Strasbourg, last January

In novels that, in the future, are set in our present (then, the past), writers will write – She looked at her phone – just as writers nowadays, evoking the fifties, write, She lit a cigarette.

woman tram stop phone Strasbourg 118.JPG

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Autumn trees 8 – the Lake District and the Furness peninsula

trees Barrow-Dalton 1118.JPG

Travelling Companion and I went to northwest England for the weekend. Unlike at home in Brussels, almost all the trees there have now lost their leaves.

On Saturday we cleared brambles and ash saplings and rhododendrons on a National Trust estate in the Lake District. There were plenty of exotic trees including the biggest Japanese cedar in England (Britain?). I believe there were oaks and horse chestnuts too. But among the trees I am looking out for this autumn, I only saw silver birch.

On Sunday, we went to Baycliff and Rampside and Barrow-in-Furness, looking at the places that grandmothers and aunts and uncles used to live, lunching with cousins at the Fisherman’s Arms in Baycliff. We looked at the church where my siblings and I were christened – right by the sea. Crossing a bridge, we could see a submarine at the shipyard where Britain’s submarines are built. On Walney Island the street names are from the British empire – Natal Road (leading to Dominion Street), Empress Drive. Mikasa Street is named after the flagship, built in Barrow, of the Japanese navy that beat Russia in the war of 1904-05.

Walney wind farm Barrow 1118 5.JPG

From the far side of the island we saw the Walney Wind Farm, the biggest offshore wind farm in the world. Travelling Companion and I like it; my cousin said apologetically that she does not.

These are places that people love; and where they stay. The Scottish detective writer Val McDermid writes about this in her book Out of Bounds:

River [a scientist] lived in Keswick in the heart of the Lake District with her partner, Detective Chief Inspector Ewan Rigston. Even if his job had been as portable as hers, he was a Cumbrian born and bred and seriously doubted whether the air outside the Lakes was actually breathable for more than a couple of days at a time.

Autumn trees 6 – cycle ride from Passau to Vienna – silver birch

As the latest stage in my many-staged journey southeast from Brussels I spent five days at the end of October and beginning of November cycling from Passau, the last town in Germany, across Austria to Vienna. More or less along the river Danube.

You can hire bikes in Passau and drop them off in Vienna. But this service stops in mid October. So on the way there, I hopped off the train in Munich at 5 pm and bought a bike at Rocky Mountain and Friends, the only bike shop in the city still open that late on a Saturday afternoon.

preparing my bike Rocky Mountain and Friends bike shop Munich 1018.JPG

The shop was rather cooler than I would ideally have liked, even though the bike I bought was a city bike with three gears. Looking at the bike’s saddle (see arrow), I asked the salesman/mechanic for a padded cover. He gave me a look. He said he would have to ask the manager. He asked whether the saddle provided by the shop was not adequate for me? I caved in. I regretted it later.

I spent the night at the IBB, a big 70s-style hotel in Passau. From then on, in Austria, all my nights were in places with monosyllabic names: Linz, Au, Melk, Tulln and Wien.

In the morning I had coffee and a cheesy pretzel at the railway station, bought the guide to the Danube cycle route (which I left behind in Melk), manoeuvred my panniers onto the reluctant bike rack and set off.

Day 1: 84 km, Passau – Eferding (with a side trip by train to Linz to sleep. You hoped to find somewhere to sleep in Eferding? on a Sunday? said the hotel receptionist in Linz.)

Day 2: 59 km, Eferding – Au

Day 3: 81 km, Au – Melk

Day 4: 93 km, Melk – Tulln

Day 5: 46 km, Tulln – Vienna

silver birch on north bank cycling Danube-Linz 1018.JPG

Silver birch are one of the five trees I am looking out for this autumn. Along the ride I saw lots of beautiful silver birch with leaves still a-flutter.

Some may be self-seeded, I suppose:

silver birch cycling Linz-Au 1018.JPG

silver birch cycling Traismauer-Tulln 1018 201.JPG

Others look to have been planted for their looks near where people live:

silver birch cycling Melk-Traismauer 1018 101.JPG

silver birch cycling Melk-Traismauer 1018.JPG

silver birch cycling Tulln-Vienna 1118 2 hedge living arch.JPG

or as part of a memorial:

silver birch cycling Melk-Traismauer 1018 memorial stone.JPG

silver birch bench near Labing cycling Au-Ybbs 1018.JPG

or to advertise a hairdressers.

silver birch hairdressers Eferding 1018.JPG

(Still to come: oak trees, plane trees, conkers and dogs on the ride.)