Around the World on a Bicycle

In 1884, the 29 year old Thomas Stevens set out from San Fransisco on the 'modern mechanical invention' of the Penny Farthing to circumnavigate the globe on his 'big wheel'. His book - "Around the World on a Bicycle" - was published in 1888 and his writings are presented here in blog form. Read more in the archive.


Down the beautiful valley of one of the Danube's tributaries I ride on Sunday morning, pedalling to the music of Blaubeuren's church-bells. After waiting until ten o'clock, partly to allow the roads to dry a little, I conclude to wait no longer, and so pull out toward the important and quite beautiful city of Ulm. The character of the country now changes, and with it likewise the characteristics of the people, who verily seem to have stamped upon their features the peculiarities of the region they inhabit. My road eastward of Blaubeuren follows down a narrow, winding valley, beside the rippling head-waters of the Danube, and eighteen kilometres of variable road brings me to the strongly fortified city of Ulm, the place I should have reached yesterday, except for the inclemency of the weather, and where I cross from Wurtemberg into Bavaria.

On the uninviting uplands of Central Wurtemberg one looks in vain among the peasant women for a prepossessing countenance or a graceful figure, but along the smiling valleys of Bavaria, the women, though usually with figures disproportionately broad, nevertheless carry themselves with a certain gracefulness; and, while far from the American or English idea of beautiful, are several degrees more so than their relatives of the part of Wurtemberg I have traversed. I stop but a few minutes at Ulm, to test a mug of its lager and inquire the details of the road to Augsburg, yet during that short time I find myself an object of no little curiosity to the citizens, for the fame of my undertaking has pervaded Ulm.

The roads of Bavaria possess the one solitary merit of hardness, otherwise they would be simply abominable, the Bavarian idea of road-making evidently being to spread unlimited quantities of loose stones over the surface. For miles a wheelman is compelled to follow along narrow, wheel-worn tracks, incessantly dodging loose stones, or otherwise to pedal his way cautiously along the edges of the roadway. I am now wheeling through the greatest beer-drinking, sausage-consuming country in the world; hop- gardens are a prominent feature of the landscape, and long links of sausages are dangling in nearly every window. The quantities of these viands I see consumed to-day are something astonishing, though the celebration of the Whitsuntide holidays is probably augmentative of the amount.

The strains of instrumental music come floating over the level bottom of the Lech valley as, toward eventide, I approach the beautiful environs of Augsburg, and ride past several beer-gardens, where merry crowds of Augsburgers are congregated, quaffing foaming lager, eating sausages, and drinking inspiration from the music of military bands.

"Where is the headquarters of the Augsburg Velocipede Club?" I inquire of a promising-looking youth as, after covering one hundred and twenty kilometres since ten o'clock, I wheel into the city. The club's headquarters are at a prominent cafe and beer-garden in the south-eastern suburbs, and repairing thither I find an accommodating individual who can speak English, and who willingly accepts the office of interpreter between me and the proprietor of the garden. Seated amid hundreds of soldiers, Augsburg civilians, and peasants from the surrounding country, and with them extracting genuine enjoyment from a tankard of foaming Augsburg lager, I am informed that most of the members of the club are celebrating the Whitsuntide holidays by touring about the surrounding country, but that I am very welcome to Augsburg, and I am conducted to the Hotel Mohrenkopf (Moor's Head Hotel), and invited to consider myself the guest of the club as long as I care to remain in Augsburg - the Bavarians are nothing if not practical.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Sunday 24th May 1885 (21:00 +0100) | Add a comment | Permalink

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