King of the castle!

The plan on Tuesday was to cycle from Stuttgart to Ulm. Just under 70 hilly miles in total. Difficult, but achievable (I thought!). I left the home of Hannah, who had kindly hosted me in Stuttgart for 2 nights (and even invited me to a beginners tango dance class the night before!), at around 9 in the morning. In hindsight, if I was to have any chance of reaching Ulm I really should have hit the road earlier, but you see I was tired from all the dancing the night before!

Hannah, my Warmshowers host from Stuttgart

Hannah, my Warmshowers host from Stuttgart

Leaving the city was chore which meant that by the time I was out, and on quieter roads, it was already 10:15 and I had only covered 5 miles. Not a great start to the day.

The second (more dramatic) setback was caused by a little bump in the cycle path. I didn’t see it and when riding over it 12mph my foot was bumped off the pedal and before I could react my unicycle had smashed in to the concrete and I was on my feet, running, trying not to faceplate! I didn’t thankfully and came away unscratched, but the uni unfortunately didn’t fair so well. The impact bent back the left handle bar and dented the crossbar making the whole handle bar unit impossible to tighten. An hour, some contemplating (and swearing), and copious amounts of duct tape later and I was riding again. I had failed at bending back the handle bar, but managed to tighten the unit by increasing the cross bar with tape. It’s temporary, but should hold for now.

So at this point my chances of reaching Ulm at albeit gone. 10 miles after I had restarted after my fall, I hit the hilly section of the ride. The assents were much steeper and terrain much gravel-ier than I had expected, resulting in my chances of reaching Ulm that evening disappearing completely! But no worries, plan B to the rescue. CAMP! But where…?

At 5 in the afternoon, realising I wasn’t going to make the further 35 miles before it got dark, I felt the pressure I had put on myself lift and options of what to do next open up. I came across an information map looking for interesting places to check out and perhaps pitch my tent. Up a steep track slightly off my planned route was, what the map indicated, an old ruin of a castle. I wasn’t originally going to head in this direction, but seeing as I now had time I decided to check it out.

The route up was ridiculously steep and loose, even by my standards! The path would have been fine if you were just out hiking, but I wasn’t just out hiking! I had a giant heavy unicycle to heft over all of the sunken pits and fallen trees. Eventually though, after many biscuit breaks, I made it and OH MY was it worth it!

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The old castle was spectacular, but what really made it was the view. From up there you could see right the way down the wooded valley. I could see the entirety of where I had cycled that day (which wasn’t very far…) and beyond. I spoke to a climber and he said that the rock we were standing on used to be coral and the edge of a cliff.

Right, enough of admiring the view, onto more pressing issues of where to sleep. To be honest this decision was an easy one. Seriously, when given to option to either sleep in an old ruined castle or to not sleep in an old ruined castle there isn’t really a decision to make now is there?! So the castle, which is called Reussenstein Castle and was built built in 1270 as a ministerial castle of the Dukes of Teck in order to watch the only pass into the Swabian Alb from the Neidlingen valley (thank you wikipedia), was decided upon.

Ok, so now for the practicality of entering it. Annoyingly someone had put up a few fences around, almost as if they didn’t want you to get in. Bizarre! Additionally there were signs up with some sort of foreign language written on them reading ‘VERBOTEN’, but who knows what that means. I decided to assume the signs said ‘WELCOME’ and after a bit of climbing and lifting I was in.

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Inside was pretty run down, as you might expect after 700 years, the ceiling and seperate floors were non existent and there were trees and bushes growing out of the stone work. However some stone steps did survive and as a result you can make your way pretty high up to what was maybe the 2nd floor.

I pitched my tent on the far side of the castle on a small patch of grass completely hidden from view. I cooked my pasta on wall overlooking the valley and watched the sun sink below the trees. I think that this was definitely the strangest place I had ever slept. I’m actually extremely pleased that things didn’t quite go to plan, because if I hadn’t had that little fall I wouldn’t have ended up sleeping in an old castle, perched on top of a cliff in the middle of Germany.

I’m sure this is just the beginning of my adventures sleeping in odd locations and I hope to bring you more stories of the strange and wonderful places I end up pitching my tent.

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