May 14, 2009 GMT
Europe in the rain

It's been a few days since I set off. My plan is to write blog entries in my own time, and then simply type them up when I find an internet cafe. So this is being written on a campsite in the German Alps, near Berchtesgarden. It's not the best campsite I've ever stayed on, seeing as it's right next to a main road, and basically sited on rock - great for campervans, not so good for tents!

Last night however, was much better. There I pitched my tent on soft earth, overlooking a lake on one side, and with the beginnings of the Alps soaring overhead on the other. The lake was half dried up, leaving expanses of earthy beach, perfect for a wander after a long day's ride.

And they have been long days. Partly because France, Germany and Austria were always going to be about just riding through, via scenic routes but without much stopping. And partly because it keeps raining - I haven't had a dry day yet, and relaxing lunch stops keep getting cut short by the need to swathe myself in waterproofs as the drops start falling. The first day was the worst: four and a half hours of solid rain! I nearly decided to return to the dry parental home and try again the next day - only the (well-founded!) suspicion that the next day might not be any better made me ignore that option. My boots are only just dry now, after four days and twenty minutes under a campsite hairdryer - and that's with a night in a youth hostel to dry out! Still, it has got slightly better, and at least I haven't yet had to pitch a tent in the rain!

Weather nonsense aside, I have so far ridden through some stunning scenery on very twisty roads. Germans seem to close some of their roads to bikers, with little warning, no alternative directions, and nowhere else to go. So far Iīve ridden two of them, as the first one was signed at the start of a series of hairpins, and the second one at the entrance to a tunnel, neither of which makes stopping or turning round an option! But the only consequence was to be shouted at by a cyclist, and followed by a securitas car, which may have had nothing to do with me, but if it did probably decided that a foreigner was likely to be actually going somewhere, not just out for a jolly, and they soon turned off again.

Iīm now in Austria, in Melk. Iīve visited the abbey, which is very impressive but a little baroquely excessive for my tastes. I tried to visit Hitlerīs retreat in Berchtesgarten, but annoyingly it didnīt open for another two days - though the ride up to it on a 24% hill was quite exciting for first thing in the morning! Today I carry on through Austria to Neusiedlersee, then itīs off into the great unknown of Slovakia tomorrow!

Posted by Laura Bennitt at May 14, 2009 09:47 AM GMT

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