Monday, Day 3
I woke up to the screams of a girl in my dorm having a nightmare. It was a noisy hostel – by 7am there were people shouting and slamming doors. I wanted a coffee but the machine was broken, so I ate breakfast outside and had my foot run over by a teenager with a wheelie suitcase.
Leaving Berlin took forever and I needed a wee. My low mood hung around, finally lifting when I saw Wannsee. Potsdam had a genteel air and there were some fantastic cycle paths on the west of the city, which a friend had recommended to me.
By Brandenburg I’d had enough for the day but had another 30 miles to go. I saw a woman in an owl tracksuit and a man walking a pig on a lead, which cheered me up a bit. I’d planned a pretty direct route for the final stretch, but this meant riding on a path 10cm wide, until the path disappeared. I wasn’t sure about the next 10 miles on a busy road at dusk and checked googlemaps, which told me that there was an alternative route. I set off, through a farm and onto a track.
Quickly I realised my mistake. The sun was setting fast, and this was pretty off road. The sky was incredible but I wanted to get onto a road as quickly as possible. I came to a minor road and went back onto the main road. It was now pitch black and I hoped the drivers would be alert enough to see me.
I made it to the next town, almost hysteric with relief. I bought some apples and ate two, then set out for the final 15 miles in the dark. On unlit roads. I ticked off the villages in my head, it was about 7 miles north-west, then across the river and another 7 miles south.
Suddenly a thought hit me: what if there’s only a daytime ferry to cross the river? Luckily the ferry ran until 8pm, although I crossed in complete darkness. This is fun, I thought. This is an adventure.
I arrived at my Airbnb, much to the relief of my host, who’d been worried. “Don’t you get scared?” she asked. I just wanted a shower.
Strava: 85 miles
Tuesday, Day 4
My host had prepared a breakfast-to-go, four rolls with a different type of jam in each. I ate one roll and we chatted about cats and my housemate’s omnipresent hair, then I set out.
I cursed the cobbled villages of East Germany and stopped by the Elbe, in the mist, for more breakfast.
It got foggier, and soon I could see less than 25 metres. There were lots of lorries on the road but I figured there was no point panicking. I went through a military training ground, with lots of signs warning of panzers and got some quizzical looks from men in uniform. It was 3 degrees.
At a junction my garmin inexplicably told me to go two different ways: a main road going the wrong way (but presumably leading to hot beverages!) and a track in the correct direction. I chose the track. It was sketchy in places but I kept going and eventually got to a village, where I saw a lorry doing laps of the green.
The cycle path reappeared, and the mist had almost entirely cleared up. I watched a woman use a leafblower on the gravel in her driveway.
I wasn’t hugely enjoying myself but I appreciated the feeling of finding it within myself.
The sun came out as I crossed into West Germany and finally found a café! I treated myself to a coffee and amazing piece of cake. Hell, I’d earned it.
I arrived in Brunswick and went to my Airbnb. There was a waterbed in my room! I’d always wondered what it would be like to sleep on one.
My host recommended a restaurant and I meandered off to the bus stop, where I lucked out and a bus came within minutes. A bus, a tram and a replacement bus (though only 20 minutes) later, I was in Brunswick city centre.
I liked the town, it was part old and part new. I walked to the restaurant and read my kindle while demolishing a mountain of Turkish food. Bliss!
I was worried that the bus times meant I’d miss the connection on the way home, but *of course* the timetable had been devised so that all the buses connected with each other.
Waterbed verdict: strange, kind of warm, not sure I’d want to share with anyone in case of waves.
Strava: 70 miles
Wednesday, Day 5
I was reluctant to get going, especially as I knew Hanover, my next stop, wasn’t that far. Aside from trying to take me across a railway track (I actually considered this for a minute) and a few miles along a gravel path, the route was pleasant.
It was windy and grey, with not a huge number of photo opportunities, even if I could have been bothered to take my neoprene gloves off (too much hassle). A café stop in Lehrte was unremarkable except for the pigeon that flew in.
I managed to take the longest route possible into Hanover, which did mean I went through the city forest. It started misting gently as I rode along the canal, and rained in the forest, but the heavy rain started once I locked my bike up and was safely in the dry at the Rathaus, where I took a curved lift (very odd) to the top of the tower, where I’d been promised fantastic views.
Afterwards I went into the main shopping district, where inexplicably I bought some perfume, my second of the trip (the first was one called ‘Isis’). Doesn’t everyone do this when cycle touring?
In the drizzle, I rode to the north of the city, where I was staying. My Airbnb host was really friendly, and asked where I’d come from. “But you can’t have cycled all the way from Berlin?!” he said. He asked why I hadn’t done the trip in the summer. “Respect,” he said. “Big respect.”
I had dinner at an American diner (epic milkshake!) and read my Kindle until it was kicking out time and then I went back to the flat, accidentally ringing a neighbours doorbell instead of putting the hall light on. I slept happily, with warm hands and feet.
Strava: 47 miles
The next few days…