As an Australian, it is a huge novelty to be living on the European continent, where you can be in an entirely different culture within a matter of hours – no need to go over the ocean! Recently, when on holidays with a friend in Karlsruhe, we decided to jump on our bikes and cycle to France! It was an epic journey (and we were pretty exhausted by the end of it) but it was worth it. Just pick a sunny day, hire a bike and you can be across the border in the matter of a few hours.
Karlsruhe is a great city for cycling, as there are lots of bikeways running along the river and through the centre. Make sure you check out a few of the local attractions before heading into the countryside. First stop – Schloss Karlsruhe – built in 1715 by Margrave Charles III William of Baden-Durlach. The streets spread out around the castle like the spokes of a bicycle, so you can find the palace pretty easily from anywhere in the city.
Next, make your way West along the river and out of the city until you are cycling down the Rhine with the wind in your hair, surrounded by the pleasures of springtime. Everything is so green around this time of year and, despite the fact that it had snowed a few days earlier, it was now perfect weather for cycling.
We left quite late in the morning, so we took a break a couple of hours in, at Schifffahrtsmuseum Neuburg. This old ship is converted into a restaurant and is full of memorabilia. We sipped on Apfelschorle and feasted on a well-deserved meal of fish and potato salad, as we gazed out over the river.
Then, we were back on the bike paths for a little while, before the chief navigator took an unexpected turn and we ended up cycling through grassy paddocks along a small river – not ideal but a bit of an adventure! I felt like I was trespassing on private property but my friend assured me that it was a public road, which connected small plots of agricultural land. We finally made it back to the more established path, much to our relief, and continued en route to Lauterbourg.
The town of Lauterbourg is situated on the French/German border. The name itself sounds like a mixture of the two countries, which is no surprise, as this town has shifted back and forth over the years. I was very intrigued to experience this little village and to see if I could understand the locals with my high school French!
We arrived at around three o’clock in the afternoon and spent quite a long time taking photos under the border crossing sign – it is not every day you get to cycle into a new country! The flags of France, Germany and the European Union flew in the wind and we were thrilled to be able to understand the street signs.
After cycling around the village to explore, we stopped at a patisserie/boulangerie to buy some french pastries. Bonjour we said as we walked through the door! We proceeded to place an order in French, the lady asked us how many and we said zwei, bitte out of habit! She responded in German and we realised that speaking two languages in this town was the norm. Not only this, after eavesdropping on some of the locals, we discovered a very unique local dialect, which was a mix between both languages and strangely understandable!
It was getting quite late, so we left the town of Lauterbourg and continued North, back into Germany. After cycling for several hours through a forest, we arrived in Kandel, exhausted! My hire bike was finally becoming too painful to sit on, so with much relief, we jumped on a train back to Karlsruhe. Turns out we rode 57 km!
France was a pleasure and I look forward to returning in the near future!
Au Revoir und Auf Wiedersehen!