Monday, July 31, 2006

UK again

We arrived back in the UK about ten days ago, into the port of Harwich. Which, for a town which is supposed to be welcoming Scandinavian and Dutch travellers into the UK, is depressingly grim - it's not a pretty sight as you approach from the North Sea, nor is it any better once you disembark.

We met a German family while queueing for the ferry - loaded with brightly-coloured Ortlieb panniers, they were from Hamburg and used to make regular trips to Norfolk on the Hamburg-Harwich route, unfortunately it's now closed, so now they have to make the trip to Esbjerg first (although they had taken the train for that part).

The first thing we did on arrival in Harwich was to ride into town in search of our first curry in two months - with the help of a passer-by, we were successful and sat down to a light lunch of chicken jalfrezi and vegetable balti.

On the train home (yes, we got the train - there is a slight obstruction in between Harwich and Surrey, and it's called London) we met another cyclist, Ed, a student who was on his way back from a four-week trip from Calais to Amsterdam. He'd been camping with a mate and, as students do, they had been living off a rice-and-tuna based concoction for pretty much every meal. He'd also previously been on a cycling trip to Norway, which he said was fantastic. Norway's on our list of places-to-go, but moreso on our list of places-to-go-when-we're-rich, the tuna-and-rice lifestyle is not for us.

We parted ways at Liverpool Street station, and dgym and I set out upon a hot, noisy, busy and smelly trip across London. A real shock to the system after the deserted lanes of Denmark. We got on our train at Waterloo and were greeted with the typical UK grumpiness we had missed so much when the guard started frowning at dgym's trike and warning us "that area's meant for three bikes, not one, you'd better make sure you fit within the yellow line" (of course two hours later the whole train would be packed out with sweating commuter bodies and that would be just fine...)

We had a fantastic curry for dinner that evening, and since getting back, we've managed to catch up on a few of the things we've been missing...

So, what happens next?

We're off to Bratislava/Vienna in a couple of weeks, no bicycles so it's not strictly a bike hippy trip but no doubt you'll hear about it anyway. Inbetween now and then, we'll be getting the bikes ready for the next big trip, buying a tent that's big enough for dgym (we are currently arguing over the Vaude Taurus Ultralight and the Terra Nova Laserlarge) and maybe taking a short trip to test everything out.

After Bratislava, we will be spending some time in Dorset on family business, and in late September sailing off to Spain for our autumn/winter trip.

Friday, July 21, 2006



On Sunday we left Poland, a little earlier than planned as we'd got a bit tired of the mozzy swatting (a few still managed to get in despite our ingenius contraption) and the heat - although this did mean leaving behind mountains of cheap enormous juicy cherries, and piles of moist delicious cake. Our ferry left at 10pm from Swinoujscie, so we decided to leave our room in the morning and cycle into Germany for one last Eiscafe experience.

This one contained chocolate and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, topped with two truffles:

This is Eis und Heiss - vanilla ice cream separated from a layer of warm sour cherries by an insulating biscuit layer:

The ferry cabin was cheap, not particularly comfortable but we got a reasonable night's sleep until we were brutally woken at 7am by the announcement that we'd be arriving in an hour and a half, and breakfast was available in the cafe. All excited to wake up in a new place, I jumped out of bed and headed for the decks - on the left you could see the coast of Denmark, with a line of wind turbines queuing up to greet us, and on the right hand side was the huge Oresund bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo, with Sweden in the distance. We're not planning on visiting Sweden in the near future (too expensive), but it was nice to wave at it all the same.

Copenhagen seemed like a pleasant city, lots of nice watery bits and the busiest part seemed to be the cycle lanes. We only really stopped to get money, a map and some pastries but it's probably worth a longer visit at some point when we can afford Danish prices. The pastries were lovely - as well as the familiar fruity-centered wonders you get in England, there are also pastries featuring sesame seeds, poppy seeds and honey. And Danish money is awesome - when you have coins with holes in, that seems like a good enough reason not to adopt the Euro.

Our first day cycling in Denmark wasn't so good, we ended up on a cycle path along a noisy main road from Copenhagen to Roskilde. We weren't in the best of spirits by the time we reached Roskilde, so decided to stop for the night, use the tent for its intended purpose, and head for the town campsite. The campsite was very pretty, on the shores of Roskilde Fjord, you could see the town across the water. It was quite a cramped night as dgym is a bit too long for the tent, but it was lovely to wake up and look out over the water. We also got online that evening and booked our ferry home for two days later - Denmark is about as expensive as England so we can't really afford to stay for long.

On our second day we took the train from Roskilde, taking us away from the island of Sjaelland, across the island of Fyn, and to Kolding, in the east of the Jutland mainland. Getting on the train was a bit of an ordeal - we were warned beforehand that we'd have to disassemble dgym's trike so we spent 45 minutes doing this on the platform before the train arrived, during which we managed to use most of the useful bits and pieces we had with us (cable ties, duct tape, string, luggage straps). We arrived in Kolding about 4pm and spent most of the evening getting to Vejen, by means of lots of pretty little lanes winding through farmland - it was a really lovely afternoon's cycling. We arrived at the campsite in Vejen very hot and grubby and were immediately directed to a restaurant which was about to close but would feed us if we hurried. So we showed up at the restaurant hot and grubby and smelly, freshened up and then had a lovely meal. We got back to the campsite just in time to put up our tent before darkness fell.

On the Wednesday we woke at about 6:30am, eventually decided we weren't going back to sleep, got up, packed and left about 8:30 loaded with fresh water and peanut cookies from the campsite shop, with the aim of getting to Esbjerg for our 7pm ferry. We did pretty well, reached Esbjerg about 1pm and found a Spar and a shady spot, just as the midday heat was threatening to roast us alive, our water levels were very low and we were in need of some lunch (we went a very long way without seeing a shop or pub). We lurked in shady spots all afternoon before boarding the ferry.

We've had a lovely couple of days cycling in Denmark - we've seen hills and flats, fields of wheat, woodland, heathland, cows, horses and lots of butterflies. In many ways it's similar to the Netherlands - a good and well-used cycle network, friendly people who speak incredibly good English, quite expensive, lots of farmland - however, Denmark is hillier and the landscape is more varied, making for more interesting cycling.


Ordering the ferry tickets back to the UK was done via the internet using my phone - not a very cheap thing to do at all, which explains my panicked state at the time. This is how we ended up with tickets for the Wednesday 19:00 sailing from Esbjerg - which was only four days cycling away. It isn't possible to cycle from one port to the other anyway, you have to get the train over one of the bridges as they didn't bother with a cycle path along the motorway, we just got on the train a little earlier than we had to, and didn't get off quite as soon as we could have. The bridge is 20km across and we were on the train for 200km, but at least we were in a good position to get to our ferry on time.

There was a small problem with taking my trike on the train, the lady at the ticket desk actually came out to look at it and I explained which bits I could take apart and the final decision was that if I disassembled most of it it would probably be ok but it was up to the conductor in the end. So we went to the platform and I spent half an hour taking the front wheels and the seat off and making the trike shorter as well. When the train arrived there wasn't even a hint of a problem from the conductor, and there was plenty of room for the trike in its road going state, but never mind.

By the time the train had arrived in Kolding and I had put everything back together again it was gone four o'clock and we set out for Vejen which was another 20km away. This turned out to be one of the best bits of cycling that I can remember. The sky was perfectly blue but the sun wasn't unbearable and the terrain was varied with some challenging enough hills. The countryside was really beautiful and there were plenty of horses, sheep and cows to see along the way. In a way it was a bit of a shame as it was very similar to England, and it reminded me of how good England would be for cycling if it didn't have such a car problem.

We arrived in Vejen quite late, but one nice thing about camping is that this isn't a problem - there was still plenty of room. One problem in Vejen is that it has 5 pizza/kebab shops and no restaurants, even a friendly local didn't know where a restaurant was, and was quite sure there wern't any left. Luckily the lady at the camping ground knew of one and kindly phoned to check that they were open, which they were but only for the next 20 minutes. So it was a mad dash for food that turned out to be thouroughly worth it - I almost wept when I discovered that the vegetables were lightly curried - followed by another mad dash to get back to the campsite and put up the tent before the sun went down. We made it with about 5 minutes to spare.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Dear readers,

Those of you who know us personally will be pleased to learn we have been souvenir shopping, and bought a number of these:

Unfortunately, they ran out so you won't all get one. Fortunately, they had plenty of these left:

so everybody should be happy one way or another. You can always swap.

Lots of love,
Hel & Dgym

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

We used the tent

Camping enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that we actually used the tent. The ones who are a little bit nitpicky may be disappointed to find out that we didn't actually sleep in it, or even get inside it at all.

Plagued by swarms of mosquitoes, and feeling like they were imprisoning us in a hot stuffy room at night, we had been scouring the shops for a mosquito net for quite some time, without any luck.

Last night in a stroke of genius I got out the tent to see whether there was any netting on it, and if we could somehow use it. There was, but it was going to be tricky to get mosquito-tight coverage across the window, especially as we didn't have enough duct tape to go all the way around.

So Dgym got into inventive mode (you will know what I mean if you remember the Lego mousetrap), got out the tent poles, and found that they could be arranged into a rectangular frame which fit the window almost perfectly. Not wanting to destroy the tent, we sewed the netting so it stretched across the frame, then put the whole thing flush against the open window, secured in place with a few pieces of duct tape, and there we have it. Cool, fresh, mosquito-free air.

Thanks for the tent, Dad. (We're considering actually sleeping in it in Denmark)

PS. Those with an interest in pancakes may be interested / repulsed by the following picture. It is what happens when you accidentally buy yoghurt instead of milk (How was I to know - it said "Milko" and looked like a carton of milk). Take note Molly, Dgym is not the only one who makes funny-looking pancakes. It may look like scrambled pancake, but it tasted good enough.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Fry-up disaster

That little list of stuff we miss should be extended to include the following: Curry, apple crumble, custard, decent fry-up, nachos... er, and you lot of course.

Regarding the fry-up, since we now have a frying pan we thought we'd try one, and went out to purchase the necessary ingredients. This was hampered by a few problems: 1. They don't appear to have baked beans here. 2. The supposed bacon that Dgym purchased from the butchers (it looked like bacon, it was called boczek, etc), when cooked, turned out to just be the world's fattiest piece of pork. 3. The yolks of the eggs kept breaking. The whole thing turned out a bit bland and miserable, so we won't be trying that one again. Sorry, there are no pictures. Trust me, you wouldn't want any.

We have booked our ferry to Denmark. Yes, our plan, as detailed in one of our earliest blog entries and accompanied by a purty map, has changed somewhat. We won't be cycling across the continent to Portugal - we decided we don't really have time to do it without being rushed, especially given that we are constrained by the heat of summer and the cold of winter, and we want to spend some time in the UK seeing our friends and families. In a couple of weeks time we'll be catching the ferry to Copenhagen, cycling across the various islands that make up Denmark, and then sailing from Esbjerg to Harwich.

Whilst in the UK our bikes will receive the love and attention they have earned (mine is all excited about the new chain, cassette, bar tape, damn good clean, etc. it'll be getting) before September, when we'll jump on a Spain-bound ferry (ferries play an important role in our master-plan) and continue our cycling on the Iberian peninsula - Portugal is still most definitely on the cards. To make up for some of the in between bits we'll be missing, we'll fly out to Vienna/Bratislava for a week or two in August. No bikes.

The road here is lined on one side with a steep foresty bank. A little way down the road you look up the bank and see three sets of what looks like giant flights of steps - well, each one's several feet high and they're all crumbling and overgrown. But after looking at the info board at the tiny bunker museum just a little further down the road, in fact these things are the launch ramps from when the Germans prototyped their V3 rocket here (this bit used to be Germany). So, not giant steps then.

Monday, July 03, 2006

We go to Germany and eat ice cream so you don't have to

Following the popularity of photographs from our last Eiscafe visit, and requests for more of the same, we dutifully got on our bicycles on Friday and returned to Germany. Here is a picture of our latest conquest, Lasagne Eis:

Vanilla ice cream, topped with berries and fruit sauce, some tinned fruit and white chocolate flakes. The verdict: nice, but not as good as the Spaghetti or Steak Eis.

As a special bonus, you also get a picture of a pancake, as we managed to find a small frying pan for 16zl, and had a huge pancake fest on Saturday (well, the pancakes were small but the fest was enormous). Here is one of dgym's pancakes, topped with some blackcurrants.

So that ticks off one thing on the list of stuff we miss. We're still holding out for chocolate brownies, innocent smoothies, pies of all shapes and sizes and clothes that don't smell.