Acknowledgments

5 Sep

I’ve now been back home for nearly a month and have begun to settle back into my home life. That includes a lot of reading, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. So far I’ve read Wild Swans, 1984, The Cold War and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, all of which I think are marvelous books and I really recommend.

I’ve also resumed my weekly radio show on Radio Utopia 102.4 fm – You can listen to the latest of these here: www.mixcloud.com/jimmyxjazz, although it is in Spanish!

I’ve also started writing a script for the radio programme I want to make about my trip down the Iron Curtain Trail,and I will post a few links once I’ve finished withthe whole project (this couldtake a few months).

I’m also setting up a blog to follow my Counterpoint magazine, which will include all the material to be included in Counterpoint, and also much more.

Apart from that, I’m working in Radio Utopia’s week-long local party this week, as well as starting school next Thursday!

But rather than speaking about me, I want this blog post to be about you – the reader. I want to thank you all collectively for all the enthusiasm and support you transferred to me during the whole trip. Thankyou.

Firstly I would like to thank my closest family, my Parents and my brother, without whose financial and moral support I would not have been able to complete the Iron Curtain Trail.

I would also like to thank my Grandfather, John Long, for being so enthusiastic,and posting cheerful comments pretty much every day – they were very helpful.

An enourmous thanks also goes to…

My girlfriend Gina for her never ending support, and also to her father Bernard for helping me out with the technical side of my bike.

Uncle Robert, for his kind sponsorship and also some very funny emails. I would also like to thank my other aunts and uncles, Jane, Andy and Carol for their support.

Simon Mallison, for his incredibly kind contribution, and to a certain extent for managing to confuse my writing as my Dad. I’ll take that as a compliment.

Anne and Mark, for such a generous contribution to my sponsorship fund – indeed oneof thelargest contributions.

Amanda Wheatley, for her support, which included a food fund!

Kathryn Holloway, from Friends of the Earth, for all her positive comments right from the beginning, and for even sending me a running vest!

To all those who helped me along the Trail, who gave me free breakfasts, indicated the way in an improvised form of English, let me stay at their homes, or simply answered my questionnaires.

To Cosme, the bike shop which sorted me out with a bike 3 days before I was set to leave, and to a small unknown bike shop in Berlin whose name I do not remember who sorted me out with a box to return. Also thanks to the small old man in Zarrentin who provided me with a bolt for my panniers. For free, a word barely uttered in Germany.

To all my other sponsors; to Bea Hayes, for being the first, Alicia Baker, Francoise Walker, Geoff and Louise Chalder, Tessa Rentoul, Sonia and William Chislett, Nick and Stella, Claire Marsden and Richard Grant.

To all friends of mine who supported the idea from the beginning. Even to those who called me crazy.

To anyone else whom I have missed out (I have probably missed many) – I will add you as soon as I realise!

Thanks so much to all.

Ps. You can access pictures from the Iron Curtain Trail here. This is an open facebook album (i.e you can access it even if you don’t have facebook or don’t have me on facebook)

Coming Back Home

4 Aug

Firstly, I have to apologise for not having posted anything since I’ve been back – I’ve sort of been hibernating and sorting things out – and I almost forgot about it.

I woke up on tuesday morning in my dorm with a buzz, and a feeling that it was finally about to be over. I went down to have breakfast and then began to pack.

First, I made my way to shlecker to buy some bin bags with which to make makeshift luggage to transport my panniers. I had rather an awkward moment trying to get hold of these and was shown everything from plastic balls to condoms before coming across some extra large bin bags which suited me perfectly.

Two full roles of tape, twelve layers of bin bags and an hour later, I had rather an odd blue contraption which even featured a handle. Exciting stuff.

All this was done in the baggage area of the Three Little Pigs Hostel, a small room where people kept coming in and giving me odd glances, which felt rather awkward.

I then got a nice spanish guy at the Three Little Pigs to order me a taxi. Nice to hear a spanish voice again. As I headed for my taxi (which luckily managed to fit my packed bike in it) I began to feel excited about seeing Daisy again. However, I was set for a stunning surprise!

In my dazed night spent at Berlin Airport, I misread the name of Daisy’s Diner – it was in fact ‘Cindy’s Diner’. I tried to explain to them that they should change it to Daisy, even if only for the sake of alliteration. They weren’t too enthusiastic about this.

By now famished, and excited to meet dear Cindy again, I made my way to the counter and ordered a Burger. I was disappointed to see Cindy materialise as an over-enthusiastic young German. I was confused at his request to see whether I was ‘thirsty’. When I say yes, I was served an extra large fanta. All at a cost.

The check-in all went smoothly, until I took my bike to get scanned and sent into the labyrinth of tubes, belts and other devices. There, the man in charge showed me two small canisters on the scan image.

Those wretched compressed air capsules for filling up tyres that I went to such a hassle to get my hands on (and didn’t even work) are of course not allowed on a plane. The bomb squad was sent to inspect these capsules and were rather grumpy with me. After making a whole in the cardboard to get them out, which I covered with a map of Berlin and a lot of tap, I saw it safely go along the tape and into baggage-land.

I was astounded by the fact that, in Berlin Airport, wherever you go, you are forced to be walking through a shop. All shops, restaurants etc are moulded around the walkways so that they are impossible to avoid and seem rather intrusive.

Luckily I was one of the first to arrive at the Easyjet gate – I happened to be close to the gate (which was quite remote) and got there just as people were realising where to go. It was one of those situations where, once you’ve shown your ticket you’re carted into a waiting room before you board the plane. This turned out to be rather comical.

I sat down close to the door and started reading my book. A bit later, some people who had just arrived started lining up, claiming first place. Not that I was too bothered – I had a bit of a smile to myself in fact – but some people really lack manners.

The funniest part was getting from there to a train. As soon as the door opened there was a rush for the plane. There were some quite funny scenes of people running about with their heavy hand-luggage, trying to be the first to get to the plane. At this point I actually laughed, and drew rather more attention to myself than I had expected. Sometimes it feels like you’re treated like cattle on an Easyjet flight. But some people get carried away and even act like cattle.

The plane was peaceful – I spent most of my flight reading my book – which I finished to great delight – and before I knew it I had landed. I did however, listen to a bit of music, including “coming back home” by Ellen and the Escapades, which I deemed appropriate.

Getting back home was nice in its own way. Nice to come back to the usual pointless arguments and some nice food. And a bed. Although I actually look a mattress and slept outside on the terrace – I guess I still wanted to cling on to the outdoors for a while longer, albeit in comfort.

For the past few days I’ve been trying to sort myself out, rest, and get used to things. Today ventured to Madrid, where there is currently a very exciting situation between the police, who have in fact closed off Madrid’s emblematic Plaza del Sol due to the 15M protesters, who have reacted angrily, trying to break the blockade around the square that has become their emblem. I actually went in to see Harry Potter, hence ending my Harry Potter era for good.

I still have to upload photos, and post a few acknowledgements to all of you who have supported and helped me – so don’t give up on me yet!

Wandering

1 Aug

Today I’ve spent the day in Berlin just wandering about and getting things ready to leave tomorrow – so just a short blog now as I am very tired!

I woke up late to realised I had been placed in a dorm together with 6 27 year old girls/women/young ladies. Oh dear I thought. Better put my dirty pants out of sight. They made odd noises during the night. For all I know I did too.

After breakfast I went around doing a few odd jobs – paying my bill for the train yesterday, buying stamps and post cards, and buying stuff to pack my bike and panniers away for tomorrow.

During one of these outings (as, indeed, I spent the day to and fro the hostel on my bike) it started raining heavily, and with my clothes all soaked I made my way back to the room to get changed. I seem to have met a lot more rain than sun during my summer stay in Germany.

I’ve decided to pack my panniers into various layers of bin bags – which were about as hard to come across as a glass of tap water in this place – hence making it into one big baggage contraption.

Later on, I visited a bike shop where they gave me a box and some advice. Loaded with tape, bubble wrap and the box itself, I managed to pack up the bike pretty neatly. It was also much easier to carry around than when I brought it here – although this was still an issue.

It became a particular hindrance when it started raining heavily, partly ruining the good work I’d done – although I think it would be ok.

After going through various options – including running away with a shopping trolley, loading my stuff on it and boarding a train – I’ve opted for the more civilised method of getting to the airport. Taxi.

I seem to be in a constant state of tiredness now so I better go to sleep and get some rest!

Madrid tomorrow.

Hof-Berlin. Civilisation at last

31 Jul

This morning when my alarm sounded at 4.50 am I could hear a female voice shouting and some pacing about in the building. Great.

I quickly got my stuff together and tried to assemble my plastic bags in such a way that they wouldn’t make too much noise when I went down the three flights of stairs to get out. When I finally did so, I was relieved to find my bike exactly where I left it.

By 5.30 am the sun was beginning to rise and I made my way to the train station across the road. As I tried to get in there was an odd man taking a few piles of newspapers which had been delivered into the building. I felt sure he didn’t work there. He had a bit of a laugh at me for some reason and kept trying to demonstrate the fact that, indeed, the door into the building worked. Thanks for such an enlightening experience.

I quickly bought my ticket to Leipzig, from where I was to travel to Berlin, and waited for my train. I love the German Deutsche Bahn – they’re clean, fast, punctual and generally comfortable. Even their simple red logo is welcoming.

Unfortunately by this time I was famished. All I had eaten since noon the previous day was sweets and biscuits. As I munched on a muffin and a coffee three hours later in Leipzig, I planned a fast food rampage for when I arrived in Berlin. This probably happens about once a year with me, and in my defence I was absolutely starving.

The train to Berlin was a bit of a joke. This time it was by a private company, who charged 23 euros plus 5 for a bike for an hour’s journey. For some stupid reason you could only buy a ticket online or onboard. Unfortunately I only had 10 euros on board, and the grumpy ticket lady didn’t take either of my credit cards.

I asked them what they usually did in this kind of situation. Seeing as the next stop was Berlin anyway I joked that she could stop the train and let me off if she wanted. I also offered to buy her a new credit card reader. Her mood didn’t get any better.

I had a bit of a laugh with the guy beside me, who also had a bike. He was a computer science student on his way to a massive 3000 person computer hacking camp conference on the outside of Berlin. He was the typical computer geek, a true stereotype, but also really nice and I had a few interesting conversations with him.

We talked about Anonymous and other computer hacking groups, as well as discussing Wikileaks and politics. He explained that in Germany they pay practically no fees for university. They pay 60 euros a year – and that includes free transport, often within a whole region. I told him I will be having to pay 9,000 pounds a year and am not planning on having paid off my debt to the state until I’m 40.

He told me that there were plans to privatise the whole of German railways – the trains, the tracks and the stations. Considering its current efficiency, I despaired for their sake.

We also talked about history – he told me that his parents had been some of the first West Germans to export fruit and vegetables to East Germany in 1989-90, and remembered how an American had once refused to believe that a cobble stone road in East Germany was the ‘Autobahn’.

Soon enough the rail ticket woman came round and gave me a ticket to do them a transfer. I had to give a german address – hopefully someone doesn’t get a random fine on my name!

As soon as I arrived in Berlin, I made my way to the Three Little Pigs Hostel. Berlin seems different than when I was here three weeks ago. I think the rain certainly gives it an interesting, yet certainly not gloomy, atmosphere.

A fast food rampage did indeed follow.

Eating at Check Point charlie I suddenly felt a bit overwhelmed at seeing so many people (mostly tourists) flocking to this place to get a picture with a mock American soldier. It all seemed a bit fake compared to the countless checkpoints I’ve visited along the trail with not a soul in sight. I was probably just not used to so many people.

It was nice to get my panniers off my bike – it feels a bit odd actually not to have so much weight on the back – cycling is so much easier!

As soon as I checked in to my 8-bed dorm, I fell asleep for about 4 hours. I feel a bit intimidated in my dorm but oh well. I was knackered, seeing as I’d only slept about 4 and a half hours last night. I’m looking forward to a sleep-in tomorrow.

I then woke up and had a really nice vietnamese meal before coming back here and reading my book.

At one point today, in Potsdammer Platz, a woman whom I’d met cycling along the Elbe (how nice and flat those days had been!!) – although she wasn’t doing the Iron Curtain Trail but a different bike trail – recognised me. This was rather odd but also nice. We encountered a bit of a language barrier as I tried to explain my experience in Hof.

I’m now falling asleep – sorry if today’s blog hasn’t been quite as entertaining – but train journeys usually aren’t! My eye lids are now getting heavier and heavier so I better go to sleep.

Hof we go

30 Jul

I had almost expected the way to Hof to be all downhill. Unfortunately it wasn’t. Either way, that was the least of my worries.

Hof is a run place. A really really dodgy, dreary, dark, shoddy place. Its horrible, it really is. It feels like a ghetto.

I made my way to the train station immediately to find out about trains tomorrow to Berlin, and hoped to find a hotel nearby. There I found an old drunken homeless ban abusing some people (tourists? Well, they had luggage) to the verge of hitting them. He then began to verbally abuse me and tried to catch me but I was way too fast on my bike. I saw him aim a punch at a man twice his size while shouting something in german. Trains will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

I made my way to the nearby ‘hotel akropolis’. When I went in I found a loud of chubby greek men sitting round a bar, with a jamaican rastafari sitting on one of the tables drinking a beer. I gathered he was a drug dealer. Either way, I asked for a room and was given a key for 25e. I later walked down to move my bike and get some stuff from it. I wanted it to be accessible very early tomorrow morning.

As I did this, the rasta man called me over (‘oh nooo!!!’ I thought to myself ‘not him!’) And invited me to sit down for a drink. No thankyou. Ya man I pay. No I’m alright thankyou.

In the end I was forced to ask for a large coke. He claimed to be a reggae dj. You got the wrong guy mate.

I quizzed him on his reggae knowledge. Favourite period? muffled answer. The Congos? Erm nah man I and I don’t know dem. The Abyssinians? Erm nat sure I have a lot of recards ya knoo (for those who don’t know these are two classic reggae bands). Ike and Tina? Desmond dekker? Absolutely no idea about them.

He mentioned Phill Collins and then pretended to search his mobile for another name. A reggae dj that needs to search his phone for a reggae name? Not so sure. He showed me a picture of Snoop Dog with him and claimed to have gone to school with him (hahahahahahahahaha!!!!). I pointed out he wasn’t exactly very reggae.

He then explained some rather obscene stories involving Snoop Dog, a female and some marijuana. He invited me to his cousins house, who he claimed could tell me all about Berlin and lived just opposite. This man must have thought I was stupid.

‘Sorry mate I need a shower and need to wake up early tomorrow’… ‘I’ll think about it’…

I took some clothes out of my bike and rushed (literally upstairs). No supper for me tonight. I washed some clothes, had a shower and locked myself in my room.

I’m getting the earliest train (5.54) tomorrow morning to Berlin, and thankfully it only involves one connection.

I’m sure I’ll have more news tomorrow. Early morning tomorrow, 5 am!

Keep checking my blog over the next few days as I make my way back home. The cycling may be over but the adventure has not yet come to a close!

Germany. Hop. Czech Republic. Hop. Back in Germany.

30 Jul

I set out from my the dear little café at Mödlareuth with high hopes – only about 23 km to go to the Czech border! This turned out to be slightly more.

I forgot to add there’s a border museum at Mödlareuth, but by the time I got there, and considering the rain and my state of mind, I passed. Most of it was open air too, so I got the zest.

I must say that if yesterday was the worst day in terms of getting lost, today was the worst in terms weather, and indeed almost the worst in terms of difficulty. The rain seemed almost torrential, and the wind froze me.

All went fine until I crossed the A 93, 6.5 km away from my destination (!) And was supposed to turn right on the first gravel path. There were three. The first seemed to close to the motorway. The second seemed too wild. The third appeared to lead to a wind farm. Only one was mentioned in the book and map, which by this point was soaked and falling apart. Annoyingly, this means I probably won’t be able to make use of the interesting historical information of the places I’ve visited (this is much better than the directions).

Anyway, I went back to the second gravel path, and decided that indeed it was too wild. After trying out the first, which was a dead end, I decided I’d just have to make through the second. After about 10 minutes, I had a strange feeling of deja vu of getting lost in the forest yesterday. So, despite the strongly smelling pine (which was rather nice) I worked out an alternative route.

Anyway, I was soon at Prex, two kilometres away from the Czech border. I was excited, and also nervous for some reason. I’d come over 1000 km (somewhere between 1200 and 1400) just to get to this remote border on a dull, rainy day.

Soon, I cycled down a hill to a small brook. There stood the border, with a big sign saying ‘Stadt-Grenze’ (state border). This used to be a tripled border between the Czech Republic and East/West Germany. I hoped to either side in a rather childish fashion.

I have to say – what a lovely place for a border. It was quiet, peaceful, and just generally nice. I stayed there for quite a long time. I’d almost expected a border-guard station or a passport control. But no, nothing at all.

I also realised something – there was no real difference between each side. Nothing special happened when I passed to each side. It may seem obvious, but I realised how insignificant borders really are. Maybe one day less and less of them will exist.

It felt strange to celebrate alone. In fact, because of this I didn’t really celebrate. I just sat there for a while in silence. I then took a few pictures and set off on my bike back to Prex and then on to Hof…

(Third blog to follow…)

Slug Warfare

30 Jul

I’m going to divide today’s blog in two or three posts.

This morning I slept in quite late after a late night, and hence set off past 10 o’clock. I was dismayed to find it raining. Raining hard, harder than I’ve seen so far on this trip. Sometimes when it rains, the water falls in such a monotonous, dready dribble that you know it’s not going to stop all day. It didn’t.

As soon as I set out on today’s road, with dashed hopes, having crossed a small river, I encountered road works. Luckily these weren’t currently at work, but all the same the going was hard and I was rather confused at some points because I wasn’t quite sure were I was due to the lack of signs.

As soon as I encountered the first hill, I noticed my legs just wouldn’t do it. Even in the easiest gear my bike can take, every hill hit me like a dagger. This, mixed with the incessant rain and a lack of clear indications proved to be a deadly cocktail.

I passed down quite a few country roads which were infested with slugs. No joke, it was rather disgusting. I decided they had now completely broken our small alliance and were now at war*. God I do get bored sometimes…

My own pace resembled that of a slug in fact. Maybe they saw me as one of them and were swarming to greet me.

Every damn shop, restaurant, bar, cafe, biergarten (you name it…) was closed. I was so looking forward to have a nice coffee and wait for the rain to ease off after 15 km at Hirschberg, but there was nothing. At that point I even though about leaving it to the next day.

But no, I’d set out that morning to make it to the Czech border, and I was going to make it, even if it took me until midnight.

Luckily, a few km further on, at Mödlareuth I found a charming little cafe where I had a schnitzel, a coffee and an extraordinary blueberry cake. They don’t do tarts here it seems.

I also got changed into dry(er) clothes, although these became wet almost immediately when I set out…

(2nd blog of the day to follow)

*animal lovers – don’t worry, I did my best not to kill any!

On A Good Day

29 Jul

“Hey, hey, hey. The end is near. On a good day, you can see the end from here” sings Joanna Newsom in her most recent album. I’ve been singing this for quite some time to keep me cheerful.

Unfortunately it was not a good day. And had I not got a train the end would not be near. Either way the weather is terrible so you certainly can’t see the end from here.

As soon as I woke up it started raining. Reason for me to stay a bit longer in my tent. Again, all praise goes for this tent which has kept me safe, dry and away from all types of creatures, animal or human, for the whole trail.

Less praise goes for my guidebook. After a well-described 1500m up a ghastly hill, I was pleased to read the directions indicating me to the right, down a steep hill which carried on nicely for about two kilometres, after which I had to cycle up a very sharp hill for another kilometre, only to find that the book had actually meant ‘left’ instead as right. Down the hill and back up again. An hour and a half lost. Never write a good book if you can’t distinguish between right and left. Write for a newspaper instead.

I began to think of all sorts of insults towards the writer of the guidebook in question. I found that ‘Bearded’ (the writer indeed has a beard) fitted comfortably (in fact with alliteration even) with many of these insults. Bearded B******.

I must say however, that I’m still convinced that the fault lies in the translation, and I will write to the publisher to tell them that the book is faulty. Even in the blurb it refers to itself as and ‘atlas’ and the text is full of typos.

Anyway, if I thought this was bad, I would probably have cried if I knew what came next. After making my way along a footpath (not a bike path) which was completely impossible to ride through a wood, I eventually came to a country road described by the book. Wunderbar

Unfortunately, this path extended forever, eventually going downhill and twisting and turning until I was completely lost in the middle of a Bavarian pine forest. Not so wumberbar. I also had not a great deal of water and very low battery. Not so wumderbar at all. An unsually loud and worrying squeaking noise from my back wheel didn’t help either.

After crying out in despair in about 5 different languages I found an old lady with her dog. When I asked her directions to the town I wanted to go, these seemed confused and senseless. I asked her the distance. 10 km? ‘Oh yes, yes yes’. Oh right so more like 15? ‘Oh yes yes yes’. More? 20? 25? ‘Yes yes yes’. I decided to ignore this person, and before I had another middle finger pulled out at me, or eaten off me by her loud dog, I moved on.

Following the logic that ‘all paths lead to a road’, I found a road which I followed for about 5 km before asking for the nesrest train station. I had cycled 40km out of my way, and ended about 10 km from where I’d started. I was definitely taking a train at this stage. By then I was exhausted and at the point where I just felt like burying myself in a hole. This was 5.30 hours after I’d set out.

I was soon told that the nearest train station lay 5 km away downhill. Great. After much research into train times and destinations (thankyou Gina, for this), and after having a rather soggy Schnitzel at the local grotty bar, I waited nervously for the train to arrive. I hate waiting for trains with a bike after my last experience, where I was barely able to lug my bike onto the tall stairs of the train. This time I was ok, except for the fact I got into a non-bike carriage, and was told off by the ticket warden. A combination of French, Spanish and English got me out of that one.

Ironically, on my way here I passed train station warden Hitler (see yesterday’s blog) to whom I tried to wave. Not sure he say me.
Anyway it’s now late and I’m lying in my bed in Blackenstein, where I was initially told there were no rooms. After the grumpy old bar man had a thought about it and spoke to a few people a room miraculously became free in his hotel. Lazy Bearded B….

God help me.

I should reach the Czech Border (and hence finish my bike journey) tomorrow, beards permitting.

quick update

29 Jul

Terrible day today – worst so far. Got lost in a wood and ended up 40 km off track. Had to get a train.

Full blog to follow tomorrow.

Somewhere in Bavaria…

28 Jul

Last night the tractors and combine harvesters seemed to be passing by until well past 10 o’clock. Never knew farmers stayed up so late.

Throughout the night a large slug crawled and sludged about my tent. We had a tacit agreement that as long as he didn’t try to perforate the inner membrane or get too close to me he could do what he liked.

In the morning I found two of them in my shoe just as I was about to slip it on. I told them off for ruining our entente.

I got a lot of odd looks as I packed up. I tried my best to just smile back and gleefully say hello.

Today the way passed through charming bavarian forests along the former death strip. As I mounted along these small avenues flanked by tall trees (in a landscape that seems almost alpine, although the altitude wouldn’t qualify for such a description), I breathed in the smell of wet wood and dew grass.

The whole day passed like this, passing green fields and beautiful woods, with not too much uphill to ruin it. Either way my knee has started to feel much better, which is encouraging. The views were spectacular – photos to follow when I get back home.

On the way, my eye glimpsed a speck of red on the side of the road. I was soon gorging myself in the most spectacular little wild strawberry colony I have ever seen. They were wonderful. A touch of balsamic vinegar would have come in handy however. After that, I seemed to be stopping every ten minutes to find yet another bunch of plats on which to feast.

About an hour later I came across another heaven. A massive field full of billberries. I spent about half an hour collecting and devouring these. They brought back great memories of doing the same thing in Sussex. By the time I encountered raspberries I decided I had to carry on, otherwise I’d never get to my destination.

I duly arrived at the Lauenstein Castle – a charming mediaeval castle on a small hill surrounded by a little village. The castle hotel was closed, and the woman in charge became the second today who refused to answer my questionnaire. As the views improve, the people worsen, or so it seems.

I eventually made my way to the near town of Ludwigstadt, where I went to buy provisions and get some money out. As I parked my bike, an old lady pulled her middle finger out at me. A hilarious sight. Really, shame I didn’t get a picture.

I eventually had supper in the same town, and took a 5 minute train back to the next town after Lauenstein – Probstzella. At this station, anyone travelling to/from the GDR had to pass a passport check. The rail warden, who addressed me as ‘Franco’ when he heard I was from Spain, explained all this to me. I refrained from calling him Hitler despite his moustache. He also claimed that ‘ze German in London speak English. Ze englishman in Germany should speak ze German language’. Fair point to make. I tried to point out, however, that if I attempted to communicate in German we would surely be at a loss.

Now cooking asian-looking pasta (by someone called ‘Maggi’. I tried to point out at the shop that we English people once experienced a certain Maggie, and that I hoped fair, equal and not too nuclear in the ingredients), while camping in a bog-like field which is invested in insects – by which I am being devoured. If all goes well, 2 more days of cycling plus another two to get back home!

Somewhere in Bavaria…

28 Jul

Last night the tractors and combine harvesters seemed to be passing by until well past 10 o’clock. Never knew farmers stayed up so late.

Throughout the night a large slug crawled and sludged about my tent. We had a tacit agreement that as long as he didn’t try to perforate the inner membrane or get too close to me he could do what he liked.

In the morning I found two of them in my shoe just as I was about to slip it on. I told them off for ruining our entente.

I got a lot of odd looks as I packed up. I tried my best to just smile back and gleefully say hello.

Today the way passed through charming bavarian forests along the former death strip. As I mounted along these small avenues flanked by tall trees (in a landscape that seems almost alpine, although the altitude wouldn’t qualify for such a description), I breathed in the smell of wet wood and dew grass.

The whole day passed like this, passing green fields and beautiful woods, with not too much uphill to ruin it. Either way my knee has started to feel much better, which is encouraging. The views were spectacular – photos to follow when I get back home.

On the way, my eye glimpsed a speck of red on the side of the road. I was soon gorging myself in the most spectacular little wild strawberry colony I have ever seen. They were wonderful. A touch of balsamic vinegar would have come in handy however. After that, I seemed to be stopping every ten minutes to find yet another bunch of plats on which to feast.

About an hour later I came across another heaven. A massive field full of billberries. I spent about half an hour collecting and devouring these. They brought back great memories of doing the same thing in Sussex. By the time I encountered raspberries I decided I had to carry on, otherwise I’d never get to my destination.

I duly arrived at the Lauenstein Castle – a charming mediaeval castle on a small hill surrounded by a little village. The castle hotel was closed, and the woman in charge became the second today who refused to answer my questionnaire. As the views improve, the people worsen, or so it seems.

I eventually made my way to the near town of Ludwigstadt, where I went to buy provisions and get some money out. As I parked my bike, an old lady pulled her middle finger out at me. A hilarious sight. Really, shame I didn’t get a picture.

I eventually had supper in the same town, and took a 5 minute train back to the next town after Lauenstein – Probstzella. At this station, anyone travelling to/from the GDR had to pass a passport check. The rail warden, who addressed me as ‘Franco’ when he heard I was from Spain, explained all this to me. I refrained from calling him Hitler despite his moustache. He also claimed that ‘ze German in London speak English. Ze englishman in Germany should speak ze German language’. Fair point to make. I tried to point out, however, that if I attempted to communicate in German we would surely be at a loss.

Now cooking asian-looking pasta (by someone called ‘Maggi’. I tried to point out at the shop that we English people once experienced a certain Maggie, and that I hoped fair, equal and not too nuclear in the ingredients), while camping in a bog-like field which is invested in insects – by which I am being devoured. If all goes well, 2 more days of cycling plus another two to get back home!

Harvest

27 Jul

You know you’re in East Germany when street names include ‘Karl Marx’, ‘Maxim Gorki’ and ‘Rosa Luxemburg’. No such names are to be found in the West. I find it interesting how no attempt has been made to change such aspects of the division between East and West.

I’m now sitting on a bench on the edge of a field in the process of being harvested. I’ve let the farmer know about my presence by pitching my tent on a small grassy field beside the one being harvested.

I’ve seen the first Massey-Fergusson since I’ve been in Germany, as there are tractors passing me all the time now. Exciting life being a farmer.

Yesterday I had a bit of an odd day. After cycling 60 km, I took a train with a bus connection to complete the next 20 km due to the fact that I was exhausted, and this section wasn’t excessively interesting in neither historical nor natural terms.

Unfortunately my bus never came, and I was stuck in a very dodgy-middle-of-nowhere with a couple of old men drinking schnapps and a load of yobs in space-man tracksuits up to no good. After trying out 4 different places, and by this time worn out, I settled in a hotel which was rather more expensive for my liking. I wasn’t up to risking a camp.

In this rather rum place I seemed to be confirming that differences between East and West Germany are not fully healed.

Today, after cycling 6 km in the wrong direction to Bad Rodach, I eventually completed 40 km to Neustadt bei Coburg, near where I am now camped. It was a pleasant ride, a much shorter distance than the 80 km I’ve been averaging per day so far.

I’m very much enjoying my book, ‘A Time of Gifts’, by Patrick Leigh Fermor. His fervent love for literature, architecture and the outdoors is dazzling. His remarks awoke a certain attachment to cathedrals, churches and holy places which I acquired last year when I walked 800 km of the Camino de Santiago from Irun.

I am not really very religious in any way, although I certainly am interested by Buddhism, Quakerism and Paganism. However, I am in many ways spiritual, and I very much enjoy the silence and thought that cathedrals, churches etc. offer, as well as their architecture and history.

For a moment while I was thinking about this I thought I’d almost lost this reverence for silence which I’d gained last year. Then I realised; for the past 20 days I’ve been travelling practically in silence. Sometimes one does not realise how silent they are, often because one has so many thoughts floating through one’s head. I guess that’s the difference between meditation and simply silence and thought.

Three days to go now! The past few weeks seem to have gone by very fast, and although I’m coming back earlier than planned, I’ve still been here for a very long time alone.

I’ve almost reached my minimum target of 50 questionnaires about the history of the Iron Curtain completed, and according to my book I will have completed 1400 km… Although my own estimates take me to around 1200. I think the book is admitting that by following its instructions you’re bound to get lost for about 200 km.

From molehills to mountains

26 Jul

Yesterday I carried on along the River Werra for 76 km, a distance greatly resented by my knee, which is by now proving to be a great hindrance.

However, I soon abandoned the River Werra to follow the Ulster River along the old Borderline. No pun intended.

Either way, I soon arrived at Geisa, an East German town situated just below Point Alpha, a major strategic American observation point during the cold war years. I’m now in what was denominated the ‘Fulda Gap’, the area most feared by NATO as a possible Warsaw Pact advance in the event of war.

I’m now deep in the Rhöne national park, where again hills are predominant and this makes the going hard. Despite this, the countryside is idyllic.

Today I walked in to a pharmacy to get my questionnaire answered; I was sent away after much huffing and puffing, and told thet ‘there were too many options to choose from’. It seems like the intellectual level in some of these East German villages are indeed low.

I now calculate that I’m about 6 days away from the point where I will leave the iron curtain trail, at the tri-state border between Austria, Czech Republic and Germany, having completed the whole of the old East-West german border. I realise that this is almost 700 km from my initial destination, Bratislava, but numerous factors, namely the bad state of my knee, have made such a goal impossible.

However, to have completed 1200 km, the whole of Germany’s old border alone, despite not being a trained cyclist at all, I think is somewhat of a feat, although many, it would seem, may not consider it so.

So far today I’ve had encounters with both deer and hares, although I’ve also realised that my back tyre is practically worn out.

Today’s goal is Bad Königshofen.

I follow rivers

24 Jul

“Some people feel the rain, others just get wet” – Bob Dylan

I certainly felt the damn rain, down to the bone. I also got soaked though, so I seem to fall somewhere in the middle of Dylan’s two categories.

After having overcome the last of the Harz’s hills yesterday, I arrived in Bad Sooden-Allensdorf, a town on the river Werra, next to which I camped. Remembering the nice flat landscape along the Elbe, I looked forward to some nice flat cycling, which I certainly enjoyed. However, unlike the Elbe, the Werra is flanked by a series of large hills, in which sit rather comfortably, by the way, some extraordinary castles. Unfortunately I know I’m going to have to mount one of these hills, and all the other hills that lie behind, sooner or later.

This reminds me of the words of another, perhaps more contemporary musical artist, Lykke Li, who uses a river as a metaphor for a loved one, singing ‘I’ll follow you, deep sea” in her song “I follow rivers”.

Today, after 30km of cycling, I found a small river-side restaurant where, having ordered a coffee, I was drawn in by their menu, and ended up ordering a Jagerschnitzel. I soon found out that “jager”, which also gives name to a very popular drink here, Jagermeister, means hunter. I received a cutlet with mushrooms and chips. Lovely.

I still haven’t joined one of the local ‘flirtparty’ events, which according to local signs include an ‘after-ski party’ (in summer?!), a ‘beach party’ (in a landlocked village?!), and a ‘Cinderella’ party. The less I ask about the former the better, in my opinion. Classy.

I’m now deep into ‘A Time of Gifts’n by Patrick Leigh-Fermor who, in 1933 and at the age of 18 walked from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. It took him over three years. I think the fact that he seems to have got blind drunk at every stop adds to the time it took him, although this doesn’t reduce how epic such a journey was, and indeed dwarfs my own travels.

It’s interesting to read about germany from a traveller’s perspective so many years ago (nearly 80!), and particularly since its at a time during which Patrick Wright claims that there was an Iron Curtain between England and Germany, which Leigh Fermor crosses. He talks about the way that Germans had been demonised in his mind by British propaganda and general attitudes, and praises the Germans for their integrity and their hospitality. If only they were as hospitable to me as they were to him I could be saving an awful lot of money…

I’m now in a hotel that seems like a Bluebeard’s castle, in an area where the London Cockney mixed with a German accent seems to be widespread.

Not looking forward to more hills with my knee in this state… My itinerary claims that I should reach the tri-state border of Austria-Cezch Republic-Germany in 6 days, thus completing the old East-West german border, but considering that includes two days with nearly 90km each, I calculate about 8 more days to go.

Quick update

23 Jul

I have very low battery and have just camped, so a post will have to follow tomorrow.

Very hard day with many hills so am now aboslutely nackered. Supper and bed – will wake up whenever I need to.

All the best,

Max

Brocken broke me

22 Jul

Today’s ascension into the Harz National Park was tough, but at the same time rewarding.

Leaving my hotel at nearly 10 o’clock, I ventured into the pine forest ahead, dreading the mountains surrounding me. My worst fears became were realised when I finished the first 5 km – it had taken me an hour. Steep, rough paths kept me occupied the whole morning. Such work led me to sweat heavily, and I soon ended up drenched, and the bitterly cold wind froze me to the bones. This meant that, after only 10 km I had to change into drier clothes. I even had to change out of my superman-outfit cycling attire. I’ve always loved superman-outfits.

Returning to my less supernatural achievements this morning, thankfully the path became much more bearable after about 15 km, and despite the fact I got lost trying to make a short-cut (I felt sure Mr Cramer was haunting me, keeping me on the right path), everything went alright, although progress was slow.

I had an interesting encounter when I tried to get one young woman to answer my research questionnaire. She had a sort of south london-cockney accent mixed with a very typical german accent. Priceless.

However, even more valuable were the sights I enjoyed within the Harz natural park. I passed very close to (but did not fully ascend) the Brocken peak, one of Goethe’s favourite spots, and one of Germany’s tallest peaks. Although it was a hard ascent, it was certainly a beautiful place to be – the wild raspberries I found added to this fact.

I particularly enjoyed the smell for fir trees and the general green environment. Very cleansing. Except for s couple of poodles who decided to try to steal my bike. I sneered at them and laughed at their shape, but they insisted on following me until thankfully they were called back. Vile creatures.

I nearly stopped for a ‘bratwurst’ (wurst – sausage), but decided I didn’t want to be associated with such a name for a meal. I trudged on instead.

I eventually, after what seemed like a decade, came to a beautifully steep downhill road, on which I reached my fastest ever speed on the bike – 58km/h. Not sure I’d want to go much faster.

Now drenched and shivering, I evetually made my way to Walkenried, where I met a couple of women whom I’d seen and conversed with before – and who are doing practically the same section of the iron curtain trail as me, and together we found a bed and breakfast to stay. The battle is on – they’re at least 30 years older than me and haven’t needed a rest day yet.

Finally, just two interesting points to make. Firstly, I’d like to admire the bottle recycling scheme in place here + for every plastic bottle you return to any shop or bar, you receive 25 cents, which is often up to half the price of the drink itself. Thinking bizarrely, I came up with the theory that you could buy 10 cent bottles of water in spain, send them to be drunk in africa, and recycle them in germany without barely losing money. Yes, that’s meant to be exaggerated. Still, its a great system.

I also have to admire the fact that cash machines give you such convenient notes. The other day I withdrew 80 euros, and received it all in 5 euro notes. Ironically, here the seem to have an excess of 5 euro notes, while in spain we have an excess of 500 euro notes. Says a lot about both countries.

Gute nacht!

My struggle

21 Jul

Today has been a physically, emotionally and mentally distressing day, and I’m now absolutely knackered. So this is going to be short. Probably not too entertaining either.

Today I woke up after a pretty good sleep in my tent and got on with the job in hand. What a job…

I got lost about 5 times, which added at least 10km on to the 76 I had ready for today. For about 30 of those kilometres I had no water. And barely any food. Much of the way was on gravel and cross-country, which made the endurance even harder. Many points were distressing, tiring and overwhelming.

After a light massage and some stretching, my knee managed ok, although after 50km it started hurting again.

I also finished my book, which I posted home. One of the final parts explained how Charles Roden Buxton, Quaker, Internationalist and a Fabian Socialist, explained the consequences of the treaty of Versailles during the 1920′s and 30′s, and warned of an imminent war. Analysing Hitler’s Mein Kamf, he explains that many of his complaints were in fact valid, and caused by problems inflicted on Germany by the Allies. Of course, this was in no way a defence of Nazism or of its later consequences, but it conveys an idea that is ever present in the book I just finished, Iron Curtain, by Patrick Wright; that an Iron Curtain existed much before Churchill’s 1946 speech at Fulton, although before World War I it divided Germany and the Entente Allies. Wright also talks of the Iron Curtain in Belgium during World War I, the eventual Iron Curtain separating Bolshevik Russia from the West (and the Potemkim Villages which so impressed western villagers, blinding them from the truth), as well as blaming the West (particularly Churchill himself) as much as the East for creating such an Iron Curtain.

The book ends by talking of how George W. Bush essentially created a new Iron Curtain of the theatrical type in Iraq, by attempting to gain personal success out of it.

In any case, a highly accessible read for any history enthusiast.

I’m going to sleep. Now.

Ps. Yesterday, Francisco Camps, president of Valencia, resigned, after continued accusations against him for having been bribed with 3,000 euro suits. I myself have always campaigned against this vile creature, once even wearing a suit to school bearing the words ‘Camp’s Present’ on it, so I am very pleased by this announcement. However, I am still bewildered by the fact that this man was still capable of winning an overwhelming election despite the accusations. Many thanks to Maria F P for the information regarding Mr Camps!

Rest in peace

20 Jul

Esperanto is a language which was constructed by Dr. L L Zamenhof in 1887. His intention was to promote internationalism and  world peace, so people could travel freely and be able to easily understand each other. After being extremely confused by the fact that ´bitter´means about 3 different things in German, and after having repeatedly been served soda instead as water, I´ve decided I´m going to learn this language as soon as I get back home, and promote it as much as possible. Apparently it´s quite easy to learn too.

Much of this interest has been sparked within me by the book I´m reading, Iron Curtain, by Patrick Wright. He explains that the Iron Curtain in fact existed much before the Second World War, and that in fact it was not only a one-way occurrence. He also repeatedly mocks Churchill for his Iron Curtain speech which made the phrase so popular, and blames him for much of its creation. Wright speaks of people such as Romain Rolland, Vernon Lee and Ethel Snowden, feminists, socialists and internationalists, all who defended the break-down of borders, and were in fact some of the first to truly denounce the creation of an Iron Curtain. Although many of these later became naive Bolshevists, many indeed denounced Bolshevism and refused the 3rd International. Many of their ideas expressed in this book concerning world peace and co-operation are indeed very interesting.

Today I cycle-limped to the town of Helmsted with my poorly knee. There I bought two mobile chargers – since I had a bit of a crisis yesterday when my mobile´s charger (with which I write my blog) died, and I also bought some muscle cream. A rather useless information officer claimed that there were no phone shops in town, and that there were no trains to Marienborn, a town 7km away where I shall camp. There were both. I felt like asking her if she wanted me to give her a tour of the town, but refrained from so doing.

I´m now in an internet café waiting for a train at 13.48. I´m pretty sure bikes aren´t allowed on this train, but I´m going to try to slip it on with my bike. If someone tries to stop me I´ll speak a mixture of Spanish, French and Portuguese to try and get by. Ironically, if I spoke Esperanto I certainly wouldn´t be understood. Either way, If I get kicked off I´ll be perfectly happy seeing as its just one stop away!

When I get to Marlienborn, I´ll going to look for somewhere to camp out in the wild immediately, seeing as I´m extremely tired and desperately need a rest. I´m almost falling asleep here…

That´s all for now!

 

Beendorf, done that

19 Jul

Today as I cycled past a kindergarten along the Iron Curtain Trail, I became aware of an iron curtain which I had not yet considered – the psychological divide between generations. As I looked past the fence and saw a whole load of children playing, I though ‘they don’t think like I do. And they probably won’t think like I do when they’re my age either. They have a completely different mindset; the mindset of a generation. Just as the generation before me, the one that lived before and during the fall of the iron curtain dividing east and west, have a different way of perceiving things to my generation, the one that lived through the millennium when we were young but old enough to remember it, as well as 9/11 and the Iraq war, indeed, the Harry Potter generation, future generations will think differently. Of course, there are exceptions, and indeed in many instances this is not true, but in general, I decided that there is a certain barrier between generations.

Apart from that, today I travelled through a very beautiful, varied landscape, and felt quite comfortable for the large majority of it, barely getting lost at all.

All in all, I covered about 70km, which was good, and I can now enjoy my rest day.

During my lunch break, and after having cooked myself some chilly con carne and digging into a lovely sticky toffee pudding, I had an encounter with wildlife.

A small black field mouse (or was it a rat?!) walked up to me and started trying to climb over me, ending up trying to eat my biscuits. After this rude interruption, and remembering a Monty Python episode, I tried to approach it asking what its favourite cheese was, saying that mine was Old Amsterdam. He must have been a Camembert man, as he immediately scuttled away not to be seen again.

I also noticed a piercing pain in my knee, so I guess its a good thing I’m getting a rest day tomorrow (although I will cycle circa 8 km in the morning to find somewhere to camp).

I’m now in Beendorf in a small but comfortable room.

Danke.

Number of historical questionnaires answered: 3

Brome Brum Bum

18 Jul

Today I left my Pizza Hut and made my way along the Iron Curtain Trail once again.

I can’t help but noting the large amount of anti-nuclear signs, stickers and flags stating ‘Atom Kraft? Nein’ (which is the equivalent of ‘Nuclear? No, thank you! In the UK). Germans also show their rejection of nuclear energy by placing large, wooden X’s painted yellow outside their houses. They look quite charming in fact. It seems that Merkel’s decision to scale down nuclear energy in germany is very popular over here – that’s great to know.

Talking of Angela Merkel – I’m now deep in the countryside, and there is a large amount of farming going on everywhere. Somewhere around here, the ‘e-coli’ disease that she tried to blame on Spain, sprouted.

As I said, I’m now in Germany’s heartland. Unfortunately, that also means a larger amount of hills, which have made cycling rather hard. Added to this was the fact that the wind was blowing viciously hard during most of the day. This made cycling practically impossible, meaning that at times I couldn’t surpass 10 km/h, considering I’m normally comfortably above 20 km/h.

Apart from that, I made my way along the route relatively alright, and arrived at a hostel in Brome where I had a rather expensive parcel with freeze dried food sent (Thank you Gina!!!!), and the women in charge were rather surprised to see me arrive.

Unfortunately, they had no space for me. I’m now staying at yet another old lady’s bed and breakfast, who has just informed me that she is having a shower. Thanks for the information.

I’m not sure I have more information myself.

Ps. Tomorrow I arrive to somewhere near Helmstedt, where I will find somewhere to sleep. A lot, seeing as it is my rest day after that. In order to save money though, I won’t sleep two nights there; I’ll camp on the second night in order to start cycling the next day.

Second puncture

17 Jul

The next morning I packed all my belongings back on to my bike and ate the snicker’s bar I had bought earlier at a bar, hoping to find a cafe on the way.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that, having left the Elbe river behind, I was now venturing into a very rural area of Germany.

30 km later, I found a very small restaurant/cafe, where I was served a massive cup of cocoa, two bread buns with nutella, a glass of orange juice and a refill of my water bottles for free. Very kind people in some of these areas.

After so many years left abandoned, derelict and forgotten, many of the borderland areas of what used to be East and West Germany have become wild and overgrown, bringing with it much wildlife. This is one of the reasons why the Iron Curtain Trail is such a great initiative. For this reason, the whole area has been named the ‘Green Belt’ of Germany.

I myself saw much wildlife today. I saw two enormous caterpillars, coloured with streaks of black, red, yellow and green. Much like the colours of the German flag which is painted on many of the remaining border posts. I’ve also seen all sorts of frogs, toads and birds, as well as the obvious shadowy villagers whom also seem to blend in with the landscape.

I also passed a lot of memorial stones and museums today, not all of which I had time to look at closely, but all of which convey the fact that there have certainly been attempts to remember the past and therefore manage to cure past wounds, rather than try and forget it and leave those wounds still bleeding as has happened in Spain with the civil war and the whole transition era.

Next comes my little calamity. Already today I had noticed that Mr Cramer has difficulty with defining ‘right’ and ‘left’. As I have previously mentioned, I mean no offence to him, but more to his editor/translator, who doesn’t seem to have checked my guidebook properly. However, the biggest problem came while finding somewhere to sleep. The book lists a place called ‘Luckau’ as having about 10 hotels/hostels at different prices. When I got there I found it to be a small hamlet with a church and a few houses. Nothing else. It also had a very different postcode to that listed in the book, according to the locals.

I soon found a nice little rural hotel, which one would have expected to be rather expensive due its majestic appearance (and nice rooms by the look of it). However, the old lady was charging a friendly 25e a night. However, she was sorry to tell me that that very day she was painting the walls, and couldn’t give me a room. However, she was very helpful to me, and helped me find a room above an italian restaurant not far away.

Then I had another (!) Puncture. Then my pump broke. Then I couldn’t get my wheel back on. A lady passed by. Thanks for helping.

Anyway, I soon arrived at my room, which has radiators to dry my handwashed clothes, and the restaurant looks nice – and even sell bitter lemon; my favourite drink that they don’t seem to sell in neither the UK nor Spain.

All is good.

Self-Determination

17 Jul

The Village Republic of Rüteberg came into being under very unusual circumstances. On the banks of the river Elbe, the village became fenced off by GDR border patrols in such a way that it was surrounded. As of 1961, all villagers were forced to pass a border check if they wanted to enter or leave this small village.

Angered by this lack of freedom, the villagers of Rüteberg convened on November 8th 1989 in the local village hall, and decided to proclaim themselves the Village Republic of Rüteberg; in order to take their own decisions, and indeed, acheive self-determination. On the following evening, the Berlin wall fell, signalling the beginning of the end of the Iron Curtain.

Yesterday as I passed Rüteberg, I felt full of a very different kind of self-determination.

The day began early, as I left a very awkward breakfast on my own with an old lady who kept feeding me cups of tea and little plastic tins of different kinds of buttern cheese and jams. At least I wasn’t hungry, or indeed thirsty, by the time I left.

Having left Bleckede, I cycled along the banks of the Elbe, which is flanked by an extremely wide, flat floodbasin, which is full of flourishing vegetation. Surrounding the river there were innumerable natural reserves, parks etc. which were a pleasure to cycle though. It was also nice that it was all flat.

I crossed the Elbe by ferry twice at different points, and eventually reached Rüteberg without too much complication, where, beside a lake. I decided to use my camping stove for the first time. In all my wisdom, I managed to get burnt on two different pasrts of my hand.

Appart from that it was a smooth ride along the Elbe. Oh well, except a sad old man on his electric bicycle who decided I was a good person to attempt to race along the river. He soon mumbled something in german and took a left turn.

Once I passed Gorleben I began to look for somewhere to camp. While doing so, I remembered that I hadn’t done many questionnaire surveys for my research, and seeing as I needed water, I went to a local bar to ask. There I found two charming old men, one of whom was in fact very kind but explained that he couldn’t read because he lacked his glasses, so he got his friend to answer for him. When he began saying ‘ahh yez we iz hitlar, hitlar’ (clearly joking) I realised his lack of glasses wasn’t all that was stopping him from reading. I awkwardly smiled and made my way out. Either way, having crossed the Elbe, I found a perfect spot near some sheep for me to camp, and had another of my ‘backpacker’s lunch’, heated on the camping stove, before going to sleep. It was a great place to camp, and a shame that my attempt to upload pictures failed.

Although it rained a bit throughout the night, I was glad I’d done my bit of wild camping along the Elbe.

That was yesterday.

Reaching the Elbe

15 Jul

Crossing the Elbe isn’t half as hard now as it was for the German soldiers of the 9th Army in 1945. Then, fleeing from Berlin after a successful seige by the Soviet forces, the remains of the German 9th Army rushed to the Elbe in order to reach Allied-occupied land. Everyone feared Soviet brutal treatment.

People tried all sorts of methods to cross it; makeshift boats, swimming and slinging themselves across, apart from the obvious attempts at forming a bridge. Death rates were high on the Elbe’s crossing.

Now, you can cross the Elbe between Neu Blekede and Bleckede for €1.50 with a bike on a ferry.

However, before I reached the Elbe crossing, which was today’s destination, I had to fight the elements.

As soon as I got on my bike, it started raining viciously. However, the first few kilometres went reasonably smoothly despite the terrible weather, and I was pleased to see a few remains of the old border – pictures will have to follow at a later date as they are on my camera at the moment!

At one moment I got lost at Lauenberg thanks again to Mr Cramer’s direction which simply said ‘cycle along a road’ when there were about 3 roads and an industrial estate. That meant I lost about 45 minutes.

Despite that, the thunderous wind, the torrential rain, and the mud that made me slip and fall twice, I managed to cross the Elbe by 15.00, and soon found a cosy room to sleep at. I had much trouble with an old lady who didn’t understand what the iron curtain was or why I wanted her to answer her questionnaire. She decided to phone her friend in London to translate. Her husband, who had some sense simply filled in the questionnaire and handed it over.

I’m very excited about tonight’s ‘disco’ at Bleckde, featuring DJ Harry and ‘hot Go Go’s’, not to be missed, according to the old lady and her husband. I think I’ll watch cautiously from my bed.

Since I will be camping out rough tomorrow I will make the most of the said bed. Hopefully my sleeping bag and tent will be dry by then!

Ps. Today I saw the first watchtowers along the iron curtain trail, some of the few that remain. They seem daunting on the one hand, and also threatening, although on the other hand this is juxtaposed by a sense of freedom; they symbolise the repression which is no longer there.

‘Zarrentin, Zarrentin, Zarrentin’

14 Jul

I’m now in the small town of Zarrentin after a very tiring day of cycling. I’ve been repeating the name of this place to myself during the whole day, eager to arrive.

I would like to start by saying that today I reached my fundraising target for Friends of the Earth. Although my aim was only £500, I’m quite proud that I managed to make it – although you can still donate at http://www.justgiving.co.uk/ironcurtaintrail ! Thankyou very much to everyone who donated – I really appreciate it.

During the night, it rained and rained and rained. However, my brave little tent kept me dry the whole night through, and I have to admit I truly felt quite cosy. However, I soon rose, and by chance, it stopped raining. I packed up and made my way to the camping shop round the corner. There, they told me that my stove was not compatible with their gas. More money.

Either way, I soon embarked on the Iron Curtain Trail from Lubeck toward Ratzeburg. In case you were wondering, I did get lost. Innumerable times.

In my defence, this was not only my fault. Firstly, the trail is not marked. At all. Nowhere. This means I have to rely on my little guidebook by MEP Michael Cramer. No disrespect to Mr Cramer, as indeed he seems like a charming man, but his book can sometimes be slightly misleading. I think it has something to do with the fact that they seem to have used Google Translate to translate it…

I’m also sure that the fact that most streets here are called something along the lines of Fuckenberg Alle and Kantstrasse, road names which would be frowned upon in the UK, doesn’t help either.

Either way, during one of my first lost moments, I got a puncture. It seemed to feel as though I were in some kind of horror film where the elements are used to hinder a character, or even Lord of the Rings, with Mordor making Frodo’s passage harder and harder. No joke. Everywhere I went, the wind blew against me.

I soon set out to mend my puncture. Oh great. Inner tube is tiny and doesn’t fit. Oh great. Bike so heavy it keeps falling down. Oh great. Air capsules not compatible with my adaptor. Oh great. Pump takes an age. Oh great great great great….

In case you were wondering, I eventually got it mended. I can’t really remember most of what happened next. My lost fits seemed to have all merged together. I got lost a lot. Covered a lot of kilometres (90 by the end of the day) and tried to rest every 20km or so.

Eventually I got to Zarrentin. The last 9km took an age. I first set out to look for a bike shop. I asked someone in a shop were I bought some biscuits and a lighter for my stove. She gave me directions. Then looked at her watch. ‘Oh dear no. He’ll be drunk by now’. So she sent me somewhere else.

After roller-costering all over the town, to and forth for about an hour, I found a hotel offering me a double bed for 35e a night including breakfast. I didn’t hesitate. I washed my clothes, had a shower, read my book….. The usual.

I also began to reconsider my whole journey. I know for a fact that I am the first person of my age to attempt something this long. I also know its pretty crazy to be doing this considering I’m not really normally a cyclist. I thought that maybe it would be best to cut off the last 200 km of the journey. Basically, this would involve crosing the whole of Germany and a bit more. Its not really any less of a feat than travelling to Bratislava, it just takes a bit of pressure of my back, while still being the first 17 year old to cross the whole of Germany by bike. If I sponsors dont’ object, I think I shall adapt this new travel plan.

I am now completely exhausted and am going to read my book and sleep. Thanks everyone for your positive comments, and please spread the word!

Max

Edit: I just worked out that sounded a bit gloomy! Not at all, everyone, don’t worry :) I’m really enjoying the whole experience and especially much of the countryside etc. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to enjoy it even more if I don’t get so lost. Its also nice to look after one’s self- doing the washing, mending punctures, it’s all a great experience.

Water please, not soda

13 Jul

Today I travelled from Berlin to Lübeck in what turned out to be a more distressful day than necessary.

After a slightly uncomfortable night where I went to bed at about 8 o’clock after my previously rough night, and after having experienced a considerable amount of shouting throughout the night, I woke up at 8.30 and checked out of the Three Little Pigs hostel.

I asked the receptionist for a camping shop to buy a stove, and she redirected me to a part of town where I could easily cycle, so I made my way there. As I set out to unlock my bicycle, I noticed the key in the lock wouldn’t come out. Yet another expense in this unscrupulously, yet otherwise extremely charming, attractive and indeed cool place. 28 euros in the local bike shop.

Eventually, I found the camping shop in question, which was, of course closed until 12. I was then told to go to the other side of town, where there was another shop, named ‘Husky’, which would certainly have what I was looking for. However, when I got there I found that its only closing day was wednesday. Just my luck…

Anyway, after having covered most of Berlin by bike, and without having yet found a camping stove, I set off to the Berlin Haupbanhof (main station). In the ticket office I was told bikes were not allowed. I suspected the woman in charge was in some way related to Daisy from Berlin Airport.

I have to note that in Germany, bicycle provision is generally excellent. Bike lanes, parkings etc. are absolutely everywhere, and drivers really respect cyclists, and that’s really great. Places like Madrid, where I am from, should learn from cities like Berlin as it really encourages people to get on their bikes to go everywhere, as it turns out to be the quickest method of transport in a city.

Eventually, and after having changed at Bad Kleinen (Bad meaning Spa – nothing spa-like about the place but anyway…) I arrived at Lübeck. On the train, I read a considerable part of my book, and began to feel rather positive about the whole trip. I even recorded a few words for the radio program I intend to do when I finish the trip.

However, once I’d arrived in Lübeck, the weather began to become pretty dark, threatening rain, and when I asked at the tourist office and they told me that all hotels were booked, I began to feel pretty down. I wasn’t expecting to have to camp yet. Also, I failed to find a camping stove, essential for most of the food I have on me. Astonishingly, the tourist map of the city cost me 2e. Since when do people actually charge for tourist maps!?

Although it was not yet 6 o’clock, I was starving and made my way to the local bar to have a 4,90e pizza to try and make up for my economic loss so far. However, to my surprise, when I ordered a glass of water I was presented with a glass of soda and a bill for 2e. Charming.

By then it was beginning to seriously threaten rain, and since all this time I had been afraid someone would steal my bike, I began to cycle to the local campsite. I hate campsites. I really despise them. If you’re going to bother with camping, why would you actually pay to do so? To me, its absolutely ridiculous. As to those people, who go camping with sophisticated caravans, I’d rather not even comment.

Anyway, seeing as Lübeck is quite a large city with few green areas, and due to the fact that I was about to be soaked I approached the camp site and paid my 9e for a slot. Apparently I also had to pay for having a ‘hot’ shower. 50c/5 mins. When I only asked for 5 minutes of warm water the woman wondered why that was all I wanted. I didn’t bother to explain that its environmentally un-friendly to have a longer shower…

On the way, my bike had been making noises and squeaking. I began to get worried when the side of my pannier-carrier began to touch with my wheel. However, after my shower I realised that someone must have bumped into my bike when it was parked, bending the metal holder, as well as the fact that its bolts needed tightening. Luckily it was no problem to fix.

I’m now in my little squatty tent eating biscuits made by a make that says on its packet ‘backtradition seit 1870′. I wonder why they didn’t stick to dealing with backs rather than biscuits.

Tomorrow I start cycling properly, with the extra 5km to the centre of Lübeck plus whatever distance it takes to the camping shop (which apparently opens at 8 am) added to the circa 65 km I need to complete. This trail better be well signposted…

Arrival in Berlin

12 Jul

“Berlin is the testicle of the West. When I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin.” Nikita Khrushchev, 1963

Arrival in Berlin was painful.

Having arrived 3 hours early to Madrid Airport in order to check in my bike (Thanks, mum, for packing it!), I set out to explore the wonderful expense of an airport culinary experience. Walking around the airport with geeky glasses, cycling shoes, trousers which I cut the day before, a summery blue shirt, a bent copy of the FT and a sort of man bag that goes beneath my clothes, I felt rather odd. Maybe that´s normal.

Either way, the flight, although long, was pleasant, and after I had panicked, wondering where Easyjet had lost my bike (which eventually appeared) I soon found myself with nothing to do in Berlin Schoenefeld Airport at half past midnight.  I was hoping the airport to be historically linked in some way to the old war (i.e maybe it had been the scene of the Berlin Airlift 1948-9), but no, it was small airport originally built by the Soviet Union on the East Side of Berlin, although much updated since then. Either way, I didn´t feel precisely immersed in history, as I had hoped.

Anyway, following the instructions I found on the internet, I checked all floors for free spaces on benches. All these seemed occupied, except a fe on the top floor… but I was hardly going to sleep beside the two tramps who were conspicuously sitting there? No, I walked back down to the ground floor, and installed myself beside “Daisie´s Diner”,and tried to make myself comfortable sleeping on my bike´s package with my sleeping bag. I soon felt stupid when someone took a bench I hadn´t noiced. I felt even stupider when some spanish people decided to try sleeping in some very comfortable benches/booths in Daisie´s Diner. However, they were very disappointed when Daisy herself appeared at 3 o´clock in the morning to oust them. She wasn´t as slim or as smiley as the cartoon on her Diner´s  wall implied. Oh well.

Anyway, this basically translates to the fact that I barely slept at all. This certainly was not helped by the intermittent DING DONG!!! which resounded through the loudspeaker every fourty-five minutes, followed by a statement in german which was repeated in pitiful english. One of them warned us not to “take other people´s bagage on the expedition” while the other one claimed that “ze liquid molecules are not allowed in ze handbagage”. Amusing o such an extent that it reached despair.

By 5.30 am, when everyone began to start checking in, I knew it was time to leave. I began to set my bike up, and a kind cleaner (Whom I suspected to be Daisie´s cousin or sister) came to help me. Within 15 minutes I was riding my bike to the train station, where, after much difficulty with translations, a charming turkish guy helped me reach my destination. Soon, by 8 am, I arrived at the Three Little Pigs hostel, where I am to sleep tonight. Of course I couldn´t check in yet, so I tried out my questionnaire on the hostel secretary dude and set off walking to explore a bit and get some breakfast. I soon found a great place to eat at Potsdammer Platz and eventually found both a Vodafone shop for my mobile and a bike shop, although both didn´t open until 10 am, so I made my way to a quiet side street and continued reading my book, appropriately named “Iron Curtain” by Patrick Whight.

Later, I bought some extremely expensive (6e) bike oil and some pumping cartridges which were equally expensive. Later when I took my bike to get checked at the same bike shop, I found out I had spent half the day cycling around Berlin with the handle bar the wrong way round. Typical…

Apart from that, I managed to cram in Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag (where I fell asleep) and the Jewish Memorial site, as well as many sections from the Berlin wall and a visit to “Schlecker” to buy shampoo etc and a nice pizza from an Italian place (for 2.00 e!), all this before 14.00.

Overall, I´ve noticed that Berlin is a very interesting city in many ways; it is geared towards its historic past, yet at the same time is architecturally and culturally interesting in its present state. The modern glass buildings (which in the case of the Reichstag is a symbol of political transparency) provide a great fusion with the old nazi-era gigantic structures which still loom over the city. The hostel is also great; it has a really liberal feel to it, without feeling cheap (which it is) or grotty (which it certainly isn´t).

I´ll try to post more updates tomorrow!

Last Minute Stress

10 Jul

Right. It’s now almost midnight the day before I’m set to leave. I think I’m more or less packed and ready to leave…

My flight leaves at 20.45 tomorrow and should arrive in Berlin at around midnight. Being slightly adventurous, and not liking the idea of lugging a whole load of luggage around Berlin past midnight, I’ve decided the best option is to sleep off the night in Berlin Airport. Thanks to this website (www.sleepinginairports.net) – Yes, someone’s dedicated a whole website to the wonders of airport sleeping – I’velearnt about all the best tricks about sleeping in this particular airport…

But going back to the whole preparation of my journey, I’d like to speak  about the past week. I spent the whole week going out to train from around 17.30 in the afternoon, and shopping, sending emails, researching etc. Apart from a small problem with my gears, which involved the gears suddenly jumping out of position, everything was going fine. However, I decided to go and get this problem checked, just in case itwas something that could cause me problems.

Initially, the man at my local bike shop explained to me that I had installed a chain and block which were suited for a nine-speed gear system, whereas the gear changing device I had on my bike was only suited for eight-speed systems. However, this wasn’t an enormous problem, as fixing this was only to cost me 35 euros.

Unfortunately, we then noticed that my whole bike frame was bent, and indeed about to snap. There was no way I could travel 1,800 km on such a damaged bike, considering the dangers involved.

Bent Frame

Therefor, I was forced to say goodbye to my dear Kona and buy a whole new bike (as the frames they had in stock were not suited for my old-fashioned vehicle…). Three days before I was due to set off everything seemed to be going wrong.

Luckily, the shop had in stock a relatively elegant black “Cube” bike (“Cube” being the manufacturer), which was made in Germany, which meant I would have greater ease if ever I were to need spare parts. After much thought, and after seeing a variety of bikes, I chose this one because it seemed robust, good quality and not too conspicuously “shiny”, therefore reducing my chances of having it stolen.

Of course, a pannier rack, pedals and all sorts of components had to be fitted to my new bike, and seeing as it was a saturday and they were about to close, we agreed that I would pick my bike up on monday, that is tomorrow, in order to pack it up and  and have it ready to fly.

Apart from that small episode, I made one more visit to Decathlon where I bought a few last bits of gear, and I soon collected everything I needed to pack my panniers.

Ready to Pack!

I included to my equipment three books: two history books on the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, and one called “A Time of Gifts”, by Patrick Leigh Fermor, who traveled from the Hook of Holland to Turkey in 1931, a journey which I hope will inspire me.

Having fitted all my stuff into my little black waterproof panniers,I soon found out I had one pannier full of food and technical equipment and another full of clothes… I’m a bit worried about how I’m going to cope with all this weight!

After checking online I realised that my air cartridges for pumping up my tyres would not be allowed in the hold,and neither will my dear WD 40 (is it true it has 2000+ uses?!). I’ll have to buy those in Berlin. I bet that’s not all that easyjet will try to hinder me with. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about easyjet tomorrow when the saga continues…

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: JimmyxJazzx

Historical Research

7 Jul

At the end of his book ‘The Battle for Spain’, Antony Beevor states that “history, which is never tidy, must always end in questions. Conclusions are much too convenient”.

Therefore, I in my own way, during my entire experience of the 1,800km of the Iron Curtain Trail, will be posing my own questions. Some of these questions I will ask myself (i.e What am I doing cycling 80km a day on my summer holiday?!), and much of this will help me understand why the Iron Curtain Trail was initially set up, and what impact it had on the areas it covered. In fact, I am hoping that in some way or other, travelling down its full length will mean that the Iron Curtain Trail has an eventual impact on me as a person.

However, the more pertinent, and perhaps the more interesting questions will not be ones I ask myself. I have created a questionnaire (Which was kindly translated to German by Stephanie Müller from Plant BPM and Gestiona Radio) in order to asses the impacts of both the Iron Curtain itself and the Iron Curtain Trail as an initiative.

This, together with photographic evidence and informal recorded interviews (as well as a huge pile of reading!) will serve as a basis for my Extended Project – a university-style dissertation which is worth half an A-Level, which I will be completing in the next academic year.

Here are some of the questions I have included. All questions are open and in the format of a linkert-scale, to allow objectivity and more ease when it comes to creating graphics.

Iron Curtain Trail Questionnaire:

The Iron Curtain made it harder for me to see my family: 

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

The Iron Curtain lowered my living standards: 

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

The Iron Curtain created a socioeconomic void between the east and the west: 

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

It was easy to travel from one side of the Iron Curtain to another:

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

There is still living evidence of the impacts of the Iron Curtain: 

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

The wounds of the Iron Curtain have now been healed: 

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

Socioeconomic inequalities still exist between East and West Europe:

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

The Iron Curtain divide was a necessary measure: 

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

The Iron Curtain Trail has helped reduced inequalities between east and west:

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

The Iron Curtain trail has substantially increased tourism in my area: 

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

The Iron Curtain Trail has been a success:

Strongly agree – agree – unsure – disagree – strongly disagree

Are you aware of any efforts made to reduce symbolism/evidence of the Iron Curtain? YES/NO

Examples of such efforts:

Other comments:

Want to contribute to my research? Fill in the box below!

Trying out my tent

30 Jun Gelert Solo Tent

Today I received a very exciting package through the post. Having ordered my tent from Amazon last friday, it was sitting on my kitchen table within a matter of days, all for just under £30. Pretty Brilliant. Amazon now sells pretty much everything I can think of, from perfume, to mobile phones, to their latest digital reader, the kindle.

However, I hate to think of the damage this is doing to independent booksellers. I find the most ethical way to buy is using the used and new section, which is effectively small bookshops/individuals selling their  stock.

More to the point, having been nagged to do the washing up and a few odd jobs, I went into the garden to try out my newly acquired contraption. It’s a Gelert Solo one-man light-green tent, weighing 1.5kg and measuring 40x40x15 cm, which is pretty impressive for the price. According to one online review it’s supposed to be able to live through the worst of Irish weather no problem – i’ll be testing it out with the hosepipe later on.

Fully Packed

Either way, I immediately began to open up the tent’s small package. It’s made up of two layers – the thin, light inside part and a more water-resistant outside layer. After having a bit of trouble with the two only tent poles involved, I managed to fix it together, and began adjusting the first tent pegs (much to the regret of my poor hands, which didn’t react too kindly to sticking pieces of metal into the ground).

Eventually, I got round to adjusting the outside green layer, which includes some rather conspicuous bright yellow strings, supposedly so that I don’t trip on them when I walk out of my tent halfway though the night. Once it was fully set up, it resembled something like a provisional hobbit-hole. Or so I seemed to think…

I immediately went inside my newly constructed hobbit-hole. It was cosy to say the least. I soon realised how much taller I’ve become over the past six months. Both my head and my feet were touching the tent walls. Either way, lying sideways in a fetal position I was quite comfortable. I was going to weather-test it with the sprinklers, but eventually decided against this idea.

The hardest part was trying to stick the wretched thing back into its tiny package. However, after much struggling, on my second attempt i just managed to fit it back into its slim little bag.

I then went to my bike to see if it would fit on the back of my panniers after all. Indeed, it slipped in quite comfortably along with my conspicuously bright-orange sleeping bag. Fair enough. It took me half an hour to set up and pack again. 15 minutes each way.

Ready to ride

All in all, I am really happy with my new tent. It’s light, it’s small, its easy to set up and put away, and apparently it will survive pretty extreme weather. It’s also cheap. We’ll see this afternoon how it survives in the afternoon’s training session.

11 days to go before I set off.

Suffering along the Madrid Camino

29 Jun

Today I set out to complete a 40km round trip along the Madrid variant of the Camino de Santiago with my now fully-equipped and fully-functioning Kona Bike – My back wheel arrived from the repair shop yesterday.

By the time I set out it was 17.30, and the sun was still blazing with all its spanish might. In any case I had everything fixed and ready to set out, so I started to pedal down my very steep street. “Oh yeah, forgot my gloves”….

Anyway, after having gone back  home to pick up the gloves in question, I set out, this time properly gloved-up.

By the time I’d hooked on to the Camino de Santiago, about 10km from my home, the sun was killing me. I was sweating all over. My rather comical super-man-like cycling outfit was also rather uncomfortable. I stopped at the top of a hill to refresh my body with some of the revered Isostar. Ugh. The sun had warmed  all 2 litres of water I had on me. The Isostar tasted of everything except Lemon.

In any case, I soon realised that the Camino wasn’t going to be quite as much of a comfortable ride as I had expected. The path was plagued with continual rises which were almost too severe to cycle up, and rather too many uncomfortably steep drops. In addition, the path was so uneven and weather worn that I often found myself walking rather than cycling.

Either way, after about 10km of suffering, I finally came to a smooth ridge which eventually took me to the Polideportivo Dehesa Boyal, beside the Manzanares National Park, and, after a steep drop,  at last I was cycling comfortably along an even path. However, this did not last. I soon found myself dropping up and down and, after two steep climbs, calamity happened.

I started cycling extremely slowly and without much balance. My back wheel was punctured. God certainly wasn’t with me on the camino. The forgiveness of all sins acheived last summer for completleting the camino by foot on a holy year has obviously worn out.

After much arguing with my dear Kona (That’s my bike), I eventually replaced my back wheel and lay down for a while. I felt a sense of achievement after mending my first bike puncture. How sad. I was half-way. I took a few sips from my nuclear-tasting isotonic mix, which, as my thirst increased was growing on me.

In due time I found myself cycling back home. The last 8 km are a great dive down a series of gentle slopes. It’s a great feeling. Until I reach my street. It’s always a bit of an anticlimax to have to climb 1km uphill after such a nice ride down.

I don’t think I’ll be having too much faith on the Madrid Camino in future training rides…

More about me and my journey

27 Jun

Hi.

I’m Max. I’m 17. I like running. And cycling. And music. And poetry. And history. I also like art, skiing, writing and a whole load of other stuff…

But more to the point. This summer I’m cycling 1,800km along the Iron Curtain Trail.

What is the Iron Curtain Trail?

The Iron Curtain Trail is an EU initiative, set in motion by German Green MEP Michael Cramer. It consists of a cycle track which runs all along the former European division which severed  Europe for almost half a decade. The trail is almost 7,000km long, and reaches from the Barents Sea in the north of Finland/Russia down to Turkey.

The  idea of the Iron Curtain Trail is to provide a culturally enriching form of eco-tourism which involves the tourist in its historical context while economically benefitting the areas it passes through.

I’m not so sure they expected some crazy 17-year old to set out and do a large chunk of it though…

You can read more about the initiative here

Why am i doing it?

I have always loved long trails. Last summer I walked 800km  of the Camino de  Santiago alone. It was a great experience.

I have a particular interest in history, and when I heard that there was  an extremely long cycle track packed with historical interest I simply couldn’t stop myself. The Cold War is a period which particularly interests me, and there is no  better way to understanding than going somewhere and living it by yourself.

During the trail I will also  be  collecting historical research for my A Level Extended Essay, which  I am going to base on the Iron Curtain and my experiences along it.

More about my journey:

  • I will be setting out  on the 11th of July, by flying with my bike to Berlin, and then travelling on the 13th of July to Lübeck, where I will begin cycling. For more information on  my itinerary, visit the  itinerary section, here
  • Since  I’m encouraging sustainable travelling methods by riding my bike, I’m raising money for Friends of the Earth. You can sponsor me here
  • I will also be posting regularly on twitter and  facebook
  • I also present a Radio program on Radio Utopia 102.4 fm in the north of Madrid. Visit my mixcloud page.
  • I’m also the editor of a small magazine, Counterpoint, published by Opinion Society Publishing… http://www.opinionsociety.org

About my journey

26 Jun

Hey!

My name is Max, I’m 17 years old, and on the 11th of July I’m embarking on the longest bike travel I’ve ever completed – and probably the largest section of the Iron Curtain Trail someone of my age has ever accomplished.

For almost half a century, Europe was divided into East and West by the “Iron Curtain”, a border stretching from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. The Iron Curtain Trail invites people to retrace and experience the former division of the continent on a 6,800 km cycle track along the length of the former border, combining European culture, history and sustainable tourism.

I’m going to complete almost 2,000km between the town of Lübeck, in northern Germany, to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

I chose to support Friends of the Earth not only because I already had strong connections with them through working with them in the past, but also because they defend ecological sustainability, and, after all, cycling is a crucial aspect of this.

Therefore I encourage you to contribute to my cause and donate to Friends of the Earth to help me reach my target!

Remember you can follow me throughout my travels on:
*Twitter: JimmyxJazzx
*Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/maxsl
*My blog: ironcurtaintrail.wordpress.com

Me.

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