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Ulm to Regensburg
Rest day duties done, I set off in the late afternoon to explore downtown New Ulm, just a few blocks away from the hotel. I didn not manage to get to the pile of rocks in Ulm, on the other side of the river, that apparently marks the spot of the now non-existent home in which Einstein first saw the light of day, but breathing in the same air that he once did was good enough for me.
The elegant, moody spire of the Ulm cathedral (apparently the highest cathedral spire in the world) dominates the skyline and exudes a strange magnetism. Dark and mystical, inside and out, its towering proportions evoked in me what I suspect was the intended effect of 16th century Christianity â€“ â€œYou insignificant thing!â€ I crept quietly up to one of the dirgey side alters to light a few candles and, for just a moment, the clouds parted and the late afternoon sunshine poured in through the magnificent stained glass work set in the massive arched windows. It was breathtaking and I had to respect the creativity and ingenuity of those old time architects and artisans who put the whole show together. Must-do touristy stuff done, I set off to lose myself down the cobbled streets and alley ways, appreciating the way in which 20th century development has been considerately woven into the tapestry this 16th century city…. and wondering all the while if Einstein had walked here…eaten there…
The soundtrack to my afternoon stroll was a loud, quadraphonic roar. Soccer fever is rampant across the Germany and judging by the howls of despair emanating from the television audiences packed into every bar, cafe and restaurant in Ulm, Croatia was clearly thumping the Germans in an all important European Cup match. With beer being cheaper than any other beverage in Germany, I settled down with a tall one and a kebab to watch the passing parade before heading back to the hotel to prepare for the three day stretch ahead of us to Regensburg.
Mostly overcast with the odd shower here and there, weâ€™ve had three days of perfect cycling weather from Ulm to Regensburg. Gentle tail winds, a good mix of gravel and paved surfaces, pristine forests, rolling wheat fields, prolific bird life, fabulous campsites and Chef Jonâ€™s exquisite food combinations have delighted the riders along this stretch of the Danau cycle path. A few of the riders stumbled across a medieval festival happening in Eickestadt. The locals, dressed up in medieval costumes were having a merry old time celebrating the 1100th birthday of their town and it didnâ€™t take much to persuade the riders to get jiggy with them too!
Sassy, humorous and not a little irreverent, the 2008 OE riders have taken it upon themselves to ridicule or respect one of their own each day through the passing on of the Lame Duck Award. Nimbly â€˜upliftedâ€™ by Joss from his hotel bathroom in Ulm, the little rubber duck has so far graced the handle bars of Stewart (who thought, when reading the daily direction board, that â€˜Zig Zagâ€™ was the name of town) and John (who cycled 10 kms out of the campsite to find Liz a bottle of wine, not realising that he could have bought one at the campsite shop)
Today we are at rest in the 2000 year old city of Regensburg…a somewhat mind blowing experience for someone coming from South Africa, where the oldest surviving building is the 400 year old fort built by the Dutchies in Cape Town. With over 1200 historic buildings clustered together in the centre, the â€˜City of Towersâ€™ is a Unesco world heritage site. Particularly characteristic are the mansions built by rich patrician families who traded with cities as far away as Kiev in the east and Venice in the south who proudly displayed their wealth to all by building great houses with towers rising high into the sky. Dating back to Roman times, itâ€™s all ancient, old stone work, quaint cobbled streets, churches, museums, theatres and concert halls reflecting in the waters of the Danube river. Itâ€™s also home to 20 000 university students, the current Pope, the oldest music academy in the world, a flourishing artistic community and it prides itself on innovative products that come out of the biotechnical research done here.
Rest day duties done and dusted, camera charged up, Iâ€™m heading off to explore. With Germany playing Austria, I predict loud, raucous revellry in the â€˜City of Dreamsâ€™ tonight.
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