Goodbye Germany!

Goodbye Germany!  I would love to stay longer, but it’s just too cold.

My original plans had been to cycle as far south as Basel to the beginning of the Rhine river and then catch a train to Venice, but with the rapidly cooling weather I decided to cheat and catch a train from Heidelberg.

My journey would take three trains and over 10 hours.  It began in Heidelberg on the 6.57am to Stuttgart.  I could have taken a later train but there would only have been 7 minutes connection which I was scared wouldn’t be enough with having to get my bike across platforms.  I went to the platform early and found the map showing the layout of the carriages (German railways being seriously organised!).  I boarded with little trouble, though it was a nuisance to have to unload everything from the bike.

At Stuttgart I waited for an hour and then nearly missed my train because I couldn’t find the platform and was directed in opposite ways by each of the people I spoke to.  Eventually I found it and was relieved to find it was running 20 minutes late.  Whew!  On this train I had reserved a seat but unfortunately it was at the other end of the train to the bicycle carriage necessitating a series of trips to lug my bags and tent to the other end of the train.

At Munich I transferred to the train to Venice, having learnt that it was easier to leave my less inviting baggage with my bike and only keep the important stuff with me.  This was the longest train journey, departing Munich around 11am and arriving in Venice Mestre station after 5pm.  On this train I was seated in a compartment of 6 seats, a bit of a novelty.  I had a window seat and therefore a small flip-out table to use for my computer.  There was even a functioning powerpoint!  Take that Greater Anglia!  I settled in and watched the scenery change.

From Munich we travelled south via Rosenheim, Innsbruck in Switzerland, then into Italy via the Brenner pass south to Bozen, Trento, Verona, Padua and finally Venice.  I very much enjoyed watching the landscape change as we ascended the Alps (which are indeed very pointy), and the change in the architecture as we crossed into Italy.  From the brief view I had I would love to go back to explore the area around the Alps properly.  In Heidelberg the temperature was near 10 degrees, but as we rose higher there was snow on the ground in places and the road works crew we passed were wrapped up in winter kit, true evidence to me of the cold this high up.  When we descended the snow quickly disappeared and the weather warmed till when I disembarked in Venice it was nearly 20 degrees.  The houses in the Alps were very much the stereotypical Germanic style and I kept being reminded of Heidi.  As we passed into Italy though they generally became more the style I associate with magazine articles about olive oil and how to cook the perfect pasta dish, and we were again back in vineyard country.

A village in the Swiss Alps.

Another village.

At a station in Switzerland.

On the Italian side.
At Mestre I got out and loaded my bike only to find there was no lift from the platform to the exit.  From previous painful experience I knew it would be dangerous to take my bike downstairs myself and willing passengers seemed unavailable.  After an attempt to try and find a porter (as mentioned in a number of signs) I gave up and went back to my bike.  Ultimately some kind folk did help me lug it down and then back up the flights of stairs and I was able to be on my way to the campsite.

I had heard many things about cycling in Italy and none of them particularly good.  So it was with trepidation I headed out on the main road.  However I was surprised to find there were cycle lanes almost the whole length of my 3km journey.  There were plenty of other cyclists about and the drivers seemed to be well aware of them and leave plenty of room. 

I arrived at the campsite at dusk to find it a pleasant and warm place with a common room and use of a fully equipped kitchen!  It was run by an Italian family one of which spoke English.  There was a variety of accommodation spread out across an organic farm - rooms, wagons, and tents.  You could buy their organic vegetables and local wine from the owner Maurizio, though sadly I only found this out after I had made a trip to the supermarket.


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