It started out ok and got slower better. It was raining when I got into my hostel last night, missed most of the storm but came in like drenched thing on a bicycle. The hostel was unloved but the people were very nice - all youngsters travelling, going somewhere, coming back or just hanging. Too tired to write the blog so wrote a little this morning whilst the overnight storm abated and left for the road at 10am.
Freiburg straddles the Dreisam river at the foot of a Schlossberg - a forested hill - and acts as the hub of the Breisgau region on the western edge of the Black Forest. It's an old university town and archiepiscopal seat and soon became a commercial, intellectual and ecclesiastical centre for the Upper Rhine region and known for its Medieval minster and Renaissance university. I wanted to explore the city in detail but I have to be attentive otherwise a carefully crafted 7 month adventure becomes something else. Something longer. Maybe never to return. Still, the city is situated in the heart of the major Baden wine-growing region and, together with Offenburg, serves as tourist entry-point to the scenic Black Forest. This where I am and according to meteorological statistics, Freiburg is one of the warmest cities in Germany, and it held the all-time German temperature record of 40.2 °C.
It's also not far from the River Rhine and after riding across a forest - how can I know it's name - let's call it 'Crossroad Forest' and it's my Google Maps app which tells me where to go, it doesn't observe highways on cycle mode but instead features a sudden turn across a field and then a path and then into a forest, then a river path, through an industrial estate with Maersk and Hamburg Sud containers piled high against a newly washed sky. Not only was I not sure where I was, I was happy not knowing.
What if you decided not to go backwards in your life and listened to your inner voice. What if the right question could no longer supply the answer, that only by doing could anything make any sense. What if the answer included what you have never done before, something requiring the courage to do what you really wanted to do and doing it changed your whole life? What if?
I wanted the delicious ambiguity of being a traveller without a plan; a geographer without a map. Right now that was how I felt about this trip that each day was to have a perfect ending. I have voyaged for forty-two years and have understood in a tough way that some stories don't follow a linear way from the beginning to the end. It's not always clear where the middle is nor the true trajectory of the narrative and in the way poems don't always rhyme neither do adventures.
By the River Rhine the path gave way to boulders guarding a slipway which at high river level would be impassable. I pulled my bike over the boulders, heaving and yanking it across the gap. I was born to this, to leave places I have lived in and liked, places I thought I belonged; that council estate, that town, Glossop or over the way across Bleaklow where all my yesteryears are buried. My advice to myself is to leave all of these stored memories not slowly and with grace but as fast as I can with the minimum of fuss, to leave it any which way except a slowly. Who said that 'passed years seem safe ones' while the future lives in a haze of formidability as seen from a distance.
My new feature....