Well rested and well fed we said goodbye and thanks to Hedi and Siegfried and rode off to our next city stop: Cologne. With a rest day tomorrow and a shower at our host in Cologne we didn’t mind the downpour that started soon after we left. We had organised someone to stay with in Cologne a bit more in advance than we did for Ghent, so we knew we had somewhere to stay coming in.
Climbing a lot the previous days now paid off as we spent most of the morning descending through the clouds. The rain continued. We were originally going to follow the roads into Cologne but soon found a map and sign at a node in the German cycle network.
If we thought the Belgian network had been good, the German network was fantastic. Every sign had an arrow to the corresponding nod, but also a place name of the nearest settlement you could reach on the network in that direction. We mapped out a route to Cologne and set off.
The track varied from time to time. It would be smooth, sealed Tarmac one moment and then mud, dirt or gravel the next. Not a huge issue if not for the rain which meant that on any of these tracks our bikes would churn up the loose material and our panniers and bikes (mine more than Finns, I don’t have mudguards) would get filthy.
Again, not a huge issue normally, especially if you’re camping but we were staying with a Couchsurfing host that night and didn’t really want to pull dirty baggage into their home…
It wasn’t a big deal as it turned out. We got into to Cologne and got in contact with our host Rolf. Rolf was a super relaxed guy and had been cycling touring before, so he understood when we turned up covered in mud. Rolf had to run off to training we we had a shower and got talking to his lovely flat mate Janna who, we were supposed to bfind out, had been over to Ireland four times!
We went out for some food and when we got back Rolf took us out his favourite hangout, a place he called “The Wall”. I don’t know if I should spoil the mystery, but if you get to Cologne ask someone to bring you to The Wall one evening, you won’t be disappointed (not guaranteed actually, it’s just a low wall that runs along one of the streets in the student neighbourhood where everybody from that neighbourhood comes to hang out).