A week before we took up the trip to Gdansk, we did a practice round which went pretty well. The adventure of almost three weeks and nearly 1500 kilometers turned out even better. My girlfriend loved the (stress)free way of travelling, being outdoor all the time and all the encounters that comes with such a journey. It’s no surprise that I fully agree, so we both look forward to our next mutual trip.
With the tent on your back carrier, sleeping stuff, food, stove and what not in your panniers, you’re home everywhere. Exactly that is the beauty of travelling by bike. You’ve got all the freedom in the world. There are no detours, just different ways towards your destination. We made use of this freedom on the second day already, when we went more north in the direction of Bedekaspel (Germany) where a medieval festival was being held. The well-known band Baldrs Draumar had a (acoustic) gig and we thought a surprise visit would be nice.
With the wind in our backs we rode eastward. The same route I did a couple of times actually. Just after a few days of riding we crossed the river Elbe. Usually I go north from there to Denmark, but this time we kept on going east in the direction of the city of Lübeck.
From there on we would follow the so-called Hanseatic route along the Baltic Sea through cities such as Wismar, Stralsund and Greifswald. For that we got a map by some acquaintances of Ydwine. Actually, it was my first time of cycling using a paper map.
We rode through very beautiful sceneries and cities. It was a nice way of travelling for a change, since you didn’t have to think about which route to take, since we were obediently following the map.
But the lovely landscapes and historical cities had a downside as well: Tourists… many of them. And most weren’t that considering of what was going on around their vision of interest. That meant that we encountered many helter-skelter situations… (literally, as many touristic places had skelters for rent). But many tourists would suddenly cross the road without looking up, or stop abruptly to take a picture or who knows what, and many let their kids roam free (we saw three accidents with children). All in all, it was difficult to navigate through the crowds of wandering cyclists, skelters, segways, and strollers and we had to ring our bells quite often.
It was a bit ironic that we could have taken a thousand roads to Gdansk, but we chose the most crowded one. Because of this mayhem, rainy days were quite pleasant, since there were less people. Nonetheless we got less obedient by the kilometre and after a while we got so fed up with people that we looked forward to go more inland in Poland as a fish wanting to return in the water after he sprang on the shore.
We had a bit of hope it would be better on the Polish side of the border. It was definitely not the case. We biked a bit faster to be away from coast line. No more tourists. The woods resounded our sigh of relieve.
It was time to find our own way again and we liked that very much. There weren’t that many campsites anymore, so we camped in the wild again as well. But we did find some sort of kayak campsites, which weren’t easy to locate. An advantage to this was that there weren’t many vistitors, and one time wer were actually the only ones. That was almost like camping in the wild. We were welcome to make a fire, swim in the river, charge our mobiles and what not.
We were hosted by a Kashubian family on one of the last evenings. The mother fed us really well, and even commanded us to eat an entire pan of eggs the next morning. “Essen, alles!” she said firmly, but with a big smile. On the hearty breakfast we could ride for miles and miles and could already smell Gdansk.
We chose to bike to Gdansk in particular, as we would attend the Diversity Festival (a seminar organized by YEN and Klub Studencki Pomorania, which is a happening for all minorities in Europe) which would start on Sunday. As we were nicely ahead of schedule, we had some breathing room, which came in handy when it got hillier and sandier in Poland. Sometimes the roads turned from bad to worse. TWhen we had to push our bikes yet again, we would have gladly given up our tourist-free route in exchange for some tarmac. But we didn’t need to rush to be on time. You shouldn’t rush on a bicycle as well. Take your time and take it all in.
After having a bloody busy but awesomesauce week in Gdansk we were going back by train from Gdansk to Leer in Germany. We couldn’t go all the way to Groningen, the Netherlands, as a bridge is still kaputt, and the replacement busses do not take bikes. Again we realised how relaxing it is to just sit on a bike and pedal your brain free of any stress. Delay, slow elevators, high stairs, small doorways, cramped spaces and what not. So, after a day full of stress and catching connections with mere seconds left, it couldn’t have been a bigger relief to pitch our tent on a campsite in Bingum (near Leer). The relief was even bigger when we were on our bikes again next day to ride the last part to Groningen. It was a good way to end the journey this way, as we hadn’t cycled for a week. Seen the stressful day before, it was great to be able to have one last day of relaxed travelling by bike. And when you bike and know home is nearby, you are already thinking of the next trip. We do not know yet where we will go, but one thing is sure: we will take our freedom to pick and choose our way ourselves as we go and we will also take the freedom to avoid the touristic routes!