Our first week
There we went, off to see the world, as Maarten’s, my companion, family waved us goodbye. I had spent the night there, so that we could depart early in the morning. Nonetheless, it had been a busy morning on the 12th of March, our first day, and Maarten had yet to pack his bag. I watched as his worried mother helped him as the rest of the family gave him advise, scared something might happen during this trip. I knew, and still do, that my family is the same.
It felt weird, to actually be going on a long-lasting trip, seeing so many unfamiliar places, yet at that time cycling through your own well-known city. Two unexperienced, immature and some could say idiotic guys about to face the many frustrations, struggles and challenges that come with such a trip. Both excited for all the travelling endeavours laying on our path, we took off from Nijesleek, following a compass given by my father and a bought road map of Europe, where we had planned a small part of the route. The fact that we combined it ánd both have a complete lacking sense of direction, caused us to bike a big circle, making mistakes within our first hours. We found out, once the surroundings seemed to be the exact same as the one we had passed over an hour ago. Not much later, we again followed a road, believing it would lead us to the correct city, yet then finding out the opposite.. Luckily, we bursted out in laughter, not caring too much about the “wasted” time. We did decide though, to from that point no longer have a planned route and only follow our compass, seeing where the road leads us.
The weather was in our favour; no wind nor rain and plenty of sun. If it wasn’t for the huge detour, we would have gotten further than Hoogeveen when time came to find a spot for the tents. Over a small river, we spotted a great secluded area for our first night. We had to traverse through muddy grass with our bikes and drag them over a half fallen fence to get there, but it was a good place. The tents took way less space than I had expected and setting them up was unebelievably easy. Not extremely hungry, nor in the mood to brew something up as darkness had crept upon us, we had some gingerbread and crawled in our tents. I slept with 5 layers of clothing and the sleeping bag, realizing I had underestimated the cold of March. The sensitivity of my toes to this freezing coldness, causing an awful pain, made it way worse and was the reason for a night of little sleep. Therefore, the next morning we decided to find more warmer sleeping places, until it is more bearable.
Wanting to start the day off with a nice breakfast, I grabbed the burner, letting Maarten fiddle with it, as I grabbed and opened the can of soup. Saw in the corner of my eyes huge flames bursting out as the propane tank dripped not even half a meter away from the tents. Maarten, his face with a look of fear, quickly fixed it before the trip was prematurely ended by fire. Only a little later, we are enjoying the sight of our soup getting ready when I hear “It’s going to fall…” followed by a *plof* a few seconds later… *Sigh* Half our soup on the ground. Again we laughed it off though and ate what was left. We broke down our tents and continued our journey, nearing our neighbour country. The tents are surprisingly easy to take down, especially after 2-3 times. By now, it barely takes any time.
As I had expected, our second day of cycling was one of the toughest and on top of that, we had a strong headwind. Our pace was lower, yet since we left nearly two hours earlier and made no mistakes, we made more distance. Before we knew it, we saw the sign that appointed the border between the Netherlands and Germany. We stopped to celebrate this small milestone and proceded again, after a small discussion with a worm trying to enter our home country. We went through Coevorden (for anyone interested in all the city names).
When the evening was approaching, we had just entered Nordhorn, looking for a warmer place to sleep than outside. It was then, that we saw an old, abandoned house. We waited until it was dark and moved our – important – stuff in the garden, leaving our bikes in stands near the townhall. It was a creepy house, with glass everywhere and obvious litter of previous squatters. In the basement was a room decent enough, where we put up our tents. The night was so much better than outside, temperature wise.
Then early in the following morning, as we walked back to our bikes, we noticed one of the cans of beans was on top of my panniers. As I approached, I immediately saw that the stand for bottles that used to be on my bike was gone. Besides that, the extra tube, repair tools, 4 rolls of Dextro and our small spice rack were stolen. The list of missing items was odd and it left us wondering who did it.
In the afternoon, we went to the castle of Bad Bentheim. By the time we got there, the sun was out shining brightly. It even caused a sunburn on my face, yes, in the March of Germany… The visit to the castle was lovely; although it wasn’t very big, it was interesting and the view from up the top was super. The entrance fee was quite cheap, €4. As we proceeded cycling, we were introduced to our first small hills.
We slept outdoors again, after lighting the biggest fire the North has seen (….), whereon we cooked a can of beans and a cup of tea. There are many things in life to enjoy, one of them being high in my list is a campfire. I just find the smell of the burning wood and the crackling sounds as you gaze at the dancing flames and the smoke that wiggles it’s way up so enjoyable. We sat there for a few hours after finishing our dinner, relaxing after a long day. As the fire slowly died, we returned to our tents, listening to the sounds of the river, for another cold night.
Getting in touch with the locals
It was on our 4th day, that we changed our way of spending the nights, making it more bearable. This after a relaxing day, where we had a strong pace, along with good weather conditions and constant changing surroundings. Both of us enjoy all the small altars on the road and the bus stops as well. In the more remote areas, outside the big cities, they are everywhere and both of them are like snow flakes; not one is identical. Things excite me quickly 😛 At 5, we asked at a farm for permission to camp in their stall. The lady that opened the door, with her two little children, wanted to wait for her husband to discuss. An hour later, which we had spent in Ost-bevern, we asked him again. Apparantly it wasn’t their stall, instead we were invited inside where it was warm. Thomas and Danielle, our two hosts, very kind and generous gave us food, a shower and washed our clothes. We drank a few beers with them as they asked away, interested in our lives. Maarten and I can both agree that the local people are almost always friendly and willing to chat, whether it is someone on foot, a passing car or a smoker hanging out the window. In the bigger cities it is not as much, yet often people seem interested, which we like. And then there is Bielefeld, which was our next destination…
We left a bit later than usual, enjoying the breakfast prepared by the family after a good night’s rest. Through many forests we cycled, with music playing, which often keeps the spirits high. We took less breaks and made lot of distance. When we arrived in Bielefeld, we did not feel welcome at the slightest. I tried my best to be friendly to the people, which was difficult as not one person greeted us. Either they started walking faster, scared of us, or gave us a mean, disgusted look. We did not mind leaving quickly there.
As we had not been able to find a warm sleeping place, we decided to ride a few hours into the night, and get up a few hours later than usual. This had my preference over another sleepless, aching night. I believe it won’t be long until the frost stops. We camped out in a fastfood place until they closed. Riding our bikes over the empty roads was actually very enjoyable and soothening. One hill took over an hour to climb up, it being our first real steep hill, but then going down… I loved it, felt as such a reward. Went on for a long time as well, going at insane speed. At 3 in the morning we gave into the tiredness and stalled out near a highway in Detmold. Still cold, but much better than had I gone at regular hours. After a long day and night of cycling, we were blessed with a shining sun. We went into the town Detmold, enjoying the lovely day. We barely biked that day, rather walking and laying in the grass enjoying the warm sun. Then at a farm near Horn, we again asked if we could camp in their stalls. The man didn’t need to think about it, letting us sleep on the attic with the haybales, which was comfortable and warm.
As the sun was setting and we were reading a book, we were invited it in for dinner, where we met the family. Sonja and Fritz, with their two children Nele and Lasse, although Lasse is in America, doing a year of the American high school to see how true the stereotypes are. Fritz told us we could stay two nights if we pleased. I figured we could use a rest day and that way we could visit the Extern-Steinen the next day.
When you’re travelling near Horn, this is a must, to my likings. It is such a serene place where one can get to peace very well. Here we met a Dutch guy that told us his story and asked us many questions, interested in our travelling. He was going to Estonia by car, yet he needed to stop at the Extern-Steinen as it is in his opinon the “power place of Europe”. It is indeed lovely. I found out that it is a religious place, where people used to gather for days and play drums. After some Hitler-enthusiasts came there as well though, it was no longer allowed.
In the evening we talked a little bit more with the family and Sonja’s mother, before I went horizontal the clock around.
Enjoying my time in Germany and with the new way of travelling a lot! We are expecting to be in Czech Republic within a few days, more if we take it easy. 🙂