Each Other – part 2

bannerDay 5

Slightly panicking I rode out of town. A few kilometres up the road I stopped a couple of tour-cyclists and asked where they had come from and where they were going and if they had seen my loving lost wife. They hadn’t, but agreed to pass on a message if they met her. I cycled on to Kuhle, turned around and cycled the 4.3 kilometres back to Dranske without seeing her. I asked again at the shop and we decided that I would return to the roadworks one last time before calling the police. P1000567

As I approached the roadworks, the silence was uncharacteristically broken by the sound of voices. I  spied the previously encountered tour-cyclists and following them chuntering away was my precious missing bride. We were both relieved and befuddled. The couple who had passed on my message were leading Sharon to the outsides of town. I had asked them to direct her to the shop in the town centre and then set her off cycling toward Kuhle and I would meet her on my way back. When I bumped into them they were escorting Sharon around the outskirts of the village. If I had been a minute later I would have totally missed her.

Sharon’s side of the story was that when she reached the town, she wisely waited at the entrance because this was the last place she had sighted me. She was quite concerned about how long it was taking me to return to her, but was seemingly content to read her book until being rescued by our new tour-cyclist friends.

I am not sure how many lessons we learnt from this experience, but am glad we learnt them in such hospitable territory. Hungry, we cycled to the shop and thanked them for their concern before riding out to the village supermarket. Again I couldn’t help but notice that on such good cycle paths Sharon was travelling uncharacteristically slow. We found a wee gazebo just off the bike path, stopped and cooked a very very late lunchP1000582.

We flew through Kuhle. Following the lagoon south, we passed Wiek and rode fun cycle tracks all the way to the Wittower Ferry. We stopped there for breakfast – yes, breakfast. Our day was so muddled we had yet to eat our breakfast rations and had no idea where or when supper would be.

We turned west again and travelled rough concrete-block roads indicative of a communist past. Eventually we ambled our way into the very picturesque village of Schaprode. We stumbled across public toilets and since our water bottles were empty, decided to pay and both empty and refill our systems. It was late in the day and the woman serving us wanted to get home. She was visibly angry at me for filling my water bottles and was murmuring all sorts of German words I am sure I could not repeat. This quiet sour barrage only increased when I opened the toilet door and asked Sharon to pass me her bottles.

Regretting that we did not have more time and aware of the fading light, we continued riding. It turned out a ferry had just docked and seemingly millions of people needed to be driving down the same narrow road as us. In any other country this would have been a horrific problem, but not here in Germany; these people know how to respect road users of the cycling variety.

Because of time and light, we had decided to take a shortcut and follow busier roads into Trent. In Trent we stopped in a rather posh outdoor restaurant for a healthy Coke and pee. By now we were riding with lights on and appreciating our excellent Endura high-visibility gilets. We hurriedly rushed the next five kilometre stretch of main road. Again even when Sharon was trying to rush, for her she was annoyingly slow. Somewhere at the back of my brain this was beginning to concern me.

We turned right and followed a lovely quiet road into the night and into Gingst. It was a warm evening; people were sitting in outdoor restaurants, silently enjoying their evening meals. We set out to find a guest-house. After encountering some helpful people, we concluded the town was either booked out or ridiculously out of our price range.

By now it was dark. I was riding with one hand on the handlebars and the other shining Sharon’s torch on my map. We had decided to navigate another shortcut until we found a quiet place to pitch our tent. We hung a left and set out through the night across a narrow concrete track through a farmer’s field. This was not a problem for me; I have a dynamo in my front hub that provides excellent light. On the other hand, Sharon had to be considerably braver. Her battery powered flickering front light was designed only to be seen and was totally useless for illuminating the path in front. She had to rely on the moon and my light.

She did this for the next five kilometres until we happened across the sleeping hamlet of Landow. We nestled ourselves behind a farmer’s barn, threw our ground-sheet across the evening dew, made a cuppa tea and ate some delicious pastries we had been carrying for the last thirty kilometres. We spent the next wee bit watching stars and satellites, talking through the day and generally being glad we were still together.

This day and evening I travelled 94.14 kilometres and Sharon probably clicked over around 85. Though the day had many adventures which threatened to ruin it, we chalked it up as a good day. We pitched the tent for our final night on peaceful Rügen Island and contentedly drifted off to sleep.

Introduction
Day 1 – Setting Sail
Day 2 – Training, part 1
Day 2 – Training, part 2
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 1
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 2
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 1
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 2
Day 5 – Each Other, part 1
Day 5 – Each Other, part 2 (coming soon)

Each Other – part 1

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Chapter 5

We awoke to the sounds of trees bending in the breeze, sand being claimed by gently flowing waves, and deathly quiet and considerate people starting their morning ablutions.

P1000556We very quickly purchased swipe cards which magically controlled both the toilet blocks and the all important hot water from the shower. Relieving slept-in sweet from our bodies, seemed to do little to relieve our morning grumpy tiredness or get us on the road at a respectable time.

Sharon is a goal-focused person and I’m the journey orientated kind. I could sit on my bike and ride slowly all day and totally enjoy myself. Sharon, she likes to race to the first village, get off and explore, then race to the next scenic point, dismount and take in the sights. She will repeat this process all day, happy with the stops and bored with the bits in-between.

Marriage is a beautiful thing and compromise is part of its core. I plan our trips, the Scout in me loves the hours and hours of pouring over maps. Sharon and I talk almost painfully through each trip and she gets to choose at least one point of interest per day where we stop and explore on foot. Usually this means me hugging a coffee lost in a book and protecting Sharon’s bike, while she with the ferocity of a JapaneseP1000557 tourist frantically devours the town. At least this is my perspective.

Her magic spot for this day was the very beach we had hurriedly rushed out of. I had totally forgotten. I usually do not wake up until after the first twenty kilometres of riding. In her morning or perhaps mourning fatigue, Sharon was unable to communicate this. The inevitable happened, we stopped at a beautiful lookout, oblivious to the view and discussed what had happened before eventually and without any other options agreeing to continue riding.

After another five kilometres of silent cycling, we took a wrong but fortuitous turn and stumbled across the gorgeous seaside village of Vitt. We quickly found Cafe am Meer and ordered pungent wake-me-up coffee. Sharon spent an unexpected forty or so minutes watching cliff-side waves quietly collide with a dilapidated pier. And in true role reversal I walloped down my coffee and cake and responded to my camera’sP1000576 faithful call for ‘walkies’. We escaped just as the morning’s collection of overweight, but strangely quiet, must-of-been-German tourists arrived. On the way out, we managed to pop into a lovely wee church and buy those all important postcards.

Next we meandered into the totally tourist infested lighthouse village of Kap Arkona. I stopped for the obligatory been-there-probably-won’t-return photo, before entering the obstacle course of moving silent dour dogs, baby buggies and walking-poled plodders. Without exception everyone said good morning and politely stepped aside for us. This order was really starting to irritate me.

We quietly rode west, flanked by stunning Baltic clifftop views until things deteriorated into soft sand and a waiting Dutchman. This enthusiastic direction-giving non-cyclist was interestingly quick to point out his Dutchness. His happy demeanour P1000578sent us into the forest to avoid the soft sand. Under this filtered canopy we met some stern Germans who were definitely telling us not to head in the direction we were going. We had run or perhaps ridden out of options, ignored their advice and followed by a young family, plunged into the heart of the bush. We totally left the soft sand behind us, but were forced to push our bikes through what felt like thick jungle. We popped out somewhere near Bakenberg. I marked this spot on my map for having a shop. Sharon rested on a corner and I fruitlessly searched. We ended up stopping for a snack in Lancken, another village without a shop.

From here we had fantastic downhill-tailwind roads seemingly all the way into Dranske. By now we were hungry Sharon was riding perplexingly slow, so I yelled over my shoulder that I would scout out the village for a supermarket and meet her in the town-centre. I sped off with the wind blowing through that spot where my hair used to be. I followed signs towards theP1000581 centre, hit roadworks, ad-libbed a little before hitting a town centre that consisted of a corner shop, a few cafes and a ferry port. I searched for a supermarket and returned back to the corner shop. Interestingly enough Sharon was not there. So I rode back to the roadworks to see if Sharon had decided to wait there, but no Sharon. Next I searched for and rode all the other possible entrances to the town, but still no Sharon. I asked at the shop if they had seen her. Compassionately they replied no, but I could use their phone to call her; Sharon does not take her phone on holiday. I again rode out to the other side of the roadworks that were on the edge of the town, thinking that maybe Sharon had stopped there not knowing what to do.

Oh gosh, this was becoming quite the worry; I had plenty of water, little food and little money. I returned to the shop, the employees there had now become quite concerned. I informed them that on theP1000580 odd chance that Sharon had carried on to the next village, that I would cycle on and return there to call the police if I could not find her.

Slightly panicking I rode out of town. A few kilometres up the road I stopped a couple of tour-cyclists and asked where they had come from and where they were going and if they had seen my loving lost wife. They hadn’t, but agreed to pass on a message if they met her. I cycled on to Kuhle, turned around and cycled the 4.3 kilometres back to Dranske without seeing her. I asked again at the shop and we decided that I would return to the roadworks one last time before calling the police.

Introduction
Day 1 – Setting Sail
Day 2 – Training, part 1
Day 2 – Training, part 2
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 1
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 2
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 1
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 2
Day 5 – Each Other, part 1
Day 5 – Each Other, part 2 (coming soon)

P1000570

Cobbles – part 2

bannerDay 4

From the ferry roads we had a long uphill stretch that lead us around the outskirts of Sassnitz until eventually and gloriously both cars and people faded into the distance behind us. Unfortunately the wonderful cycle path also stopped. The track turned    mildly steep and into nasty bumpy cobblestones. This was our welcome to the Jasmund National Park. We stopped at the first seat that we found, had a cup of tea, caught our breath and enjoyed filtered afternoon sun shining through the tree canopy.

There were many signs here, most of them pointing to P1000550the same two places, it seemed unlikely that the mud path I was looking at was actually the main cycle route around the island, but it was.

We plunged forward into the forest. It was very quiet in there, slightly sandy with little hillocks and muddy valleys. It was nearing the end of the day and we were getting tired, most signs were a little ambiguous, but generally speaking if my internal compass kept focusing north, we would be okay.

We followed the track and followed the track, eventually it deteriorated into a very awkward seemingly unending uphill chunky cobblestone path. With great relief we emerged into a lovely wee peaceful glade. Sharon’s first words were, ‘we have been here before’. It took me a few minutes to recognise the spot – she was correct. Then the sinking realisation settled in that we had just done a 10km circuit through the forest and over all of those ugly cobbles. So much for my internal compass.P1000548

Deflated and tired, we realised it was time for plan B. We decided we did not need to see the cliffs we should have been heading towards and to cut out the northern section of the forest. We headed back into the forest and followed the same mud track for the next two kilometres, before turning west and eventually out of the national park.

As soon as we left the canopy, of trees we were greeted with hot blasting sun and yet more cobblestones. The difference this time was we were on a road. We had learnt with cobblestones that at the edge of the stones there is often a very narrow smooth dusty trail. However both edges of this road were infested with brambles that persisted in tugging at our drying washing and the clothes we were wearing. P1000551

This was a hard infuriating ride. At one stage we stopped at a farmhouse and lent on their fence hoping for some friendly direction and encouragement. Rather upset to see us, begrudgingly a man walked over and told us to keep cycling and eventually we would hit a sealed road.

After four kilometres of cobbles and quite far in front of Sharon, I hit the main road. Whilst waiting I watched a vintage tractor being driven up a side road by a four-year-old sitting on his father’s lap. It was a beautiful sight that flooded back a lot of childhood memories.

Bedraggledly Sharon appeared and without stopping we quietly crossed a busy road and continued cycling. We once again had the luxury of a paved independent cycle path and rejoined the official track in the cobblestoned village of Gummanz. We were too tired to really notice our surrounds. We cycled across the front lawn of some kind of resort and eventually found our way to a sheltered spot between a cornfield and tennis court. It was supper time. Couscous, tuna and chilli were on the menu.

From here we had a lovely mostly downhill cycle track, around a lake over a bridge and into the bustling town of Glowe. We been searching for a cash machine pretty much since we hit the island. I called into a supermarket and asked where an ATM was. The friendly man behind the till informed me that if I purchased something and withdrew to the combined value of 300 euro then he could give me cash. 300 euro was more than our entire budget for our time on the island. I said ‘no thanks’. However he did say there was an ATM in the next town. So off into the dusk we rode.

We ended up at a pier in Breege. This village was gorgeous, but darkness was falling and we could not afford to stop. I asked for directions and was sent back in the direction from which we had come. It seemed that we had ridden past the cash machine. We stopped a second time for instructions and were pointed toward a very tidy little building at the edge of a car-park. We would have never have known that this perfect little building housed an ATM.

Smelling, tired and a little cranky we cycled into the night. A few kilometres up the road and just after 9pm we arrived at the camping-ground. This place was flat, sandy and right on the beach. All its amenities were beyond the usual standard of German perfection. The annoying part was the showers operated on a prepaid card system. The payment card had to be purchased from the camping-ground’s closed shop. We fell asleep in the fug of each other’s body odour.

It was a hard and exhausting day. We survived 82.68 kms and though our night’s accommodation was busy, we were happy to have left the populated parts of the island behind.P1000552

Introduction
Day 1 – Setting Sail
Day 2 – Training, part 1
Day 2 – Training, part 2
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 1
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 2
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 1
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 2
Day 5 – Each Other, part 1
Day 5 – Each Other, part 2 (coming soon)

Cobbles – part 1

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Day 4

This will be a continuing theme. We woke to a dazzling dewy morning in a soaking wet tent. Fortunately though we had managed to pitch it in just the right place to greet the morning sun. Also once again I was delighted with our narrow and long groundsheet, it was perfect for rolling up our Therm-a-rests and sleeping-bags.

We quietly cycled our way through an empty and very pretty Middelhagen. The morning sun was soft against beaten skin and the breeze was just enough to keep us awake. Before long we were at Lobbe and the east coast of Rügen. We cycled north along busy streets of tourists enjoying posh-looking outdoor breakfasts. At 10am we noticed families heading towards their packed cars and heading to their next port of call; it seemed this island was synchronised. Eight o’clock rise, nine o’clock breakfast and 10 o’clock leave.

Generally speaking, my advice to cyclists would be to avoid the east coast; it was boring, with too much civilisation. At the entrance of the Ferrendorf forest we bumped into a rather frazzled elderly couple, they had lost their tandem-cycling granddaughters. We promised that if we found them we would point them in the right direction. Five minutes down the path we bumped into a duo of cackling cycling German lassies. They looked a bit horrified when I signalled for them to stop. It turned out that they had taken a wrong turn. The forest was lovely but not well signposted. Five minutes later we also took a wrong turn and ended up cycling with another lost biker alongside a busy road. We skirted Baabe and cycled along an industrialised route into Sellin. Here we took our lives into our hands pushing our bikes across train tracks and busy roads.

I had hoped to surprise Sharon with a second breakfast stop in a previously visited restaurant, but there were just too many people, too many cars and not enough useful signs. We cycled through town to the next forest. Oddly enough we had passed a few larger supermarkets this morning, but none of them were convenient enough to warrant a stop. We had not purchased our yogurt for our second breakfast. Our bodies were running low and we were determined to stop at the next rest stop. This rest area was right at the start of the forest and was infested by about 20 silent gawking teenagers and their amused looking teacher. We stopped in this sunny spot, pulled out our water bottles and muesli bars, strung up our clothes line and genuinely looked haggard.

Shortly afterwards they moved on, which gave me the freedom to snatch Sharon’s undies and also hang them in the sun. Drying our washing is always a rather troubling undertaking. Most days we need to dry at least two shower towels, a dish-drying towel, a pot scrub, our groundsheet, sometimes a shirt or two and a pair or two pairs of undies. The pot scrub and tea towel usually dry strapped to my front panniers. The groundsheet is a quick drier and can be strapped alongside my bath towel on the back of my bike. Once they have dried I can replace them with a shirt or undies. Sharon has a similar routine for her bike. We tend to look like flying Chinese laundries. The hilarious part though is; whenever we stop, a clothes line is strung-up and washing hung up. No problem for me, but gosh we had to endure some flabbergasted narrow-eyed petulant glaring from the more prim and proper locals. At the beach these oversized people will strip off naked in front of you to don a ridiculously undersized pair of budgie-smugglers and yet treat you like an alien when you dry your undies over a park bench.

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Cycling the forest was a nice ride along mildly hilly, hard-packed gravel paths. We popped out at a Lidl in Ostseebad Binz. At last a chance to buy yoghurt a sit alongside a conveniently placed lake for second breakfasts. The town and track was actually very nice, however time dictated that we carried on. We were mostly on quality sealed paths here, unfortunately they also followed the road. We stopped in Prora for an excellent lunch and about an hour’s worth of clothes drying at Lief’s Pizza and Pasta restaurant. My pasta was by far my highlight of the day. P1000545

Shortly afterwards the path went up hill and the day went down hill. The first six or so kilometres after lunch were okay, then we hit Neu Mukran and the access roads to Rügen Island’s busy international ferry port. Grrr. Suddenly flat independent paved cycle tracks were transformed into a rough gravel potholed track that intertwined itself with the busy road. On top of this, the gradient started its slow assent along very narrow concrete footpaths flanking the road bridges. And if this was not enough we also had a very strong side wind and an influx of cyclist who seemingly could not understand the difficulties of manoeuvring heavy pannier-clad bikes up narrow windy bridges centimetres away from rushing trucks. This section of track was the ugliest and nastiest of the whole journey. It was also the only time on any of our journeys that we encountered selfish cyclists.

Introduction
Day 1 – Setting Sail
Day 2 – Training, part 1
Day 2 – Training, part 2
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 1
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 2
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 1
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 2
Day 5 – Each Other, part 1
Day 5 – Each Other, part 2 (coming soon)

this to you

(an ode to a city)

this
Christmas
time

resonators resonate

slush slides

flakes flutter

zebras glow

orphans cry

crises die

Putin prances

guns turret

coffee pouts

dosh paves
white streets

& no one cares

peace
to you

NATO Nation

New Expectations – part 2

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Day 3

We were soon to stumble upon the town of Garz and followed signs from the cycle path to the ‘Castle Wall Restaurant‘. We were two of five cyclists and were able to cycle right up to our table. The waitress came out and greeted us with a gorgeous ‘Rügen scowl’, tolerating us long enough to take our coffee orders. I popped inside and spying the high water-tap at the bar, asked if I could fill our water bottles. I was promptly directed to the toilets. I sat outside suffering a terrible coffee and realised that if I was to enjoy this journey; once again I must lower my expectations. From now on I was to presume that I would be greeted by long downturned mouths and narrow petulant eyes.

P1000526a

Garz was a great busy wee place with a very modern and cute supermarket. This was an essential stop, because beef burritos were on our lunch menu. I sat outside, waited burning in the hot sun and chatted to a gentle old man. When Sharon returned with a handful of food, hungrily and eagerly we cycled the cobbled footpath out of town. We were following a sign down a muddy track when I asked the shopper what cheese she had purchased. The answer was none. This led to a noonday dash past blurring brightly coloured cottages and back to the shop. Lunch was spent on a forest track in the middle of nowhere. It was absolutely scrumptious and our cooking it provided much entertainment for many smiling senior-citizen cyclists.

After lunch we promptly got lost and ended up on a dark leafy road travelling into the uneventful town of Putbus. We cycled through its crowded streets as quick as we could and rushed on to the delightful harbour of Lauterbach. Here we hunted for replacement sunglasses and enjoyed an overly juicy mango whilst yachts sailed by. Leaving the sails behind we once again took a wrong turn and followed a pretty esplanade until the path run out. Back-tracking about a kilometre we eventually found a track behind a villa and were on the correct route again. We rode through some shady cool forest, fought stiff coastal winds and generally wore ourselves out.
P1000537
Following a collection of roads and tracks, we ended up in the campervan and tourist infested village of  Seedorf. Despite this ‘theme park’ being full of things we definitely didn’t like, its quaint late afternoon outdoor restaurants were very inviting. Time was no longer on our side and we cycled past them all. We journeyed past posh homes and strolling elderly couples until the track descended into sandy muddy potholes. With my new expectations I was perfectly happy pushing our bikes up nasty steep sandy tracks. Sharon on the other-hand was affirmatively not. She was rescued by a stern young couple who clearly thought we were nuts and sided with Sharon’s moot to turn back.

So once again we turned around and cycled past the posh houses and inviting cafes until we found a road running up a very steep hill. This mini-mountain was an insult to our legs at the work end of the day. The summit was worth it and provided a vista of undulating wide open spaces. My highlight for the day was waiting for us in Moritzdorf. After a gloriously fast downhill the track turned into a narrow muddy trail through a hobby farm and eventually finished at a pier. After quite some time a huge serious-looking man with smiling eyes arrived. I presumed he was our ferry pilot. I wheeled my bike up to what can best be described as an aluminium dingy with an outboard and asked if he wanted me to take my panniers off. He grunted a ‘no’ and proceeded to bend down and pick up my extremely heavy bike. I was very very impressed. With my pannier-clad cycle in his hands he walked past the dingy and gently dumped my bike in an oversized wooden rowing boat. When he had finished he did the same with Sharon’s bike. We, a couple of meandering oldies, a dog and the oarsman all jumped in for a short leisurely paddle. It was a fantastic experience and we made sure we handsomely tipped him for his display of unfettered strength.
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We followed the map south and once again were left confused by multiple signs pointing to the same place. Sharon asked for directions. The next thing we knew we were heading down a grassy paddock taking the tough route in the correct direction. After regaining the trail we hit a very steep and narrow concrete track. I was tired and hit my internal turboboost and speedily powered up the hill, scattering a gaggle of day-walkers.

From here we quietly descended into Middelhagen and the camping ground. The young people in the Naturcampingplatz office genuinely took me by surprise. They actually seemed happy to see me, they smiled and asked questions about our day. We pitched our tent in the fading light and ate supper in a dark little dinning room attached to a camp kitchen. All in all, it was a good day we got lost more times than I can count, but made it to our destination with our marriage still intact. Our mileage for the day was a very, very long 68km.

P1000542

Introduction
Day 1 – Setting Sail
Day 2 – Training, part 1
Day 2 – Training, part 2
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 1
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 2
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 1
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 2
Day 5 – Each Other, part 1
Day 5 – Each Other, part 2 (coming soon)

New Expectations – part 1

bannerDay 3

I awoke about three in the morning to the sound of very quiet fishermen loading their dingy and paddling out on to the lagoon. I awoke next around 6:30 with noises of yet more fishermen preparing for their expedition. This was my signal to rise and greet the day. I dragged my tired body out of our tent on to glistening dewy grass in time to witness morning sun dancing through the spires and domes of Straslund.

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We had met a couple of tour-cyclists this year and I’d asked them what was the one thing they could not ride without? Their answer was: ‘when the ground is wet, a tarpaulin to sit on’. I pulled out our new-to-us long and narrow groundsheet, threw it on top of the dew, plonked myself down and started cooking. Breakfast lagoonside was a slow affair enjoying morning reflections, lapping water and coffee. Our hope was the sun would majestically ascend over the trees, provide us with warmth and dry our tent and damp sleeping-bags. This magic was to slow to materialise and we ended up borrowing the services of a boat trailer that was conveniently parked in the sun.

P1000517With everything dryish and packed away, we jumped on our bikes and started along the road. We were going just fine until about the three kilometre mark, where we suddenly ran out of track. There were two possibilities; a busy road running east and a minor road heading north. Neither of them seemed to match my maps. I used the opportunity to take off my leg warmers and lower my expectations on German cycle tracks. The results were amazing: emerging from the mist, forcing its way through a ploughed field, a ragged gravel track appeared. This was to be the new normal; my expectations were now searching for unsignposted crappy old dirt paths. With relief and joy we steamed our way through empty harvested autumn fields. The joy from these pastures was stolen by a peculiar looking arrow imprinted in the gravel. To my astonishment someone with too much time on their hands had poked into the dirt, in the form of an arrow, dozens of bottle tops. Some creative time-waster was trying to tell me what side of this empty scruffy trail I was supposed to cycle on. It is a shame he couldn’t have spent his time erecting red D2 signs for hapless travellers.

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We stopped in Gustow at a lovely local produce shop and purchased delicious organic yoghurt for our second breakfasts. After crossing miles of ambling fields we stumbled upon our first helpful sign and a hedgerowed paved cycling track. We thought we were in heaven right up until we stumbled upon a cafe in the village of Poseritz. It was a peaceful looking pit stop. On the driveway I dismounted my bike and went exploring. I discovered empty outdoor seating, an angry barking shaggy dog, but no hosts. Giving up on the idea of peaceful morning caffeine, I returned to my bike to be greeted by a car. I can only presume it was the owners inside. The passenger wound down her window, flashed me her beautiful scowl and commanded me to get out of the way. So I did, I jumped on my bike and showered the village with my dust as we stormed down a lovely fast paved escape-route of a cycle trail.

Our track changed to predicable farm trails and eventually spat us out at the harbour haven of Feriendorf. This village was one of many fairytale hamlets we were about to encounter. The southern side of Rügen with its townships of whitewash and thatch was exceptionally peaceful. We encountered our first cobblestones in Schabernack and shortly afterwards our first sandy track. Both surfaces have the potential to make tour-cycling utterly miserable.

We were soon to stumble upon the town of Garz and followed signs from the cycle path to the ‘Castle Wall Restaurant’. We were two of five cyclists and were able to cycle right up to our table. The waitress came out and greeted us with a gorgeous ‘Rügen scowl’, tolerating us long enough to take our coffee orders. I popped inside and spying the high water-tap at the bar, asked if I could fill our water bottles. I was promptly directed to the toilets. I sat outside suffering a terrible coffee and realised that if I was to enjoy this journey; once again I must lower my expectations. From now on I was to presume that I would be greeted by long downturned mouths and narrow petulant eyes.

Our track changed to predicable farm trails and eventually spat us out at the harbour haven of Feriendorf. This village was one of many fairytale hamlets we were about to encounter. The southern side of Rügen with its townships of whitewash and thatch was exceptionally peaceful. We encountered our first cobblestones in Schabernack and shortly afterwards our first sandy track. Both surfaces have the potential to make tour-cycling utterly miserable.

P1000525

Introduction
Day 1 – Setting Sail
Day 2 – Training, part 1
Day 2 – Training, part 2
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 1
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 2
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 1
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 2
Day 5 – Each Other, part 1
Day 5 – Each Other, part 2 (coming soon)

Training – part 2

bannerDay 2

The journey to Lübeck was a very pleasant and peaceful affair. We had ten minutes to exit the train, find elevators, find the next platforms and embark. First problem: we were hampered with being two of about six cyclists all frantically trying to use the disability access elevator. The elevator only carried one bicycle per trip. Second problem: there were three huge stairs on to the cycling carriage. We did not have time to take our panniers off and with Sharon on one end and me on the other, were forced to manhandle our bikes on to the train. In the middle of this manoeuvre I lost my footing and fell between the train and the platform. In itself a minor slightly-annoying issue, however what bothered me was the sound of my new chain-guard cracking and snapping as it failed to hold the weight of my bike bouncing down the stairs. New bikes have to break sometime why not on an old German train?

Fifty minutes later we lumbered our bikes off the train at Bad Kleinen and could not find wheelchair access to the platforms. We ended up dragging our fully-laden bikes down a flight of stairs and up another. It was on the up section that I heard broken glass; I just presumed I had kicked a beer bottle or something. Wrong. What I had heard was the sound of my expensive sunglasses breaking. Everyone had told me that German trains were set up for cycling. Wrong, very very wrong. At least the train to Rostock had simple cycle access. Sitting on this train silently sulking, I was confronted by a particularly officious conductor. He charged us an extra 5€ each for our bikes. I was sure I had read on the Deutsche Bahn website that they did not charge for bicycles. Grrrr.

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We had a very simple change of trains at Rostock and a quick and beautifully boring journey to Altefähr Station. The station was deserted and looked like a scene from a bad spaghetti western. We jumped on our bikes and started cycling towards the exit. My front wheel immediately locked up. I spent the next ten minutes on the platform with my bike upside-down fixing all the damage that had been caused on German Rail. At least the ordeal was over.

We could not find the disability exit; we had walked all through this particularly grubby station and not found a single sign. We ended up wheeling our bikes across the tracks on to a gravel car-park and then down a steep-grassy-scrubby bank. On the way down, my front wheel hit a pothole and twisted my handlebars around. My brand new bike was taking a beating, but at least we were on Rügen Island and all we had left to do for the next week was follow beautifully sign-posted and paved cycle tracks.
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Standing straddled over my bike in front of the station, I could see neither cycle path nor signposts. Back in Kiel, Sharon and I had miss-communicated, resulting in us not actually having supper on board. We were trying to decide should we ride west into Altefähr, find a supermarket, spend a night at the camping ground there and then double back past the station in the morning. Or should we ride east, free camp and eat our emergency rations. We decided to head to Altefähr. After cycling all of ten metres we were confronted my a busy road. We crossed it and simply could not find any signs pointing the way. Because everyone, absolutely everyone, had told me how well signposted Germany is, I had not bothered to find detailed maps. We turned around and headed back towards the station. At the station we ardently searched for signs or cycle paths. It seemed logical to just follow the road east, but my maps seemed to suggest that we needed to be closer to the water. It was about this time that I spotted a sign and a couple of dirt tracks heading into a rather large ditch. After an initial unnecessary foray into the ditch, it became clear to us that this was the cycle path we had been searching for.

Hallelujah we were on the map. Light was fading and we were hungry, so immediately we started looking for a place to camp. We found a lovely, somewhat exposed possible pitch overlooking the Kubitzer Bodden and the Rügendamm bridge. After studying the map and noticing a possible restaurant ahead we decided to ride a little further. What we found was an old, slightly rundown red brick Prussian-looking two storied building. It had outdoor seating, a place in eyeshot to park our bikes and a view of Kubitzer Lagoon.

We took a seat and even managed to find cushions and blankets to put over our knees. It was September, so things were cooling down in the evenings. Eventually a little old lady shuffled out, fussed over the other patrons and handed us menus. Of course everything was in German, but this was not a problem for my very smart wife, so we ordered fish and chips. Halfway through our meal, the guests beside us finished their P1000505meal, walked down to the bodden and sailed off into the night. It was somewhere around this time that we decided to camp on the lovely soft looking mown grass right in front of the rustic restaurant. We lingered as long as we could, then wheeled our bikes about twenty metres around the corner and right on the water’s edge, pitched our tent and fell to sleep to the peaceful sounds of water lapping up the shore and trains thundering over the bridge.

It was a long day, sometimes comically disastrous, but finished on the map with a good feed and comfy bed. Between ferries, trains and the restaurant, we managed to push and cycle a staggering 9.49km.

Introduction
Day 1 – Setting Sail
Day 2 – Training, part 1
Day 2 – Training, part 2
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 1
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 2
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 1
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 2
Day 5 – Each Other, part 1
Day 5 – Each Other, part 2 (coming soon)

Training

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Training

My best ever sleep took place on a crowded dog and chicken infested Filipino ferry. This Baltic morning I woke rested and ready for adventure. First job of the day was to stuff myself with as much buffet breakfast as possible. I had learnt on previous crossings that the morning grub on these ferries is only just passable for food. We were dining with a rather helpful German friend and her son; together they provided a happy distraction that enabled me to scoff a huge cooked breakfast, almost totally without gagging.

Then next thing we knew, we were rounding the heads of Kiel Harbour. It was another pleasant day, so I whiled away the morning leaning over the deck trying to spot the camping ground we would be staying in on our last night. I spotted three possibilities and am not sure if any of them were correct.

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I learnt from my first pannier carrying exercise and rearranged some of my straps and had a much easier trip from the cabin to our relieved-looking bicycles. One thing for sure, bicycle panniers are designed for bicycles not people. Loading our bike was quite a scary ordeal; men were screaming, trucks and forklifts were zooming around us and metal chains were bouncing off metal floors. We got off that boat as quickly as we could. We had cycled all of 20 metres when we were greeted by our first efficient and stern German. ‘Stop, wait, follow the bus.’ I froze and moved towards the designated waiting spot. We had been waiting only a few minutes when another stern man who secretly was smiling on the inside commanded us to ‘just go’. So like a flash we were gone, cycling on smooth tarmac between containers, logs and articulated lorries. We stopped and asked some startled official-looking types if they wanted to perhaps see our tickets, passports or anything. They waved us on and out into the big dangerous Federal Republic of Germany. It was so exciting, here we were actually cycling through a German city.

I am dyslexic, I live with a continuous cinema of pictures, diagrams and maps floating through the sparse recesses of my head. Finding Kiel station was going to be a simple process. Keep the water to my right and cycle until we intercept a red D2 sign. The red D2 sign signifies the Baltic cycle trail that runs from Poland to Denmark. Everyone had told me how Germans love their cycle paths and signposts, so this was not expected to be a problem.

We cycled south along the road until we hit our first cycle path. Joining the path, we continued. There were signs, quite a few of them, but the red D2 one seemed to be rather elusive. I spied a familiar-looking corner and decided perhaps it was worth stopping to examine my printed google map. Yep, we were for sure on the D2, yep the D2 turned right down a minor street towards a bridge at this very point and nope, it was not signposted at all. Oh dear, was this a sign in itself, a sign of things to come? Yes it was; we were soon to learn that Germany has a lot of signposts, however not that many were going to prove to be useful for us.

So we rode on over a really cute little bridge and into a rather smart residential suburb. We stopped at the first supermarket we could find. Designated cycle racks in cities are next to useless for our well-laden tour bikes. We pulled into a car-park. Both our bicycles have two stands each attached to their undercarriage. This means our bikes can independently stand under the weight of six panniers. Sharon dashed into the supermarket, I stood point on our bikes. A few minutes into my duties, I watched another cyclist rush into the marked cycle rack zone, jump off his bike and start to lock it, only to be attacked by a leashed dog. Mental note, keep away from public bike stands and German dogs.

Eventually Sharon resurfaced with our lunch and supper and we were away again. Kiel was beautiful for cycling: there were flat well lipped cycling paths running everywhere, just no signs telling us what these cycle paths were and where they were going. Before we knew it, instead of crossing a bridge in front of Central Station, we were heading down a hill and on a cruise liner. The only thing that really stopped us was a barricade and an ounce of common sense. We were supposed to have taken the unsignposted second right.

We found a lovely sunny spot to people watch. Sharon sat there, snacked, and kept an eye on our bikes while I moseyed into the station’s ticket office. I had two goals: I wanted a map of German train-lines and to see if we could catch on earlier train than planned. After a few minutes of trying to read German in an effort to find a map, I bumped into our friend again. She was also in search of an earlier journey.

The person at the ticket counter spoke excellent English for me. Yes, we could get earlier tickets and no, we couldn’t have the layover between trains extended. This was mostly good news, but it also meant that I now had about twenty minutes to find Sharon and get us both onto the train. I sped out on the concourse found our departure platform, rushed off searching for the station’s disability/cycle entrance, then ran down the stairs in search of Sharon.

I could see my wife in the distance sitting enjoying the sun, looking the other way and oblivious to her rushing husband trying to run in cleated cycle shoes and chaffing chamois shorts. As Sharon turned, she was greeted by her husband slightly sweating waving his arms frantically and pointing towards the train station. We were about to leave two hours earlier than planned. We jumped on our bikes just as it started spitting and quickly followed a painted line on the pavement that took us all the way to the station’s disability entrance. We quickly pushed our bikes through the station, on to our platform and directly on to the cycle carriage of a very modern train. It really could not have been much easier; I was impressed. I secured our bikes beside a very serious-looking young couple and tried unsuccessfully not to bump their child’s stroller. Suitably scolded by this friendly couple I sat to relax just as the welcome smiley face of our German friend appeared in the doorway. Sharon had lost her boggle; I had mentioned that I was trying to find a new one. She handed over one of hers, wished us well and snapped a fantastic photo of the very excited Mrs and Mr Fowler. Shortly after, the doors closed and we were on our way.

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Introduction
Day 1 – Setting Sail
Day 2 – Training, part 1
Day 2 – Training, part 2
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 1
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 2
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 1
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 2
Day 5 – Each Other, part 1
Day 5 – Each Other, part 2 (coming soon)

Setting Sail

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Day 1

As far as first days go, this whopping big 8.47km was an easy one.

It is always a palaver leaving our flat. Bicycles, bottles, bags and anything else and whatever else we have, needs to be painstakingly carried down two flights of stairs. And because of local opportunistic drunks, nothing can be left unattended. However, being a crisp sunny day and an afternoon sail, we had all the time in the world.

P1000486We quietly loaded up our bikes, set the camera on timer and took our ‘before’ shot. Slightly over-exposed and backdropped by sickening city apartment blocks, this was a view that I was looking forward to leaving behind. Our morning meander to the ferry took us along paved pedestrian thoroughfares, busy streets, quiet streets and finally flanked the water’s edge on a new smooth independent cycle path.

We had been given two different sailing times, so were a little unsure what time we needed to actually be at the terminal. We turned up two and a half hours before departure to be greeted by Dutch tourists travelling in a pack and oblivious to their surroundings. There were no instructions at the ferry terminal for bicyclists, so we jumped in amongst the Dutch and lined up with the cars. After a confusing long wait, eventually the Dutch sorted themselves out, got out of everyone’s way and allowed us through.

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At the berth we were greeted by a long line of cars; having no clear instructions we just rode past them, to be greeted by a smiling man, motioning us to cycle straight on. This turned out to be both our last stranger smile and our last display of simplicity until we re-boarded the ship a week later.

Inside the vessel we were confronted by a collection of tired looking bicycles haphazardly strapped to the hull. We managed to find an old trucking tie and used this to add our bikes to the mess. Next came the hardest part of the day; carrying between us our 12 panniers from the belly of the boat up many flights of stairs to our cabins. In my bags I had our first two days’ food and water as well as drinking water for the sailing. They were heavy and complicated to carry and if I only learnt one thing on the climb to our room, it was how ‘not’ to carry my panniers. I will do better next time.

The afternoon was spent on deck watching sunny Klaipėda slide by and eventually finished with an average beer and an excellent book.

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Introduction
Day 1 – Setting Sail
Day 2 – Training, part 1
Day 2 – Training, part 2
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 1
Day 3 – New Expectations, part 2
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 1
Day 4 – Cobbles, part 2
Day 5 – Each Other, part 1
Day 5 – Each Other, part 2 (coming soon)