Ich bin radwandern im Deutschland

Trip Start Jun 20, 2010
1
5
26
Trip End Nov 20, 2010


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Flag of Germany  , Bremen,
Friday, July 2, 2010

It has been a few days since Amsterdam I am still getting used to the day to day life of cycle touring. It's pretty hard when you carry very little food and don't know where you are going to spend the night but I am just about getting into the swing of things and making sure I know where at least one campsite is in case I get stuck.

In the last few days i have been out into the countryside which was nice but pretty intense. The weather has been 30 degrees plus,  the landscape really is flat and some of the roads are straight for miles and miles with no hedges it was just lucky there was no wind. It's really hard going and I have been drinking about 4 litres of water during 6 or 7 hours riding. Talking of wind I have been slightly disappointed by the lack of windmills, I have seen a handful but no where near a many as expected, I saw lots more when I was here last. In the north east at least the lack of windmills seems to me more that mane up for by massive wind turbines which are everywhere and just about the only interesting thing in an otherwise boring landscape. 

On my way though the Dutch countryside I decided to stop at a small town to stock up on water. The town had plenty of shops but was really dead, it's seemed a bit odd but I thought nothing of it and kept shopping. It was 10 minutes later that I heard someone taking over a
loud speaker, this is always intriguing when travelling as you never know what you might find. It turns out I was actually Dutch commentary being played over a PA system. What I had forgotten is that The Netherlands were still in the world cup and playing their quarter final game. As I rounded the corner the street became a sea of orange with orange flags, wigs and t-shirts everywhere. It turns out that most of the town had congregated round a big screen in a put and there were plenty of chants of "Hup Holland Hup". I stopped for a while and had a coffee enjoying watching the looks on their faces every time the ball got even remotely close to the goal. 

The border crossing was something I looked forward to since leaving Amsterdam. I had visions of big signs and border police (like you would get at any other international border) I would then try and convince them to give me a stamp in my passport. The reality was a little sign just before a roundabout stating the province of Germany I was entering, the only other sign was one stating the change in speed limits very much a blink and you miss it affair! On the plus side despite what you hear I have found the German much more friendly ( I think it's the bike because Germans love radwandern (cycle touring)) and within a couple of minutes a couple had said hello and ended up giving me directions to the campsite. 

A word here on German, I speak a few words of very bad German and remember the most random vocabulary from school. It may not be great however it seems to be getting me by and at least I'm having a go before asking if they speak English. When is does happen they will often say I speak English but it's not very good (they will never say I speak good English). This is where you realise there are different standards if they say my English is not good, this actually means I'm totally fluent and know everything but the very awkward vocabulary, the kind of words we would struggle to think of in English. They often even know very random sayings and jokes. If they say I speak a little this means they are fluent and may get the odd word in the wrong place. If they say in English sorry I don't speak English this is actually a lie and they can easily stand there for 5 minutes and have a conversation with you. Only those that say "nein, ich spreche kein Englisch" and then smile and continue waffling at you in German can actually not speak a word (usually older people). I am really jealous I would love to be able to speak another language however we have the hindrance of speaking English and even if you try and practice the people you are speaking to will no doubt speak much better English then your German and before you know it you will be having a conversation in English  

Camping is great I love it the only downside so far is the campsites contain a lot of locals (and old people) no other travellers so they are proving a bit dull bit I'm sure they will pick up. The first German campsite I stayed at had a youth camp running and they were busy playing a footie match when I arrived but the less is said about the Germans and football the better (I have not yet had German mention the football to me which I am quite surprised about).

I was supposed to have an easy day to Bremen yesterday get there in time for lunch, have a looks around and then on to Hamburg the next day. As is always the case things never go to plan and half way into the 50km journey BANG! Two broken spokes on my rear wheel luckily I was on the edge of a small town. The German are also very keen on bikes but unlike the Dutch where you have a bike because cycling is like a religion and that Is how you get around Germans choose to have a bike because they like it as a method of transport, they go much further on their bikes they like cycle touring, don't mind you riding on the roads and don't give you funny looks for wearing a helmet (in Holland I got lots of funny looks I thought at first this was because of all the gear on my bike but I think it was actually because I was wearing a helmet, no one seems to, only the real keen beans on racing bikes do and I think this is just a fashion statement so that they look cool like the pros). Because of this I hoped there might be a repair shop. First port of call (as always) was the bakery because you are always hungry when cycle touring. I ordered some grub in my dodgy German and told the girl i was cycle touring but    "mein fahrrad ist kaputt" (my bike is broken) before I knew it she was giving me directions (I would have been screwed without German so thanks Mrs Price). The repair shop it turned out was a lawn mover repairer who also fixes bikes. Unfortunately it was 12:30 and shops close between 12 and 2. I had the spare spokes so decided to give it a go myself, it was going well but then I realised I didn't have a spoke wrench. I consulted the sheet I had printed off with bike parts in 5 of the main European languages an determined to my horror that what I required was ein nippelspanner. So. Few minutes later there was me having another bad German conversation asking the guy who's owns the shop if he has a nipplespanner. It obviously worked and soon I was putting the finishing touches to my wheel. Just before I finished a car pulled up and a girl got out who I later found out was the owners daughter. She saw me on the floor wrestling with my wheel, walked over and said SCHEISSE! (I'll leave that one for you to figure out). It turned out she also liked cycle touring and had just got back from a 4 day trip. She spoke good English and asked if there was anything else I needed. Everyone is very friendly and I was soon offered a cup of coffee and given an apple, I also managed to get my tyre pumped up with the compressor which saved me a massive amount of effort (I'm not feeble, it was 32 degrees) I had a long natter about cycle touring and Germany etc and by the time I left it was obvious that as usual i was not going to arrive until late. I was annoyed to have got delayed but as is often the case things actually turn out for the best and you get a much better experience of the country, these are the experience you remember and this is the reason travelling by bike is sooo good!! 

I got to Bremen and arrived at a really friendly hostel. I was given a map and had the sights pointed out I was also told that as luck would have it there was a free music festival on along the river bank ( it's amazing how often you stumble into things accidentally). Bremen is pretty cool, it's has some really amazing looking buildings and lots of small alleyways, very photogenic. I made it to the festival and was soon wandering along with a massive bratwurst in one hand and a bottle of becks in the other which I think is the perfect introduction to Bremen (Becks is brewed in Bremen by they way). The music was interesting ranging from a guy playing a saxophone then mixing it into crazy techno to German pop punk bands, a very odd German classic rock band with massive and quite impressive guitar and drum solos to a guy in drag playing an accordion accompanying another guy singing opera (I'm thinking this was probably a comedy act). There were also fire dancers, mime artists and lots of hippie touches like random mattresses and sofas laying about. It had a really cool chilled out vibe with a really random mix of people. The nicest touch was that unlike if it was in the UK there were no fences, no one stopping you bringing you own beer everyone just chills out and goes with the flow

I did have one slightly interesting German experience that night however. I went for a pee a privilege for which I had to pay which is more often the case over here. You do wonder what you are paying the 50 cents for but then you see the toilets and unlike usual festival toilets they are spotless, the reason for which I was soon to find out. I was having a pee in a room with the door open so you could see straight in (already a bit unnerving for us shy Brits) when a woman walks in and starts very hurriedly cleaning round the other urinals and tidying up she was very very fast and was soon waiting for me to finish, I had barely done up my flies before she was in like a shot manically cleaning again, it threw me at first but I guess these random experiences are part of the joy of travelling as they are the things which separate counties and make then feel different otherwise everyone would be the same and that would just be boring  right?

Key Facts
Distance covered - Approx 939 km (584 miles)
Countries visited - 3
Currencies used - 2
Max speed - 60.4 km
Longest day - 147.5 km
Punctures - 0
Things broken / worn out (given my luck in the recent past this could increase rapidly) - 2
Different beers tried - 15
Languages spoken (well attempted) - 2
Proper mountains climbed - 0
Ferry Crossings - 1
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