Wednesday 5 December 2012: A ride from Mönchengladbach to Kempen, Hüls, Krefeld and then back to Mönchengladbach
In yesterday’s blog I wrote about talking with Babs (who lives near Willich) about where would be a good place for me to live during my year in Germany. I had come to Mönchengladbach on this little trip to get an idea of the city and see if it would be a suitable base for my year.
Although I’m enjoying it here I think that the city is too large for me (I prefer quieter places) and you have to do a fair bit of cycling before getting out in the countryside. Plus there are a heck of a lot of traffic lights! I’m not convinced MG is the right place for me, although I did like the look of Windberg.
Anyway, Babs had suggested that I considered Kempen, Hüls (a suburb north-west of Krefeld) or Krefeld itself, all of which she thought might suit me better. I looked at them on the map and discovered that all three places would make a nice cycle ride, so that was today’s plan sorted!
As I hadn’t pre-planned today’s route on my computer at home to download to my Garmin I would have to make it up as I went along. I spent a few minutes over breakfast today setting some waypoints into the Garmin which I would ask it to route me through – this meant I could roughly plan the route and ensure it wouldn’t try to take me down a motorway or something. Just putting in waypoints doesn’t give me a terribly accurate idea of the distance of the route but I estimated it was 15 miles to Kempen, 5 from Kempen to Hüls, 3 from Hüls to Krefeld and then 12 back, making 35 miles in total. A nice gentle day’s ride! If I felt too tired to ride back, or if it was too cold/rainy, I could get a traini from Krefeld to MG (which is why I planned the route that way round – I don’t think there’s a train from Kempen to MG).
The forecast for today was dry in the morning but some wet snow mid-afternoon so I decided to head off fairly early. I also thought it might be nice to have a big lunch in Krefeld and just have a sandwich in the evening. It would be nice not to have a take-away!
So I set off northwards, along the road which goes past the station. I noticed this sign in the middle of acres of concrete and asphalt:
The Gladbach river is of course what Mönchengladbach was named after. It now appears to be entirely buried under the city.
It was a good four miles of riding (on cycle paths beside the road of varying quality) before I was out into the countryside. I was then alongside some main roads and the cycle paths were a bit smoother (plus there were fewer side roads so I could maintain a higher speed).
I went through the village of Neersen and then headed slightly more west towards Anrath. When I was leaving Anrath I was stopped at a level crossing and the people in the car beside me had a chat. They were amazed to hear that earlier this year I had cycled from Berlin to London (and wondered if I had swum the channel as well) and kept saying how comfortable I looked. I suppose I do look comfortable but I am wrapped up for the arctic with hat, gloves, buffs, waterproof jacket, thermal trousers, Gore-Tex boots and more which isn’t as comfortable as summer cycling clothing (shorts, jersey and sandals!)
As mentioned previously, I paid a flying visit to Kempen when on holiday in Nettetal and thought it was lovely. It’s an interesting walled town dating from 1290ish and was the original home of Thomas à Kempis. Here’s a screenshot I took of the map so you can see what it is like – most of the area within the walls is pedestrianised.
As it happens the approach from the south took me through some nice housing areas and it all seemed very pleasant and open and green. When you get into the walled part of the town of course it’s lots of cobbles, alleyways and more.
As I was leaving the bakery I was stopped by a man who said he was the chap in the car who had talked to me at the Ansbach level crossing. He couldn’t believe how quickly I had got to Kempen (which wasn’t that quick at all) and was amazed when I told him I was carrying on to Krefeld and then back to Mönchengladbach. In the UK my cycling distances and speed are seen as fairly average but they seem to be a bit out of the ordinary to average Germans.
It was an easy ride out of Kempen and I was soon out amongst the fields again. I think that this is something I like – living somewhere where I can be out and away from houses fairly quickly. Anyway, here is a view across at Hüls and Krefeld.
For some weird reason my Garmin took me on a minor detour at this point along some quiet farm tracks rather than the main road. This was OK except I entered Hüls via a wood factory and general industrial estate which was slightly less attractive. Anyway, this was a view of the church steeple and water tower.
The handy thing about churches in German villages and towns is that you can usually navigate your way to the pedestrianised centre by just aiming for the church. Which I did, and I found the centre.
I have to say that I didn’t find Hüls particularly exciting and so have struck that off my list of places for my year.
There was a ribbon development between Hüls and Krefeld which was actually quite a long way. The last mile or so into the centre of Krefeld was a bit hair-raising as there were tram tracks to contend with. They’re OK generally but if you have to pull out to pass a parked car (as I often did) you have to cross the tram track at a sharp enough angle so that your wheel doesn’t get dragged in. With three wheels to think about this involved some concentration!
I had a quick look around the market and then popped into a couple of bookshops to try to find the Bikeline Cycle Touring book for the Romantische Straße route (which James and I will do in September to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary) but I had no luck with that book although I could have bought dozens of different Rhein Radweg books if I so wished (but I already have them so no need). I will have to order the Romantische Straße book when I’m back in England I suppose.
Krefeld Centre had a very good selection of shops and nice, wide pedestrianised streets. I suppose in some ways it could be any German town (Berlin, Köln, München) as it’s the same shops you always see (including C&A and Woolworths, long gone from the UK), but it had a rather nicer atmosphere than MG although I can’t work out why. It seemed perhaps a little less grey. Still, Krefeld isn’t on my list of places to live in as it’s too big again and there’s too much of the city to cycle through to reach the countryside. However it looks like it would be a good place to go shopping now and again!
I then decided it was time for a nice hot lunch and found a nice Italian restaurant and ordered a lasagne. They gave me olives and dough balls while I was waiting which was nice. Then the lasagne came and the whole meal was only 7,20€. Bargain!
The rain was still holding off as I left the restaurant and set off back to Mönchengladbach. I was heading south to leave Krefeld and was clearly going through the slightly rougher area – I had a few groups of lads shout and laugh at me (which I am used to – it happens all the time in the UK!) There was some interesting architecture though with very ornate façades on some of the buildings.
My route back was mostly along the B57 Gladbacher Straße (B roads being like British A roads) and the cycle path alongside was generally pretty good. For a while the road ran 100 metres or so from the A44 motorway and I found myself musing about the fact that there seem to be fewer cars on the roads in Germany when I am cycling about. I think this is probably because people use their bikes for shorter journeys where most people in the UK would use cars – after all, it’s these short journeys around towns that clog up roads, not so much motorway traffic.
I soon found myself in Neersen again where I rejoined my outward track, heading southwards to MG. I saw this sign that I hadn’t previously noticed – an interesting group of towns that MG is twinned with. Thurrock isn’t a terribly exciting option!!
I await to see if I have any orders to import one or two of these – fortunately I have a large car with me which has lots of empty space!!
So overall this was a very successful day as we now have a winner in the “Where should Helen live in 2014-2015” – Kempen! I really liked it and it seems very suitable in terms of location, distance from civilisation and green and pleasant environs. I will do some more research of course (and I suspect accommodation might be a bit more pricey than in MG) but it’s good to know I have found somewhere that I think could suit me very well. Thanks to Babs for suggesting I visit it again!
I was back by 4pm just as the rain started (another excellently-timed cycle ride to avoid the worst of the weather) and enjoyed my Berliner. I plan to go out walking a bit this evening for some variety, now Alfie is safely tucked up in my car again.
Tomorrow is a free day at the moment and the forecast is good (blue sky, sun, chilly but not too windy). I’ll go out on the bike again but haven’t yet decided where; I could head over to Düsseldorf to say hello to the Rhein, I shall see how I feel when I wake up.
Statistics for today:
Distance travelled: 38.4 miles
Time taken: 4 hours 14 minutes
Average speed: 9.1mph (this is pretty good taking into account the amount of time I have cycled at walking pace through various pedestrian precincts; I suspect my average speed on the open roads was nearer 12mph)
Maximum speed: 15.1mph
I have no calories burned figures as my heart rate monitor seems to have packed up. It may want fresh batteries but they are at home in England so I’ll have to wait and see!