A few kilometres from the new digs is the Kaiserstühl, a small range of volcanic hills in the middle of the wide plain of the Rhine valley. I’d worked out that if I cycle west, across the bottom of the hills to a town called Breisach am Rhein.

The border is currently closed, so I planned to follow the river north, past the lumpy bits, and back across open fields to the new base of operations, without climbing more than a few metres. This appealed for obvious reasons.

(map from Bikemap.net with additional labelling using Gimp; both are free.)

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The region is known as the “German Tuscany”: it is famous for having a Mediterranean climate and as a result most of the southern slopes are covered in vineyards. It also has a lot of things like this (Pic 1 on the map above):

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Apparently it’s a wine press. I’ve no idea how they work but it apparently required a donkey. This one is restored as a sort of village monument and would make an excellent cooking/eating point for long distance touring. Hopefully some other villages will have one.

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(Pic 2) There are villages every few kilometres, all of which are stunningly beautiful and beyond my skill with a camera, but I won’t stop trying. They often seem to have a river running down the high street, as seen here, a couple of churches and a cooperative dedicated to the sale of grape-based liquids of all kinds, the one in this village being the large glass fronted building on the left.

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(Pic 3). In contrast to the region around Stuttgart the older churches tend to be Catholic. This is the church at Wasenweiler. Notice as usual that your correspondent is not riding on the hill in the distance but the nice flat land in front.

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Finally after several detours because I’m easily distracted I reached Breisach (Pic 4). This is smack on the French border, and is built on a plug of rock surrounded by flat lowland, as a result it has changed ownership more times than a poker chip on a Saturday night. The railway used to cross the river which is why it has such a massive station building to accommodate the customs officers that they needed when this was a major stopping point between Paris and Vienna.

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After a brief detour around the harbour, the Rhine cycleway manages to follow the river for some distance (Pic 5).I know you’ve seen this one before but I still can’t get over the proximity of different countries in Europe.

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Apparently this is European Cycleway #15 riunning from lake Constance to Rotterdam (pic 6). There are information boards like this every few kilometres with local information in several languages, including of course places to eat, sleep and otherwise spend money.

After leaving the river I could cross back to where I live. This took me through Endingen which I visited a couple of days ago so I knew the way back from here. That’s forward planning, that is.

It turns out they have a rather nice city gate (pic 7):

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And a pretty town centre (Pic 8):

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Now I knew where i was going I was able to speed up and follow the cycleway back along the river to my new home town. I was feeling pretty tired but also rather pleased with myself, which all went to pot when I realised I was definitely no more than 500m from my apartment but I didn’t have a clue how to get there:

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(Pic 9) Bike waiting patiently while twit owner works out where the heck he is…

Now I’ve got my cycling legs back, it’s time to investigate the other direction, and get a bit further into the Black Forest…

The new landlady has a garden which my apartment looks out on to, and last week she took delivery of six chickens. This was a little difficult as there wasn’t anywhere to put them, so her daughter, son-in-law and I spent a couple of entertaining evenings helping to make a chicken run. This largely involved digging a trench to sink the fence into and hitting fencing stakes into the ground with a big hammer.

Now the chickens have one part of the garden, the dog has the other, and we get fresh eggs. Everyone is happy.

Friday was the first day at the new job, hence the slight delay in this post.

I’m on the staff at a protected workshop for clients with psychological disabilities, which provides a variety of occupations for people with varying psychological and cognitive abilities. To keep this range of options as broad as possible, departments can seem to be a bit random, which is why I’m on the team in charge of a laundry and a carpentry making wooden toys. Amongst other things this department makes wooden boats that are a popular souvenir of the city and which once a year take part in a race along the small streams that run along the main streets of the city centre. So I’m now partially responsible for an icon of the city of Freiburg* and if that isn’t integrating in my host culture I don’t know what is.

This is how the boats are made:

Here’s the state TV report on the boat race every year, hopefully with English subtitles, but you can get the idea from the pictures…

 

I got some really good news on day one; all the tedious report writing is dealt with by a social worker who comes in once a month. On the other hand, we have to run the department and deal with supplies and suppliers and make sure things are delivered on time.

And as I was finishing I was the person currently in charge of this department casually mentioned that he’s leaving in about two months and I’ll have to take over.

Useful experience, right, it’s all useful experience…

*Very ‘partially’ indeed, along with a lot of other people; thankfully…

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Touring bike coming for a explore with me around the new neighbourhood, with a waymarker, and bulk freight barge passing along the Rhine in the background. The barge is running pretty much down the French/German border; the proximity of different countries is something I still can’t get over having grown up on a island.

I’ll be exploring over the river, just as soon as a certain virus has pushed off sufficiently for the border to reopen…

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Tinybug is learning to ride, so Papa is required to help and occasionally push. The desired route is to go and visit the cow farm and say hello to the (my goodness aren’t they big?) cows, to the dandelion field to pick dandelions and then to the local farm shop where we feed the rabbits.

Right now we’re working on Starting without any help, but she is a small person and this is a heavy bike. So far, however she’s learned:

  • How to ride in a straight line
  • Riding without Papa holding the luggage rack, to the great relief of my upper back, I might add.
  • Leaning into corners,
  • Stopping on command,

And under “general life lessons”:

  • Cows like to sniff people; and they make a huge amount of poo.

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Collecting the post in the next village a couple of evenings ago. Notice careful social distancing.

There may be a break in posts for a week or two as I’m moving to Freiburg next weekend to start work in a workshop for people with Psychological and learning disabilities, but rest assured I’ll be back with exciting news of the new commute, plus mildly thrilling adventures exploring the region…

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The current lockdown in our part of Germany doesn’t extend to keeping people indoors or limiting how far you can go, just as long as you stay a good metre and a half from your fellow citizens.

I’m using this freedom as long as I still have it.

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As you can see, I’m generally able to stay well away from other people. It’s a little known skill of introverts: we can always find somewhere no-one else is.

I have to say, I could get used to that aspect of the situation.

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Another brief stop at this location on the road created by the kings of Wurttemberg so they could visit their riding stables.

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This is a route I use frequently on longer rides, but because I tend to set off at times when good Christian folk would be in bed it’s usually dark, and I ride past quickly to avoid being attacked by trolls, so I took a detour to take a photo.

The things I do for you, honestly.

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I happened to see a reference to this on a map. It’s apparently an “Amor Temple” and was supposed to be a secret meeting place built by the king Herzog Carl Eugen in 1788 for his wife Frau Franziska von Hohenheim. There’s a few problems with this, not least that it looks a bit draughty, and I’m sure they had better places to go, but also that there’s apparently no evidence it was built back then.

More likely it was one of those things that came as standard when “English gardens” were fashionable and was moved up the hill when a later king built the riding stables.

Or maybe it was just a very grand bike shed…

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Return journey. As you can see I didn’t let up once in my commitment to social distancing…

 

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It turns out that the Rhine floodplain is rather flat. This is not a particularly astute observation, after all the clue is in the name, but it is a bit of a shock when you’re used to the hills of Stuttgart. After visiting my future apartment, and finding myself with an hour and a half to spare before my train to Stuttgart, I figured it would be a terrible waste not to go exploring.

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The eastern side of the plain is marked by the edge of the Black Forest. there’s no messing about with things like foothills here, the land goes from a wide flat plain to a wall of sandstone covered in pine forest.

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I aimed for the hills, partly because I’m a geography nerd and the “Black Forest” still seems incredibly exotic, and partly because you can’t really miss them and get lost on the way.

I knew from looking at maps (it’s what Geography nerds do) that the river came out of the Black forest after following a steep valley, so my plan was to ride along it for about thirty minutes, Waldkirch, the first town in the valley, and then come back in time for the train.

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Wood baked breads and colonial items

In practice I got a bit distracted by an interesting side road and ended up in a very small valley full of “typical” local houses, and then got nervous about missing the train and set off back to the station.

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Of course, being me I was convinced that I’d be late so put the hammer down on the return journey, and made it back in fifteen minutes leaving me with a good twenty to wait for the train.

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Fortunately there was an interesting crane like implement to watch doing technical things…

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I’ve been taking Beautiful Daughter for rides, because there’s only so much you can do with an energetic five year old in a small attic apartment before either we or the neighbours go slightly potty.

Before someone jumps on me, our state Covid-19 guidelines are that you can take as much exercise outdoors as you want, as long as you keep a minimum of two metres away from anyone else:

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I think we achieved this.

The plan was to go along the valley and have a look at an old tramway then ride back across the hills, but then TinyBug decided she wanted to go through the forest, and specifically up an interesting looking path between the trees, so we followed that…

And found an tree to play on:

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And places to hide and chase things:

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So it took a while before we got any further:

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And then we decided that as we were on the other side of the valley, we may as well go and see what was happening at the airport, so we went over the fields on the other side to have a look:

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It turns out there wasn’t much. In fact nothing came in or out except a couple of private planes. Even the Autobahn was so quiet we could hear the skylarks over the fields.

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When we went back into the valley there was another short delay while we played Poohsticks, (which is totally a thing: s’got a Wikipedia page and everything).

When we’d run out of sticks we went to see the ponies on the other side of the road:

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Then we carried on to the next town and past the, former riding lodge of the kings of Württemberg:

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Before playing hide and seek in a forest than stopping to eat apples on a bench. Also, we saw tractors:

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Then we rode back up the hill, through the old US military base and to the apartment in time for lunch. In all, about 3 hours of riding, exploring, climbing and playing: one happy, tired, and hungry Tinybug.

Of course the next morning she’ll want to do it all again…

 

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Finally I’ve had a verbal offer of a job in Freiburg im Breisgau, working alongside people with psychological disabilities. The Breisgau region is a very nice part of the world, but it’s a long commute from Stuttgart as the Black Forest is in the way, so the plan was for yours truly to find an apartment and live there during the week; it’s not an ideal solution but better than dragging the boys out of school in the middle of the year.

This was fine except that as usual, all the apartments advertised were either eye-wateringly expensive, or, if they were even vaguely affordable, so far away the commute would take over an hour one way and cost more than the rent.

After a couple of days of this, Beautiful Wife suggested contacting a former member of the youth theatre group I used to lead, as he now lives in Freiburg and may be able to help.

He came back a day later saying his in-laws had a holiday apartment and were looking for a tenant. I visited this week; it turns out the flat was affordable, furnished, and even better, a fifteen minute ride from work.

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Not a bad fifteen minutes either.

Globe-trotting viruses permitting, next week will involve signing contracts and I can start packing.

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