Figuring out where in Europe was easy. In 2013 we landed in Europe, expecting to bike along the Danube, Main and Rhine Rivers between Budapest and the mouth of the Rhine. We rode the 250 km between Vienna and Budapest but then had to abandon the rest of that route due to serious floods in Austria and Germany. We threw out the rest of our plans and took a train to the Netherlands, which was untroubled by water just then. What we found was that its reputation as a great place to bike was more than deserved. We had a fabulous time.
So this year we have headed to Bamberg on the Main to start 10 weeks of biking across Europe along the Main, Rhine, Moselle and Meuse (Maas in Dutch) Rivers. If all goes well we will have cycled 1500+ km through Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium en route to Holland, almost all on bicycle paths and quiet roads. And by following these scenic rivers we will have an almost-flat route, through some of the most historic parts of those countries. To end the European half of this year’s adventure, we've booked an apartment for one week in Leiden, the Dutch city we most enjoyed two years ago. Besides enjoying its own attractions, we hope to take day rides on our tandem from Leiden to Haarlem, The Hague, Delft and/or Gouda, all of which are 25 km or less from Leiden.
As for Maine, it was easy to plan that as well. The first 4 weeks are in our 2 favorite cabins from last year, 2 weeks in each, then a week each in 2 new cabins. We’ll then close out the trip with 2 weeks wandering through New England’s famous fall foliage en route to a weekend with daughter Lisa and family in Tewksbury, MA, where our grandson is participating in a taekwando event. So keep following us for the next 4 months as vicarious fellow-travellers and you’ll see how it all pans out!
Since we’re now 4 days out from Bamberg, we can tell you that it has been as good or better than we expected, at least so far. Hang in there a few more paragraphs and we’ll start showing you some of the sights.
Fifty years earlier, Jeff graduated from Regis High School on E 84th St. It was now time to see folks he hadn't seen since then. Fortunately, the reunion committee made up name cards with our 1965 yearbook photos on them. Out of the 80 grads who made it (about 60% of the living alums), Jeff probably recognized only 3 or 4 without having to look at the name cards! Golly, what a bunch of old men (it was an all-boys school then and now)! It was great to reconnect with so many people who had been a daily part of his life for four years, oh so long ago, and we both made some new connections with fellow-alums and spouses and partners that we hope we will be able to follow up with in the coming years.
The building is also quite a place for watching and being watched by others.
Now we were in travel mode. We mailed off one box of clothes back to Seattle and a suitcase full of other clothes to our first destination in Maine (we each have a 2-page checklist of every item of clothes or electronics we will use in Europe and/or Maine, with 4 possible ways of traveling with us or to us). We lugged two panniers and two small bags to a subway stop near Richard’s, then Jeff and Richard brought the two large, 50-lb. suitcases containing the tandem and a few more clothes from Richard’s apartment to where Louise was waiting with the rest. Then it was the two of us and all that luggage, in rush hour, on the subway to JFK. Let's just say, we survived.
What a relief to arrive in Bamberg. That's all the luggage that somehow made it by NY subway, airport light rail, airplane, German subway, German train, and taxi. It was, moreover, the best-named starting point for any of our bike trips to date: The Tandem Hotel! Between the comfort of the hotel itself and the comfort of knowing the tandem had finally reached The Tandem, we slept well. OK, having been awake all night on our red-eye flight might have had something to do with that also.
A number of cities in Germany were ruled by so-called Prince-Bishops from the Middle Ages until the early 1800's, Bamberg among them. Except that in the case of Bamberg, there was a self-governing city as well, on the right bank of the Regnitz River across from the Prince-Bishop's palace on the left bank. Where to put the Rathaus, the city hall? Why, on a tiny island in the middle of the river! Of course the city is no longer divided, and red roofs crowd both sides of the river. The palace is still there, now a library and archives, as well as the Prince-Bishop's garden.
Our second full day in Bamberg was largely occupied by a continued effort to reset our time-challenged brains, by reassembling our tandem, and by sending the now empty suitcases to Holland. The Tandem Hotel is an official Bett+Bike establishment, meaning it has been endorsed as "bike-friendly" by Germany's largest bike club. Consequently, we had a large, clean area in a garage where we could attach part number 17 to part number 18, and so on, until the jumble of metal in our two suitcases resembled an honest-to-goodness tandem bike. We breathed a sigh of relief when we found no parts missing and saw no pieces left over. Tandem friends in Seattle told us that German post offices act as agencies for DHL, the big FedEx-equivalent in Europe, and a 1 km walk to the PO proved them right. For $27 we were able to send the two empty suitcases, the smaller one nested into the larger, to an Airbnb host we will be staying with in August (with their advance agreement, of course).
Well, that seems like a good point to halt. We'll carry on down the Main Radweg in our next entry.