Travemunde, Rostock, Berlin

This is the last blog post of the trip. I'm on the train to Berlin and from there directly back into my normal life as I'll go straight from the train station to the Symfony User Group meetup.

I slept unbelievably well in the tent last night, I didn't feel particularly hungry despite my inappropriate diet for the past few days, but then I hadn't been moving or expending any energy, so what I had was likely enough to sustain me.

I woke to the sound of rain beating on the sheets of the tent at around 7am and would have laid there more but wanted to get a relatively early start. I had intended to visit the supermarket early before leaving the campsite, but as it was 1km away and raining, I decided to see if the campsite had any breakfasting facilities.

As I walked out of the tent field I could see a group of people in a shelter, with tables and chairs and drinking coffee from cups served from the shop behind the shelter, so I approached hoping there would be a hot breakfast of some description, but there was only filter coffee and bread. But there were a few different types of bread, and I got a cheese bread and some kind of herb bread, I sat down in the shelter with the other campers and quietly drank my coffee and ate my cheese bread, then went back to the tent to eat the other bread with a liberal amount of strawberry jam.

It had now stopped raining, and I packed the wet tent up quickly. It was quicker as I didn't really unpack much stuff, did no cooking, and if I would have done anything I would have made coffee, but unfortunately I left my coffee maker in the Imaginary hostel in Tallinn. It had served me for two years, even after the handle had fallen off on my trip to Norway last year. But at least I now have an excuse to buy one with a handle, so I'm not particularly sad about it.

I made may way north from the campsite to what I thought was a bridge, but it was a (short) cat ferry crossing. The ferry was there, and I rushed to buy a ticket, it said €0.90 unfortunately I knew I had spent all my euros and was in need of a cash machine, but I had various coins (including Polish ones) and managed to find €0.80, but the remaining €0.10 eluded me and I ransacked my bags looking for it, the machine spat my money out after a certain period then I noticed it accepted card, the ferry was still there and I paid with card quickly and ran up. I didn't have to rush though, it seems they were waiting for several fire engines, and I waited for some minutes before the fire engines boarded with sirens flashing and the boat promptly speeded off across the short distance, the engines rushed off the boat, and the attendant rushed the passengers off as they had to go back immediately to ferry the remaining engines.

From here I was able to ride 25km on a dedicated coastal cycle path with no cars at all, most of it was asphalt, some of it gravel, but it was a nice change and I was able to see the sea and the empty sandy beaches.

I wanted to attend an even in Berlin, which would start at 19:30, so ideally I wanted to get a train that would facilitate this, ideally one that would allow me to return home before the event, but failing that one that would allow me to attend the event directly from the train station.

It became more apparent as the day went on that the first option was out, at the rate I was going (maybe ~22kmph average) I would be able to get a train that would arrive at 19:00/19:15 and here there was no hurry, as I would have an hour or two to spare.

I passed lots of cyclists, as it was evidently a busy holidaying cycling route, at one point I was overtaking some cyclists when we were presented with a hill at which point our speeds matched and we were riding apace, I felt obliged to speak, "Are you German?" "Yes" "Where you are going?" I didn't understand the response, but then he said ".. must turn here" "You or me?" (I had assumed we were all following the cycle route) I carried on and checked my map, I should also have turned, so I went back, and overtook, waved, and in the process nearly ran into a car which beeped at me. Further on I took another wrong turning, and overtook them for a third time, but this time I decided not to speak or make any gestures, but ignored them with a benign smile on my face.

The tent was wet, and it wouldn't be seeing the sun in a long time now, it was in the waterproof bag. It had stopped raining and I remembered to take it out of the bag, tie it up and put it on the back open to the air, hopefully it will dry out.

When I arrived in Rostock I went straight to the train station, found the train station, wheeled my bike in to the station, and then wheeled it into the ticket office, approached the counter "The bike cannot be in here!" the woman exclaimed after consulting her colleague, I looked incredulous, but accepted it and wheeled the bike outside of the office, locked it, and removed the expensive bag and my phone and went back in, noticing a very obvious "NO CYCLES" sign on the floor. Maybe it wasn't that obvious when it is on the floor.

The ticket cost €32 with the bike, cheaper than it had been on the website, and I had a few hours to wait. I decided that I could drink a beer and use a toilet, not finding the toilet in the train station I hoped to find a bar, not finding a bar I found a Chinese restaurant, I got my beer, some spring rolls, and the use of the toilet. I sat outside and smoked a roll-up and relaxed.

When I got to the platform 45 minutes before the scheduled departure the train was already there and I boarded, and now I'm on the way to Berlin and due to arrive in two hours.

And so ends this cycle tour. I've cycled across Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and visited Finland, I visited 4 capitals and cycled at most 2,500km. As always it seems like I have been travelling longer than I have, and Poland seems to be a very long time ago.

It's been a good trip, as far as the cycling went it was not very adventurous, and I encountered no problems to speak of. There were no mountains to climb, no deserts to cross, the weather alternated between overclouded and raining for much of the time. In the first few days I contracted sun burn in the extreme heat of those days, but it was not particularly hot for the rest of the time, and I had no more problems with the sun, though to be honest I would have preferred more of it.

Tallinn to Helsinki to Travemunde

I am now in the campsite at Travemunde, which was conveniently immediately outside of the ferry port. I had originally planned to cycle directly, overnight, to Rostock (100km) and reasoned that I would arrive at 4am and be able then to get the first train to Berlin, and that the cycle ride would be good and hoped the sky would be clear, but the weather forecast was poor, and in the hours preceding the arrival it had been pouring in rain. The weather now however is fine, but the campsite is good enough.

Crossing

Crossing

Two days ago I succeeded in getting up early at the hostel, helping myself to the complementary coffee, cornflakes and milk and left at around 06:30. My first task was to get the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki, the ferry port was only 15 or so leisurely minutes from the hostel, and I arrived with plently of time and did not wait long before boarding started and it left promptly at 08:00, the journey was around 75km across the baltic sea and took 2 hours or so.

Debarking

Debarking

Arriving in Helsinki I had some time to kill, and rode around with no particular aim other than to attempt to get a feel for the place before returning to the port to get the ferry at around 15:00 (it was leaving at 17:00). What I didn't realise is that the ferry did not leave from the same port as the one in which I arrived, but another 18km away.

Church

Religious Building

I had experienced considerable stress the previous day when I booked the ferry, which is hard to account for, but it boiled down to the fact that I booked the 17:00 sailing to Travemunde, and the ferry I was going to book to Helsinki was leaving at 12:00, and arriving at 14:30, and as the check-in was to "close" at 15:00 I would have only "just" enough time to make it, as I assumed the ferry would leave from the same port, the stress was made worse by the fact that I had got a non-refundable ticket for €250, and I really did not want to miss the boat. I erred on the side of caution and got the earlier boat, and am glad I did, as I think I would have certainly missed the ferry if I left at 12 and then had to cycle 18km.

As it was I had a cycle around Helsinki for a couple of hours before starting my cycle ride to the further port. Finland, or at least Helsinki, seems like a good place for cycling, over the 18km there were numerous cycle paths and no need at all to cycle on the road. Another thing I noticed is that people were quite cheerful and would smile, apparently Finland ranked 1st in the happiness index in 2018 and 2019.

Street

A Street in Helsinki

I made my way to the port, passing some cycle tourists coming the other way who I assumed were coming from the port, and overtaking another couple who I assumed were going to the port. I didn't say anything or have a good look at them, but could assume I was on the same boat as them finally.

As I came into the check-in there was a cycling family checking in with bright yellow jackets, when they moved on I was greeted by a friendly girl who cheerfully took my documents and handed me a ticket for the bike and a yellow vest ("because you will be cycling near the lorries etc"). "Is there anywhere to sit down?" "Well, theres the toilet, and the terminal, but the terminal is locked" "So, just the toilet then?" "err, yeah. You need to wait for around 2 hours".

Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets being led the boat

The other cyclists had already started sitting on the road barrier beyond the checked gate, and I waved, left to use the toilet, and came back and joined them. The family hadn't cycled so far, and had rented a holiday cottage around 80km inland. They were also from Berlin and had decided to travel in a more eco-friendly way, another German couple had travelled across from Gothenberg. As the 2 hours passed by more cyclists joined, and I think I succeeded in speaking to most of them finally, although curiously I spoke to none on the ferry trip itself.

We were the last ones on the boat, and had to watch all the lanes of traffic go before us, before we were told to follow a leading car to the boat and we went up the ramp and were inside.

Deck

The Deck

I went directly upstairs and got a coffee. I would have gotten a cake, but everything was outrageously expensive. A pizza slice was €8 (and it wasn't large), and dinner €30. I spent my first few hours programming, then reading. In the evening there was live music, the jazz duo played a variety of popular songs, frequently featuring duelling solos which would elicit scattered applause. They were actually quite good, the singer was playing a 7 string bass and using a variety of pedals for both the bass and his voice (for adding harmonies), but I enjoyed the guitarist the most. I treated myself to two beers, costing €5 each.

I had suspected that the food would be beyond what I'd feel comfortable paying for, so I came more-or-less prepared. For dinner I had a can of baked beans (slyly stealing a fork from the restaurant), and I had prepared several sandwiches at the hostel, in addition to this I had some biscuits and some chilli-nuts, I haven't eaten at all well over the past 48 hours and am looking forward to getting some real food tomorrow.

I didn't reserve a cabin, which I regretted because it was only €20-30 extra and would have made my journey far more comfortable. When it came to sleeping I had my sleeping bag and reposed curled up on two seats. There was lots of noise from the bar on the deck below and people were talking freely on the current deck and I was not at all comfortable, out of all the passengers I'd guess 90% had cabins, and the number of "recliner seats" (my accommodation choice) was very limited.

Boat

Boat Spotted

I didn't sleep well accordingly and woke early and made my way to the cafe for another expensive coffee and did some more work. The internet on my mobile phone would occasionally start working when the boat passed close enough to land, and I was curious about the on-board Wifi, but less so when I saw the cost - €25 for 24 hours.

As previously hinted at, I saw some of the cyclists I had met at the ferry port, but was not inclined to talk to any of them. At one point I was watching the music and I realised I was sitting in front of a group of them who were chatting for the first time, I turned around and was going to participate but the moment never came and so I don't think in I spoke with anybody again until the next day when we were debarking.

We were the last ones on the ferry and some of the last off, I made my way to the campsite. I had hoped to get something to eat, but the restaurant had just stopped serving. I'm not so hungry however, it's more the quality of food that I'm lacking (having eaten far too many nuts and biscuits). I think there is a supermarket not far from the campsite and will endeavour to get some breakfast.

I'm still not sure what my plan is tomorrow, I will certainly make it back to Berlin by train, it's just a question of whether I cycle to Rostock, or get the train from here.

Tallinn

I have now stayed in Tallinn for 5 nights, stayed in two separate hostels, met lots of interesting people and have been for 4 runs of 10k or more. Time has passed quicky and I wish I could stay longer but I have to be at work in a few days.

The first two nights I stayed in the Euphoria hostel, which I breifly described in the previous post - it has a drum kit, organ, piano, several guitars, microphones and amplifiers. I spent the days playing piano (either on my own or jamming), programming (for good or for worse) and running, I was going to extend in this hostel for 4 for days, but by the time I asked they were fully booked and I was referred to another hostel and was allowed to leave my bike in the atic of the hostel.

View

View from the fortified old town

"Hey, I made a reservation" "When?" "10 minutes ago, or maybe 30" "No you didn't, we're fully booked mate"

I had booked only a single night, not two, and the night I booked was for tomorrow. The American at the reception was none the less helpful and funny. Most hostels were fully booked due to a football match and he helped me find another hostel and cancel the night I did book.

The other Hostel was called the "Imaginary" hostel and was on the other side of Tallinn, one of the reasons I choose the "United Hostel" was because it was so close and it wouldn't be much effort to move all of my bags, as opposed to leaving some stuff behind. The new hostel was at least a kilometer and as I was hauling several of my bags across the old town I regretted not just packing bringing my bike from Euphoria.

View2

Another view from the old town

As it happened it would have been no problem to store my bike in the new hostel. It seemed to be a new place, and despite there being capacity for maybe 60 people, there was a large amount of unused space. The first room you walked into was huge, and had only a small table and chair in one corner, the rest of the room was being used as bicycle storage for the guests (and there were several touring cycles), but it would have been easy to convert it into a bar (perhaps this was the idea). The upstairs was similarly spacious and afforded lots of places to sociaise with the other guests.

On the first night I fell into a conversation with a French man and a woman from the Netherlands, we started talking about cycling, and the French guy by degrees started talking about his life, he was 55 (as I found out later) and talked about his skiing, cycling, belief (he was a "believer") and life. He had some good stories, and we left to get a drink, I went to pick up my things and when I came back they were sitting round a girl and her laptop and watching the tour-de-france. This was Louize, a 27 year old German student of fine art who had a passion for glass sculpture, climbing and unicycling (even offroad unicycling). we went out of the old town and had a drink but didn't stay out long or drink much as all were quite sensible and it was already getting late.

Looking

Looking onto the modern sky scrapers

The second day I went for a run to the lake in the south, it was meant to be a 21k run, but I was disappointed when approaching the lake that it was fenced off, and you couldn't even see it behind the trees. It was a large lake (or at least it was around 15km around) but I was able to run along the fence, which eventually gave way to some tracks and trails, and it still seemed possible to run all around it, but as I went further the trail become more overgrown and there were mosquitoes and then more mosquitoes and when I stopped for a few seconds they would swarm all over me. I decided to turn back, but still managed to run around 17km.

That night I joined some of the guests on the sofa, including a retired American who had travelled the entire length of Russia, he was an architect, he was talking to a Mexican, Jorge, who was sitting next to an Argentinian Augustin, and then Luize was sitting on the left. She suggested us going down to the beach and sitting on this "temple thing" nobody seemed to know exactly what it was, and I didn't know it existed. Louize, Augistin and I left, and within 10 minutes we were approaching a somewhat neglected large concrete construction of some kind.

It had to rows of steps going up on either side of a central block, much like a temple, as we came up over the last steps we saw a large number of people sitting at the top and on the mirror image of the stairs going down on the other side there was a helicopter pan in front of us in front of and between the steps. I was told informally that it was built as some kind of defensive structure by the soviets against Finland. It seemed like it had been left to rot by independent Estonia, and the concrete was falling away and unmaintained, with rusty steel being revealed from the missing concrete. It was sunset and we sat and talked.

Recommended

Sunset from the soviet defenses

Police were walking up and down and passively telling people drinking alcohol that doing so in the open was illegal and moving on, if somebody asked "what should I do with it?" the police would response "hide it!".

Augustin was from Argentina and was backpacking / hitchhiking to Australia, he and Louize exchanged hitchhiking stories, the both seemed to have had extensive experience, unlike me (I've never hitchhiked).

Afterwards we went back to the hostel before Augustin suggested going out for a drink, so we left and found the "Stinky" bar - which was a small bar in the old town which featured a square bar backed with rows of drinks and a large stereo-typical bar tender. We sat and drank a few beers, before walking back to the hostel, just before the hostel there was a cellar-bar that Augustin had pointed out on the way up (and in which he met the Mexican guy getting drunk at three in the morning the previous night). It seemed convenient so we went inside, ducking under the low door and stairs into a the bar where again we met the Mexican and there was jazz music playing and there was a good atmosphere and we stayed and had more drinks. I was quite sozzled having already drunk two or three beers before we even left.

In the morning I said goodbye to Louize and then to Augustin, Louize lives not far from Berlin (2 hours by car), so maybe I'd see her again, but probably not. It's both the interesting and terrible thing about travelling in that you meet so many people who you will likely never see again in your life. She is going to the town of Haapsalu to make glass sculptures with a group for a week before returning to study in Germany.

More Sunset

An hour later as above

The hostel itself seemed quite disorganized, the check-in procedure was very inefficient, and queues of people would be waiting on the stairs (sometimes complaining and carrying heavy baggage). Indeed when I arrived here the man mumbled something and asked me to wait for 2 minutes, and 15 minutes later I was still waiting and not knowing even if my reservation had been made, meanwhile people had skipped ahead of me. The bathrooms and toilets were, although new, not cleaned regularly during the day. The kitchen was invariably left in a mess every day as guests were not pressured to wash up after themselves, and the dishwasher was forbidden to guests. The beds were of the worst kind - iron framed bunk beds which transmit all movement from one bed to the other. Nonetheless socially it was very good.

There were lots of cyclists -- and out of all the ones I talked to, I had done the least number of kilometers. I met a couple who had cycled on a Tandem from Slovenia to Kyrgyzstan for 5 months, they seemed to alternate stories depending on who they were talking to, telling me who beautiful Armenia was, and how the people were so open and kind, to somebody else telling me how they had a really bad time there as they got diarrhea from the water in the food that the people freely gave them. So I guess in sum they had a great adventure and they both looked quite weather beaten (the guy apparently hadn't slept in 24 hours for whatever reason).

Another tourer from London had been travelling by bicycle for 11 months, cycling France, Spain, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and all with a surf board. As I walked back into the hostel once I was amazed to see a bicycle with a surf board mounted on one side of it, giving the handlebars just enough space to rotate and legs to pedal. He had travelled for 11 months on a surfing bicycle.

I went back to the Euphoria hostel, and was soon jamming again. Today my time has been mostly spent worrying about how I will get back to Berlin.

Initially I had thought to get a bus - the most simple if not quickest option. It would cost €70-100, but I needed to find out what the situation would be with my bicycle, I went to the office this morning and was told flatly "No you cannot take bicycle" "It says on your website that I can with permission" "Then you must ask for at main office in Riga, you want email?"

I phoned the main office directly afterwards and was again flatly told "no" before she explained that with written permission it was possible, but it would take three working days. This wasn't really acceptable for me, as it could be denied and I would be missing more days of work.

Jamming

Jamming

So then there were flights, and the ferry. The flights were also not as expensive, and it seemed possible that AirBaltic would take my bike without it even being packaged (air out of the tyres, pedals off, seat down, etc), this was probably the best option (even if I had to change planes at Riga), but I hate flying so ... the ferry was not as expensive as I had first thought had thought, and getting the ferry was always the original plan.

I booked the ferry, for 17:00 the next day (tomorrow) and thought that this gave me ample time to cross the Baltic Sea to Helsinki in another ferry. There was a crossing at 12:00 which got in at 14:30. But apparently the check-in closes two hours before 17:00, giving me only 30 minutes to get off the ferry and find the new ferry, which may or may not be an easy thing, and there is also the chance (I don't know) that the ferry could be delayed, so it was tight.

The only alternative was the 06:00 or 08:00 sailing. The 08:00 gets in at 10:30 and would mean I would need to be at the port at around 07:00 or before, and leave the hostel at around 06:30, getting out of bed around 06:00, which is fine, but if I somehow miss the ferry, it could mean throwing the €250 I spent on the non-refundable ticket to Germany down the drain.

Then the next problem was that the ferry will arrive in Germany at around 21:30 - giving me no chance to check in to a campsite, the nearest hostels are in Lubeck (>10km away), and check-in closes at 11. I didn't want to spent €100 or more on a hotel for a few hours before getting up in the morning to get a train.

I thought about what to do, and did actually find a hostel in the northern direction closer to the ferry port, but when I called them up on the telephone they were fully booked. I considered cycling to Rostock by night, but wrote it off as I would arrive at 03:00 or 04:00 in the morning and wouldn't be able to find a place to stay ... but then it occurred to me that the trains might be running.

I could cycle to Rostock at night directly from the ferry port, arriving around 3 or 4am and the first train to Berlin (with changes) is at around 4am. This would be a nice way to finish the tour. Now all I need to do is get up on time and hope that everything runs smoothly.