Holland, Deutschland and a bit of a hiccup
A day’s ride took me on to the edge of the Dutch border. I arrived at an unusual sculpture(?) and slept in it. Waiting for darkness to fall there was a great view of the surrounding country and suddenly I realised I was on a hill! The first since arriving on the continent.
It was a short way the next day to the Dutch city of Maastricht, famous for the treaty signed there that ended the second world war (really hope I’ve got that right)*. I was not prepared for the city’s impossible proportion of beautiful, young blonde women riding bicycles, however. Suddenly I had to ask for directions to everywhere.
*EDIT: This isn’t even remotely true.
Soon I was out of Holland and into Germany. The “D4 Mittellandroute” would be the first real coherent leg of my trip – this national cycle route would take me all the way across the land of bratwurst, oompah and much, much more.
Just over the boarder is Aachen, former capital of Charlemange’s Frankish empire. The city is famous for the cathedral he built there – relatively unassuming from without but bling bling inside.
And now the hiccup… I have an old war wound – a ligament in my left knee – that started becoming inflamed once again when I reached France last week. It has been nagging me since then but has been tolerable. The way out of Aachen into the forested Eifel national park was very hilly, however, and a real grind on the knees so it became painful with every rotation of the pedals. One agonising 20 mile day later I was forced to realise that if I did not stop to rest and heal it would be like this all the way to Istanbul so I signed up to the Worldwide Organisation of Organic Farms.
WWOOF is a network that connects owners of small, often subsistence farms with people, often travellers, who want temporary work for board and lodging. I found a farm nearby, emailed the owner asking to stay for a week or two and was thrilled when she replied that she would be glad of the help. Negotiating an awkward rail strike I took a train (cheating, I know) to a nearby town via Cologne (a big cathedral, lots of demonstrations) then cycled up a very long hill to the town of Neßhoven.