I love bike hire, indeed any bike whatsoever if it gives me the chance of an unplanned ride in a new city.
That shows up in “The unprepared tourist”, the title of one of the most visited posts on this blog, when I unexpectedly got a free afternoon to grab a hire bike and ride around Berlin.
This week it was also Germany, in this case Friedrichshafen, right at the other end of the country. Not exactly a new city because I have passed through it numerous times on my way to Eurobike but I have actually never really seen it apart from out of the window of the sweaty shuttle bus going to the show halls, or sailing in on the ferry from the Bodensee. I know the circular tour of the Bodensee is one of the most popular rides in the region so cycle tourists pack the area all summer, but I have just looked at them jealously for the most part. This time I got a tiny taste of what they were enjoying.
Accommodation in the city is sold out during show week, but because our team arrived early we had one night in an apartment right next to the harbour at the beginning of the week. The city wasn’t exactly at its best because in the evening a foul storm thrashed its way down the lake and we were discouraged from enjoying anything except a quick beer and a meal.
Being a morning person I was the first to wake in the apartment and I drifted on the balcony not to wake the others where I could see it was cloudy and a stiff wind was still howling down the lake. I seriously wondered whether I could be bothered to take a morning walk.
Then as if by radar my eyes (and camera) homed in on a vision of delight. A hire bike. Yes indeed it was a Nextbike and I have their app on my phone so I can log in almost immediately for a bike in many German cities and some other countries.
It would be fair to say I almost ran down the stairs with a whoop of delight, if I was quick I could get in an hour of riding and sightseeing before breakfast. Opening signs were not so great, the storm had flattened the row of bikes but they were OK and it only took a short while to remember where to find my PIN code and I was off along the lake shore.
I didn’t get that far in my ride of about 50 minutes. Partly that was a result of a stiff head wind down the lakeshore. However far more it was the frequent stops for the lake views and the unexpected mixture of architecture and sights in town and lake front.
I wasn’t quite sure of the mix I was looking at because some sights didn’t quite gel, however subsequent reading has told me that Friedrichshafen was a major centre of German aviation manufacturing between the wars (Zepplins and Dorniers were built here) so it was heavily bombed and two thirds of the city was destroyed. It has an air of 19th century importance with its royal castle but that is mixed with some unimpressive 1960s shopping and much more interesting touristic art which has touch of Mad Max and steam-punk about it, probably because of the airship links.
As I returned I was treated to the spectacular sight of the rear edge of the storm clouds passing away over the lake, not to be seen again for the next four days.