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What it looks like over the top of my handlebars as I'm biking.
What it looks like over the top of my handlebars as I'm biking.
Snail from my church camp site.
Snail from my church camp site.
Donauwörth at night.
Donauwörth at night.

Youth hostel in Donauworth

DONAUWORTH, GERMANY -- It's only been five days worth of biking but jet lag has finally caught up to me. I'm sure the storm excitement last night has added to my fatigue but I feel a need for a short day and some good sleep.

One of the bikers who helped me maneuver through Ingolstadt suggested a pension outside Donauworth. With cloudy skies and storms constantly threatening I made it 28 miles up the road to find that pension full, and the next and the next.

The going rate is 38 Euro or about $70.

I swung through Donauworth, a smaller community with the traditional Main Plaz shopping district.

On an errant turn I rolled downhill to the base of a huge church. It's the Barocke Kloster-und Wallfahrtskirche Heilig Kreuz or Monastery of the Holy Cross.

Rudolph was picking weeds in the walkway. He's a bearded man in his late 50s, who can't help with the pension situation but offers to show me the Holy Cross, a piece of the original crucifix of Christ.

The church dates to the baroque period; wooden doors huge both in height and width, ceilings hand-painted with cherubic angels and biblical passages, rows and rows of hardwood pews lead to the altar which is an array of glistening gold statues and fixtures.

We headed downstairs where another smaller row of pews leads to a fenced-in shrine and Rudolph points to a small gold frame on the back wall where there is a splintered shaving of a piece of the Holy Cross.

"How do you really know?"

It was a simple question; rude I'm sure, but I come from a U.S. media background and there always seems to be a story of a woman who finds a potato chip that looks like the baby Jesus. Even my brother, who is a runner, claims the sweaty mess on his shirt is an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a sandstorm.

Rudolph's explanation was a hard mix of German and piecemeal English. From what I could gather, a woman dug up a portion of the cross, labeled it the Holy Cross and proved it when a man who couldn't walk laid on the wood and was healed.

Holy Cross has become a pilgrimage church and is now a middle school for boys.

Youth hostel Jugendherberge

Back on the bike the plan was to make my way up the road to Harburg, a smaller community where I'll have better luck securing some green space for the night.

Up the hill I saw a traditional sign for camping, a symbol of a leaning pine tree over a park bench. I swung down the road to a gravel trail and asked a man sitting on the porch about camping. He said he thinks the youth hostel I'm in front of may be a more comfortable option.

The hostel is extremely clean and quiet. One night's stay in a shared room is about 18 Euro, with a required stamp I'm up to 22 Euro but still cheaper than a pension.

Breakfast is included in the price, along with clean bedding and access to the WC or water closet with shower and toilet.

Since my warning from Max on my first day in Munich I'm surprised my age hasn't been a factor checking into the hostel. I wasn't going to bring it up, but I am happy I didn't need to resort to a pair of pigtails and a lot of giggling.

There is a note at the front desk indicating if a person is over 26 years old and the hostel is crowded, then management has the right to favor those within the age requirement.

I locked my bike in a shed out back. "You're in room 302," said the attendant at the front desk. The Germans say that would be the third floor, but for Americans it's the fourth. Their first floor is called the ground level, then it's up a flight to the first floor and so on.

Nevertheless, to my tired legs it's the fourth floor. Two simple beds, a wall and sink with mirror separate the room. I took the bed with the skylight which opened to a fabulous view of the city.

The night air was crisp and fresh and about 40 degrees. There's minimal traffic and by 11 p.m. you can see the lights on the bridge that runs over the Wornitz and Danube rivers.

During the week, there are few people at the hostel, so I ended up getting a room to myself.

Today's tidbits

-- Germany's lifestyle of recycling is more than impressive. Their toilet paper is marked "made of 100% recycled materials." The soda bottles, which are a half liter in size, can be reimbursed for 15 cents a piece. The flush on the toilets is held down as long as needed and then the handle released, so there's not a complete standard flush cycle each time.

EVERYBODY brings their own bag to the grocery store; it's habit.

There are bicycles and bicycle racks and bicycle trails everywhere. At the grocery store, bike racks are packed with bikes with baskets.

Many people do their shopping with their bikes.

When I met Christiana, she said people shop more often but the food is fresher. "A carrot tastes so different in Germany but that's because there aren't as many preservatives as in the states." The freshness of the food can also be tasted in the breads and meats.

-- The younger generation really is well versed in English. When I ask someone older, for help and if they speak English, the common response is "little bit."

When receiving directions, instead of saying "go straight" Germans say 'go along, go along.' It's rather cute.

-- Met a seriously nice man serving ice cream at La Fonte del Gelato in Neuburg. Manuele had just opened for the day so his street side display of selections were untouched. Offerings included haselnuss, stracciatella, himmelblau, zatrone and whiskey creame which had real whiskey. "It'll make your next few miles a little easier," he said offering me a courtesy scoop.

-- Early this morning when I lumbered back into my tent I thought I stepped on a bunch of sticks in the priest's garden. Turns out the noisy crunch was snails. They're everywhere and the hard shelled slugs also attached themselves to the underside of my tent. I have a squeamish aversion to touching them so I flick them off with a stick.

-- I'm working off two maps each day as I bike. They're wedged atop the front pack on my handlebars. One map, the AAA map, is easier to handle and shows a broad overview of Germany. The larger map, the stage curtain purchase in Munich, is cumbersome but shows all the smaller roads and trails between cities.


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