3. Speyer – Strasbourg – The exhaustion

After a good night’s sleep I am up early again. I discover that there is also a small airport next to the hotel and the pilots with their sports planes are also there early and they show that I am not the first to see the dawn. It gives me the opportunity to put yesterday’s impressions in the right place and start writing the first days of my journey.

The hotel is used to “early risers” so that I can already have breakfast at 6 am; a perfect start to a beautiful day is thus created. The Technik Museum’s instruction team is having breakfast at the large table, where one person extensively discusses the schedule for that day with the team. It is that I have to continue to Milan, otherwise I could have cooperated that day based on the briefing. At 7.30 am I leave Speyer with stiff legs for Strasbourg, 120 kilometers away; and it will be long miles.

Although the temperature has dropped, Aeolus, as a wind keeper, has not been able to persuade Notos to lie down and I have to look him straight in the face as far as Strasbourg. What I don’t look in the face today are oncoming traffic. It is Monday and the recreational traffic has disappeared and I notice that because of the accent of the “Rheinradweg” I am alone with dikes, birds and frugal farmers who work their land to harvest the tall grass.

Today it is a solitary journey through the outlying areas of the old Rhine. Dead, winding arms of the river make for a winding bike path. Now and then I am welcomed by storks who greet me stately. With respect for their “home” I pedal away kilometer after kilometer.

Because I drive through the countryside, there are hardly any villages and that is a shame for someone who is used to regularly having a cup of coffee. Fortunately, I have enough water with me to quench my thirst. In the Netherlands, the shops and supermarkets are almost always open; here in Germany the shopping hours law still applies because when I enter the inhabited world, everything is extinct. Only when I approach the French border at Hagenbach do I see a supermarket with a bakery where you can get coffee; the tastiest of the day after hours of effort.

Where in the past border crossings were symbolized by barriers with strict-looking customs officers, the border between Germany and France here is no more than a railway line where only the language betrays that I have arrived in another country.

I notice that the cycle route is further away from the Rhine. Through the fields of corn and grain I descend further down, towards my destination for the day; Strasbourg. The French road workers are looking forward to it. I regularly have to dismount and follow directions supported with serious faces. Sometimes much to my dismay because the diversions are heading north. In the evening I have the feeling that I have driven an extra 10 kilometers. I pass the Hamburg fellow cyclist I spoke about yesterday for the third time. We both stop, looking for the right route after another road diversion. We talk about cycling and our goals. I tell him that I think my 25 kilo heavy pack is quite a lot; certainly to Milan and back. He calmly explains that he now has his optimal weight of 35 kilos of luggage with him on his way to Santiago de Compostela. I become silent and think to myself that I am lucky with those few kilos of packing of myself…..

The man tells full of energy about his cycling trips throughout Europe; from Sicily to the North Cape and I listen with admiration. We laugh at the e-bike adventurers who want to get somewhere quickly without effort. When I tell him that day trips of 100 kilometers are planned, he starts laughing and expresses his admiration for me; he no longer does those distances at 78. We chat for a while, compliment each other and go our separate ways.

Hotel “Patricia”

Around half past four I drive into Strasbourg with a euphoric feeling; this was my longest backpacking trip ever. On a terrace I enjoy a “grand café au lait” and decide that another day trip with many kilometers flat against the wind has no added value for my total journey and book a train ticket to Basel for the next day. This action is received with great approval from my thighs and with the ultimate feeling of unity between mind and body I then drive to my hotel called “Patricia”. I have not been able to trace the origin of the name.

Strasbourg is a very old city where the city center largely consists of narrow streets with centuries-old houses. Traveling alone, I often get into the attic room with a single bed and lug all my bags like a mule up the wide stairs covered with an old-fashioned red carpet. It all feels like I entered a time machine.

Strasbourg cathedral

I leave the hotel on my way to the highlight of Strasbourg: the cathedral! It’s not just any church. Until 1874 this was the tallest building in the world. I walk around it, snap a picture of its towering sky, and realize my mind is slowly losing it to my body. I look for an Italian restaurant, eat the meal and go to my attic room. Shortly afterwards, exhausted but contented, I fell into a deep sleep.