I left the bicycle-friendly sector (aka The Netherlands) and camped at the Rhine for my first night on tour. The only disturbance was a party boat, going up and down the river around 2 am.
It seems that south of Kleve there was a big storm lately, so sometimes my way looked like this.
It's always good to know that you can get food on the way. 24/7. And Kartoffelautomat is just a wunderbar german word.
Why did I go to Düren? I visited an old friend staying at the Workshop for Actions and Alternatives (WAA). Thanks for your delicious pizza and the tiny roof-only house where I could sleep.
Instead of going all the way east myself, I closed a gap of the Rhine cycle path which was still missing on my personal map. Thus I came through Bonn and Koblenz this day and stopped at Lahnstein where I took a train to Marburg. The weather was not as bad as it looks.
After a break of two weeks (not really without cycling, of course) it was time to leave again. I had treated my bicycle with some new things on this picture: shiny red handlebar tape, a new cycle computer and a dynamo-to-usb-charger to keep my smartphone zoo alive on the way.
On my "second first day" I cycled via Gießen, Friedberg, Frankfurt first to my grandma and then to Jan who lives in Hörstein/Alzenau in Bavaria.
My next goal, Pforzheim, was easy to find but the distance was a bit too much for one day and I was happy to arrive at Laura*s family in the evening.
On the way were Darmstadt and Heidelberg. Both of them had been stations on long cycling trips some years ago, for example to Taizé in France.
Two important things I learned on that day: The Black Forest is hilly. Bretten has the largest petting zoo in all Germany.
I guess the rain was contributing to my bicycle face, advanced stage.
And somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the Black Forest it was time for my first flat tire :-(
But thanks to the tools and a replacement tube I was carrying with me, it was not really a problem. Around 20 minutes later I was rolling again, towards Kehl and Strasbourg, crossing the Rhine via my favourite (admittedly not very fancy) bridge of Europe.
A few centuries ago someone left this reminder about how far I had travelled so far and how long it was still to my next longer stop near Basel:
Very near to the beautiful sunset below I found a place to camp for this night. Exchanging the Rhine for a small canal in France also removed the party boats.
A complete day going along the river, nice! I confirmed my prejudice that the french side of the Rhine is better to cycle than the german.
In Grenzach-Wyhlen I stayed (and worked a bit) at the Galtung-Institut for Peace Theory and Peace Practice. Besides working on world peace, they sometimes have complete rainbows next door.
No pictures from the way, but here are the two beautiful cats I visited in Gränichen and some grafitti from Berne.
In Morges I stayed in this nice old house. Hooray for couchsurfing!
I arrived at a camping site in France just in time to built up my tent before the rain started.
This morning I realised that my porter was loose because a screw was missing. I proudly present: The (not so) original Shimano hair-needle. It still holds!
Another surprise was a town which almost has my name. But it also has a nuclear power plant :-/
Still going along the Rhone, I found and ate my way through the perfect market in Valence.
Beautiful weather in Lyon.
Here is a picture of all my luggage. The sunrise was the direct view from my tent at a wild camping spot where I also could go swimmming the evening before.
And the sunset on the same day, after I finally reached the mediterranean sea.
Some motivation for future tours ;-) Yes, those numbers are kilometers and the signs point to Greece and Spain.
One of my last views of the mediterranean in the Camargue:
It was time to leave the sea behind and climb some mountains again.
Up, up, up, towards Andorra.
My mobile home on 1500 meters above sealevel.
After a rather cold night (thank you for the socks, grandma!) I knew why I was the only person with a tent on the camping site.
The first challenge of this day was the Col de Puymorens. On the picture I am already preparing to go down again, protecting against cold wind.
After slowly overtaking a traffic jam caused by sheep and cows on the street, I entered Andorra from France via the the Pas de la Casa. My first impression: One big shopping mall.
This day also marked the highest spot of my journey, more than 2400 meters.
Cycling through and leaving Andorra was easier, because it mainly goes downwards towards Spain. And by mainly downwards I mean 20 kilometers during which I barely pedaled :-)
This wonderful statue is just above Andorra Le Valla:
(I think the Andorranian firefighters are up to something ...)
After wandering a bit through the cute capital, observing and being observed, I still reached Spain on the same day and found a nice camping site.
I reached Lleida (or Lerida, depending on whom you ask...) quite exhausted and allowed myself a hotel for one night.
Because time was flying and the landscape of central Spain got boring I took a train to Zaragoza.
Zaragoza discourages fast cycling. And has an enormous train station. And a nice camping site where I also met a cyclist from Denmark who had three months time and was going to Marokko. I was not jealous, no, not at all. Okay, maybe, a bit. Very much.
After taking another regional train to Madrid I explored its insane and deadly traffic.
I could stay at relatives of a friend who lived just outside of the city, so this was a short day trip ending with an excellent dinner.
This became the longest day of the tour. Together with the sunrise I cycled further away from Madrid, north west and again up, up, up.
Putting away all plans I had made before, after a long siesta in the middle of nowhere I decided to cycle all the way to the next camping site on my (openstreet)map, namely Salamanca.
I always imagined Canada a bit colder. And bigger:
The landscape became flatter, the sun even warmer and the chocolate croissants even cheaper.
Well, this camping site did not actually exist anymore, hence this bridge had to suffice.
Just after getting to Portugal, it was time for flat tire #3. The parking area of a supermarket provided the perfect audience ;-)
Right side: Spain. Left side: Portugal.
I asked the routing planner to "avoid highways". Was not disappointed:
Still, it was totally worth the views of the Duoro valley which I was now roughly following.
My last camping spot was hard to find. Given that it was already very late I even stumbled into a four-star "rural" hotel which cost 130 € per night ... But, fortunately I did not have to decide if I am that tired -- they were sold out.
Some kilometers later I found a boat slide with a tiny piece of gras next to it. 0 € per night and free swimming pool ;-)
There were a lot of these purple flowers and later I realized they are really all over Porto.
After a last ice cream and donut break, I forced myself to get the last kilometers done and made it! Below is a picture I had two random people take of me. It took me a while to make them believe from where I came.
The next few days I spent a lot of time walking around beautiful Porto. It is steep and has a lot of broken but charming houses.
Ah, and someone tried to rebuild the EYE ;-)
I stayed at Antonio, who is running the TRANSCEND Media Service for many years now. From his flat you can even see a tiny bit of the ocean.
And the way back? My PhD position in Amsterdam was starting in a few days, so cycling back was not an option. To go by train I had to disassemble my dear friend and put him into a package of maximally 120x90cm. Given my limited set of tools I had to be a bit creative.
First I took a train to Vigo, waited there for a few hours, then took the nighttrain to Barcelona. Once again Spain offered a great sunrise :-)
Thanks to a huge delay of the nighttrain, in Barcelona Sants I only had 10 minutes to change the train. I managed to run while carrying the package and also sceptical SNCF people and their security foo could not stop me. The TGV departed a few seconds after I went onboard and hurried off to Paris. Which meant Gare de Lyon, from where I took a cab to Paris Nord and finally got the last train to Amsterdam. Below is a picture of my package occupying the shelf on the Thalys.
Thank you to: