Blog #0061 July 20, 2022 – Struggling over the Kassel Mountains in Sweltering Heat

Day 80 of my cycling journey – July 20, 2022

The 20th of July was the hottest day in many parts of western Europe and Germany. Temperatures of above 40 C were measured in Germany. The sweltering heat made dogs seek the shelter of the basements, cats became irate and pensioneers around Germany sought cover in air-conditioned rooms. One crazy Finn was cycling over the “Kasseler Mountains”, a stretch of very steep hills in central Germany, for 95 km and climbing 900 m in this undertaking. Cycling from Fritzlar to Marburg didn’t go without hick-ups, though.

I had a cunning plan:  I wanted to cycle from Fritzlar to Giessen and consequently leave very early to cycle along the Eder to the Eder Dam. I then planned to cycle around the Eder Lake reaching lower lands on its western shores. This way I would avoid the “Kasseler Berge” (Kassseler Mountains), a notoriously difficult hilly area in central Germany, feared by motorists because of its infamously steep inclines. I thought that I had calculated everything, but as always the cunning plan didn’t work. Leaving early, I accomplished, and the cycling was simply stunning. Cycling along the Eder was well worth it. The cool morning temperatures made cycling a total pleasure and I arrived at the Eder hydroelectric dam early. I had cycled 20 km when I noticed that my plan had only one flaw: there was no way around the lake on a road. That meant that a good part of the 20 km I had cycled already I would have to cycle back. That was a shot before the bow for my plans to reach Giessen in the evening, but I wasn’t disillusioned, yet. Back I cycled and soon I hit the first steep inclines. Suddenly, I also noticed the hoot sweltering air around me. Getting up a steep hill in very hot temperatures is a nasty business. The sweat was flowing down my temples and onto my neck. My eyebrows served as sweat barriers of some sort but once this barrier was broken the sweat flowed down my eyes and nose and from there dropped onto the touch screen of my cycle computer switching it off. I was getting weak and irate. I drank lots of water, but still it was a fight, I knew at one point, I might lose. Calling my friend in Giessen, where I wanted to stay for the next night, I had to tell him that I might not make it and I was ready to put up my tent in the first appropriate spot I could find.

I decided to make a long break. Drinking water, eating some of my provisions and simply just relax, the younger generation would say chill, but this term would have been absolutely inappropriate in this circumstance. After about three hours I felt that I could make the next attempt at cycling. I filled my sunhat with water and put it on. The water was gushing over my head and onto the T-shirt. The evaporative cooling would help me stay cool. Back towards climbing. I climbed and climbed these steep inclines, had brief moments of undiluted joy cruising the down on the other side, just to notice that the next steep incline was just ahead.  Repeating my cooling trick, as well as jumping into the ankle-deep little creeks on the way and asking people for drinking water, I stayed relatively cool and well hydrated and eventually made it to the old university town of Marburg. I had crossed the Kasseler mountains in one day. I was very proud of my accomplishment and called my friend in Giessen. We agreed to meet in Marburg instead and when he came with his wife we went to a nice restaurant in the old city centre of that town. Good food and nice company were the guarantees that I forgot the excruciating struggles of the day. The day, however, hadn’t forgotten me, yet. Just when leaving the restaurant, a major thunderstorm with buckets of rain poured down on us and I got wet like a dog. Reaching my tent, I had just time to crawl into it when the rain even intensified. The rest of the evening is blank, because I passed into a dreamless sleep to regenerate.

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