Towns in mid Germany

Some quick notes on the places I passed through. Many German towns in this area are quite mundane, probably like everywhere, they are somewhat victims to postwar redevelopment as well as the war.

My route is basically avoiding the mountains in the south. After the Netherlands, I headed to Münster, then north east again, keeping to the plains.

Münster was pretty much destroyed in air raids, but has been rebuilt in a sympathetic way, albeit you could accuse it of being a pastiche. It claims to be the cycling centre of Germany, and it certainly does have a lot of cyclists. But so do a lot of other German cities.

I've read a few times that you shouldn't trust people's holiday observations of cycling facilities. I guess that is true, as for instance I haven't done much cycling at rush hour in cities, and of course I've often but not always chosen to use tourist routes like the parts of the Eurovelo tracks.

However, I think you can on a journey like this get a pretty good impression of everyday cycling, just through the fact you see so many towns, junctions, paths and people going about their daily business, as cyclists.

For instance, drivers seem quite aware and generally considerate, and cycling seems to be something a lot of people do for leisure in a way that seems quite alien to anyone used to British day trippers (find a car park, have a picnic not more than half a mile away). I'd often see couples in the seventies out for a day's cycling. Cycle routes and paths so far are have been pretty good, even if not up to Dutch standards, they often come close.

Osnabrück I passed through quickly and headed to my overnight stop in Melle. Between Melle and Hannover, there is a very large ridge, which is broken by the Weser river and a major cycle route alongside it. There were vast numbers of elderly and family cyclists, including one old couple on a tandem pulling their dog in a cart. After the ridge, it's possible to reach a canal and make that your simple and flat route into Hannover.

Hannover was a surprise, arriving in the dark and finding students hanging out in the parks, and passing some very cool looking bars. Hotel Zentrum where I stayed was in the sleazier part of town (it was cheap) but perfectly fine; I went for a quick drink in the nearest bar. In the morning I went to Waschweiber, a café, bar and laundrette. (Does London have one? They are a great idea.) For cycling, it seems really well thought out, with plenty of parks and major bike thoroughfares.

The plan now is to head south towards Prague, via Brunswick, Magdeburg and Dresden.

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