Trelleborg to Berlin

Distance: 22.85km Time: 1h16m

I am now sitting on my cheap Ikea office chair typing this blog post on my desk.

This morning I woke first naturally at 4:30am, and then was woken again by the alarm clock on my phone at 5am. I raised myself in my sleeping bag and unzipped the panel which opens onto the "porch" of my tent. I had no muesli today, but had good bread, and I pasted it with jam and had my coffee and read the one day old news on my phone (there was no Wifi at the campsite).

I was advised to be at the ferry port at 6:30am for the 7:30am sailing, but I wanted to be there at 6am to give myself some breathing space. I was only 2km from the ferry port, and I left the campsite at 5:50am, and arrived at around 6:10am.

I was told that I could wait in "here" in the lounge or outside and at 7am somebody would "open the gate". I said I would wait outside assuming there was another lounge, but upon investigation it was just a fence with a gate, and I returned to the lounge and waited with some other passengers.

A man in a high-vis jacket came in and started ushering people towards the door, he consulted the girl at the check-in and she pointed at me and he beckoned me to come too and I was allowed to put my bike on the bus which drove onto the ferry.

I wasn't 100% sure that I was heading to the correct ferry, as we were driving towards a ferry with "Sassnitz" written in large letters on its hull, but we passed it and drove up a ramp towards a ferry with no discernible writing on the side, but given there were only two sailings I was happy to assume this was the Rostock ferry.

The bus driver waved me towards the end of the ferry and I free-wheeled my bike in that direction and another ferry operative made arm gestures towards the other bikes and I made the same arm gesture back and nodded. There were several bikes tied to the bars at the front of the car deck. There were no more "ties" however, so I just parked my bike with the kick-stand and made my way to the stairs.

After being lost for several minutes in the corridors and car levels I found my way to some of the passenger lounges. People were already there sleeping on the floor, some had brought duvets up from their cars. I suppose some people must have had a very early start or may not have even slept at all. One of the rooms smelt very badly of sewage, which is a shame as it was the room with the most comfortable chairs.

People were by this time helping themselves to breakfast, I got myself a coffee and a chocolate muffin and sat down and worked on my software project for a while, there was free Wifi, even if it was very slow indeed. I had a missed (whats-app) call from my mother which I only noticed when I connected to the Wifi, and I rang her. She was still sleeping, I didn't consider that it was 6am in England.

I did some reading on the ferry, and dozed a bit and worked a bit. We got into Rostock at around 13:30, making it a six hour crossing.

I had checked the train times on the internet before leaving the ferry and the next one was at 14:30, I had an hour to get to the train station, buy a ticket and get on the train. There was no absolute pressure, as the next was at 16:30, but I'd rather avoid the wait, so I made haste on the 10km ride to Rostock HBF (train station).

Sailing into Rostock

Sailing into Rostock

By the time I had found the ticket office and purchased my tickets (~€35 for me, ~€5 for the bike) I still had 10 minutes to spare. To access the tracks there were stairs, or a lift. There was a queue for the lift, a queue of four bicycles, and it seemed to be one biycle at a time. I queued for a few minutes, and then lost patience and decided to carry my bike down the stairs.

When I lifted the bike it seemed much lighter then I remember. This may have been because the water bottles were almost empty, or perhaps somehow I have become stronger in my arms despite doing all my exercise with my legs, or perhaps I have left something important and heavy behind - but it was easy work taking it down and then up the stairs to platform eight where I immediately saw the bicycle carriage.

There were already several bicycles in the carriage, and I added mine to the mess. The train was very busy. I took my baggage off and found the next available seat in the adjacent carriage, where I could just about see my bike.

I didn't really secure it, as doing so would have made the bikes under mine somewhat inaccessible and was made nervous when I saw a toddler walking up and down between the bicycles, and playing with my pedals - the little shit derailed my chain - but I was more worried about the train going around a corner and the bicycle falling on him. So I went up to check it was stable, and it was - and the father of the child said "It doesn't move, it's perfect".

I didn't do much at all in the 3 hour journey in the packed train, more and more passengers and bicycles kept piling in as we went. As we approached Berlin there were four different stations, the second was the HBF (central train station), but the first I didn't recognize. Five minutes before we arrived I searched on my phone I realised the first would be closer to my flat, so I hastily collected my four panniers (hanging them around my neck and arms) and shuffled my way towards the bicycle carriage, displacing people along the way. There were four bikes piled on top of mine now (which had made it's way to the back). Fortunately there were people on hand to help me out and as I wheeled my bike onto the platform the toddler-father handed me the last of my panniers and smiled "good luck" and I smiled back "Danke".

Berlin Gesundbrunner

Berlin Gesundbrunner

As I exited the station I recognized the place, although I had only been there once and that was on a run. In short time I was at my building. I almost forgot about my keys, I had removed them from my key fob and put them in my handle-bar basket, they were fortunately still there, although they had rusted somewhat.

I wheeled the bicycle into the corridor and hauled the bags off and heaved them up the 4 flights of stairs, then went back down for the bike, which was just in front of the mail boxes. I looked at my mail box and it was packed absolutely full of junk mail.

Junk Mail

My Junk Mail

It's probably like this in every city, but the local Netto supermarket sends a full fucking catalog to every single mailbox every single week, and then there are miscellaneous other tree crimes, but the catalog is the worst. I had been meaning to put a "No Junk Mail Please" sign on the box, and decided to do it now while I had a pen and paper.

After bringing the bike up the stairs I opened the door. I was half expecting an infestation of fruit-flies. I had mismanaged my garbage and the little shits had started hatching and I was trying to get rid of them when I left. My last tactic was to leave several bowls of red-wine around the flat. I'm not sure if that worked (the red wine had dried out and there were numerous dark spots, which may have been the flies) but in any case they were all gone (save one which I found in my shower).

Bike in Room

New Exhibition Piece

After depositing my bike, I went to the supermarket and got supplies - bread, shower gel (I used my last drops the night before), honey, soya-milk, nuts, other stuff, and a 6-pack of Störtebecker beer (with multiple varieties). I already had a four-cheese pizza in my freezer.

Being back in the flat is an anti-climax. I was looking forward to being home, but at the same time I wasn't. Being on the road there is always an aim to each day - and a larger aim (e.g. get to Trondheim, return to Berlin) and everything between the start of the day and the end of the day is an adventure towards that aim.

Being on the road, you kind of forecast your future each day. You decide that in 2 weeks you will be in this geographic location, and today you might be somewhere in this area, and you might possibly stay at this place. In between A and B anything can happen. The only thing that is almost guaranteed is that you will have exhausted yourself by the days end and feel good about it, even if, after the seventh hour you felt dreadful and every kilometer seems like the previous ten. After an arduous day nothing is more satisfying than well-deserved sleep.

Kungalv to Trelleborg

Distance: 63.9km Time: 3h25m

I'm in a campsite in Trelleborg, the town on the southern coast of Sweden and the ferry port. I just showered and hand-washed my underwear and shirt which are now hanging out to dry.

I got out of bed a later today, both because I had relatively late night and because I was in no hurry, I only had 15km to Gothenburg and then it was a train and another short ride to Trelleborg. So I had my tent packed up by around 9:30am.

My neighbours on the tightly packed campsite were a cycling family from Germany, and an old couple who were touring in their SUV. They had a tent mounted on the roof rack which opened out and provided shelter by the side of the car.

The man from the roof-tent SUV approached me and started talking to be in German, they were heading to the Atlantic Road on the North coast of Norway west of Trondheim (which I cycled down). We talked about my journey back to Berlin and he mentioned that there were other options for the Ferry, notably that there was a ferry to Rostock.

While I was talking I found myself slipping into French, "Ja, ja mais.." "Ja das ist so, donc errr..". I am reasonably fluent in French, less so in German, confident in neither. But whenever I speak in another language I always seem to unconsciously fill in the gaps with French.

I checked this on the Wifi before leaving the campsite, and there was a sailing at around 15:30. I still hadn't decided on a plan. The trains from both Rostock and Sassnitz to Berlin stopped at around 22:00, so if I had taken a later ferry I would have had to have stayed in a hotel, or found a campsite that would admit me at that time. Hotels in Sassnitz are very expensive (€100+ a night), Rostock would probably have been cheaper but there was also a campsite in Trelleborg about 2km from the ferry port, so I could also stay the night and get the early ferry, which would probably be the cheapest option. So knowing I had some options, I hit the road.

Tesla Charging Points

There are a huge number of Tesla car charging stations in Norway and Sweden

Looking back I realised there was a large ruined castle opposite the campsite.

It was plain sailing to Gothenburg, although slightly longer than I expected, it was around 20k in total. Riding into the city I passed though lots of industrial areas and construction sites, there was a cycle path all of the way, although sometimes it was diverted due to the construction works.

Crossing the Bridge

Crossing the Bridge in Gothenburg

I didn't stick around and headed straight to the central train station and got a ticket to Malmo (pronounced "Mal-ma") with the bike. The ticket for me cost around €60, and the bike another €28 (the same price as a child). When I bought the ticket the girl behind the counter said that the train left in 10 minutes, which made me think I might miss it, but the ticket was valid for all trains, so there was no absolute pressure.

As it turned out the train was about a 1 minute walk away and was already at the station. I pulled my bike onto the first carriage, as there were folding seats and space for a bike, but I noticed there were no bicycle signs, I asked a passenger if he spoke English, and then if he knew if this was the correct place for a bicycle "I have no idea" he said apologetically, hmm. I stood in open doorway and scanned for a conductor, then noticed a layout plan for the train in a frame on the wall, it clearly indicated that cycles go in the middle carriage, so I pulled the bike out and walked further down the platform and saw a carriage very clearly marked with a bicycle logo.

I pulled my bike inside and there were 3 other bikes already there and a push-chair. I pulled my bike inside and sat down on one of a row of folding seats opposite the bicycles. There was a woman and her toddler next to me. As we pulled away the toddler came up and leaned on my arm, and that embraced it "Hello" I said. The woman smiled and pulled him away. A few minutes later he came up again and hugged my leg and of course everybody laughed at how sweet it was and the woman pulled had to separate him from me.

I was quite tired and dozed off on the train, I read for a little while, and tried to do some work on my laptop, but was unable to do much as I required the internet.

It was around 2 hours until we arrived in Malmo. Walking out of the train station I was greeted by a lively aesthetic square, as I cycled thorugh the town I reflected on how nice the city was, but I made my way out and rode straight to Trelleborg.

My optimistic first estimate of the distance was 10km, I think I estimated this a week ago and never revised it, but it was more like 30km. Fortunately there was a strong tail-wind and I made fast progress, at one point nearly hitting 40kmph on the flat, a speed that would not impress a racing cyclist, but on a touring bicycle it's pretty fast.

As I cycled towards the ferry port I passed two youths, one of which spat as I cycled past and then I could here them jeering behind me. It might have been my imagination, but it made me angry. I rode on. This is the second time I've been provoked, the first time was a couple of days ago when a car beeped at me for no other reason than that I was cycling on the road in a shopping center car park, after passing me he accelerated his cheap pseudo-sports car in an aggressive way. Prior to this I had not had any cars beep at me (except a single lorry and that was justifiable).

I found the ferry port, and went inside and asked about "boats to Germany". There were sailings today, but they were full. Tomorrow there were sailings to Sassnirz and Rostock at 07:30 and 07:45 respectively. I booked the 07:45 to Rostock and decided to make my way to the campsite.

On the way I found a cycle shop. The clerk was in the middle of selling a new pair of bicycles to an older couple and I had to wait about 10 minutes, but eventually I got myself a working pump and a new inner tube from the affable man. I'm not planning to cycle any more long distances before getting back to Berlin, so probably won't need them, but there is always a chance I will end up cycling some or all of the way to Berlin if I can't get a train ticket tomorrow. It's not over until it's over!

The campsite is a pretty large one, and at the reception I payed the highest price so far, I think it translated to around €20. The shower and kitchen are included in the price, but there is no Wifi at all. This is annoying, as I am now unable to (conveniently) further plan for tomorrow.

The Campsite

The Campsite

So I have an early start, I plan to be at the ferry port at around 6am, so want to get up at around 5am. Will probably get into Rostock at around 11am - and then the plan is to get the train to Berlin - but bicycle spaces are limited, so will just play it by ear.

At the very least, I will be glad to be in Germany again, and have use of my mobile internet, be able to withdraw cash and use my card without surcharges and return to my normal economy.

My Washing

Clothes Drying on my Bike

Tanemshede to Kungalv

Distance: 143.59km Time: 8h33m

Another troublesome day with the bike.

As I settled down in my tent last night there was a group of four or five teenagers in the tent next to mine who were talking and laughing until midnight, and somehow, although they were not being overly loud, managed to annoy me as I was trying to read. At 4:30am there was a crash of thunder (but no rain) which woke me up, and I guess most other people on the campsite including my neighbors, but they were the only ones who decided to chat about it for half-an-hour.

The temperature is better at night now, probably because I am further south, but perhaps also owing to the weather. Today was also hot, but with lots of humidity too.

133k

133k (but think this was the motorway distance)

Before leaving the campsite I tried to use the internet and investigate a possible hostel in Gothenburg and check the train and ferry times, but the connection was awful, and I gave up, deciding instead to head to a campsite in Kungalv, which is 10km from the city. I'm hoping I will be able to make the complete jounrey back to Berlin tomorrow - getting the train from Gothenburg to Malmo, then cycling to Trelleborg to get the ferry - but as yet I still don't know when the boat sails or how much it will cost.

It was going to be a longish journey, at least 133km, more like 150 to the city itself, but the terrain is relatively flat, so I was able to make good time, following the motorway with the minor roads.

I stopped in a Swedish supermarket, the prices seem somewhat cheaper than Norway, but it's difficult to be sure as I don't know the conversion rate. Both countries use the term "Krona" but they are different currencies, but I believe the conversion rate is similar.

Lumps

Lumps

There was a slightly different selection of food, and I got a small ready-to-eat garlic baguette and a pastry, a bar of chocolate a can of beans and an onion.

The sky was stormy and as I approached the city of Uddevala there were gusts of wind and very dark clouds and the occasional clap of thunder and lightning and then it started raining, but not very hard. I had covered about 70km when I sat down for lunch on a bench in the rain.

Swedish Milestone

Swedish Milestone

After navigating out of the city, and riding about 10km I had a puncture. The first puncture of this tour. An inconvenience, but also a coincidence, could it really be unrelated to the problems I had yesterday?

I pulled up and removed the wheel and the inner tube. I partially inflated the tube, held it in front of my upper lip and rotated it (the lip is sensitive enough to detect the escaping air). I couldn't find anything on the outside, so I inverted it and checked the inside. There was a puncture on the inside next to the valve.

I soon realized my mistake - when I changed the wheel yesterday, I didn't put any tape around the inside of the wheel. The wheel is punctuated by holes for the spokes, and without tape the inner-tube can rub against the metal edges of the holes. This is how the puncture happened.

I didn't have any tape, but I had a length of material which, while not surrounding the whole wheel, would cover maybe 30% of it, which might do for the remainder of the journey.

Makeshift Rim-tape

Makeshift Rim-tape

The puncture was near the valve, which is unfortunate as it was near a ridge. I roughed up area down, applied a repair-patch, held it there for a minute and then re-inflated the tire and started putting the wheel on. It is an energy consuming process, so I was more than a bit pissed off when I heard the air suddenly rushing out as I secured the wheel. Off it came again! I decided to use my spare inner tube.

The spare inner tube had a different valve, but that was fine because my pump could be converted to that valve, I went to put some air in it, but the pump didn't work - the pump was broken. It worked for the "french" valve, but not the car valve. I couldn't use my spare inner tube.

I tried again to repair the other inner tube, and paid special attention to try and make it stick as best as possible on the ridge near the valve, I was pretty sure it wouldn't hold out long, but maybe, maybe it would.

I got the wheel on, and inflated the tire to a reasonable pressure and started off - if I could get 20km from it, then I could reasonably walk or run the remaining 20km. But it didn't last 20km, it lasted about 10km. I couldn't fix it so now I was walking.

Grind

Grind

I walked past a house, and could see some people. The house was actually under construction and the people I could see were builders, I walked up the drive way and waved, but they didn't have a pump.

I carried on, it was 5km to the next village, which was an hours walk. I took off my sandals and put my trainers on and began to jog with the bike, doubling my speed (at least). I looked around at the houses I passed to see if I could see anybody, or if I could see a house with bikes outside. There were quite a few houses, but I didn't want to invest my time walking up drive ways and knocking on doors only to find that nobody was home or they didn't have a pump.

Eventually I saw a house with a garage and van outside, and a man was in the van. I made my way towards him and waved and he waved back.

"Svenska? Engelsk? English?" "English" I replied. "Where are you from?" "Weymouth" and he looked confused. I thought for some reason that our first question identified my country not my language. "If you go south from Bristol to the coast you are there, but I live in Berlin".

I don't think I even mentioned what the problem was before he said with an Australian twang "You've come to the right place, bring the bike into the garage"

He walked around and opened the garage doors. It was a large workshop with two motor-cross motorcycles, loads of tools, a car and a few bikes. He offered me a shower and even offered to wash my clothes and give me a lift

to the town I was headed to (where he happened to work). He spoke in an Australian accent and had spent two and half years in Australia, originally intending to go there for 3 months.

He helped me get the tire off and found some tape to wrap around the inside of the wheel, and helped me put the tire back on the wheel (I was struggling and mentioned that sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's hard, he pointed out that the tire was not tucked in on the other side, and when that was fixed the tire fit easily). He offered me a cold, non-alcoholic beer which I accepted

I don't think I could have found a better house to call on. His name was Daniel and he is a carpenter, mechanic and a motocross champion and was preparing his bike for a tournament at the weekend.

After finishing my beer I took my leave, it wished me luck with my journey and I wished him luck with his tournament.

To think, all of the problems I have had over the past two days have been because of a snapped gear cable and not trimming the end of the replacement.

Riding by the motorway

Riding by the motorway

I cycled onwards, I still had about 50k to cover. I managed to stay mostly on quiet roads. Daniel showed me where I could find a bike shop (or a massive super store that sells just about everything) - I still need to buy a new pump and a new replacement inner tube. But I decided instead to head straight to the camping. I have only 10k to do tomorrow, and am feeling confident that the bike will hold up.

All of this time I thought it was earlier than it was, and was getting to the campsite at 18:00, I pulled in but couldn't see the reception, so I asked a man coming out the kitchen - "It's round the front, but I think it may be closed". I thought that strange, as it was only 18:00. They were not closed and I went in and asked. A young girl said, "I'm not sure we have room, maybe you can go and have a look, we have tent places here and here" she pointed on the map and passed it to me.

There was place, but the campsite is really full. There are a number of dogs in little corrals attached to caravans. On the way in to the town I passed a huge field full of tents. All the tents were of the same basic form and ranked close together, it didn't look like a campsite, I wondered if it were a refugee camp, but the people didn't look like refugees, and then looking closer I could see the tents largely contained dogs in cages. And between the tents were obstacle courses. It was some kind of large dog festival.

So the campsite is full, and there is a dog festival. My watch was on "dual time" - it was two hours behind. But everything is good. The girl just came in (at 22:30) and offered me a coffee, as they were pouring the last of it down the drain. I have been left inside the main reception building in a very comfortable room (I can leave, but the door is locked for re-entry).

Now, after this blog post I need to find out when the trains leave (although I think they are hourly) and when the ferry leaves, how much it costs, etc.). Tomorrow I hope to be in Berlin!

18:00-22:15 ferry to Sassnitz from Trelleborg, 99kr