Cycling the Radweg
The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy over here in Frankfurt – I’ve finally gotten a job, which I know will come as a resounding relief to some folk, we’re looking at new places to live as our rent contract is up soon on our current apartment, and I’ve been doing other projects besides. I’m also travelling back to Ireland for an extremely short visit this week, and we’ve still been travelling up north at weekends with the car-sharing service, ‘mitfahrgelegenheit’. Thankfully, that too has been proving uneventful for a change – last week, we journeyed up north in a Fiat 500. The last time I was in a Fiat 500, was when my mother owned one which was nearly more than 15 years ago, and I remember it being ‘compact’ then, which was something considering I was barely pint-sized myself. So you can imagine how well me sitting in the back of the Fiat 500 for 3 hours went down this time, having grown probably about 4 feet taller since. I never really realised it before, but the Fiat 500 has backseats that in fact, shouldn’t exist. They serve, I hope, as no more than a decoration and not really a practical way to transport fully-grown adults. On the bright side, all the car-sharing is incentivising me to start slowly learning about different car models, so that I can figure out which journey is likely to be the most comfortable and speedy.
And of course, being in Germany, as you can see from the picture on the left, continues to surprise me every day with its interesting names and titles for things, such as the ‘Pissoir’ on the side of the motorway. Rest assured, it was exactly what it sounded like it should be.
I’ve also been doing as much cycling as I can – the year’s hiatus while I was away in Malaysia and before that, working full-time in Dublin, has definitely taken its toll on my fitness levels. Where I might have been able to cycle 200km in 10 hours last year, I can barely make 20km’s in just one hour without needing to stop and have a little break. The big problem with cycling here though, as far as I can see it, is the ‘leisureliness’ of cycling in Germany, compared to Ireland. In Ireland, so few people take cycling seriously (or bother with it at all) that if you happen to chance upon a few cyclists out in the middle of nowhere, they’re probably all on racing bikes, trying to move away from you faster than Ireland from the IMF. There’s no problem with passing each other out, because nine times out of ten, you won’t be able to pass them out, they’ll be the ones passing you out. In Germany however, because the weather is so predictably decent and the cycle routes are all so much more orderly, whole families, schoolchildren, pensioners – you name it – all head out on their bikes for a long dreary cycle along the ‘radweg’. And many aren’t interested whatsoever in moving out of your way as you come speeding along, or else tend to clump in their groups altogether across the cycle path, so even if they do move out of the way, you’ve already had to nearly come to a stop to accommodate them shifting formation.
But then there’s the upside – proper cycle paths all the way throughout the countryside. Imagine the Irish motorway network throughout the country and then imagine something like it just for bikes. Seriously, with a bit of planning in advance (or a map while you’re travelling), you can travel from one end of the country to the other by bike, without seemingly having to travel on main roads too often. So, on the bright side, when you do finally get the schoolchildren out of the way and have an open path to cycle down, you can pretty much do what you like, safe in the knowledge that a cash-in-transit van or tractor isn’t waiting for you just around the next corner. And whatever about for the locals, it’s a great way for me to actually see the other towns around Frankfurt that I almost certainly wouldn’t have seen neither sight nor sign of otherwise. After my first couple of journeys, I had already seen Offenbach and Hanau, and whatever else comes in between. Next on my list, whenever I get time is to keep travelling further and see how much more of Frankfurt and its surrounds I can exclusively see by bike.
However, as I discovered to my great cost the other day, one variable is the same – the weather. I went cycling the other day in a t-shirt and shorts and was easily a good 50km away from Frankfurt when it started to rain. And it got worse, much worse, until I eventually got off the bike and went and hid under a tree, where I remained until such time as another family came and joined me and kept sheltering their kids in the driest area, so I was getting just as wet again. And, like sometimes happens in Ireland, it rained and rained for about 2 hours – I eventually gave up trying to beat it and just cycled home in the rain, muddy and soaked.
And just like Ireland, the sun came beaming out again as soon as I was inside trying to clean up.