Bad Säckingen turned out to be ‘Sort of alright Säckingen’. We have noticed that lots of German towns and villages (even the really pretty ones) have an Old Town which have remained, to a certain extent, intact. Then around this area the town has expanded out in the modern world, with housing and services to supply the people who work or live there. This is pretty much what happens everywhere all over The World. But we have noticed that in some areas of Europe particularly in France, Spain and Italy, there is a definite open space between old and new. This is especially the case in Andalucia and The Luberon. In Germany, the ring around the old town is, how can we put it?…. a ring of uncertainty! You just have to be that little bit more aware of your surroundings.
In Bad Säckingen our apartment was in the ‘ring of uncertainty’. The block didn’t look anything special at all but the apartment itself was lovely with a comfy bed, comfy sofa, comfy everything. It was just what we needed for two nights of good rest and a full day off the bikes!
We had never heard of Bad Säckingen before and only chose it because of the impending rain that was forecast. Over the years we have almost become amateur meteorologists. We regularly monitor weather patterns and various international and local websites to make adjustments to our trips. Most places have an optimum time to visit in order to do the things you want to do. As a basic example, you wouldn’t go to The French Alps for the best skiing in July, you would go hiking or mountain biking instead!
During our trips we also hold back or push on when depending on the weather, especially when rain is predominantly in the forecast. Which brings us back to Bad Säckingen. Heavy rain was forecast and we did not want to cycle or camp in it, so a day off was needed and Bad Sack seemed as good a place as any.
We woke up on our day off to heavy, steely grey skies, but no rain. So we decided to see what the place had to offer. We threaded our way through the ‘ring of uncertainty’, passed a few drunks, along some less than sweet smelling alleys and under some graffiti decorated subways, to emerge in a pretty German medieval town.
It had a large central square, occupied by a church, lots of cobbled streets that twisted and turned at all sorts of angles, and a long covered wooden bridge that stretched across The Rhine to Switzerland.
It was a pretty but not amazing town. We stopped for a coffee and Steve sat at a table outside while Sarah went to order. Then out of nowhere a huge gust of wind blew through the street taking chairs and advertising boards with it. This was followed by a crack of thunder and an absolute downpour as if someone had just ripped open the clouds. Within seconds the street was a river. The woman running the coffee shop was frantically trying to get everything inside so we jumped in to help. The woman was genuinely surprised at our efforts, so much so that she gave us a small sticky waffle for our trouble. “Don’t tell anyone about this”, said Steve “We are not on a working visa!”
We watched as the rain turned to hailstones and the sky turned almost black. We laughed at how it would have been cycling along in the deluge. “A good call I think”, said Sarah.
The rain eased but continued lighter and we made our way back through ‘the ring of uncertainty’ to our lovely, dry apartment and enjoyed the rest of our day off.
The following day was planned to be our longest day of cycling on this trip, 72 miles, so we were up early and ready for the off. Unfortunately, as Steve prepared the bikes he noticed Sarah’s back tyre was quite soft and further investigation revealed a slow puncture. But with a quick change of inner tube we were soon on our way.
The weather front had passed but had left behind some cloudy skies and colder temperatures. But after a few small hills we soon warmed up and were flying along the Rhine towards the city of Basel.
Today was to be another one of those ‘three countries in a few hours’ day. We crossed into Switzerland along the wooden bridge we had seen the day before, then we navigated through Basel and turned North and into France.
We decided to leave the path along The Rhine and hit some of the rural French roads which are nearly always great for cycling, and we weren’t disappointed, so we made some great progress. Sarah spotted a tabac and patisserie in a small village. We stopped and she emerged with two take-out coffees and a couple of amazing fresh croissants and sat on a wall to devour them in seconds. Getting calories was always high on the agenda.
The day moved on and so did the clouds. As we arrived at our destination in Colmar the sun was out, it was hot, and we pitched our tent in a great spot at a campsite by the river.
Colmar was one of the places Steve had wanted to visit on this trip so we had decided to take the following day off in order to see it.
This turned out to be a good decision. Colmar is beautiful and we had a sunny day on which to explore it. The town and the surrounding villages are said to be the inspiration for the Beauty and the Beast story. It is real fairytale stuff with half timbered, crooked, colourful buildings and narrow cobbled streets. A picture postcard at each corner. It is very popular and busy with its fair share of cafes, bars, restaurants and tourists shops, but definitely worth the visit.
Our next day was one of ease of navigation. We left the campsite, crossed a road and joined a cycle path which ran straight for about 15 miles. The path then turned left and ran along the side of the Rhine Grand Canal for about 35 miles, straight, straight, straight until it popped us out right in the centre of the city of Strasbourg.
The route was far from boring with changing scenery along the way and plenty of activity on the canal. Cyclists, anglers, day cruisers, transport barges, house boats and even a ‘stag’ party!
We made a quick stop at the impressive gothic Cathedral which is impossible to photograph completely because of its size and location amongst tightly packed streets. Then we crossed back over The Rhine into Germany and to the adjoining city of Kehl for another night under canvas.
The next two days were almost identical to one another. We followed the route along the Rhine and passed through one non-descript German village after another. At one point it felt like we had gone in a big circle as the villages were so similar. We also found it very quiet, almost eerily so. It was the weekend and many places were closed. As we passed a couple of villages we saw almost no-one. So for a couple of days we just put our heads down and got through the miles.
The campsites were also nothing special. However, on one of them we did bump into a lovely South African couple who now live in The Netherlands and were cycling in the opposite direction to ourselves. We shared a picnic table for cooking and eating dinner and spent a couple of hours chatting and exchanging travel stories. It’s great to have these chance meetings with people with a similar outlook to ourselves. They invited us to stay with them at the end of our cycle but I just don’t think we can make it fit, which is a shame because we did share a few laughs with them.
The miles rolled by and we slowly edged closer to our next day off which was to be in the town of Rudesheim. Rudesheim has a big reputation and is also at the start of the Rhine Gorge, which for many is apparently the most scenic part of the trip. “I wonder if we will be staying in The Ring of Uncertainty”, thought Steve, as we cycled into town.