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EU

A Filipina on Vlieland

Laying on my back at the bottom of the bunk bed, I watched the upper bed through my slightly opened eyelids. I was slowly returning from a dream, awakened by a soothing, serene sound. Tiny droplets fell with the thousands onto the canvas of the tent-house causing a choir of acoustic plops throughout the entire place. Most shivered at the thought of a rainy day on their one week away, however, the peace had been a party for the two of us. On these days, we’d slam open a book, sip some delightful herb-bitter and warm our feet with the little heater. With a smile, granted by the absence of work, I rolled to my side and leaned over the sleeping beauty. As I moved, the blanket descended off my shoulder into my lap and along with it, the warmth absconded and in lieu the cold transported over the island by the fierce wind had taken over. A wind all the while brushing and sporadically banging with increased force against the sides of the hut. Despite the accommodation’s main build being a thick tarpaulin, which made the hits of the wind echo at high amplitude, it seldom struck us with fright. In a way, it brought comfort. I used one hand to move away some of the hair fallen into my lover’s face and with a freed ear, I whispered her awake and into the start of our day.

Manoeuvring myself out of bed, I placed my feet on the wooden floor and bent forward to avoid bumping my head as I got up. In my near birthday suit, I shuffled out of the bedroom and into the parlor well-lit by the sun some hours into its day of work. The planks underneath my feet were coarse as it had a texture of sprinkles of sand. However, it fit well with the setting and as all did on this island, it brought out another piece in a world of nostalgia. In this tent-house, though it grows bigger with the years, many memories of mine rest as the family would take off from home and remain a fortnight here. In illness and joy I have wasted away hours on this island. Surfing down the dune of marram grass, gaining speed with each slide as the flattened grass blades would become smoother, before taking a dive head first into a bunch resulting in one of the blades stinging into one’s eyes. Then bawl for a split second before jumping on the board again to redo the whole stunt. Making friends solely for the durations of the stay without knowing when the last time will be. Munching pizza’s at the nearby restaurant, getting sand in every hole and pocket at the windy beach, poking the pink, slimy jelly-fish and simply doing what kid’s do. Standing in front of the door leading to the porch, I viewed the path of sand leading downhill and reminisced the time I had dug a hole with as only purpose to make a trap by covering it with a lid of green. The innocence of the child had not taken into account the chances of major injury and was simply out for laughs and giggles.

Soon, my love would join me and we’d sit for a breakfast to start the day. From the camping’s store, we had bought a carton set of mini toppings. This included minuscule portions of jams, sprinkles, peanut butter and chocolate paste. To compromise for the healthier, along with it came sliced cheese and bits of ham. But in honesty, our life on the island was far from the healthiest. Before noon had hit, a can of cold beer was popped open and so was a lazy chair in the warming heat of the sun. Long, sauntering walks on the cold, windy beach would be enlightened by the warmth of the liquor herb-bitter as we splashed our bare feet in the absolute freezing water. Peculiarly on a hosing day such as today, one finds a quick excuse to seek the better end of a bottle as the body wishes to flee from the biting cold. Besides, who plays Yahtzee sober? As I pondered when it would be acceptable to suggest a drink, she poured me a cup of tea and looked stunning as ever while doing so. The advantage of a make-up-less girlfriend is the akin beauty in the morning being indistinguishable from her last night’s glow. It felt special to take her away to a place of peace and comfort that for the kid of me had always been a getaway.

And befittingly, a day before we had walked the footsteps of young me as we got onto the massive jeep racing us over the beach towards the Sahara of the North, accompanied by a jolly man singing his ballads on an accordion. With a bit of luck, the day had been dry and all that poured was the sand carried like clouds by the wind forced up as the grand vehicle pushed with speed over the sand. The insides got soon filled with sand and that included the pockets of my jacket, out of which I could fish grains of it even weeks after. Parents covered their children securely as the sand was cutting and whirled around into the eyes of some. Which was a pity, as the sights were pleasant to admire. Passing by a military base for target practise of jets, we headed towards the refuge of shipwreck victims turned into a beachcomber museum. Now, it bears all found on the long strip of sand, including bits of sunken containers’s cargo that flowed ashore years ago and all else that came with shipwrecks. Inside stood dozens of jars filled with water and sea creatures resembling the serial killer’s cabin in a horror movie. After the jester’s tour of the shed was finished, as group we traversed to the far end of the island from where people admired the neighbouring island and equipped with binoculars viewed the bathing seals.

Though not all we did was pertaining my childhood and past activities. Bringing my present and future to the past and guiding her through an island of memories, it made more than sense to create new ones and on rented bicycles we did. Traversing for surprisingly long as my child’s eyes had only remembered the island for as far as my trembling legs carried me, we peddled a distance with a map as guide to both far ends of the island. A haven of nature with plants, shrubs and flowers beaming with colour, whistling birds and gallantly galloping wild deer in a bunch. Seeing a side I hadn’t seen or recalled, I was cordially shocked. As treat for our inputs, we entered a homey restaurant and indulged in a lovely pie along with cups of tea. And though the day ended in a soaking splash as the sky tore open with buckets and buckets pouring down, it was a day of peaceful bliss.

It was hard for the travellers to not wander about and with the beauties of the island it is understandable. However the days we didn’t, beginning the day calm and loitering around the tarpaulin-cabin or ambling to the shop for fresh croissants, we embraced the lack of sound. The camping was shared with only few others due to our perfect timing and with a job draining me with the passing of days, we welcomed rainy days and listened to the singing. We welcomed days of reading books and playing games. To be honest, for short-term, the opposite of hauling heavy backpacks through humid Asian heat before embarking on the nth vehicle for a duration in the double digits to do it all over again and an off-day including an hours-long hike in the jungle, it was great. With the only downside being a beach demanding layers and layers of clothing to be worn.

Where do you catch your breath? What is a safe haven, a place of comfort and serenity for you? For me, it’s not always a place with literal quietness.

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Uncategorized

Marvellous Malaysia

Enough equal experiences everyday elicited eager to erratic events. The honking and heavy traffic had held me hostage. When a city not even considerable had been too much, I knew it was time. A break within a break, a journey during a journey. Journception. Without much of a plan and zero intention of taking public transport I commenced the journey through Perak, breaking out of the newly obtained routine. Departing from Ipoh, where I had gotten to know new friends and a celebrity at the brink of a scandal, I had gathered that the direction would be full of sights and away from the tourists. That had been clear, when school was over in Lenggong and children paused to point at me. A quaint town it was. A town where I had taken a bite of the wrong green spicy ‘vegetable’. Due to similar incidents, all the honour going to Asia, I have trust-issues with any vegetable including a rice dish. Thank you very much. Luckily, a third degree burn on the tongue, was not all that the getaway – from a getaway – would bring me. Thus, excited I had gone with the wind and marched out of the town. Within the half of an hour, an irascible man had scolded me as he scurried by. He had insisted on giving me his two cent’s on the matter and chose that I could not go hitchhiking. Too dangerous! Friendly, I had dismissed and continued. Amid the monsoon season, it was bound to be a soaking trip.


A first night had been spent at a motel of mediocrity, swimming in a bath of bugs that had me run an all-nighter.  The drive there was spent on the backseat of a family of three. I sat beside the son. Young of age, his prowess involved three a ball and pins. This dexterous bowler, achieving medals and trophies throughout the country will indubitably entice many with his incredible skills. Rain had poured down upon the town the moment I arrived. When exiting the vehicle, the father had gifted me with an old, yellow and blue fisher’s hat. Without intentions to parade said hat, I accepted it with a smile. Hastily I scurried over the puddles and made my way to what appeared to be an affordable motel. A man with a belly eclipsing the sight of his shrimp occupied the reception. Gawking with a nasty grimace at my passport, remarks and questions regarding my lonesome trip followed. “Why, ehm.. thank you. Yes, I am alone. Indeed. No, I am not looking for a lady. No, I am not lonely either.” Not that I swing that way. Apparently, such was not obvious enough, as he forced his bulging belly up from the poor, squashed chair to guide me to my room. I bolted inside to avoid the thought stuck in his head from spilling out and locked the wooden door before any further exchange of words. Then I let out a sigh. A smell of old flowed through the thick, stale air. There stood an antique closet in the corner near the door. I assumed that once it filled a purpose other than to collect dust. As I glanced down at the bed, a rug with purpose of a blanket covered the sheets. The whole room seemed to be from yore. It had not been the old-fashioned that had bugged me. The actual bugs did. I let the backpack slide off my shoulders and thunk down on the floor. Bedraggled as I was, I made myself ready for a wash.

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Parading the hat I said I would not parade.

The rain had continued unabated, nonetheless I absconded for a stroll. I was in a small town that had a shockingly large amount of phone-shops. They were like food stands at a festival. As if one would buy a handy as oft as a loaf of bread. Speaking of bread, I craved a meal and a cold one to wash it down. Oddly, such was not easily found in the centre, however in alleys and markets a tad further. A lovely, little bar, hidden away in an alley. The lady behind the counter poured me a tall glass. And another. Moments after the Chinese had begun their drunk karaoke, I called it a night to lay with the many bugs awaiting my return.


Come dawn, I did not linger long. I noticed that here was already a leap from the tourist-trail as eyes followed me as I went. Malaysians do such in style. A broad, dazzling smile painted on their lovely faces. A welcoming feeling is guaranteed. Contagiously, I marched on carrying a comfortable grin – and a flea-circus on my back – towards a small place named Tasik Raban. The centre existed out of a market with roughly eight restaurants – Malaysians love their food – and occasionally stands with the freshest fish, juices and other Malay treats. A giant lake surrounded the square with houses scattered around. The town must have been a mere few hundred people. A bike rental gave me the opportunity to remain there for the night. I opted for my hammock swinging on his porch. A covered porch with a view of the lake, mind you. For a 20 RM a night, I took the offer of the daffy fisherman with eager.


However, feeling at peace in a place so serene that even the fleas had left to unwind on their own time, a night could not be enough. I sat at the end of the pier, staring out over the calm water, following the movement of tiny ripples encroaching land. Silence, but the sound of a few conversing. There is a beauty within not knowing the language. Not understanding the sentences formed, I remained observant of the ripples without being distracted. Counting the thin lines elongating its circle until it slowly turns into nought. A deep breath of the air. Unpolluted. The man who always laughed, the owner of the fishing supplies/bike and boat rentals/hostel/camping and touristic activities was planning on taking me out on the water in his corroded boat. He had a wrinkly face, the type that had endured time in the sun. With that came a calm smile that seemed permanent, from time to time interrupted by a chuckle or a burst of laughter. The lake wasn’t the duplicate lakes you tend to see. Plain round. No, most certainly not, there was even the slight possibility to get lost, with all the hooks, curves, twists and land involved. At dark. Without sense of direction. Knowing me and Prague, it might as well be me. Either way, the lake was of size. The Malay man wanted to introduce me to his fishes. Tens of thousands to be a tad more precise. Feeding them was like viewing the comment section of that model posting a new photo. Or the moment another tweet goes online from a certain president. Hungry, they all swarm trying to get a bite. With the floods in the area, he had wanted to assure that his precious fish were all still there. After all, for him it meant bread, or well fish, on the table. On our way back, the sun had gone under and stars painted the black canvas that was above. A magnificent portrait. It was that moment, with my mind clear of sound that I decided I would return had I finished my bit of exploring Perak to remain dangling in my hammock.

And so I did. I had seen the sights and towns I desired to view, and thereby had gotten to know the wonderful country a bit more. A few misses however, as the archaeological museum holding the famous ‘Perak man’ had been closed. The ‘Perak man’ is the skeletal remains of what they believe to be a man who lived 11.000 years ago. Being the oldest human skeleton on the peninsular, it was quite the found a few kilometres North of the town Lenggong. Alas, it was not all. The Royal Belum State park had been a slight reach out of my budget at the time. There was no time for moping however. There were waterfalls to chase and bargain meals to be cherished (delicious nasi goreng ayam and fresh juice for 8 RM and Roti Canai with curry for breakfast). Give me a couple more days…

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At Temmengor lake.


 

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Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

A Lithuanian Treasure

A heavy wind was blowing in my face, rushing through my hair as I stood on the dock. With narrowed eyes, shielding them from wind and sun, I gazed at the small village that was Nida. I felt rested and calm, calm as the village seemed. My gaze diverged to the dunes on the left side of the village which I would soon ascend. A fifteen minute walk at most. These dunes stood high, taller than any I had ever laid eyes on. The Parnidis Dune, a drifting one. Always changing and always moving by wind and men. A girl about my age working oft with tourists in Nida had expanded my knowledge on dunes. Her skin was smooth and a cute smile covered her face. Every time she spoke, it was with a sprinkle of enthusiasm. As she handed me some brochures that ought to be of interest, she informed me about these white dunes, whitened due to a high percentage of Quartz. Having read said brochures, the Curonian Spit and its sea turned out to be much more than a pretty sight. History of sand blizzards, degenerating living conditions, places being sandbound and a continuous fight with the sand lies here. The nature here is fragile and therefore not everywhere is it possible to tread. My toes wiggled, thinking  of tiny grains of sand moving between them. For that reason I set out. The flip-flops bought during my trip in South-Africa were part of my outfit these hot, summer days. Shifting my hat, a gift from Reinhardt, I paced towards these mountains of sand.

The path led me through a forest, with turns and curves. It was a treacherous road, as it was filled with the bloodthirsty, annoying and almost mood ruining gnats that I have come to hate. Yet on a day like this, even a swarm of mosquitoes was not able to ruin my day. Four songs past, mainly hard rock I remember, with my list being limited to a dozen of songs, when I arrived. Where stone turned to sand, I kicked off my slippers and dipped my toes in the warm bath of sand. A sign caught my attention. “Do not climb the dunes”, it said. The sign indicated to not leave the assigned road there where the nature is fragile. Following the path, I near the sundial – calendar going high up. It looked impressive, however I had forgotten its existence as I looked around. The Nida settlement, open dunes, lagoon, sea and forests. I stared over the horizon facing Kaliningrad. For once my mind was at peace, rare, I enjoyed the moment. My lips arched into a smile. A stunning view before me of sand. Sand doesn’t sound beautiful, yet my eyes could not help but meander over every inch, taking in the differences, the colours and the abnormalities. As if I studied every individual grain, I stood there, astonished and excited. Of course, I have lied my eyes upon greater beauty, however that does not take away that this collection of sand had me in awe. Drifting away I leaned against a wooden beam. The border with Russian Kaliningrad was easily recognizable. Barbed wire across the plain field. Tracks on the other end following the wire. I imagined how easy it would be to sneak over. A family shook me to reality as I was asked to take a picture of them. A conversation began. At end, the teening child of the both took one for me offering to return the favour. Pleased with the result, I figured it time to take leave and figure what to do for the rest of my stay.


“Rent bicycles”, I had read somewhere. Nowhere a shop was to be found however. At least I know the opening hours now, I thought. So following dawn I stood ready where I was told it would be. A dozen of bikes stood before me where the day before stood none. Wandering around them, a man from the shades appeared. The hot sun had him scurried to the shadow. With a small napkin he wiped some sweat dripping from his forehead. The walk from his chair and the bikes had him puffing and wheezing. I pointed to my bike of preference, gave him my ID and after paying the small fee I was ready to go. The man departed back away from the sight of the burning eye in the sky. Once seated he took a huge sip of his seemingly cold beer. Quite early I figured. I left him to it and took off. Houses of colours, seeming cozy and welcoming, were found spread over the land . Ones with walls of wood entirely blue or red and ones of a darker red or brown with a tint of blue and white. It was a sight to make everything feel more warm and natural. On my way I found a spot of no more than six houses with a small restaurant. As my bike slowly passed the small settlement, I knew it to be the house to serve me my pre-dinner snack and a cold one for the day. Filled with sweet and kind people, most of German nationality, I would find it. Most visitors of the Curonian Spit, frequent visitors.

The long, beautiful, sunny day was filled with cycling and nature – roughly 20 minutes were spent searching the lost key to the bike… I laid my eyes on a forest grand taking over the land as far as I could see, watched the cold sea approach and take its leave with waves before diving in and strolled through the small villages. Everywhere I went, I was met with smiles. Two ice creams had entered my stomach that day. A beautiful day indeed. My evening was no worse, as Reinhardt and I decided to eat out. A kind waitress took our orders and both of us ordered enough to satiate our bellies for many hours. Again, I was not able to resist the delicious cold soup. With it I took hot potatoes and as final meal a delicious fish. A herring. Prepared well, the night I still dreamed of the herring. Another night on the ship, a night of drifting over the small movements rethinking all I did that day with a smile on my face. Tomorrow back to Klaipeda, for the Jazz festival. It would be a journey of wind in our back as we raced towards the city. The last few days I had met many people that made me smile, many kind and friendly ones. Having a place to sleep for nearly a week with the current and previous residence I was ready to travel further again. But first, Jazz!

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016) Personal Favourites

The Post for the Statistic-Geeks

Six months, 187 days to be precise, flew by as I flew through the countries cycling, hitchhiking and singing songs with my glass-shattering voice. Most of my trip was spent in the Eastern part of Europe, to countries of which I at first didn’t know the difference or geographical location. Nearing the end of summer, it felt time to return to my home, to see my family and beautiful dogs again. So I got my cardboard, wrote my destination down and made way from the lovely city Melk, which had been my stop for the past weeks. It was the 14th of September, when I surprised my mother as I appeared at her front door after I was given my finale ride. The man felt part of the ending of my trip, I could sense. “Go see your family, kid!”, as he dropped me off in the center. I rang the doorbell, without any response on exception of our small dog tapping the window, thus I waited. The young boy on the back of her bicycle, one of the children my mom takes care of, immediately recognized me, while it took  a minute for my mother as she gazed at me with a shocked face. I am back home! A long journey in the past and a grand future that holds many choices for me to come. But for now, I want to sit down and put some of my travelling and the world’s kindness down in numbers.

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Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

The 2k, will it ever end?

Making our way to Lodz (line though L, sorry), my counter sprung to 0 again. After taking the picture, a ritual with ever 500km and now being the fourth time, I realized that it doesn’t reset itself. Other digits, ones I never paid attention too, represent the total number, wheras the one I focused at gives detailed numbers with a maximum of one thousand. Feeling like a genius, for not having seen that sooner, I continue in silence.

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To protect and… Vandalize?

You know you’ve put up your tent in a great area, when the cops are busy throwing rocks through a billboard. This was the case in Lodz, where we had parked our tents in a small field, where no one cared about our temporary stay. “Just another day in Poland”. I suppose it signifies little crime activity if this is their duty.. Or at least, I hope so.

More never-ending cycling

It was quite the distance, to Warschau, but we pushed ourselves to do it in two days. Of which most of the time my mind had left the body. A night was spent in Kompina, where a family made sure we were well fed before shipping us off to the townhall with more food. Mashed potatoes, chicken and salade was on the menu, as the family asked questions. Two small children with their parents and another couple were in town for a visit to the (grand)parents. One of the younger girls was fascinated by us, the two foreign cyclists. This reminded me of Finn, from Etzenborn, the small boy that wanted to bike the world after meeting us. I love that!
At the townhall, the place was heated up and I slept on top of one of the tables for a night more comfortable than you’d probably believe. 

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The capital city

Arriving in this big city it was still early in the afternoon. We seeked for a residence, again our luck being with the first family. It took awhile though, before they realised we planned on sleeping in the tents, not just dropping them. Nonetheless, no problem. Then a bit of sightseeing was done, where I met the PowerPuff Girls. Exciting stuff. I was not too taken by this city, as it was just another collection of high buildings, many alike. Maarten however enjoyed it, great for him! We stayed another day, this time leaving our stuff in a small park, with the plan of camping there, and then both seperately went in town. I did nothing, I can admit. Walked for a bit, enjoyed the river and then sat on a terrace at the Hardrock cafe to write and relax. Loved it! My friend on the other hand did get up to some stuff, such as visiting the zoo, the old and new part and some shopping.

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I was glad to see him again when he returned to the park, as I did not know what to do. This small area of green, was already inhabited by other homeless people. Honestly, they can be the nicest people and great companions, yet due to the conditions they live in (hunger, pain, dehydration, you name it) they can be driven to do stupid things and I did not want to leave with Maarten’s stuff still there. I pointed out that my preference would be to sleep elsewhere, which turned out to be in a much greater place; a restricted railroad area. Perfect!

Restricted area, or not?

I had a great sleep, until we were awakened by a voice shouting “Ahoy, ahoy!”, followed by other Polish gibberish. My tent was shaken. A second time. I tried to ignore it, in hope that the man would leave. But after a third time, I gave in and answered in my sleepy voice. Once clear Polish was not our language, he told me he wanted to ask some questions, with a strict voice. I opened my tent to make it easier to communicate and the moment he saw my face, all seemed good. “Ohh, I was afraid you were drunk homeless people!” Wait, I don’t look like a drunk homeless person? That’s a first. The man was from the security and he explained that at night it is a very dangerous place – not now though. He then made sure our night was alright and asked when we would leave. I said that we could have our stuff packed in a few minutes, to which he says: “Nooo, you can sleep for a little longer, it is safe now.” After he left, Maarten and I laughed.

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Bless the rain

That day was rainy, not a little shower, but a sky giving us nothing but raging water. This resulted into little distance and a quick stop in Tul (again, a line through the L). Thanking the weather now, as that stop has lead to many enjoyable days. We ended up in the home of the Lipski’s, who were not satisfied with one evening and asked us to hang around a day extra. The sons of 19 were in awe and schock, asking many questions. The most used being: “Do you need anything?”.

We had been treated like guests at a 5* hotel, better I can say with ease, as they actually cared. In the evening, some friends of the equally aged sons, had stopped by to see proof of the two travellers. Later another guy stopped by too, the best driver of them all, yet withouth a license. “He taught himself”. A few beers were consumed, our first curse words were learned (bad motherfuckers, the people we needed to stay away from) and we had laughed plenty, before I was off to bed. Couldn’t catch sleep right away, but I for once got to sleep in, really sleep in.

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Waking up past the double digits felt heavenily. These Dutchies are feeling the muscles aching stronger with every day spent cycling, therefore this, a day of absolutely nothing and laziness was well deserved and needed. Roman, one of the sons, made breakfast for us before heading to work. Stanislaw had returned by now and let us do our thing, to show us a bit of the neighbourhood at the end of the afternoon. When we got back and dinner, another delicious Polish dish, was served, the parents wanted to ask us something. With help of the tolk, it was explained that we could stay in their second house, which is located in Dobrowoda, slightly off the route. The couple was going to be there for some days with the youngest daughter. 160km away. “In two days”, we said confidently. That night I tried to get an early sleep, to prepare for a long, long day of cycling.

*23-04-2016 – 28-04-2016*

Really, thanks a lot to everyone! I can’t say this too often, all of you are great people! This goes for all the lovely people I have met and will meet during these travels. Love y’all!

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

Polish Hospitality

Stomaches full, tents cleared, bags and bikes packed, goodbyes were said and we managed to resist kidnapping their little puppy; we were ready for departure. However, not before the man had shoved our hands full with cans of warthog meat. He had caught and canned it himself. With a smile, we left the house and made way to the centre of the city, knowing we would not make a lot of distance on this day. In Wroclaw, a blessing showed in the sky, a sun shining bright and strong, making for a lovely day – until the wind started acting up late in the afternoon. The day was spent enjoying this weather, writing letters (which took a decade to arrive), pimpin’ my ride, wandering the city and avoiding the annoying beggars that do not take ‘no’ for an answer.

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Time flew by and when we got out the crowded city, after a guy, under influence of god-knows-what, insulted us by thinking Quasimodo to be from Beauty and the Beast, getting back on the smaller roads, it was already time to find a place. Not having found an ideal camping place, we rang a bell in a small village. A man with bare legs came out. “No Polski”, we explain and only a little later the son is outside as well, the translator. I must admit, I had small hopes of this family letting us in. They proved me otherwise, as only a few minutes later we seated ourselves inside while the man cleared a room. Soup and tea was placed in front of us by the eldest son (14), whom had translated for us as well. It was a family of three with only sons. The one of 10 spoke surpisingly good English and even the other, half his age, was able to introduce himself to us. I noticed how well they behaved, cleaning up after we finished, politely shaking hands and they acted very decent. The three siblings kept asking us questions about the Netherlands. A phone call to the wife however, ended our stay there prematurely. Sandwiches and tea was prepared for us to take with us and the oldest son was coming along to point us to the next village, where a youth hostel was located – the man even offered to pay for it! All four of them lead us out with puppy eyes and a face of guilt. I told him we understand and that it was no problem, yet he just looked to the ground with a sad face.

What hostel?

Walking the streets of Baków (thing under A, sorry) we could not find the hostel the man spoke off and as both of us were about to give up and put up our tents in the woods, a woman started asking us questions in her native language. Weirldy enough, we understood and managed to explain. A moment later, we had a cup of tea and some food again. Here we, the lady, her three teenage children -forced into translating- and us, talked for a bit with help of Google Translate and the few words we know. Then the subject of ‘Place to sleep’ came up. “No idea!” That’s when it all got quick, without a clue of what was going on, we followed the major of the village whom had joined and guided us to a shed in an open field. His wife, the nephew and the rest had come with as well. The major had started a fire and a few seconds later left, to return with two big bags of grocery. All of us together enjoyed the comfort of the fire, while roasting some sausages and marshmallows. I hadn’t expected the evening to go like this and even though it rained a little I had an awesome evening with great people! For the next day, they had given us two dozen apples, 2l apple juice and a lot of bread.

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Catastrofe

The morning after we took off early, which didn’t show in distance as we cycled in the wrong direction for the first hour or so – also had to go back. But luckily after returning, the wind was in our back. Making our way to Syców, which is a good city, a man on a motorcycle stopped and tried to start a conversation to then take off due to the barriere. Funny, when the first and only house we tried turned out to be his. Marek, was this bold man’s name. He had a big smile on his face and started the grill almost right after pointing us to the garden. Our tents were up, the sausages ready and the rest of the family had joined. Madeleine, the lady of the house and their two sons. We combined English and German and got quite far this way. Marek works as a bakery delivery getting up at 4:00 six days a week and his wife works at the hospital.

I liked this stay, as it was so confusing and hilarious. Almost finished with my meal, we had been asked to bring the dirty laundry (which needed a wash). Inside, half the laundry in, Madeleine pointed to the shower and we thought she meant now, until Marek guided us to the car for a drive. I was handed a coat of theirs, when mine was still outside, hanging on a chair, thinking we’d continue dinner when all of a sudden we took off. Maarten and I, confused, had to hold our laugh as Marek, with a beer or two gone, kept fighting with Madeleine for the speed and music’s volume. With every good song, he’d point to the radio and shout “Iron Maiden” in his Polish accent. Gotta love that man. Apparantly, they wanted to show us a lake, one absolutely stunning with a gorgeous forest surrounding it.

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Back at their home, after a shower now occupied by Maarten, I sat down with the family. “Herbata scheisse”, Marek told me, “Piwo Dobre”. Madeleine seemed to not agree with him. A rescue to avoid this argument, when one of the brothers came with a basket of the most adorable kittens ever! They were so tiny and cute! We then made our way into the living room, just before we were off to bed. I pointed to the wedding picture, asking how long ago. Marek rubs his head in answer and says: “9 years”, followed by “Catastrofe”. The lady agrees, repeating the same word, pointing to Marek. I can’t help but smile, such a funny and likeable family.

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The generousity..

Don’t ask me how, but I managed to do it! Our already full panniers and backpacks, somehow had space for the 2x2l 7up bottles, the two bags of both extra’s and sweet bakery and some chicken and boiled eggs, given to us by Madeleine and Marek. Our bikes were crazy heavy now and we decided that tonight, because of the amazing custom of giving food in Poland, we had to camp somewhere. This was in Wola Rudlicka, a field near the road, after another day of great sunshine and wind in the right direction.

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Scooby-Dooby-Doo!!

Awakened by a small deer shouting, I got up. Whilst clearing our stuff, my tent went for a run. I didn’t really mind having to run after my tent, I did not like the fact that the wind was going into the opposite direction of us however. It was a struggle, to bike against this strong wind.

Most of these days had been without any expenses, as food was often provided by our hosts with extra’s. This, until we entered Zduńska Wola, where we came upon the best deal ever; 5 scoops of ice cream for €1,60! One must be crazy or against glorious ice cream (crazy) to let such a deal go! Then our plan for the rest of the afternoon was to cycle a few dozens kilometres further, until we got distracted by two stray dogs. We gave them some food and water and spent the late afternoon with one. Almost, had we had another travelling companion, yet after said time, the dog went on. We should too.

The people listening to our usual story, thought it to be a joke at first. Nonetheless, the couple opened the door for us and welcomed us in, where we waited for the translators. A friend, the two children and their English teacher had all stopped by to bombard us with questions. The couple had decided we could stay in the travelling daughter’s room, a Scooby-Doo fan. I knew, that we were in the house of great people when I saw the man’s enthusiasm towards Quasimodo, as the man grabbed him by the hand and swinged him, making his way inside. Tired, we fought to stay awake as it was great meeting more people. The daughter had stayed til the later hours to be the tolk of the evening and we had spent another night with lovely people.

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These are the amazing things you can’t plan. This; amongst the locals, without a plan and using simple transportation, is how you really get to know a country.

*Almost forgot,
Marek is cool (didn’t had beer) and
Zduńska Wola is cool too.*

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

The land of broken and unfinished roads

Poland thinks it is funny to begin building roads to then only a little later stop again. Seriously, a few meters of road and it ends. Not into a dirt road, a field or anything that could specify as a road, it just stops. There is no logical reason for these roads, all they do is confuse and consume time. But then you are in luck and you find a road going all the way to your destination, yet you find out that it’s made by someone who chose a wrong profession. Potholes, cracks and bumps everywhere and I am not even exaggerating. There is even the occassional tree growing in the middle of a path. These are the kind of roads we had to cycle on most of the times. I must say though, that Poland is better in letting you know when it actually is illegal for bikers and safer than Czesko, still having a good portion of danger nonetheless. As we had gone into a valley, giving us a view of the astonishing mountains, the first days were fairly enjoyable. We also found that the Polish people – most of them that is – can be extremely kind, generous and hospitable, something we already found with our first Polish hosts.

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This proved, besides the already tons of food stuffed in our mouths, when we left Adam & Irena’s house without a clue of the whereabouts of my multifunctional “scarf thingy”. The neighbours, who had passed by that morning, pulled us over to hand me one of theirs. On this one, a map was used as a print. With my comrad being a geek in maps, I had a feeling I would find mine again, meaning he could use the spare one. Such a coincidence then, when the morning after I found it again, in my lap. This was in Klodzko (Sorry, my phone is incapable of making special symbols, just imagine a line through the ‘l’) after spending the night in the garden. The family was confusing and I was not sure if they wanted us there or not, therefor I fixed my bike a bit further. I had gotten my second flat tire after these horrible roads had done their work on my bicycle. Luckily, I managed to fix it, this time really on my own.

Mini Europe

Before going on the road again, we went to little Europe, where I for once could feel like a giant. Here were many famous structures and buildings, mainly Polish, situated. As they had only started building in 2015, I am impressed by the quantity and quality of it all.
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Then getting back to making distances an(other) accident had happened. Great.. Especially since we had to continue on this one-strip, busy road without a special area for cyclists. After a few hours of silence, where one was always facing a back and nape, we entered a village; Niemcza, hoping to find a place.

Ghost town

Let me tell you in advance, we did not. The town existed mostly out of a few big mansions, a handful of decent houses and for the rest, everything was ruinous, abandoned, or seemingly and overrun by nature, including a train station and rails. Residences seemed to be occupied by barking dogs and if it were not for the bunch of people we spotted on the street giving us a vague look, we’d have thought this town empty. Despite the weird vibe it gave us, we ringed plenty of houses. Nobody answered. Even when we clearly heard someone inside, the door remained untouched. It was not until at the edge of the village, where a doorbell actually had functions.

This couple did not want us for the night however, which is obviously more than fair. Yet, before they send us on our way again, a meal and tea had been offered. But then, once it was all consumed, we left the place behind to move on to the next village. I later found out, that in the second World War, Niemcza was used as a concentration camp.

Our luck was tried in Wilków this time, where before entering, going over a main road, the previous hosts passed by. The first house was a succes and as soon as our tents were up, we sat down inside for a second meal and more tea.

Celebrities on the road

When we woke up, the house was empty, therefore our journey was to continue without saying goodbye. A stray dog had made his way to us as I had just finished packing and we seriously were considering taking this dog with us. Even made some space. But then the ‘owners’ came. They are not his real owners, yet they give them food every once in a while. Sadly, we had to take off without the dog thus. The day had been a great day for cycling; the weather was pleasant, the road was decent (which is now a good thing), and most important of all, the moods were good. This was thanks to the supporting honk of Mario and Luigi – I am telling you, it were them!

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In Wroclaw, finding a place was not easy, a lot of people were not keen on the idea of strangers in the yard. One guy, friendly, even told us he was worried that we might decapitate him in the night. Well, I was not planning to do so… On the edge of giving up, the owner of one of the fanciest houses looked at us like we are mad, but shrugged it off and waved us to the back. They let us know that all theirs was ours and after a week of no shower – no wonder people were distant – we finally were able to wash away all the nastiness under the hot, streaming water. God, what had I missed it!

Later in the evening, the son of same age showed up from school and chatted with us for about an hour. He was amazed by us and showed great interest. Before he went up to study his math he showed us some impressive card tricks. Really, I focused, Maarten too, both paying attention as hard as possible trying to catch him make a mistake, yet time after time he proved to be the better of us. Even when I was certain he did not have my card in his hand, but amongst the three on the table, my card ended up being switched somehow. Mindfucked I made my way to the tent, for a good nights rest, which was needed for the next day of cycling in Poland, as it sure as hell wasn’t going to be without bumps and potholes.

*16th of April – 18th of April*

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

The mountainous menace

It was on the 8th day, 19th March, that we reached our milestone of 500 kilometres, as we were on our way into town to enjoy a beer after a long week of cycling. Luck was on our side that day, which already prove so quickly after we had left the farmer’s family near Horn. As we were riding out, a wrong turn lead us – combined with a dose of stubbourness – to cross a plain field, not knowing if it would end at a fence or lead us back to a road. Luckily then, that it not only brought us back to a decent road, but also that it went exactly the correct way.

We did not need to make many breaks that day, except a few stops to pick up thrown away cans. Littering is a big problem in many places in Germany and we had found out, that they have 25 cent deposit on cans, you see. It might not seem like a lot, but it costs little effort and it can actually be quite a help on a low-budget tour. Often it bought us a full day of free meals, meaning saved money which later on the journey can be spend for more fun things.
The last hour or so, we could let our bikes ride for us, still going over 20 at all times, thanks to the downhill.

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Getting our own home for the night
Near Höxter, we ringed a house, to ask permission to put up a tent in the garden. Instead, they started calling around, looking for a warmer place for us, while we were drinking a cup of tea watching their kids go crazy on one another. It was his neighbour Martin, who ended up taking us in. He, as a landowner, has his own place and owns the one next to it. Before we knew it, we had four rooms and a bathroom for ourselves with hot water. Martin came in a little bit later and drank a beer with us. How blessed are we?

Later that night, we went into the town of Höxtler, where we halfway reached our so told milestone. As the night progressed, we came in contact with a group of enthusiastic, and drunk, Germans. The three seemed pleased with our fatherland. Although all we heard from one of them was “Marijhuana” and another of them was so drunk that we did not understand a word he said. The third though, was understandable, yet all he wanted to talk about were the football players that are Dutch. He continuedly challenged us to a game of table football, we feeling confident and not that drunk, took his challenge and began, two versus one. Even with our odds, he kicked our asses, using tricks we hadn’t seen before in that game. Despite the defeat, we had a good night and gladly were still able to find “our” home again in this new city.

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The fun part about travelling like this

Travelling without a daily plan or route has been a lot of fun for us; we didn’t have to worry too much whether we’d go off track a little, as we could always adjust and didn’t have any stops planned. Neither did we really get lost, we have quite often wandered through forests or fields where paths had already given up, following the compass, until we found a road again. Also, everything that you find, do and see on the way is a plus. A great example of this, is when we were in a forest and decided to follow the unhardened road that went, compass wise, the correct way. Following this path, it lead to a fence, which was the entrance to a reserve for wild horses. Here we entered, to then find dozens and dozens of these gracious, wild horses drinking out of streams and grazing the grass. One horse stood in the middle, taller than most, with beautiful manes and a gallant look. The horse sniffed me from top to toe and although she seemed fairly interested in the stranger stroking her manes, it was more important to her, to find out whether or not there was food in our panniers. We proceeded to walk, with our bikes in our hands and the horse behind us, following us, until a branch seemed more interesting to her. If we could’ve taken her with, we would’ve!

When we left the forest, it was raining, not hard, yet hard enough to wetten our clothes would we continue much longer than this. Gladly, an old farmer in Polier let us sleep in his barn. The cold could still creep in, as it was an uncloseable barn, yet at least we were dry. We made it an early night, to find out that it wasn’t as cold as we had expected, meaning that the weather is increasingly getting better for camping.

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Travelling in such an extraordinary way, leads to many conversations too. The people, especially in more remote/local areas, are often interested to have talks and most don’t even need to think about letting us stay in their garden. After Polier, we stayed in Etzenborn with a lady named Catherina. Whilst setting up the tents, the neighbours offered us a cold beer and a little later we were eating dinner with our hostess. As her son showed us his collection of toy snakes, she told us about her likewise travel to Italy, yet instead of a bike, she used a horse!

The rough mountains of Germany

Using only the compass, wasn’t always great though. When we left Etzenborn, we took the road that had the best direction. By doing so, we followed the roads that were less comfortable. What I mean is, having to push your heavily packed bike up a muddy path in forests, because you went off the main roads. When we thought it couldn’t get worse, it started raining. In Germany, we were lead straight over the big, steep mountains, while a cycling path went around it. Yet, in my opinion, it was all worth it. I admit, it was tough as can be and my body often felt dead tired, but my day was made ever time I got on higher ground and I saw the beautiful landscapes with all the forests, fields and hills. Or when after a long day cycling, you enter the woods and the pine scents enter your nostrils, hearing the woodily noises and the streams of small rivers. One time we even saw a buzzard take off from about a meter away. Amazing! These are not the sort of things you experience as well with most other modes of travelling.

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After a day this tough and then no succes in finding a host, we went to a youth hostel in Beinrode. It came with incredible low costs, only €10 for both of us and a splendid breakfast was included with this. We cooked our beans and canned meat on the stove and made it a delicious meal.

East Germany

As we came more into East-Germany, we noticed that the accents were very different, making it even harder for us to understand the people. Half of the time, we didn’t even understand a word spoken. One time, we thought a man invited us in, instead he had pointed us to an Imbiss, where one has to pay. Luckily, we found a family kind enough to let us in, even though it was hard for both us and them to understand what either meant. Often we stood their like idiots hoping the other got what was being told.

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The day after was a great day for cycling, as the sun was shining brightly and the rain was no longer. It started for us with the biggest downhills we have ever had, allowing us to go down at insanely high speed. Both of us enjoyed it a lot, but in hindsight, we realised that it is quite dangerous, as a small mistake can cost a life. When a cyclist got hit by a car right in front of our noses, both barely with any movement, it hit us even harder…

Around 5, we arrived in a small town called Niederwilligen, where we asked an elderly couple for a spot in the garden. For us, that would suffice, yet for them it was not enough. An hour later, we were told to eat, not allowed to leave the table until our stomaches were near to burst. We slept in the guestroom that night after a -long needed – shower. How lovely are some people.

Free, guided tour in Feengrotten

When we had found out how close to the border of the Czech Republic we are, we started to take it more easy. Taking off from the couple, we left with a big supply of food, given to us, which could keep us satisfied for at least two days. This was great for us, as the shops were closes due to Good Friday. On our way to Saalfeld, we went through the beautiful mountains, where the streams are so clear and clean, that it is possible to drink it like that. We enjoyed our day, stopping more at the little villages.

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Then to end our second week (26th April) we went to explore the fairy caves, which used to be for mining, yet nowadays it is occupied by fairies, located in Saalfeld. As we walked to the entrance, we saw a group of people just entering and we followed them. We noticed that everyone was wearing poncho’s and that there were only guided groups. Apparantly, it is not a free entrance and the two of us were now on a free, guided tour! 😀 Lucky us. The mines were interesting, with added fairy music at some turns and twists. It ended with a big lightshow. Sadly, I did not see any fairies.. We came upon a bratwurzt eating troll though!
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Two weeks of travelling and we feel like we are getting used to it more and more with every day. Packing our luggage as well, it gets more compact on daily basis.

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