Saturday, November 21, 2009

Final Statistics, General Observations & Video

I made these general observations through the trip and compiled them on the plane and in the airports on the way home. I thought I would get the video done sooner and the notes posted quicker but life here at home takes over the schedule and all of a sudden 2 months have passed.

Statistics -

Kilometers - I include miles while I am lost also.

Bike - Barron Marlott, 60k
Train - Fountainbleau to Amsterdam, 505k
Bike - Airport & Amsterdam, 39k
Bike - to Tiel, 80k
Bike - to Tilburg, 75k
Bike - to Dilsen, 82k
Bike - to Tilff, 75k
Bike - to Rochefort, 73k
Bike - to Jemelle, 7k
Train - to Neufchateau, 42k
Bike - to Vitton, 60k
Bike - to Longwy, 32k
Bus - to Metz, 63k
Bike - to Nancy, 60k
Train - to Strasbourg, 141k
Bike - to Colmar,98k
Bike - to Freiburg, 50k
Train - to Ulm, 192k
Bike - to Weissenhorn, 27k
Bike - to Turkhiem, 53k
Train - to Munich, 76k
Bike - to Schwabing & Camp, 14k

Bike Total - 885k
Train/Bus Total - 1,019k

After I got my dollars exchanged into Euro's the rate was about $1.50 for every Euro spent.
Also you do not tip and there is no tax to figure in above the price that you see on the tab.

Hefe-Weizen in Weissenhorn - 2.70 Euro
Bus from Longwy to Metz with a Bike - 7.20 Euro
2 Leffe Blonde's and a Steak (Hamburger) la Grille in Nancy, FR - 14.10 Euro
Salamibaguette - 3.90 Euro
Cappuccino in Neufchateau - 2.10 Euro
Cappuccino in Hamoir - 1.90 Euro
Camping in Rochefort with Shower - 14.00 Euro
Camping in Dilsen with Shower - 5.75 Euro
Camping in the Forest no Shower - Free
City Hotel in Freiburg Germany - 98 Euro
Rochefort 10 served in Tilf - 4.20 Euro
Rochefort 8 at a Carrefour in Tilf - 1.20 Euro
Mass Bier (1 Liter) under the Schottnhamel tent - 8.60 Euro

General Observations

Everyone was very helpful throughout the trip and those who were friends were twice as helpful.
I was hoping for the "Classic" rude French attitude during my travels but there was only trace evidence of this.
When in the Netherlands everyone was happy to use their english with me while trying to help. The people who spoke english in Belgium were fewer and still fewer when I was back in France, however when I crossed into Germany the folks who spoke english increased more and more until I reached Munich where it is very common to find people who spoke it.
A big smile goes a long way.
The beers in France are very small, getting bigger in the Netherlands and finally a liter under the tents of Oktoberfest in Munich.
Most of the bakeries during the trip served the same things but the selection of bread increased once I got to Germany.

The Architecture

In France the buildings were not destroyed during WW2 most of what you see has been built after the revolution (1789-1799) although that is not the case while traveling the Rhine River Valley on the North Eastern edge of France where the buildings can predate the event.

Buildings in the Netherlands were very compact maybe only 2 and 3 windows wide as they stood next to each other along the curving streets and canals. Each painted a different color and with its own bit of ornamentation to distinguish it from the next.

Belgium had a lot of row houses and the buildings were made of gray stone with less ornamental features. New houses were being built at the end of each of the small towns that I would pass through but much of the style was the same, kind of depressing.

On the North Eastern side of France there was a clear difference between the Moselle River valley and the Rhine River valley. The first has the cities of Metz and Nancy along its banks, built out of mostly stone and brick but with all the details that one might expect from a place that had been occupied by the Romans at one point. While the Rhine Valley took on a whole different feel with both the city and farm buildings being influenced by the Swiss style homes from the Alps with exposed beams and very colorful stucco. Even with the gray skies I felt a lot happier going through the region. In Freiburg, Germany the building were of the same style that I had seen on the French side of the boarder and if you look at the history of the region you will find that the boarder has changed through time quite a bit.

After the train ride through the Black Forest the villages of Germany were all built with the same aesthetics with white stucco wall and red roof tiles. Most of the building seemed to newer or at least built in the last century. When they decided to rebuild Munich after the war the citizens were given the option to rebuild the city with a more American style format or rebuild as it once was. Thankfully the citizens voted to rebuild the old city using the same layout and the same plans from the original architects. The Catholic Church's of Bavaria, with their onion domes, now stand as the focal point of each of the small towns that dot the rolling countryside.

The Beer

I had quite a few different beers, some you can find in the states and some that were unique to the region.

France - While in the Paris area the selection of beer was pretty good with most of the selection coming in from the Belgium area, lots of wine. While in the North Eastern part of France the selection was not a good as before, I don't recall seeing any Belgium Ales at this point of the journey.

Netherlands - Hieniken, Amstel and Jupiler beers were everywhere with a great selection of local ales to choose from.

Belgium - Same as above with more Belgium Ales added to the selection.

Germany - Great German lagers and pils and Wiesse biers, but you could not find an ale anywhere at this point. The local product fill the taps of Bavarian bier pubs for the rest of the trip.

As many of you know each different beer was served in its own style of glass, Tulips for the Belgium Ales, Steins for the Lagers, Flutes for the Pils, Bell for Wheats

1) Trolle, 2) Bit Burger, 3) Leffe - Blonde, 4) Hoegaarden 5) Affligem 6) Wernesgruner 7) Reflets de France, 8) Limburger White,
9) Grimburgen Blond, 10) Kasteel triple, 11) Wildbrau - Wiesse Bier, 12) Lowenbrau - Wiesse, 13) Spaten Hellis, 14) Pauliner - Marzen, 15) Augustiner - Oktoberfest, 16) Franziskaner - Hefe Wiesse, 17) Franziskaner - Dunkel, 18) 1664 - Pils, 19) La Trappe - Konigshoven, 20) Duvel, 21) Rochefort 8 & 10 - Abbey St. Remy, 22) Orval - Abbey Orval, 23) Roth Haus - Freiburg, 24) Fisher Blonde, 25) Achel - Abbey Achel 26) Chimay - Red Cap and Blue Cap


I found it odd that the train traveling from Paris to Amsterdam, the bike capitol of Europe, didn't have bike accommodations.

Figuring out how to get a ticket, even when the agent did not speak english, was never a problem. Point to where you want to be on the map and your bike and it will all work out.

The space for storage on the bus was plenty big enough for the bike with the bags still loaded on, sweet.

The trains and the subway in Germany had accommodations for bicycles with some limitations for rush hour, also make sure you buy a ticket for your bike.

Bicycle Travel

Paris - You will be risking your life while on the streets of Paris unless you are part of "The Tour".

Rural France - Great roads with little traffic.

Netherlands - The best bike system I have ever seen, the whole system was fantastic.

East Belgium - Some bike paths were easy to find and other were not so easy and maybe even non-existent.

Germany - Great rural roads with medium traffic. Some towns were connected with paths, others were not. Munich has a very good bike system, not quite as good as Amsterdam - I think.

Click here to go to the slide show on Flickr.


Monday, September 28, 2009

It's not over till it's over

Christoph is able to take me to the airport in the morning where we are able to travel 180 kilometers an hour at brief times on the Autobahn, I think my daily average on the bike could be done in 20 minutes at that rate. The airport in Munich is about 20 years old and has a very modern feel to it with lots of open space and very elegant shops and restaurants. The Air Stream trailer turned into lunch wagon was very cool with the added on wings and motor.

The flight back across the Atlantic was far better this time on United Airlines than what I experienced 3 years ago on U.S. Air. My layover is in Chicago where I will be staying with David Lind who has 2 tickets to see the White Sox play the Detroit Tigers. Wonderful evening as we drink canned Heineken poured into a plastic cup and watch the home team win. I ended up catching a t-shirt thrown into to the crowd and later hand it to the young lady sitting in front of us who had commented that she was learning German when she heard of my trip.

To bed by 11:00 and up just past 3:00, I would much rather be sitting in an airport on the other side of the security than waiting in line. Off to Denver after a cup of Starbucks cardboard roast and a stale bagel, but I am thinking of the family waiting at home who I miss os much. I know they will be waiting and when I get there the kids have soccer games before we get to the house.

Thanks for listening, I will try to piece together video coverage to post at a later date.

Neil - Pedaling to Oktoberfest 2009

Saying Goodbye

The early part of the day is spent packing, which takes longer than I had thought and I don't get into Munich until almost 2:00. One more time through Merienplatz where I come across the Agent Provocatour shop and their elegant window display with everyone dressed for play. I stop by Siegestor Hotel to say goodbye to Monika Klaus who runs the place. If you are ever going to Munich this place is close to downtown, Schwabing District, yet not so close that it is so crowded when you go out. One last ride through the Englisher Garden and I finally see the surfers of the Isar River.

I stop by to see Erika who is working hard on getting stuff together for the dinner she holds every year for a local school for handicap children, say my goodbyes and head to the bike store to drop off the Rock Rider. I find that Ben is on a trip to Thailand and the only other person who speaks english is busy with a very demanding customer for the next 30 minutes. Dinner is waiting and I have to go so I take the bike back to Christoph's where it will be brought in later or become part of the quiver over commuting bikes that he has.

We have a traditional Bavarian meal of pumpkin soup and bread before going out on last time for a Wildbrau, Hefe-Weissbier at one of the local restaurants in Grafing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spaten Tour

By 11:00 I am ready with a group from the village of Hofolding, just south of Munich, at the doors of the Spaten brewery where our tour will begin. We start with a movie about the history of Spaten, Lowenbrau and Fransikaner breweries, how they make their product and how the rebuild after WW2. Next we tour the facility and see where the beer is brewed and bottled but what was most interesting to me was the recycling, washing and inspecting of old bottles in the facility. Something I think is not legal in the states anymore.

At the end of the tour our group heads to the top of the building for some beer tasting and Leberkäs a very traditional Bavarian meat product. Keeping up with my new Bavarian friends on beer tasting was my next task as every 10 minutes there was a toast for the Colorado Boy - 2 liters later they were departing for their spot in one of the tents to start celebrating Oktoberfest while I was going to meet Erika Bloch for dinner.

After shopping a little bit I head to Erika’s earlier than we had planned because the train backs to Grafing leaves the station at 11:00 and I don’t want to miss it. We spend the evening catching up as she takes me to places that she know where they will still let you smoke inside. At almost 90 she can stay up drinking and smoking well past midnight most of the time and is disappointed that I must leave so early.

For those who don’t know, it was Erika who first encouraged me to come to Munich 3 years ago after helping her with a dinner invite for handicap children that she puts on every year. If you ever have the chance to do something for someone for free you never know what the encounter may lead to.

A friend of a friend, is a friend of mine

Last year in Durango at the Oktoberfest event I meet Gustav Brünn and native of Bavaria and we have stayed in touch since then. While traveling in America in his R.V. he happened upon our event and thought it would be fun to see how we celebrate Oktoberfest in Durango.

I told him I was coming to Durango for the Oktoberfest event in Munich and we made plans to meet. I was not sure what to expect thinking I might just be sitting drinking while Gustav and his friends talk amongst themselves. However that was not the case for they were fantastic company and knew quite a few people running the event. I first get to meet Rudy who is the head of security in the Ochsenbruterei tent and not long after he introduces us to Herman Haberl the owner of the tent. Herman sits with us for the next half hour talking about the place and his attempt to do something similar in America. Herman found that the different way the two societies view beer was the biggest problem he encountered where in Germany it is classified as a food and in America it is a drug.

After a few rides in the carnival section of the festival we make our way to the Lowenbrau tent where Rolf greets us. Rolf, who is head of marketing at Lowenbrau, is a friend of Gustav’s friend Franz and seats us at his personal table. I get to talk to him for quite a while on the making of beer and why it is hard to find an Ale Beer in Germany. This seems to be partly due to the Bavarian brewing laws and the preference of the Bavarian’s taste in beer, they would prefer a great Lager from the area. Rolf also say while growing up he recalls when his grandfather would send him to the pub to pick up a stein of beer for him how he would consume the head of the beer on the way home, he said it was his ice cream - very delicious.

Off day

I have to get my stuff washed before breakfast because I have nothing to wear that does not smell like a bike riding dirt bag.

The day is slow but I check with Ben, who owns the used bike shop, to see if he will take the bike off my hands an it looks like he will on Thursday. It is fantastic weather at the moment and everyone is riding their bikes and the Englisher Garden is full of people.

I am staying at Christoph and his wife Monica’s place in Grafing, which has a very contemporary feel on the inside which contrasts nicely with the traditional German houses outside, great place.

Christoph is working on a place in the Bodensee where he can have a painting studio and gallery along with a community space for people to learn about cooking and enjoying the better things in life. The Bodensee is located at the intersection of Austria, Switzerland and Germany and is considered the fruit basket of the area.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A day under the Schottenhamel tent

Up early and out of the garden by 7:00 and I decide to ride around in the downtown area and notice everyone getting ready for the parade with the Breweries and their horse wagons looking great.

After following the parade to the festival I find the tent where I will be meeting Christoph and the folks he works with at ORT and other ad agencies that they work on projects with. Christoph is excited to see me and fills in everyone about the trip and they all laugh about making a trek to Oktoberfest by bicycle.

It was great being with such a fantastic group of people and to celebrate with them a festival that has been going on since 1810 when King Ludwig of Barvaria married Therese von Sachsen-Hild-burghausen of Austria.

During the trip I have been asked about President Obama many times and how as a country we feel about him. I meet Felix in the beer tent and he spots me as an American right off and asks about our president. He goes on to say that we as the people of the world need to follow his lead in creating true change in how the world works and to keep moving forward with policies that are inclusive to the people of the world. He goes on to say that if President Obama is willing to risk his life for this that we should all is inspired to do the same.

The rest of the afternoon is enjoyed with my new friends from Munich with lots of food and great Spaten beer. The music is also a big part of the event with the band playing a lot of traditional songs from the area, which upon asking is about really funny and sometimes sexually suggestive. They also play a lot of American pop songs for example James Taylor's ``take me home`´. Each time a real favorite comes on everyone will start singing and the girls will get on their chairs singing and drinking and having a great time.

I leave when the crowd starts to get rough and head back to the hotel, two more spokes break on the way to the hotel.