After crossing the Alps, we thought, how will we get to the UK – our final destination – from here. Since both of us had previously spent a fair bit of time in France, and with a growing need for bike paths rather than traffic heavy roads we looked towards the Netherlands. Everyone has heard that it is bike heaven over there! A decision was made to follow the Rhine river all the way down to the coast, from Switzerland through Germany and onto the Netherlands. This suited us well, because the entire stretch of the Rhine is served by good quality bike paths, often on both sides of the river.

P1060917

We made our way to Basel, a Swiss city on the Rhine at the intersection of France, Germany and Switzerland. Many European countries are now in the Schengen Area, providing completely open borders. The only problem was our time limit as Grace needed to be out of the Schengen zone and into the UK before 3 months was up from our arrival into Greece.

P1060903

The weather was getting colder and the days shorter. Camping was not so appealing, so we worked hard at lining up places to stay through the warmshowers website. We came across some really interesting people in these parts of the world. We slept night after night in strangers homes. What a peculiar experience to arrive in someone’s home for an evening, leaving the next day and most likely never to see them again. Everyone we stayed with cooked us dinner and often breakfast too. Some had comfy beds, or simple sofas. All of them interesting flats and houses. We stayed with people our own age, people younger, families with children our age, share homes, young couples, elderly retired couples, families with young babies and a few singles. It was a real mish mash of people!

P1060922

One evening, we had arranged to stay with a French couple through warmshowers. We crossed the river to France and started heading towards their town. Their area was very plain, we were riding through corn fields (a terrible crop that’s taken over the world in plague proportions) and every so often would pass through a not particularly nice French town. As we got closer to our hosts’ town, it started to bucket down with rain. Our hosts-to-be had a very peculiar warmshowers page, it didn’t say anything about them, only had an old poem in French as their profile statement, and no photos. So, as we cycled through the bleak French countryside we started to worry, what if they’re really odd? Why would they offer to host us? Is it safe? We continued on and found their house, a cute looking house in a bland village, they had a small veggie garden, so we held our breath and rang the doorbell. An older woman answered the door, greeted us by our names (in French, she didn’t speak any English) and gave us both a hug and a kiss. This will be alright, we thought. We locked our bikes in the garage, were given warm slippers and had a hot shower. She insisted on washing our clothes as they were dripping wet and muddy. They couldn’t have been more hospitable, and treated us as their own grandchildren. Grace helped prepare the (wild caught) snails for the next days party, which David then had to sample. We ate and ate and ate, and slept in a very comfortable bed. This was real French hospitality, hiding away in a nonchalant French village. Unfortunately we didn’t take their photograph, a little stunned by the warm experience.

P1060924

P1060927

Germany was great for bike paths. We cycled up to Strasbourg staying on the German side of the Rhine, for a bit of experience with the paths. It was slower riding, and sometimes, when it veered off the Rhine, we got a bit confused with following the signs. The path was often gravel and picnic spots are scattered around, though it was difficult battling the cold whenever we stopped.

P1060932

We stayed two nights in Strasbourg and it turned out to be quite a social stay. We arrived really late and really tired, after over 100km ride with a detour for lunch to meet up with a friend who lives in Colmar. We had to cycle hard to get to Strasbourg at a decent hour, arriving just after dark.

P1060933

P1060940

P1060943

P1060948

After Strasbourg we headed back into Germany and it was a bit of a slog through cold rainy patches. We rode through a very nice forest after leaving Strasbourg and then along gravel paths next to the Rhine. Our lunch was a miserable affair in the rain, some bread and cheese and our new found friend the kohlrabi. We love this vegetable, and munch on them like apples or cut up to have on bread with cheese.

P1060950

You can follow us around the world by following the discarded pistachio nut shells, as seen above.

P1060953

P1060962

P1060967

And, finally we were coming into Karlsruhe, where we were to stay with a warmshowers host. A bit wet and muddy for our arrival. People told us that this town is nothing special; ugly and industrial. But we were delighted by the entry via this bike path that then joined the end of the tram line which we followed into town. It was charming!

P1060968