I noticed a week or so ago that I am never quite able to keep my electronics’ batteries fully charged. Then I decided that there was some level of symbolism in this, especially as I visited four cities in one week (Brussels, Gent, Antwerp, Maastricht). Further fueling this was my Koningsdag beer diet and then a 100 kilometer ride from Maastricht to Cologne, Germany. By the time I reached the Rhine river just a week ago, I felt drained.
|Partly from the pressure from these guys|
|There’s always energy for the border picture, though|
As luck would have it, I’ve managed to have my own room for the past week. Not that it would matter too much, considering how heavily I’ve been sleeping anyway. Nonetheless, it was liberating just to be able to spread my stuff around the room (and hang dry my boxers in the window). The atmosphere was also perfect for reorganizing myself just as I thought everything had begun moving too quickly.
|Just before everybody got out of work|
|Always under the Cathedral’s watchful spires|
|Not pictured: guy creating bubbles|
Moving only a short distance to Bonn (40km) further helped this, especially since the hostel concept ended up being wonderfully creative and very well executed.
|I slept in here|
Repurposing disused vehicles for a sleeping area like this seems brilliant to me.
While I think I still need to slow down somewhere, spending four nights in Cologne helped tremendously. I noticed that since arriving on the continent I’ve fallen away from spending a long time in a city like in England, which has detracted from the sense of leisure I originally had. Cologne allowed me to get back to this good pace. Even with only two nights in Bonn, I finally felt ready to take on the world again.
|So I climbed a mountain|
|to a castle|
This is probably why I thought it would be good to attempt riding 120 kilometers in one day. I survived, but was so fatigued when I arrived in Flörsheim (between Mainz and Frankfurt) that I hardly took off my shoes before crawling into bed. Even waking up this morning was arduous. But with a few cups of coffee I managed to gingerly get back on and pedal around this little wine village to enjoy some tasty Rieslings.
|Good view for dinner, no?|
Despite the scenery, delicious food (Germans eat well) and intriguing sleeping arrangements, my favorite parts of the past week have been, as usual, the people.
Among the most interesting were the bartender in Cologne who invited me to a rave that night since he knows how hard it is to go out as a lone traveler. Unfortunately I was falling asleep over the largest asparagus stalks I’ve ever seen, so I had to forgo German nightlife for the sake of my health.
Even more fascinating, though, were the two people I met yesterday. As one might expect, I got lost again, following the wrong river (the Mosel) for 25 kilometers before noticing it wasn’t the Rhine. Somehow I got myself to Mainz, where the Rhine and Main rivers intersect. Getting to Flörsheim, though, proved to be far more difficult than I’d anticipated.
Thankfully a very friendly German immediately recognized my lost traveler face and struck up a conversation. He soon offered to drive me over to make sure I found somewhere to stay, since he doubted the directions I’d found on Hostelworld.
To quell any parental fears: I evaluated him very closely before accepting. Sure enough, he really wanted to help, saying that in his travels so many people have been good to him that it’s only right he pays it forward. Another interesting point he made about it is that he feels privileged to be able to facilitate people’s epic journeys and to give them a good experience of the world. I wish him all the best when he attempts to cycle from Ushuaia to Alaska when he gets to it.
A point that Max, the Dutch trekker to Santiago, brought up last week was that, at least as travelers, when we start to really need something we will find it. This goes from bathrooms to food to beds. Most poignantly, I think it happens with people. One can see it as providence or chance, but it just seems to be a matter of opening up and looking around. There are great people everywhere, and all it seems to take is that initial greeting.