December 21st, 2010


Plan for Adventure!

I'm hatching a plan!

For quite a few years I've had a vague idea of making a trip to north Germany. That is, not heading to Munich again or revisiting places like Cologne, Frankfurt, Dortmund, Trier, but taking on a whole section of the country I've so far not visited. It's actually weird I haven't been up there, since that's where my mom's side of the family is from; my grandmother from Bremen, my grandfather from Bremerhaven. So I've had this idea to go to those two cities as well as the northwest German coast in general. Also Hamburg, if at all possible, although that might have to be a separate trip.

As for further details of this trip, one key thing is I've always seen myself doing this trip alone. Caleb and I make great travel companions but sometimes I feel like because he's there to plan and lead, I don't really get the feeling I'd made the trip happen. Me! Myself! Plus I don't think he'd be as into wandering the rather depopulated lands of northern German, at least not for more than one day.

Another thing I've had in mind for this is doing some biking. The easiest biking I ever did in my life was in Meckenheim, a town near Bonn where I stayed the summer as a teenager, and it was for the sole reason that the area was so FLAT. I mean, nowhere else I've biked has been that flat. Yet that's a lot hillier than northern German would be, i.e. that place has got to be really easy! (I also verified this with research which shows that bike routes there are all rated very easy.) On top of this, up there bike paths are everywhere, making the going even easier. I'm not the world's big long distance biker, but with some basic prep work, I'm sure I can make myself ready for a real bike tour. With Atlanta as my training space, I'd probably end up be overprepared - I'm not sure there's a flat area in the whole city!

So last night I started doing some specific research and wow, I think I have the beginnings of a plan!

First I started out looking for info on bike tours, bike routes, etc. After some bumbling around, I discovered a bike route that I think is exactly what I was thinking of. The Emsradweg (Ems Bike Way), is a 230-mi. (375 km) ADFC premium route running north from the edge of Teutoburg Forest and up the Ems River, ending in Emden, a city on the North Sea by the Dutch border. There are lots of towns along the way and because it's premium route, it's pretty much paved paths most of the way, signage all the way, with tons of information available. There are printed maps, interactive maps, long lists of accommodations & food stops, downloadable bike maps, etc.

So I looked into all that and it looks great. From what I can see the route is rated easy the whole entire way, with touring bike the recommended vehicle - so not mountainous, not off-road. There's also the fact that it's downhill the whole way because that's how the geography of Germany is -- mountains flatten out towards the North Sea. (This is why the Rhine runs north, ahem.) This leads me to think I could manage it without killing myself. 30-40 mi. actually isn't awful if a lot of it is coasting or going flat. And I would train before going, not just show up and say "Ah, OK... oh, gawd!"

After finding this route, I started looking into the tours and scenery around there and it's quite appealing. There's the river, of course, which I had never heard of in my life. There's lots and lots of farmland. I gather they are big on cabbage. There are also big fields of flowers. All sorts of little historic towns there as well as larger ones like Munster. I would guess there are also opportunities for what Caleb & Dagmar call "agritourism," i.e. farms along the way that may offer rooms to stay, have milk or cheese tastings, etc. Taking a mid-day break from biking to chug fresh milk sound good to me!

Anyway, that's all good, and on top of that, it turns out the tour would end pretty never Bremerhaven, where I wanted to go. Checked the train and it's only 30 euros or something, trains run there a lot. So I could go biking over 5-6 days, then go to Bremerhaven for a day and then take either a train -- or better, a boat down the Weser. My German family were all involved with boats and shipping and fishing, so I do want to go on a boat. Finally after Bremen I'd go home (Where from, no idea... probably would need to fly out of Hamburg, hopefully not Frankfurt or further away.)

When would I be doing this? Right now, no idea. Next fall might be too soon and yet I would never do this in winter or spring because it's cold and rainy there, rather sucky. Will I have enough vacation time by fall? Will Caleb come up with another fabulous trip idea by then? And what about visiting England? I try to visit England alternate years. Hmm. But the seed is planted, so I'll see how it goes and this spring and summer will start some bike training.