Thoughts on Germany

We followed two major cycle routes the Rhine and the Danube. The Rhine was not as well marked as the Danube and we got lost almost every time we went through a big city, while on the Rhine route.

The Danube signage was excellent, although we didn’t get to see a lot of the river itself as the route often takes you away from the river.

Germany’s cycling network comprises of a lot of field roads. For the most part German’s do not want you cycling on the roads. A lot of the cycle-ways are shared cycle paths on the sidewalk. For me it seemed very strange to be riding on the sidewalk. In one Town we were looking at the Town map to continue our way along the main road and were redirected to the farm cycle paths. We thought this would take us around the houses too much, however they were fairly direct routes. Some of the main roads also had cycle paths along side.

In the smaller Towns and villages people were friendly and helpful. Although we would often have to initiate the conversation – Excuse me, can you help us? Fortunately, Ralf’s German improved the longer we were there and we had no problems with the language.

We found that when we were camping most people kept themselves to themselves. Although, there were lots of touring cyclists they tended to come in a little later than us and were gone before we had finished breakfast.

We also noted, that most cyclists had E-bikes or E-assist bikes. We love to visit bike shops while we are cycling and were amazed to discover that most bikes in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Austria were E-bikes and very few “real” bikes.

The campsites were not too expensive, (E14 to E24) with good facilities and surprisingly most had picnic tables or benches and free showers.

We spent five years living in Germany from 1985 to 1990. The country was clean, organized and prosperous. However, things change over the years.

We were saddened to see the amount of garbage everywhere, something we would have never seen 28 years ago.

The political situation in Germany is very difficult. They accepted over a million refugees from Syria and other countries. To accommodate that amount of people they spread them around the country. Almost every city, town and village had some refugee families. In the mid-size towns and cities the infrastructure is in place to assist people find homes, jobs etc. However, in the smaller villages it is very hard for a village to support the infrastructure needed to integrate families. I believe it is hard for the village as well as the refugees who are trying to live a “normal” life.

Germany has an industrialized north – which relies heavily on big companies like Bayer, and the automotive industry. Consequently, employment generally is good, the unemployment rate is 5.5% per potential employees available for the job market. Obviously this does not include all the refugees.

There used to be a saying “Germans work hard and play hard” Do not expect a German to give up on his recreational time. Now it seems that Germany and Germans have changed, they no longer feel that they have the time for recreation. A lot of Germans we spoke to did not take all the vacation time that was given to them (6 weeks +), they felt that they could not afford to leave their job for any longer than a week at a time. What a change in outlook.

Sometime I think you should never go back to a country or place where you enjoyed living. Times and circumstances change and you should remember it as it was. Although I must admit I enjoyed going back to Lahr and revisiting the areas we lived. Other than the base, there were not too many changes.

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