Deer!

Quite warm in the room, there’s a fan but even so I take the blanket out of the sheet and use the sheet to sleep under. Alarm at seven, we put on our decent clothes and a mouth mask to go to breakfast downstairs. It’s strange.. you can take the mouth mask off only when you’re sitting down at your own table, makes me plan my trips to the buffet a bit better, at least. We use the time to pick out the lunch options and – more importantly – where we might find a good ice cream shop afterwards. Pack, brush, pay, ask the friendly receptionist to fill our water bottles and we’re out packing our bikes around nine. Another couple – I think they’re in their seventies – is preparing to leave with packed bikes and we chat for a moment: they’re following the Ems Radweg, a long track along the Ems river towards the North Sea. We have a little trouble finding our own track, as Arne has unmounted the GPS, it’s reflecting a lot of sunlight and is difficult to read. We find the track in the Flora Westfalia park and follow it all the way to Schloss Rheda.

we see many birds of prey: buzzards like this or the smaller kestrels, hovering over the fields

Most of it is closed to visitors, apparently it’s used for weddings and such, but we can catch a good view from across the moat. The water mill also looks quite impressive. We meet the senior couple again and wave hello, before setting off west. We climb slowly and steadily, at first along busy roads – though mostly still on a separate path – and after Haus Nottbeck we start a steeper climb up to Stromberg. Berg means mountain, though you shouldn’t take that literally: anything that really sticks out of the landscape will get the berg indication. Even so, it’s a pretty steep climb and we take a break at the observation tower. A local gentlemen is also taking a break and we chat about the amount of maize out in the fields (apparently it’s used in biomass electricity centrals), his bicycle trips around the area, the difference in wild flora since his youth and how Western culture messed up nature in Eastern Germany after the fall of the wall.

We’re up on the ridge now (we can tell because of the transmission tower) and it’s an easy ride along country roads to Stromberg. We take a quick look at the castle ruin and then start our descent towards Oelde. Whereas the climb was public road asphalt, now we follow narrow gravel or earthen tracks through the fields. This area is called the Münster park land because the many small agricultural fields are interspersed with forest and fields with wild flowers, indeed it’s a very pleasant landscape to cycle through. We come up to Oelde just in time for lunch, it’s a market day so we have to navigate the pedestrian area on foot and wear our mouth masks. As we stroll through the stalls, my mom calls to ask if we’re okay, apparently the area we’ve just left is now in lockdown. Nothing to worry about, we weren’t inside the lockdown area and anyway it’s not very strict, f.e. restaurants remain open. We have a grilled sandwich and continue through the fields and forests.

We encounter Haus Geist, Schloss Vornholz and Haus Diek, all in private hands. The hills here are not as high, but the landscape resembles a billowing sheet: continuously up and down, perhaps about 5%. Our average speed is quite a bit lower than yesterday, probably a combination of the hilliness and tiredness. We make it to Warendorf at the perfect moment to have an ice cream, though apparently everybody else has the same idea because it’s not easy to find a spot in the shade with a clear view towards the parked bikes. I have a summery bowl with strawberries, yum. Arne puts on his mask to visit the apothecary while I pay the bill – he needs shaving foam and we need extra sunscreen – and I do the same when he gets back: I need something for my giant bug bite. I swatted away a big thing from my forearm yesterday and it turns out it was quite venomous, since I now have a glowing red, swollen, credit card sized bump on my arm. Hopefully the cortisone cream will help a little, I put some on right away.

Only eight kilometers left to go, we follow the Ems briefly, Arne jokes that any moment now we’ll encounter the seniors of this morning and indeed five minutes later we see them coming from the other direction, so even though we think we took it very easy and they had the shorter route, we’re still quicker than the 70 year olds. We encounter an area where the river – straight and boring for the last kilometers – is being restored to a more natural course with meanders and shallows. Still pretty bare, but looks like a great project. A minute later Arne spots a deer in the neighboring fields, its legs are hidden by the grass but we can clearly see the body, head and big ears. I can take a few pictures before it hops away, we see two others further way, not that visible even in the bright green grass, see if you can spot them in the last picture below.

We arrive at the hotel around five thirty, the hostess inquires if we’re not too worried after the news from Warendorf, turns out this whole area will go into lock down as well, starting on Thursday. Might turn out still that we picked the few weeks available for travelling between the end of the first wave and the start of the second.. A short walk to the like (I swear I got new bug bites), then schnitzel for dinner – don’t laugh, it’s different every time – and I have the last asparagus of the season with it. It’s warm in the room now, I hope we’ll sleep okay..

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