Annnnnnd... the heat wave continues. Brent, Laura and I set out early this morning to check out the main Hbf (train
station) that we'll be traveling to tomorrow morning. Laura, the smart one, realized that tomorrow is Saturday, so we
actually should be able to take our bikes on Metro regardless of rush hour, so we're planning on doing that rather than
riding to the station. Then, Brent and I set out to the France Consulate where we received our first bit of official run-
around. First of all, we went to the listed address, and were told we needed to go to a different place across town. So,
off we went across town, but the only person at that office was a general info guy who told us that the visa office is
ferme, and we need to make our visa application from Canada (which, according to the internet which never lies, is not
entirely accurate). This afternoon I wanted to go for a bike ride around Vienna with Gabi, but the heat wave, and
additional errands are preventing that.
Two things I've known about myself for a while are that I get easily overwhelmed trying to ride in unfamiliar cities, and that I have a lousy sense of direction. These things haven't been any kind of real hindrance to me in my real life because I rarely have to deal with them. When I'm riding in an unfamiliar city (for example, when I moved to Edmonton), after the first few rides, it becomes familiar, and then I'm fine. With the sense of direction thing, I'm rarely by myself when a good sense of direction is important, and apparently I hang out with a lot of people who have a good sense of direction.
On this trip, though, the constant novelty of where we are has really amplified these things and I now feel aware of them very frequently. I have finally gotten into the habit of staying firmly behind Brent when we're riding in an unfamiliar city, even though my natural tendency is to ride in front, and Brent's natural tendency is to *not* ride in front.
From Brent: What can I say; it's still stinkin' hot in Europe. It cooled off for about 2 days after I wrote the last letter but now we are working on at least our 8th day in a row of temperatures in the high 30's. The predicted highs for the next 3 days are 37, 37 & 38. Not great cycling weather. Every evening we see clouds that look like thunderheads forming in the distance. We've all been hoping for rain to cool us off but so far it hasn't developed. The closest thing to rain was about 5 days ago in Sommerau. At night there were 5 or 6 flashes of lightning to the south but they were so far away that the thunder was undetectable.
From Brent: I thought that I could talk a bit in this letter about some of the unusual things I've encountered in Europe. Nothing too outrageous, just things that that have struck me as being different from home. So, in no particular order:
- Two-way doors and windows are pretty common in Europe. By two-way I mean that they hinge in 2 different directions. They normally have a handle that rotates. With the handle in the 'down' position the door/window locks. 'To the side' and it opens fully, like a regular door. 'Up' and it hinges at the bottom, the top opening about 6", like a transom. The first time I ran across one of these I just turned the handle until it stopped (up) and pulled. I thought the door was going to fall on me!
- Scooters (Vespa-types) are allowed on many of the bicycle paths. We've seen a few people touring by scooter.
- I've seen quite a few "Stevens" brand bicycles around. They are designed and built in Hamburg. Too bad they spell the name wrong.
- There have also been a few bicycles-built-for-two on the trails. One cool configuration has a recumbent on the front and a regular bike on the back. Both riders get a good view forward.
- There seem to be a lot of canoe & kayak clubs in Germany. Many of them have very basic campgrounds beside a river or lake where you can set up a tent for 5 to 8 Euros per person.
- There is a lot of smoking in Europe. At least more public smoking. It's hard to have a beer or a meal outside without sitting next to someone who's drawing on a cigarette.
- It's also perplexing to see cycle tourists stopping on the side of the trail for a smoke-break. A couple of nights we camped beside a cycle tourist who chain-smoked in the campground.
- There are cigarette machines all over the place. It's not unusual to find one on the sidewalk in a residential neighbourhood. The vending machines require you to insert a driver's licence or ID card before they'll sell cigarettes.
- I went into a gas station in Dillingen to buy some beer. At the checkout they had a display selling cigarettes in 7-packs. Attached to the display was a little shelf with loose cigarettes on it. The sign said, "Take one. Try one."
- The drinking age in most of Europe seems to be 16.
- "Radler" is a nice drink. It's like a mildly alcoholic (3%) ginger-beer. Very refreshing after a day of riding.
- Urinals in Germany are not for use by short guys. I'm 5'8" and I can use them OK but if I was 5'0" I'd have to angle upwards or use a toilet.
- And the toilets are getting weird. The first odd one I saw was in Ulm but they are becoming more common. The back half of the bowl is raised above the water level and flattened; and not very far below the toilet seat. When you poop it's laid out on this porcelain platter. The first time I used one I was afraid that there wouldn't be enough spare room to wipe. But so far no big problems...When you flush, high pressure water sprays from the back of the toilet bowl and pushes anything on the platter forward, where it falls into the sump and is flushed away....It's best to close the lid for this operation.