Tues 27th Aug.
DEUTSCHLAND ÜBER ALEX (Return of the Deutschland)
I packed up early staying true the regime and was back on the road before 9. I followed the road up through some hop farms which Czech was famous for in the beer world. Hops being the ingredients in beer that impart bitterness and occasionally a fruit flavour. I had never seen hop farms like this before and it was a nice thing to see first thing in the morning.
The road followed around a river there, where people were already parked up with their caravans out fishing and swimming. The river was incredibly still and mirrored the trees and the sky on its surface beautifully. This was without doubt one of the best starts to the morning I’d had recently. I saw signs for another Czech town coming up and decided to go in and try to get a coffee with some Euros. I think the town was called Litomerice. I got to a nice open square in the centre. People were out enjoying the town and wandering around. I found a cafe, parked the bike and asked to see if I could purchase a coffee with Euros, I was desperate. Thankfully they said yes and I enjoyed the coffee outside on tables and chairs. It provided such a lifeline I ordered another. I don’t think the staff in there were too fond of me, but they obliged and brought it out.
I got back onto the river and began cycling. All I had to do for the majority of the day was follow this river and it would take me across the border onto German soil. The river widened up and the surroundings became thicker and richer. The path changed into a gravel path mountains began to appear around me. It was dramatic and very beautiful. I thought about the riches and variety of landscape I’d witnessed in the Czech Republic. It had offered much better surroundings for cycling, a world apart from the countryside of Slovakia, Austria and Hungary.
I followed the path for a few hours, along a train track onto and off a road and then I passed a city on the other side of the river. The path carried on through more beautiful surroundings as Czech was beginning to transform into Germany.
I’d had problems my front wheel. I’d stopped before and taken it out of the bracket to inspect it. Something seemed loose and it felt like it dragging the bike down, consuming valuable energy. I couldn’t find anything I could fix but it was evident there was something wrong with the bearing and that was causing the drag, slowing me down. I now know I should have left it well alone and hoped it would get me to the next town were I could get it checked. Instead I tried pushing the loose bearing around to make it better and made it worse. It was still rideable but now the drag was move obvious, which seeing as I was going through hills, wasn’t good for morale. Downhills were okay, but now I was aware of this problem, I was constantly worried about something breaking in the wheel and having the bike to an emergency stop.
Thankfully it stayed together. I carried on around the river going through more beautiful mountains via cycle paths shared with the occasional walker. It was perfect.
I stopped by the river and decided to cook the main meal of the day now, while time was on my side. I was done to my last cans, but knew I could stock up in Germany. I ate by the river on the grass and had a moment to take in the surroundings and tranquility of the place.
I continued and in some areas builders were working on the trail ripping up large areas of ground to resurface them, making me get off and push the bike.
Eventually I passed the border and got into Germany. The first thing I noticed was smooth cycle lanes by the road. There had been cycle lanes on the trail but none when you meet the roads in Czech. As soon as I landed in Germany I was met with glorious lanes, which made me love the country all over again.
The first town I got to I gorged on a treat from the first bäckeri I found, relieved that I finally had the right currency for the land again. I went to a supermarket and stocked up, over-indulging in treats to make up for the days minor abstinence from food. Namely my favourite brand of chocolate, Ritter Sport. I also picked up a few beers now that I was back in the homeland of lager. I was very happy to be in Germany again. In a way I can’t describe I felt a strong kinship with it, the values of the country seemed to be in keeping with mine. Very good green energy use, recycling policies, amazing bakeries, good, cheap beer and lots of cycle lanes. I’d always wanted to live in Germany and now I was starting to feel a stronger bond and understanding as to why.
On the way out I picked up a kebab for dinner. I knew from being her before that German kebabs were done to a surprisingly high standard, with lots of veg and were always well-priced. I thought I’d see if the same were true here and it was.
I departed from Bad Schandau (the name of the town) and was immediately met with some hills. I got half way up the big hill and couldn’t abstain from the kebab anymore. I pulled over, took a leek and tucked into the food.
Once I was up the hill, my worst fears for the front wheel occurred. I knew it was a matter of time and I was lucky it had lasted this long. I thought the bearings had exploded as the wheel was moving from side to side, even though it was locked into position. It wasn’t safe to ride on which meant I was in trouble, at least until I got to the next town which was about 12km away, even then the shops would be shut.
I pulled over and thought about what to do next.
It’s times like these that define who you are and how you deal with bad situations. I had a host agreed to put me up for the night in Dresden. I knew there was no way I could contact him to left him know I wouldn’t make it. Even if the bike was okay, I would struggle to close that gap with the hour left in the day.
I thought about camping nearby for the night and dealing with this tomorrow, then I thought there were a few hours of daylight left, why not use them.
I made a sign for Dresden that I stuck on the back of the bike and with the little German I knew wrote, “Please help me” next to it, with the small chance I could hitch a ride there. Then I would walk as far as I could the bike for the night. I knew there was a decent sized town before Dresden. If I could get close to that, that would be something.
On rolling downhill, I realised the wheel stayed in place as long as I didn’t swerve or turn. With that in mind I got back on the bike, taking it very easy and never building up speed. I managed to cover some good ground, then I would stop to push the beast up a hill every time I came across one.
The landscape here was different again. Very green, spacious and beautiful, with mountains all around. For a country I thought was flat, the two areas I had visited on the trip were very mountainous.
I covered a lot of ground on a broken wheel and started to get close to the next town, Pirna. I left the road and headed for a field for the night. The spot I chose was in front of an energy box and surrounded by trees. I had the beer from the supermarket and although things weren’t looking up I’d made the best of a bad situation.
I was listening to podcasts before bed that night and the battery life died mid-story. It was like being in a cinema and fifteen minutes from the end the projectionist shuts everything off and goes home. I was devastated. But shortly after it went silent I heard voices coming across the field nearby. I lay low and listened very carefully. I was still drinking my beer and was getting ready to apologise that I didn’t have one for them if the came over. But it was already dark at this point. They crossed the field, disappeared then came back over the hill on motocross bikes a few minutes later. I was glad the iPad had cut out, otherwise there’s a small chance it would’ve given me away.