A hot and rather tiring day. Today's ride was straight across country to Cologne in order to finally touch base with the Rhine. I had preconceptions that this would be a fairly uninteresting but necessary day of cycling and my prejudice was bolstered within a few K of setting off. Immediately after crossing the German border the cycle paths degenerated to English style, ie often there but annoyingly narrow, covered in garbage, bumps, parked cars etc and with a tendency to end without warning. The day's cycling was unexpectedly redeemed however by a couple of lovely paths where I had long car-less stretches across the countryside and saw only rabbits.
At a place called Julich I turned alongside a strange forested hill structure which I thought might be some kind of fortification - Julich has a long history of being fought over, from Romans to Napoleon to WW2 where it was trashed by several months of fighting. The hill went on for many kilometres however... And the power of google now tells me that it is in fact the world's largest artificial hill caused by open cast mining of lignite. So there you go.
From my point of view (ie whilst circumnavigating the bottom of it) it was a lovely peaceful stretch of easy dirt path through bright green cornfields and (modern) windmills.
I planned a lunch stop in Elsdorf, a town which I thought might be worth a visit since it had been being signposted as a destination on cycle routes for the previous 25k. Not so - it consisted of a tiny, dead main street and the whole place stank of drains. I grabbed a consolatory ice cream and pushed on.
A very long straight (Roman?) road which I took for about 20k delivered me into the centre of Cologne and eventually right to my hostel doorstep. The hostel is an amazing place - it has sort of bunks that are actually double bed-sized pods equipped with anything you could need. It's in an area called the 'Belgian quarter' which, I gather from the street life, is where the hipsters live. In fact Cologne in general is dripping with hipsters and in the heat they make for great people-watching!
The bad news of the day is that my bike is suffering a bit from the after-effects of yesterday and several of the gears are slipping quite badly. I'd been debating living with this until the end of the week when I will meet up with technically competent friends who could help me fix it. However, it turns out my pannier-paranoia was well-founded and one of the arms has now broken on my rack. Since I'm hoping it'll need to take me at least another two or three thousand kilometres I thought I'd probably better get this fixed sooner rather than later. Apparently racks aren't solderable (or more likely, aren't worth soldering) but a local bike shop (..hipster) has promised to fix me a new rack and realign my gears by tomorrow evening for 50 euros. So lucky Horace is going to enjoy 24 hrs of R&R too!
Peaceful paths through the corn
Fountains and folks enjoying the sun next to Cologne university