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PART TWO 2005 INCIDENTS OF BIKE AND TRAIN TRAVEL FROM GENOA TO GERMANY
OFF THE SHIP: After 18 fun filled glorious sunny days of cruise ship travel aboard the MSC Opera with ten ports
from Florida to Italy, we reluctantly take departure from our posh floating abode and hit the streets of the Italian port
town of Genoa with our home made fold up bikes and backpacks.
The light cold rain was intermittently falling and that dampened our spirits and hastened our resolve to ride the warm
Our memories of Genoa from a driving experience more than twenty years earlier conjured up frustrating
recollections of honking horns, screaming drivers, and diminutive automobiles darting in and out of traffic and then
parking three deep at curb side, filling the roadways beyond capacity.
We were pleasantly surprised by the apparent improvement in driving habits displayed by the residents of Genoa.
Then we reflected upon the thought that all is relative because we had been living in Mexico for the past fifteen
years where dash and vigor driving is pushed beyond the limit by over active mucho-macho Mexicanisimo.
Our curiosity to explore is tempered by the inclement weather conditions so we shift our little bikes into low gear and
climb the inclined twisting streets up from the port terminal to the central train station where we must make our
BOARDING THE TRAIN: GATE 18 NORTH BOUND TRACK AT GENOA, ITALY
Aboard the ship we had asked the ship’s cruise director, Paolo where we might find a pleasant place to spend the
night on our way north to Lake Constance just before entering the area of the Swiss Alps. With Paolo’s advice we
purchased tickets for the town of Chiasso.
Our train was scheduled to depart with in half an hour so we headed directly from the ticket counter to the gate
which entailed elevator rides followed by many long steep stairs to get to gate 18. A train came in and stopped at
our gate and we eagerly began to board but quickly discovered that this train was not our train…back to the
platform to wait. We next heard that our train would be pulling in at gate 19 and sure enough in it was coming, but
from the wrong direction. At the last second we were told that the tickets would need to be validated so Jane took off
running with some other tourists that knew where this was done. Jane just got back in time for us to load our bikes
and ourselves aboard before the train began to roll.
So, there we were on the right train that pulled into the wrong platform and going the wrong direction…we
immediately had flashbacks to our Mexican train riding experiences.
UP TO LAKE COMO/ CHIASSO: Being aboard the train was great on a cold damp day like this. We were warm, dry
and rolling up hill while the drizzle came down outside. We were climbing the hills leading up to the Alps effortlessly
sitting back in our train seats just taking in the scenery of the quaint little Italian towns packed into the valleys and
stacked on the hillsides as we gliding by.
VIEW FROM ABOARD THE WARM DRY TRAIN
We were now headed north on the first leg of our next adventure that would ultimately carry us to the city of
Nordhorn in northern Germany.
We had the pleasant surprise of being aboard the same train as our dining partners from the ship MSC Opera, John
and Gloria LaPorte from Manitoba, Canada. They were on their way for a two-week visit to their son who lives and
works in Switzerland.
OFF THE TRAIN SURPRISE! As we rolled our bicycles off the train and said goodbye to our friends John and Gloria
LaPorte at Chiasso, we were startled to discover that we were already in Switzerland. If you think that Europe is
expensive with the high priced Euro then you need to check out the prices in Switzerland with the Swiss Franc.
TRAIN STATION DEPARTING BY BICYCLE; PHOTO BY JOHN LAPORTE
THE BICYCLES SAVE US $100.00/ BACK TO COMO, ITALY: Jane and I thankfully had our own wheels so we
checked with the border guards who confided with us that a bicycle trip back to Italy for a hotel room would save us
at least $100.00.
We got directions from the border guards, mounted our bicycles, cleared customs and hit the wet city streets bound
back to Italy. In a few minutes we were checking into our high priced but affordable Italian hotel. The stone-faced
hotel receptionist was friendly enough and our 68 Euro hotel room adequate and clean. Hotel Valit Ellina had the
best location for us. It was close to the border, close to local shopping and the next day it would be completely down
hill all the way to the train station back in Chiasso, Switzerland; no pumping only brake burning.
The neighborhood market across the street from the hotel stocked the local cheeses, bread and of course one of
our favorites over the years, vino de tavola or Italian table wine. The market owner made sure we sampled all of his
favorite types of cheese and then pitched us to purchase an armload of wine at special quantity prices. (If we had
been able to deposit those bottles back at our Mexican home the temptation to purchase the entire inventory would
have been irresistible.)
We had a lovely and quiet meal back in our hotel room sampling the local specialties while watching the street
people of this interesting little border town from our warm and dry hotel.
SWISS TRAIN TO ZURICH: Our Italian hotel was stingy on the breakfast and the delicious rolls were light and fluffy
but mostly made of air. We did get our thermos filled and made it out the door for our mostly downhill bicycle ride
back to Chiasso, Switzerland to board the train headed for Zurich and on to Konstanz, Germany after 9 that
morning. The cold damp weather made our decision to ride the train this day an easy one.
Our 106 Swiss Franc train tickets that included bicycle passes were worth the price if only for the fantastic scenery
we were treated to all day; twisting thought countless tunnels and mountain valleys as we steadily climbed up
through the snowcapped Swiss Alps.
STEADY CLIMBING UP INTO THE SWISS ALPS AND SNOW COUNTRY
ONWARD AND UPWARD WE WENT, HAPPY THE TRAIN WAS CARRYING US AND WE WERE NOT HUFFING
AND PUFFING OUR WAY UP BY BICYCLE.
We had to make a train change in Zurich and the conductor made sure that we went to the right gate. As we were
putting our bicycles aboard our next train in Zurich the conductor came running after us. We were at the correct
gate but boarding the wrong train…he sent us on to our train and we immediately rolled away.
This next train was ultra modern and had an upstairs observation deck equipped with a children’s recreation center.
We had a pleasant conversation with a Swiss man in our same compartment who also boarded the train with a
bicycle. He gave us a history and geography lesson as we sped through this picturesque region.
We would need to change trains one more time this day at Weinfelden and our conductor checked his watch and
informed us that we would miss our connection. Then he told us that he would call ahead to the connecting train and
have them wait for us, which he did.
When we disembarked at Weinfelden, the Swiss man with the bicycle from our train told us to follow him and we all
mounted our bicycles and had a very spirited bike ride through the train station weaving through the crowds to our
next train that was indeed there waiting for us. We boarded and the train immediately rolled away.
KONSTANZ, GERMANY, RAIN: Leaving the train in Konstanz we found ourselves again in another border town, this
time on the Swiss-German border in Germany.
(This is an interesting and memorable place for Jane and I because several years before we made an extensive
bicycle trip the entire length of the Rhine River from Holland to Germany to France and finally to Konstanz and
Switzerland here at the headwaters of the Rhine River at the Bodensee, Lake Constance. We covered 3,000 plus
kilometers by bicycle that trip in Europe.)
Before we ventured out on to the wet and rainy street we investigated the departure times for taking the local train
up through the Schwarzwald or Black Forrest the following day. Next it was to the tourist information office to locate a
room nearby for the night. The cheerful receptionist sent us across the street to the 64 Euro hotel and then told us
that we didn’t need to pay her the booking charge. With a big smile and a thumb up she said, “Have a nice time and
Sure enough directly across the street from the train station located in a very grand and prestigious building was our
hotel and believe it or not a McDonalds Restaurant. Jane checked us in and chuckled when she came to tell me that
our breakfast, “Frühstück” (included in the hotel price would be at the McDonalds Restaurant).
Our meticulously appointed and enormous room had a commanding view of the harbor, Lake Constance and also
the surrounding mountains.
VIEW FROM OUR HOTEL ROOM
Our location was also incredible with a bank, Internet shop and large shopping mall that housed an Aldi grocery
store within one block…we had it made.
A McDonald’s BREAKFAST: Well this all didn’t quite fit together, our elegant hotel, the stately building and the
prestigious location with the chain restaurant McDonalds where we would now have our breakfast. I will admit that
the German influence did make the experience acceptable. We each had an egg omelet that must have contained
half a dozen eggs and it was served to our table. When we asked about a coffee refill we were informed that that
would be two and a half Euros each…we declined. They did however fill our thermos with hot water for our on the
road coffee at no charge.
OUR FRIENDLY “DB” ENGINEER UP THROUGH THE 39 TUNNELS OF THE FAMOUS AND SPECTACULAR
BLACK FOREST RAIL LINE. (SCHWARZWALD)
SCHWARZWALD TRAIN TO KARLSRUHE; We boarded the 10:40 train “DB” or Die Bahn, a very short bicycle ride
away from our hotel which was across the street at 10:40 to begin our fabulous ride up through the Schwarzwald
with a final destination of Karlsruhe, Germany.
LEAVING LAKE CONSTANCE(THE BODENSEE) AS WE CROSS THE BEGINNINGS OF THE FAMOUS RHINE
RIVER TO BEGIN OUR TRAIN TRIP UP INTO THE BLACK FOREST.
This particular train ride is our all time favorite because of its extraordinarily beautiful scenery and spectacular route
which twists and winds through 39 tunnels in an alpine forest filled with quaint little villages and countless small
mountain streams that include the headwaters of the Danube or “Donau” which accompanies us for many a mile
along our way.
A VIEW FROM OUR TRAIN WINDOW OF QUAINT VILLAGES FILLING THE VALLEYS AND STACKED IN THE HILL
A VIEW OF THE BLACK FOREST CUCKOO CLOCK COUNTRY FROM OUR MOVING TRAIN WINDOW.
KARLSRUHE: After our tremendously memorable Schwarzwald train ride we rolled down to the level lands of the
wide Rhine River valley and into the town of Karlsruhe. Our weather had miraculously taken a change for the better
and we were blessed with a lovely and pleasant springtime day…our first since Palma de Mallorca, when we were
aboard our cruise ship MSC Opera a week earlier.
Our first order of business was to locate a hotel room so we crossed the street to the tourist information office and
asked for affordable accommodations. We received a computer printout for our non-smoking hotel room and
directions on how to get there. We biked the two kilometers to the hotel and after repeatedly ringing of the doorbell
and knocking on the door we finally aroused someone who informed us that we will have to return in a couple of
hours to check in.
We decided to take our chances and go out on the street to search out an open hotel. Next a nice and friendly lady
directs us to a lovely hotel near the train station and I go in to get the room. The price is a hundred Euros more than
we are willing to pay so we renew our search. I enter a modest hotel on the main street and the pleasant receptionist
tells me that he will make
me a special price if 99 Euros on a room that is normally 120 Euros. When I come out of the hotel to confer with
Jane she is talking with a man on the street that tells us to go around the corner and there we will find a hotel named
Eden that is first quality and only 60 Euros. Sure enough we go and are very satisfied with the room that is the size
of a suite with its own solarium and private balcony and a breakfast that was the best of the trip!
Karlsruhe turned out to be a very bicycle friendly university town with wide streets and lots of elegant parks filled with
monuments and elaborate sculptures.
We enjoyed our first truly fine springtime weather here and that was a welcome relief from the cold wet drizzly stuff
that we had all the way up from Genoa, Italy.
A TRAIN TRIP THROUGH THE LOVELY MIDDLE RHINE TO KOBLENZ: April 22 was a bright beautiful and clear
spring morning with all of the season’s flowers in fill bloom. After the best breakfast of our trip from Genoa and an
exuberating bicycle excursion of the city, we went back to the hotel for our morning coffee in their solarium coffee
room and then loaded our packs onto our little bikes and headed for the train to Koblenz that would depart at 10:52.
A MORNING COFFEE AT THE EDEN HOTEL BEFORE BOARDING THE TRAIN
Our train was sitting on the track waiting for us but it shouldn’t have been’’’ it was too early. We discovered that this
train that was supposed to arrive from Luxemburg City didn’t make that trip because the tracks were out so the
passengers were then transferred up here by bus.
We rolled away on this EC/IC international train, “Euro City” along the flat lands of this expansive part of the Rhine
River valley that Jane and I had bicycled before. Now we covered that same distance up to our next stop of Mainz by
train in minutes. This was the same distance we had pedaled for several days on our Rhine bicycle trip in 2002.On
that trip we had the silhouette of this wide Rhine River valley etched into our minds for days.
With only seconds to spare we scrambled from one train across the platform and into our next that rolled out of the
Mainz terminal before we could get seated.
SOUTH END OF THE MIDDLE RHINE NEAR BINGEN
THE BICYCLE PATH JANE AND I HAVE ROLLED OVER ALONG THE RHINE RIVER SEVERAL TIMES IN THE
PAST, NOW WITH THE FIRST SPRING FOLIAGE BEGINNING TO UNFURL.
HERE THE MIDDLE RHINE IS SQUEEZED BETWEEN THE HIGH STEEP BANKS ACCELERATING THE CURRENT
AS THE GREAT RIVER TWISTS AND TURNS.
THE COMMERCIAL BARGE TRAFFIC FIGHTS THE SPRING HIGH WATER.
Here the river takes a sharp turn to the west headed for our next city of Bingen and we are flanked on the north side
of the river by the steep bluffs that are the beginnings of the beautiful middle Rhine. The middle Rhine is by far the
most spectacular stretch of the Rhine River where the high steep banks squeeze the river into a rapid running
waterway that bustles with commercial traffic. Vineyards and medieval castles are packed together and perched
upon the valleys steep slopes for mile after mile. Both sides of the river have rail tracks, highways and bicycle paths.
We have taken them all and for the most pleasurable passage through this most scenic part of the Rhine the bicycle
is tops followed by the train.
From Bingen we pass Lorch, Bacharach, Rhens, St. Goarshausen, Boppard and then into Koblenz where the Mosel
River comes down from France to join the Rhine on its way to the sea. We have bicycled this part of the Rhine a
number of times and never tire of its inspiring scenery. If you can only see part of Europe, then this is a “must see”
because it is unquestionably tops in beauty.
KOBLENZ: Spring was in the air as we disembarked the train in Koblenz. Our first order of business was a hotel
room so we biked over to the tourist information office and the helpful young lady fixed us up with a quiet non-
smoking room for 60 Euros at the Hotel Hamm less than a kilometer from the train…we took it and went to unburden
ourselves of our luggage so we could get out with our bikes to take advantage of the fabulous spring time weather in
this picturesque and historical city.
KOBLENZ RIVER FRONT BICYCLE PATH WITH A FREIGHT BOAT PUSHING UP THE RIVER.
LOOKING SOUTH FROM THE SAME SPOT ALONG THE BICYCLE PATH OF THE PHOTO ABOVE; THIS IS THE
EXACT SAME PATH WE BICYCLED ON OUR BICYCLE TRIP TO THE HEADWATERS OR THE RHINE IN 2002.
FACING DOWN STREAM, THIS IS WHERE THE MOSEL RIVER FROM FRANCE AND LUXEMBURG
CONVERGES WITH THE RHINE ON ITS WAY TO THE SEA.
A SPRING AFTERNOON ON A DOWNTOWN KOBLENZ SIDE STREET.
OUTDOOR CAFES, METICULOUSLY KEPT BUILDINGS AND STATUARY ARE THE STANDARDS OF THIS
PROMINENT GERMAN CITY
KOBLENZ, THE HOME OF MONUMENTAL MONUMENTS
ONE OF THE MANY ANCIENT CASTLES ALONG THE RHINE RIVER SITS HERE PERCHED HIGH ABOVE THE
We are no strangers to this place and hardly needed a map as we went from our hotel down to the river to follow it
north to the confluence with the Mosel, flicking photos along the way. The city of Koblenz is a big draw as a tourist
destination because of its history dating back to the Roman times and also the collection of historical structures
maintained in exquisite and pristine condition. This is even more impressive when you consider that the city was
nearly flattened by bombing during WWII.
APRIL 23: We are up early and Jane is having big problems with her asthma combined with a repertory infection due
to the accumulation of factors from our long hours riding the train in the four days of damp and cold weather we
encountered on our way up from Genoa, Italy. Now we must take precautions to guard her health.
VIEW FROM THE TRAIN OF THE BICYCLE PATH JANE AND I RODE UP TO THE HEADWATERS OF THIS
MIGHTY RHINE RIVER IN 2002
THE ICE TRAIN: There are 26 different classes of trains in Europe. The ICE Sprinter or Intercity Express is the very
fastest and the RB or Regional Bahn the slowest. You must pay for speed so the ICE is the most expensive, the RB
the cheapest and slowest but many times the best choice for sightseeing because it takes you into the small villages
where you get a look around plus your chances for meeting and conversing with some of the locals is best.
Our train out of Koblenz is an IC or Intercity, though not quite as fast as the ICE Sprinter it sizzles along at a
blistering pace and of course you must pay for speed.
A VIEW FROM THE TRAIN AS IT CROSSES THE RHINE AND PASSES THROUGH THE RUHR AREA AT
DÜSSELDORF. (Note; Düsseldorf: Jane and I have visited a number of times over the years and almost always in
the rain. In 2002 when we bicycled through on our Rhine River trip I began to call the place Drizzle-dorf, and to this
day that name has stuck in my mind. Famous for its beer, Drizzle-dorf is also famous for its extra hot mustard known
as Extra Senf that is pronounced “zemph”. They are also famous for a liquor named “Killapitch”.
On our way north we go flying through the famous “Ruhr” home to Germany’s industrial might and cities like
Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen and Recklinghausen on our way to Münster where the air clears and
we enter the wooded agrarian section of Germany and the cleanest air in continental Europe…what a contrast!
OUR LITTLE HOME MADE FOLDING BIKES TAKE A RIDE IN THE SPECIAL GERMAN TRAIN’S BICYCLE CAR.
From Münster to our destination of Lingen the countryside flattens out and productive farms commingled with hard
wood forests somehow give the impression that we are in the American mid-west.
OFF THE TRAIN AT LINGEN: This cool and bright spring Saturday afternoon the 23rd of April, Jane and I put out
bicycles down onto streets we know so well we have no need for a map. We are home here in this part of Germany.
Lingen is on the busy shipping route of the Ems canal that ties the North Sea port of Emden with the industrial
heartland of Germany’s Ruhr district at Dortmund to the south.
DOWNTOWN LINGEN, THIS IS A TYPICAL WALKING AND BICYCLING AREA.
We bike the familiar streets of Lingen to the medieval city center and head directly to the tourist information office to
make arrangements for a hotel room. Surprise, the place is dark and closed. We are just too tired to venture out of
town where we know there are several hotels and gamble that they may have vacancies in town, so we head back to
the train station where we had spotted a hotel to take a room if there is one
THE CENTRAL PLAZA OF DOWNTOWN LINGEN. NOTE; THE TREES HAVE JUST BEGUN TO SPROUT THEIR
FIRST SPRING BUDS AND WE HAVE LUCKED OUT ON THIS BEAUTIFUL WEATHER.
The Park Hotel has a vacancy but the price is 74 Euros or $98 U.S. We take it and go back to the city center for
some shopping and discover that we are totally exhausted…it will be an early quit for us today. We will need to
conserve our energy because we will have to go cross-country in the morning with our little bicycles that don’t do
that well for long distances.
Our hotel room is huge and lavish but we are too tired to enjoy it fully…we are both drop-dead tired.
WINDING UP OUR TRIP TO NORDHORN: Sunday morning the 24th of April, we rise early and stuff ourselves at the
generous buffet, fill our thermos, pack a lunch and are off on our little fold up bicycles by 9AM.
The morning is bright, crisp, cold and clear with a light southwesterly breeze blowing as we roll on the meandering
city streets west to cross the Ems canal on our way to our final destination of this very long journey that started in
Mexico a month earlier.
This is the lovely cherry blossom time in northern Germany, the birds are chirping and the trees just budding with
their first light spring colors as we glide silently along the gently rolling hills and through the woods. The farmers
have hope now that their freshly planted crops have germinated and will soon poke their tender shoots up to this
beautiful bright springtime sun.
STOPPED ON A QUIET HILLTOP TO REST, COLLECT OUR THOUGHTS AND ENJOY OUR AM COFFEE.
We are out of town rolling west on some of our favorite bicycle routes that we have traversed countless times over
the years and we are without the need to consult our map. Like a friend of ours used to say when approaching
home, “my nose is in the stable”, and so was ours.
This morning as we sat quietly in the pristine fresh air with a welcome sun warming our spring day we stopped to
enjoy morning coffee and somehow it tasted better than ever.
Make no mistake about it our little fold up bicycles are NOT cross-country machines and this was a real work-out.
We were thankful for the good nights sleep and the fact that we are in good physical shape because this day our
endurance was put to the test.
Heading west into Nordhorn, we entered the flatlands as we approached the old Sud-Nord canal that in days gone
by was used to transport peat by barge to fuel the homes and also the textile industry of Nordhorn. We turn south
on the canal that has a quiet hardwood shaded bicycle path that leads us to within a few meters of our destination in
THE SUD-NORD CANAL AND BIKE PATH LEADING TO NORDHORN WITH SPRING GREEN COLORS.
OUR APARTMENT IN NORDHORN’S NORTHERN SUBURB OF BOOKHOLT, WHERE WE WILL SPEND THE
NEXT TWO MONTHS.
We arrive at our apartment exhausted and end our bike/train trip of one week and 8 trains with another dazzling
collection of adventure filled memories. Our two-month bicycling adventure in Germany and Holland awaits us!
PART 3 2005 TWO MONTHS IN NORDHORN, GERMANY
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