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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.