Monday, 12 August 2019

Time to Blog Off...

For anyone who wants to know
This is how far we had to go
To cycle round the Baltic Sea
To camp in the wilds - be totally free.
To battle the weather come rain or shine
To pedal on flat, or up an incline,
And now that it's over and once we recover
We'll be looking at maps and planning another!

Days 61 - 64     Distance - 176 km

Amsterdam - Home

Our last few days have proved to be some of the toughest yet as we cycled into near gale force winds and torrential rains, and endured a rather rough 8 hour ferry crossing AND the London traffic...
Amsterdam was great, and the campsite in the city was a reminder of more youthful days - it was like the aftermath of a great festival - scattered bodies that hadn't quite made it into their tents, that were either sound asleep, or in utter hysterics (you know what I mean!).

The campsite was right next to the tramline, so the bikes had a rest while we enjoyed the city, with its charming buildings and amazing graffiti...

We feasted on poffertjes - little Dutch pancake delights made at this family run stall in one of the markets...

And they fuelled us nicely for our rainy ride to The Hague - the city which houses the UN's International Court of Justice. It was cycle paths all the way, part of which went for miles through coastal moorlands and made for a lovely day's riding despite the weather.

The campsite was about a 5km ride through beautiful woods and streams to the city centre, and the pond weed was fluorescent!

We were lucky enough to chance upon a street-van-food-festival so we feasted well, and then took a beer down to the Binnenhof - one of the oldest parliament buildings in the world still in use.

As you can see the weather was building, so even though we only had 35km to cycle to The Hook of Holland the next day we left early. And good job too as it took about 3 hours to battle through the 60km/hour winds and a few proper soakings! We were sure bad luck would continue to thwart us and the ferry would be cancelled and we'd have to endure another wet camping, but no, Stena line sailed, not smoothly, but we took plenty of journey food and beer to see us through! It rolled (literally) in an hour late so we landed in Harwich in the dark - we're not properly equipped for night riding - so let's just call the 5km cycle to the guesthouse...
We caught the train to London, managed another brief city tour and pedalled the final 40kms back to my mother's house. 
She's away. 
In fact, our timing has been off the whole trip. We missed friends in Sweden, Denmark and Germany also. Even Queenie was away when we arrived at Buckingham Palace!

So that's it folk's. Until we pedal off dreckly next time...!

Auf Wiedersehen, pet.

Steve here...
Well, sadly we're on our way home, and although we've spent the last couple of weeks in Germany and Holland, and I'm not saying these countries lack humour, it's the Scandinavians who have the last laugh with another helpful toilet sign. Might get one myself...

And on to Spot the Dog. The moment we crossed the border into Holland we stumbled upon our first 'Amstel' bar. Always difficult to keep Julia away from a good pub, it was here we met 'Billie', the owner's dog.

It was love at first sight and they took some separating I can tell you!

Finally we met 'Emma' the Boxer, also in Holland. Her German owners only managing a bewildered but sympathetic smile as I tried to explain my 'Spot the Dog' audience.

Until the next time...

Thursday, 8 August 2019

May the wind be with you.

The prevailing wind is a pest
Cause it blows hard from the southwest.
It hindered our pace
Cause it blew in our face
And now we don't half need a rest!

Days 56 - 60       Distance 266 km

Lubeck - Amsterdam

Well, we thought Lubeck was impressive with its ancient buildings, but Bremen was even more amazing. 

And we ate some very good pea soup here in front of the huge cathedral...

And of course, it is the home of the Town Musicians of Bremen - a 12th century fairytale retrieved and republished by the Brothers Grimm in 1819. 

(Yes, Steve really IS wearing those sunglasses in public...)

We left the manic holiday buzz of Germany behind us and entered a very refreshingly peaceful Holland - our 10th country. The campsites were small, family-run affairs where nothing was too much trouble, the toilets were manually operated, and the traffic was minimal ...

The Dollard route takes you on endless cycle paths along the man-made dykes that keep the North Sea from flooding these flatlands, and weaves in and out through numerous sleepy villages, where, if you're lucky you might even find some frikandel, and chips with mayonnaise...

We were delighted to discover that the 32km cycle path across the Afsluitdijk - a man-made feat of engineering built between 1927 and 1933, was closed due to maintenance works and you had to go on a free bus instead. The wind was so strong that day it would have taken us all day to cycle it and all the next to recover!

We also camped by the quaint town of Edam, full of canals, wonky buildings and luckily for us, the weekly cheese market - with reenactments of how the market was in the middle ages...

And on to Amsterdam. And it is cycles paths and waterways all the way - right into the campsite that's just a tram ride from the city centre. I feel a city tour coming on without the bikes...and hopefully without any rain!

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Toilet Texting...

The Danish rain still got us wet
The country's rather pricey,
But the ride was flat and easy
And the camp spots super nicey! 

Days 50 - 55         Distance - 345 km

Copenhagen - Lubeck (Germany)

Despite the old fashioned rural feel to Denmark, with its thatched cottages and quaint towns, it was unbelievably modern in other respects. For example, upon locating the public toilets, it comes as a great surprise that one has to send a text message to the 'public-toilet-controller' who then will magically open the door for you. I'm not sure what you're supposed to do if you don't have a mobile!

There had been an algae bloom in the sea - and much of the coastline was deep in seaweed and stank, but we were lucky and found clear places to camp and swim, in the rather surprisingly warm Baltic sea.

There were bridges to cross and ferries to catch to link up the islands...

And churches with their own unique style...

We came across The Barnehoj passage grave (collective tombs) that were erected during the stone age - about 5200 years ago! Men, women and children from the tribes most prominent families were laid to rest in the chamber, along with amber beads, weapons, food and drink. (The wise old budda wasn't quite as old...)

The ferry route across to Germany from Rodbyhavn to Puttgarden was an extremely busy but efficient route. Ferries left every half an hour to make the 45 minute journey, where campsites and towns were packed - Germany is on holiday! After being turned away from one full, pre-booked massive site, we ended up in another town where an international street performing festival was going on. This made a great celebration as we'd clocked up a total of 3000 km!

Onward to Lubeck, and quite an amazing city - full of ancient, wonky buildings, and definitely worth a visit. 

We did a good city tour...until, yet again, another thunder storm stopped play!

Sunday, 28 July 2019

I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill...

Hills and headwinds make you feel
Like you're cycling through porridge,
But tiny, tasty, wild berries
Are super things to forage!

Days 43 - 49   Distance 435 km

Kalmar - Copenhagen

Unlike their oversized and somewhat tasteless GM cousins we are so used to buying nowadays, the wild blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cherry's we have been picking throughout Sweden may be small, but they are bursting with flavour and goodness!
And they kept our spirits up during a too-long week of wild camping. As always, if the weather had been on our side it would have been glorious - but the rain brings mozzies and confinement, the sun brings sweat and sunburn, and the cold winds and waters bring no joy to washing.
Also needing a mention - Steve snapped his chain! Luckily though we carry spares, and Mr Fixit can fix anything, anywhere...

Eventually, fully refreshed after a couple of nights in campsites where we managed to wash our entire wardrobe, we finally had "A Perfect Day!"

The wind was behind us, the roller coaster hills had flattened out, wild berries were abundant and we passed through unexpected scenery and castles...

We even had a mid-afternoon refreshing dip in the sea, and found a great spot to camp!

The tail-wind and the flat lands stayed with us all the way to Malmo, although we were on the edge of the Swedish heatwave and at times the sun was relentless. However, there was a festival going on just outside the campsite where we enjoyed beer and live music, and a great view of the bridge that connects Sweden and Denmark. This is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe.

Pedestrians and cyclists are not allowed across, so you have to take the train, and arriving in the middle of Copenhagen on a busy Saturday afternoon was somewhat of a culture shock for us!

Finding it impossible to navigate through the crowds and heat with the bikes loaded up, we decided to abort this city cycle tour and head out. We found a campsite about 20 km south of the city, where we are now sheltering from thunderstorms!

Monday, 22 July 2019

A good ticking off

Steve here...
I must reveal that this week's humorous little anecdote lies solely at my own expense. Whilst enjoying a glorious free campsite near the sea, with plenty of trees and general foliage, there lying in wait amongst the long grass...ticks!
Plenty of them seemed to be making their way up my legs, but, on bare legs they were easy to spot so I could brush the pesky things off. It wasn't until the next day camping, whilst undressing, I noticed some had made it all the way up attaching to leg, arm, armpit and yes, even two on me cojones!
(It's Spanish - look it up.)
Needless to say Rodney, aka Julia, got the job of removal. Her technique, whilst unorthodox, was effective...

So, to Spot the Dog. For sale in a pet emporium, this robot dog will answer to "fetch" in 27 different languages, is gender neutral so won't try and hump anything, and can be left at home when you are working without the worry of it chewing the furniture or barking all day. At least there is some good use for AI.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Moose or Elk?

I did a bit of research and now it's crystal clear;
A moose, an elk and a wapiti are all a type of deer.
Now, a wapiti's an elk if you're an Ameri-Indian,
But a moose is called an elk if you are northern European.
A moose and elk are different if you don't already know,
A moose is bull or cow, and an elk is buck or doe. 
The moose is huge with bulbous nose, an elk is far more slender,
And a moose has big flat antlers (if you spot a male gender). 

Days 35 - 42     Stockholm - Kalmar

Distance - 489 km   Total - 2256 km!!

So, it was a 25 km ride from Stockholm to the nearest Decathlon store as we had decided to finally replace the inner tubes Steve had destroyed way back in Poland. Just 200 meters from the store Steve got his next puncture! Well, he was way overdue and I consider ourselves very lucky!

Since then, there's been a lot of riding. Sweden is far bigger and more remote than it looks on the map, and we are becoming quite feral living in the wilds. We have found perfect places to camp...

And not so perfect ones...

Generally the weather has been better, although now I am sheltering in the tent writing this!
We criss-crossed paths with Lara for the best part of a week, who is on her way to Germany, and has now gone to explore the island of Oland, so good luck Lara!

We have passed numerous idyllic Hansel-and-Gretel type houses tucked away in the middle of nowhere..

And castles...

And of course, the Giant Garpe, who tried to persuade us to climb his mountain and see the other 80 works of art integrated into the landscape, but it was too steep, too late and we were too hungry!

We did think we'd splash out and treat ourselves to a little fried fish in one very upmarket boat mooring/keyside walkway we cycled through. We chose the very cheapest thing on the menu... and ended up with a glorified fish finger in a hot dog roll! I haven't quite calculated the amount of fish fingers you can buy in Iceland for a fiver yet, but I must say, this one WAS particularly tasty. After showing our appreciation for said fish finger, the chef just laughed at us, shrugged his shoulders and said it was meant for kids!