Day 265 (Germany): Heidelberg - Gengenbach (back to where I started)
Because I was still on Beijing time and because I went to bed at around midnight I woke up much earlier than Michael. Despite my trying to be quiet I did of course wake him up and after bidding our farewells, I set out by bike again. It was cold and miserable. While it hadn’t rained, it was damp and the cold wetness crept into my clothing. But thankfully there was a plan. Tanja and her kids were waiting to have breakfast with me and so I put in the first stop just about 15km south of Heidelberg. Which was good. I had been feeling a bit flimsy the past couple of days and somewhat weak and had been sweating majorly during the night. That pretty much told me that I was on the road to being sick. Oh well …
A long breakfast meant that I wouldn’t be able to reach my hometown today. Given the conditions (strong headwind, general nastiness outside and feeling sick) the decision was easy. I would take the train for a while and see where I would end up. I got a ticket almost all the way home and felt strange sitting in the train rumbling back to where I started. All around me the familiar coming and going and pre-Christmas bustle. People were heading home (it was Saturday), some saying something about how long they had been traveling (4 hours). Which I have to admit that I had to chuckle.
I had to switch trains in Karlsruhe where the weather was still not any better. And I felt worse and worse. Once on the train, things changed pretty quickly and rather dramatically. I was out of the train in no time and started pedaling again. Yes, you can accuse me of being a whimp now, but I simply wouldn’t have been able to go the distance from Heidelberg to Gengenbach and had something planned for my arrival. Here is an impression why I had no other choice but to bike back.
I felt that I needed to. It was simply glorious. The Black Forest to my left and with a sugar coating and at the valley bottom I was heading into a pretty stiff wind, but the blue sky and pleasant surroundings more than made up for that. I passed tons of places that I knew quite well - stopped in a bakery to load up on some badly needed calories and simply enjoyed the time that I had left.
I rolled through Offenburg, trying to avoid people as best as I ocould and took some detours to do so. Then I was really back on home turf. See the picture above for a view of the valley that I grew up in. For those familiar with the area, this is not far from Ortenberg along the Kinzig. A place where I had done a good amount of running. Taking a few moments more I then headed to Gengenbach, again avoiding people as best as I could. I had planned to surprise my mother who still thought that I would be coming back a week later.
The final stretch was emotional to say the least. Many, many scenes of the last 10 months went through my head from the early moments when I set out until the very end when I ended up at the Yellow Sea. I wanted to capture those moments and was almost dreading to finish up the trip by placing the few pedalstrokes that were necessary to cover the short distance. On the other hand I was - as was the case so often - sucked into covering said distance. So, for a while I just sat there at the bank of the river … and then moved on.
The first welcome happened at the place of friends where I also saw my father and my sister for the first time in 10 months. And then we all headed to town where my mother was working at the time. And who was the reason that I had been playing a hiding game. And she still had no idea apparently. Take a look, this is her in the background.
After a while with too many familiar faces milling about my sister finally told her to take a look around and her face was absolutely priceless. She had no idea - supposed that something had been up in the air, but hadn’t guessed that one apparently.
And this is one of my nieces.
This all happened at the Gengenbach Christmas market, also characterized by one of the largest advent calendars.
This is it. The end of the trip. No more biking 110km or more. Sometimes it was less, but my guess is that this was the average. Maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less. But it isn’t the end of the journey. While I have now reached the end of the trip and brought things (sort of) full circle, it will take a while to muddle through all the things that have happened. And while I am now no longer cycling, there will be an occasional entry on this blog. I have a good number of pictures I would like to stitch and I will post some of them here and put them up on the flickr page. Or post the date for an eventual slide show presentation (wherever that may be) or a photo exhibition that is in the offing.
One of the most important motivators of the trip has been the readership of this blog and so, once again, a big thank you to you.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and all the best for the upcoming New Year.