Köln – Orsoy

We had a two-night stay in Köln and a priority was to get some attention for Paul’s rattly front wheel. Because we were long-distance travellers, Herr Schneider at Schneider Rad Sport made time in a busy day to repack the bearings. Paul rolled sweetly afterwards. Herr S also stroked Paul’s Campag shifters lovingly and said “what a nice bike”.

Our 2-night stay in Köln was hosted by the absolutely delightful and attentive Jens, proprietor of the Hotel am Museum. In his devotion to ensuring visitors’ enjoyment of Köln he gave and demanded a detailed exchange of information, sometimes comically intrusive: “How much did your bike repair cost?”; “Why are you taking your back-pack on your walking tour of the city?”

To the latter question, we reacted sheepishly as we had borrowed towels and a bathrobe from the room for our visit to the Neptunbad Spa, a fantastic 1912 bath house. Great saunas, hot tub and pools, only very slightly spoiled when a heavyweight naked man slipped on a sauna bench and landed with his whole body weight on my toes. Luckily this happened during the ice aufguss, so resulted only in colourful bruising, not swelling.

We ate one evening in one of Köln’s brauerai, serving local beer in tiny 20ml glasses, allegedly so it always remains acceptably cold. We later found out the waiter keeps delivering these until you cover an empty glass with a beer mat; could have been an expensive evening.

The weather in Köln was bizarre. Sunny spells would suddenly end with a colossal thunderstorm and torrential rain, lasting only five or ten minutes.

Düsseldorf glimpsed through the trees.The route onwards from Köln took us through Dusseldorf, a much lovelier old town than we expected, and Duisburg, a crumbling giant of heavy industry where the Rhine and Ruhr come together to form one absolutely gigantic waterway.

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