Category Archives: Berlin to London

B2L – Bad Harzburg to Einbeck (Day 8)

Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page

Friday 4 May 2012

I slept really well last night, putting out the light at 9:30pm as I was so tired! Consequently I woke up at 5:30am as that was eight hours’ sleep but listened to the BBC World Service for an hour before getting up and ready for breakfast.

Breakfast in the Hotel Germania was really good as well – loads of choice and some hot bacon.

After breakfast I packed up everything again and fetched my trike which had spent the night outside on a little terrace with a balcony above it. I had actually used the lock to fix it to some metal columns – only my second use of the lock.

When time came to settle my bill I was amazed that it was only 36 Euro. This was by far the nicest hotel in terms of facilities and comfort (and excellent WiFi) but it was one of the cheapest. It is officially four star but I thought it looked in need of renovation; that doesn’t bother me, everything was clean enough, but I know some picky hotel guests might not like that the paintwork was a bit tired. Anyway, full marks to the Hotel Germania from me.

As the forecast was cooler for today I set off with my windproof jacket on and moved the waterproofs from their position under the seat to in a bag on the back of the rack – easier to get to if there was a downpour.

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Although I had thought that most of today’s route would be downhill, of course this was not the case. It was a climb up to Göttingerode, then Oker where I joined the main road, the B498. This wasn’t too bad as it was going through towns and the German drivers are fairly nice to random recumbent tricyclists.

I didn’t go into the centre of Goslar but skirted round it on the main road. Although I gather it’s a nice place, I’d only done ten miles so it was too early to stop. I carried on to Astfeld and Langelsheim on quiet roads and then had to join the main road.

The thing about this bit of Germany is that to get between some places you have to either take the main road or do a completely ridiculous fiddly route with lots of off-road. The B82 looked pretty busy but I decided to join it and fortunately it had a run-off area at the side which was plenty wide enough for my trike and which, unlike UK road equivalents, was clearly swept as it wasn’t full of debris and glass. Still, it was rather like cycling along the A120 to Harwich which isn’t something I generally do for laughs. At least there were some downhills now but it still felt overall like I was going uphill a lot and my average speed was hovering between 7.5 and 8mph.

At Hahausen I turned off the B82 to the B248. Rather like with English roads, the more digits on the road number, the less traffic it seems to have. The B248 was an improvement and even had a very short stretch of cycle path. It still seemed to be going uphill though!

I was deviating quite a lot from the book’s route here. The book sends you through little villages but I was heading between larger towns and using the main roads. Thus I visited Seesen (which seemed a very pleasant place) but the most exciting thing about Seesen was that on the way in I found a bakery/café.

The choice was huge:

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And in the end I plumped for:

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When I came out of the bakery the skies looked a bit grey and it was actually slightly chilly (officially the temperature was 17 degrees but there was a bit of a wind blowing). I thought I might rather appreciate a pair of socks on (yes, with sandals, I know that’s appalling but now I’m 40 I think I can get away with it) but the socks were all buried at the bottom of my clothing pannier and I didn’t want to empty that out everywhere with an audience of bakery-visiting Germans so I just headed off.

Of course, within two minutes the skies were blue again, the sun was shining and I was climbing another mountain so was now really hot! I went to Engelade and then eventually you cross under the Autobahn the A7 and join the B64. I wondered if this would be a busy road – it wasn’t too bad and, again, had a wide run-off strip at the edge which I rode along.

Almost immediately we climbed a huge hill which was actually a hairpin shape to help traffic. It was two lanes wide on the climbing side so there were no problems with traffic passing me. When we finally got to the top (which felt like forever – and probably was at 4mph – but was about 2 miles) I had the corresponding downhill and what fun that was! Wheeeeeee, 35mph with giant trucks passing and giving me a boost of speed from their draught. I enjoyed that bit, and then the road stayed relatively flat for a few more miles and I kept up a very respectable 18mph, increasing to about 25mph whenever a lorry passed and I got sucked into its wake. The trike always feels safe and stable, you just find yourself speeding up rather coolly!

I whizzed through Dannhausen and then Seboldshausen. Then the run-off lane disappeared and so it was slightly less pleasant on the B64 although I still felt quite safe.

I arrived at Bad Gandersheim very quickly because I had enjoyed a prolonged downhill. As it was nearly one o’clock I decided to stop for lunch – once again in the cobbled market square I found an italian restaurant and had a pizza.

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After I had finished my pizza I took a quick look through the town (it was rather pretty) and then headed off on my own little route to Bentierode (uphill). Once I crested the hill I looked back on a rather different scene that the last few days – the huge hills of the Harz have segued into rolling hills with a rather Suffolk-esque feel.

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From Bentierode I took a road that crossed several contour lines on the map – and this didn’t lie! I took forever to climb over this little mountain, often doing 2.5mph or less. But when I got to the top the downhill stretch was really fast and the corners were quite exciting. My disk brakes were getting quite smelly by the time I got to the bottom (they are clearly finding it harder work with all the luggage on the trike).

At this point I joined the official cycle route again – the book suggested it was decent surfaces. Almost straight away I was on some gravel, although this was OK.

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It was a good thing I was paying attention to what I was doing, however, as it turned out the route was still under construction. I just noticed a huge step down (about 20cm) before rolling over it – which might have done serious damage to Alfie!

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I lifted Alfie down and you can see here the height of the concrete.

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There were also piles of gravel in the way, plus barriers, so I had to do some comedy off-roading again. This having joined the official track only a half mile before. I am clearly generally making the right decisions in going off-route for most of this!

Anyway, I arrived in Einbeck, hurrah, and cycled past lots of brewery stuff. I got into the centre which was beautiful – lots of lovely old buildings. One of them, the Hotel Goldener Löwe, was my choice for tonight – but they had no room! They recommended I tried the Einbecker Hof up the road – but they had no room! I went to the Tourist Information Centre and they suggested a hotel called Hasenjäger; they phoned up and discovered they did have a room although it would be 68 Euros which is by far the most expensive. As it seemed my only option, I said yes.

I found it on my Garmin – it was a mile and a half away. Oh well, I have a bike and could manage a bit more. I hadn’t realised, however, that this mile and a half was uphill. And what a hill! Yes, another cracker of a hill that I crawled up. I stopped halfway at a bakery to buy a chocolate sponge thingy, then carried on.

The view from the top was wonderful though!

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The hotel was pleasant enough although my room was the smallest so far and didn’t have any obvious things to make it worth 68€ when yesterday’s hotel, which had a room was twice the size, was 36€. Clearly Einbeck is an expensive place but I already knew there weren’t a lot of other towns around here and I was pooped anyway. However I might do a bit more planning tonight for tomorrow’s hotel, perhaps pre-booking if I can.

I got a cup of tea and ate my cake. Originally the woman had tried to give me a cake twice this size, but I asked her to cut it in half. I haven’t even managed to eat all of this size slice!

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Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 44.51 miles
Moving time: 5 hours 14 minutes 29 seconds
Maximum speed: 33.2 mph
Average speed: 8.5 mph
Average heart rate: 119
Maximum heart rate: 160
Calorie burn: 2,207 calories

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Filed under Berlin to London, Cycle Tours

B2L – Nachterstedt to Bad Harzburg (Day 7)

Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

It was very exciting last night at about 11pm with a really impressive electrical storm – the sort where the flashes of lightning light up the entire room and the thunder actually rattles the windows. The forecast for this morning was more of the same but when I went down for my breakfast at 7:15am the sky was blue and there were few clouds. I gather it’s to be much cooler today, maybe 20 degrees, which will be much better for cycling.

It was a slightly scary view in the mirror this morning (well, more scary than normal). It appears that my lips have got a bit sunburned so I now have a very impressive pout – I look like I’ve spent a fortune on collagen injections. Hopefully this will go down soon – the slight sunburn on my upper arms has now faded.

Yesterday I had quite a sore throat and occasional sneezes and was hoping that this was hayfever (which I haven’t really had before) rather than a cold, but this morning I have developed a cough and my nose is worse so I have a feeling I shall be going to a chemist today to try to get some cold remedies (not that anything much works, of course). If I do get a full-blown cold it may upset my schedule a bit; although I could theoretically take as long as I like for this tour, I am very keen to have the last day, Colchester to London, on a Sunday because of the traffic situation cycling in London. This means I do need to keep up 55+ miles per day to hit this target and is why I’ve tried to get a bit ahead of schedule in the first few days so I can have a slack day if necessary. Perhaps I will need it.

This Hotel (Zum Schwan) would be rated as the best hotel if its WiFi worked as the breakfast was great (including scrambled egg and sausage, little cakes, cereal, bread rolls, preserves, cold cuts and cheese and more), my room was very comfortable and the hotel itself is very quaint and olde-worlde with huge wooden beams, lots of interesting knick-knacks and old posters etc. However the WiFi issue has been a headache as I’ve been unable to plan my hotels for this evening – I shall have to visit a tourist information centre instead.

I set off at 8:15, enjoying the cooler weather. I headed to Hoym and then Reinstedt, from there taking the road to Ballenstedt. This road was in a rather bad state of repair and was very bumpy and what with the headwind I was only making about an 8mph average which wasn’t a good sign.

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I enjoyed watching a hare run about in a field, then start across the road about 20 metres in front of me, change his/her mind and run back into the field, at which point I thought of my camera so have a poor photo of a brown hare as a dot on the horizon of a brown field. Initially I thought it might be a fox, it was so big, although its gait was clearly a bit weird for a fox!

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At Ballenstedt I was due to join the main road the B185 again and I could see it in the distance with cars whizzing along – it didn’t look very inviting. Fortunately the traffic was much slower in Ballenstedt and I felt reasonably happy; at least the road surface was better.

Ballenstedt was the beginning of the Harz mountains. I had been making my way towards them for my first ten miles or so of cycling and they looked quite big! fortunately when I reached Ballenstedt the journey direction turned a little bit so we were skirting the base of the mountains, although there were some ups and downs. Fortunately the road surfaces were good so this wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I find road surface makes a huge difference to how easy the trike is to ride – much more of a difference than I remember with an upright bike.

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At the far side of Ballenstedt I turned off the B185 and headed off on a quieter road to Rieder. This road had a cycle path for some of the way which was a bonus, although when the path crossed another official cycle route it disappeared (I assume I was meant to do down this mystery cycle route). I carried on on the road.

Germans drive fast. We probably already knew this, but I am surprised how fast they go. However, all give me a huge amount of room when they overtake, I don’t tend to feel that they are hassling me to get out of the way, no-one has yet shouted at me for not being on the cycle path (this did happen in Berlin at times last September) and generally I’ve found even the relatively busy roads fairly reasonable. What is interesting, though, is the scenery. Not the fields, trees and mountains (although they are pretty), but the people. It’s as if almost all the people under 50 years old have disappeared. Most people I see are elderly, grizzly men in boiler suits or elderly women with dodgy perms. The lady serving me in this cafe is probably about 25 years old but it’s not that often that I see younger people. I gather the unemployment rate is appalling here so young people head for the bigger cities to look for work. When on the U-Bahn in Berlin I am always surprised at the high quotient of dishy men – and now it’s clear where they’ve come from.

Anyway, I reached Rieder and kept on the main road past Bad Suderode, through Neinstedt and then Thale. From there I headed towards Blankenburg, going through Timmenrode on the way. A bakery/café in Timmenrode caught my attention and I stopped for a cup of tea and a cake. This is the choice that I was faced with:

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And this is what I finally settled on – a Windbeutel. It was full of cream and I actually had to leave some as there was too much. It was yummy!

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I cycled straight through Blankenburg but it looked rather pleasant. I had to do a cunning bit of navigation to avoid going on the Autobahn and when I got to the little bit of road linking Blankenburg with Heimburg (the next town) there was a sign saying that the route was closed. There wasn’t an alternative that I could see (apart from doing the official R1 route which had lots of dotted bits so would probably be bad on the trike) so I just went ahead down the road and encountered no problems at all.

From Heimburg I went to Benzingerode, finding I was climbing a fair bit. I passed this tomb of an unknown soldier in a bit of woodland beside the road.

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And eventually I climbed up into Wernigerode, my lunch stop. This had been a possible hotel stop if I felt a bit dodgy but I was OK to carry on after refuelling with lasagne in the pedestrian area.

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From Wernigerode it was following various roads (i.e. not the guidebook) to Darlingrode, Drübeck, Ilsenburg and then up to Stapelburg. There seemed to be loads of climbing today and my overall average was only 8.5mph as a result, but it was much cooler, about 18 degrees, so that was better weather for cycling.

Just through Stapelburg I crossed the border from Sachsen-Anhalt to Niedersachsen. You wouldn’t know there was any kind of important border there except for this huge sign which gives you a clue!

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Here is Alfie about to do the East/West Crossing.

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And here is a rather nice monument to reunification.

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The next five miles were all along a good cycle route (although liberally strewn with pine cones that make a pinging sound under my wheels) alongside some woodland. I was approaching Bad Harzburg but it didn’t seem to be getting much nearer as I was crawling up and up. There was even a hairpin bend which I’d seen on the map and assumed was a downhill – I assumed wrongly!

When I finally reached Bad Harzburg at 4:15pm I was very relieved. Now just to find the Tourist Information Centre. But there seemed a significant dearth of signs. In the end I looked in my Radweg book and it showed loads of hotels were all on one particular road so I headed there – annoying, 2km away and uphill (I’d had a lovely sweeping downhill into Bad Harzburg from the east and was now going back up again to the south).

Eventually I found myself in a lovely pedestrianised area with a stream running through it (this town is a spa) and loads of hotels. The Tourist Information couldn’t tell me if hotels had WiFi and couldn’t give me much useful information so I started visiting hotel reception desks to see if they had a room. The first place was fully booked which was a bit of a surprise but I then arrived at Hotel Germania which is 4 star, had a twin room for me, very decent WiFi which was free, breakfast and all for 35 Euros. What a bargain!

It is a relief to be able to plan my hotels for tomorrow again as I like to have a list of about four in different towns depending on how energetic I’m feeling. I’m about 40 miles ahead of schedule at the moment and it’s good to have that cushion, especially as I think tomorrow will also be a hilly day. I only did 48 miles today but it was hard work! I’m just relieved the sun wasn’t so fierce.

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 47.74 miles
Moving time: 5 hours 43 minutes 33 seconds
Maximum speed: 28.4 mph
Average speed: 8.3 mph
Average heart rate: 123
Maximum heart rate: 157
Calorie burn: 2,387 calories

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B2L – Oranienbaum to Nachterstedt (Day 6)

Unfortunately this is my second attempt at this blog as the WiFi at the hotel in Nachterstedt didn’t work properly and consequently I lost most of the text, so this has been a bit shortened (a relief to my readers, no doubt!)

I slept really well last night and my back felt a lot better than yesterday.

Breakfast was a slightly strange affair as there was just me and a lady and a strange selection of food – a jug of milk and cereal bowls but no cereal. The other lady explained that she had poured out some cereal and it was full of ants so they took it away!

Anyway, this lady and I got chatting. She was Dutch and lives in the Hague but has been in the Dessau area for three weeks preparing some event for the Dutch Queen (an opening of something but I didn’t quite catch what). The lady was having troubles over the hotel bill for her and her party and was also very concerned to discover that no hotel staff were on duty overnight last night – in fact, none of them were in the building. This seemed rather strange to me too, but for this lady who has epilepsy it is potentially dangerous. Anyway, I left at 8:15 whilst she was still arguing about the bill with the hotel manager.

I had already decided not to follow the route in the book to get to Dessau, particularly as there is a perfectly decent road going straight to Dessau and the Dutch lady told me she’d previously cycled it and it had a cycle path all the way.

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So I set off, enjoying the sunshine. Today I was wearing my long-sleeved Help For Heroes jersey as I wanted to give my arms a rest from the sun. I had also put lots of sun cream on my face and my legs in the hope that I would last out the day without getting too red,

The main road went through Mildensee after crossing the A9 Autobahn and then I arrived in Dessau. I wended my way through it on the excellent cycle paths alongside the road and at one point found myself passing the Technik-Museum Hugo Junkers with an aeroplane outside. I bet that would have been interesting to visit but this isn’t really a museum-visiting tour, not with all my luggage on the trike anyway!

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After Dessau it looked as though the official R1 Radweg route was reasonable so I followed it to Aken and then Reppichau. By this time (21 miles) I was ready for a break but the weird ghost-town feeling of East Germany was continuing. Reppichau was really interesting as it had statues and wall paintings everywhere, loads of different subjects including things to do with Martin Luther, old calligraphy, farming and more. However all I was really looking for was a café or ice cream place but there was nothing. So I carried on.

I went through Osternienburg and then the most fantastically-named Pißdorf.

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I could see a larger town in the distance and in due course arrived in Köthen which was an unusual place in that I passed about eight kebab shops before I found the first bakery – and I’m not joking about that. They need to get their priorities right – cakes are more important than Döner!

Anyway, the bakery provided the necessary sustenance – an iced doughnut and a cup of tea.

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My trailblazing route after Köthen involved the major road the B185 (B roads are equivalent to our A roads in the UK). This road didn’t have a cycle path alongside it and wasn’t the nicest bit of road to cycle on so I decided to take my alternative, slightly longer detour onto quieter roads at Trinum. I turned off and discovered now that I was going over quite a hill. This is the view back to the B185.

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And this is what I saw when I got to the top of the hill.

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A fairly traditional East German view – lots of wind turbines.

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Alfie having a rest beside the road.

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After Mötz I went on to Wohlsdorf, then Poley and then across to Bernburg which lies on the river Saale. I thought it was time for some lunch so found a nice Italian café in the market square.

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They had a special offer on pizzas – 5 Euros each! And it was a big one!

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They also gave me a free scoop of chocolate ice cream as a dessert which was a bonus!

I admired the river Saale on my way out.

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I had two possible routes to get to Staßfurt, both of which involved B roads. I didn’t fancy it if there wasn’t a cycle path but didn’t know how to find out – until I remembered Google Earth. I had a quick look on my phone and could see there was no path on the B185 that went west out of Bernburg but there was one on the B71 which went north; the distances would work out about the same so I took the north route through Strenzfeld, then turning off at Neugattersleben to Hohenerxleben. I liked this sign I saw at Strenzfeld!

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When I got to Staßfurt it was only just after two so I thought it worth carrying on a bit. The next bit of ‘official’ route looked reasonable and would take me to Neu Königsaue and, after that, Nachterstedt which seemed to have a decent hotel.

Unfortunately the cycle route was pretty bad – very overgrown (I was constantly mowing down plants growing at the side of the path) and it was a huge long climb up in very hot weather (27 degrees) past oilseed rape fields which were making my nose itch. I didn’t enjoy the last ten miles much and this was exacerbated by me deciding to follow the route again as it was clearly shorter than going on the road and was marked as an asphalted cycle track (it would probably shave over a mile off my remaining four miles). So I set off on this and then discovered after half a mile that they had closed the route completely, there were lots of warnings not to go past the impassable barriers, so I gave up and retraced my route, pretty cheesed off!

I was relieved to finally find Nachterstedt though I stopped at the village before which had a bakery to buy something to have when I was in the hotel. Alfie was installed in one of the large reception/dining rooms at this huge hotel.

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I went to my room with my cup of tea and got out my mysterious iced sponge cake thing I had bought, only to discovered it was an iced doorstep of bread. That was a bit of a surprise but it was still quite nice!

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What wasn’t nice was the WiFi as it barely worked. Occasionally I was able to read something but it wouldn’t let me send any data anywhere (no emails, no facebook posts, not even completing information on a hotels website to say I was looking for single rooms etc). This was incredibly frustrating, even more so when I realised I had lost this original blog post that I had written as it hadn’t uploaded. I asked the hotel owner about it but he had no real idea, and I couldn’t be too forceful with him as half an hour earlier he’d read one of the leaflets on Alfie about my Berlin to London ride and had given me a 20 Euro donation! So a Wi-Fi-less evening loomed and annoyed me as I wanted to plan my hotels for tomorrow. No luck there, I’d have to wing it.

Today had been incredibly hot and I was glad I had worn my long-sleeved jersey. However it was pretty clear by the end of the day where the cuff went!

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Apart from the WiFi the hotel was really good and I treated myself to Asparagus Soup (as it’s Spargelzeit and the Germans go mad for it)

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And afterwards I had a salad – I didn’t feel like eating much because of the hot day.

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After more pointless attempts at the WiFi I settled down to read a book, listening to thunder and seeing flashes of lightning and hearing torrential rain drumming on the roof.

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 65.05 miles
Moving time: 6 hours 39 minutes 22 seconds
Maximum speed: 23.8 mph
Average speed: 9.8 mph
Average heart rate: 120
Maximum heart rate: 179
Calorie burn (estimate as heart rate monitor didn’t always get a reading): 3,500 calories

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B2L – Borkheide to Oranienbaum (Day 5)

Click here to find my current location: Auntie Helen’s Berlin to London track

I was up bright and early this morning, ready for breakfast at 7:30am. I had wondered if I was the only person staying in the Hotel but there was a German couple also at the breakfast table. The lady was wearing cycling gear and, as it turned out, I saw them several times over the course of today as we were riding in the same direction. Anyway, the breakfast was marvellous with a huge choice and even some little pastries. Sadly I didn’t have as much appetite as usual and wasn’t organised enough to take a doggie bag away with me. I had arranged the waterproof bag with my coat, windproof, gloves and buff (i.e. rain gear) and attached it to the trike with my new bungy cord. It works well in this position! Here is Alfie outside the Hotel Fliegerheim ready to roll.

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Off I set, following the route in the forest which was excellently asphalted. In fact, up until the last twenty miles of today’s 57 miles, it has been mostly brilliant road surfaces. Of course, when you get into towns you tend to be faced with this, which is perhaps OK on German bikes with full suspension but is a bit uncomfortable and rattly on a rear-suspenion-only trike!

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This was the view for almost all this morning – blue skies, sunshine, nice tarmac cycle path with no cars. Beats dodging the traffic in London any day!

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Today was a public holiday in Germany (May Day) and it was a bit spooky because not many people seemed to be about. Then once or twice I passed a Biergarten that was absolutely heaving with people and they seemed to have Hog Roasts or something similar and there were hundreds of bicycles and motorcycles outside. At one point this afternoon I was passed by three vintage motorcycles with sidecars in a row so there may have been some motorcycle event on.

I cycled through Neuendorf, Brück, Trebnitz, Baitz, Schwanebeck and then arrived at Belzig. This had been one of my options for overnight last night but I’m glad I stopped off at Borkheide as this seemed like a long way. It was so warm I had to take off my cycling jersey so I just had a vest top on – and this just at 9:30am. I was averaging 12mph as the surfaces were so good. Belzig had a fantastic castle. See those cobbles? I had to cycle over them for at least a mile as there was a diversion in the town centre for bicycles and I didn’t get it quite right. Having my Garmin means I can see roughly where I need to aim for so I’m never concerned I’ll get really lost but it can be annoying finding yourself on more cobbles than strictly necessary!

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Belzig was up a bit of a hill but I had the corresponding descent afterwards. I took this photo one-handed whilst cycling at about 25mph!

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I was getting a bit peckish and thirsty by now and knew that I had some more climbing to do so decided to stop for a break (I’d cycled for two hours now). Having passed through Grubo I stopped at Raben and had a piece of Apfelkuchen and a pint of tap water.

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I then carried on uphill towards Klein Marzehns and on the way saw this wonderfully-named bar:

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Just after Klein Marzehns I crossed the border from the county of Brandenburg into Sachsen-Anhalt. There was a little sign saying “Goodbye from Potsdam” and almost instantly the tarmac cycle path turned into:

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This was horrendous on a trike – one wheel was in the grass and it was quite a sandy surface anyway. I desperately hoped this was just a short stretch – but it wasn’t, it was 4.2km to Berkau (the next town) and I had to do this bit at 4-6mph to try to protect the trike (and me – I was getting really jiggled about). My back wasn’t 100% this morning, I think the bed was a bit soft, so a jiggly ride wasn’t optimal.

The tarmac road of Berkau was such a relief, but then I followed the sign around a corner and lo and behold it was more track again! I got out my Europa Radweg R1 book and, looking through (and learning its symbols – a dotted line is nasty un-asphalted track) I realised pretty much all the rest of the way to Lutherstadt Wittenberg would be this surface. No way was I doing that!

So, rather unusually for me, I decided to deviate from the track. The map showed that I could do two sides of a triangle to get to Wittenberg all on main roads, so I headed off to Straach. How fab was it to be whizzing along on fast, tarmaced roads. The Germans tend to make their road surfaces smoother than ours so they were really comfortable to ride on and I was averaging 15-18mph and sitting most comfortably in 31st gear most of the time (32nd and 33rd are colossally high gears for downhill only really). Straach arrived really soon (despite being 4km away) and then I turned south towards Wittenberg, going through Reinsdorf. This was, again, a fab bit of road and if more than one car passed me in a minute that was a surprise. The roads around East Germany seem well made and lacking in traffic which is great.

It’s also clear from riding around here that pretty much all the work must be in agriculture or tourism. There wasn’t much else evident – just loads of farms, fields of oilseed rape or wheat, butterflies galore and I even managed to avoid running over a slow worm.

It was pretty much downhill to Lutherstadt Wittenberg so I arrived really quickly – I had originally estimated my arrival time at 13:00 and this was before I took the detour which added at least another four miles, but I actually arrived at 12:45. I parked my trike in the market square and stopped for some much-needed lunch – Tomatencremesuppe.

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After lunch I put on a bit more sun cream as it was really, really hot. To hot to sit outside anyway – on the trike you get a lovely breeze which makes it more manageable.

As I was in Lutherstadt Wittenberg it was only right to go and say hello to Martin Luther – or at least the church where he nailed his 95 Theses to the door. Wittenberg was a very touristy town with a Luther Museum, a Melanchton Museum (Melanchton was one of his chums) and lots more.

It was pretty easy to find the Schloßkirche (Luther’s church) as it had a huge tower around which was visible in huge writing “ein feste Burg ist…” (a mighty fortress is… our God, presumably, but I couldn’t see round there).

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And there on the door were the Theses carved in wood.

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I found it unexpectedly moving seeing all this stuff. I’ve always found Luther an interesting character – a man who thought that he was right and the rest of the world (largely) was wrong, and yet I think he was right (speaking as a good Protestant here). If anyone now said they were right and the rest of the world was wrong we’d think they were barmy. Well, I suppose five sixths of the world’s population don’t agree with Luther but I found it good to be visiting the birthplace of Protestantism.

And then it was time to carry on. I had another twenty miles to Oranienbaum – twenty miles of dotted lines on the map (i.e. dodgy surfaces). I wasn’t playing that game again so I had already looked for an alternative route and discovered that taking the main roads was a far, far more direct way and presumably much more trike-friendly. So I stuck a waypoint for Oranienbaum into my Garmin and set off.

The initial part of the journey was on the official R1 cycle route which here is also the Elbe River Cycle Route. Here I am about to cross the Elbe.

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And looking back on Luther’s church.

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From here on in it was all speedy roads, generally keeping at about 15mph in 31st gear and really enjoying the ride. There were even fewer cars now – maybe one every five minutes. There were also occasional cyclists, presumably mostly locals. I like to see other cyclists as I like to think that if I have a bike disaster I won’t be stuck entirely on my own.

This route was a very significant short cut, reducing the 20 miles of the R1 route to just 14. Consequently I arrived in Oranienbaum before 4pm which gave me time to find the hotel I had googled yesterday (it had WiFi which is a must for me). The Hotel Goldener Fasan (golden pheasant, I think) was very nice and had a huge garage for my trike.

After my shower and washing out my clothes I went downstairs for a much-deserved ice cream.

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Despite the sun cream I have taken on a bit of colour. The iPhone has rather exaggerated the red – it’s only very slightly pink in reality and will probably be back to normal by tomorrow morning, but you can see what two days of temperatures around 27 degrees and full sunshine have done!

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I have looked at the maps for tomorrow and there are huge swathes of dotted lines. I can see decent diversions for all of these so will do more main road riding I think. This probably won’t work when I get into West Germany where there’s more traffic but I’ve got another two or three days of Sachsen-Anhalt and I have hopes that the next county, Niedersachsen, might do a bit more asphalting of cycle paths!

I am looking forward to my dinner now as I’ve worked up a decent appetite! The weather forecast is for it to be even warmer tomorrow so I’ll try and set off early again to make the most of the cooler morning. And I will wear longer sleeves and more sun cream!

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 57.22 miles
Moving time: 5 hours 24 minutes 29 seconds
Maximum speed: 23.1 mph
Average speed: 10.6 mph
Average heart rate: 133
Maximum heart rate: 176
Calorie burn: 2,378 calories

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B2L – Berlin to Borkheide (Day 4)

Click here to find my current location: Auntie Helen’s Berlin to London track

Today is the start of my tour proper!

I arranged to meet my friend Ines in Starbucks by Friedrichstraße station. Ines was cycling to meet me and was a bit late so I had a text from her at one point which said “I am already Zoo” (which I understood to mean she was at the Zoo station so I could expect her in 5-10 minutes).

She duly arrived and we had a cup of tea together and I had a breakfast panini and then a choc chip cookie to give me energy for the ride.

She then led the way to the Brandenburg Gate, all of half a mile from Starbucks, and she took lots and lots of photographs of me. Of course I am remarkably unphotogenic, and there were lots of random people wandering into shot, but I think we managed one or two passable ones.

Here is my trike at the bottom of one of the columns of the Brandenburger Tor.
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And here am I, ready to go!
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I said goodbye to Ines, set my GPS tracker and off I went.

If you’d like to follow my progress the link is here: Auntie Helen’s Berlin to London track

I headed off through Tiergarten along very familiar cycle paths which I used daily when I was in Berlin last September. It’s wonderful that you can cycle from the very centre of a city right to its outskirts on decent cycle paths – London, take note! (Although of course Berlin has the huge advantage of very wide roads which have plenty of rooms for paths).

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I began to see the first signs for the European Cycle Route R1 – this was a large sign, generally they have been tiny and very hard to see from my low-down recumbent cycling position!

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So I headed westward out of Berlin enjoying the beautiful sunshine. I stopped after a couple of miles to put on some sun cream as it was nearly twenty degrees and with a bright blue sky.

As I went past the Olympiastadion the route turned left into the Grunewald. I did a lot of cycling round here last September and every time found mosquitos attacking me if I fell below about 8mph. I had hoped that April would be a bit early for mossies but I did see a few but fortunately managed to avoid being bitten.

I passed the Grunewaldturm and took a quick pic again.

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The next ten miles or so involved hugging the various lakes/rivers of western Berlin which all feed into each other. There was the Havel, the Großer Wannsee, the Tiefer See, the Templiner See and the Shwielowsee. There were lots of people out sailing – it was a wonderful day for it with a decent amount of wind.

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The paths around the lakes were mostly asphalted although there were some less good tracks of compacted gravel and earth.

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I reached Potsdam and crossed the Glienicker Brücke which was one of the border crossings of the old Berlin Wall era. The Brandenburg Gate was in the old East but 50 metres west of it was the site of the Wall and so I had spent two hours (20 miles) cycling across West Berlin and had reached the former East again. It is interesting to realise how small West Berlin was.

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I got a glimpse across near Pfaueninsel of the Sacrower Heilandskirche which was a church for sailors. When the Wall was up the area behind it was East Berlin but the little spit of land the church sits on was West Berlin so the only access to it was by boat. It was a church for seafarers and is beautiful inside (I visited it last September). There was a boat sailing by at the same time I took this photograph!

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I have visited Potsdam before briefly but couldn’t remember much about it – possibly because they were doing a lot of building work at the centre. I couldn’t follow the GPS track on my Garmin as there were various building works but it was fairly easy to spot where I should go. I passed this posh building:

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and then found myself at this bike shop. I had decided to stop if I saw a bike shop to see if I could get a replacement bungy for the one I left on the train yesterday. My panniers are a bit overfilled with my raincoat inside them – the plan was to bungy it in a waterproof bag to the back of my seat. The shop sold me a black bungy for 3 Euros and also let me use their track pump. The ride had felt a bit more spongy than normal but the tyres were at the correct pressure so I expect it’s just that I’m not used to carting around so much weight on the back!

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I stopped at a bakery a mile after this and bought a baguette for lunch and also an Amerikaner (an iced doughnut) for later. I had an amusing game of ‘find the WCs’ in the shopping centre as they weren’t very well signposted and I had to keep asking people. I changed from my sleeveless vest top to a short-sleeved cycling jersey, mindful of the sun on my shoulders.

I carried on from Potsdam to Geltow on paths which were more frequently unasphalted.

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The route from Geltow to Petzow and then on to Borkheide was made up of different ‘Fahrradstraße’ – bicycle streets. These are for bikes only and were almost all at least five metres wide and decently asphalted. The unasphalted bits were a bit grotty for my trike and it and I were covered in dust and sand by the time we reached Petzow. When crossing a bridge I bumped into two people on recumbent trikes – matching red HP Velotechnik Skorpions. I had a quick chat with them but as we had stopped by a busy road I wanted to carry on fairly quickly.

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I loved this bit of Europa Radweg signage!

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By now it was 3:30pm and I was feeling pretty tired, what with the hot day and the variable road surfaces. Alfie the trike wasn’t feeling quite himself either and seemed to be squeaking and creaking a bit with all the weight of my panniers and I think my seat had slipped slightly off-centre so I will check that tomorrow morning. The Alfine hub skipped a gear now and again but improved after I cleaned some of the dust off the cable as it winds around the hub.

And then I rounded a corner and saw another ICE trike coming towards me! This was an ICE Adventure which is the slightly-higher-off-the-ground version and I had a chat with its owner who was trying to find his mobile phone which he’d dropped somewhere underway.

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We had a chat for a bit but I wanted to get on to Borkheide as I was keen to have a shower and a cup of tea!

I had looked up a few hotels before leaving the UK and decided that, if I stopped in Borkheide, I would go to the Hotel Fliegerheim. By the time I drew up outside it I was feeling really pooped – and with horror I saw building materials and boarded up windows. Oh no!

But there was a sign out for the restaurant on the pavement so I went in and asked if they had rooms – yes, they did, and she showed me to a very pleasant room and also allowed me to store Alfie in their locked covered garage-of-all-things area.

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They were exceptionally helpful and when I requested a cup of tea they gave me a huge two litre insulated jug of hot water, a mug and lots of milk. Here it is next to my pot of 75 teabags (I have some additional teabags in a plastic bag).
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After my shower and washing out my clothes I allowed myself to eat the Amerikaner – which was VERY good!

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And here is a photo of the map which shows Borkheide – a random settlemeet in the middle of a lot of green!
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Plan for tomorrow is to cycle to Lutherstadt Wittenberg and to see some of the sights there, including the Schlosskirche where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door. Hotels are fairly expensive there so if I have a bit more energy I may carry on a bit further to somewhere cheaper, but I think there’s a lot to see in Wittenberg so I may carry on.

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 43.35 miles
Moving time: 4 hours 23 minutes 43 seconds
Maximum speed: 30.2 mph
Average speed: 9.9 mph
Average heart rate: 123
Maximum heart rate: 181
Calorie burn: 1,993 calories

My current fundraising total for Help For Heroes is a fantastic £1,413.35 plus some Gift Aid recoveries which will increase that figure. If you’re reading this and feel like supporting my sponsored ride, please visit my fundraising page here: Auntie Helen’s Fundraising Page

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B2L – Düsseldorf to Berlin by train (Day 3)

Day 3 – Düsseldorf to Berlin

The CVJM offered a good breakfast (I took my own teabags, of course). I have brought 110 teabags with me, knowing that 40 wasn’t enough for a week in Austria; I’ve only used three so far so I think I might be bringing some home with me.

Anyway, after breakfast I faffed about reading, checking train times and all that kind of stuff. As the train from Düsseldorf to Minden was hourly I decided I might get the one an hour earlier than my schedule to give me an hour and a half in Minden to get some lunch and to allow for any train delays.

The railway station at Düsseldorf has the helpful signage that displays for you where on the train you will find the bike carriage and where to stand on the platform for that part of the train (platforms are divided into A-F). You can see from here the picture of the bike under D, which is where I positioned myself.

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As I was waiting for the train I decided to put my Information Boards on the seat. These are laminated A4 sheets in German (with English on the other side for when I am in Holland) which give an overview of what I am doing. I had left them on my trike last night (it was stored in a stairwell in the hotel) and when I went to pack up the Info Boards this morning I realised that someone had slipped a pound coin into the packet of flyers – so I have received my first donation in Germany (although possibly from an English person). I realise that people won’t know what I’m doing unless I display the boards when I’m off the bike and hopefully they will generate some conversational opportunities.

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The train drew in and I was standing in exactly the right place. It had nice wide doors and a huge carriage space for the trike. As usual, though, the bike area was fairly near the loo which can be a bit whiffy.

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Anyway, I was going to have two and a half hours on this train so I settled down reading a book on my iPad, occasionally posting things on Facebook and answering emails. The marvels of modern day communication!

Yesterday I downloaded the Deutsche Bahn iPhone app which is really good – it shows you realtime reports of your train and where it is, when it will arrive at each station etc, and if it’s running on time. I was rather surprised to note that, rather than getting in to Minden at about half past one, it was scheduled to arrive at 13:49, so was half an hour slower than the train an hour later. That seemed unusual for Deutsche Bahn so I looked at the original train I was going to get and that one was taking longer as well (I had the printout from Deutsche Bahn UK’s booking office to check against). Then, in the small print, I saw “wegen bauarbeiten”… on account of engineering works. It looks as though they had diverted the train from its normal route. If I had got that train I would have arrived at Minden a minute after my Berlin train left. That would have been rather unfortunate!!

However, fortunately I had just under an hour at Minden (which seems to be rather like Crewe – loads of trains stop there but there’s nothing much actually there). I bought a frikadelle baguette for lunch, plus a packet of crisps (being Germany the packets of crisps are giant and you only ever have the choice of Paprika flavour, Salt & Vinegar or Sour Cream; I chose Paprika). They filled up any remaining space in my pannier!

I was waiting on the correct platform half an hour before the train was due and my DB iPhone app assured me it was on time. It duly arrived and – horror of horrors! – was one of the trains with narrow doors. There was no way my trike would fit through them.

Fortunately there was a conductor right there and he helped me pick the trike up and turn it sideways so it just squeezed in. I got as far as the lobby between the trains and then the doors shut and the train set off. The conductor helped me get the trike through the doors into the carriage. There were lots of perturbed-looking people with bikes in racks who thought I was going to block their route out (they explained they were getting off in Hannover, I had said I was going to Berlin) so to save space I folded Alfie so he took up very little room indeed. Everyone was happy.

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An English-speaking German man got on the train at Hannover and talked to me about my trip (having read my Info Boards, of course!) He offered me a bottle of water and half his sandwich, but I was OK. I remember some Germans giving me a bottle of water previously when on tour – it’s these random acts of generosity which add a sparkle to the day. Anyway this man’s youngest son is in London and has been complaining about the rain for the last couple of weeks – the chap said I had picked the best week to leave the foul British weather and come to warm and sunny Berlin, and he’s right!

As we travelled through Wolfsburg he told me all about VW and their history and all their factories (he used to work there in management, I think). He explained how rich Wolfsburg is as a city and that the mayor was exceptionally good at parting rich people from their money to build museums etc. He pointed out of the train window the new science centre endowed by “a fat arab lady” which is supposed to teach physics to children. He had lots of other interesting comments about places we travelled through and had a quick chat about David Cameron and his uselessness (this is something most of us can agree on).

I was getting a little concerned about getting out at Berlin Hauptbahnhof as the train had one further station to go to. It was such a job lifting Alfie in with the help of the conductor – what if he didn’t reappear? Fortunately my friend from Wolfsburg, Hans, said he would help me and when we finally reached Berlin (after two and a half hours) he organised all the other bike-owners in the carriage to let me and my trike and luggage out, then to let him and his bike out as he would initially be helping me with the trike. We arrived in Berlin, Hans sorted everyone out and lifted the trike out for me on his own, I then moved it out of the way and started reassembling it. Hans shook my hand and went off, then another of the chaps with bikes in the carriage asked me if I needed help carrying the trike down the stairs. I thanked him and said that I knew the lifts at the Hauptbahnhof are large enough for the trike (which they are), so off he went. Another example of the helpful friendliness of the Germans, or are they responding to me looking damsel-in-distress-esque (except I don’t look much like a damsel!)

Somewhere in all this trike moving the bungy cord James gave me to attach my jacket to the bike in a waterproof bag got left behind so Deutsche Bahn have won that from me. It kind of makes up for me not paying them 15 Euro for my journey yesterday from Venlo to Düsseldorf…

After a minute or so Alfie was put back together and I headed out. I hadn’t reckoned with the wait for the lift, however, which was rather long – at least five minutes. Still, I got to admire the view of the big open square outside the Hauptbahnhof with various government buildings in the background.

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The lift came, I squeezed Alfie in it and asked for the ground floor (Erdgeschoss). We went down a floor and someone wanted to get in so I had to get out, but I didn’t realise we weren’t yet on the ground floor and so didn’t get back in the lift. I couldn’t face waiting another five to ten minutes for it so decided to make my way out some other way, choosing a lesser-used entrance (which involved fighting with double doors which refused to stay open – until some passing Germans saw my struggles and came and held them open for me). I had to go down a couple of flights of steps but I knew this was finally the end of my train travelling and so managed one last effort’

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And then it was a half mile cycle ride to my hotel, the Best Western which is tucked away between Friedrichstraße and the Brandenburg Gate but which is very decently priced and has good, functional WiFi in the room (last night’s CVJM Hotel WiFi kept dropping out every five minutes).

It was a relief to put down all my luggage and relax. Carting the panniers around when they are this heavy has rather mangled my fingers – I’ve taken the ring off that hand as it was digging in but my fingers feel like they are almost blistered. Hopefully from now on things will be a bit easier as the luggage can mostly stay on the trike!

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I went out for an evening meal and noticed that the building next door looked rather strange:

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I half wonder if it’s an old Stasi building or something, it’s not too far from the Wall. There was no information about it anywhere though, although I saw a man going in one of the doors so it’s clearly in use.

I found a Chinese restaurant which was very large and half of the customers were Chinese so I thought it would probably be rather good – and it was. Here’s my Mystery Chicken Dish which was arranged to look like a fish!

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Tomorrow is the start of the tour proper. I’ve done three miles on the bike and about twelve hours on trains in the last two days so am feeling the need to stretch my legs and do some pedalling. The forecast is sunny and 22 degrees for tomorrow (with a few spots of rain around lunchtime possibly) so it should be a great day for riding. At 9am I am meeting my good friend Ines who lives in Berlin; we will have breakfast together and then she will take lots of photographs of me setting off from the Brandenburg Gate. I plan to ride to either Borkheide (41 miles) with the lovely-looking Hotel Fliegerheim or to Belzig (58 miles) which has two hotels, one of which is a converted castle and the other is a converted mill. Choices, choices….

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B2L – Hoek van Holland to Düsseldorf by train (Day 2)

2 – Hook of Holland to Düsseldorf

I slept reasonably but the wake-up call always seems way too early, what with the hour time change as well.

I redistributed some of the weight in my panniers (the port side pannier is just clothing and lightweight, the starboard side pannier is the one with valuables (gadgets, tools etc) and is very heavy, so I decided to transfer the tools to the other pannier to spread the weight a bit better. I’m not sure it made much difference but there you go.

Although my trike was at the very back of the ferry I was able to weave up between the cars and head out into Holland – in drizzly rain. It was a grey, rainy start and some other cyclists who had talked to me while we waited to disembark said they were cycling around Holland for a few days. I don’t think they’ve got the weather for it. When I said it was 27 degrees and sunny in Berlin I think they were somewhat envious!

The train from the Hoek to Rotterdam was already waiting at the station. I couldn’t remember what time it was leaving so hopped in the first door (well, attempted to – it’s hard to hop with a recumbent trike and two heavy panniers). Once the trike was installed the railways lady who had been sitting in First Class told me I needed to go to the next carriage which was better for bikes, so I got off again, went down one carriage and lo and behold found myself in a huge bike space, so that was handy.

It turned out I had a good 25 minutes to wait so settled down and made myself comfortable, watching the rain through the windows. I’m glad I’m not cycling in Holland today, and I have already decided to get the train from Venlo to Düsseldorf rather than riding it.

The train arrived at Rotterdam Centraal after half an hour. I barely recognised the station – it’s clearly in the middle of a major refurb and seemed totally different. They also seemed to have got rid of the huge lift that could fit three trikes in at once – eventually I found a small lift but it was just big enough for my trike. I bought a chicken sandwich and a cookie to have as my breakfast – I had already been up several hours so was feeling pretty hungry.

The next train was one to Utrecht. This was one of the double decker trains and unfortunately was rather packed with people. There were people sitting on fold-up seats in the priority bicycle storage area and they clearly weren’t going to move. I stayed in the main passageway with Alfie until it clearly became an issue and I informed the people on the bike seating area that they ought to move – and they did, across the gangway to some perfectly decent and empty seats.I then managed to squeeze Alfie in – just.

After half an hour on this train it was another change – this time for the train to Eindhoven. The train had been a bit delayed coming into Utrecht (which I will be cycling through in two weeks’ time) so I had missed my connection to Eindhoven. Never mind, the trains are every half hour.

Except, luckily, it seemed like the previous one was quite significantly delayed as it was standing there ten minutes after the time it should have left and so I got on. Along with rather a lot of other people, which involved much walking around my trike.

I am continually amazed, when travelling in Europe, of the inability of people to queue sensibly. When a train full of people arrives at a platform, what do the people waiting on the platform do? Do they let everyone out of the train first, giving them plenty of room to step off and move out of the way? No, they don’t. Everyone crowds round, trying to squeeze on, and it’s a bit of a nightmare.

There was a lady opposite me on this Eindhoven train with a fold up bike (which split in half – scary! It was just held together with two metal clips) and a cello in a case. She needed to get out but I was blocking the door. I said I would get off the train to help her but all the people on the platform trying to push in made this almost impossible. Then, once I was off, I couldn’t get back on again. I had visions of the train heading off with my panniers aboard whilst I was left at the mystery station. Fortunately in the end I managed to push my way back on.

After just under an hour we arrived at Eindhoven and it was time to change to the fourth train, one to Venlo. I stepped off the train and could see it across the platform so jumped straight on. This train had a fantastic recumbent tricycle-sized bicycle area which was, for once, completely empty, so I installed Alfie and sat beside him on a fold-down seat for the final forty five minutes’ journey.

I arrived at Venlo just before midday. The grey skies and pouring rain of Hoek van Holland had changed to blue skies and a gentle warmth now I was further east. All I had to do was buy a Deutsche Bahn ticket to Düsseldorf and I would be done for the day. However both ticket machines were out of order and there was a sign on them saying that I should buy the ticket from the train conductor. OK, I thought, hoping the conductor would be OK about this – German trains are always festooned with signs warning against ‘schwarz fahren’ or travelling without a ticket’.

I had a ten minute wait before this train so bought myself a cup of tea – my first of the day!

As I was waiting for the train to Düsseldorf a lady came up to talk to me. She said she has previously done lots of cycle touring and was asking me about my trike (she had ridden some to try them out) and we had a general chat. She was joined by her husband and her baby (which was in a bike trailer that was converted temporarily to a pram). When the train arrived I was heading downstream a bit but they pointed me to the bike carriage and we got on together.

The lady (Friedel) gave me her card about their cycle touring – they are the travelling two (www.travellingtwo.com) and have clearly done lots of very interesting cycle touring. Here are Friedel and Andrew Grant with baby Luke in the trailer:

They got out several stops before me, along with lots of other people. Then when we reached Mönchengladbach the world and his wife got on the train and it was packed all the way to Düsseldorf, an hour’s journey from Venlo. This had the benefit that, even if there were a conductor on board, he never got as far as the rear carriage and so I was successful in my schwarzfahren. I saved 15 Euros today!

So out I got at Düsseldorf feeling very relieved that my train journeys were over for today. There are only two trains tomorrow (I hope) although it’s over five hours’ total travelling time. It’s not so much the time on the train that is tiring but lifting the trike on and off, carrying it up and down stairs when the lifts are too small, etc.

The hotel I had booked in Düsseldorf is the CVJM which is the German version of the YMCA, but with individual en-suite rooms. They even left me a little Milka chocolate on the pillow!

The hotel is positioned about 100 metres from the railway station but is in a surprisingly quiet side street nestled between a sex shop and a mobile phone shop. I duly went into the mobile phone shop and got a German internet SIM for 10 Euros. The chap spent 15 minutes getting it all set up on my iPhone so I gave him a five Euro tip for being so helpful. That was the 15 Euros I saved on my last train journey.

After freshening up and washing today’s clothes in the shower I went out for a walk before sitting down outside a café for a goats cheese and spinach pizza.

My dessert today was a bar of Milka and a cup of tea.

So tomorrow it’s Berlin, a night there and then I head off back westwards towards home and the rain!

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B2L – Home to Harwich (Day 1)

Day 1: Home to Harwich

So everything was finally ready! Alfie had been cleaned, serviced, had a new chain and was generally looking shiny. I had my last German lesson of my University course (I’m missing one of the final exams, the oral, as I’ll be somewhere near Münster on that day). I finished off some final bits of work, clipped the dog, double-checked my packing and then off we went!

Mark Lister, a chum, was coming with James and I to Harwich. Our next-door neighbour Lesley came and took some photos of us with her decent camera and then we were off.

It was a lovely evening for cycling and the tailwind was very handy (for me, at least; Mark and James would have a headwind on the way back).

We stopped for a hearty dinner at The Cherry Tree in Little Oakley and then had a four mile downhill ride to Parkeston where, after a short queue, I was boarding the ferry.

I was directed to park my trike right at the very back of the ferry, out of the way – but I think this probably means I will be the last off tomorrow morning!

(In this second pic you can just see my headlight shining from its hiding place at the back of the ferry).

I found my room, put my gadgets on to charge and then it was time for a sleep.

Tomorrow is my train journey (well, five different trains) to Düsseldorf.

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 16.47 miles
Moving time: 1 hour 31 minutes 10 seconds
Maximum speed: 23.8 mph
Average speed: 10.8 mph

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B2L – preparations for the trip

Preparations…

My Berlin to London trip is now just eight days away!

So what has been done in preparation?

Alfie the Trike

The trike has had new tyres, the hub gear has been serviced, a new chain has been fitted and everything generally cleaned/oiled/polished as appropriate.

Helen the cyclist

Since the beginning of this year I have been dieting to avoid lugging around all the extra weight that Christmas provided. I’ve lost 12kg so far, which is the weight of one of my panniers, so that’s not too bad.

I’ve been building up my mileage for the last month or so, trying to do at least 22 miles a day (which I have mostly managed, generally dodging the April showers).

I’ve invested in some Help For Heroes cycling kit, a baseball cap and of course a flag for my trike (can be seen below in the newspaper article).

The Route

I have my Esterbauer Verlag Bikeline book which has lots of information about the German section and into Arnhem. I haven’t pre-booked any accommodation or looked at anything along the route – I shall play it all by ear.

The Holland section is a different matter – I don’t have a handy book to assist me so I will have to rely in Internet searches. I’m planning to overnight in Arnhem, Utrecht and possibly Den Haag (a sailing acquaintance might be able to offer me a room for the night, depending on the date).

I’ve tried to work out a rough daily distance to get me to reasonable sized villages to find somewhere to sleep. You can see my spreadsheet below – it’s very basic, rough-and-ready, and the first column is the distance numbers in the Bikeline book (which goes the other way – from Arnhem to Berlin, and in kilometres). I’ve also put the dates I think I might arrive at these places but of course all that could change if the weather is bad or I pick up an injury or whatever.

Media and publicity

The Colchester Gazette have featured me in their 18 April edition.

And an article appeared in the Essex County Standard newspaper on 20 April.
I was also interviewed a few weeks ago by Liz Mullen of Garrison FM (the army radio station) and the interview was broadcast last week.

Interview on Garrison FM

My cycle ride is featured on the Help For Heroes website: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

I have printed some flyers which I have been giving out to friends and relatives and which I will take with me on my journey to hand out to anyone who is interested. The flyer is reproduced below.

And the German version:
I have also printed out some A4 landscape information boards (German one side, English the other) which I have laminated and which I will leave on the seat of the bike when I’m not on it. They will hopefully provide me with opportunities to chat to some passers-by.

I had been invited to tour the Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre a month ago and was thrilled to be one of the lucky twelve chosen to visit. Unfortunately I got the wrong date in my diary and was a day late. I was so disappointed – but hopefully will have a chance to visit some other day.

I took part in the Help For Heroes cake sale in March in Lion Walk Shopping Precinct where I waved a collecting tin and chatted to people about what I was doing, as well as hearing about others’ fundraising challenges.

Sponsorship

I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people in donating to Help For Heroes as sponsorship for this ride. That includes various cycling acquaintances, some of whom I’ve only met a few times; it includes friends of my family or friends, people from church, people in the local village (the post office in the local pub has a sponsorship form) and so many others.

Several people have said that they will sponsor me once I am underway, which will be a real encouragement to me as I pootle my way through Germany and Holland.

My sponsorship page is on Help For Heroes’ Bmycharity website. Unfortunately I don’t see the email addresses of those who donate so unless I have contact details for you I won’t be able to personally thank you – but I truly am grateful for all the support for this worthy cause.

The finish line?

The finish line is several weeks away but it looks as though several cycling friends may do the stretch from Colchester to Trafalgar Square with me, which should make it more of an event. I may have some photographs taken at the Personnel Recovery Centre on my way past, if it can be arranged.

If you fancy doing this part of the ride with me, my planned route can be downloaded here as a GPX for a bike satnav.

I’m really looking forward to getting underway on this voyage and am anticipating with particular pleasure the wide variety of cakes I will be able to sample!

And around the time I am finishing, a friend is taking on his own challenge for Help For Heroes – paramotoring from Dover to John O’Groats. More information about Colin’s challenge, flight4heroes, here.

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Berlin to London

Berlin to London by recumbent trike

To sponsor me click here

Click here to see a track of my full route as I rode it: Auntie Helen’s Berlin to London track

My recumbent tricycle at the Brandenburger Tor, Berlin, in September 2011

Report from Day 1: Home to Harwich (27 April 2012)
Report from Day 2: Hoek van Holland to Düsseldorf by train (28 April 2012)
Report from Day 3: Düsseldorf to Berlin by train (29 April 2012)
Report from Day 4: Berlin to Borkheide (30 April 2012)
Report from Day 5: Borkheide to Oranienbaum (1 May 2012)
Report from Day 6: Oranienbaum to Nachterstedt (2 May 2012)
Report from Day 7: Nachterstedt to Bad Harzburg (3 May 2012)
Report from Day 8: Bad Harzburg to Einbeck (4 May 2012)
Report from Day 9: Einbeck to Nieheim (5 May 2012)
Report from Day 10: Nieheim to Gütersloh (6 May 2012)
Report from Day 11: Gütersloh to Münster (7 May 2012)
Report from Day 12: Münster to Oeding (8 May 2012)
Report from Day 13: Oeding to Duiven/Arnhem (9 May 2012)
Report from Day 14: Duiven/Arnhem to Utrecht (10 May 2012)
Report from Day 15: Utrecht to Delft (11 May 2012)
Report from Day 16: Delft to Hoek van Holland, ferry journey, Harwich to Great Bromley (12 May 2012)
Report from Day 17: Great Bromley to the Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre, Colchester to London and the finish! (13 May 2012)

In April/May 2012 I cycled from Berlin to London alone and unsupported on my recumbent trike to raise money for Help For Heroes.

The Route

The route I am taking is the header of this page but you can zoom in more closely by following this link: Auntie Helen’s Berlin to London ride

The German portion is part of the European Cycle Route R1 which stretches from St Petersburg in Russia to Calais in France. The Dutch portion is mostly R1 (although it is renamed LF4 with a short piece of LF40 as well). The English portion is an optimised route from Harwich to London which is a bit more scenic than the most direct route.

For the German section I have the excellent Esterbauer-Verlag Bikeline book (Europa Radweg R1) which gives route information as well as hotels and B&Bs. The Holland section is, at the moment, a bit of a mystery to me – but I shall do my best to research some B&Bs before I set off.

This may be one long cycle route but it wends its way through lots of interesting towns and villages, most of which I have not previously visited.

Leaving the Brandenburger Tor in the centre of Berlin (right next to the Reichstag, the German parliament building) I will head southwest towards Potsdam. From there I pass through Lutherstadt Wittenberg and Dessau, continuing along past smaller towns and skirting north of the Harz mountains, passing north of Paderborn and then going around Gütersloh heading towards Münster. From Münster I will head west towards the border with Holland just south of Entschede, then cycle through Arnhem, turning a little more northwards to Utrecht, from where I head due west to Den Haag (the Hague) and the North Sea! I follow the North Sea cycle path southwest to the Hoek van Holland (Hook of Holland) where I will catch a ferry across to Harwich.

From Harwich I will be cycling southwest towards London via Colchester (where I live), Tiptree, Maldon, Brentwood, Romford, Ilford and finally arriving in central London at Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.

I plan to cycle about 100km (60 miles) per day as I trundle my way across Germany and Holland. I expect to take two weeks or a little more to cover the 1,239 kilometres (770 miles). This will be 511 miles in Germany, 177 miles in Holland and 82 miles in Great Britain.

I will be providing a track of my journey as I cycle with regular updates as to where I am (details nearer the time).

The journey to Berlin:

I will be leaving home on Friday 27 April to cycle to Harwich and then take the ferry to Holland, travelling by train through Holland to the border with Germany (Venlo). From Venlo I will cycle to Düsseldorf (about 40 miles) and stay there overnight. The next day I will take the train from Düsseldorf to Berlin, stay overnight in Berlin and then start my return journey by pedal power.

Fundraising support

I am doing this ride to support Help For Heroes, a UK Charity which raises money to support members of the Armed Forces who have been wounded in the service of their country.

As I live near the Garrison town of Colchester I am raising money specifically for a new facility which is due to open in Colchester this Spring. The Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre is a new build centre within the garrison at Colchester, built by Help for Heroes (H4H) for the MoD. The Centre includes new accommodation facilities, a social area, family rooms and a fitness centre. It will provide residential accommodation for 29 soldiers and 31 day attendees. The operating costs of the centre will be funded by H4H with support from The Royal British Legion.

I’m hoping to perhaps collect a few donations in a collecting tin as I make my way through Germany and Holland and the UK but the best and most tax-efficient way to support my ride and this Personnel Recovery Centre is through a donation through my H4H online fundraising page at http://www.bmycharity.com/BerlinToLondon

Thanks so much for supporting me!

The recumbent tricycle

I will be using my ICE Sprint recumbent tricycle with an Alfine 11 hub gear and a triple derailleur at the front. This trike, known as Alfie, was bought in July 2011 and has already visited Berlin once for a ten day cycling holiday.

For more information on ICE trikes visit their website at www.icetrikes.co

Thanks to:

Olaf Storbeck and Katharina Slodczyk for help with the German translation of my flyer I shall hand out whilst I am underway

Marianne West, Help For Heroes Essex Co-ordinator, for talking to me about other ways to raise funds

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Next blog post:

Preparations

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Filed under Berlin to London, Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany