Vengeful Gods

Tessa here: Its getting hot by the time we finish breakfast and the bike checks so we are late leaving Gunzburg. By the time we enter Dillingen, 30 kms away, it is close to 86F. It is a large town filled with impressive buildings, frothy houses and tall towers but architecture is not as important right now as a big bottle of cold water. A cafe appears and duly refreshed we hit the road again. I’m grousing as apart from the path when we left Ulm we have seen little of the Danube and now David leads us to a main road with a bike path beside it. Fortunately it is easy biking but not what I signed up for! However when we finally reach Donauworth my mood lifts. Its a very attractive small town with the old part on an island in the middle of the Wornitz river just before it reaches the Danube.

Donauworth view

But its SO hot. A beer helps and a late afternoon breeze comes up so by the time we head out for dinner we are feeling cooler. We decide to eat in the Indian restaurant opposite the hotel. I had assumed that in Germany I would have to eat schnitzel everyday but no, in the three days that we’ve been here we’ve eaten in places owned by Greeks and Sicilians and now we are eating at a restaurant owned by Punjabis; and it is one of the best Indian meals we’ve had! Our young Punjabi waiter has arrived in this small town via Italy and is here as a relative owns the restaurant. He is happy, he says, to be earning enough to support his family, his wife has just had a baby, and to be able to rent a small house. He has no ambition to make a lot of money or own a business. The young woman who checks us out of the hotel the next morning has similar sentiments. She had gone to USA, married a person of color as she put it, and returned to Donauwirth, her birthplace, as she found America too expensive. “Here,” she says, “the taxes I pay mean that my children can go to school and eventually university and to the doctor without additional cost. They can run and play in the streets without fear. The townspeople accept us, a mixed race family, without prejudice. I am happy to have returned!”

We know Monday will be a long day, 70 kms, but I am happy as it is mostly, according to David’s map, along unpaved bike paths alongside the Danube. The river flows fast. It is a murky green and appears devoid of life; we have not even seen a fisherman on its banks. But the birdsong and the serenades of the enamoured bull frogs are deafening even if we cannot see them. In fact the only animal I have seen is a large hare lolloping through a hayfield. We leave the river and cycle past fields of ripening barley and rapeseed. Every so often the farmyard smell of silage and manure assail the nostrils but more often it is the fresh and familar scent of new mown hay. Back to the river and the path takes a sharp turn. Two Scots whom we have met along the way suddenly reappear. “There are no signs anywhere!” they say. David goes ahead and by the process of elimination takes a path through a village.

Nesting stork

Bicycle signs reappear and they are pointing up a very steep hill and there has been no mention of hills by my husband. It is hotter than the day before and by the time we push the bikes up for a good twenty minutes and into a wood all four of us are parched. Our water is getting low and we are still heading up. I had noticed a sign in German back by the river and the only words I had understood were “werk” and “polder”; obviously more dykes and wetlands are being constructed and we are on a bypass. We come out of the wood and joy, the path goes down. Our Scottish friends, both younger and faster, disappear. We reach the village at the bottom and after a short pedal along the Danube we arrive in Ingolstadt.

Crossing the bridge at Ingollstadt

Its 1 pm and the schools have just finished for the day. The town is swarming with attractive young people all noticeably skinnier than their American counterparts. They are on bikes, in the cafes, all over the sidewalks, at the bus stops … its impossible to move but then on the opposite side of the road I spy a shaded restaurant. We park the bikes, sit down with relief and a waiter appears … and he is Punjabi! We explain we don’t want much to eat but we do want water, a lot of it. He is quite amazed by our ability to down 3 liters but suggests we should at least try the soup and maybe some samosas. And so we eat Indian food for the second time in less than 24 hours. We buy another two liters for the road and David, after looking at the bill, says its the most expensive water he has ever paid for, €5 a bottle, but without doubt the most worthwhile! There are still another 30 kms to go before we get to Vohburg and our hotel. Back to the Danube and to a direct track that leads there. It is partially shaded by trees and the light headwind cools us as we ride but it is still infernally hot. The path is bumpy and and slow so that it is with relief that we finally see the bridge we have to cross into Vohburg. But the gods see fit to launch one last thunderbolt; coming off the dyke down a short slope covered in gravel David’s bike sideslips and he falls, luckily, into the grass. No damage, just a shock, and it is with much relief that we reach our hotel finally at 6:30. A long cool shower, a not very good pasta at an Italian cafe owned by a Napolitano and finally bed. What a day!

Tuesday June 4th

We manage an early start but the gods are not done with us yet. David has placed my saddle bag a little too far forward and when I mount the bike my foot catches the bag and over the bike goes … luckily I stay upright. This obviously infuriates the gods, as rounding a bend on the gravel path the bike hits a particularly large stone and in an instant my handlebars are at a 90 degree angle to the frame and over I go. Luckily I was not going fast but falling on gravel at any speed is bad news for skin. My elbow is now bereft of a large patch of it and an angry red in colour. It appears that with all the bumping on gravel paths the last few days the screws that secure the handlebars to the frame had loosened so, a note to the bike mechanic, check all screws after riding the Danube dyke paths! But the deities are still not finished. I proceed along the path quite gingerly at first but soon get back to my usual 18 kph. Then, after a couple of hours I slow just as the bottom screw on my water bottle holder loosens and it starts flailing around. A little later going up a ramp I cannot get my foot detached from the pedal just as my seat decides to make a 90 degree swivel! Off I fall again but do no damage.

Hops near bikepath
Danube Gorge, no bike path here

David has planned to catch a train the last 30 km to Regensberg but I had thought to ride it alone but now … no way! I will leave it to David to record the pleasanter aspects of the ride today!

Across for our Goliath Hotel on Goliath Street

Street in Regensburg Old Town
Regensburg Cathedral from Beer Garden

David writing: When I assembled the bicycles in Frankfurt, I tightened Tessa’s handlebar screws as tight as I could. Tessa’s description doesn’t do justice to the many jaring sections of the tracks atop the dikes along the Danube. One really should use broader, cushier (and therefore slower) tires. It is truly lucky that when the handlebar screws became completely loose and her front wheel turned sideways Tessa was riding at a slow speed. Otherwise she would have had a catastrophic accident.

One screw for Tessa’s water bottle is stripped and the other one loosened from the vibration. Tessa’s bike seat was as tight as possible, so it must have suffered a huge force when her bike fell. Lesson: On gravelly, stony bike paths, check the screws frequently!

While Tessa loves the endless Danube, I much prefer the towns. The old town of Regensburg, where we are now, espccially beautiful. Bicycles, mainly carrying students, criss-cross everywhere, far outnumbering cars; We’re in a very comfortable elevator and air conditioning-equipped hotel. Dinner in a beer garden faced the lacy towers of the gothic Regensburg cathedral; Tessa’s lamb chops and my Danube River catfish were both highly delicious.

A few miscellaneous comments: First, the portions of food and drink are enormous everywhere – at least as large as in the USA, and the waistlines and faces of most older Germans show it. Second, the bike route seems to be constantly changed; the “completely up to date” bike maps that I bought a year ago and carry atop my handlebar bag have often been wrong. Third, our water consumption: about a gallon and one-half a day each. And the weather was predicted – a couple of days ahead to be cold and rainy!

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