I’ve come to the realization that all the research I did on the European weather was not what it was made out to be. ‘Relative’ is the word to use if you want to put things in proper perspective. First on the list is ‘cool’, which actually means ‘damn bloody cold’, as I found out to my chagrin this morning. Unless, of course, the sun is shining in all its glory. Even then, the moment the sun went behind a cloud, you’d feel the biting chill of the wind in an instant.
The wind is another factor, and it always seems to be blowing in a southerly direction this time of the year – right into my path — then I would only be able to do about 15kph or less. It’s worse when it comes with its good friend the rain.
Earplugs — what a lifesaver. And I sorely needed them last night when one of the boys in the dorm started off on his very melodic and perfectly-in-time snore. I’ve also learnt that the industrial-strength silicone rubber types are better than the foam types. Once you push it in all the way, the world outside is gone. Bliss…..
When I woke up this morning, it was a cold and drizzly day. European weather is most depressing when it’s rainy and cold. I was of 2 minds whether I should head for Cologne or stay another day and check out the town. After breakfast, it was still drizzly and I couldn’t go out anyway. So I chatted with one of the girls in the dorm.
Bonn is known to be some kind of happening cultural centre and the Spanish girl I talked to was here to audition for a role in Verdi’s La Boheme that very afternoon. She was staying the night here to save money. She was from Munich, a soprano, and her favourite song was La Traviata (The Drinking Song), also from La Boheme. It’s amazing the things you can find out about people just by talking to them.
I hope she gets it. She’s such a nice girl. She even told me (just in case I didn’t know) that there was free breakfast in the kitchen….but of course she didn’t know that by then I’d already had my fill of toast, coffee and milk before she even woke up.
At noon, the checkout hour, the ding-donging came to a head and I decided to go to Cologne instead; mainly because I wanted to see what it was like to ride in lousy weather. So, I suited up to the gills — wind-proof tights and heavy jacket, snow-cap and waterproof/windproof Sealzkin gloves. After all, it was a still a little bit drizzly when I hit the road.
It was overkill … even for me.
But first, before I headed out to the river, I had to do a couple of things – visit Beethoven House, and ‘Beethon’, the famous sculpture in Beethoven Park based on Beethoven’s most well-known portrait; you know that one – with the dark brooding looks of a genius composer.
Beethoven House was tucked away in a nondescript street and one could easily miss it. Unfortunately, for most cycle-tourers anyway, one of the disadvantages of touring is that you can’t simply go inside any establishment you like without worrying about your bike and stuff disappearing. So all I could do was pose for a few pictures. Then I went looking for the sculpture.
It was just around the corner and it was fascinating to be able to finally come face to face with. It was great piece of art … even Beethoven would have approve of its intricate beauty.
Objectives met, I headed for the river but not before stopping at a nearby bakery for a sandwich and a coffee. It was situated right next door to an old church and as usual, I chatted up the owner and he told me the church was called (in German) ‘Giving’ or something like that. I think he meant this was a church that blessed a lot people.
‘Go and have a look, it’s very beautiful, he said. How could I refuse when it comes from a local, and especially when there weren’t any tourists around.
I was not disappointed.
Sightseeing done, I finally hit the trail again. Barely five minutes down the cycle path by the river, I saw a runner. He was only wearing a t-shirt on top and here I was, cocooned under 3 layers of clothing. I stopped him and asked him to take a picture of me cycling (one of those posing pics la).
I also asked him, ‘You’re not cold’?
‘Oh no, not at all’ he replied casually, while the chilly wind blew on us. I think he must have wanted to say ‘refreshing’.
It was almost 2pm, so I knew I had to hustle a bit to reach Cologne before it got too dark. The wind was cold but I was lucky — it didn’t rain. The sky was simply overcast and sulky. After a while, the body started building up some heat and pretty soon, I started shedding my clothes. First, I changed the heavy jacket for the windbreaker. Then I took off the gloves, then the sleeves of the windbreaker went. I was riding hard into the wind, but at least my chest was kept warm.
When I finally saw the twin spires of the Cologne’s Cathedral Dom in the distance, I knew I was done for the day. But for the moment, I had to still battle the winds to get to the campsite on the other side of the river.
This particular campsite by the Rhine was just as efficiently run but the owner wasn’t exactly Mr Happy… but he was ok. The tent section was quite sparse…just the way I liked it. I pitched up the tent and went for a shower. Here, I had to pay 0.50 Euro for a hot shower…for all of 4 minutes! Good thing was that I could turn it off and on at will, thereby not risking the water finishing and a head still covered in suds. As well, if that happened, my minuscule piece of micro-fleece that I call a towel can barley cover my private parts if I had to step out of the shower to go get some more tokens.
My day was done. I had cooked a simple dinner (if only to get a fire going on the cool multi-fuel stove that I loved playing with 🙂 after which I hunkered down for the night in my cosy little tent. It was a quiet place unlike in Koblenze where the long-distance trains passed by all night long.
Tomorrow, I will visit Germany’s most famous landmark (that’s what they claim anyway), the Cathedral Dom. There was another thing I had to do as well. After seeing the many locks on the bridge, I too wanted to be part of it 🙂
Distance today: 35km
Distance to date: 322km