stay away from the highway-side bike trail. At first nice pavement, then chipped gravel, then red mud, then the trail disappeared under a freeway overpass.

This is typical bike touring weirdness. Smooth sailing at an easy 30kph, then ugly mud and then standing in a marsh under a freeway in the middle of nowhere. It was ride back 8k and maybe miss my train, or wade thigh deep across a canal.

I stood in the middle of canal, shoes sucking into the muddy bottom, laughing at myself and giving my bike a thorough splash bath. I walked out careful on some rocks and swished of my shoes. At least I wouldn't be a muddy disaster on the train!

https://imgur.com/JPHpVbs

Rolled into pretty Strasbourg in plenty of time, so rode through the center past the cathedral. Picked up a picnic lunch at Paul in the station. Now sitting on the packed TGV with 3 other cyclists all together. Good chat and we will all play Geoguesser together after lunch. It's raining outside but apparently not in Rennes. We will see :). 30 miles to ride north to Hede later this afternoon.

https://imgur.com/a/n4zyjWI

Posted by
3909 posts

I don’t know if you are adventurous or just plain crazy. I love biking and would never, ever attempt your ride. But, I’m Happy to ride along via your posts.

Posted by
412 posts

Never in a million years would I attempt what you are doing but it is fascinating to follow your adventures. Stay safe and keep it coming. Love the Chagall art report, a personal fave. Is there a brotherhood or sisterhood of fellow bikers as you travel no matter the nationality? You all speak bike?

Posted by
4159 posts

I can't imagine riding a bike from an airport to anywhere. Is Germany bike friendly around airports?

Posted by
1331 posts

Hank, I’m not a cyclist but am enjoying your adventure. Keep it coming

Posted by
9713 posts

Oh my goodness !!! That description ans that photo are really something !

Posted by
2252 posts

WOW! What a traveler you are. This is so much fun to follow and I’m enjoying your trip vicariously. Thanks for taking the time to post your adventures!

Posted by
1800 posts

Lyndash you'd think there was a brother/sisterhood of cyclist, but truth be told.not so much. Luck of the draw so far I think meeting nice people.

Allan yes, solid cycling infrastructure at most European airports - it's how many airport workers get to work, so easy to take advantage of those bike trails.

Posted by
1800 posts

Good TGV ride to Rennes from Strasbourg. The TGV nearly flies it's so fast.

Frederick and Anna, young German teachers, made good table-mates. They are cycling from St. Malo to Monaco over the course of a month. They kidded me that since I was American and knew little about the world, they'd go easy on me at Geoguesser, but I lit them both up (me against the two of them) three straight games. Both a showed a little competitive annoyance at losing but I soft-shoed my way to I just got luck :)

Parted with fond wishes for safe riding and exchanged email.

I rode 50k up the Canal D'Ille-et-Rance from Rennes to Hede. Not too far but got started at 3pm so an okay day out considering. It was an important canal, monotonous beautiful as it wends from the sea near St. Malo to Rennes, reportedly made inland Rennes economy boom and drove it to being a regionally important city. Now it is a relic, no longer commercial but rather a calm, charming, lesser-known venue for canal boat vacations. I will ride it again tomorrow for another 50k, and that will be enough. Today I almost fell asleep lying on my aerobars, the path is so sleepily bucolic, almost a hypnotic experience the way the endless shade trees tick past in time.

https://imgur.com/a/15pyD8P

https://imgur.com/a/JS4Luui

The canal and it's many locks are maintained with traditional methods out of a few public workshops located right on the banks. Fun to see craftsman hewing lock replacement parts out of big raw logs. Made me really notice the chunky lumber holding back all that water.

https://imgur.com/a/kGb3aAC

Stopped to hotel and dine in Hede, a nice looking stone agricultural village. Quaint hotel with a very good restaurant, Le Vieux Moulin I think it's called. Little remodeled rooms are vaguely shabby chic. Thin-walled, slippery shower floor, no drapes, probably loud on the highway side. I requested the courtyard, which is quiet and charmingly set below the town's ramparts. Feeling good about it.

https://imgur.com/a/hj4H3Ml

Highlight of the dinner was the l'entree, wonderful mild homemade foie gras with a little pot of regionally-appropriate applesauce on the side.

https://imgur.com/a/wApZjIv

I like Brittany. Or rather Bretons maybe. I want to joke that it's where they keep all the nice French people, if that's not too edgy - meant to be light!

Tomorrow the transition time is over and the roaming begins for 9 more nights until I meet my family in Amsterdam. No more reservations, just me, Barney the ugly purple bicycle, and of course a phone to keep things civil. Looking forward to it :)

Posted by
3909 posts

Love the pictures. What an interesting trip, definately off the beaten track. Thanks for finding the time to take us along.

Posted by
1800 posts

Thanks for finding the time to take us along.

My pleasure Barbara, gives me time to reflect and relax, plenty of down time traveling solo :)

What an interesting trip, definitely off the beaten track.

Now that you mention it, haven't heard a native English speaking voice since I cleared customs at FRA. Two days no familiar voices, pretty good! It's bound to change as I head to more touristy spots the next few days.

Posted by
3909 posts

We’re planning to do part of the camino next September and one choice is biking. After being inspired by your trip, we’re giving this option a serious thought. Just have to research what Type of bike they rent out.

Posted by
412 posts

Love the story and pictures. The foie gras looked wonderful, I was just thinking you need fat and protein to keep going. You must be burning a lot of calories chugging along.
Also, lovely steady video of your verdant path. What phone do you use?

Posted by
697 posts

Hank, this is really fun to read. Love the photos. Thanks for posting!

Posted by
2392 posts

Cool report Hank! Keep the notes coming, fun to follow along.

Posted by
1800 posts

Regarding calories, yes, cycle touring really burns through them. You spend a lot of time in heart rate zone 2, basically like a slow jog. Except that one can in generally cycle much longer than jog, and for days on end. Yesterday's riding in total was short-ish, 45 miles, and Strava says 2500 extra calories above baseline metabolism burned for my size and age. Probably will be 4000+ today, harder days will top 6000.

So yes, some extra eating is in order. Somewhat unfortunately, a good portion of it necessarily has to come on the bike - gummy bears, trail mix, etc - because eventually you deplete your stored glycogen and need to trickle feed your muscles directly from your stomach. But I definitely don't think twice about rich foods, pastries etc! There's a big wedge of flan staying cool on my window sill this morning waiting to be scarfed down at my first longer cycling break of the day.

https://imgur.com/a/3ipn7XS

Protein as mentioned above is also a concern. It can be harder to get enough in Europe than in the US, and cycling breaks down muscle to some extent. How much protein one needs isn't really a settled topic in nutrition, but I am more willing to pony up for more protein rich meals when I'm riding as they seem to make me feel better in the next day.

I always lose weight when I travel. I'm an unconscious grazer at home, often finding myself chewing on a mouthful or something and not remembering having taken it. And then of course burning all the calories everyday adds to better eating habits. When I was younger It would have bothered me coming home quite skinny (I think I end up losing muscle as much as fat), but now that I'm approaching retirement age my body feels much better when I'm lighter, notwithstanding when my wife occasionally opens a jar that I was having trouble with :).

Barbara from what I've seen they mostly rent front suspension mountain bikes for the Camino. Not like super knobby long-travel front suspension downhill bangers, but rather modest amounts of shock absorption and fast rolling lightly knobbed tires. Seems like fun, particularly if you do a tour where they move your stuff from hotel to hotel for you.

Drinking a coffee now, listening to chickens merrily clucking in the distance, getting motivated to ride out into the light rain. It's supposed to be sunny this afternoon, so plenty of time to dry out in the self-generated breeze, or more likely stiff head wind that I faced all day yesterday. Regional weather is looking wetter tomorrow, and then a pattern of the showers in the afternoon every day almost until I meet my family in Amsterdam. Highs about low 70's/22, so ideal cycling weather. I will take that 7 days a week over blazing heat, a little bit of rain be damned. We're not made out of sugar! But I will be happy to be off the muddy gravel canal tow path tomorrow for the wettest day. Don't particularly love walking into hotel lobbies looking like barnyard hog. :)

St. Malo via Dinan and St. Suliac the early destinations. 70km, and a bit hilly, 400m of climbing. Then will regroup, take a look Booking.com, and see if i want to go further.

Posted by
1800 posts

Oh Lyndash the phone - Google Pixel 6a. I bought it because the camera is great for it being relatively cheap (about $300 on Amazon a couple months ago), and because it runs a clean, efficient and easy version of Android (no extra software laid over it like with Samsung etc). The newer version, 7a, has been out for a bit, supposedly even better camera.

Posted by
1380 posts

Enjoying the content as well as pics/vids. Sounds like an awesome trip.

Safe Travels.

Posted by
1800 posts

26/07 Hede-Bazouges to Dol-de-Bretagne

101km ride today. Turned out to be 3/4 of a circle, So I could have saved myself a lot of time if I just gone direct! ;)

Start at the morning by continuing up the Rance canal for an hour or more. Right where the canal widens reliably and starts to become an estuary you will find Dinan sitting on top of the hill to the left. The charm starts at the canal, as the outskirts of the medieval city predictably spill down to the water.

https://imgur.com/a/91q4Cj9

Dinan is special. There were tourists, and tourist were catered to, but through it, you could easily see the medieval life bustling in the chunky cobbled streets. I would put Dinan in a bucket with Rothenberg, Bruges, Colmar and the like. I was a little early for lunch, so chose not to sit down to eat, but Dinan looked like a great place to grab a meal and soak in the surroundings. I'm sure it would be wonderful at night too, where the historical feeling would even more strongly come to life. I visited many nice places today, but Dinan was in a different class.

https://imgur.com/a/FCMESNA

After Dinan I kept pressing up the edge of the estuary towards the sea. The canal path eventually turn into a single track trail that eventually dumped out onto the low tide oyster mud. I thought I could cross about 40 m of mud and continue, but I was sadly mistaken. Man is that stuff sticky! Took a solid half an hour to get Barney and myself presentable again.

Was having trouble getting my Garmin to reroute, so eventually just said screw it and started riding up a random overgrown dirt road, to where I did not know. In about 20 minutes of picking my way here and there, I crossed a very nice rail trail, which turned out to be the Voie Vert to Dinard. So instead of my planned route I put my head down and zoomed out to Dinard. Dinard is a fine town, lighted-touristed with mostly French, mostly more sophisticated types. Good looking place with nice amenities. It was after lunch time, but I wanted to get across the ferry to St. Malo, so forewent sitting down to eat and had an apple and some trail mix instead on the boat.

St. Malo have been my primary destination for the day, but it left me disappointed. It was positively thronging with bored tourists. Very much reminded me of an overcrowded middle class British seaside resort. Many people looking largely uninterested and tired, and filling that bored void with ice cream and light bickering. Martin Parr would have loved it. The place itself has a reserved kind of majesty, but in my opinion, it's one of those places that's much better to look at than to be in. Maybe if it was empty, but I doubt I'll ever return.

I left hungry - didn't like the vibe and there wasn't really room in most places to sit down - and a bit crabby. The hungry was repaired with a stop into a suburban boulanger. Picked up a fat juicy tuna tartine that I mostly ate on the sidewalk like a savage.

But crabby stuck around for a while as my Garmin wasn't auto syncing and Google Maps was routing me on to some boring highways. I was riding along looking at the ditch, trucks whizzing past thinking to myself this is what they mean by dead in a ditch, I bet we have ditches at home that are perfectly capable

But then the Garmin kicked back in, and took me on a fantastic routing to the youth hostel in Dol-de-Bretagne where I'd booked a double room between bites of tartine. The rest of the ride was fabulously beautiful. I turned down a little farming road and crested a dome-shaped hill to see St. Michelle poking up tiny on the distant horizon above the fiercely aqua bay at low tide, foreground and army of blazing sunflowers. My pictures couldn't catch it, but it was sublime - a painter's delight. Much beauty the rest of the way to my final destination.

Posted by
11258 posts

Interesting reading and wonderful photos.

The 1st photo ( July 26) was it intentional to show the stone building with its modern skylights, or just a happy accident?

Posted by
412 posts

Oh no, I too wanted better for/from St Malo. Features in one of my favorite books, All the Light We Cannot See. But the pictures of the little towns are wonderful.
Can’t you buy a wedge of cheese and a baguette to take along as you go? Do you continually stop to get water places along the way? No trouble sleeping at the end of the day I guess? Stay safe.

Posted by
3265 posts

I felt bad reading your thoughts on Saint-Malo. We were there in late September 2019, and I loved it. We weren't riding bikes, and missed the peak tourist season. Our last adventure before Covid.

Posted by
1800 posts

27/07

Woke up after a decent sleep in an annoying hostel double room with bad layout and bottom bunk mattress literally in the floor. I'm getting too old for that. Nice enough desk staffer though, and a passable cup of coffee. Largely didn't eat the microwaved crepes with off-brand Nutella - way too much good food in Brittany to compromise.

Dol-de-Bretagne was a fine town. Lightly touristed with about half Dutch and the rest French. The Dutch usually know better so I always take them as a positive sign that I'm in the right place.

Riding through the farm country Dol-de-Bretagne to Mont St. Michelle in light rain was almost painfully beautiful in a quiet sort of way. The flat light and low contrast felt like pedaling through an artist's imagination. Komoot's routing was superb, silent back roads and smooth gravel voie vert, mercifully planted with wind-break trees that for spells cut the blowing rain.

Eventually Mont St. Michelle presented itself on the horizon, a gloaming medieval beacon. It grew and grew until I was standing in its tight, winding stone streets. Event though crowded I loved it! The limited space for the village produced a charming, cozy, crammed in effect wherein one's senses are, save for a narrow strip of sky, surrounded by stone. The souvenir shops were as usual garish, but if you looked past the trinkets you could see how they were dug into the rock. The hazy views from the ramparts sublime, and an odd companionate feeling as rain poured upon all of us tourists.

Rode 7 miles up to Gare Pontorson to make 25 mi on the day so far. Now on a local train stuffed with cyclists headed toward Bayeaux. I'll probably get off one stop earlier at Lison, as that looks like a better ride to and along the Normandy D-Day beaches. It's been a weather day and will continue to be so. I'm and little cold and my socks are squishy wet. But D-Day beaches will certainly put being a little wet and chilly into perspective I'm sure.

Not sure were the day will finish - that will be partly determined when I check in on Booking.com later this afternoon, partly if I decide to follow a wild hair that I woke with this morning about going to England tonight or tomorrow. I suppose I ought to check the ferry schedules if I want to make that a reality.

In the meantime I'll return to trying to eat a mangled chocolate eclair with some minimal dignity and warm up for the next leg on the bike.

Photos are not happy with train whizzing through networks, will post a few later.

Posted by
1800 posts

As to questions (thanks for them!)

Skylights unintentional, just thought the bridge framed better with the building.

I do need to refill water when I can, but when it is cooler like it's been not so much sweating thankful. But yes, dehydration is always just around the corner. Already have had leg cramps at night, so need to continue hammering the water.

Baguette and cheese: add some ham and that's been a frequent food. They are available readymade in most Boulanger's - "baguette (say filling here).". Cheap and good. I just ate a "baguette xxl Americain" (shop lady laughed when I stood up tall, tapped my chest, pointed at the bame of the sandwich then pointed to myself :) for lunch. Or rather half - it was solid. Ham, two cheeses, boiled egg, tomato, lettuce, mayo.

But in St. Malo it was just jammed everywhere and not really the sort of local high street ordinary bakery I tend to favor. Decided to wait - always another just around the corner.

I can see how St. Malo might be a nice visit. After riding my bike for hours on end through quiet and local scenes, a big, crowded, intensely touristic place can feel overwhelming. Hard to see it through all the people and chatter. I was pretty keen to get back in the peaceful countryside again, so maybe I didn't give it enough credit!

Posted by
1800 posts

One overwhelming aspect of this region of France that should be mentioned is.the beautiful stone used in all kinds of buildings. There are just so many pretty stone buildings, not just in toney town cores, but through the suburbs and into the ag/industrial zones too. The way that old pretty stone houses continue way out from village centers is fairly unique in my experience of Europe. They must have had a huge amount of this stone readily available, but as far as I've seen there hasn't been a single quarry on more than 100 miles of riding so far.

Hmmm. Enlighten me?

Posted by
1800 posts

28/07

Bigger riding day yesterday, 122km and 3k vf. This happened because standing under a drippy bush in the pouring rain outside of the American Cemetery at Normandy, I too quickly picked a hotel 40k away, and then got a bit lost on my way there.

It was a good day. Normandy and Brittany previously were mashed together in my head, but now (from clearly limited exposure if not a lot of time traversing by bicycle) they seem different. Normandy feels more like the UK or Ireland (but still distinctly French), more tiny lanes and hedgerows and little farms. Brittany seemed like the way I imagined Brittany.

Accordingly, I saw many beautiful small scenes in the Normandy countryside, richer and more varied smells. Stood for a while watching a beautiful colt and foal. He stood calmly as she would walk up, give him a little love bite, then gallop around wildly like a drunken butterfly, whinnying wildly. Rinse repeat, with not the smallest speck of acknowledgment from him.

Was also surprise-chased by a Malinois Shepard. My thoughts had been elsewhere, but sudden loud angry barking as you are charged from the rear quarter flank is instant natural Red Bull. He was within a meter of my leg when bellowed my loudest, deepest "No! Bad Dog! No!" Mal seemed to realize this was not my first big dog rodeo, and that in fact he was being a bad dog, and chose not to bite. But he did look pretty disappointed with that outcome.

My hotel was on the seaside. As the vague bay runs north from the core D-Day beaches it rally starts to resemble the Belgian seaside - flat and broad and populated with the same type of boardwalks, Victorian Era (and rectangular 1950's) hotels, and underwhelming overpriced seafood restaurants. A carting track. A ferris wheel. People, it seems, want about the same things out of flat northern coasts regardless of nation.

Fun for an evening and morning, but decided to cut north and inland today instead of original plan to follow the coast north. First Caen by bike, the Rouen by train, then an afternoon exploring Rouen and surroundings by bike, and finally Lille by train arriving after 9pm.

I'm a bit tired - stayed up way too late planning an England excursion that was ultimately scrapped in favor of remaining on the continent. So going to try to keep it 40 miles or under today. But already at 25 mi, and intrigued by the parkland voie vert that snakes north from Rouen along the winding Seine. Will have to get at least a little taste of that before the 18:30 train to Lille :)

Posted by
4159 posts

Keep up the reports. I used to be an avid mountain biker but then kids got in the way. I always thought it would be fun to do a "physical" trip like this or maybe take a week to kayak along a coastline. My wife doesn't share those ambitions though, so I'll live vicariously and enviously through you.

Posted by
1800 posts

Pics added in one link:

https://imgur.com/a/3SrPfAW

Easier day today, 70km and under 1k vf climbing, good wind mostly.

Caen was fine, but Rouen .... who knew it was so fab? I think I'm probably the first American to notice.

No really though, what a great city! It's loosely analogous to Chicago I think? Forgive if I'm not the first to draw the comparison. I'd really only heard it mentioned for the cathedral, and man that is one incredible church. It's not just hulkingly MASSIVE, and not just decorated on every square centimeter. The quality of the decoration and architecture is unreal. Not a single gargoyle phoned in. A mountain of masterpieces, inside and out. Wow.

But back to Chicago. It's certainly broad shouldered. I asked in a bike shop which way to ride along the Seine, and the (very nice) shop guy said west - east is too far industrial. So I rode west, and gave up at almost ten miles out because it was still solid heavy industry.

As pointed out below, Rouen is a much smaller city than Chicago or Paris, So a well imprecise comparison. But chock full of art, food, pretty half-timbered buildings, comfortable street life, and churches. Beyond the cathedral, it felt like the place had 5 huge beautiful churches, any of which would be the pride and joy of 99.9% of European cities. And like a dozen more smaller ones? Nuts.

And like Midwesterners the people I encountered
were SO nice. Funny chat with a Boulanger (or whatever one calls a French baker) about his visit to his cousin's winery in Wisconsin. I mentioned the Wisconsin accent to him and he laughed that he loved it because they sounded like the French. And big people compared to France yes, but that's just because Wisconsin, not France, is the world capital of cheese.

I ducked into a small grocer in an outlying neighborhood to grab a beer for the train to Lille. The very old man at the register saw my bike near the door. "Bon jour!" he called out and waved me to the front of the line. Registering that I didn't apeak French, he said something like "velo first." He gave me back more change than I gave him money, and after I gently got things straightened out the several older men in line (all also buying a beer by the way) smiled and broke into a little gently ironic mock applause.

But the gem interaction was buying some fruit in a very boutique-y produce and fine food shop. The shop emptied as my turn came up, and once we established that I had about 20 words of French, the clerk switched to English. Super nice and enthusiastically friendly and engaging. This surprised me given that she looked like a mash up of Amelie and a high fashion model. She offered to work on my French with me on the spot, and chatted enthusiastically about the French language, her city (called it "a little Paris that moves more slowly," her shop, etc for 15 minutes. By age we were easily a full generation apart, but she was really fluidly nice in meeting on a human level. I'd noticed similar treatment of the customers before me.

Probably just a luck of the draw, but even without the very nice people Rouen was really cool. I wouldn't hesitate to spend a couple of days, geek out on all the sights ahead of time, do some guided tours. I'm sure it's a very interesting place once you start to really dig in.

On the train to Lille now. My aparthotel has clothes washing facilities, so I might pull a lay day if the accommodation is worth a second night.

Posted by
1800 posts

You're in a great spot to have done some mountain biking Allan. Mountains about as good as they get. 👍

Posted by
412 posts

Thanks for sharing, I’m enjoying it so much. I had no idea Rouen would have been big enough to be a Chicago. Interesting thought. I remember very fondly eating lunch at a sidewalk cafe in the shadow of the cathedral 40 years ago. And the cathedral was breathtakingly beautiful.

Posted by
1800 posts

Rouen is way smaller than Chicago, you are right Lyndash. It's an imperfect comparison for sure!

Posted by
1800 posts

29/07

Decided to take a lay day in Lille. Got in late on the train and didn't feel like spinning another quick night and morning departure for all day outside again. Was on the fence, but the aparthotel where I'm staying has a laundry room, so that swung the ballot.

Cool laundry system! You need to download an app, but then you reserve your wash, pick how you want your wash done, auto pay, and then get updated on progress. It does the soap for you. I was initially annoyed but I had to deal with an app, but it works really well and now I am fully on board with WeWash. So nice to not guess when your laundry is ready, or have to deal with negotiating machine use with other clients.

https://imgur.com/a/b8tv1ab

I like this aparthotel, Citadines, right next to Lille Flanders train station. Clean, functional, roomy enough, and $65 euro a night booked through the hotel website on last minute flash sale.

A huge Carrefour grocery store in the same building (same building as the shiny clean Westfield Mall), little kitchen so I can make myself food for a change. I like that - it gets a little old depending on restaurants every day.

Last night I went out at about 10:30 p.m. to try to track down a snack. Some donner and frites shops open, and a couple of night shops selling mostly nothing but tall cans of beer. Didn't like the energy around the train station. Lots of youth hanging out, all young men. Mostly not drunk - seemed to be from non-drinking cultures - but still had that bouncy, chaotic energy that you feel when you're walking through the stadium streets right after a football match. And the night shops, to a large extent segregated by ethnicity, were doing a brisk beer business notwithstanding. Very few women moving through the scene, and that radar feeling like things could pop off in whatever weird way whenever. I also didn't feel buckled down, having decided the quick trip out would be fine in shorts and flip-flops and a t-shirt and my attention grabbing pink hat. I definitely looked like a soft target, and a lot of eyeballs settled for longer than I think they normally would. I was definitely wishing I'd worn shoes, so much better if trouble presents itself, and long pants. So I would not appear to be the only person in the universe in shorts.

But I'm pretty cautious, having done a lot of seeking out this sort of atmosphere in the past. To be fair there was a big cafe open with people sitting outside, a few travelers here and there coming and going from the train station.

And day and evening are wholly different than late night around the Flanders station. Convenient place to stay.

Out to the supermarket now to pick up some eggs, cheese, tomatoes, bread and a giant hob of broccoli. Going to get a whole lot of dark green veg in me today and tomorrow morning before launching back into the french fries with a token bit of lettuce on the side routine 🙂

Posted by
1800 posts

Lille grocery haul

https://imgur.com/a/O3Mjt2l

I tried to buy mostly products that seemed somewhat local. Normandy butter, Dunkirk sausages, Chimay cheese, Belgian red cherries. Bought nectarines again, as they have been very good (better than the peaches and plums so far, although it did have an outstanding pluot) and these did not disappoint.

And here is the assembled meal, such as it is. Even though I'm a bit of a hacker, felt nice to cook.

https://imgur.com/a/oCat7ka

Posted by
1800 posts

Feeling a bit restless now after lunch, so decided to ride 42 mile loop ride from local Komoot user. It visits the Pool of Peace (largest deep earth land mine crater from the 1917 great Mine Battle - Germans didn't know their position was above mining tunnels, whoops), the Lettenberg bunkers, climb the famous Kemelburg hill (featured in Belgian spring classic pro bike races), and come back along the Plugstreet Chemin du Mont de la Hutte, where I believe one can see some preserved trenches and other WW1 infrastructure artifacts passing by.

It's going to feel great to ride without my stuff! Barney will feel like a brand new Pinarello I'm sure ;)-

Posted by
280 posts

Very ambitious trip that you're on. Far more distance per day than we did. So wonderful getting off the tourist track and moving through the country on the same ground as the French, and by the same modes ... a velo et par train.

Like you, we were so impressed by the laundromat ... so much better than the ones we used here, 45-50 years ago.

Bon vacance.

Posted by
1800 posts

https://imgur.com/a/sxbE1EG

Plenty to report from the seaside here on Schouwen island drying out in my hotel room. Waiting for my appointed time for dinner.

29/07, my lay day in Lille, middled with a bang - that bang being my upper back smashing into the pavement after Barney slipped out from under me on a cow trodden corner while I was riding quite conservatively out in West Flanders near Ypres. The ice like slip out was totally uncalled for - I was riding conservatively. But the tires I chose for the trip are sometimes apt to doing just what they did. What you get for that out of nowhere danger is blazing speed. They have unbelievably low rolling resistance and ride like a dream. But wet traction is terrible.

I figured it was summer and it would probably be dry most of the time, and I wouldn't ride the tires pumped up too hard, So I would take my dreamy Italian Strada Bianca's on tour. Turns out it was a bad idea. I might have a broken rib. It's always hard to say, but the pain is certainly there. If I had an x-ray I would know, but I also know from some pretty careful feeling around that nothing is displaced, and they're going to tell me to do when I'm already doing, take naproxen and suck it up.

I'm really hoping it's just a bruise or a cartilage thing. That way it might not hurt so bad before the end of this trip.

But it is what it is, I knew the tires were dangerous when I took them, but I just couldn't resist their smooth impossibly fast ride.

The crash happened early in my lay day ride. Bad enough that I definitely felt the need to take a pretty careful inventory. Dented the back of my helmet as the noggin whacked good, so definitely glad I was wearing it. The road rash burns to some extent, but it's a known quantity.

I thought about riding back to Lille, I was already outside of the city suburb, and those are the worst part of the riding, so decided to press forward a little to a place I could turn my big loop into a smaller loop. Then it torrentially downpoured on me, soaking me completely through and sending me for the shelter of a small eve. I could see a world war one memorial from where I stood, and thought there certainly has been worse experiences out here. I finished the big loop gingerly, and it was really beautiful as the sun came out.

80k and 1500ft climbing on the day, including the gnarly slimy steep Belgian spring classic stalwart Kulemburg climb. Barney felt pretty good about making it to the top, although if he wants to match Wout Van Arte's record, he will need a way to shave 70% off of his time.

Return to Lille, washed the wounds, cooked dinner then walked out to see the city with and icecream. Good looking town, young population. In my mind it's not worth a separate visit but not a bad place to stop through if that's where the night leaves you.

30/07 125km 1000vf

Woke up feeling significantly better pain wise. Woohoo! Packed up, made a big egg, cheese and olive sandwich with the rest of my supermarket food, and headed out the door. Destination Antwerp. It would be about 125km, but a nice tailwind the whole way. Generally pretty riding a long canals and through countryside, with some jags more industrial and along highways. Did a lunch break in Oudenaarde, fine town and super super cycle obsessed. There's a huge cafe and shop with all kinds of Belgian cycling memorabilia, really awesome! Liefman's brewery is right there too.

About 5 km from Ghent, which I would pass through enroute to Antwerp, I saw a sign for Bruges. I knew that the cross-tail wind that had pushed me along all day would turn into a nasty headwind if I headed towards Bruge, but the coast seemed inviting. I had never seen the huge dykes in the Netherlands south of The Hague, and Bruge, if it's not crowded and the light is nice, is pure magic.

Continued .....

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1800 posts

Bruge was close to deserted and the light was gorgeous. I was tired from a long day on the bike, and the hotel was lovely and comfortable, but on the way in I saw that there were tables available at the pub where I wanted to eat dinner, so I cleaned up and headed out the door. Nothing exceptional to report except very good food and beer, a lovely after dinner wander all over the city, and I might have eaten an entire 125g bar of nice Belgian chocolate when I got back to the hotel :)

31/07 85km pretty flat (470ft)

https://imgur.com/a/Z2nYmmA

Well, this morning I woke up with a lot of sharp pain around the darn rib that I smashed against the tarmac in Flanders. Maybe I should go to the urgent care kind of pain. I was not taking full breaths, and as such, phlegm was building up in my lungs, which gave me cough fits. Less fun than it sounds. I got my stuff together and got out the door after breakfast, heading along a beautiful tree planted canal for miles and miles heading for the Belgian end of the Vlissengen ferry. Raining pretty good, for the first time since the crash I was really worried about crashing again - my goodness did a rib or two feel broken today. I was scared to ride but kind of had to, really scared of my tires actually, Barney had done nothing wrong. He's been a gentle friend for a while now, so I wouldn't want you to get the impression that I blame him.

After I got off the ferry I diverted from the standard cycle route into Middelburg. Nice town! But more importantly, I found one bike shop open that had some good tires. 1/3 of the way down the fast chart, but near the top in wet traction. Two very nice Dutch kids, probably in the mid-20s running the shop, gave a fun chat about my crash, tires (My slippery ones, Challenge Strada Bianca Handmades are apparently very popular among "polder racers), etc. They made me a cappuccino from the machine in the staff room and directed me to an armchair nicer than a drowned rat like me ought to have been sitting in. As they pulled off the offending tires (I told them keep them, I want nothing to do with them: " we will give them to someone we don't like") I drank my coffee and our conversation turned to cycling in general. These young guys were really proud of the cycling culture they grew up in, and particularly looked south to Flanders ("de are bike crazed") and north to areas above Amsterdam ("Walhalla!"). I told them where I was headed and they pulled up a bunch of mapping software on the shop computer. I was already sorted, but it was so nice. I let them guide me.

The new tires are grippy and fast enough, and they certainly are the right fit for Barney, who is a plodder of a velocipede. But truth be told I miss my sporty Italian beauties. Maybe the first bad relationship of my life, I do need to let them go.

It was rainy and blowing hard, but the gigantic dikes holding back the sea from flooding, the green heart were amazing. Such fun to ride across the tops of them, hearing the crazy whooshing of the giant windmills harvesting energy from the skies above.

Meanwhile, the back loosened up, or something, and feels if not as good as yesterday better than this morning. I'll take it, but yesterday morning I thought it was going to be easy.

What I hope I don't have to take is another day of driving rain. Wet is forecast to continue, but I have been enjoying the lighter days when it stops on occasion to let you dry out. I think that's what tomorrow is going to be 🙂

Posted by
441 posts

Thanks for sharing your biking adventures! Sorry to hear about the biking fall, and nice to read about your kind reception at the bike shop. I did chuckle about them saving your old tires for a less liked individual.

Posted by
412 posts

Hank, thanks for sharing this. It is so interesting. Can’t say I’m envious of being cold, wet and injured but everything you’ve seen and done is great to read about. Happy to read about some bike comradely experiences too. You write so well that I could picture those bike shop dudes.

I think you should think about a doc in the box if breathing issues and congested lungs reoccur, however. Don’t want to risk pneumonia….

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2201 posts

Well, I missed out on the Tour de France after Peacock shut me out, but now I have Tour de Hank. Thanks for sharing all of this; it brings back good memories, especially of the Carrfours supermarche in Lille. We shopped there when my daughter spent a year in Lille teaching middle school kids. I can’t believe the wet weather - is it as chilly as it looks?

The picture of the meal with all the french fries. - do you remember what you ordered? We ended up with a meal like that in Arles and it was not what we were aiming for.

Safe riding.

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1800 posts

01/08

Thanks for the tea and sympathy about the ribs. Kindness always helps

Today pain is between okay day two and horrible day three. So progress! Will take it :)

I watched some videos, did a thorough prodding self-exam for pain points, tried to determine where pain was "real" and where radiating. I think I sprained joints badly at the spine and a little at the sternum. Which to me is good news - no fractures to displace if I crash again. Think though is the operative word - rubber side down are the words of the day.

Sorry to drone on about the injury. It's on the mind when one is hurt and alone in a foreign land doing something where it could happen again (fingers crossed not). At least it's Holland - the Dutch will help if need be, in general great folks.

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1800 posts

01/08

In other news, life is a'ight at the Land and Zee resort this morning on the breezy windward shores of Schouwen Island. Germans dominate the guest population, So my Birkenstocks feel right at home. This place was a solid value if not a budget option - $145 for a nice room with close view of real herons fishing an artificial lagoon, including a three course dinner and an extensive breakfast buffet.

https://imgur.com/Wz7K12v

It was raining so hard last night, and so chilly that I couldn't stomach the idea of trying to rally to go out to dinner after getting into a dry room.
So last night was dinner in the hotel, and then what seems to be my usual evening activity, figuring out how I can get all of my belongings dry. This room fortunately had the holy Trinity: an operational radiator, an operational towel drying rack, and a hair dryer with low settings. So far I've been clever enough not to scorch my Gore-Tex or melt the insoles of my shoes.

And as per usual activity, two of the evening consisted of how to then cool the room down enough to get to sleep. Scintillating nightlife!

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1800 posts

01/08

Let's chat fiber.

When I first show up I wanted these trips, I'm happy enough to eat restaurant food. But as the days push into weeks it starts to become apparent that Europe's main project is to stuff me full of meat and fried potatoes. And croquettes, croissants, cheese, processed meat, etc etc.

At home I eat a lot of whole foods, and while what I'm getting in, Europe is not in general overly processed, it can lack in fiber. So my wife and I have developed a dictum: in Northern Europe get your fiber when you can. So although when I looked at the big breakfast bar this morning I most wanted to eat pastries and cheese, this is the plate when I came aways with:

https://imgur.com/a/Oajl2ro

Tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, white melon, yummy Dutch egg salad, " vitamin" juice, cappuccino. A brown multigrain roll joined the party.

Okay, I did have a pain au chocolat for dessert, along with a second cappuccino to push me out the door 🙂

The other thing that I will get into in the morning is the muesli and yogurt.

These choices are so much better for my day-to-day health and function than what I would otherwise eat on the buffet. And they also make it easier to eat the rest of the day, say when I am spinning through a train station with no time and need to grab a piece of pizza, or want to order a big plate of stoofkarbonade (beef stew) and french fries at dinner.

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1800 posts

Hi Patty

Stoofkarbonade, a local beef stew, with apple compote on the side, and a nice bowl of Belgian frites. Cambrinus pub (recommended!) In Bruge.

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1800 posts

01/08 102km 1000vf

https://imgur.com/a/ExiEwbe

Rode from Schouwen to Oudewater in Utrecht province today. Dry weather even though a few times the clouds looks threatening. I'll be meeting my family day after tomorrow in Amersfoort, and almost was going to ride straight there. But I found it today. I'm already in waiting mode instead of experiencing mode, so figured it was better to stop somewhere else and spread myself out a little bit.

Good riding today with favorable wind the whole way. Extremely diverse landscapes, from seacoast, to giant public works, cute towns, suburbs, river trails, big city, heavy industry, exurbs, farm country, pretty much a little slice of everything that makes up Dutch society.

The most impressive part of the ride to me was riding through the Rotterdam port area. It must have been about 20 mi worth of riding or more. The port is absolutely huge, second largest in the world to Singapore. Cycling through a similar massive heavy industrial area in the United States would be suicide. But in the Netherlands literally a child could do it. Big trucks, car traffic, bikes, pedestrians and trains all have reasonable corridors on which to travel. There were moving sidewalk ramps to help court workers go up some high overpasses on their bikes, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

But the highlight was the Mass River bicycle tunnel. A long deep tunnel underneath a wide portion of the Mass river in Rotterdam's port area, the tunnel is accessed by either elevator or long escalators that are meant to carry bikes (try pushing your bike onto an escalator anywhere else in the world and see how quickly you are flagged for breaking the rules). Just unbelievable how great the bicycle infrastructure is, and how well used it is here.

The port itself was cool to see from the perspective of cruising comfortably and safely on a bicycle, seemingly endless wharfs and slips and cranes.

A quick side trip to see the market square at Gouda again, then the last 15 miles or so through beautiful, pure Dutch farmland. Cows, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, green fields, pretty farm houses and canal after canal after canal.

I enjoyed the suburbs too, many set in rows on canals, some with bridges to each house so each home seemed like it was on its own little island.

Oudewater is probably the most authentically Dutch town I've stayed in. By this I mean it is small, quite good looking, and people'd almost entirely by small town locals. The witch weighing museum was pretty neat, and apparently this place made its name in the rope trade, rope icons here and there if you keep your eye out.

Good day today, quiet but good. It's surprises me that I did almost a thousand feet of climbing because it seems so flat. But I guess over 100 km climbing up and down all the bridges and levies add up.

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1800 posts

02/08

Currently in transit Oudewater to Amersfoort, where my jetlagged wife, daughter, and daughter's friend arrive (fingers crossed) tomorrow afternoon.

It rained very hard from 8am to 10:45am this morning. Normally I would have been up and out regardless, but since today's transfer is only 50km, I stayed in my hotel room until check out time.

Currently I'm sitting in a little suburban park just outside of Utrecht eating my lunch - a sausage pastry roll and an iced cinnamon raisin custard roll. The sweet pastry has a Danish smorkage vibe to it, which is a very good thing.

At the entrance to this park there was a no bicycles sign. I though could find nowhere else with a bench on which to eat lunch along the highway side bike trail. And I have all my stuff with me, travel bags on the bike, etc, So I couldn't park it outside. So I walked it in to the closest bench to the entrance, sat down and ate my lunch.

In the United States, a park like this would be abandoned. But in the Netherlands, because of the high population density, it's almost literal that there's always someone within eyesight. People use this park, mostly walking little dogs.

If this was a German park, or a Danish park, or an Austrian park, I would have had minimum picked up. A lot of dirty looks for my bicycle being walked 20 m past the gate, and probably would have heard about my violation from someone. Rules are rules.

But the Dutch are fairly pragmatic people. I think most people walking by see that I have a touring bike loaded with baggage, and then I'm eating lunch, and they put two and two together that I'm a traveler who needed someplace to sit down and couldn't leave his bike outside the, more or less. And then they at worst ignore me, mostly say hello. There's a no harm, no foul sort of attitude than I find really appealing among the Dutch. It's not anarchic, but rather a feeling that rules are guidelines for behavior that suggest what is reasonable, and as long as one is not being purposefully harmful, a little situational flexibility is okay.

Maybe some of this general attitude towards public interaction and behavior comes from the fact that there are so many people stuffed into such a little space, and so it works a little better to be a little more flexible than to be rigid.

Whatever it is, I didn't have to eat my lunch standing up and a variety of people let me pet their cute little dogs. Win win (at least for me and the dogs that got petted 🙂)

Posted by
4196 posts

After your initial post, I have deliberately saved reading your blog till I could read multiple entries at the same time for the reading enjoyment. While the pictures are great, you have painted clear sketches with your words. I hope the ribs are not as painful and thank you for sharing a different sort of travel adventure!

Posted by
412 posts

Tour de Hank, that’s a great description of your journey. You have a terrific way of phrasing your experiences. I was soon doing the google thing looking up Maas river bicycle tunnel. Amazing. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by
1800 posts

Thanks very much TTM - you have nice energy and I appreciate it.

https://imgur.com/a/N8Zd4hj

02/08 53km 650vf

Easy day today, shorter. Only pedaled for two and a half hours, and not too hard.

It was fun zigzagging around in Utrecht. It's really a great city. Hard to describe. On the one hand, there's a lot of stately Dutch buildings. And then on the other, a guy riding down the middle of the street in a leather jacket with a mohawk. But he looks like he owns a gallery or something. Leiden often gets described as a little, clean. nice Amsterdam. But Utrecht is not that. If Amsterdam didn't exist, Utrecht would essentially remain the same. I'm not sure if I'm saying this right. Utrecht has a very clear independent identity, and it is quite itself, not established through comparisons.

There's a lot of very old-school Netherlands stuff going on in Utrecht - an ancient university, quintessentially Dutch bakeries staffed by no one under 70 years old, stately old buildings. It has a reserved, dignified vibe. But then it has a lot of markers of contemporary society, a big gay population, cutting edge arts. It's a nice place, a bit of a yuppie town to some extent, far less gritty than Amsterdam. But I don't want to make the comparison. Suffice to say I like it, great town. If you were offered a job there and you took it, he wouldn't be making a mistake.

Rolling up to Amersfoort you ride up a hill. By right up a hill, I mean the grade of the bicycle path tips to, at most, 1 percent grade. Usually though less than that. It takes about 5 mi when you have finally basically imperceptibly gained 135 vertical feet. And then there's a funny sign that you are at the top of a col, which is technically correct.

Near the top of the "mountain" I saw a sign pointing apparently toward a ski lift. I had to go take a look, and sure enough a rope tow and a tiny ski hill. Hopefully global warming doesn't spoil the winter fun.

Amersfoort is another place where it would be nice to live. The country around it is a little bit more forested and a bit more rolling than the rest of the Netherlands, but it still has cows and farmland. It's a handsome town of a useful size with more shopping streets than one would think it could support. Pretty buildings, giant tower, beautiful walls, gates and ramparts here and there, the requisite mossy canals. Bigger than a little town but maybe still too small to call a city.

Of course the Netherlands is full of places like this. It's a tiny country with a lot of people all generally pulling in the same direction. So it tends to be one nice place to live after another, after another, after the next. I think I've said this before, but I really do admire the Dutch. They have built a wonderful little world for themselves. They must feel proud, collectively having made their land such a cool place to be.

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1380 posts

Maybe he's a member or fan of the Punk band, Nixe. They are from Utrecht :).

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1800 posts

Perhaps! It appears in the Netherlands that the leather jacket and coiffed faux-hawk have not gone out of style among middle-aged men. Ride it to the grave say.

Rode a 54km loop out of Amersfoort yesterday, a hilly ride for the Dutch, meaning a few barely perceptible grades and one or two downhills where you didn't have to pedal at all for a short time. First ride of the trip I didn't like. Not particularly interesting or scenic, and it went through several small ag towns where drivers were remarkably, oblivious or aggressive for the Netherlands. It was supposed to be a window of clear weather, but it started raining hard 10 minutes out the door, and continued for the remainder of the two and a half hours, just tapering off as I got back soaked through and coated with road grit. Boo.

But of course they can't all be winners, and a bike ride is better than not a bike ride. I've been using the app Komoot to plan routes and find rides. The ride finding is hit or miss, as you are at the mercy of the person who created the given route. My Flanders loop was an incredible tour, great riding and chock full of fascinating WWI sites. This loop out of Amersfoort not so much.

What has been remarkably consistent, very good, are the routes the Komoot app itself plans. You put in a start, a finish, and any waypoints you want to visit, and Komoot does the rest. And on this trip it's been doing it very well. I've used Komoot for maybe five trips now, and it has improved every year. This year it seems to have surpassed a level where it's doing. It's route planning really well. Not just getting you their efficiently and safely, but also choosing to steer you through the most beautiful places on the way. Knock on wood of course, it's a computer program, maybe AI? It can blow it so you still need to keep your head up and double check its work. But it's been great!

Family arrived last night, and it was a pretty typical good first night. Train direct from Schipol to Amersfoort, quick transition out the hotel door to walk around the town and get some sunlight in air, drop the one totally wiped out person back at the hotel to just get a lot of sleep, early dinner reservation at a pannekoeken place. Pannekoeken is a superlatively good choice for the first meal on arrival - iconically Dutch, delicious, informal, easy on the jet-lagged system.

A bit more strolling the pretty parts of town, pass through the market for snacks in case anyone wakes up hungry at 2am.

All slept long and well in the unremarkable but quiet and comfortable NH Amersfoort chain hotel. First night are all about dark quiet and comfortable - character hotels can mix in after that.

There is understandably more frenetic energy with a group of 4, and I'm already at cruising altitude on this trip. The rest are just getting their wheels up. Might be a day or two before energies sync, but a long family bike tour through completely Dutch made Flevoland today should go a long way toward settling us all in :)

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1800 posts

On the train from Amersfoort up to Harderwijk right now to pick up bikes for the newly added three. Bike area on the Sprinter a bit congested because some kiddy trailers too.

You can definitely credit the Dutch public though for knowing how to move around parked bicycle. In other place it there can be askirts snagged on pedals, hands awkwardly placed on wobbly seats leading to dominoes falling, etc. The Dutch though flow through bicycle-clogged train aisles like water in a calm stream. It's nice not to have to be on guard to help people pass.

Cheery mood in the cyclist section this morning, lots of chat among multiple parties mostly initiated by a friendly German man (side note god bless the minority of outwardly friendly German extroverts - the really grease the gears for those of us who are guests in an otherwise reserved land :).

Back to the chat now. It won't rain today, at least not much, the weekend starts now, and all are in a spreeish (to invoke a cheery German adjective) mood.

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1800 posts

05/08

Photos at end of post

Less time for updates that family has arrived.

Rental bike pickup in Harderwijk went smoothly, and first day ride of 57km was beautiful. It's a great route. Highlights included little Hanseatic League village Elburg. The place looks like Martha Stewart had a Dutch Maritime dream. Not much too it but a lovely stroll around fortress town.

From Elburg across the bridge to Flevoland. It blows my mind that Flevoland, named for a Roman general, did not exist when I was born. It's a huge expanse of farmland, and plenty of populated area. There are trees, all the infrastructure you would expect. When I was born it's sat at the bottom of a massive lake, which when my father was born was a massive saltwater bay. I know I've said it before: God made the earth, but the Dutch made the Netherlands. So cool to see it first hand. So interesting to consider that Elburg and Harderwijk in recent history were saltwater bay facing, see fairing fishing and trading towns. Wow.

And been on to Kampen. A Dutch friend went to college there, and recommended it to me - not so big but beautiful. Quite correct. Kampen did a bit of a Brugges: at one point, one of the larger Hanseatic cities until the river silted up. As such, Kampen is one of the best preserved old cities in the Netherlands. And since it was made rich through trade, it is quite good looking. Very cool.

Next stop Genemuiden, a largely untouristed town from which our daughter's friend's family hails. Interesting place. Made its name in the woven doormat game using the local bullrushes that fringe most waterways and also serve as thatch. When the salty Zuidersee became the freshwater Ijselmeer, the bullrush quality dropped. Not to be vanquished easily, Genemuiden imported better bullrush from India and still sits at the top of the doormat pile.

The entire town burned down in the 1800's (pro tip: don't pack your tavern street with haystacks) and it shows - looks a bit like it had been bombed and reconstructed in similar brick but with far less style. But it was fun documenting said daughter's friend's family name all over town, particularly many in the local graveyard.

Form there to Zwartsluis to hotel for two nights directly overlooking the Ijsel river. Local youth did donuts and yelped like head-injured dogs in their aluminum outboards until sunset.

This area is farther from the pull of big cities, and still fundamentalist, as it was a historical haven for very early radical protestants. Bibles in the hotel rooms here, and locals a bit more country reserved. Clerks and waitstaff can speak English, but don't unless they really need to sort out a problem. Even after it is clear you don't speak Dutch, it's Dutch every time they interact with your table. And unlike most of Holland, just about zero brown people in these parts, save for a north African enclave we passed in the outskirts of Kampen.

Such is the countryside, still pretty and pretty traditional, with typical apparent conservatism.

This morning, after early trip troubled sleep for the new arrivals, we rode a 40km loop to se Giethoorn. As good as reported! But must say that the entire ride, not just Giethoorn was fab. Crowd favorite in fact was cycling the tiny back lanes and tinier bridges of not Giethoorn but Belt-Schutsloot, a flowery Giethoorn imposter. Other features of the ride included super-cute tiny cable ferry, wild national park, immaculately kept farmhouses with all sorts of beautiful livestock. It was wonderful to have literal context for Giethoorn, not just get off a bus and walk onto a tour boat.

We beat a rainstorm home for an in-room picnic, but it's pouring now and looking bad for the next couple of days. Our string of dry rides might have ended at two - we shall see :)

https://imgur.com/a/gNPOS4H

Posted by
412 posts

Question: helmet use: years ago during a visit I noticed no one wore helmets, even kids, in the Netherlands. Is it different now?

And thanks for the first laugh out loud of the day. You almost got me with the mountain lion warning 😁.

Posted by
1800 posts

Mountain lion warning? Sorry, no idea ....

Helmet use is still low among locals. There is definitely a separation between sport cycling (on a road racing bike or mountain bike) where they use helmets, and regular cycling, where they don't. By and large that is - some locals in each category buck the trend.

There might actually be a small rise in overall helmet use, but small. I think I see them on more people.

I'm somewhat agnostic on this hot button subject, and will ride my bike in Europe around town sometime no helmet.

But helmet advocates' arguments are definitely more reasonable than the nonsense the no crowd tend to rely on ("once you put on a helmet you start taking dangerous risks," "we go too slow for head injuries," "if helmet are required so many people will quit cycling, get fat and diabetes will be even worse than head injuries," and other such patent palaver). Really they just don't want to wear helmets, and won't, which is fine! Just say that instead of inventing clearly unjustifiable BS arguments.

In the end I think not wearing a helmet while riding to the market on a one speed omafiets (granny bike) is a negligible risk for most people. Yes technically more dangerous than with a helmet, but still extremely low risk for most people.

Cycling deaths and serious injuries though (mostly head injuries) are up in the Netherlands, and elsewhere. The reason is clearly e-bikes. There seem to be more riders of e-bikes than regular bikes in the parts of the Netherlands I've been visiting, not just out on the longer distance trails but even in town.

Now people who used to go slow zip along at a faster clip. Some have gone to helmets, but most stick to their pre-e-bike no helmet habits. Particularly among locals 55 and older this has proven to be a more dangerous choice and is mostly the cause of the spike in deaths and serious injuries. Speed, as the said back in the day, still kill.

One thing for sure I can tell you though is a helmet while touring is a GREAT idea. Loaded bike; unfamiliar roads, traffic systems, driver habits; fatigue and inattention from hour after hour riding; need to ride in terrible weather; and so much more. It's a fractured skull waiting to happen! Helmet for sure on tour.

Which I do see a lot of - nearly all tourers in Europe wear helmets.

I was surprised at how hard the back of my head whiplashed against the pavement during my slide-out fall in Flanders. Not brutally hard, but pretty solid for not going over the bars. Without the helmet likely would have at least seen stars, and definitely dealt with a goose egg and/or impact cut after that. Happy to not have another injury to deal with. The smashed ribs (which are holding steady at low grade sharp pain - no fun but manageable) and various road rash (now a mess if crusty scabs) are plenty!

Gloves are also a great choice for safety. I've burned the skin off the palms of my hands three times "supermaning" off a crashing bike. It's a nearly undefeatable reflex to stick out your hands as you meet the ground. And let me tell you - I've had asphalt burns in many places, but none of them came close to to the pain of road rashed palms. Special kind if torture. Gloves completely solve this problem.

Anyway too much crash talk before a day of riding in what looks like ugly weather. For a hot crowded summer in Europe, I've certainly spent a lot of time wet and borderline cold in quiet locales. Will take it over hot and crowded, although hot and crowded sounds like a nice enough change right now looking out the window at the morning rain :)

Posted by
97 posts

I'm enjoying your trip report and appreciate the comments about Rouen since I'll be there in exactly one month!
Hope your recovery is going well and your family finds good weather.

Posted by
1800 posts

10/08

Well it's been a minute. As I figured might happen, family travel became all encompassing, giving me little time to update.

We are no longer in the Netherlands. The tour went well, all things considered. All things including drippy cool weather, and the surroundings not being perhaps as socks knocking as some other places. I asked my girls to rate our tour of the Netherlands Hanseatic area, and they gave it a 6 out of 10. Thoughts were that some of the cities and towns were a little bit flat, not a back-to-back-to-back string of home runs such as one might encounter bike touring in the Loire for example. And the scenery while biking tends to rotate through a small flipbook of four or five different types of scenes. For the fourth day you have seen at all many times over.

But everyone was satisfied, and glad we went. The Kroller Muller museum is pretty awesome. For one, it's in the middle of a national park. Not a national park like Yosemite or Bertchesgaden mind you, more like a wooded natural area with a lot of small trees and hills and paths. Most people are not allowed to drive to the museum, so most people ride a bicycle. The park maintains a fleet of white share bicycles, so visitors can pedal to wherever and just grab a bike and go. Fun!

The Kroller Muller's collection is pretty awesome, and given that one must make a conscious and physical effort to get there, the crowd did not just roll off of a bus and randomly pick out the second most popular site listed in their guidebook. Rather the museum is full of people who really appreciate and wanted to see the art. The Van Gogh collection is impressive, second largest in the world after the eponymous museum in Amsterdam. It is not mobbed. You can sit down in front of many different famous paintings and stare at them in peace as long as you'd like.

The rest of the collection is also great.
Globally iconic masters from roughly impressionist period through to the modernists. And always Dutch artists with similar styles, nearly always a couple years later, next to the international master. Interesting to see the Dutch acolyte to Seurat for instance.

We stayed at many solid hotels, but everyone liked the lovely Human and Horse Hotel the best. The whole place is clearly someone's passion project. A huge horse facility with parade grounds, very nice stables, lots of corrals. The idea is that you can travel here with your horse, for an event, or just as of a vacation for you and your horse. Do all the trail rides in the forest surrounding the hotel, braid some manes, you know, relax and get some quality human and horse time. The owners appear to be Appaloosa nuts: full size Appaloosas, Appaloosa ponies, cheerfully wild pack of Dalmatians running loose. Lots of fun to pet them all and feed grass where appropriate. Decent rooms, comfortable public hangout, beautiful varied breakfast, extensive honor bar including top shelf liquors and cordials. It's three miles to a restaurant, which I think was called the " what the heck are you gringos doing in this little town bar and grill," or maybe the Golden Lion.

Rental bikes were returned without incident.

Of by train, all the ladies stayed a night near Schipol for an early morning flight to Venice. They went into Amsterdam, walked to the Anne Frank house and around the Jordaan, sent me photos of what looked like epically good Rijstafel at some highly rated joint, all the beautiful dishes before, total devastation after - not one bite survived. Say a little prayer.

Continued

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412 posts

Happy day, another Hank missive😊. Plus I’ve been wondering when to do another art trip to the Netherlands and Belgium. I did one in Feb ‘09 and need to see it all again plus make it to the Kroller this time. It sounds wonderful.

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1800 posts

Thanks Lyndash, too kind.

https://imgur.com/a/pPbYJF1

I rode Barney 40 something miles into an absolutely brutal headwind to Amsterdam, through a bunch of the city to Centraal Station. Quite fun riding a bike around Amsterdam, which is absolutely teeming with bikes and crazy. It's the first place I saw stupid bike behavior, some kid in the scruffy outskirts running very red lights at 30 mph on a scooter through bike lanes, either oblivious or totally not caring that he was going to light someone up sooner rather than later. And then closer in a perfectly rational looking middle-aged man whom I was following running all the yields on his granny bike, being run into and running into people, being cursed at, and never changing the serene look on his face, like a catatonic.

I don't recommend riding a bike in Amsterdam. I'm completely reflexive on a bicycle - It feels more natural to me than walking. And I'm not going to say that I had any trouble at all riding in Amsterdam. I was very tired from 65 mi total riding that day, and the blasted headwind, so in a super mellow, low adrenaline, lightly spacy, but relaxed and openly aware of state. It was fun. But if you don't feel born onto a bicycle, and if you don't already get how the bicycle traffic system works in Dutch cities, everything is going to be moving a lot faster than most people can process. Warm up in some easier places before you hit the hard stuff.

I sacked up my buddy Barney and took the OBB Nightjet to Innsbruck. Bought a whole sleeper compartment to myself so that bagged Barney would not be an issue. And while Barney was not an issue, the OBB Nightjet sucks. Yes, I slept, but painfully. It's a terrible product for what it costs. Thin bad mattresses, pillow a little bit bigger than a box of tic-tacs, scratchy beat up comforter mismatched with those in the unused beds. Compartment was generally. Two tiny sacks of terrible snacks (I mean what kind of maniac thinks that waxy cherry chocolate coating stale powdery dried chickpeas is a treat?). Super indifferent service, like sleeping at the post office.

No water in the bathroom or compartment sinks in the entire sleeper car. I'm not talking about the silly shower. I'm in an entire sleeper car full of people for 14+ hours and nobody can wash their hands. Everybody touching all the same knobs and everything. Gross. No hand sanitizer either. I was super bummed I hadn't packed any. How the heck they decide they are just going to roll this sleeper train with zero water is beyond me. I mean there must be some kind of system, where in water is put on the train when it stops? I dunno ...

Gross out alert. Skip this paragraph if you are squeamish. Toilet barely flushing so it was in third world prison condition pretty quickly. After morning coffee I went to do my business. And when the time came realized no toilet paper, no paper towels. I wiped with a plastic tampon bag. And then of course no water to get things sorted after the fact. A visit to the conductor guy showed that all of these supplies were available in abundance, just not restocked (or from what I can tell stocked the first place).

So yeah, OBB Nightjet can bite me. It's a beat up old crappy product that cost as much as a nice hotel. I'd rather take an extra day or so than save the time.

And that was the Netherlands! Sincerest dank u wels to the dozens of nice people we met along the way, and even the two jerks (I might post on them later, interesting cultural experience).

I'm in the Dolomites right now, waiting for the ladies to finish up Venicing and bicycle riding myself silly around beautiful mountains. Good stuff :)

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Tomorrow is a full day, and then reunited with the family, and then another very full day on Saturday. So I'm going to try to tell just a little here about riding from Innsbruck to Brixen, and then about riding around the Dolomites above Brixen.

Will post a bunch of pictures though, and honestly pictures do better in the mountains than words anyway.

On 08/08 I arrived at Innsbruck 9am, mildly grumpy after OBB Nightjetting. It took about an hour to get Barney put together and find a store to get some food supplies. The food supply thing is a bit tricky traveling alone. It's not practical to take all the stuff off the bike and lock it up, so generally you're looking for a store in not too scummy of an area where you can see the bike a lot and get in and out quickly. Pulled it off fine, running off with my eyes one up-early drug addict who in turn was eyeing up Barney.

Rode 100km with 5100' of climbing. I had somewhat forgotten what a hill was in the Netherlands. Austria quickly set me straight on the subject.

I had been planning on skipping the Brenner pass. It's a very long climb, 20 miles, much of it on a low to no shoulder highway with truck traffic. Not super scenic, and the Brenner pass itself is a weird place. It had been a duty-free shopping area before the EU. Now all the shops are still there, but generating a lot less business, the weird European 1960's commercial buildings decaying noticeably. Still a lot of random people stop, so there are just a lot of random people. It's like a highway rest area with knockoff North Face vests.

But you cross into Italy, and then, perhaps an intuitively, the roads get nicer and the bicycle infrastructure becomes wonderful. The cycling becomes easier, down not being as steep as the up on the Austrian side, cruisey and feel good.

Wasn't sure where I would stay. As with the last time when my family would be arriving within a few days, I had an urge to get to where they will be arriving. Bolzano was within my range, but I stopped in Brixton instead. Booked two nights so I would be certain not to squat in Bolzano like a sad faithful dog waiting for my owners to return.

Brixton is a pretty town, with many baroque churches, arcaded streets, and a lively tourist scene. German speaking local visitors, and Italian speaking tourists from farther south. Most people though it seems can speak both German and Italian, even a lot of the Italian Italians. As usual, I am a little bit language jelly, but get by.

I celebrated my long ride and Italian arrival yesterday with a beautiful Negroni made by the Hotel Krone Eat Drink Stay's affable and competent barman. In the bathtub, just me and the Negroni, barman stood his post.

Then I went out and got a haircut. I love getting a haircut in Europe. In Seattle "hip" haircut chains with don't give an isht punk rock barbers are now pushing $70 bucks out the door for a middling mens short cut. Rudys, The Shoppe, etc. In Brixen $16 for a great haircut from a super professional Vietnamese-Italian guy (slickly dapper, killer Italian style) running a family business. I felt like telling him come to Seattle, you could charge 100 bucks and people would fall all over themselves. thanking you.

https://imgur.com/a/Y2xwxiB

Today 10/08 I did a 32mi 3500' gravel and tiny paved road loop up in the mountains. Short, but tough riding, took 4 full hours pedalling. Child's play around here - these Dolomite Italians were recommending me 7k vertical foot routes as intermediate. Beautiful, some photos below.

Also officially best gelato I've ever had, and I've had hundreds. Got to see the picture to know where.

https://imgur.com/a/P4aHrvz

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14580 posts

I only take the Night Jet the compartment option, never the couchette or sleeper, basically too pricey, don't need it. Luckily, and I mean luckily, in each of these NJ trains taken, maybe 12 by now, the condition of the WC was satisfactory.

The Innsbruck -Amsterdam connection by Night Jet is a very viable option using a Pass, paying only for the seat reservation.

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2201 posts

I’m savoring your posts and waiting until the end of the day to read them. I probably will never get to many of these places, so I love seeing the pictures. The 14 yr old’s breakfast made me laugh - there was fish and a veg! Thanks again for sharing all the details.

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1800 posts

Thanks Patty, glad you are enjoying :)

Fred I think you are right. Because of the bike I needed to book either entire 3 person sleeper compartment or entire 4 person couchette. Cost was similar so went sleeper. $275. I figured that it was about the price of flying and a modest hotel room. But ended up bothered because it's not an insignificant figure, and the product - not clean, not taken care of, low grade amenities - screamed no one cares. If it was a hotel I would never ever stay there again. And it is essentially a hotel on wheels. So I'm not staying again.

But I suppose if I had to get there overnight then a chair that reclines a bit could be suffered through (I'm an awful chair sleeper). Keep the extra a couple hundred bucks in my pocket.

I'd rather though sit on the train all day I think, then stay in a comfortable hotel at destination. Call it a rest day.

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1800 posts

As predicted, family time was busy time, not much space for updating trip reports.

Went to Alpe di Suisi twice, once alone by bike, once with family. Both excellent experiences. Best mountain hut food of the trip for sure. Rauchhutte - bookmark it - the real deal. Good value too - a couple euro per plate more than the more generic huts but a very nice food and mucho Gezelligheid. Crazy wine collection too - you can see Petrus locked in the cellar.

https://imgur.com/a/IhzoQ5H

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412 posts

Good morning, Hank is back! Happy to hear the trip continues busy and happy. Food looks great.

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1800 posts

17/08 140km, 1700'

Today I rode north from Italy across Austria and into Germany.

Sitting on the train eight now headed to Munich Ostbahnhof, then ride through city to meet family at hotel and get some dinner.

It was a long day! Rode train to Brenner Pass, then down to Innsbruck. Brenner on the Innsbruck side is not a great ride either way. Too much highway riding, mid to low scenic, and actually not easy going down. Many short climbs you can't take momentum into, and scary downhills you don't want to take fast. My average speed down Brenner was slower than my average for the rest of the day running close to flat and into a headwind down the river Inn.

Kind of an ugly run down the river. I'd always wanted to ride down the Inn from Innsbruck (which means heading east). Turned out not scenic, muddy river, some bad paths, lots of industrial zones, mostly smelled like industrial farming. Won't do it again but glad that now I know.

About 90km in I really needed a break but didn't have much luck in town. But then, like a mirage with chill techno music, a trailside cafe appeared. Cyclists lounged with Aperol Spritzers and beers. I had a big slice of a lightweight cheesecake filled berry cake and a cappuccino. Then an Apfelschorle.

Bike touring is just like travel in that it hits you with highs and lows. Both ephemeral. Nothing gold can stay, but it can and should be savoured, and stored to help float through the lows.

I'm a bit over Europe by now. Little things aren't so interesting anymore, more annoyed at rude people, etc. I'm working though on an attitude of appreciation. Life is so good for me, traveling healthy and free, so it's not hard. I certainly appreciated that cafe in the middle of nowhere on the bike track, some historical info on covered bridge, a few beautiful towns up off the river I doubt many gringos visit.

And Munich! I in the perfect head space for a city long weekend. It's going to be hot so the beer gardens will be hopping. Plan to stay cool in the art museums and in the Eisbach river as it flows through the Englisher Garden. In 5 minutes I'm riding through the city to my hotel, meet family, microbrewery for dinner. Can't wait :)

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1800 posts

At the airport now, awaiting flight home. I had planned to stay a bit longer after my family left - ticket had some flexibility. Thought maybe north from Munich, maybe Prague, maybe Baltic Sea coast. A week or so more.

But decided I'd had my fill, that it had been a really nice month. Plus I could tell I'd miss my girls. So called it a trip and headed back to Seattle.

I'll continue to update this trip report for a while - i skipped a lot! Munich was awesome - such a great city. Once I'm done done with the trip report I'll post a separate thread linking to the finished product.

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Some Munich photos:

https://imgur.com/a/3j1IPp8

We had a great time in Munich, such a superstar of a city. More to it than you'd think. And of course all you might expect.

A few random observations.

The bigger name tourist sites are worth your time. The Residenz is fantastic, but keep moving - it never stops.

The Alte Pinakothek museum is among my very favorites. The collection of Baroque painting is phenomenal, as are the works from movements before and after. And there's a HUGE bonus right now: the Neue Pinakothek is closed, but a big selection of their best works is on the ground floor of the Neue. So you also get the great masters of Impressionism, Post Impressionism, etc rolled into a single ticket. Botticelli (and before) through Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin. Wow.

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1800 posts

It was a lot of fun biking in the city in Munich. Like Amsterdam, I don't necessarily recommend it, but for different reasons. Amsterdam is swarming with bikes, which makes it difficult to join in - too many bikes everywhere to make a mistake in the flow.

Munich is less crowded with bikes, but they move faster than any other city I've experienced. Seriously - Muncheners fly on their bikes in the city. I can ride fast but couldn't quite keep up with the fastest. The city bikes people ride are remarkably tuned for speed.

I mentioned this speedy cycling to the desk guy at my hotel, and he heartily agree and knew exactly of what I spoke. And very much didn't like it. "What is the word ... reckless? Since Covid all the young ride bikes and pedestrians live in fear."

But if you are with the sportliche cycle mob bombing around town it is certainly a lot of fun.

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412 posts

Glad to hear you are safe and home and savoring your month of adventure. I’ve never traveled in Europe for a full month. 3 1/2 weeks has been my longest sojourn. I start to feel a bit of sensory overload at that point. Perhaps I need to schedule more planned downtime.

I loved the museums in Munich way back 15 years ago. Wonderful Durers to the Blue Rider school. Great Greek and Roman antiquities museum too as I recall.

Do you do a total mileage count? How did this work out compared to what you planned?

Thanks for sharing, I know it takes more time than you wanted to spend sometimes.

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1800 posts

Biergartens are wonderful phenomena. It's great to see all sorts of people roll out for a evening (and/or afternoon) under the chestnuts. Much that we do in the US is factionalized; but a biergarten draws wide slices of population. About the only Muncheners I did see represented in biergartens are Muslim.

Quick sidenote - we stayed just outside of Munich's large, largely Muslim Arab/North African district south of the hauptbahnhof. I've never seen Muslims drinking en relative masse, but on these streets at 5pm Heineken were flowing
out of the Arab mini-marts and being hoisted liberally. Munich's beer tradition is a force. People drink beer everywhere and at all times of day, including, apparently, a significant swath of the more recent immigrants.

But back to biergartens. I fundamentally dislike the Hofbrauhaus, Chinese Tower, Tiergarten. The big name touristy beer gardens have a state fair vibe and are too gaudily frenetic for me to be able to relax. Cheesy and squealy. Even the massive Augustiner garden north of the Hauptbahnhof feels too much to mw nowadays.

We did attend three however that we quite enjoyed. Next post will outline those.

It should be said that in Munich there is probably a biergarten for everyone, even if you don't like beer. A little research goes a long way in steering you the ones with your name on them.

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4159 posts

I enjoyed your TR for the unique way you travelled and I've been considering the Imgur photo app from the the first time you brought it up a few months ago. I think I'll start experimenting with it for my next Trip Report. I like the added dimension it gives to a report.

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441 posts

Thanks for sharing your trip, Hank. I also thought the photos added a lot to it.

I am a big fan of Munich in general and really enjoy the beer garden culture. We enjoyed Augustiner despite its size, though I agree that there are plenty of lovely small beer gardens throughout the city.

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1800 posts

Meg I think Augustiner, for me, is the best of the big ones. It's beautiful and classy with interesting and good beer.

I'm just somewhat over "mass events," which is how 2000 people in one place feels to me :)

Allan thanks!

Lyndash I definitely will tally up my Strava miles and feet climbed - fun for me to see it all together. I have about 100 miles that went unrecorded as well, user error :)

Also, 3.5 weeks is a long trip! Im just some days longer this time, not even a week. Last summer was 6 weeks but I got homesick after my family left. Or really family sick - only thing I missed was my people. Did far better this time travelling solo before they arrived - will be the template going forward.

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14580 posts

This past trip instead of staying up north, as originally planned, I spent much more time in the south, especially in Munich, got to see new areas, districts totally new to me or which I had not seen seen since 1977.

The big beer garden I found very pleasing was that in Viktualienmarkt, good food, decent prices. Bring cash for this beer garden.

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1800 posts

Okay, regarding excellent experiences we had at Munich Biergartens this time around. Visited three (not including walking through a few of the big, touristy venues for posterity’s sake while out and about). Will take some credit for choosing places that fit our preferences – I think we would have had fun anywhere, but our choices optimized the experience.

The first on the list is the Hofbräukeller, just east of the river Isar near Max Weber Platz. (Sidebar – don’t be shy about leaving the historic center – so much great stuff just outside the ring). I’d been here before, and a generous pre-trip recommendation from RS forum’s Munich local mignon confirmed the need to return. Dropped through in the afternoon as a break on a very long walk up the Isar and down through Englisher Garten. The Hofbräukeller is what one might call archetypically typical Munich Biergarten done very well, without a whiff of the schmaltzy, campy aspect others might suffer. It has all the standard biergarten stuff in a clean, well kept, calm, convivial, local-driven setting. Strong kitchen, cold bier, not a drunkenness microculture. It’s not themed in anyway, and doesn’t pivot off of any one point that might stick out (not on a lakeshore, nor a sports field, no tower, no gift shop, not huge, not tiny, not deeply historic, not a microbrewery, not yuppie/upscale, not sticky down-market, etc) It’s a very good normal (in the best sense) pretty Munich biergarten with a relaxed, grown-up atmosphere.

As one does with maybe the least strong point in tri-part rhetoric, I’ll mention Wirtshaus am Bavariapark second. Located just west of the center just past the huge fairgrounds where Octoberfest takes place, nearly contiguous to the huge Bavaria state Statue that lords herself over Octoberfest. This smaller biergarten backs onto a leafy public park to which it is openly connected by several wide paths. Like Hofbräukeller, Wirtshaus am Bavariapark also a typical, normal biergarten, but feels more like a park facility. It’s best conceptualized as a stop on a touristing itinerary: walk out to the Octoberfest grounds, walk through taking in the scene of past and future beer-fueled madness, visit the Bavaria statue, stop in to Wirtshaus am Bavariapark for a beer and snack, public transit back to hotel to regroup. I’ll hedge my recommendation by saying this biergarten is a bit ordinary, but that’s also it’s appeal. Beer is a little cheaper, staff on the outward-friendlier side for Bavarians, next to no tourists, smaller menu but decent food, very good giant pretzel (best we had probably), shady comfortable seating. Fewer one liter mugs on tables, more tall glasses of wheat beer. I wouldn’t suggest it as a destination in itself, but nice as a more suburban, calmer feeling, less-touristed alternative (or second) walk to looping up into Englisher Garten and visiting a Biergarten there.

CONTINUED

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https://imgur.com/a/7j5expf

And last, and to me best, Paulaner am Nockherberg. Also just east of the river Iser (like Hofbraukeller), located on top of a small hill, Paulaner am Nockherberg is a higher-end biergarten experience. It’s unmistakably a biergarten – all the classic markers are there -- but it’s elevated, a bit finer. The cars and bikes outside are commensurately nicer. The grounds are very well kept and made to please the eye with tidy landscaping and professional lighting. The chef (yes they have a chef) is classically trained, so the food is very nice. Bigger menu in the table service section (The truffled Cordon Bleu looked great but wasn’t available at the self-serve), but kitchen shared across all seating. Our four split a wienerschnitzel and a chicken on mixed green salad – both huge portion, quality ingredients, well-prepared and plated with some style. If beer is not your thing, there’s a wine and cocktail shack separate from the beer and food area, pouring big glasses of good house wines, Aperol spritzes, etc. This place might sound like not-a-biergarten, but it fully and completely is. Liter mugs dominate the tables (but drinking otherwise doesn’t feel like a cope out), locals spread tablecloths and unpack picnics, lively conversation buzzes under the canopy, stammtisch types look annoyed if you don’t move it along at the beer taps, young families around the kiddy play area, posh families and work groups in the table-service zone. It’s both a true biergarten and pretty nice restaurant, where you can choose your level, just not uber-oompah, not a lot of lederhosen. I wouldn’t hesitate to do the restaurant service if that felt like the order of the evening, but you can also swoop sweaty with a picnic and fit just fine. Nice surrounding neighborhood too. Maybe 10-20% more expensive than most, but not more than the touristy icons.

Oh and right near the Paulaner headquarters and some of their brewing, so fresh beer and a bit of variety, particularly in the table service area. In the self-serve the tap-pullers are keen on filling masses with helles, but of course will sell you whatever is on the menu.

So anyway there’s my limited list. Take it for what it is – went to three, liked all three, not necessarily the three best but worked great for us 😊

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1800 posts

Working back a bit from Munich now, filling in some holes.

The Dolomites are just so lovely it hurts. I will say though that a minority of the townie men leered at the two 14 year old girls in our group with an openness that was beyond any we've experienced so far anywhere else. A minority - most did not - but a noticeable and sizable minority. No one town but rather certain types of places.

The girls' clothes: we are talking mostly cotton t-shirts and normal length jean shorts, nothing excessive. (Not that young women should not be able to dress as they please without men making it super uncomfortable). Nothing too different from what the local girls were wearing.

These men openly leered for extended time, right in front of parents, looking up and down like they were examining porno-mag centerfolds. The girls are tall for being only a couple of months past 14th birthday, and pretty kids, but it was remarkably over the top, remarkably frequent, and made them very uncomfortable as they are essentially still children.

I'm still thinking about what the cultural tendency caused this often repeated pervy extended eye-*'ing routine. The men didn't seem to do it to local girls. One particularly sticky-starer was at a mountain hut (maybe 60 years-old, appeared to be local farmer and was having his late-morning beer). He just glued his eyes onto the girls' backsides, maybe 5 meters away, for several minutes. I sat down between he and girls and conversed loudly with my wife (her German is okay and she was using it) about how our girls were 14 years old. He clearly heard, but no change in behavior. Not a lot to do at that point that wouldn't get into conflict, which I try to avoid. I'm not at all conflict-shy but trying to stay out of it.

It was bummer seeing the girls uncomfortable, choosing bigger and baggier clothing as our mountain time when on.

I suppose as a dad with a pretty daughter with pretty friends it's best to get used to it and ignore. But this level was a first for me. Four months ago we visited a big village coastal Mexico. Girls wore fairly small cut bikinis and not 1/10 the attention. This same sort of pervy staring did definitely happen more across Europe than at home, but peaked in more rural more Catholic Germanic areas. Maybe it's some innocuous cultural tendency, but really came off as creepy. Wasn't a fan.

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1800 posts

Public transit in Alto Adige and Sud Tirol is really impressive. Trains and buses clean modern plentiful and on time. And the transit system is really easy to use. The Suedtirol Transit app might be the best transit app to grace my phone's home screen.

And affordable! We bought a lot of last minute regular tickets through the entire region, and it was never sticker shock, always reasonable for how far you were going.

And road and bicycle infrastructure were also top rate! Really well engineered highways gracefully traversing terrain that seemed difficult to build on. Blew away Austria for instance.

I'm wondering if the EU pumped a lot of money into transit and infrastructure in this part of Italy over the past 20 or 30 years? Sure feels like it.

https://imgur.com/a/U96ZDTv

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1800 posts

Given the praise I just gave the transit system in Northern Italy, it makes sense that when in the Dolomites you ought use it liberally. We certainly did. So easy to get to seemingly out of the way places by train and then bus.
We really like Alpe Di Suisi (I went twice) and the mountains around Brixen and Bruneck, but the clear don’t miss was Tre Cime. It was busy! But because the main attraction is huge views of huge, unique mountains, It doesn’t really matter much if there are 1000 Italian families staggering around the loop trail – you are looking way out beyond the people anyway. Plus the farther out you go, then more things thin out. Plus we were in high season – you could easily have a less crowded experience in the shoulder season. Plus there are uncrowded side tracks and other ways to get there if you are willing to hump up and down some big elevation.
If you are up for a really long day, you could take the bus up to the beginning/end of the standard loop, walk the first half of the loop (you will have seen it all by then, and then walk the 4-5 hour trail back San Candido in the Pustertal valley. You could even take the Fun Bob down the very last part. This would be a very long day with a lot of elevation change and a lot of downhill (which isn’t for everybody – my body prefers up to down), but it’s there and quite doable if you want a big athletic endeavor in maybe the most beautiful part of the Dolomites.
Another wonderfully fun and breathtakingly pretty adventure is biking from Toblach to Cortina. Basically the entire route is along a separate bike path, two lakes along the way where people swim (not epic lakes for swimming but doable), restaurant and picnic tables at the highest pass (which isn’t too high – it’s a rail road grade so maybe 2% climb). I’m not sure if the Cortina Toblach bus has bike racks, but probably? I rode both ways, from Bruneck actually so a pretty big day. 90% of people on this route were on rented e-mountain bikes, happily churning along the car free path through post card scenery. It’s a great choice it you are dedicating one day to maybe the best bike ride of your life.

So yeah, in the Dolomites get out there and do it – well worth the effort 😊

https://imgur.com/a/RAQOrgo

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412 posts

Your pictures are so amazing. Wow, what scenery. Have you biked in Colorado? Probably not at all the same infrastructure for biking but I did wonder. My husband and I are heading to Lake City next month but will only hike/walk. No 14ers for us any longer.

I’m still angry on your young daughter and friend’s behalf. And so it starts, the worry over how you present yourself as if it is your fault for being female. Why are some men such pigs?

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1800 posts

Have a great time in Colorado Lyndash - such a beautiful place. I'm sure you'll have a great time. I definitely would like to do some riding there some day, but as I'm sure you know it's a bit intimidating coming from sea level to a land of superb outdoors athlete. No 14er's for me either :)

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1800 posts

It’s time to close out this trip report, get back to regular life.

Totals for the trip on the bike:

1058mi ridden/30,050 feet climbed, or 1703km ridden/9159 meters climbed

Barney did great – he’s an awesome travel pal. Next time I’d like to get 2000km and 10,000vm for round numbers. Seems doable, but of course another year older by then.

Flight home uneventful, save for a family sprint through the airport in Iceland to make a very late connection arrival. Nothing like a little track and field mid-transit to get the blood moving. I also liked riding to the Munich airport from Munich – solid 25 mile ride in calm surroundings started the long travel day right – much better than bagging the bike in the hotel and dragging it down to the S-Bahn.

Overall it was a good trip. Family gave it a solid B in comparison to our past trips. Highlights for the girls were Venice and hiking the Dolomites. For me cycling in Brittany/Normandie and the Dolomites. But there were so many highlights it’s hard to choose.

Downs were few, but clear crashing hard in Flanders and enduring what is very liked a cracked rib or two (feeling somewhat better now, but still a long way a good) was the worst! Life of course has its risks. Weather maybe – got an extra wet first two weeks of the trip, narrowly dodging beautiful weather in those areas before and after. Oh well, that’s the way the mop flops.
Sending vibes out the to universe is silly, but if it was a thing I’d issue mine to all the nice local people along the way. Travel intensifies interactions, and I really appreciate the cool people who interacted with a bit of kindness – the Dutch bike shop kids who helped me get Barney sorted in Middelburg maybe top 0f that list. If there’s a bottom people-wise it was the Dutch bike shop guy just outside Hoge Veluwe who was a flaming jerk. But the nice guys more than made up for him!

It was great to not always just mass-transit from tourist site to tourist site, but see so much real life connective tissue in between. Europe is a complicated sort of magic, and this trip as much as any we had great opportunity to see how places hang together. I like the world best from the seat of a bicycle.

Thanks to all who followed along! It was good fun on my side of the screen.

A few more picture arrays will follow in just one more post – randos from the entire trip - and then that’s it. Hopefully again next summer 😊 Thanks again!

Posted by
412 posts

May I ask 1 more question? Will you save this great commentary somewhere as a record of this trip? It’s a super travel journal. I know it will stay on the forum but ….

Posted by
11258 posts

Did Barneys new tires get declared at customs, or are you now riding around on 'smuggled' tires? :-)

Posted by
1800 posts

I think I will copy this entire thread and store it, You're right, it might be nice to have way down the line.

I did not remember to declare Barney's tires! Did not Even occur to me at all. They cost 50 euros each, so well under the threshold, Even if added to the candy and couple of stuffed animals that came home with us. I will tell him though, Barney will get a kick out of fancying himself as an international outlaw.

Posted by
1800 posts

https://imgur.com/a/ReQd872

And just to put a bow on it, some random photos from throughout the trip. Hopefully not repeats 🙂

It was awesome. Already thinking about next year ....

Posted by
432 posts

Incredible travel report--and photos. And such an impressive journey by cycle. My back and sides just ached as you were describing your fall. As someone who hasn't used a bike since high school, and who wouldn't dare get on a bike in any urban environment, I was fascinated by your experience as a cyclist with so many different places, environments, and people.

Posted by
1800 posts

Thanks Pete! I think you get into plenty of interesting stuff outside without the bike :).

Posted by
280 posts

Gobsmackin' amazing that you can write so much and post all those pics as you are rolling up all those kilometers. WOW! And, you covered the Tour, as well!

Welcome home. Enjoy some local rides here around Seattle! We just had friends up from California and took them out the Burke-Gilman, over to St Michelle and back through Juanita and across the Evergreen Bridge. Also, our 4 ferry special, from Wallingford to Fisherman's Terminal for Breakfast and then downtown, across Elliott Bay on ferry #1, around Alki to Fauntleroy to ferry #2 - to Southworth. Then around the Peninsula some and over to Pt. Orchard for lunch and ferry #3 to Bremerton and Ferry #4 to Seattle and finally around Lake Union back to Wallyhood. 19 miles on water and a mere 35 miles on bikes.

Maybe not as elegant or grand as your trips around France, the low countries and through the Dolomites, but we do have a lot available, here.

Posted by
418 posts

Hank, thank you for sharing your travel stories with us! What an interesting experience you had. I enjoyed reading about your adventures and appreciate the time it took to share them with us.

Laurie😊