Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium

Friday, 5th of August. I took the countryside highway for the most of the time up to Geilenkirchen, and I had lots of wind. Slowly I realized that there could be a connection between this and all these windmills in the Netherlands… In Geilenkirchen I had a break and annoyed a saleswoman in a butcher shop as I bought just one slice of salami, which I needed for my cheese roll. In this town you can't be sure if you met a German person or one from the Netherlands, it's a mixed up chatter on the streets, while it's very close to the frontier. Up from North Rhine-Westphalia the house building style had changed, as in the Netherlands, too, they are all brick build, typical for all areas were they don't have rocks. The river Wurm crosses town where it's leaded below the town.

Now I navigated by a point of intersection based bicycle route system, which is also used in the Netherlands. So I left Germany while using nice little roads without traffic inside a beautiful landscape. Because Octavian, my today's couchsurfing host in Sittard, had still to work, I cycled criss-cross through nice little villages and nature – 25 kilometres extra, just for fun! So today's stage ended after 95 kilometres.

As I arrived in Sittard and tried to orient myself to find out how to reach Octavians home, I discovered I was just standing at the corner where his street branched off – I was so exited about that! Easy to find the house, difficult to ring the doorbell, because there wasn't a doorbell panel, but a little computer terminal. With the help of a local person I figured out how to use this. Since today I have to communicate in English.

Octavian was very nice and friendly. First thing we did yet before starting real conversation was juggling together. He is a settled character, but also very social, interested in a variety of things and with deep thoughts about many things. His flat is in a house where many young people from all over the world are living for a period. It's a very agile atmosphere, someone is knocking at the door and comes for a short visit at all hours (some people leave their door always ajar). Lotte and Lilly, I would be glad to hear from you!

Next day we visited an exhibition. Museum Het Domein Sittard showed the photographer Roger Ballen. Interesting to discuss his work. I like his earlier work from the 80's, but all in all he's much to manipulative and straining after effect. I found a poster of Bamberg (old town hall and dome) at one of his photos which was shot in a flat in Africa! After museum we went to historic town centre, eating outside and had much nice conversation. I put one's foot into one's mouth when I asked for the change when I bought cyclist's sunglasses. It was 19.99 Euro but the seller wanted 20 which irritated me so much that I asked for the left cent. Octavian later explained to me, that it's very common in the Netherlands to round up – nobody cares about just one cent! (Me, too! But I was too surprised to ignore. Worst of all the seller searched ages for the cent and in the end because he couldn't found one he gave me a two cent coin.)

Unfortunately my guitar has a damage. I think it was a good idea to buy a rejected one for my tour… I'm still able to play, while turning the pin back to the original position, so it doesn't really matter.

I left Octavian at 6 P.M. because he had to do some work and my legs were so nervous. I had planed the next stage from Sittard up to Antwerp with 125 kilometres and had learned this would mean around 140 kilometres, so I was glad to be able to cycle a fare stage. I was really fast! I just had to cycle! (I do no longer care about average speed, because it depends so much on landscape structure, weather and if it's easy to find the route, but I'm really glad when I'm able to fly away…) I cycled through Susteren (NL), Masseik (B) and Bree. From 9 P.M. on I was looking for a place to sleep, I asked some villagers if I could stay at their roofed veranda, as I did more than ten years ago in Denmark, but there was no chance. In Denmark I never had problems with that and was always invited to sleep in a barn, a garage or a bower and sometimes even to share meal.

Some rain had started. In Peer there was a kind of street festival, bands were playing on truck's load floors, so there was nice music, great atmosphere, many people outside – and even a hotel! But it looked so unappealing, impersonal, way to stylish and at least expensive, that I decided to go on cycling – maugre the rain and the fact it had gotten dark. So I cycled through the night, wearing my rain gear (now I can say I am equipped perfectly) and reached Leopoldsburg after 60 kilometres, where I found a much more cosy hotel/restaurant/bar, with such a kind steward, who helped me with my stuff and even warmed up my half pizza, which was now presented like a real meal that I ate in my room, while watching some TV. It's so great to be in a country where's no dubbing!

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