Terii’s Cycling Babble


Brief Update
November 7, 2013, 10:16 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

It took me way too long to finish the last post of our September trip, but as the frequency of the rides took a nose-dive, it felt less urgent to blog.

Most of October was spent with what was either a persistent cold or a series of cursed hacking coughs with congestion. Seems every morning I woke unable to breathe, with gritty eyes and a sore throat. Some days I had feverish episodes. Through it all I felt drained and sleepy.

The weather wasn’t helpful either. Out of the entire last month, I think we had less than 5 days with more than an hour’s worth of sunshine. Three of those were absolutely glorious days of clear skies and mild temperatures I was too sick to take advantage of. Except for the first few days after we arrived home from our trip, we’ve had no frost or freeze. Just rain and rain and rain. I’m surprised Uppsala hasn’t started sinking into a sucking morass of mud. For the entire month of October, between chill, wet days or hacking cough, I managed just 4 rides.

November isn’t shaping up much better. The weather remains freakishly warm with nights in the 40’s or maybe dipping into the high 30’s. Yesterday was the first time I’ve seen sun in a week and then only for 20 minutes or so. Admittedly, in spite of the dense clouds, it remained mostly rain free so I actually got a ride in for the 2nd in the month. Just a river loop with Loke, but miles are miles.

Loke’s health is somewhat mixed. Most rides I’ve done since our return, he does these strange little hops or other odd movements, I think involve arthritis. On walks, there’s no such peculiarities. I think it might be something to do with his dragging on the trike during the first mile or so, especially the crazy dash right at the start. A few times, he’s acted a bit stiff in the hind end after a run which makes me keep his outings to less than 10 km (6-ish miles).

Last week, the infection also returned to his foot. The treatment with an antibiotic specific to skin conditions doesn’t seem to be doing much, so we may be heading back to the vet.

In spite of the crap weather (wish it would get cold enough to go from rain to snow!), I will break 1000 miles for the year. Only 50 left.

While there have been some amazing moments this year, I’m really hoping next is better. I never even got close to doing a tour. The greater majority of the 100+ rides of the year have been river loops due to Loke’s health or access to the car. So, yes, even though there’s still just a smidge under 2 months left in the year, I’m keeping fingers crossed for a better 2014.

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Yet More Fog & The Black Forest
November 7, 2013, 9:45 am
Filed under: Misc

Ta-da! Post 200! Blow the horns and toss confetti! It only took me… what? Four and a half years?

Written for Events on September 23rd, 2013.

Lake Titisee completely buried in fog

Lake Titisee completely buried in fog

As always, I woke early and started work on writing up a post for the previous day. When day light started showing through the drapes, I could tell the morning was again plagued with shrouding mists. The peek I took out the window was only to see how blanketing it was and if there was any need to pull out the camera.

Pretty even if frustrating

Pretty even if frustrating

There was. The fog gave the tree draped mountains a mysterious and possibly sinister feel that goes well with the name ‘Black Forest’. That is particularly true if ‘black’ in names has the same connotation as in Swedish.

Years ago, I had a chat with a man who was caretaker of Skuttunge Vicarage. He told me about the small stream that ran at the back of the house. It was called ‘Svart(something)’. Because the water flowed north, which was considered an omen of evil or bad luck, it was given a black name.

Or it could be that the Black Forest got it’s name simply because the trees were so dense that it was dark beneath their canopies.

Can just make out the lake

Can just make out the lake now

Jens woke and we started getting ready to traipse down the stairs for breakfast. By then the fog had lifted a little. Lake Titisee could be seen once more even if only as a hazy, leaden gleam of water.

Breakfast was fairly standard. Breads and rolls with simple cereals to be eaten with yoghurt, some fruits with a small selection of cheese and ham or salami.

I was a bit bummed at the fog. I’d really been looking forward to the ride even if for only a short distance. When I told Jens we could just hurry back to the highway and put the pedal down, he said we’d go into Titisee to look for souvenirs and gifts for our families.

Not much in the village demanded I take the camera out of the bag. Honestly, it’s a fairly modern looking collection of buildings packed with things for tourists. Jens picked up a fridge magnet in the shape of a cuckoo clock with ‘Titisee’ on it as well as some authentic Black Forest honey. We also took a peek into clock shop.

I was utterly enchanted by the two entire walls covered in clocks from the simple to the elaborate. I’ve adored cuckoo clocks since a friend of the family had one. Nothing grand. Just a little wooden thing, brightly painted where a tiny yellow bird would cuckoo out the hours. Some of these were quite big with several moving elements going into action after the bird twittered or cuckoo-ed. People dancing. Men lifting beer mugs.

My favorite clock for dad.

My favorite clock for dad.

Many had woodcutter themes. Little sawmills where the blades would move up and down as a man shook the reins of a horse hitched to a log. Or a pair of woodcutters with axes would chop. Those immediately made me think of my dad. He owns and runs a saw mill of the portable variety.

The man who owed the shop wandered over to see if we needed any help. Cheerfully, he would reach out and turn the hands of any clock we wanted to watch move. He also explained that each and every clock in his shop came with a certificate of authenticity. All the carvings and parts guaranteed to be made in the Black Forest region with the exception of the music boxes which were made in Switzerland.

It seems that the importation of the music boxes causes a loophole in the laws which allows clock parts crafted in other parts of the world to be assembled in places like Titisee then stamped ‘Made in the Black Forest’. It’s gotten the traditional and honest clock maker’s up in arms as it were. So, they formed a sort of organization to certify the clocks actually crafted in the area.

The gentleman took great pride in those clocks. It shone in the gleam of eyes and the smile as he explained how as a boy, he used to go into the forest with his father. They would cut trees and drag logs with a team of draft horses to the mill where the wood for the famous German clocks was often processed. He patted one of the little wooden horses with a finger tip, saying a cousin even owned four horses and still pulled logs out of the forest with them. ‘Much better for the forest and environment then big machines,’ he said.

Still thinking of my father, I asked if they shipped to the States. ‘Oh yes! All over the world and every day we ship! Most of our clocks go to the States!’ He indicated one of the larger clocks, ‘One of this model just went to Louisiana yesterday!’

During the talk, doubts about if my father would actually like a cuckoo clock. It’s not something we’ve ever really talked about. How often do cuckoo clocks come up in conversation unless someone sees one? Not very in my world. It might have simply been the woodcutter theme reminding me of my dad and my own love of the clocks making me think it might be a great gift.

Jens was agreeable. We’ve never sent dad a nice gift. I find him a little difficult to buy for. Nothing tends to leap out at me screaming I must get it for my father. I’ve always felt frustrated by that since he’s too far away to take out for a nice dinner on birthdays and Father’s Days which is what I did when I still lived in the southern U.S. Throw in that it was his willingness to help with the cost of the Trice for my birthday 7+ years ago that gave me one of the best investments ever made for my health and happiness.

But, being caught between ‘Oooh, I love it!’ and uncertain my father would feel the same, I backed out. Still, we asked for a business card in case I changed my mind.

I wouldn’t mind one of those clocks for myself in all honesty.

The rest of the shops didn’t specialize in the cuckoo clocks so much, but we walked through them all the same. The wonderful aroma of a man cooking in one shop made my mouth water in spite of the fact breakfast had been so recent. In a HUGE skillet (I’m talking 3+ feet wide), he was turning foot long German sausages of various types and stirring separate piles of potato and onion.

Fog lifting slowly

Fog lifting slowly

We finished the stroll down by the little harbor where the view across Lake Titisee was lovely.

As we wandered back to the parking lot, I told Jens again we could just go for the autobahn since the fog was being persistent. He said we’d just do a scenic drive through the area as I’d suggested the day before. It would be a nice break to relax on smaller roads for a few hours after having hit the mileage so hard the day before.

During my early morning research back at the hotel, I’d found mention of a scenic route and began directing Jens for it.

Thank you Jens!

Thank you Jens!

Scenery Happy!

Scenery Happy!

I’m so glad Jens didn’t just go along with my suggestion. Less than half an hour out of Titisee, we left the fog behind except for a soft haze noticeable only in the distance. Otherwise it was blue skies, gentle breezes and puffy clouds.

The scenery just took my breath. Granted, that happened a lot on the trip, but here my neck craned around so much, trying to see as much as possible and all at once, that the muscles began to hurt. I couldn’t stop! Just too much to look at, ooohing and ahhhing over.

Almost as if you can see forever

Almost as if you can see forever

One of many roadside chapels

One of many roadside chapels

A patchwork quilt of vivid green agricultural clearing and dark green trees, the land was softly curved, offering beautiful views at every glance. It’s a wonder we didn’t get lost because it was hard for me to tear my eyes away from the world outside the car and look down at the maps.

As we trundled along the roads, driving traffic behind us crazy I’m sure, I began to notice a strong presence of religion in the area. It seemed every few miles would find a tiny road side chapel with a floor space not much bigger than our bedroom in our tiny apartment. Houses here and there had crosses on their walls. I saw no less than four shrines. Well, that’s what I call them any way. Full crucifixes set on posts just a foot or so away from the road edge somewhat sheltered to the back, sides and top.

With such abundant signs of strong faith, it made me wonder about the history of superstition in the area in earlier times. It often seems that places that had very deep, dark beliefs in pre-Christian eras are among those with the strongest and most obvious displays of faith in later times.

Big church for a little village

Big church for a little village

In spite of traffic that often crowded our rear bumper, Jens didn’t stress particularly much or rush forward. He also didn’t mind turning around when I’d see a view I wanted to photo for panoramic stitching or something too close went by too fast. He was enjoying the countryside as much as I.

Ooooh! Pretty!

Ooooh! Pretty!

The route definitely lived up to the reputation of being scenic, but I was getting a little frustrated too.  I wanted to see Black Forest. To be able to say I was actually in the forest.

Big church, little village

Big church, little village

It was nearing 1 pm when Jens and I came to another little village. Like one of the others before, it had a huge church sitting almost in the heart of a village so small you could miss it if you blinked. Breakfast was long gone, so when we spotted a cafe , we found a place to park and wandered over to eat.

The waitress was an older woman, perhaps in her 50’s, dressed in cute, traditional German country garb. Jens dusted off some of his high school German and managed to order something.

I had schnitzel and Jens had something called ‘hunter’s schnitzel’ which was normal schnitzel but smothered in a thick mushroom sauce.

Mmmmm... cake with cherry preserves.

Mmmmm… cake with cherry preserves.

The meal turned into something of an adventure and not in the pleasant sense. Yellow jackets plagued the outdoor seating. Jens and I both kept an eye on each mouthful the other took to make sure one of the temperamental flying hypodermics didn’t sneak onto the fork as we lifted it to our mouths. Made for a nervous dining experience.

To finish the meal off, I had a big slice of Black Forest cake. It’s quite a bit different from what Americans or even Swedes call ‘Black Forest cake’, which tends to be chocolate cake with a hint of cherry and a chocolate frosting. This was layers of chocolate sponge cake with a layer of cherry preserves separated by a whipped cream which also covered the outside. Oh, and the cream was infused with a liqueur of some kind. Cherry I would guess.

Things were rather busy for the poor, lone waitress, so while Jens waited to get our meal paid for, I took the camera and headed for the church.

Simple outside hides...

Simple outside hides…

.. a stunning interior

.. a stunning interior

Stunning describes the inside of this church. It was very much like a geode. You know those ball shaped chunks of unassuming, bland rock that when broken open reveal a treasure of crystalline beauty? Admittedly, even Swedish country churches are the same way. Modest outsides, but inside full of murals and elaborately carved pulpits with gilding.

A work of art playing a pulpit

A work of art playing a pulpit

On this church, the outside of brick with some lovely decorative touches hid an interior of gilt, murals, marble and carvings all against a stunning milk-white backdrop. I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when I stepped in.

The church was actually quite crowded with tourists, but I managed to get some photos that weren’t packed with people. Jens arrived just a few minutes after I did. He was a bit jumpy and impatient with worry about our car getting ticketed or towed, but he still seemed impressed as he followed me.

I've never seen marble in these colors.

I’ve never seen marble in these colors.

“I wonder which denomination it is?” he whispered as I took yet another cluster of photos.

“Catholic.”

“How do you know?”

To answer, I pointed to the one of the beautifully carved confessionals in an an alcove. The wood was so polished it shone like a mirror or surface of a still lake. “Can’t think of any other that would have those.” Jens agreed.

My jumpy hubby tried hustling me through the rest of the church before finally giving up to run back to the car.

Village/Town Church

Village/Town Church

Town Brook

Town Brook

We continued our countryside amble and the day remained beautiful which added to the scenery. Passing through little towns and villages, I often found something to photo. Often a church. Other times it was statuary or a crystal stream bubbling cheerfully over rocks in its brick lined channel.

And another stream in an other town

And another stream in an other town

Photo-ops at every turn of the head made for slow going, but Jens had more than 5 days of vacation remaining. Even taking time to amble through scenic regions of Germany would leave him with 3 or more days of recovery before hitting the work treadmill again.

This region is definitely something to keep in mind for future vacations. Mountain streams and lakes for Jens to fish, not to mention a modest wine producing area. Jens has his doubts about vintages coming out of the region as Germany is not known for its wines.

Stunning ruin and ever-present corn.

Stunning ruin and ever-present corn.

For me, there is the scenery and cycle routes zig-zagging through the entire area like a spiderweb. Parts of them have dedicated paths, others are on the twisting and steep roads, but still! We passed by one truly impressive castle that I drooled at the idea of visiting. Reluctantly, we went on without doing so as it would have taken up the entire rest of the day. It dwarfed Chateau de Commarque which was the incredible ruined castle complex we visited on our last day in France. We really wanted to end the day more than 25 miles from where we’d started. I’m sure there are other ruins lurking around for visiting on whatever later trip we might make there.

Loved the beam and plaster exterior

Loved the beam and plaster exterior

Then of course, are the pretty towns and villages with the beautiful, centuries old buildings. There would be plenty of things to keep both of us amused both together and separately.

In one town, we made a stop for me to run around in search of a bathroom while Jens waited with the car thanks to lack of parking. I found relief in a small cafe/bakery. It took some searching to find the restroom. Being down in a second level of the basement and down a long corridor.

More Scenery Loving

More Scenery Loving

To keep from feeling guilty, I decided to buy a pastry and a couple bottles of water. The woman who helped me was in spry, cheerful person who might have been in her 70’s. She earnestly tried to communicate something to me, but my German is fairly non-existent and her English even worse, I think. She was very sweet though as we muddled along, both clueless and laughing about it. Finally, I got that she was informing me about the return policy on the bottles. I guess she wasn’t sure I already knew as I was American rather than European where such recycle policies are firmly in place.

Instead of feeling frustrated by the language barrier and time it took, I thought it very kind that she had been so determined to make sure I knew I could get some of my money back on the plastic. Little kindnesses not brushed off for sake of convenience.

Look! Forest!!

Look! Forest!!

Since I was so determined to actually find the Black Forest, I directed us through the turns and along the small roads toward the Black Forest National Park marked on the map. As we neared the park, climbing upward, yet still was surrounded by so much agriculture, I wondered if there was any forest left. Finally, we did find forest.

Tiny Mountain Brook

Tiny Mountain Brook

Steep with very narrow roads, Jens began to stress once more while passing through the park. Tiny little roadways with a steep drop off to one side or the other. Often, it felt as if there wasn’t enough room for two cars to pass without scraping paint. All it would have taken was one person coming in the opposite direction, treating the twisting lanes like a personal race track for disaster. I’m not sure Jens felt it was worth it, but it was so very beautiful with breathtaking views suddenly revealed around blind corners.

Here is the Black Forest!

Here is the Black Forest!

We saw quite a few cyclists on the roads through the park. Some of them were family groups struggling up the hills. Others were solo or couples. One section, we came upon a man chewing his way up a very long, steep climb. He had to stop before we passed him, dismounting to being walking. As we went by and upward to round a corner, I spotted a view I just had to have. Fortunately, there was just enough space for Jens to poke the car’s nose off the road a bit.

The settled valley below

The settled valley below

Walking back down the curve to the scenic overlook, I felt sorry for the guy because around the twist in the road, was yet more climbing as far one could see. Granted, with the trees and turns, that was probably only about 150-200 yards of visibility, but with a 12% grade or more with half a mile or better behind him that’s brutal. It wasn’t the end either. There was a lot more up before he got the relief of a downward ride.

There was actually a little path going around the guard rail and a bench below the road where one could relax while enjoying the view across the inhabited valley below. The man was just coming to the curve as I started back to the car. I called out and pointed to the bench. He first looked startled at my friendly suggestion, but nodded and plodded to bench.

Once we’d reached the heart of the forest, I told Jens that we could head for the autobahn. I felt a little pang of loss leaving the Black Forest so soon, but told myself that it could serve as another opportunity for a vacation in the future.

Farewell Black Forest

Farewell Black Forest

The rest of the trip from there was a just racing along with few distractions. We stopped somewhere in the northern part of Germany as twilight set in. I can’t remember the name of the town or the hotel. It was a fairly modern sort of place with a tiny restaurant/bar for our dinner. With only five tables and all full, the hotel owner, called out to a man who sat in a booth alone, asking if we could share his table. He agreed.

As we settled, Jens looked curiously at his meal and asked what it was. It was a schnitzel with a piece of cold-smoked salmon and sunny-side egg on top of it. Intrigued, Jens ordered it for himself. I ordered a plate of assorted German pork (sausage, bacon, bratwurst) with fried potatoes.

The bed had more of those evil, illusionary pillows, but other than that it was a good night’s sleep.

The next day saw us to Rostock with plenty of time. We had about 9 hours to wait on the ferry, I think. Hard to remember at this late date. We poked around a mall to kill some time where I had some heavenly Black Forest ice cream. Our cabin this time for the overnight trip across the strait, was a deluxe. It still had the evil pillows (wonder if they’re just typical pillows in Germany), but otherwise the bed was much better.

The next day was the long dash across the lower half of Sweden. After the mild temperatures through the whole trip, the frost and freezing fog I drove us through was something of a surprise. We arrived home just in time for supper.

Loke was thrilled to see us for maybe 5 minutes. When I leaned over with open arms, instead of the cute tail-wiggling walk into them, he bounded joyfully over. After that, it was as if we’d never been gone.

Though it had its moments where I wanted to run screaming for home, it turned into an amazing trip. I’m glad we went. It left me for a taste of more travel. Back to the Black Forest and there’s still the Camargue and Carcassonne and whatever else I can find in Europe to explore.

And maybe next time, my trike will roll over more of it!