Friday, 24 August 2012

Day 74 - 89 Berlin to Amsterdam. 870kms (Total 3905kms)

Hello from Amsterdam!!!  How long I've been waiting to say that :-)  3900km's done and the last major stop before reaching home.  So close to 4000km...I've even wondered whether we should do a small detour to reach the milestone...but I don't think our weary bones would be too happy & I guess we've already done 900kms more than we first predicted.  I can't actually believe we're here!  I think we need to look at a map of Europe to really take in what we've done.

After birthday celebrations & goodbyes in Berlin, we picked up the Europa Radweg 1 further south & once again joined more bicycle tourists plodding along between campsites.  We passed through many a beautiful town and lots of lovely forest, sipping large beers along the way.  For those of you expecting us to be fit, skinny minnies on arrival home will be disappointed - Germany made sure our fat supplies (well mine anyway!) stayed plentiful with amazing beers, breads & ice cream cafes throughout.

Crossing into Holland a few days ago meant we had to forget all our basic German & unfortunately reverted back to English...we're both so exhausted with (badly) attempting other languages that Dutch seemed just too ambitious, luckily everyone we've spoken to has near perfect English and with our broad smiles haven't been too annoyed.

We've once again met some wonderful people & been treated so well along the way.  Particular shout outs go to Mariam, Norma, Bob & Jim who were staying in a caravan next to us in Munster - they took pity on our cheese sandwiches & kindly cooked for us, as well as watering us with plenty of wine & brandy.  The cycling wasn't so easy the next day.  Also to Rolf, who offered us his garden to camp in & got a bbq & beers in especially.  The main thing I'll take away from this trip is the kindness of strangers, so please folks, if you see any tired, scruffy cyclists passing your way, do remember us & invite them in for a cup of tea - it might just make their day.

On a slightly more negative note, what's with all the bleedin' head wind?!  It wasn't until a couple of days ago when we raced along at 25kmph on the flat feeling super motivated that I realised what a difference it makes & how much its shaped our trip ...I think we'd have done the route a month quicker had we gone the other direction. All about the character building (or whatever they say) though...

Right, here's a few pics and then we're done....until next week, when we'll write our final update from Newcastle!  Thanks for all the support guys, still not sure how many or who is reading our blog but we appreciate it all the same.

Cycling along the Berlin Wall with Stephy Spaghetti
Fun times at late-night outdoor parties
A bike shop made for John
Birthday dinner in Berlin
A posh roadside lunch
The twin town of Skegness!
One of our fave camping spots
John was swept off his feet by our amazing host Rolf
These 45 cyclists were all cancer survivors doing a tour of German children's hospitals...very inspiring
Country number 10!  Holland!
SO excited to reach Amsterdam


Thursday, 9 August 2012

One Week in Berlin

Hello again- john here. this time on a German kezboard. So when zou see a Z.. i mean a Y. And the other waz round too.  Its a different lazout...  Alles Klar?

We cant reallz saz weve done anz more czcling, other than wheeling around between bars, restaurants and all night techno raves (we are in Germanz after all), but we have seen quite a few old friends and generallz had a grand old time of it.  Laura had been here before, but i dont think i had, and it was nice to explore.  We saw some sights and sounds and beers and foods.  Riding the bikes without the bags on was verz nice. 

LauraƤs freind Monika put us up in here flat in Neu Kolln, and was a luxurz to have access to a fridge and kettle with lots of tea bags.  Our good friend Steph from Manchester came to visit us here too, and managed to meet up with Myrtle and H, Ron and Sabina, and again it was amaying to see friendlz faces all around! Strange to be in Berlin, but still have dinner with 8 nice friends.

The main event was of course LauraƤs birthdaz, hitting the ripe age of 29.  I sorted a mzsterz daz of treasure hunting around the citz and splurged on a posh hotel (13th floor, good though!) And then we met our friends for an Indian meal, and went home with swollen bellies. Good daz!

Todaz i write this from Potsdam, on our waz out of Berlin as we ease back into the saddle.  Its onlz a 35km daz or something, but it gets us out of the citz and back into our tent where we can route plan the next stages and hopefullz side step anz hills. 

Ive got some work lined up for the 7th of September which is fantastic news for me.  We just have about 800km left, mz birthday, a ferrz from amsterdam, see the familz, fix the van, get back down to Manchester, and find somewhere to live. Easz.

Massive thanks to all the new people who have Sponsored us-  amaying stuff!!!!! It feels great have this support and keep the pedals turning.

Ok, we have just managed to find some gas for the stove which ran out 2 weeks ago, which means a good meal tonight at the campsite.

Auf Wiedersehen!!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Day 51 - 66 Vranovska Plaz to Berlin. 685km (Total 3035km)

Greetings from Berlin, woop!!!  Feels like a super duper milestone to have reached, having made it into country number 8 with less than a month & only Holland to go.  We've also managed to clock up 3000km, which was my original estimate for the whole trip - does that mean we can stop now?!  

German tourers travelling with 2 dogs

Its great to be on the flat again - Czech was tough & by the time we got to Prague was taking its toll.  One particularly large hill looked like a roller coaster from the distance, I wasn't impressed when we got closer & realised it was our road ahead.  We made the decision to do the last few km's into Prague by train - a bit of a cop-out but with our large scale road map & the usual big city traffic it would have taken hours to navigate the city centre.  I have no regrets.  

Cheeky ride on the train! Only a few km's I promise

I've been to Prague twice before & had great memories of a beautiful old town and VERY cheap beer.  Although having had beer for 12p a glass in Vietnam everything's extortionate to us now. Anyhoo's we managed to bagsy ourselves a city centre campsite & explore the fine city with beer breaks along the way. Even an amazing vegetarian restaurant – what a treat!

Tasty and cheap.  Mmmmmmmm........
In Prague we were told about the Elbe River bicycle route, which would take us to Dresden & beyond - once again allowing us to travel on the flat with bike signs helping us along the way. It lived up to our expectations & – the scenery was stunning & it was great to once again be surrounded by other cyclists on the popular route. Only on occasion were we left completely bemused by where the bike path took us:

To cycle or not to cycle...?

A bike route?  Seriously?!

The crossing into Germany was understated to say the least & we wouldn't have noticed had it not been for a large group of retired tourers hastily studying their maps. In Dresden we were joined by our friends Andy & Maja, who live near Frankfurt & kindly made the trip across Germany to hang out for the weekend (would have been a slightly difficult detour for us). It was great to kick back, hang out amongst friends and relax in a great city. Always good to have an excuse for a rest day too!

The closest we got to the German flag near the border

Crazy pics on Andy's snazy camera
Fun times in Dresden

Onwards to Berlin, we continued along the Elbe for a couple more days before diverting north, once again relying on our navigational skills & keeping our fingers crossed for little traffic & no hills.  Thankfully we weren't dissapointed & have made it into Berlin in one piece.  Fun times ahead!x

SO many bikes!!!
3000km, oh yeah!