Cycling the Rhine was so easy that I decided to up my game and after Mainz head directly to Wurzburg. Google maps told me this little leg of the journey was 150 km, and so confident was I that the night before I decided to paint the town red, finishing at 2am with a flaming Sambuca. Despite this I still managed to be up and out at 8. I cruised the 45 miles to my lunch stop, Aschaffenburg, in what felt like no time at all. My average speed was 13 mph thanks to the first noticeable tailwind I’ve had. I treated myself to a Doner Kebab and 90 minutes of basking in the sun. The combination of a hefty Kebab and little sleep the night before was at this point taking its toll on my motivation for further cycling but I had already arranged my stay in Wurzburg.
It was about 1:30 when I launched my leading leg over my steel steed, ready to embark on the rest of my days travel. It was this action that triggered shooting pains to course up my leg, becoming a serious cause for concern. I set off in considerable discomfort, playing out scenarios of lifelong injury and camping immobilized in the wilderness. As I got into the rhythm of cycling the pain seemed to ease a fraction, but with a drop in the pain came a rise in the incline. My carefully planned route had followed two river and a coastline in order to avoid hills and only left a small gap between two little rivers, the Rhine and Danube, which could present a problem. It was this gap I had now entered. The experience of climbing this mountain reminded me of watching the extended version of the last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The experience of watching endless scenes of Frodo and Samwise climbing up the barren landscape of Mordor and Mount Doom was much too similar to my grueling hours of very boring climbing, all the while nursing my painfully injured right leg. By the time I had rolled into Wurzburg I had covered 96 miles , by far my longest day, and climbed in altitude much more than my entire journey thus far.
Wurzburg was a pretty hippy place. I was greeted by a man in boxers shorts who enquired who I was through a little hatch at face height in the front door. Once I had dropped my bags in their hallway I supped a cup of tea in the kitchen listening to the sounds of the neighborhood. Someone in a flat across the square was clearly in the early stages of learning the didgeridoo and later an impromptu percussion jam seemed to break out with pots and pans being banged and tapped all across the block. The walls were full of posters and street art and an atmosphere of veganism and hemp pervaded the old and ramshackle block of flats.
I set off on another long day to Nuremberg where my host was a lovely family of English, American and German nationality. Lawrence was a true adventurer, moving from the UK to Hungary in 1991 just after the fall of the soviet union. I had some fabulous chats with him about European politics and his adventures. Quite by chance a friend of mine was also playing a gig in Nuremberg that night beneath the old castle at a wonderful venue called USG 6. Lawrence and I went to see The Officer and my friend Drew Worthley play some wonderful songs that made me yearn for home.
After another Long days ride I reached the Danube which would accompany me most of the way to Istanbul and suggested flat and easy riding. My Host in Regensburg was another German guinea pig owner and this clearly a big part of his life. He had called one of his pets Nelson Mandela and after writing to inform him he received a signed photo of Nelson. The guinea pig cage was also covered in pictures of German midfielder Schweinsteiger, whos name resembles Meerschweinchen (guinea pig in German). The myriad images of Schweinsteiger had all been defaced to resemble a rodent like appearance with whiskers and prominent front teeth. Phil had also traveled almost everywhere and told countless stories over beer in a traditional Bavarian beer house with waitresses in traditional attire. This turned into another late night which made the ride to Passau a little more of a challenge.
My Host in Passau had done her own cycling tour of France, staying with many French couch surfers who showed her infectious generosity. She took me out to an all you can eat Chinese which is perfect after a days riding. She insisted on paying for me despite being a first year student with little money. Somehow she persuaded me to cycle up a monstrous hill which gave a fabulous view of Passau and the three rivers that meet there. I have now crossed over into Austria without any sign of a border and I look forward my first Austrian host.