I spent one morning wasting time trying to find caves and only found a very mediocre one. After climbing a beast of a hill I came across a map showing various tourist attractions. A roman temple on top of a hill was the star attraction and I could see it from where I stood, glistening in the sunshine and beckoning from on high. I left my bike with permission in a hotel garage. After parting with 3€ for a 25cl bottle of Orangina at the bar (ouch), I donned my trainers and climbed to the top of the mountain where the temple proudly stood. I was greeted by epic views and it was great to do something other than cycling….
Whacked out after climbing a mountain, first on a heavily laden bike, then by foot to the summit, all the while the sun scorching down on me, I bezzed it down to Schirmeck to buy supplies at the local supermarket. Exhausted, I sat outside on the bench and munched down cookies and milk. I was thinking of putting in no more than 3km when a guy who had done his shop started chatting to me. He asked if I needed a place to crash for the night and said I could crash at his. I asked him if he lived with anyone else and he said no just him now; his wife left him 8 months ago. Knowing I didn’t have much strength to cycle any further, I accepted. I followed him in his car (me on my bike) to his house, the penultimate house up a really steep hill. The last stretch up to his house was at least a 20% gradient and 25metres long. I dropped the bike to the granny ring and gave one final push up and onto his drive. I was puffing and panting when I wheeled my bike into his garage. Mum, you may wanna stop reading the rest of this paragraph at this point! He shut the door behind me and locked the door ‘Sorry, you don’t mind if I lock the door, do you? I live by myself you see so it has become a force of habit’. ‘No no that’s cool I say’, a bit weirded out, still catching my breath from the climb. So I followed him upstairs and saw a heavy dark door to my right beneath the staircase. Oh shit. Where have I just gone and entered? I sat down in front of the telly feeling a bit sun-stroked. He said I could take a shower. I played with my iPod, pretending to tweet the world my exact co-ordinates. He had mentioned he was getting up at 6am to go to work. I saw my way out of this. I put it to him that I didn’t want to get up so early because it had been a long day and proposed I pitched my tent in the garden. He said OK if you prefer and said he would just strim the lawn. ‘No need to go that effort I don’t mind pitching my tent in the long grass’, I said. ‘It’s no bother’, he replied. As I looked down at him mowing the lawn with a petrol strimmer and protective full facial headmask, I imagined a scene out of the Texas chainsaw massacre. The Schirmeck Strimmer Massacre! Fuck I need to get out of here!! …His neighbour walked past. I saw my opportunity to make my presence known to the outside world, before this guy got all Fritzl on me. I went out and introduced myself to his Romanian voisin. Before I stepped outside I overheard the fact he was telling her that he had a cyclist staying over that night. This reassured me a great deal… so we all chatted for a bit, then later on I showered and sat down for dinner: spaghetti carbonara. I turned down the offer of wine in case it had been spiked(!)… Stunted, and uneasy conversation followed. Cheesecake was on the menu for dessert. Finally he revealed what his passion was: brewing Schnapps. Tonnes of the shit, and every different variety you can imagine. ‘C’est cool’ I said. I thanked for his hospitality. That night, the most disturbing cheese nightmares I’ve had in years. Ultra disturbing. ….So there it was. A proper weird night all-in-all. To be fair to him he sorted me right out. He let me chill at his place, let me shower, cooked for me, and even left me a large slice of cake the next morning. I’m almost certain his intentions were purely good, but his mannerisms were very odd, and the whole affair was probably just my fatigue-induced paranoia projected onto him. Either way, it was an early lesson to stay sharp and keep my wits about me.