Spies at dawn - Jimmy Carter thinks I'm a sinner - CycleBlaze

April 25, 2007

Spies at dawn

There is little more romantic than a border railway station in a light fog. Especially when it's deserted. Dampness clings to the rails, faint footprints glisten on the platform and I feel that at any moment a man in a heavy coat will ask me with an accent if I have come to exchange a spy.

Of course, Passau isn't quite like that. It's a tourist town of sorts and when I walked past the Holiday Inn a moment ago there was a line of besuited, indoor sort of people standing on the street with labels on

Passau: "I will wander along and stop suddenly and unpredictably to the annoyance of all the people who actually live here. That is what tourists do and I shall do it."
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strings round their neck. If they hadn't been too old and if the labels hadn't been laminated, they would have reminded me even more of kids being evacuated from London during the war.

Passau marks the end of Germany and, tomorrow, the start of Austria. To many, it is the trailhead of the Danube route because, by all accounts, the Austrians take it more seriously than anyone. I still have the feeling that in time this crossing of Europe will become a classic, if an undemanding one, but from all I've heard things don't get properly started until Austria.

In France, Eurovélo 6 simply didn't exist and, other than signs along the canal approaching Mulhouse, wasn't even acknowledged. Where in France there were bike paths or routes on the Eurovélo 6 trajectory, it was because they were there already (as in the Loire valley) rather than because anyone had done anything specifically.

The same applied in Switzerland and the neighbouring regions of Germany, but the route was now well signposted with Eurovélo signs. But just as I told you from Ulm that the signing was superb, so the Eurovélo signs ended and the ride was indicated more haphazardly as the original Donau Radweg.

Slowly, the surfaces have been getting better. But too many stretches are just compressed gravel or variations of it. They can be smooth or they can be jarringly bumpy but they are always energy-sapping. Your speed drops 3kmh and your energy level rises 3kmh.

But... as ever, there's the feeling that someone has found you a route, using local knowledge, that you wouldn't have found yourself.

Today we are having a day off, staying in the cheapest hotel we could find, which was doubly welcome because yesterday was the longest stint so far and because this morning's mist would have meant a cold night in a tent, especially since we have gambled on summer-weight sleeping bags.

It could have been harder had we, as I had in France, ridden real hills. But now, winding along the valley has if anything been too flat. Our legs don't ache but our bums do, from riding heavy in the saddle for hours and from being thrown around on the half-surfaced stretches.

It is my first day off since I started 24 days ago, I think it was. I shall do unashamedly tourist things like gawp at buildings and admire the river and wander along and stop suddenly and unpredictably to the annoyance of all the people who actually live here. That is what tourists do and I shall do it.

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