To make life more interesting for citizens in south West Germany, the railway between Karlsruhe and Basel was closed last week. This is the main freight route from Rotterdam to southern Europe, but more importantly, it’s the main line between where I work, and Beautiful Wife and family.

Obviously this mean things like “replacement bus services” and similar, which meant all kinds of problems.

Gradually a new idea formed: I could catch a train to the eastern edge of the Black Forest and then cycle the rest of the way. This would mean I could try out a possible route across the Black Forest itself, a step closer to finding a route all the way to Stuttgart by bike.

Thus your correspondent was to be found in Alpirsbach railway station last Friday, watching a local train disappear into the trees, and hoping he hadn’t forgotten something important…

The people running the national park in the Black Forest have realised that cycle tourists have money, and furthermore tend to spend it frequently, because there’s not much space on a bicycle for large amounts of food. They’ve therefore created a number of cycle routes along the valleys, including the Kinzig valley which runs from Freudenstadt, following a giant “U” shape to Offenburg in the Rhine valley.

This has been adopted to varying degrees of enthusiasm by different villages, but there was generally a traffic free if slightly wandering path between settlements, and best of all, this was all downhill; I sent a couple of hours following the signs, riding through extremely touristy towns, and generally following the valley,

It’s hard to get lost following a river valley: if you get wet you’ve gone too far one way, and if you find yourself climbing unexpectedly, you’ve gone too far the other.

Two hours and about 35km later I reached Heslach, which sounds like a suburb of Birmingham but which is at the southern part of the giant “U” of the Kinzig valley, and as such was where I had to start climbing.

This was the bit that had been on my mind: I had to climb up and over the watershed and into the Elz valley; the Elz empties into the Rhine, but rather helpfully goes past my apartment first, which is why I was aiming for it: once in that valley I would quickly be in familiar territory. Also it was downhill for the whole of the last 40 kilometres or so.

Unfortunately there was a whole lot of up between me and there. Very pretty up, though, with tree lined valleys and massive heavily roofed farmhouses. I had plenty of time to appreciate them, because they’d would appear high up above, and then I’d pass them on the same level, and finally lose sight of them disappearing far below.

This was not a quick process.

See that valley in the distance? I was in that valley, and that was about halfway up the hill.

Eventually the pass came into view, with a low, squat restaurant in the lowest point. Unfortunately this was still a very long way above me. I could see cars flashing past at the top of the hill, but down here was silence except for the stream, and a middle aged asthmatic wheezing.

After some pushing, aching legs and a few phrases that the locals probably haven’t heard before. When I reached the top an hour and a half after I started climbing I’d travelled 8 km and climbed 400m (5 miles and 1300′). I stopped in the windswept car park that reminded me of passes in the UK, in places like Wales and the Pennines in the UK. I expired for a bit and worried about the 18% downhill ahead.

The actual descent was shorter than the climb and worrying combined: within an hour of rolling out of the pub car park I was 20km away, back on familiar roads and could see the big skies and vineyards of the Rhine valley.

Looking at the map later I realised that I’d been through Alpirsbach a long time ago, on a three day tour from Stuttgart; so I can theoretically claim to have cycled the whole distance from Stuttgart to Freiburg.

The fact it took more than a decade means it was possibly marginally slower than I usually am…