Deutschland

Our arrival in Rostock is greeted by an amazing sight. Looking down into the water from the deck of the ferry there are tens of thousands of jellyfish. The long hot spell may have something to do with this population explosion, but I’m not basing this on any sound science.
Rostock is a busy port and there are some huge cruise ships docked as we enter, one of which towers over us like a floating city. Not my choice of holiday, but each to their own. Behind this is the Costa Fortuna , sistership to the Concordia, a sobering sight. How could a huge vessel like this be wrecked by a rock?
Once I have finally taken the correct road out of the port I find myself in the centre of Rostock,which on Saturday afternoon is a lively place to be. The tourist office has closed for the day, but a very helpful local gives me all the information he can;He wishes me well on my trip. A good start to Germany.
The north of this country is largely flat, so quite late in the day I am riding the cycle route to Berlin along quiet roads and purpose-built paths almost entirely on my own. It is a beautiful evening, and tired as I am, I start to absorb the feeling of this new place. This always takes a while.

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Waren is an attractive town on the edge of the Muritz National Park, a large area of lakes, Pine forest and Beech plantations. Large Crane populations live here and I saw a massive formation fly over one evening.

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I saw more of it than intended because of mechanical problems. The bike had been making noises since Copenhagen, where I had fitted new pedals and shoe cleats to no avail. It’s a process of elimination. I tried everything and visited various mechanics who couldn’t provide an answer.
Eventually I found Rico in Waren, who spoke good English, and without hesitation had the bike into the well equipped workshop for diagnosis.
The news was not good. The small chainring was worn, the chain had stretched ( necessitating a new cassette on the rear) and worst of all, the free hub on the wheel had major internal problems; basically a new wheel was needed. Way beyond the limited capabilities of my toolkit.
An expensive job, but no bike, no ride, and no story. Thanks again Rico for your efforts at short notice, it was much appreciated. The Donkey is back in harness.

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Purely in the interests of investigative journalism, I visited my first beer garden the other day. In the absence of Darjeerling venues, this proved to be a very suitable alternative. In a late afternoon of heat I headed the bike towards the shade and wandered inside. I was the only customer.
A very formal gentleman greeted me and I ordered my beer, which he took great care in pouring from a classic porcelain pump. The room had a very welcoming smell, probably helped by the tobacco products on the counter, from which I chose a cigar for a friend at home. A very memorable stop.

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The good weather has finally broken here. A huge thunderstorm seemed to be directly over my tent last night, which thankfully withstood the test. Today as I rode, a torrential downpour soaked me to the skin, but at least it was warm rain. Berlin is in my sights, and I’m looking forward to all it has to offer.

To an Ale

When I left my last employment, my kind colleagues had a collection for me and gave me some Euros which were described as ‘beer tokens’, to be used during my adventure. My word is my bond, and I have carried these tokens across icy plateaux, through a snow storm, against relentless headwinds and up gruelling gradients. It was hard work but worth it, because last night was the right time to cash in some chips. It was one of the best beers I have had in a while. You can probably guess what I did next.

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Brief Encounter

My time in Denmark has been short, which is a great shame because I developed a liking for both the people and the place. Unfortunately my route takes me through a fraction of this interesting land.
Humans have lived here and cultivated the earth for thousands of years, and they have left their mark for us to see today. Prehistory is everywhere.

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Outside of the built-up areas I doubt that much has changed for centuries. Today, it is a fine place to cycle with flat roads and quiet villages, and if you are a sailor, the possibilities are endless.

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I have taken to having afternoon tea, usually Darjeerling without milk. This probably sounds horribly English and pretentious, but there you are, that’s what I’m doing. The road can do strange things to you.
The other day I happened upon a superb venue to practice my new obsession. The building was from 1682 with foundations much earlier and had just been beautifully restored. Michael the waiter had been a steward on the QE2 cruise ship and said he realised the importance of afternoon tea. He also had a sense of humour. When I asked if I could take pictures in the hallway he replied ” Take as many as you like, just leave the ones on the walls”

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I have travelled through most of Sweden and all of Denmark in a heatwave. I saw the temperature today was 32 degrees, which takes some riding in, but better than snow any day.

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Yes, I shall have fond memories of Denmark. Another visit in the future is a distinct possibility, and if you have never been, take a trip to Copenhagen.

Wonderful, wonderful, Copenhagen

The ferry trip across the water between the two countries is short, almost within hailing distance, but the cultural differences felt much greater than moving from Norway to Sweden. The architecture is markedly different, the Danes seem to favour red brick, and there is much more thatch than I would have expected. The Danes seem to have a very relaxed view of life.

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The ride down the coast to the Danish capital is only 40 odd kilometers, and runs beside the sea for the most of it. Very enjoyable, and it’s flat! Sweden is still visible over to your left side, such is their close proximity.
Copenhagen has the three elements which I consider to be ideal in a city.
Large areas of water frontage, a buzzing cafe/ bar/ music culture, and a fair sprinkling of the Bohemian. The fact that bicycles figure highly here is the icing on the cake. There must be tens of thousands of bikes of all descriptions, and ridden by young and old, male and female equally. It is a joy to see motorists, cyclists and pedestrians using the roads with mutual respect for each other. It can be done.

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Copenhagen is a very relaxed place to be, although admittedly I was here in almost Tropical conditions. There was a lot of enjoyment going on.

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The architecture is on a grand scale, with many impressive public buildings and hotels, restaurants and shops. It seems to have escaped much of the rapid expansion that English cities have suffered.

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Typically, my favourite was none of the above, but the clean lines of the former Exchange building at the harbour-side with views in all directions.

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The Danes would never have forgiven me if I hadn’t made the effort to visit their icon, the Mermaid. As expected, it was full of tourists like myself. She looked slightly morose, but then wouldn’t you be if you had sat on a rock for years with millions of people staring at you?

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Tomorrow I head off again, to see more of Denmark and then to the ferry for Rostock. I have an appointment with the beating heart of Germany. The capital, Berlin.

West coast Americana

Once you have managed to escape the Gothenborg suburbs, the riding down the coast is in parts very beautiful. It reminds me of Brittany, with many rocky Islands, inlets and bays, and when we passed through, all under a blazing sun and cloudless sky. The cycle track sweeps south between wheat fields laced with the mesmeric blue of Corn Flowers. The barley has already turned and I have seen my first Combine Harvester working. The year moves on.

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The numbers of old windmills in this area suggest that corn has been grown here for some time. Many are still in a remarkable state.

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The Swedish have very much fallen in love with Americana. One hot Saturday lunchtime I was drinking tea in a side street in Falkenberg. Passing by was a constant stream of Classic American cars of all makes and in showroom condition. Some are as yet unrestored, and this gave the feeling of Havana, Cuba. It really seems to be a major interest here: the newsagents have many magazines on the subject.

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Although not a car fan, I can appreciate the amount of work that has gone into these vehicles and in combination with the American diners and huge number of Harley Davidson motorcycles, you can be forgiven for feeling that you have entered a time warp.

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Jeurgen, my riding companion of several days heads off to Germany tomorrow. We have discussed much, and ridden many kilometers. Usually cycling links are quickly made and often forgotten, but we will stay in touch and I will most definitely be visiting Muenster in the future.

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For myself, as I cycle down the remaining few kilometers of Sweden, thoughts turn to my third and final Scandinavian country just over the water. Doubtless much awaits me there.

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Gothenborg Feskakorka and that boy on the goose.

I had imagined Gothenborg to be an ancient city, but in fact it is a busy modern port, buzzing with activity and splendid light blue trams.
I had spoken to some fishermen several days ago who said that I should visit the Fish Church there. The story behind this building appears to be that it was built as a result of the locals needing a focal point to sell their catch. They still do, although there is more of a tourist element involved now. I had a very passable Salmon lunch there and very much enjoyed the building ,
which is indeed very church-like.

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With apologies to my vegetarian friends and family, I couldn’t resist photographing the fish on display which looked very high quality and fresh off the boats.

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Waiting to pay the bill for the lunch I glanced down at the 20 kroner note. The boy on the goose decorates the back of it; thank you to those who told me the story about the lad who travelled around Sweden astride the bird.

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Tomorrow I head off down the coast, riding with Jurgen from Munster. He is off to meet his wife in Rostock, and I am heading for the ferry to Denmark and the delights of Copenhagen.

Roadside Features

Since I started this ride I have been meaning to write a piece about the unusual way the Scandinavians embellish their roadsides. The subjects are many and varied, and a hard day in the saddle is often eased by their appearance. Way up north this fellow appeared and I distinctly remember he looked just as I felt: flushed in the face and with wooden legs.

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Often the ‘sculpture’ is drawing your attention to a local speciality. This famous Grayling river had a fishing rod made out of a complete tree with the fish in midstream. I particularly liked this one.

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Others seem to make no sense at all such as the girl on the Moose. Quite what happened to the top her head I have no idea.

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Or the VW camper with bodywork to do. Perhaps the other half features on some other roadside?

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Yesterday this classic appeared as I turned a bend. It had a folklore/ fairy tale feel about it. I think it’s my favourite so far.

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Just a small selection of the things that have passed me.
The landscape has changed considerably since my last post. Gone are the endless tracts of pine forest to be replaced by farmland and smaller plantations. As I approach the coast the fields become bigger and the crops change accordingly: oats wheat and barley figure more often.
This looks like good farming country.

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The E45 has changed as well. Much busier with an increase in road kill. I saw a Pine Martin, a Red Squirrel and a Buzzard this morning all the victims of traffic, and even this beautiful butterfly had fallen foul as well. I’m sure my former colleagues will identify it for me.

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