There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…

It can be tricky keeping your mind occupied on a long distance ride.

We are in Dresden, a beautiful city which is part of the old East Germany and we have only a couple more days before we cross the border into Poland.

We entered Germany on the Mosel which we were really looking forward to because Graham had great memories of it from a holiday as a young teenager. It was a disappointment. Most of the wine production is now mass production, although you do get the occassional glimpse of older methods. Some of the scenery is dramatic, but the main features are the roads, a railway and an endless stream of caravan parks. You almost can’t see where one stops and the next one starts.

We crossed the Rhine at Koblenz and cycled up the much smaller Lahn River which was absolutely beautiful and almost without mention in the guidebook. It is quiet and very rural, save for the sudden appearance of Bad Ems, a small but fabulously grand spa town. Built in the mid to late 19th century, it still attracts lots of German tourists to its healing waters.

We have had ongoing difficulties with Graham’s front wheel. We fixed it several times but it finally became unridable when the hub burst just west of Thüringen County, which marks the border with the old East Germany. So, instead of cycling into the former DDR, we limped in on a train to Eisenach and the nearest bike shop where we bought a new wheel.

The 20-odd mile train ride meant we saw Eisenach Station. Built around 1890, at a time when the town was rich, it still retains a few original Art Nouveau stained glass windows. But the main attraction was some amazing modern stained glass celebrating the city’s industrial heritage. It could be from the end of the Soviet era, but may be more recent.

Thüringen Countywas hilly and the map reading complicated, but a highlight of Germany is that you cannot open a map without someone offering to help – and once we have used our 20 words of German in every possible combination, it usually turned out they can speak perfect English.

Recently on the same day, we were invited in for morning coffee, which we refused, and later afternoon tea, which we accepted. Hilda who invited us had spent as term at Lancaster University and thought we would be missing our afternoon tea. She was right. We spent a delightful hour with her and her husband Peter, drinking tea ontheir balcony while they told us about Jena, the town we were in.

Jena is a university town with some industry, which makes it economically more successful than most ex-DDR towns. The Soviets planned it as a showcase city and in the 1970s knocked down part of the old town to build the first of what should have been two towers as a tribute to Carl Zeiss the lens maker. They were supposed to represent binoculars. However, local outrage at the destruction of the old town and the further destruction that would be required to build the second tower meant that only one was built.  The solitary tower still stands as the city’s landmark and was, for a long time, the tallest office building in East Germany.

We arespending a couple of days in Dresden and we have chosen the right weekend. This is a holiday weekend and Dresden is hosting a month long festival with music and performance. Much of it is free and we should get to see some music this afternoon.

The weather is incredibly hot – as it has been since we left London. We’ve completed our first thousand miles and we move on tomorrow.

So: There was an old lady who swallowed a spider that wriggled and tickled…etc. Any ideas for useful occupation of the brain while cycling, gladly accepted.


PS: annoyingly, the computer I am on won’t let me see any pictures, so once again I can’t put any on the blog. Humph!

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Photos uploaded – hurrah

After 426 miles we've made it to the Moselle

You can see more pictures if you go to the Our photos link in the right hand column.

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Where did you pack the…?

After 426 miles we’ve reached the Moselle, still in France at a town called Thionville. It’s our first major landmark so it feels like an achievement. The cycling hasn’t been particularly interesting, the first part was flat alongside canals with a headwind, then short ups and downs all day throughout the Ardennes, still with the wind against us. But it has been an opportunity to get a bit fitter and to get used to the routine.

The first couple of weeks is all about working out where everything is. We’ve lost everything at least once and found most things again – the only confirmed loss so far is the frying pan. Everything small now has string attached to it. A world without string is chaos!

At the moment we are cycling 25 – 30 miles a day and are pretty knackered by the evenings. We’ve started to meet other travellers including walkers and cyclists doing the pilgramage route from Belgium to Santiago de Compostella. Two young Belgian boys were walking to Portugal which they estimated would take six months. They had 600 Euros between them and they were smoking, so they may have truoble making the money last, but they were confident and had already met with much kindness. We have also met very kind people including a woman who charged us just 5 Euros to camp in her garden, brought us towels and soap, gave us the use of a kitchen and shower, and later brought us a huge plate of homemade pates and sausage with bread and pickles,

We’ve had our first mechanical problem with Graham’s front wheel and are having some difficulty finding the right sized parts – we may have to replace the entire wheel.

We cross into Germany in a couple of days on a cycle path running alongside the Moselle. The weather is sunny and the wind finally behind us, perfect for cycling.

Have just spent a frustrating hour trying to upload some photos and videos and completely failed. We’ll work on it for the future.

And in the meantime, where did I pack the bottle opener?

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Ready to go?

Loaded bikesThe bikes are ready even if we aren’t.

The bikes are ready to goWe can ride them but we can’t lift them – which will make putting them on the train on Wednesday a bit tricky.

The cat doesn't want to comeSadly the cat has decided not to come with us.

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First post

There’s nothing like suddenly being able to realise a dream to make you question whether you actually want to do it.

A little over twenty years ago, we got back from cycling around the world. After two years of travelling we were very happy to be in one place, but we always thought that eventually we would want to do another long ride.

And then other things get in the way like work and mortgages and just life in general.

But over the last few years, we’ve been dreaming about doing it again. For a long time it was just a way to get though the daily grind, but now circumstances have conspired to make it possible. And, after not much soul searching, it seems we do want to go and we’re off at the end off April.

We’re hoping to get to Kazakhstan. The route will take us through  France, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan. Looking at this list now, it seems like a pretty foolhardy idea – we should probably have a plan B, but at the moment we don’t. We think this will take six to eight months on bicycles – at a slow comfortable rate so we can take in the view.

We’ve chosen central Asia because it takes us almost entirely through countries we haven’t visited to before. We wanted to visit Iran when we cycled round the world, but it was 1988 – Britain had not had diplomatic relations with Iran since just after the revolution in 1979. Although it did reopen an embassy in Tehran in 1988, it wasn’t possible to go as a tourist. At that time too, all the ‘stans’ were part of a still closed Soviet Union.

So now we are in a frenzy of planning: visas, route, equipment, what have others done? do we have time to see all our family and friends before we go? etc. etc. etc. It seems monumental, but in reality, we are only going to be away for a few months – and after all this is small beer compared to our last trip when we didn’t have the internet to help us with the planning.

We are also using this trip as an opportunity to raise funds for a small organisation in south west London. Grenfell does brilliant work supporting vulnerable young people, many of whom would be on the street without their help. It provides housing, training and support to get young people into work or education and help them make the transition to independent adulthood.

Much of their work is under threat with the coming cuts. Please sponsor us if you can – and let us know by sending an email or commenting here on the blog and we will try to reply.

And if you can’t sponsor us, you can wish us luck – we may need it.

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