Tuesday, July 30, 2013

No, I'm not lost, I just don't know where I am

Apparently there's a saying in USA that "real men don't ask questions". As in many other ways Kaisa is the man in the family also when it comes to asking for directions - while Christoffer's always eager to go talk to any random person we meet on the road Kaisa prefers to study the map and GPS.

You could say that both systems have their strengths and weaknesses: by asking you might find your way faster, but you might also get wildly incorrect instructions or be unable to communicate at all due to lacking a common language. The GPS will guide you very accurately if you know the exact address you're going to and are willing to accept that it has its own logic that might result in choices that seem inconvenient compared to human logic.

The seemingly old-fashioned paper map is often the most reliable source of information - as long as there are accurate and sufficient road signs to inform you about where you are on the map. The only problem are bigger cities as it would be unpractical to buy city maps to all the dozens of cities we pass through on a trip like this. There are always plenty of signs leading to the center, but trying to find the right way out, especially when you have to avoid ending up on a highway, can be tricky. On this trip the nearly empty East German cities have been surprisingly easy to navigate, but we have some pretty big places ahead of us so we'll certainly end up combining all the different methods of finding the way. 

Old and new friends

We were just about to start another sweaty uphill climb (the hills that Kaisa's been waiting for this whole time finally started in Southern Poland) when a man standing by a car called out, waving a big water bottle. This French couple was on a roadtrip/cycling tour around Europe, and wanted to fill up our half-empty bottles. We very thankfully accepted the offer and chatted for a moment on the roadside. What a cool way to meet other cyclists!

After continuing for just a few kilometers we noticed a car slowing down next to us and from the rolled-down window we saw our Dutch friend Tim, who was going to join the same yoga retreat as we. As a happy coincidence we happened to be on the same road at the same time, he driving down from Berlin and us cycling from Zary.

Maybe this is what it feels like to have a service car follow you on a bike trip: good company, food and water is always available on the roadside!

Photos of leaving, part 1

Mornings are always moments fo some anxiety: leaving the shelter of the night's accommodation and venturing into the unknown, not knowing where we'll pull out our sleeping bags in the evening an what kind of challenges we'll have to face before that on the road.

On this trip we've eased the nervousness a bit by taking a photo of ourselves every morning before getting on the bikes. Here's a collection of photos from the first leg of the trip, Travemünde (Germany)-Klecza (Poland). Enjoy!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 10.

Route: Zary-Zagan-Boleslawiec-Lwowek Slaski-Klecza
Distance: 97 km
Weather: It had rained in the night, so the temperature was nice and cool (and the air extremely humid).

"It's all the way up on the hill"

Just like last year this will be a combined cycling and yoga trip, and the yoga part's starting tomorrow. We've now arrived at the retreat site, a really nicely renovated old barn in the Lower Sileasian hills. (Or are they mountains? At least they felt like mountains...) We'll be posting more photos from the road tomorrow, but now it's time for a proper evening meal, cooked by our Polish friends!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 9.

Route: Eisenhüttenstadt-Guben/Gubin-Lubsko-Zary
Distance: 86 km
Weather: So hot that all we could think about was the next bottle of mineral water/apfelschorle/ice tea/juice

No, this isn't the Autobahn

We saw some heavy traffic today, but not in the sense that there would've been lots of traffic, but that the vehicles were pretty heavy. Beautiful, quiet roads with very few cars - perfect for us who don't like gravel and forest paths but also would like to talk to each other while cycling without having to yell or get yelled at.

Auf Wiedersehen, Germany!

We've finally crossed the border to Poland! At first sight there really isn't a huge difference between eastern Germany and western Poland, but then you start noticing that there are much fewer cyclists and bike lanes.

The Poles are doing their best to improve the cycling experience, though, and we cruised along some really smooth bike lanes today on our way east. Around 5 PM we decided to call it a day, exhausted from the heat, and went to a gas station to ask about campsites.

The guy at the gas station started by saying he was sorry but there weren't that many services for cyclists here. "You should go to Germany, it's just 30 kilometers from here", he suggested. But he wasn't being unfriendly, just stating a fact, because then he asked his friend to guide us to a cheap but cozy motel nearby. So here we are now, ready to venture even further away from Germany tomorrow.

The communist dream

Fun fact: Eisenhüttenstadt used to be called Stalinstadt, built in the 1950s to be the perfect communist city and home to workers at a giant steel factory. Now it seems to be a city several sizes too big for its inhabitants, the wide streets empty just like in Frankfurt an der Oder yesterday and grass growing in the gaps of the pedestrian lanes. (But Kaisa had to admit that she kind of has a thing for Stalinist architecture…)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 8.

Route: Bad Freienwalde-Letschin-Lebus-Frankfurt am Oder-Eisenhüttenstadt
Distance: 107 km
Weather: If possible even hotter than yesterday, it didn't even cool down in the evening!

The siesta

Yes, it's been hot today, like 35 degrees Celsius hot. This lightly clad individual was spotted at a cyclist-specific rest spot by the road from Frankfurt an der Oder to Eisenhüttenstadt. Other less photogenic stops included lying on the ground at a bus stop and sitting on a safety rail by the road and on an elevated manhole cover in front of a supermarket. As long as it's in the shade and there's something to sit on we'll take a break there!

A slightly more quiet Frankfurt

Five years ago we cycled through Germany to Nice, France (www.deuxvelos.blogspot.com) and rolled through Frankfurt am Main. Today we visited another Frankfurt, Frankfurt an der Oder, a city with equally wide streets but only a handful of people walking and driving on them. This time we had a much easier time finding our way out of the city!

It's oh so quiet

Many of the small villages we've cycled through have been eerily quiet, the streets lines with small houses with the doors and shutters firmly closed, and not a person in sight. Maybe everyone's at the beach where we certainly saw lots of people and heavy traffic? Or at one of the huge campsites where many campers look like they spend the whole summer in the same spot? Or maybe everyone's just moved west...

This house we saw this morning in Bad Freienwalde reminded us of an even grander abandoned building we saw in Riga last year. Note the tree growing on the balcony and imagine the renovation costs… 

Day 7.

Route: Menz-Rheinsberg- Zehdenick-Eberswalde-Bad Freienwalde
Distance: 92 km
Weather: The air was so hot and heavy we expected thunder but got none

The Bad Freienwalde hostel

We only realized after leaving from this hostel well hidden in a forest near Bad Freienwalde that we never asked what it was called. We just followed the signs and met a friendly guy who gave us a ride to a huge supermarket as well as cycling directions. The room was painted bright green and there would've been beds for three more travellers. Auf Wiedersehen!

Keeping a cool head

The weather's been consistently hot and sunny which of course is nothing  for Finns to complain about, but today the temperature reached a level which forced Leka to first pour the contents of his water bottle on his head and later to stick it in a fountain.

Leka was also highly tempted to tear off his clothes and run in front of a firetruck watering rows of very dry-looking trees next to huge abandoned office buildings, but decided otherwise at the last moment.

Falling from the sky

We saw a group of skydivers land at a small airfield close to the road. They did some impressive moves before hitting the ground, falling in a horizontal position at a speed that we thought was a bit scary.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Here we go again

Today's breakfast: granola with nuts and raisins, pretzel sticks (Leka) and chocolate soy pudding (Kaisa). You make do with what you have when the closest supermarket is 5 kilometers away!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 6.

Route: Alt Schwerin-Malchow-Röbel-Mirow-Menz
Distance: 95 km
Weather: A bit of rain in the morning followed by the usual sunshine

The lesson of the day: always ask first!

Neither the map nor the campsite guidebook indicated in any way that there would be a campsite here, but a slightly run down sign indicated an RV parking area so we decided to ask for directions. This friendly couple had a feeling there might be a campsite, so they asked another couple, who gave them directions, which they followed guiding us to the woods, where we turned back and asked for more directions, finally leading to a sign that stated "Naturcamping nr 31".

We waved goodbye at the couple, cycled down a very small sand road and found a friendly small campsite with hot showers, fast internet connection and a quiet space where we could charge our laptop and phone and listen to the rain fall on the roof.

The center of attention

Our backup tent (that we're using until we'll get our hands on a regular two-person tent) is definitely getting a lot of attention at all the campsites. People stop and stare, seemingly unable to understand how two adults will fit into a tube only slightly bigger than a winter sleeping bag. But we've slept surprisingly well, with fresh air coming in through both ends and our gear neatly tucked away at our feet.

Fast bikes and comfortable bikes

This being Germany we naturally see tons of cyclotourists all the time, their sturdy touring bikes loaded with rainproof bags. But a few cyclists have especially caught our eye.

These two men on recumbent bikes passed us at an intersection where we were trying to figure out which way to continue. They seemed to know where they were heading, and continued north under our envious eyes - at this point of the trip our butts are pretty sore and the thought of sitting on a comfy chair-like bike seems quite attractive.

On the ferry from Helsinki we met Finnish Mikko who was on his way to London to take part in a bike race from London to Istanbul. This is the kind of a race where the clock's constantly running so you need to be pretty quick when stopping for food and/or sleep. He was planning to cycle about 200 kilometers a day which to us sounds like quite a lot - but of course you look at bike travel from a different perspective when you're staying in a tent and cooking your own food. Good luck!

Giant frog attack!

Even though we've left the coast and the official cycling route behind us we've enjoyed some wonderfully beautiful views, cycling on roads lined with trees and through Naturparks where the sun barely reaches the ground through the foliage.

We've seen plenty of road signs warning for low-hanging branches and jumpy deer, but this frog warning made us hit the brakes. No frogs were seen in the sunny weather, but we can only imagine how it feels when hordes of frogs swarm the road!

The bridge that opened

"Ah, Penkow… Yes, you would normally take the bridge there, but it's closed now… Or you could take the Autobahn, but you can't take it because you're cycling… So I really don't know what you should do."
"What do you mean, closed? No, the bridge is operating normally!"
"See, you can't drive over the bridge, but there's a pedestrian bridge that's open and you can walk on it with your bikes."
"Well, this must be the bridge and it looks like it's closed. But I guess it must open soon, with all these people waiting here."

Day 5.

Route: Boltenhagen-Wismar-Sternberg-Goldberg-Alt Schwerin
Distance: 112 km
Weather: Hot and sunny with heavy head wind


Our original plan was to cycle east along the coast following the Ostsee-Radweg. It was a beautiful, quiet road circling along small country roads and paths in the woods. But some of the paths were so small that we started to worry about our narrow tires and our somewhat tight timetable, so after enjoying some really beautiful coast views in Boltenhagen we decided to go inland on slightly bigger roads.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day 4.

Route: Kreuzkamp-Lübeck-Kreuzkamp-Travemünde-Boltenhagen
Distance: 71 km
Weather: Hot and sunny with strong wind from the sea

On the road again, part 2

We felt so relieved when we finally made the decision to leave from Travemünde and start cycling towards Poland, whatever may happen on the way. The center of Travemünde offered a nice surprise: a short ferry trip across the bay that we had entered in the huge ferry a couple of days earlier!

Day 3.

Route: Kreuzkamp-Lübeck-Kreuzkamp (and surroundings)
Distance: 59 km
Weather: Hot and sunny


A hungry cyclist needs to eat, preferably something deep-fried. These falafels saved the day in Lübeck!

Two very long days in Travemünde/Lübeck

To make a long story short we were supposed to receive a package with some equipment, most importantly a two-person tent, at a motel in Travemünde. But things don't always work out as planned (especially on bike trips) and the package didn't show up because of some bad luck with the shipping.

We spent the time visiting Lübeck, trying to figure out how our gps actually works, getting a bit sunburned, trying to get Kaisa's gears fine-tuned, shopping for maps and merino clothing and eating granola in our room. Nothing wrong with all that, but when you want to be cycling forward it's difficult to be circling in the same places.

Day 2.

Route: Travemünde-Kreuzkamp
Distance: 7 km
Weather: A nice warm summer evening

Yes, we already did!

This was one of the first things we saw when we had gotten off the ferry in Travemünde. Yes, it feels good to be cycling west of Finland again!


The harbor workers tried to tell us to wait until all the cars had driven off the ferry, but a stern middle-aged German lady on a bicycle told them "Nein!". And off we cycled, with the motorbikes once again roaring behind us.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 1

Route: Porvoo-Söderkulla-Vuosaari (Helsinki)
Distance: 46 km
Weather: Sunny with strong gushes of wind