Sapiens on a folding bike – Day 5

It’s been a long, but ultimately rewarding day.
The saga of my lost phone triggered a complete strategic rethink. I had wanted to see Freiburg, but couldn’t see how I could work it in. Yesterday, the answer became clear – go by train. Thus it was that I spent the half-hour journey  from Titisee chatting to a fellow folding-bike enthusiast, albeit a Brompton owner, who had recently cycled from Freiburg to Basel! He was able to give me detailed guidance as to what route to follow, where to cross the Rhine (much further north than I had spotted on my map, and points of interest on the way. He also, brave man, promised to look at my blog. If you are reading this, my friend, many thanks – another fine example of German hospitality.

This morning the sky is grey and threatening, but it is not actually raining. Once on my bike, my spirits rise. There are two possible routes out of Freiburg towards Bad Krozingen: one, busy, direct and flat; the other, hilly, scenic, quiet and longer. Which do you think I take? This photo should answer the question

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Once more unto the breach.
Without the sun my trusty Silva compass, craftily fixed to my bike so that I can always see it, is my constant guiding light. Even more important, I suggest than my map. It will always take in the right direction, but not necessarily on the route I might have chosen. Much more interesting, don’t you agree?
At Bollschweil I have my first view down to the Rhine valley across to France. I feel a deep sense of loss as I descend from the hills.
Bad Krozingen turns out to be disappointing. I continue straight on to the Rhine crossing recommended by my friend on the train. There are effectively two rivers running side by side: the “wild Rhine, fast flowing and natural (who’s for Pooh sticks?) ……

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……..and the navigable Rhine, wider and tamed.
I’d better get my passport and visa ready. Oh no – not necessary yet!
Into France. Immediately, an overwhelming smell of wild garlic, the song of a nightingale and the first sight of my absolute favourite flower ….

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You think I’m joking? Oh no I’m not.
It has started to rain. At one point, when I retrace my steps to look at a village just off the road, I discover my good fortune: on a vexation scale of 1 to 10, light rain might score about 2; light rain, with the wind in your face would score 10!
Onwards, ever to the south. Time is on my side. I decide to pop back across the Rhine into Germany for lunch. Better get my passport, visa and Deutchmarks out! Sorry guys, but that really is how ridiculous it would be; surely we’ve moved on – and for the better.
It’s also raining in Neuenburg, but lunch is good.
Back into France
I continue southward on a tree-lined country road with pretty villages anybody familiar with France would immediately recognise

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It’s stopped raining and the sun has started to shine. I pass a mediaeval tile-kiln

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Apparently tile-making was important in this region of Alsace in Roman times and continued as a craft industry until relatively recently. Reaching Kembs, within sight of ‘planes descending towards Basel airport, I make a spontaneous decision: it is only 4.15 and my ‘plane is not till 9.40. I turn north towards Mulhouse. An hour later, I’m strolling its historic heart searching (unsuccessfully) for holiday presents. Oh well, I tried. On the way into the city I had seen hills rising to the north-west, the Vosges; I make a resolution to return on my bike one day to explore.
Rather than retrace my steps, I choose a scenic (yes you’ve got it!) hilly route back towards Basel. I’ve done my map research well – I progress seamlessly right up to the terminal of Basel airport arriving just before 7 pm.
It’s been a long, but ultimately rewarding, day.

Distance travelled 81 miles
Elevation gain 1,748 ft
Average speed 10 mph
Maximum speed 29.1 mph

A final fling for Sapiens! What to say, with so little time?
I decide to change my script. If you’d like to explore more of our fascinating anthropological history, with all its psychological (and in my view, philosophical) implications, I could do no better than recommend you read the excellent “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. It covers issues such as ” imagined and constructed” orders – justice, money, capitalism; and major historical movements – the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions.
And it looks, intriguingly into the future.
For my part, I will summarise my feelings: I am proud to be a member of Sapiens and believe we are unique amongst species (this, of course, implies unique responsibilities); I believe my consciousness endows me with genuine free will, which once again, is unique on the planet (and possibly in the universe). Life is a wonderful privilege which we should treasure and enjoy. Sapiens is special! I also believe that, although science has answered many of the questions, there are still some crucially important ones which remain.
There is so much more that I could say – but it will have to wait…… until next year!

Watch this space.

Total distance travelled 261 miles
Elevation gain 24,401 ft !!

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