Ulm and the Danube
Around mid-day I rolled into Ulm. A few days before I'd been sent a message from an old school friend saying that his mum insisted I should climb up the cathedral tower in Ulm. Having gone up the cathedral tower in Strasbourg this was now becoming a tradition. I paid my money and ascended the 747 steps to the top - the very top. I was a little surprised that the final section appeared to have nobody supervising it. The views were stunning. I used the vantage point to get an idea of how hilly the route ahead might be. As I'd now hit the Danube I realised that it would be fairly flat for a while.
Inside the main body of the cathedral I looked around and found an art installation named Solar Equation. It was a large sphere suspended from the ceiling that showed the Sun in different wavelengths of light. As the image changed, so did the soundscape eminating from the speakers dotted around.
Eventually I realised that I needed to be moving on if I was going to reach Augsberg so left the cathedral. Out in the main square a man asked me if I was from Yorkshire. He'd seen it written on my top - only the second person (I think) to have noticed that since I left San Francisco. His name was Robert and he was an expat Brit. I told him that I was, indeed, from Yorkshire and that I'd cycled here. He was joined by his wife Janet and their visiting American friends - Chuck and Mares. It was really nice to be able to have a conversation and Janet informed me that Ulm cathedral just pips York Minster to the title of tallest cathedral in the world. I wasn't sure if Chuck and Mares fully understood my accent as they responded to me as if I was a non-native English speaker. They were all very friendly and I was told I should let them know if I was cycling their way again. They gave me directions to the Danube and I left with promises that I'd send them emails once I got to Istanbul.
At the Danube I cycled along bits of the Eurovelo 6 to Günzberg. As it was Whitsuntide there were lots of locals out on their bicycles enjoying the excellent cycle paths and the festivities. These were the busiest cycle lanes I'd seen and I kept saying "hallo" and nodding to people as I went along. On leaving the built up area I was a bit worried by a threatening cloud ahead. It looked very dark and forbidding. It also happened to look as though it was coming from a power station's cooling towers.
In the afternoon I had some forest tracks to negotiate that were covered in stones. Once you get a certain depth of stones it makes cycling (especially with heavy panniers) much harder. At least Stevens had had to put up with similar conditions. Along the track I kept seeing wooden watch towers with ladders. Were they for bird watching? Were they shelters from the snow in the winter? I later discovered that they were hides used by hunters in the early morning. I contemplated the idea of using them to camp in if I failed to find somewhere to stay tonight.
I reached Augsberg at about 6.30 pm slightly disappointed not to see all the beer-gardens that Stevens mentions. I found the youth hostel. The guy on reception was friendly but his clipped English amused me. When he gave me the room key he said "You will bring it back to me... if you leave". No doubt he meant "when you leave" but the "if" made it sound much more ominous. Unfortunately German (and French) youth hostels are quite expensive and don't appear to have kitchens you can use yourself despite claiming to have "self-catering" dining rooms. They really mean "self-service" as they often have catered meals. I'd missed dinner though and it was a Sunday evening so no supermarkets were open. With the dining room declared closed I ate what random food supplies I had in my room. Thank goodness for jars of Nutella.