Terraced vineyards, riverside cycle paths and shaded forests … what could make for a more beautiful and scenic bike trip? Your loved one, of course! Wait, what? It’s not all rainbows and spätzle …? The good life isn’t a piece of Kuchen? Here are some tips on how to maintain your relationship whilst cycling with your loved one:
1. Food, shade and water
These three necessities are prerequisites for keeping the peace. This is because without these things, certain people may have a tendency to let the heat get to them. After at least two of these golden three, we both felt better and could continue on our way.
Enjoying something is quite easy, it’s patience which you need to actively practice. Yes it’s hot and I’m hungry and my bum hurts but that isn’t J’s fault and it’s not fair to act like it. In other words, take a breath and get some perspective.
3. Cuddles, even when you’re angry
At some points, things don’t look good. The holiday feeling is ebbing away and your legs hurt and you might be pissed off, but that’s when a hug can come in handy. Give up any negative feeling you have, and swap it with a tender moment (and maybe some chocolate). Make them realise it’s not them, it’s your knackered body and the +30 degree heat.
4. Double checking isn’t second guessing
It’s ok to want to check the map. We all make mistakes and just because your partner wants to “double-check” doesn’t mean they don’t trust you. It’s worth the extra 20 seconds of waiting and patience if it avoids going the wrong way for another few km. It isn’t personel. It’s actually the smart thing to do. Two sets of eyes are better than one, so put your pride down and hand over the phone.
5. Admit when you’re wrong …
… and don’t make the other feel bad about it when you turn out to be right. It will most likely happen to you at some point on the trip too.
These realisations were made on Jacob’s and my trip to visit his family in Büchenbronn, an idyllic swabian village near Stuttgart. We took the train as far as our student tickets would allow us, to a village called Lützelsachsen, and then continued southwards towards Heidelberg. There we joined the river Necker and began our ca. 200 km bike ride.
We spent the first day cycling amongst strawberry fields, apple orchards, plum trees and raspberry bushes, as we climbed slightly upstream, passing locks on the way which offered impressive views into the Necker valley. In Eberbach we raided the reduced section in Edeka (a supermarket) and enjoyed a makeshift picnic alongside the river before setting off in search of the night’s camping spot. It wasn’t long before we found a patch of grass just beyond a lock and sheltered by trees. We were slightly worried that someone working at the lock might come and tell us off, but when someone did eventually come wandering around the corner, it was a man with his dogs. After several bounds into the Necker, the pooches scurried back to their human, who after wishing us a good night’s sleep sauntered off on his way.
The next day we continued the forest-enclaved path, much different to the Radweg along the Mosel. When we did see vineyards, they were terraced rather than perpendicular to the river. We cruised underneath about a dozen fortress ruins dotted along the river, and took a long break in Bad Wimpfen. Many German towns and cities are named “Bad” (bath) something or other. These “bath cities” are allowed to call themselves as such if they fulfill certain criteria such as having thermal baths and other spa-like luxuries. The second part of the town name, Wimpfen, is said to come from Celtish “bin” (berg/mountain) and “uimpe” (umwallt/surrounded).
We headed on our way, tummies pleasantly replenished, stopping for our next break in Heilbronn (healing well). Shortly afterwards, we found ourself at Heinzi’s Biergarten in the village of Mundelsheim, tucked away in a meander of the river. What a find. J felt absolutely at home thanks to the traditional Swabian menu featuring Maultaschen. Basically heavily packed ravioli, this delicacy was founded in the Maulbronn Kloster so its name essentially means Maulbronn-bag/pouch. As the legend goes, the monks in Maulbronn wrapped meat in pastry so that they could still eat meat during Lent without receiving a thorough smiting from God. I also felt at home here as I watched the people come and go. It reminded me of my and Becky’s Germany camping trip six years ago.
As Heinzi’s came to a close we hopped back on our bikes and peddled uphill to an apple orchard where we set up camp. During the night we heard a platoon of animals actively looking for each other. The most amusing audio came from some ducks whose sporadic quacking lay somewhere between cute, funny and concerning. I hope they found each other in the end.
We woke up to sun pouring into the tent which was a welcome contrast to the cool valley floor from the previous night. Soaring down hill back towards the Necker, we looked forward to our next stop: Bad Cannstatt, east of Stuttgart, where we had a gorgeous reunion with friends from Trier (plus beers).
On our last day, we only needed to cycle along the Necker about 25 km before joining the Fils and heading up the steepest hill of the journey to Büchenbronn. So first some pancakes in Esslingen. It felt like arriving home as we turned into J’s drive. For hime, of course, but also slightly for me too. It’s always very relaxing here and we spend the time eating great food and hiking Swabian routes. A small walk on Saturday turned into a small-medium hike via the “watergames”. All along one of the forest’s paths were miniature houses, each representing different local customs and industries powered by water mills.
This morning I packed up my bags and Jacob escorted me to Ebersbach station. The tour that we spread over four days will now take me just over two hours. Soon I’ll be home.