Rugby in Germany


Rugby Friends

Visited SC Neuenheim, Heidelberg.

World in Union Scroll - Profile

Claus-Peter Bach - President of German Rugby Union & ex International player (Lock)
Martin Strauch - International Player (full back)

Country Blog

Friday May 7th

After breakfast at Gilles’, we were taken back to the rugby club to collect the bikes, then head East towards Germany. We had no plan, other than to reach the border and see what we could arrange. The roads were easy pedalling and we reached our halfway town earlier than expected. A quick check of the e-mail and we had received a potential lead to a German signature down in Heidelberg. Again, it was a big detour, but the offer to meet the president of German rugby, some national players, and a rugby museum would tick enough boxes to justify the extra days. We continued in the cold towards the border. Upon reaching Monschau, the language literally changed within yards. We were in Germany. Our French was rendered useless, and our fears that Aldi shopping may end became a worrying possibility. We had covered good distance and set about pitching our tent in the plentiful woods of West Germany. Unfortunately the torrential rains had turned all forests into heavy bog land, and we were forced to pedal on for hours into the late evening. One Germany couple took us into their house for coffee and biscuits, and helped us out with a map to guide us in future days pedalling, but we were soon back out in the cold night. With more luck than judgement, we managed to find a campsite just before dark, and even better for us, there was nobody there to ask for costs. A pretty tiring day, but we had made it. Calais to Germany in just 5 days. Day 5 – 87.5km – cash EUR 3.38

Saturday May 8th

Saturday, and we only had a further 15km to reach our weekly target of 500km. Then, surely a day to rest the legs, recharge the batteries (quite literally) and get the necessary photos and reports off to the various media channels. Germany wasn’t like France or Belgium, Germany has hills. I hoped that the 2 days hill training in Wales had turned us into hill professionals. Unfortunately for me, this was just a hope. After long slow slogs of pedalling on my granny cog, we crawled our way south towards Prum, at one point averaging less than 6 km per hour. Even Einstein would be pushed to explain how these maths equated in us achieving 77km. On a positive note, we found an Aldi !! You would have to be on a strict bicycle budget to understand our excitement, but believe us, we WERE excited. We achieved the weekly target with a day to spare, but the day was perhaps otherwise non-eventful. Day 6 – 77km – cash EUR 9.96

Sunday May 9th

We performed an “MO” which we have coined as meaning “Military Out” first thing in the morning. Extremely useful procedure for evacuating anywhere unauthorised, let alone authorised camping spots, but without settling the bill. Panniers all packed the night before, up at dawn, tent packed and on the road. The weather is poor, heavy cloud and best, and if you are lucky the rain or wind might cease for a few moments. Today, we are presented with hills, and lots of them. Today’s budget has already been spent, all shops are closed on Sunday so we had already purchased double cheese and bread.

At one point we were so cold and wet that we conceded to stop and hide under a tree rather than continue. Eventually, in true British style we threw in the towel, put the kettle on, had a brew and waited for it all to blow over. It did, and despite a tough afternoon of pedalling we eventually made our way to the Mosel river which would hopefully signify flatter terrain over the coming days.

Day 7 – 100km – EUR 0.00

Monday May 10th

When by the river, try and have a wash. So we did, and it was great. Not in the river mind, but we unpacked our Ortlieb foldable bowl and put in some boiled river water to have a scrub in the tent. This lead to a late start and naturally, I (Tom) was hungry after only about 1 hour pedalling. We stopped at the first town along our way and fruitlessly looked for a supermarket. We found everything but. We gave up and bought an onion baguette from a bakery. Massively over budget at EUR 1.40 a stick, we could have 2 Aldi loaves for that! As we sat munching on our budget “brunch” along came a man to inquire into our journey. He too was on bicycle, but clearly running errands judging by his bag. We chatted about our trip and he introduced himself as Martin, a local doctor on house visits. He gave us some route advice through Germany and instructed how we might find the nearest supermarket, also running off to find us an internet card to access the town’s free wifi. Pleased to have met such a friendly local, we thanked him and headed off to pick up some real food. We sat at our usual “dining table” (The Aldi carpark) and

scoffed. Then Doctor Martin reappeared , this time by car! He strolled over to us with bottle of wine in hand and said he wanted to wish us the best of luck on our journey. What a bloke !!! As we chatted about friends of his we should visit, he also found the time to prescribe us the remaining jabs we needed for our trip.

Perhaps the riding was tough that afternoon, or perhaps waiting to drink the wine made it seem so, but we were both very tired by the time we snuck into a campsite 82km down the road. We polished off the fantastic Riesling before the kettle had even boiled.....

Day 10 – 82km – cash EUR 13.50

Tuesday May 11th


Took the bike track out of town. Not always a good move, crap track for first 10km. Once out the “scenic forest” (not so scenic with 50kg of bike vibrating against one’s backside) we made good ground again. We turned at Koblenz and took the Rhine back South East, from here it rained, and rained, and rained some more. At a town enroute, we logged on to the laptop with only 8 minutes of battery remaining we secured a meeting with the president of German rugby the coming Friday, we were to phone him on Thursday to confirm. He had invited us to his office at the newspaper to discuss further. That night, it rained heavily. It rained so much that our fish pasta winked at us as it was brought back to life.....

Day 11 – 112km – cash EUR 7.33

Wednesday May 12th

Woke up to a relatively dry start (all things considered), head off to Oppenheim, all along the river. We reached a campsite at around 5:30 and took a break for a cup of tea. We were there only a couple of minutes when we were approached by a man just finished work. He asked us about our trip and where we were headed that day. Then he offered us to join him and his family for the evening at his home. We gratefully accepted the rare invitation on the road and followed his instructions to his house nearby. Upon arriving at their amazing family house, we were met by sister in law and nephew. 3 families were living under one roof, one very big roof !! Andrea (Werner’s wife) hid her surprise at our presense, and was an amazing hostess as Werner dropped his daughter off at a local disco. We enjoyed a great meal and plenty of beers as we discussed economies, the new British government, and travel. Clearly our German was coming along nicely ;-)

Day 12 – 80km – cash EUR 9

Thursday May 13th

8:30am and an absolute feast for breakfast. A full German spread of fresh bread, cheeses, meats, eggs and juice. We stocked up as hungry cyclists do, waddled up the stairs to collect our gear and sadly said our goodbyes. Today was “father’s day” and in Germany that is cause for much celebration (from the men – it is an all day drinkathon, normally involving a tractor at some point). As advised by Werner, it took only 20 mins to find the first tractor load of men boozing heavily on the back of a trailor. If tractor boozing could ever be referred to as sophisticated then this was it. It was great to watch and we were offered some as we pedalled behind. Too early for me, I normally hold off until at least 10am...

In Mannheim, we pulled over to call Claus-Peter (the president of German rugby) and he suggested a change of venue for the meet, his old rugby club, and the site of a rugby museum that he could show us. I wrote down the address, but had no way of knowing exactly where this was. We pedalled in all the way to Heidelberg, it took us a little longer than possible but we found ourselves co-incidentally on the exact road of our club! He tracked it down and even found that a match had just finished. FC Neunheim had just defeated Berlin in the penultimate match of the season. Initially, the members were a bit confused by our presence, but after explaining our journey, the president of the club, Rama, welcomed us in and introduced us to the guys. From here we were thoroughly refreshed with strong German lager, and added 3 new countries to our scroll! Marten who played for Germany, Adam for Spain, and Shawn for Zimbabwe. This is perhaps quite typical of top flight German rugby. There is a strong desire to improve and build, and to do so, the clubs recruit talent to implement a structure for the upcoming German children leaving school.

Adam offered us his garden to pitch our tent, and we all headed back to his to drink beer and “Georgian water” (although that glass tasted suspiciously like vodka to us). I made a hash of putting up the tent, tripping over more lines than I anchored in, then passed out. Needless to say I didn’t make it out with the guys to the club and woke up with my first German hangover.....

Day 13 – 85km – cash EUR 6

Friday May 14th

We stumbled about Heidelberg in the rain, hungover and looking for food and drink. Eventually we found our way to our favourite home, Aldi, where we set about the usual procedure. Processed cheese and ham in the carpark. This gave us just enough time to head back to the house, collect our bikes, get lost several times, then find our way back to the rugby club again. Here we met with Claus-Peter Bach, and his photographer assistant from the paper. Claus-Peter was a very knowledgeable man. It was no surprise that he represented Germany himself, nor that his father was vice captain back in the 50s when Germany first toured again following the war. He guided us around the museum, which Claus-Peter had helped piece together. Every item and photo had a story, and a great one too. So proud are Germany of the 2 victories over the French, and rightly so. Germany had a very strong national side back between the 20s and 60s. Only due to some errors in promoting the sport at the right times did they miss out on developing the game as it has in our recognisable nations today.

Day 14 – 0km – cash EUR 20.00 (including a map for East Germany)

Saturday May 15th

We left Heidelberg as the weekend rowing regatta was starting up, shame we couldn’t stick around. The rest of the day bore nothing of interest, and as we wrote as such (hidden poorly behind a few short trees) we were discovered by a young lad out for a stroll. He approached us a little tentatively and tried to point out that perhaps we shouldn’t really be camping on what turned out to be his tomato patch. Nevertheless, he led us towards his home where he said a man could speak English. He ran into the house and out came Wolfgang to greet us. Wolfgang was a social worker, and he (along with others) helped care for a home of 8 boys. Sean (our young tomato grower) was the youngest of this group and they were a great group of lads, all with different stories. I tried to take my first opportunity at creating a new rugby interest. After 3 “touch downs” I gave up on this dream......

We were allowed showers, then made coffee by a young lad called Adem. If you are reading this Adem, then thanks for the coffee, and as we discussed, you will do very well as an engineer. He was a very smart and motivated individual, and only 15 years old. It speaks volumes of the work that Wolfgang and others are putting in. Thanks to all the guys at the home for welcoming us and please stay in touch !!

Day 15 – 97km – cash EUR 8.79

Sunday May 16th

We have had a leaky stove for 3 days. As the “man” of the team, I shook it, bashed it, threw it around before concluding that there was nothing more to be achieved with it. Jodie, offering a female point of view simply opened the unused instruction booklet and found the troubleshooting guide on fixing leaky “ovens”. The “oven” was subsequently fixed and order was restored to coffee time once more.

Sunshine? What the... honestly, there it was, just hanging around up there like it had been up there all along, just hiding behind those thick grey things that kept watering us. We soaked it up, trying to get some charge into our equipment and kicking a ball around in the park. Now Johnny Wilkinson eat your heart out. If you ever kicked your second kick of your life straight and true over the posts like Jodie did, I take my hat off to you. It was perfect. I’ve missed many a kick in that position J

Too much fun in the sun, and not enough pedalling, I couldn’t muster up any energy and we stumbled over the line just before dark to camp up in a pretty grotty woods at the edge of a farmer’s field. The only highlight of the day from this point was the alternative dinner, bangers and smash !! It was great.

Day 16 – 69km – cash EUR 0.00 (Sunday)

Monday May 17th

MO? Try about 1 hour before MO.

Scared of being ripped to shreds by the farmer’s baying dogs in the next field, we awoke and packed up at 4:50am. Great for covering good distance before lunch, bad for being able to actually open your eyes to pedal. Having said this, we had the best morning yet. Great rolling hills, and clear skies before arriving at our first stop, Rothenburg. For the first time we felt like tourists as the historical centre was breaming with tacky gift shops and Chinese tourists, each pulling behind Jodie’s pet hate, wheely luggage. We replenished our supplies, coffee, powder milk, chocolates, cheese, ham, bread, jam and as a special breakfast treat, large swiss roll. I ONLY had the swiss roll for breakfast, this was enough to leave me feeling a bit giddy.

Day 17 – 95km – cash EUR 17.50


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