Thursday, February 16, 2012

That's it then

That's what I did at all – not counted are the lots of kilometres I did when not doing stages, and that, all in all, have been a lot, too…

date stage's start stage's end kilometers
1.8.11 Bamberg Wartmannsroth 100
2.8.11 Wartmannsroth Schlüchtern 42
3.8.11 Hüttenberg Weilburg 50
4.8.11 Germscheid Bedburg 105
5.8.11 Bedburg Sittard 95
6.8.11 Sittard Leopoldsburg 60
7.8.11 Leopoldsburg Antwerpen 105
9.8.11 Antwerpen Brügge 95
11.8.11 Brügge Dunkerque 85
12.8.11 Dunkerque Margate 65
14.8.11 Margate London 150
17.8.11 London London 42
19.8.11 London Oxford 110
20.8.11 Oxford Mitcheldean 100
22.8.11 Mitcheldean Langadog 130
24.8.11 Llangadog Fishguard 125
25.8.11 Rosslare Tramore 75
29.8.11 Dungarvan Youghal 30
30.8.11 Youghal Baltimore 167,5
2.9.11 Baltimore Bonane 105
4.9.11 Bonane Cahersiveen 80
5.9.11 Cahersiveen Tarbert 120
6.9.11 Tarbert Limerick 60
8.9.11 Limerick Doolin 105
9.9.11 Doolin Galway 80
10.9.11 Galway Mannin 100
15.9.11 Mannin Castlebar 115
16.9.11 Castlebar Sligo 110
19.9.11 Dublin Tramore 50
22.9.11 Tramore Rosslare 70
23.9.11 Roscoff Saint-Brieuc 140
24.9.11 Saint-Brieuc Pontorson 125
25.9.11 Pontorson Saint James 20
26.9.11 Saint-James Caen 150
28.9.11 Caen Rouen 140
29.9.11 Rouen Laigneville 120
30.9.11 Laigneville Reims 145
2.10.12 Reims Mesnil-sous-les-Côtes 145
4.10.11 Mesnil-sous-les-Côtes Mondorff 95
6.10.11 Mondorff Nennig 10

Monday, November 21, 2011

The last (so called) stage

Tuesday, 6th of October. This morning there was a silent knocking on my door, hardly noticeable. When I boot on my lended computer to look for the time it was actually 8:18 A.M. – so I really had tu hurry, because my train would depart at 9:07 A.M. from 10 kilometres afar Nennig. Fast packing, fast symbolic breakfast… I angled my brakes more wide, so the wheel didn't hit so bad. My ability to slowdown wasn't so good now, but still working. And I also swapped the package of the panniers, so it was less weight on the carrier's broken side. Both helped.

I went on hurrying when I was on my bike, and surely it was uphill for a long time – but the outlook when being on top and also the high-angle downhill was great, and at this time I became more confident to catch the time. When I passed the German border – second border this day after first passing from France to Luxembourg – it was stormy and I felt some raindrops, so welcome back home! – but it were actually just this few drops. Nevertheless it was a cloudy and windy day.

As the station in Nennig was a very small one, there wasn't any lift but even no other help for people on wheels. I was quite impressed of myself, that I was able to shoulder my packed bike without any difficulty.

When I bought my ticket at the vending machine I was wondering, why it costed more than the railway website had informed me before. And when having a look at the itinerary it was also another route with less change but it would keep me via Cologne. I was wondering but just thinking this could maybe caused of the fact that I mentioned my bike when I did the internet search, so probably the vending machine had made his decision on shorter connecting times (but somehow in both cases I would arrive nearly at the same time at my destination – as I said, I didn't really thought about it). I needed the help of a train conductor to see my mistake: I had bought a ticket to Dortmund instead of Darmstadt, where I wanted to visit some friends and meet Klaus on Friday to visit the birthday party of his cousin. In Trier – first connecting station for both goals, so till then I was never the less in the right train – I had to go to the counter. Fortunately I had 25 minutes transfer time (but according to the line in front of the counter, I also needed this time). Surprisingly the Deutsche Bahn cancelled my old ticket and gave me the right one without any extra charge, so in the end I got some money back.

It was curious to sit in a German train. The people around me appeared to be grouchy, crabby, mopish. It's strange how prejudices and generalisation are working. I suppose half of my impression was caused by the fact, that I wasn't able to see my home country's people from an open minded curious view. In fact it wasn't that bad.

I visited some friends in Darmstadt and stayed overnight. Nice guitar session, interesting talks. Exiting sense of self, the changed me in a familiar context. Next day I met Klaus and we visited the birthday party of his cousin together. Great meal and many lovely people and all of them so fascinated about what I did. On Sunday another of Klaus' cousins who also had joined the party took us home with his car.

Being back is weird. Nice but very different. Live is easier when the only thing you have to do is cycling. Summer is definitely gone now. Things have changed. But I still contend with the same things I did before I went on my tour. I'm still learning to become free.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A daytrip to Luxembourg city

Wednesday, 5th of October. I slept until 10 A.M. and some minutes after waking up Pierre knocked on my door. When having breakfast he suggested to spend the day in Luxembourg, we would take the car and later pick up Jordane, who is working in this town. When sitting in the car I felt strange, somehow like a bad headache, but before the pain comes. My neck muscles were totally hard, I felt completely tired all of sudden. Because of additional noise and light hypersensitivity it could have been a migraine, so I took some medicine against that. But it wasn't really better when we started walking, so I asked for a coffee break and this really helped. We just sat and relaxed for a while and I tried two different types of coffee drink and after that I felt definitely better, so much better, that it was also distinctly and visibly for Pierre, because he mentioned that I seemed to be much more alive and also had a smile in the face and some glance in the eyes.

Luxembourg is really nice, it has lots of green, and the historic part is exiting. To me it was great discovering, I found lots of curious sights – I took many photos. And it was also fun to talk with Pierre. He told a lot about history when showing interesting places. When talking about favourite films and music we had also some excursuses about European culture and music theory – mainly the movies were much more a way to talk about things that were meaningful to us, no topic for small talk. And it really felt good to discover that we had lots in common, so I was and still are very lucky to meet him and also Jordane. When being altogether we went on having good talk on a personal level. I loved the anecdote, when a female friend of Jordane, whom she told they now would have their first couchsurfer and that it would be a woman, asked her, if she wouldn't be frightened that this woman could steal her husband.

Later we made some music together. Although both said they're just learners, both know a lot about music and also have extremely good equipment. Jordane is doing drums and Pierre is playing the guitar, and when he started to play it was really impressive – thereafter I first felt to shy to start myself. While to me the guitar is a way to accompany my singing, Pierre is able to play amazing turns and melodies, and he knows several styles – his sleight of hand is on a level I can only dream about. Curiously Pierre himself was impressed of my strumming technique and had problems to copy or do ordinary accord sequences. That's strange to me, but maybe it shows that it's just a question of practice – I definitely want to work on my guitar play and extend my abilities. It would be great to go on with music exchange (and of course exchange at all!) and I'm highly motivated to go on with learning from the guitar book I already have.

To me meeting Pierre and Jordane was very special and the best last hosts one could wish – just the right thing for the end of my trip.

Not my day (but in the end it became much more better)

Tuesday, 4th of October. This wasn't my day. I felt nervous from the moment I woke up, I have had crazy, unpleasant dreams, I felt somehow confused. I only wanted to go on my bike as soon as possible, but somehow this didn't work. I couldn't find my map about this day's stage, so Ben printed some maps from the internet but we had a misunderstanding, so these maps were mostly useless for me. When starting to pack my bike I discovered my carrier now totally cark it – not only more than one assembly seam were free, also the main frame was broken at the position where the pannier used to hang up. We tried to make an improvisational repairing. But nevertheless now it was no longer static. Next I discovered I had lost some air in my back wheel. So what to do? Just use the air pump and see how long this would work or stay and search if there's a hole in the tube? I decided to push one's luck and it lasted for four kilometres until my wheel suddenly was flat. During reparation I found an old patch loosened. I decided to do it the easy way and just change the tube.

Going on with cycling I followed an asphalt track which leaded into a non asphaltic track through a forest. Hard ground but all of it bumps and potholes. Anything from comfortable cycling. I was really annoyed. Then the road became crazy – no straight forward, but lots of turns and windings in every direction. I had asked some people I met where this road would lead to and they named the village I was looking for, but they really should have told me that it wouldn't be a straight way. To me it felt like cycling in circles. Once I followed a branch path, because I could see the end of the forest, but at its end there was only a field, locked with a wire fence, non passable. So next thing I tried was following a dirt track parallel to the field with my bike – dirt track means sparsely grown forests one can tell tractors had driven along in earlier times. Of course I wasn't able to cycle. I stumped to the ground, overgrown with bramble springs, and tried not to get caught in these mantraps. Nevertheless my legs had lots of stitches and scratches after that. After getting over the second blown down tree and still no chance to leave the forest I gave up and went back, went on following the winding road wherever it would lead me to. When it came to an end after some more kilometres and I could also see the village from where I would knew my route, it became cold, windy and cloudy. I wouldn't had been surprised if some rain had come next, it would had fit to the day. Surprisingly the rain hold off.

Größere Kartenansicht
  • A) start
  • B) flat tyre
  • C) met people who said, the road would lead to Ville-en-Woëvre
  • D) followed branch path, then tried to follow a dirt track parallel to the field for maybe 500 metres, then returned
  • E) reached Ville-en-Woëvre to follow D 908 road – no more experiments!

It was 12 o'clock when I thought I would go on my bike, 1 o'clock when I finally had done the check up, decided to go on and had done the package (funny thing was that thereby I found my missing map), 2 o'clock when I had repaired my wheel, 3 o'clock when I was back on my route (and so far I had cycled maybe 15 kilometres). I had planed to arrive at today's hosts' home at 6 o'clock, and today's stage was also planed as a short and easy one with only 80 kilometres. I worried about this failing time schedule, I was looking forward to meet Pierre and Jordane since yesterday, they were looking forward to meet me, and now I would arrive probably very late so we wouldn't have much time together – stupid thing.

Also the problems with my bike became more serious. When I was back on the normal road I noticed a regularly bumming caused by my back wheel, with every rotation it gave me hitches – definitely no comfortable way to cycle and also much more cumbersome than it would have been with a ideal bike, but I would go on like this – with the decision on my mind, that this would be my last stage. After this I only would do the distance to the next train station in Germany. 4,000 kilometres in total would be definitely enough.

Still it wasn't easy to make a phone call. Close to 6 P.M. I found an ability in a bakery where I bought a piece of cheese cake (my first cheese cake since I left Germany!), as Pierre and Jordane expected me by this time – they had also pronounced some meal… But I could only reach the mailbox. It became night cycling and around 9 P.M. I finally arrived. It had been 95 kilometres.

Pierre was glad to see me, he had worried about me – my call hadn't arrived, later we assumed I must have had dialled a wrong number – he actually have had a look on my website, had found my phone number there and had called Klaus, who becalmed him, that I surely just would have some problems with the bike, but would soon or later arrive. I felt really moved about so much care. From the very first moment – already in they way they had answered my request – these people seemed to be so open and warm.

Most important thing to me this evening: For the second time in period I met people, who had decided not to define themselves about work. Pierre had quitted one and a half year ago when feeling constantly uncomfortable with the social relationships in his company. Nevertheless he's doing lots of things. He's an inspiring photographer – nothing one can live from, but a good thing to spend time with. It doesn't seem to be so impossible – even if society declared it to be unthinkable to have other plans and concepts for life then just go to work until getting retired. And it was good to hear that others also knew respectively had felt the social pressure, that one have to work – when visiting some relatives, Pierres mother took him by the side and whispered: “Don't tell you're not working – they wouldn't understand!” All these people, Pierre and Jordane as less as Ben, don't want to life on others and they all have to care about how to get some money for living, but there seams to be much more freedom to live different, as one would think.

It gave me such a good feeling to talk with Pierre and Jordane, I felt so good and welcome, so I suggested to stay for one more night, and both were glad about it. So in the end there was no loss caused by arriving so late.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Douaumont ossuary close to Verdun

Monday, 3th of October. I stayed for two nights at Bens place. Ben lives in a very nice house. When arriving in the night we mainly said hello, and after a shower and a meal I went to bed. But next day, a Monday, we spend the whole day together, starting with a very intense talk.

Ben told, he quitted work three years ago, so I became sensitive and wanted to hear more. The meaning of work in people's life was and still is an important topic for me. Ben was so relaxed when talking about a different value system: staying at home gives him and also his family – he has a sixteen year old daughter and a wife – so much more freedom. They now have less money but they also need less. There was no need to go on doing things he didn't want to do. To me it's still new, that one can change priorities. I still have all these „You are what you own “ phrases in my head (what I never believed but what seem to infect me more then I was aware). To me it was kind of apparentness to met someone who's happy with not working after I found out about my bequeathed inferiority complex. It's probably possible to do so without feeling guilty.

I told Ben about the changing in my life – quitting my job at university and maybe quitting work at all. When telling all the aspects why I no longer felt comfortable in doing my job I was a little bit shocked because it's so much what came together that it's actually no wonder I'm not able to go on. Looking from this side on the facts was kind of new, usually I prone to think that's my fault to be over-sensitive and not able to be factual and distance myself. It's still hard not to judge myself but take my feelings as a healthy reaction.

It was a very good talk, but after it I felt pretty exhausted and talking came to an end for now. It was a bright sunshiny day. Later we drove by car to Verdun and I got a feeling about the area I had cycled through in the night. Ben told a lot about history especially the battles in the first and second world war. We visited Douaumont ossuary close to Verdun, a memorial containing the remains of soldiers who died on the battlefield during the Battle of Verdun in first World War. In front of the monument lies the largest single French military cemetery of the first world war, it contains 16,142 graves.

Some years ago there were made graves for the Muslims which now face to Mecca. But the most curious experience was that there were lot of crosses pulled up the ground and lying there like a trenched field. Because the crosses are made of concrete they have to rebuild regularly.

Ben also showed me the little windows behind the ossuary, placed under the big red ones which symbolize all the blood. Beneath you can see all the human bones, the remains of both French and German soldiers who died on the battlefield. Some of the cave rooms, each representing an area, were full to the top.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

All in good time

Sunday, 2th of October. I went on my bike at 10 A.M. and because I had written down detailed route instructions for the first time I had no problems to leave the town and find my route. When cycling through lots of small villages it felt like a real Sunday – silent and peaceful. Downright lost. Everything seemed to sleep – except the dogs, to whom my appearance must have been a real experience, they barked for me for minutes and went on when they couldn't see me long ago. A cyclist seems to be a really important event in a dog's life. Once I passed a flee market, which was nice, lots of people were there, but nothing for sale I wanted to have – at least nothing which was small and light enough (and I also tried not to find anything too much interesting…).

The day was wonderful sunny. During the whole forenoon I met lots of other cyclists – sports cyclists, promenade cyclists, some of them disguised as professionals, strolling cyclists, most of them men but of all ages, so I was constantly greeting. In the afternoon the heat became unpleasant, especially because I was once again in open country where the reaped fields in brown and yellow enhanced the impression of wasteland. But I had learned from experience and was very careful with my resources, so I did a siesta from time to time when I found some shadow, and once I almost felt asleep. From time to time the landscape was somewhat hilly but normally comfortable. And before the heat became too frustrating I passed a nice forest, a fact that my map had told me, too, so I had been looking forward to this for a while.

When being in the Meuse department I passed lots of tiny villages, which were connected by little roads, sometimes just very small asphalt paths which were nevertheless shown on my map. It was a real pleasure to cycle through this landscape. By going on like this I didn't recognize how time went by. I had watched out for a café or restaurant for a while, but this wasn't easy on this sleepy Sunday. In Triaucout-en-Argonne I finally found a little bistro, where I ate a big roll in company of a group of older corpulent men and women, who were in an extremely good mood and were joking and laughing all the time. I couldn't understand nothing, but it were ribald topics for sure. And the laughing was infectious.

Back on my bike the shadows had become very long. Sundown was really peaceful, good place to be. But surely it ended up with night cycling. When I arrived in Sommedieue it was dark and meanwhile I felt fairly exhausted. My route guided me into a thick forest, so the darkness became much more intense. And of course it went uphill – and the good thing was that I couldn't see how high angle the uphill was and how long it would least. To me it was just being in my smallest gears and do the pedal routine. The darkness was somehow frightening. My light made just a small spot in some distance and some noise came out of the forest. And it went on like this for quite a long time. At some point I began to believe that this path would never end and felt like being part of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's short story The Tunnel. When looking at the map later it had only been for ten kilometres, but ten kilometres in a dark forest with no time or speedo by constant uphill can become very long… I reached the little village Mesnil-sous-les-Côtes, home of my couchsurfing host Ben, after 145 kilometres at 10 P.M.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Friday to Saturday, 1th of October. Antoine, a cute nineteen year old first semester, lived just for some weeks in a cosy small student flat just in the centre of Reims. We had nice talk when I arrived in the night, especially about our couchsurfing experiences, music (he is playing the guitar, too), psychology (his studying topic) and education system in France in general. It was relaxed and open atmosphere, and when we went to bed Antoine offered me his bed to sleep. He himself would sleep on a sleeping mat in then kitchen. But as his bed was a fold-out couch and therefore big enough for two people I invited him to share the place with me.

Next day Antoine showed me around somewhat, as the city was still new to him, too. I really like this city. It was a fantastic sunny day and the atmosphere was very relaxed. The Place Drouet d'Erlon, that is just in the next street of Antoine home, reminded me a lot of Victory Square in Temeswar (Romania), where Klaus and I had been some years before. It contains many lively restaurants and bars, as well as several attractive statues and fountains, my favourite one is shown at the photo above. During the summer it fills with people sitting outside the many cafés enjoying the summer sun. And they have psychedelic buses in this city…

In the afternoon Antoine did some work for university (he's still very engaged at the moment…), so I went to an Internet café to go on with my blog and organize my remaining stages and couchsurfing hosts. In the evening we met some of his friends and went out for a beer. Because Reims is a student city most night life happens during the week, on weekends all the students go home to visit their parents. This phenomenon was new to me and still seems a little bit weird.

Being with his friends was curious. Since my staying with Antoine and his flat mates in Caen I'm used to the French way of welcoming and biting farewell other people, it's no longer weird to kiss the air – nevertheless it's still a little bit strange that this convention on the one hand seems to be more personal as the German handshaking but on the other had it's much more difficult to break through and give the other one a real hug. So on first impression French people feel more close but at the same time they make sure to keep some distance. I don't know if they are aware of this, maybe they just can't imagine to act different. The friends of Antione in Reims were young nice man, but they weren't able or didn't have the heart to speak in English. So most of the time the three guys talked and had fun and then Antoine translated to me in three sentences the topic of the last five minutes. In this sense the first evening was much more nicer and personal. Once we played tabletop football, but the French table are totally different from the ones I'm used to in Germany. So I lost very bad. No fun.

Another thing I recognised and couldn't understand was the fact, that French people didn't seem to be aware of pollution control. As one example of many my fellows (and also the other people in the pub) drank their beer out of a plastic cup. I myself had ordered a Guinness and because the pub had only bottles they asked if I'm okay with the bottle, so I took the chance to ask for a glass – and I got one with a very nice unusual shape. Because I was curious I asked Antoine about this unnecessary production of waste, and first he seemed to understand the problem as he talked about French mentality who didn't want to change behaviour to change reality. But the more I focussed on the question, why he didn't drank his beer from a glass, the more he didn't seem to understand and ended up in the phrase that they always used to do so. Later in the discussion he assumed that the pub probably had charged me extra for having a glass (I had paid more than the others), so I had a nice chat with the people behind the bar, who assured to be glad to give people a glass – surely without any extra charging – if they would like to have one. I'm afraid French people are far away to think about all the little changes in behaviour to save nature which are so usual in Germany.