gulls taking off over lake, black and white
gulls taking off over lake, black and white
  • Szczecin to Sweden
    • 29/07/2022
After a couple of days stop to visit Marta in Szczecin, an industrial city with a fascinating and turbulent history of changing hands and occupation, fabled to be criss crossed with underground tunnels, headed north again past the dockyards and wind turbine factory and into some nice nature reserves alongside the Oder river with a first sighting of families of wild boar, (but sadly no bison) and on up to the miles upon miles of sandy beach holiday resort coastline.

Back into Germany, and a cultural stop at Peenemunde "vengeance" weapons factory at, where the first rockets were developed (the doodlebug flying bomb and V2 rocket), and the museum attempts to celebrate the technological advancement whilst regretting the motivation and methods of achieving it.
Camped in the woods a couple of times to stay away from the busy coast, where rented e-bikes roam the forest paths between the beaches.
Passed by a recreation of a Viking outpost at Wolin, political hustings in Wolgast, and through the more charming Hanseatic town of Greifswald, though I was soon cursing as the bicycle path followed an ancient cobbled road for the next 10km.
Another little ferry to cross an inlet, another camp in the woods, passing the Nazi beach resort at Prora, and up to Sassnitz, to catch the catamaran ferry to Ystad, the shortest available crossing to Sweden
  • Berlin to Szczecin
    • 29/07/2022
The weekend in Berlin was spent drinking copious amounts of beer and playing a football match, as Wandsworth Borough had flown out to play a summer friendly against a local team (THC Franziskaner) to the amusement of all.
I stayed for a couple of days extra sightseeing and bike repairing, but with sore feet from stomping round the city looking at things, it was nice to get back on the bike, especially as now has a full range of gears to choose from.
However, set off already late in the afternoon, so just a short stint to get out of the city and find somewhere to sleep - a nice little beach next to a lake, which when i subsequently read some signs turns out to be a nudist beach (FKK). No one else around though.
Next day, after an early pause to visit a decaying cold war era airfield complete with mouldering cold war era aircraft, MIGs and suchlike, cruised along enjoying the gears, until the rear gear cable snapped, leaving me with a choice of three, the hardest in conjunction with each front ring. Fortunately the terrain is largely flat, save for requiring a 36m high boat lift, so just a case of trying to outrun a thundery deluge along a riverside levee. This area is actually polders, as in the late 19th century the Germans hired some Dutch engineers to make the vast marshy area usable.
Having reached the town of Schwedt, next morning had a choice of bike shops and was soon fixed up to continue into Poland.
  • Prague to Berlin
    • 10/07/2022
Bidding a fond farewell to Prague, headed north, through some industrial towns of soviet era concrete apartment blocks, and then just as I was hit a nice woodland track, something went badly wrong - the "other" bolt which holds on the front pannier rack sheared off. A clean break, flush on one side, but encouragingly slightly protruding on the other, if only I had some pliers to try and twist it out, but I dont, and its past closing time for most shops.

Fate had not deserted me though, as while I stood in the wood pondering, Veronica and Michael walked past, and having worked abroad and being fluent English speakers, immediately saved my bacon by revealing that the landlord of the nearby pub they were heading to had a garage full of tools and would be happy to help.
And so it transpired, after some fiddling and a spare bolt, and a beer of much relief, some fresh peas, and rare boob clouds, an hour later I was on the road again, only now with a thunderstorm hot on my tails.

Wild camped in a tranquil spot with the lightning remaining at a distance providing some entertainment, but more interestingly and a first for me, at dusk a load of bees showed up and seemed either interested in or unable to avoid my tent. Somewhat relieved that as it got dark they buzzed off.

Another little Switzerland
The north part of Czechia, North Bohemia, is characterised by interesting sandstone rock formations, gorges, forests etc, but my first point of interest stop was at an old lava flow of hexagonal basalt, a miniature giants causeway.
Village architecture is pretty, with houses built with horizontal wooden framing, which I've managed to get zero photos of, as the occupants always seem to be bustling around in their gardens.
Reached the German border by the Elbe river, with the Czech side being crammed with Chinese run souvenir and discount booze shops.


The Race for Berlin
Things happen in threes they say? Well, soon after departure this morning, two of the bolts on a rear pannier failed, leaving it hanging precariously and flapping all over the place, not ideal as I was flying down a hill at the time. Fortunately? This has happened before, and i carry spares for such occasions, although bits of string have also proved a successful fix.
An overcast, drizzly day, the hills recede until the landscape is completely flat, pastoral, the architecture dull, and nowhere obvious to refill water.

The rest of the distance to Berlin is a series of lakes and forests, with a lot of the lakes being mad made, the result of strip mining activities. One of the giant excavators is left to rust in a field. Part of a village lies abandoned due to underground mining causing "geological instabilities"
Anyway, the scenery is not unpleasant, there are dedicated cycle paths of smooth tarmac, and a couple of nice camps by lakes, one wild, one at a youth hostel.

Getting into the centre of the city seems to take an age, miles of absorbed satellite towns and suburbs, and then here we are, the Brandenburg Gate.
  • All roads lead to somewhere
    • 18/06/2022
Turns out that today I'm on or following the route of the via Claudia Augusta, a Roman road stretching from northern Germany to Verona.

Setting off with thunder approaching, first rain drops falling, a single cuckoo calls out from nearby, mocking.
Donner and blitzen, very exciting, but soon passes and all dried out within no time, back to the baking sun.

Next village has a trail of grass clippings from church to Christ on a cross, brass band ready to go. Is it a wedding tradition or is there a Jun 16th something else? Oh. Its a south Germany public holiday, Corpus Christi. All shops are closed, and the entire population seems to be riding towards me on their electric mountain bikes... Annnd a dodgeball tournament?

Saw a bloke walking down the street with a surfboard the other day, which I thought a bit odd, but now understand why - can surf in rivers by holding onto a rope hanging from a bridge

The river still being the Lech -
Escape the baking sun with a jugenherberge in Augsburg, a city with UNESCO recognition for its use of waterways to power mills for its fabric industry - rather than benign canals, water rushes through the city centre at high speed along a network of channels.

Onward scenery is fairly unremarkable countryside. Pick your own strawberries.
A hare.

Cigarette machines everywhere, and they even sell them at the checkout at lidl

May poles, blue and white stripey everywhere

Storks on pole, storks on roofs, storks in fields, carefully stalking through the crop stalks

New babies announced by huge proclamatory placards outside the houses

Still sunny
Reached Danube. Got in it. Very refreshing

Free campsite by the river, supposed to be just for canoeists and cyclists, but unfortunately the campervan brigade has found out about it.

Bloke with electric bike also heading for Sweden, he has a trailer for luggage with a big 150w solar panel on it to charge the spare bike battery as he goes (while its sunny anyway)

Catalogue of other long distance cyclists met so far: (not including those just following rivers)

Dutch lady bikepacking to venice
Lyon guy on way home
North German on shakedown with too much stuff, belt drive
Munich guy going to Madrid heading for klausenpass
Austrian lady recently set off for 3 months to Baltics and back
German guy also bike packing to Venice

Saturday
Still sunny.
Along the river, with detours to a couple of breweries, and a small boat ride to get down a bit where the Danube goes through a scenic gorge, with people diving in from weathered cliffs and sunbathing on pebbly beaches
  • More borderlands
    • 07/06/2022
Guiding Saar
Nipped back to the Europa museum as had to retrace steps from the campsite anyway.
Forecast is rain of doom, and though it did rain a load overnight, bigger problem first thing was the load of ants I seem to have attracted during the night.
Anyways, clouds are threatening but its hot, humid, sunny, windy.
Steady climbs out of the Moselle valley and over to that of the Saar, passing giant with turbines and a sequence of bizarre menhir based sculptures, somehow significant in the context of the old Germany France border.
Great view from up here of the dark clouds gathering, distant rain etc. A nice Luxembourgeuse? Lady I met at the top warns of " impending hurricane - aren't you worried about getting wet?" Well it just kept not happening, a few light drizzles maybe, as I made good time along the flat with a brief stop in Saarlouis. And then I stopped at a service station to buy some bread, and when I came out again 2 minutes later it was like a monsoon had hit.
Had a good chat with a German cyclist (a teacher of physics and engineering) also waiting the rain out under the service station roof, and then when half an hour later, the downpour slowed and blue skies emerged, continued on along the river to Saarbrucken . The riverside path is also unfortunately the motorwayside path for some of the way, but on the other side a mixture of rusting and functioning iron works, graffiti covered freight wagons, forest, massive locks.
After Saarbrucken, uninspiring apart from its river side beergardens, which are mostly not yet open, things get prettier, until I leave the river at Sarreguimines and head into the rolling countryside.
Didn't find a decent campsite so wild camped in a lovely peaceful quiet meadow!


Layers of sound
Quiet hilltop you say?
Crickets
Busy road in the distance
Music floating up from nearby village
church bells
Wind rustling the leaves of nearby trees
Closer by single car on a small road
Owl hoots
Jet plane
Dog woof
Still crickets
Always crickets. Its a white noise after a while. Or is there a rhythm to it, are they all in sync? Or am I imagining it.

After a nice morning packing up and setting off, the rain found me, waiting until I was halfway up hills with no prospect of cover before unleashing sudden heavy showers. Then letting me dry out before repeating the process. Until lunchtime anyway. Lunch being courtesy of Lidl, which is literally the only food shop open today.
Still criss crossing the border so often that have to check the road signs to have any idea which country I'm in.
And then I arrived in Bitche. Yes, with an eponymous citadel to boot, which refused to surrender during the Franco Prussian war, even after the rest of the fighting was over everywhere else. Interesting tour. And then onwards into more steep wooded hills and valleys of the Vosges du Nord / Alsace, and a string of mediaeval castles built on ridiculous precipices.


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