I’ve gone on at length since moving here about the novelty of having a flat, short commute to work at last; so why, you may ask, was your correspondent to be seen wheezing his way up the side of the Black Forest last week?

Well, it turns out that suddenly changing from riding 20-30km a day to riding less than 2 km is not good for general fitness levels, especially with the underlying Asthma. I’d barely settled into the new route when I was floored by my first cold in years, so I’ve been looking for alternatives for the morning routine that involve a bit more exercise.

This ride had started out relatively sensibly. I’d set off from my village towards the extinct volcano known as the Kaiserstühl, and the French Voges mountains. In theory anyway, as there as a layer of fog and low cloud, but they’d been there last time I came this way so presumably they were still there somewhere. This takes the rider over the Autobahn, and past the big sign directing cars to “Karlsruhe” or “Basel (Switzerland)” which still feels incredibly exotic, and certainly more exotic than the industrial estate next to it. This is dominated by huge concrete silos owned by a firm making septic tanks. On the other hand local companies like this are what stops small villages dying or becoming dormitory towns, so I shouldn’t complain.

The next village is Nimburg. At first it’s quiet but suddenly I find where everyone has gone: there are cars everywhere, on the road, pavement, up grass verges and in every flat corner. People are streaming in and out of a gate under a grand sign announcing the entrance of “Nimburg Stadium”, the grandness slightly tarnished by the fact it’s longer than the gate itself, which would not look out of place on an allotment. The annual festival is clearly running and doing a roaring trade, as would a traffic warden should they choose to wander this way.

After negotiating what seems to be half of the county, then the entrance to the local small animal society, and various groups getting one last barbecue at the local picnic ground, I reach the forest; this is mixed beech and oak woodland growing in the fertile flood plain. It’s also apparently damp enough to need lots of drainage channels. A sign proudly says that some of the channels date back to Roman times, and judging by the surface, so do some of the trails. If Julius Casear had used a bicycle his first words on arrival here wouldn’t have been “Veni, vidi, vici” but “Ow, Ow, Ow…”

Thankfully the jarring soon gives way to a surfaced road, which passes yet another sports centre; (Germany must have the highest density of sports centres per head on the planet) and then to a main road which is supplied by a good segregated cycleway. I’m cycling from one route I know well to another so I’m soon back in familiar territory, and back onto the river path to the local county town.

At this point I could just follow the river path to my own village, but at this point I decided to try out my Very Silly Plan. This involved riding through the county town and taking a turn towards the hills.

The edge of the plain is a sudden climb into the foothills of the Black Forest with little warning. This is actually useful: I’ve forgotten my map, but generally travelling in the direction of Up means I find the way and I’m soon following a steep sunken lane more reminiscent of Devon than Germany, leading to the village of Malterdingen.

I manage another wrong turn here but soon I’m out of the village and following the cycleway up through the last of the vineyards, squeezed onto the few south facing hills before the forest takes over. As I cross a bluff the castle in Landeck, my goal for the ride, comer into view. Unfortunately it’s a fair bit higher than I am, just below the clouds and clinging to a bluff that would probably make it famous if there were not dozens of similar castles all around the region.

More climbing on a thankfully surfaced road, and then there’s another summit with a commanding view of the valley, the Kaiserstuhl, and the French Voges mountains beyond. I know this because there’s a large colour picture with all the sights labelled. This is what sensible people who don’t come up on a cloudy day get to see. My view, on the other hand, shows the last half mile or so of the road I just climbed, and then a lot of greyness.

Finally the road reaches proper trees and the actual cloud layer, as opposed to mist. it also meets the main road out of the forest on a cartoon hairpin just above the village and its castle.

Landeck is the sort of village where houses have two floors more on one side; the street entrance for several buildings is effectively in the attic. The only vaguely flat bit is taken up by the castle, with a tiny space left for the town hall and fire station, and a war memorial. The castle itself has long been a ruin, but it does give one of the best bus stop locations I’ve seen in a long time:

Eventually I point the bike down the road into the valley. Not for the first time I’m startled to find that it only takes ten minutes to roll from the apparently remote village in the hills to the busy valley. Soon I’ve passed back through Malterdingen and I’m approaching the main road and railway line; about three minutes after that crossing the river on the last few metres of my normal route to my apartment.