Kilometers pass by along the river the Saar. I follow the border of Germany with Belgium, Luxembourg and France to end up in the Swiss Alps and later in the Dolomites. Two goals are on my list: pay a visit to the house of my philosophical hero Nietzsche in Sils Maria Switzerland and the small coastal town of Koper in Slovenia. I want to get there before Christmas. I see it as training in the mountains with camping in snow. And how I love snow!
It’s almost winter and freezing temperatures are approaching. I still want to cycle above 100 kilometers a day on average. It is the fifth day and I have already covered more than 450 kilometers. So far so good along hills and rivers. It’s a foggy day, my toes feel cold and the cold foggy breeze hit my chest. I keep speed of between 20 and 25 kilometers per hour. With every steeper part I feel my leg muscles cramping. It’s time for a break. I look for hours at the view of the still river with its mist-soaked ramparts and hills beyond. Let’s get into a town.
‘Brot & Sinne, bakes clean bread!’ says the elegant gold letters written in German on the window of a small bakery in Saarbrücken. I carefully take a peek inside to see sandwiches with salmon and croissants with cream and topped chocolate. The water runs down my dry lips. I carefully put my bike against the window, in plain sight. After putting on a face mask, I open the door and step in with one foot. The lady behind the delicious smelling freshly baked bread notices me and shouts: “eine person im Laden!” There is indeed already someone inside and I have to wait a little longer before one of those cream-filled croissants can enter my watery mouth. I step back and next to the door is a large chalkboard with exactly what the lady just said written in large, thick letters.
In my previous travels and especially with this cold, I would stay inside for a while, eat the sandwich and then jump on the bike all warmed up. With the lockdowns going on that’s not possible, even not in gasstations. I always have to rely on my gear, even in the rain. So I brought an axe and a pull saw with me to dry myself and my stuff with a fire if necessary.
Once I’ve entered the bakery I can’t choose! My stomach rattles and there are so many delicious creations. German bakeries are magical. They really hit the spot with so many different breads and sweets. I have to choose fast because someone is already waiting outside for me to go out. Let’s go for that salmon sandwich with that nice looking cream all over it.
And there I am, outside, shivering in front of the bakery, eating the freshly bought salmon sandwich. Suddenly I hear someone shouting: “Wo kommen sie her!?” It’s the lady from the bakery. She is smoking a cigarette outside with her colleague. And I’m shocked, she asks where I come from? My thoughts are darting in all directions, maybe she’s going to advise me against being here while there is a lockdown. I respect all regulations and I even sleep in the forests far from anyone! I soon notice that this lady does not care about this at all. She turns out to be the sweetest person. She asks about my bike ride and even though my German is poor I explain to her that I’m trying to reach the Alps. She starts asking me all questions: “Hast du eine thermoskanne?” and “Kann ich deine wasserflasche füllen?” and “Kann ich dir eine kaffee machen, einen Espresso oder Cappucino?”. I’m looking for any answers to all this questions and in what words can I speak. I want it all!
Morale rises from 2 to 9. Flasbacks pass by, from the times I got a frozen water bottle in the hot summer desert in Iran, when someone offered me a cup of hot tea in winter Russia. A little care and generosity is everything in this situation and makes a day instantly special. I forget the damp cold and completely enjoy the cappuccino and then a cup of mint tea. She had filled the thermos and unbelievably putted three bags of mint tea in it!
I yell “vielen, vielen, vielen dank!” and want to add all kinds of things, but I don’t know how to say all that in German. With a big smile on my face I jump on my bike and continue the Saar to cross the border with France. After this first five days on the road I have planned a day of rest in a cozy old village in the hills, called Petit-Réderching.