CROSSING THE LINE


An eighty-one mile day following the ubiquitous branches of the Rhine, their overflow an tributaries, across an open border has taken us from the famous Arnhem to the almost unknown - amongst staid folk such as - Legden. Party-animals may have come across Dorf Munsterland, a few minutes form the quiet little rural retreat that is Legden. The owner of the gasthof where I write this, tells me that he s fully booked up every weekend and there is never a bed to be had in the house (unless you get lucky at one of the five clubs that make up this phenomenon of wild, partying Westphalen. Seems implausible when wandering the few streets of Legden on a Wednesday evening.

In any case, we have to pedal on and will be half-way across Germany by the weekend.

Arnhem was getting busy when we set off. Efficient Dutch signage and infrastructure saw us away in the twinkling turn of the pedal and away we were into the watery landscape where the recent heavy weather of much of Europe pours its way to the sea. The short ferry ride ha more of a swell than we got all the way form Hull to Europort.

We followed the numbers. The network is designated by a series of points and it is possible to navigate by writing the numbers down and simply following the signs. there are boards which show the immediate area and the next few points. Along with more prominent route signs these should enable satisfactory navigation. Our excuse for going awry is that some of the signs were overgrown - honest.

Crossing the border into Germany was imperceptible; no major river, no change in landscape. it became obvious from the sudden appearance of gothic lettering on houses and businesses. The signage changed as well, but was equally precise. It seemed that the thinking behind the infrastructure changed. It was more similar to a UK model than a Dutch approach. Lots of twists and turns into small towns - such as Vreden and Stadtlohn; poorer surfaces (amongst some good ones). Weirdest of all were the radical discrepancies on some of the distance signs, though some may have been alternative routes. We got through, but it was rather less smooth than the flattery of a day and a half in the Netherlands had lulled us into. However, there were some very good sections, especially by the roadside.

A joy today was the woodland, whether on road or rougher forest tracks. The shade dampened the previous days sunburn whilst filling the journey with an eerily iridescent green. We’s already come across witches flying broomsticks across the road in Zehlem in the Netherlands. Though we were far from the Thuringian heartland of the German forests, you could fathom the Grimm’s inspiration.

After some wild variations in distance on the way markers, we resorted to goo old-fashioned map-work and followed quiet road into Legden. The law is that cycling infrastructure must be used if it exists. Even so, there was never a threat on the road - drivers gave oodles of space.

By the way, in the Netherlands the same rule applies as in Germany. Interestingly, just outside Doesberg, a stream of gnarled old racers rattled past, their bewhiskered leader calling instructions as they circumvented the E-bike riding horde of senior riders out for a gentle day and, no doubt. lots of coffee and cake.

For much of our journey across Germany we were planning to follow D-Netz 3. The D-Netz routes are supposed to offer key routes across Germany. We will monitor; some of the surfaces were poor - a work in progress or routes designed for those who want a dose of forest track every now and again?

Rather like a cycle-tour; the rough goes with the smooth.

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