A long and rambling account of a bike tour I did – it is mainly intended as a personal log and probably only of interest to anyone else if you like cycling, are a map nerd or are interested in this area and in the very diverse range of flora / seasonal produce it offers.
I’ve been doing a fair bit of cycling lately, partly because I have more time now that term is over, partly because I need and want the exercise, and partly because the weather has been (mostly) really good of late. It’s also wonderful to live in a place where you are out in open countryside within a matter of no more than a quarter of an hour.
There’s a fantastic network of cycle paths and less-travelled routes suitable for bikes in this area. You can get special maps and guides for cyclists, though I have got into the habit of just looking roughly where I want to go beforehand and then watching out for the well-placed signposts, which give distances, meaning you can adopt an ad hoc “yay or nay” approach to whether you want to go via a particular place.
Today I decided I wanted to do something other than the there-and-back type tours I’ve done frequently, opting instead for more of a circular route. I identified a 33km route described in a guidebook and decided to base my tour on that. In the end, it was such fun that I widened the circle and it was about 45km in all, and it took 3 hours from leaving the house to returning. There were short breaks to drink lots of water en route, and a couple of points where I got slightly lost and had to double back.
After negotiating the inner-city ringroad (which has a cycle lane), I got onto the cycle path that runs along the Dreisam river and went north-west-ish to Umkirch. The river is quite straight (due to human intervention) and slightly dull as a result, but it makes for easy progress. Towards Umkirch you hit the maize fields, which accompanied me for quite some distance today. Oh, and there are some rather impressive blackberries for the picking just past the bridge in Lehen on the south side of the river.
After Umkirch I went in a more southerly direction for quite some time, passing through Waltershofen, Opfingen and Tiengen. Opfingen is definitely asparagus country, and it was interesting to see that whereas the asparagus fields are not much to look at during the early summer asparagus season (as most of the growth is underground, white asparagus being the favoured variety here) and are mostly covered in plastic during that time (this extends the harvest, apparently), by August the wonderful feathery leaves have grown to quite some height.
More maize fields followed: in one there was such a growth of convolvulus tendrils among the corn plants that it looked as though they had these weird white flowers. I also saw some sunflower fields and some extensive cabbage patches, though not nearly as many as I saw on another route a couple of weeks ago. I always wish I’d brought my camera when I go past the sunflowers…
After Tiengen I toyed with the idea of going on to Breisach and maybe over to France, possibly to visit the star-shaped fortifications at Neuf-Brisach, but I’ll do that on another day and via a more direct route. So on I went in the direction of Schallstadt and it was at this point that I took a couple of wrong turns, even going up quite a steep hill unnecessarily (but it reminded me that I have leg muscles, so hey ho!). I passed a number of apple and pear orchards and the fruit was looking juuuust ripe enough to eat (but that would have been naughty!).
Schallstadt proving difficult to locate, it was at this point that I decided to extend the tour and make for Bad Krozingen (via Mengen and Offnadingen), and from there I almost made it to Staufen, the medieval town associated with the Faust legend, but the signposting was a bit weird and I only saw the prominent castle mound of Staufen when I was already on a perpendicular route heading more back in the direction of Freiburg, which to be honest seemed rather more appealing at that point (plus the last time I was in Staufen it was overrun with both tourists and a plague of flying ants, so I wasn’t too awfully disappointed).
It was uphill then to Pfaffenweiler, but I love this area (known as the Markgräflerland) as it is full of vineyards and time-forgotten villages with higgledy-piggledy houses and the odd sleepy hostelry. By now I knew I was about two-thirds of the way through my tour and so I kept up speed even though I was flagging.
I even managed to find Schallstadt on the way back – hurrah! – and although the route wasn’t quite so picturesque after that (mainly being next to a busy road), I was still absolutely staggered by the amount of edible stuff just growing by the wayside. Along this stretch of a few kilometres alone, I could have found enough to make a lifetime’s worth of jam and other preserves: a lot more blackberries; plum, damson and mirabelle trees; blackthorn sporting lots of sloes; heavy sprays of elderberries; and a whole avenue of walnut trees bearing a lot of (still unripe) fruit.
Now I’m not an idiot when it comes to knowing that fruit grows on trees etc., but this bounteousness really was pretty staggering even though I grew up in a rural area. I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite such diversity of food growing – quite a bit of it wild – for a long time.
Re-entry to Freiburg after St Georgen had a certain bathetic irony to it – no longer was I noting this or that fruit tree or crop field, but there, suddenly, were the golden arches of McDonald’s looming in front of me. Needless to say, I did NOT go in!
But I do wish I’d taken along a container to pick some of the wild blackberries and the like…