Sunny hills

Alarm at seven, we slept okay, not too hot in the room fortunately. We go down to the breakfast room, they have just switched back to the classic buffet system, but ask that you follow a one way tour throughout the area to avoid close contact with others, though there is no requirement to wear a mouth mask here. Doesn’t matter, we are all alone anyway. We take a look at official guidebook (you can find it here, in German) to see which castles to expect today and use Google Maps to estimate the best location to get some lunch. I look up Beckum on Wikipedia and we discover that it was once the largest manufacturer of cement in the world but also that it gives its name to a nearby range of hills, which we’ll have to cross soon. Brush, pack, put on a really thick layer of sunscreen and we’re off just after nine, it’s about 20°. The GPS guides us back to the route and we climb out of Beckum all the way up to the ancient Soestwarte guard tower. We follow the forested ridge to the west, enjoying great views southward. Not a lot of wind at the moment, we can see the great windmills down there are not generating a lot of electricity.

Our first castle of the day is Schloss Assen, still in use as a religious retreat, but we can admire it from the gatehouse and have a pleasantly quiet break just outside. A local makes a friendly remark which we fail to understand three times, before he cleans up his accent and we finally catch the words: ‘everybody else has flown to Mallorca’. We agree that it’s much more pleasant here and that there’s no need to travel further. We have birds singing, butterflies dancing and bees buzzing, plus a free Milka chocolate bar from the hotel. Bit further on we spot a mouse crossing the road and a hare fleeing (quickly, by default).

We’re back down, we can tell, because we cross the Lippe river. We’ve encountered it before far from here (see my post from 2019), however this time we can cross easily on a concrete bridge. We continue south to the Ahsewiesen nature preserve and encounter another watchtower, this time very new, for nature enthusiasts. I climb up and admire the green landscape: small pastures with many copses of deciduous trees, crisscrossed by roads each easily identified by its own line of trees. A stork family is sitting on its nest and we’re excited to see one, but around the bend we see a whole bunch of them, perhaps fifty, standing around all in the same field, bugging the hell out of the farmer who’s there to mow it.

We arrive in Hovestadt around lunch, as planned. The castle is privately owned but again you’re allowed in the driveway and we admire the building and its surrounding decorative moat. Nearby restaurants and bakeries are closed, unfortunately, either because it’s Monday – traditional closing day around here – or due to lack of visitors because of Corona. With some assistance from Google we look around the area and finally decide to buy ham/cheese sandwiches at the bakery in the Penny grocery store. We push on a bit and locate a shadowy bench. Lunch tastes great, must be the exercise. We say hello to a walker, who asks what we’re up to and then tells us of his plan to walk around Ireland with a washing machine, apparently inspired by Tony Hawks who did it for a dare with a freezer. Friendly guy. Arne fiddles with his bike to find the cause of an annoying noise and discovers a crucial missing screw, second time with this bike (see this older post). He brilliantly uses a screw from the water bottle holder to replace it and a pull strap to hold down the holder and we’re good to go again.

Lots of hills now, not too hard to climb but we can often see quite far once we’re on top. Frequent breaks for water (we had it refilled at the Penny bakery), a longer stop after Liesborn Abby at a Schützhütte to divide the apple pie. I love travelling in Germany, you find benches and covered picnic huts all over the place. This one even has entertainment: tiny toads hopping away. At least we’re assuming they’re toads, frogs would need water nearby, right? How big are bay toads? About 1 cm? Anyway, after discreet use of the hedge facilities we’re on the way again. More hills. Changeable weather now: the sun is often obscured by high, white clouds, so not too warm. We’re unsure if the plan of 74 km is going to work out, we have the feeling it’s still pretty far, because we zigzag all over the place.

More hills. Lots of fields with different crops, I can recognize grains versus vegetables but that’s it. The farms here are huge: obviously old buildings, half-timbered and well maintained. We now follow mainly farmers roads, mostly decent asphalt. We encounter a lot of farmers on large machinery – as you would expect – but almost no other tourists. We did see a set of four bike trekkers earlier today and the lone person obviously on his way somewhere, but all in all it’s really quiet out here. We arrive in Wiedenbrück around 6, it’s notable today for its recent Corona outbreak, the newspaper in the hotel lobby says almost 1400 people infected in this town and there’s talk of locking it down.

A long bath, fresh clothes and then out to dinner. We choose schnitzel again, though this time in a fancier restaurant, so we have a glass of Sekt and a starter: a delicious salad with goat cheese for me. The weather is still great, we eat outside on the market place, admiring the colorful 17th century buildings. Back to the hotel, sort pictures, write blog, sleep.

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