Off into the storm…

Saying goodbye to your friends is always sad but I was looking forward to my next destination as I would be staying with a relative and his girlfriend that I hadn’t me yet and also because I would be in the famously beautiful city of Delft…… also my LAST destination before heading back to England.
In true form it took me a while to get ready to leave and I even ha to return as I realized as I was doing my food shop that I didn’t have them anymore (I never found them!) The rest of the afternoon went pretty smoothly with a couple of stops for a fresh plum, though as the afternoon started to become early evening I realize that I still hadn’t managed to find a spot to camp as the countryside seemed to disappear. After a couple of camp attempts I decided that I would just ask one of the farms if I could camp in their field for he night, I went with my instinct, got off the bike and ventured down the steep driveway. A group of young boys met me at the bottom, I explained why I was there and one of the boys broke off and said he would go and get his dad. He appeared out of the large shed with a quizzical tool on his face but it soon turned into a smile as I explained again and he offered me the front field to set up camp. It turned out it was his wife’s birthday so he asked me to come and join the party after I had set up, in no time I had a cold beer in my hand and a plate of food in front of me. I felt so thankful for this turn of events as I met some really awesome people and stayed up late into the night having conversations in broken English yet sharing the same jokes. Thanks again for a great night!
The next morning I woke up content but rather aware of the strong winds outside the tent, I knew that was a reason to get moving so I set about packing up. Wanting to say goodbye I ventured back into the barn where I had been told I could find coffee. I had a good look at the map and felt confident about my journey to Delft, I would soon be in the National Park and then just a few hours up past Rotterdam and then into Delft. I was soon informed that we were actually looking at the beginnings of a large wind storm and that I would be cycling head on, great! I quickly packed up my bike, took a quick picture and off I went. It was tough, from the word go it was a struggle but I had my music and I was feeling enthusiastic. Huffing and puffing I reached the bridge that I felt was the real of the park, deciding that I should check I went to get the map out just to realize eventually that it wasn’t with me. My heart sank, I stood for aged going back and forth in my mind whether it was worth the trip back or not, eventually I gave in and headed back with the wind behind me. No surprises that the storm was getting worse so I already felt exhausted by the time I got back to the same spot again, looking out I knew that it was about to get a lot more difficult as the flat open land lay before me. But the only way is forward so off I went, puffing, panting, legs straining but hardly moving! After what felt like a lifetime but in reality was probably only about half a km I saw another cycling figure heading my way, at great haste and ease I noticed with unintentional resentment. The young man was from Rotterdam and was just out for a leisurely ride (it wouldn’t be so leisurely on the way back I thought) he informed me that a. I was going the right way, b. The ferry was still open and c. That I would make it no problem…. With sweat already creating rivers down my back I desperately hoped he was right! Off I went but it wasn’t long before a huge gust sent me off the path and into the sand….. there was no staying on the bike!! The bike went down, the bags flew off, one foot never detached from my cleat which resulted in a mangled heap of wet, sandy and bruised Gem intertwined with a twisted bike and scattered luggage. After a quick stint of feeling sorry for myself, gathering my things and dusting off my pink and sandy palm I strained to set off again. The next challenge cropped up while crossing one of the many bridges, another unforgiving blast from the elements caught me like a sail and I uncontrollably smashed into the railings! Just in time I grabbed my front pannier as it swung away from my wheel and towards the choppy waters below…. Close call!! After that near miss and with the idea that everything comes in threes I wasn’t as shocked as one might think when a branch crashed into the side of me from a near by tree. I didn’t even try and get off the bike this time, I was forcing myself to try and laugh at the ridiculous situation I was in as the tears stung my eyes….. where was I ever going to reach this ferry?!? About two hours after leaving the turn around spot (usually a 20 minute ride) I finally saw the ferry crossing and thankfully a little waiting hut, I had made it!! It took a while for the ferry but I was grateful for the chance to sit in a windless environment for a while and even more grateful that the ferry was still running. By this point I had decided that despite my regrets that I should think about finding a train, there was only about 30km to go but the thought of riding on the busy roads with my kite of a bike terrified me as it had become very obvious that I had little to no control over things in these conditions, after boarding the ferry my decision was made up as a large tree fell over and blocked most of the road that we were heading for. I consulted my map and peddled off, dodging branches, blinking through the rain and swerving around the debris that covered the path. As I started to be surrounded by houses I met a lad biking along with his skateboard, he told me he was heading to a competition situated by the train station and so he would lead me to it…. My saviour!! We said our goodbyes, I bought my ticket and slumped in a soggy, dirty heap next to my plastic bag clad bike feeling completely defeated but relieved to be there…. But it wasn’t over yet! I was due to change in Rotterdam but when I disembarked I realized things were not going to be that easy as it seemed that everything was on a stand still and so it was a hugely busy, frantic throng of people all questioning the situation and demanding answers. To cut things short I went up and down to three different platforms where I got on and then off two trains (I’m sure you understand that this is no easy task with a bike that weighs as much as a train), almost made it just to get sent back again until finally reaching Delft! One last stint through the city in the calming storm and I was there…… finally!!

DSCF9379DSCF9390

Pink Monday and Birthday Celebrations….

As I peddled out of the city and into the dainty little streets my excitement grew, I made a new friend who guided me along the last stretch of the journey, delivering me directly to Will and Guillian! After getting myself unpacked, washed, fed and sat with a beer in my hand we set about planning our evening and waited for Guillian to get home and the celebrations to commence. The rain had stopped and being in true Dutch fashion we all mounted our bikes and off we sped, back towards Tilburg city center and the mass of pink party people that I couldn’t wait to join! We managed a very over crowded squeeze with our bikes until we found enough space to accommodate all of them and into the throngs of people and whizzing rides we went, dodging large pink comic articles, having the odd dance around with an enthusiastic raver here and there and just generally looking around with amazement at how this small city had turned into a space largely resembling an adults Disney World as the bars spilled out onto the streets and mixed with the ride ques and dancers. We wondered the streets for a while before heading into a constructed arena, large highly decorated stage and beer tents. We met up with a group of their friends and a few that I already knew, the beers were passed around and my Birthday celebrations began…..

After dancing until the early hours there was no rush to get up and about the next day so we spent most of it lounging around watching bad but entertaining TV (quite a novelty after my time on the road) we bought delicious food and a bottle of imitation baileys (my favourite indulgence drink) and I aloud myself a day of doing nothing!

Guillian had informed me of some of Europe’s largest inland sand dunes about a 20 minute bike ride from their house so the next day after a slow start we set off to hang out in the sun for a while before Guillian had to go out. The sand dunes were beautiful as expected and the forested walk leading to them was the ideal introduction, seeing as the sand slowly introduced itself to the forest floor. We eventually settled on a spot directly in the middle of the dunes, after a couple of hours Guillian had to leave but I decided to stay and enjoy the last of the afternoon sun which my speaker for company. It wasn’t long before I was up dancing around like the happy go lucky idiot that I am and had only stopped for a matter of minutes when a guy with a backpack approached me. Turned out he was a Dutch traveler who had passion for walking, he had herd my music and thought there was a party going on so thought he would check it out…. Just to find one English girl and a loud speaker at the end of it. I welcomed him to join me, he produced a few beers from his backpack and we chatted until the sun had disappeared and I eventually fumbled my way through the darkness back to the car park and onto the house feeling full of enthusiasm for getting back onto the open road the next day!

 

Munster to Tilburg!

As I set off from Munster my spirits were high but unfortunately so was the wind and so my long journey began again…. Everything started off well but after a while I had to leave the canal and I was back into road navigation, maybe I had grown a little over confident as I peddled away on my route just to find that after hours of wind negotiation I was actually nowhere near my intended spot and with only a few available places to cross the river I had bit of a detour on my hands, not appreciated due to the weather conditions! The day seemed to drag on forever but as the evening came so did some piece from the elements and so I could enjoy a beautiful sunset as I sped along back into the Netherlands, I decided that I would make the next river crossing then find a place to bed down for the night but as I reached the banks and looked around for the little ferry that would carry me across I was informed that I had just missed the last sailing but that there was a bridge nearly 10km up the road. Knowing that I already had a long way to go the next day to make it to Tilburg where my friends lived and I would be celebrating my birthday, with that motivation I head off towards the bridge. Spotting a father and son looking up and down the river expectedly I approached and informed them of the missed ferry and the bridge, they agreed that was the way to go and we set off in a convoy. The journey passed quickly and enjoyably as the sun shone down on us and the water glistened occasionally in my peripherals until the bridge was upon us, I waved goodbye to my companions as we reached the other side and I sped off in search for my next campsite. This did not turn out to be an easy task as now I was out of Germany the random patches of forest had disappeared and I was left with not much more then a few garden hedges and wide open spaces. As dusk really began to fall and I was beginning to loose faith in finding anything suitable I spotted a patch of trees in the middle of some fields off a country lane so I head off the main road and with all the stealth I could muster I sneaked into between the trees while ensuring none of the tractors or nearby farm houses were paying attention. Tired and hungry I set up camp, ate a can of cold soup and set in for the night knowing that there would be a friends, birthday celebrations, hot shower and a bed in store for me the next day…..

I woke up to the sound of a tractor that seemed as if it was on top of me, freezing as if they could see me I lay for some time as they worked around my little patch of trees. Feeling confident that they were none the wiser of my presence I started to pack up knowing that I should get going ASAP to make it to Tilburg, over an hour later they moved on and I was free to leave! Just in time for the weather to change, as the grey clouds closed in and the wind picked up once again I just hoped that my map reading skills would do me proud and I would limit the excess time. The day was pretty uneventful apart from the odd exchange of waterproof clothing as even tho it wasn’t very appealing the temperature was still relatively warm and as it took rather a lot of energy to power against the wind it wasn’t long before I was hot and sweaty! As I started pulling into Tilburg I was SO relieved and couldn’t wait to reach my friends place tho I wasn’t actually sure how to locate it, one thing I was sure of tho was that I was entering a city in party mode! I had been told that Tilburg homes one of Europes largest moving fares which was currently taking place but it didn’t explain the swarms of excited people dressed and decorated in all kinds of Pink attire! After a while I decided to stop and ask for directions, the lovely couple that helped me not only looked up my address and drew me some directions but they also filled me in on the Pink Monday tradition of the fare and how this was the biggest day and that everyone got dressed up and surged into the city to celebrate. With my map of instructions I set off again, the drizzle not dampening my enthusiasm as I looked forward to seeing my friends and getting our own celebrations underway…..

 

Munster then a wet and windy ride back to the Netherlands!

I woke up to another scorching hot day but this time I could actually enjoy it and as the property runs along the canal it would be a relaxing day in and out of the water, but first it was time for coffee and a good look around! The place is beautifully done with communal hang out areas, big gardens full of veggies, berries and all sorts of flowers dotted around. Some of the homes looked incredible with a real mix of trailers, buses and added extensions to really create their own little dream homes. The atmosphere was so relaxed and welcoming with smiling faces all around and it was no time at all before I made a small group of friends and we enjoyed sun, swimming, music and beers along the canal side before heading to one of the trailers to play darts, not very well in my case! But before I knew it it was time for bed so I got my bags organized, made a ruff plan of my route the next day and enjoyed my double bed for the last time though I realized that I had left my adapter plugs in Hannover so there would be no more charge for my tablet from now on!

The next day brought reasonable weather except for the wind that had decided to pick up again but after a pretty leisurely morning I set off with my instructions and felt excited to be back in the Netherlands and spend my Birthday with some friends near Tilburg! The wind was strong and for some reason I was finding it particularly hard to figure out which way I was meant to be going as I kept meeting car only roads and having to turn around so in the end I decided to ditch the recommended route and free for all it along my own path. As dusk was falling I found a trusty wooded area and camped up for the night and set my alarms for an early start, hoping for a smoother run the next day.

The key to getting up early is to make sure that your alarm is set for the right day….. not something that I had done so my early morning start ended up being more of a late morning scramble to get ready and on the road. Yet again the day was not a smooth one with a lot of need for directions and then all of a sudden my front basket swung out to the side and I had to make an emergency stop before I lost the entire contents across the bridge that I was crossing. Luckily for me we had attached the basket to the bike with wire so I just used that same wire to bind it back in place and off I went! As the day drew on and I got closer to the boarder the sun started to peak through the clouds and brought some well needed sunshine into my life as the wrong turns and difficult weather had started to dampen my enthusiasm. I sped toward the little ferry I needed to cross the river but after a few stops for friendly chats and directions I managed to miss the last one! Not letting this get me down as by now the world was bathed in beautiful evening sun and I was back onto the well sign posted and bicycle friendly roads of the Netherlands, I set off towards Well where I was informed that I could cross over on a bridge. Even though the Netherlands appeared to be far more tricky in regards to camping spots it didn’t take to long before I found myself a nice little patch of trees and set up for the night, looking forward to seeing my friends the next day and having some home comforts again! 🙂

Adventures along the Mittland Canal to Munster!

I was really geared up for an easy ride to Munster as all I had to do was follow the canal, and I mean how hard can that be?!? Well a bit harder then I had first expected actually as I had only been gone about half an hour when I reached a dead end (nothing but water in front of me) after quite enjoying the overgrown path I had been traveling along, thinking back I should have picked up on the fact that this was not the public path! Ha But I would not be brought down as the sun was shining, there was little to no map reading involved and I had just left an amazing group of people that filled me with excitement about meeting the next group who lived in a similar community in Munster. Not long after heading off I reached 1,000 miles on my bike computer or 1,600 km, I took a moment to take a picture and give myself a mental pat on the back! 🙂

Should have known that this awesome little path was not the cycle path, it looked good tho! :)

Should have known that this awesome little path was not the cycle path, it looked good tho! 🙂

WOOP WOOOOP 1,000 Miles on the clock or 1,600km!

WOOP WOOOOP 1,000 Miles on the clock / 1,600km!

Even tho I didn’t have to think about directions, going along the canal is not as simple as you might think as there are A LOT of obstacles situated along the banks that make crossings a regular thing and if you are me then you don’t always see them until the last minute so my journey involved far to many slow, sweaty, struggles up almost vertical banks with my ‘life on a bike’ to reach the bridges above me! I got many a surprised and I think very amused look as I popped out the top or edged my way back onto the tracks, I even got a helping hand after meeting one particular boat driver. He had spotted me as I cycled down yet another wrong way and I decided to make contact as I rode back again as I was running very low on water, I hadn’t thought about the fact that there would be no service stations to fill my bottles up at on the canal! He was more then happy to load me up with bottles of water, we chatted for a while, I gave him a sticker then he kindly gave me a well needed push to get back up the hill. I can’t remember his name but if your reading this THANKS AGAIN! 🙂 i enjoyed the last leg of my evening with a fellow biker who was out for his nightly exercise and we enjoyed some good chats as we sped along and I finished for the day reasonably early as I had checked the distance before I left and it said it was only 180km to Munster, an easy two day ride for me and I thought after doing 60 miles/ 97km that afternoon that the next day would be no issue at all!

Feeling the heat after another up hill struggle to cross the bridge!

Feeling the heat after another up hill struggle to cross the bridge!

The next day the sun was really beating down, I had my speaker in my drink holder and I was in fine form. On one of the many slight detours away from the waters edge I found myself on a little country road and asked a lady for directions. We got chatting, she asked if I needed anything and then invited me in to join them for lunch. It was really lovely, I sat with her and her two children, one of which had also just returned from New Zealand and we chatted for over an hour until she had to leave for work and I knew I must tear myself away and get back on the road/path. We exchanged hugs, stickers and took pictures together before I headed off and yet again I would like to THANK YOU for your warm hospitality and the well needed lunch and water fill up! Through lunch I also started to realize that I may not be as close to Munster as I had first thought and this became more and more clear as I carried on and asked people I met along the way, realizing that by riding along the canal I was adding a large number of KM to my journey. No going back now so I just pushed on but my energy began to dwindle as the evening drew close, the heat had taken its toll and I kept being informed that I was still some distance from my destination. It seemed that I would also have to deal with another hurdle as a sudden noise started on my front wheel and I realized that the metal band holding my low rider (holding my front panniers) had broken and was hitting the spokes. I quickly stopped, assessed the situation then whipped out he gaffe tape! I must say that I actually think that it is more secure now and I even applied some to the other side for good measure! 🙂 As the day was really getting on now I text ahead to let them know that I may in fact not make it at all that evening and then I met (can’t remember his name) who had just bought himself a new bike and was cycling it back North of Hamburg, he informed me that I was only two hours from Muster and that I should look out for a big trailer community as that was about half an hour out. I happily informed him that I was in fact heading to that community and a huge wave of relief washed over my hot tired body as I new my destination was near, we happily chatted then for a good half hour before exchanging cycling tips and wishing our bests. I arrived at about 10.30pm after cycling 81 miles/ 130km and my longest day yet. The beer, hot shower and double bed in my own beautifully made up trailer were AMAZING! 🙂

A quick picture after a delicious lunch and great chats, thanks again guys it was really great to meet you!

A quick picture after a delicious lunch and great chats, thanks again guys it was really great to meet you!

Gaffe tape to the rescue!

Gaffe tape to the rescue!

Hannover – Rainy days and sunny people!

It was almost dark by the time I finally arrived at the trailer park community  I had been linked with by my friends near Arendsee and I was rather deflated after the days events, everything was pretty quiet and I was just met by two people working hard on their own projects in the large ‘construction shed’ which looked like it had anything and everything you could possibly need to build something! I was shown to the guest trailer where I would be sleeping then around the basic points of the site, toilets, bathroom, communal kitchen and lounge area etc then left to unpack and sort myself out which included a well needed shower that pumped out piping hot water from the log fire heater in their beautifully tiled bathroom. Even tho it was dark the place looked magical and I couldn’t wait to have a proper look around and meet the people living there but for now it was time to get some rest and I looked forward to another day of sunshine as the property ran right along the Mittland Canal that I knew was good to swim in.

Rain, rain go away, come again another day…… or not!! I woke to a steady downpour and decided that this meant I should have a serious lie in! When I finally emerged I decided to go back to the work shed and see if I could do anything to help…. this resulted on me doing a renovation clean on a really old tractor that they used to move the trailers around. From here I got to know others in the community, enjoying chats, coffees and gathered the well needed information that to fix my bike the next day as there is a DIY bike shop in the city and a new friend let me know that he also needed to go so he could show me the way. Feeling a lot more relaxed about the situation I settled in for a cozy evening in the kitchen/lounge getting to know everybody, sharing laughs and stories.

Fixing up my bike at the DIY shop!

Fixing up my bike at the DIY shop!

Monday came and so stayed the rain but I kept myself entertained through the day and before to long it was time to set off to fix my bike. The guys at the shop were very helpful and luckily reassured me that it was just the frame for my panniers that was damaged but the bike was fine, unfortunately tho he didn’t have anything second hand we could use as my mountain bike has a different structure but he had one I could buy that would fit so I got stuck into taking the old one off and getting the new one mounted on, flag and all! A quick oil of the chain and a check over my gears and tires and I was good to go, I paid, made a donation then headed off to the local community building where they have ‘Meals for the people’ on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday which is where you just pay 1.50 for a good meal. Immediately I got chatting to a guy in the Que who invited me to sit with them where we enjoyed our curry, rice and interesting conversation. I had decided to leave the next day so I did my routine food shop for the next couple of days on the road then headed back to hang with the guys one last time!

Tuesday brought nothing but more rain and I was convinced to stay one more day and wait for the sun that was expected, so to fill my afternoon I was introduced to the young 7 year old girl living there who wanted somebody to play with. As she did not speak English we didn’t have to much conversation going but we both made the effort to chat and express ourselves, she showed me around the property and we spent some time collecting berries then happily eating them as we strolled around. With the rain still hanging in the air we decided to take things inside and the perfect solution was to make a ‘fantasy’ cake, aka a cake with made up ingredients…. it turned out great! 🙂 That evening a couple of people decided that they would cook dinner so we all gathered in the kitchen/lounge again, ate, drank and chatted until early hours when I said my goodbyes and headed for bed but looking forward to my sunny ride the next day as I found out I could go the whole way to Munster along the canal and I had been kindly put into contact with another trailer park community who were happy to have me.

Fun with a new little friend collecting berries!

Fun with a new little friend collecting berries!

Packed and ready to go with my new shelf, unfortunately my flag doesnt stand straight anymore tho! Ha

Packed and ready to go with my new shelf, unfortunately my flag doesnt stand straight anymore tho! Ha

Off to Hannover with a stop off in Pretty Potsdam!

The beginning of my trip started off well and I managed to navigate myself out of Berlin quite easily, it felt like no time at all until I was on the open road heading for Potsdam! Unfortunately after the baking heat the weather had taken a turn for the worst and I battled against high winds and rain but luckily it decided to take a break while I looked around. Potsdam is a beautiful city known for the large number of castles dotted all around, I didn’t feel like I could enjoy it fully tho as I had nowhere to store my things and I was not aloud inside the main grounds with my bike. I did however cycle around the perimeter that passes by some amazing buildings and gives you a few pretty good view points. I left feeling satisfied with my small but impressive glimpse into what this fairy tale like city has to offer, I will make sure I come back for a better look in the future!

Just another regular building in Potsdam!

Just another regular building in Potsdam!

As the evening drew closer I found myself the usual patch of wooded area and set up for the night, crossing my fingers that I would wake up to a calmer day with a break from the wind as it makes all the difference when going against you, especially when you are cycling with a bike the size of a boat! Haha But with the morning also came the wind and the struggle started again, even tho the roads are flat you feel like your heading for the clouds so the journey was slow. Time for lunch and I was more then happy for the break, securing a good spot for the bike next to me and settling in for some well deserved food when a particularly strong gust of wind whipped down the street and lifted the whole bike up and over, with a huge crash it hit the ground and my things went everywhere! I was to flustered and busy trying to gather my things out of the road with a couple of passers by to even think that it may have actually caused some damage to my back shelf as the bike seemed to be fine. I was none the wiser for quite some time as I love to listen to music as I ride and due to the winds I had already been really struggling to hear or move very easily so I can’t say for sure if the damage was done in the moment of impact but I presume that it developed as I continued to bounce along the cobbled streets of the lovely little villages I passed through. When I finished off that evening I realized that the mud guard was actually pressing on the back wheel, I hooked a bungee cord around it and set off thinking I had cunningly found a solution.

One of the buildings that really caught my eye, hiding in a little town!!

One of the buildings that really caught my eye!

Day 3 of Me Vs The Wind! Even tho the wind was getting to me I knew I would be in Hannover that evening so that gave me the power I needed to battle on and then out of nowhere came the sunshine! After chatting to some lovely locals I was directed onto the canal that leads you right into Wolfsburg. I put my speaker in my drink holder and partied my way into town tho I was feeling the strain. It became clear why when I arrived in Wolfsburg, re-assessed my bike and found that the bungee just wasn’t doing the trick and that the whole back shelf was collapsing down, forcing the entire mud guard to bend and was now resting completely on the wheel…. NOT GOOD! Now I was faced with an issue as it was already Saturday afternoon, the shops were closing and I had nowhere to stay! After a lot of debating and disappointment I had to admit my defeat… I would need to get to Hannover some other way as I had a place to stay and people there who could help. Never wanting to take the easy way out I thought I could try hitch a ride so the hunt began, even tho I met some lovely, very helpful people no one was going my way. I acquired cardboard, pen and instructions at a petrol station then set off to take my place, smiling and holding my sign by the side of the road. But no joy, the cars were that bit to small and my bike was that bit to big! Feeling rather sad I peddled back to the main station and took the train to Hannover!

My daily set up! :)

My daily set up! 🙂

Why people love Berlin….. Sorry this is a long one but I hope you enjoy! :)

WOW HEAT WAVE!!!!! So here is the summer we have all been waiting for, smacking us in the face with 37+ degrees and no wind! So as much as I was filled with the excitement of exploring the city we were also very much slowed down by the intensity of roaming around in the busy streets, but that didn’t stop us from venturing out on our bikes to explore the sites and generally roam around.

I think that I, along with most really appreciated the Holocaust memorial, the stone pillars are striking and powerful in a way that I haven’t experienced before. As Anne had been inside many times she kindly offered to sit with my things so that I could roam free among the stones and really tap into the energy of the place without being influenced by anybody else. It really does provide a very dramatic effect when walking into the stones, the ground beneath your feet drops and the pillars begin to loom higher and higher above your head cutting off any real association to the world outside and you are suddenly lost in the maze! Anne had explained how this is what both the Germans and the Jews must have been feeling, slipping further and further into the unknown, getting lost in the maze of life while never knowing if or when they would find the exit again and if they do what kind of a world would they be returning to. I really kept this in mind while walking around but its sometimes hard as you bump into the throngs of people playing hide and seek or just excitedly shouting wildly at one another as they get separated, all in good spirits tho as we all enjoyed the space in our own different ways. As I emerged from the opposite side I thought it was time to take some pictures so I asked a kindly looking gentleman from Southern Germany who was also alone and we set about taking turns in swapping cameras and poses while I filled him in on why I was there and what we are trying to achieve. He was really touched by my story tho I am sure a lot was lost in translation but I gave him a sticker, wished him a good holiday and I made my way back out to Anne.

Berlin Gate!

Berlin Gate!

The Holocaust Memorial Stone Pillars!

The Holocaust Memorial Stone Pillars!

DSCF9180 DSCF9185 DSCF9173

Berlin seems to be full of monuments and historical pieces, all grand and beautiful and seemingly linked to the war which also gives them a rather tragic energy I felt but still enjoyable to look at, so we did the rounds and Anne was great at filling me in on their history. There is also a lot of parks in Berlin which are very refreshing when staying in a concrete jungle and especially in such heat so I really enjoyed being introduced to these areas, my favourite of which used to be the old airport and is situated right in the centre of the city and really is a sight to be seen. There is always something going on, whether it be football practice, BBQ’s and frisbee, roller-blading or a group of Jewish musicians enticing the passing crowds to come sit, dance and socialize. This is of course where we navigated to, enjoying the music and people watching until the thunder claps strikes, lightning filled the sky and we jumped aboard our bikes and headed home in the heavy yet refreshing rain.

Me and Anne in front of the golden angel, this monument managed to survive the war and still looks immaculate!

Me and Anne in front of the golden angel, this monument managed to survive the war and still looks immaculate!

Felling refreshed and happy after our dash from the park in the pouring rain!

Felling refreshed and happy after our dash from the park in the pouring rain!

I haven’t seen lightening quite like this in YEARS!!! At the end of the scorching hot days the sky lit up with huge sheets of forked lightening, releasing all the pent up energy that had been forming! The most impressive display was on Saturday night. Me and Anne had spent some time making me a new, portable flag, ring, lanyard etc to prompt peoples curiosity and then we headed off to a park under the promise of some kind of festival. We didn’t find a festival but a portable DJ and sound system playing to a busy field but next door there was a youth centre having a fund-raising day with many different acts, food etc. We managed to time things just right and sat back to enjoy the end of night fire show, got chatting to the guys behind it all and help with a little clean up. We headed back to Anne and Christians apartment to re-stock and then headed out into the lightening to our final detonation for the night which was an open air party on a large building site. The party was in full swing when we arrived but it took no time at all until we had made some friends, the rain stopped and we danced until the sun came up and we were two of the last ones there before dragging our tired asses back for some well deserved sleep but not for to long as today was flea market day! So after a good but short sleep Christian and I headed off for the flea market and Sunday music sessions in the park next to it, the fence between them also represents where part of the wall used to be. Of course being the sucker that I am for a good bargain had to practice my restraint in the market, but not that well as I bought myself a pair of embroidery decorated boots that I regretted almost instantly when I got home and the reality hit that I had to carry them back to England! I will never learn! Ha We then ventured into the park and enjoyed the large variety of buskers that scattered around playing their hearts out in the afternoon sun, my favourite along with many others were a couple of guys on adapted drum kits. Apparently they are there every week and the crowd loves them, in no time at all a huge group had formed and the dance floor was alive with swirling colours and the air cloudy with dust from our stomping feet. There’s nothing quite like a good dance to finish off an awesome day!

Flower powered up and ready for some Saturday fun times!

Flower powered up and ready for some Saturday fun times!

DJ at the Open Air Party!

DJ at the Open Air Party!

New friends and accessories! :)

New friends and accessories! 🙂

Arts and crafts time to promote Spreading Smiles Across The Miles!

Arts and crafts time to promote Spreading Smiles Across The Miles!

Time to dance with the drumming guys in the park!

Time to dance with the drumming guys in the park!

Its hard to cram into a blog all that I experienced in Berlin so I will finish off with my visit to Bike Citizens, a connection I had made while back in Bremen at the same time I met Jens and Tessa. We had been going back and forth trying to arrange a date to meet and finally managed it the day before I left. I met Andreas and his colleagues at their new office by the river, we walked round the corner for lunch and a chat, I then got the pleasure of a guided tour of the area which was fastening. The whole area had and was home to all sorts of funky buildings that had been squats and clubs over the years, but as he walked me along the river bank we came across a really awesome little community called TeepeeLand! This patch of free land had been inhabited by free willed people for years and was well set up with gardens, kitchen area, toilets, communal hang outs etc and held an open door policy for those travelling by but was permanently inhabited by a number of people that no one could specify. Me and Anne returned later and spent some time hanging out and exploring it in more detail. Back in Andreas’s office he told me all about Bike Citizens which is an app they have created for city maps designed specifically for bikes and also their extremely useful smart phone holder to attach to your bike. The concept is brilliant and I happily agreed to help in any way I could by encouraging people to use the app which is free if you manage to cycle at least 100km in the first month of using it which I thought was a great intensive for people to cycle more. Primarily based in Europe I think they have about 150 cities which is only growing with hope of hitting America as well. As they have an online magazine I proposed the idea of entering a story about my trip so contact was made with the leading lady in charge of this area and fingers are crossed tho I would be writing the article myself, hopefully my blogging will have improved my writing skills! After I had said my goodbyes I set off with Anne and we went to check out the East Side Gallery which is part of the Berlin Wall that has been opened up for artists from all over the world to graffiti, there were some really awesome pieces!

TeePee Land and Spreading Smiles Across The Miles!

TeePee Land and Spreading Smiles Across The Miles!

DSCF9212

Part of the Berlin Wall - East Side Gallery!

Part of the Berlin Wall – East Side Gallery!

One piece of art that caught my eye at the East Side Gallery! A well positioned head I think! Ha

One piece of art that caught my eye at the East Side Gallery! A well positioned head I think! Ha

Before heading back off again on my bike I packed up my now seemingly larger amount of belongings, made a last dinner for Anne, Christian and myself and sat down with Christian the computer wizard to try and sort out some of my website issues. I have become very aware that people have been struggling to make donations online and that all my hard work of passing out the details and telling my story is resulting in inspired people but not raising any funds. So we decided to add a PayPal account to the donations page but unfortunately they take a large sum for their services which is not idea! He also helped to include a help button and a form of direct contact to me, hopefully people will inform me in the future if they have difficulties and we can resolve them. Christian and Andreas both stressed to me how important it is to get as much publicity as possible so PLEASE, PLEASE encourage your friends and family to sign up to follow my blog and help us make a difference! But for now it is time to jump aboard my bike again and head off into the unknown, next stop Hannover!

After an amazing stay its time to hit the road again...

After an amazing stay its time to hit the road again…

Thanks so much Anne, Christian and Berlin for an amazing stay, I WILL BE BACK! 🙂

Half way there…. Hello Berlin! :)

An undisturbed nights sleep later I packed up and off I sped through the little country towns heading for the big city, even tho I had a few wrong turns there was always somebody happy to point me in the direction. It seemed like no time at all that I was on the home stretch and was very pleasantly surprised when I told a young lad that I wanted to go to Berlin and he looked at me strangely then informed me that I was actually already in Berlin! After getting over the fact that I didn’t just want showing to the nearest underground he had a look on google maps and off I went. I had barely made it into the city when I made my first new friend who cycled with e for a while chatting before leaving me me to travel the last stretch to Wedding where I would be staying with Anne and Christians.
We celebrated my first night in Berlin and the departure of another of Anne’s friends by going out for a late dinner, beers and catching up. It felt great to finally be here in one piece and I was looking forward to exploring the city with Anne as my tour guide, Anne has a bike as well so we would be free to do as we pleased! 🙂
I felt so lucky as the sun was shining and we set off on our adventures, heading into the city to go and see a group of young men who are refugees and that Anne has been working with since February. I have found that this whole trip has really opened my eyes to the reality of what is going on for refugees all over Europe and its really encouraging to see such large masses of people standing up, speaking out and trying to protect and improve the lives of those who have been forced to flee their countries for fear of their lives. As Anne is also quite new to the city we took the typical roundabout ways which worked fine for me as I’m always intrigued to see the real city not just the main tourist spots you are generally herded to, but saying that I also enjoy seeing the sights and that we did….. While cycling down one of the main streets I couldn’t help but notice and comment on the unusually large number of police in the road and wondered what was happening when suddenly the sound of chanting voices and loud music drifted down towards us and in no time we went head on into a big demonstration. After quickly jumping onto the pavement out of the way of this powerful critical mass that had taken over the street we started to realize what was going on, it was a demonstration against the new laws being passed that all refugees would be put into jail for a period of 18months when arriving into the country. The march was very powerful and effective, they carried a coffin up front with R.I.P REFUGEES down the sides to represent all that died in the long crossings bringing them over, large cloth banners ran down the side of the group to give the impression that they were one large unit and the whole procession was followed by an old truck that blasted out appropriate and motivational music for its supporters and with the occasional loud speaker announcement or statement from the driver within. We were passed leaflets as they passed and informed of their cause, we took a minute to ponder then decided that seeing as we were heading to see the refugees we might as well stand up for their rights and join the march. Even tho I was unable to understand everything I could join in with some of the English chanting and just be a positive part of this dedicated team, it also worked out quite well as we passed by some of the main points of interest while walking down the middle of the street so it was a great view point. The main points of interest we passed were the holocaust memorial site with all the different sized stones to walk between, the Berlin gate and the government building which is where our march (and the ridiculously large number of police) came to a stand still and set up camp in the still baking sun. Now that we had stopped I took the chance to talk to some people and find out that there was a meeting taking place at that very moment that would play a big part in the overall decision, I also learned that the demonstration had been announced to the police, all the appropriate paperwork had been requested and filled out to be able to have a shade structure, music and amplified talks while they waited. I am not sure exactly what happened but from what I could gather from the others was that the paperwork in question had been miss placed by the police and so therefore those privileges were not aloud.

Walking alongside the demonstration truck!

Walking alongside the demonstration truck!

Outside the parliament building!

Outside the parliament building!

After a while the heat and lack of liquids got the better of us so we said our goodbyes, wished them luck and off we went to rehydrate then meet Christian for dinner after work. He decided to take us to Anne’s favourite vegan restaurant in an awesome little area called Emma Pea which was used to fix trains and built back in 1864, the buildings were big, old, beautiful and characteristic with their recent renovations and graffiti art. The place was a buzz of activity as on the property there was food vendors, an outdoor bar with live music, an indoor swimming pool, rock climbing room, restaurants, clubs and a weekly cinema for informative films. The food was delicious, the people watching was extremely entertaining thanks to a punk band playing at one of the venues and then me and Anne enjoyed a beautifully warm cycle home through thriving streets filled with music, tempting smells and merry people. I knew I would love Berlin….. 🙂

A delicious vegan dinner at Emma Pea! :)

A delicious vegan dinner at Emma Pea! 🙂

A Welcome Festival and an unexpected insight into a beautiful part of Germany….

It really felt great to be back on my bike and flying towards Berlin, the sun was shining on me once again and the pretty little towns kept me captivated with their beautiful, old architecture. I had just started to make my way out of Arensee (after a little detour after a few wrong turns, I like to call this sight seeing…! HA) when I spotted a couple of little handmade festival signs hanging on either side of a gateway into what looked like a big, old farm. Of course this a immediately caught my attention and even tho I had only been cycling for about 40miles/64km I decided it was well worth investigating so I pulled out my earphones to hear the very welcome sound of a pumping bass line wafting across the field. In no time at all i had spun around, dismounted and started making my way down the driveway with a big grin on my face as I took in the colourful, creatively decorated sight before me. Withing seconds I was greeted by a friendly and rather merry man who explained that he didn’t really speak any English but that I should most definitely come in, lean my bike up and join the brightly coloured group of happy faces by the fireplace and well rigged dancing area. I was instantly welcomed which seemed very fitting as I found out that it was actually called the ‘Welcome Festival’ which was making its third comeback. There was a beer in my hand and the choice of at least 4 different sleeping places in no time at all as I got introduced to Christian who was responsible for putting it all together and I learned that they had been expecting about 200 people over the course of the weekend but that it had been a very small turnout so had ended up being an extremely well thought out, prepared and equipped large party for the local community…. and they had been having an absolute blast! There were 4 main food and drink areas providing everybody with tea, coffee and cakes, beers, BBQ and an old Police trailer that had been converted into a mobile kitchen that packed out in front serving an ‘LECKER’ selection of vegan dishes. And as they were finishing off and were left with so much they invited me to indulge in all they had to offer, so not only was a well fed and watered I had the most incredible company to enjoy it with. I was really impressed with how much effort had gone into their set up as the DJ booth was rigged up to an impressive stage and lighting system where they had been enjoying a variety of talented musicians, DJ’s, dancing and an all night karaoke session the night before which after getting to know the group I can only imagine how hilarious that must have been… especially seeing as most of the song book was in English! As the sun went down they set up the couches and chairs and sat back to watch the last ever Pink Floyd concert on the big screen, the fire was stocked up and the rest of the night was spent chatting, drinking and jamming with the numerous instruments (plus some improvised music makers) until the sun came up and I started to have doubts about the likelihood of me wanting to leave that day. It wasn’t the lack of sleep that was swaying me but the generous offer to join some of the guys to stay with them in a local community made up of an large trailers, vans and hand constructed buildings on a big piece of property where they had bought an old railway station, which had been bought as a collective after pulling their resources and building a pizza oven on the back of a trailer and selling them at Fusion Festival. After a great if not short sleep in my very own bedroom I gave into the fact that I wasn’t going to be setting off to go anywhere that day but with my new friends so we started the job of cleaning and packing down the food trailer then I put my well practised ‘leave no trace’ skills to the test and combed the area for the usual scattering of bottle caps, cigarette buts and miscellaneous festival bits and bobs. Many hands make light work and we were done it no time and I was getting excited about the evening to come as their plan was to head to another large community living area where they had an American group called ‘Joe Buck Yourself’ playing, described to me as a country/punk band! As both me and my new friend Franz both had bikes we decided that we would cycle together and join the others there so after many hugs and goodbyes we set off for what turned out to be a long scenic ride after taking a very long route, not that I minded as its such beautiful countryside and I was learning so much about the history of the area. I was informed of the military training areas that were close by and the plans for storing nuclear waste which they were all heavily involved in trying to prevent, I found it fastening to find out that all the property here was extremely cheap and so it was becoming quite a big thing for groups of people by buy up the land and start different projects. I got an amazing example of this when we arrived at Johnny’s home and was shown around the beautiful grounds, pretty little trailers, large gardens and the brightly painted station which was under renovation after some of the children had started a fire on the roof and caused a lot of damage. The plan was to have a large communal kitchen and then rooms for guests, one side had been pretty much unaffected by the fire and thats where they had their bar and occasional party. The whole place oozed character, good vibes and surrounded by people with passion…. an amazing environment to be involved in! Me and Franz got the full guided tour, some more delicious vegan food then we headed off for the gig with a van loaded with sleeping gear. The venue was awesome!!! The site was huge with a mix of people living in buildings, vans, trailers and buses with at least 4 huge sheds where people could come and store their old vehicles while they weren’t in use and also have an area to work on them. I have never seen so many old, interesting vehicles in my life that varied from VW’s campers to huge old police trucks, all incredible parts of history and it was great to see that they were being kept and cared for properly even tho some of them must have been there for years! They had clearly been having a big BBQ and a fire was roaring outside the windows to the room of the gig. The entire building was made up of random pieces of scrap metal, wood and other bits and bobs being used for door handles etc and the walls covered in all sorts of different graffiti, pictures, posters of upcoming and previous events. There was a little bar selling almost cost price drinks and then a small stage area which was soon occupied by 3 separate acts, each one with their own unique twist but getting the crowd jumping, dancing and cheering for more. All I can really say from my evening is good people, good music, let loose dancing and I feel very lucky to have stumbled upon this quirky little part of this awesome country! After a surprisingly comfortable sleep in the back of the van we made our way back, I packed up the rest of my things and said my thanks and goodbyes and set off with Franz. Franz had been telling me about the really old house that he was staying in as the owner was not around and the place wasn’t in any fit state to try and rent out, his could stay there free of charge if he did the maintenance. He invited me for lunch and a look around, the property was awesome. The buildings were well over 100 years old and in their original state which I found consisted of a shop, barn for food storage, animal and hay storage and a large bungalow. The doors looked like they were made for borrowers, beautiful antiques that had naturally survived the tests of time lay around which included a radio and TV, it was fascinating to get to take a peak into how they functioned around their work, animals and home life. I thanked Franz for lunch and the guided tour and off I went, one more night in the wilds and then I would be in Berlin! 🙂 Even tho I got a few patches of rain and some wind the rest of my days ride went smoothly and included a short trip on a little ferry to get me over the river, I camped up and ate my dinner undisturbed from my blood sucking friends. Feeling very excited and pleased with myself for almost making my half way point I fell asleep, looking forward to seeing my friends the next day!