I have spent a whole week in Kiel stupidly assuming that this would give me time to relax and continue my blog. Let's say: I was so busy enjoying time with my friends that I had very little time for other things. Which is not bad in itself...
Now I am in the train - again - and I have time to write.
So, I ended the last blog in the ferry from Gothenburg to Frederikshavn (Denmark). The weather forecast was rather bad for Monday and not too good for Tuesday so I had tried to find couch surfing hosts for both nights. One replied and accepted but due to the bad weather forecast for Monday and the fact that I was rather tired and wanted to relax the plan was to stay in Frederikshavn over night. But - yet again - I had bad luck with the youth hostel and decided to just continue on bike and try to reach my couch surfing host the same night. Again I under-estimated the distance and time it would take me to get there. Also, just like the forecast promised, it started raining in the evening and I got lost once again, I broke a part of my construction for my luggage on the back-rack (well, just a wooden board really) and I was really frustrated and wet by 9 pm. I called my host and told her that I had decided to give up and to take the train instead. But she told me that she would pick me up by car and I should relax at her place instead. Which was really, really nice and helpful. So I stayed there over night, for the first time in two weeks I slept really well inside a building and I got up the next morning refreshed and with a way more positive feeling. My couch surfing hosts turned out to be fantastic people, we got on really well with each other, I helped them on the farm and they cooked food for me in return so I stayed there the whole day and the next night. I even got to learn something there: I helped insulating an old wooden door with only natural material, which was really amazing: I put sheep wool in the open spaces between the boards and instead of silicone we used linseed oil putty to cover the wool to stop animals from getting in there. It was really cool, to learn this, but also it was really nice to just spend a whole day working on a single door, feeling like you are doing something useful but at the same time relaxing and just enjoying a single place. The place was very nice and quiet and with nice people, of course, but I really enjoyed that I didn't have to move much all day - other than to go and eat fabulous food together with the others.
I also talked with them a lot about my travels and that helped too - both to put things in perspective and to make decisions.
Cycling in Denmark was actually much better than in both Sweden and Norway. For the first time I also confidently followed cycle routes and it worked well for a long time - until one got me lost in a forest and the same thing happened again a few days later. But most of the time the cycle routes were actually really good and not much harder to cycle on or much longer than the roads, and they also had good signage most of the time, so very little to complain there. Also, rather obviously, Denmark is much flatter than Norway and Sweden so biking was much more enjoyable (although I am pretty sure I managed to climb every single hill that was kind of on the way still). But, I had mentioned this before, of course, but I made my decision on the couch surfing/wwoof-farm. I found that for the first almost 2 weeks of my travels I had literally just biked through all those places without taking the time to really experience them. I didn't meet people and I had very little time to really get to know anything. Staying with my couch surfing hosts showed me that much more important than actually having been everywhere is that you take the time to get to know a few places better and talk to the people and get to know the people and the culture. Which is not such a big surprise because ever since I started travelling that was my philosophy and I started wondering why I ever wanted something different. I still enjoyed the biking in a way, of course, and I certainly enjoyed the sleeping outside part but it was not the kind of travelling that I am used to and that I like. So I decided to take things easy and take the train more often, and when I am biking I will take more time and really enjoy.
After I left the WWOOF farm and seeing that I had already decided that I would take the train to Kiel anyways I stopped forcing myself to bike as much as I could each day. I ended up criss-crossing through Denmark because first I had decided that I would take the shortest way through the centre of the country but then I lay in bed (well, in my sleeping bag under the stars and a few trees) on the first night and remembered that my romantic idea had been to sleep on the beach, which, of course, my chosen route would not allow. So the next day I cycled the other way again just to arrive at the beach. And I slept there the next night. Which I really enjoyed, it was really, really nice and I finally relaxed again and remembered, what I had been doing all of this for all along. The next day was too hot for biking - seriously, and yes I know I had been complaining about the cold just before. I also think that part of the reason why it was too hot was that it came rather suddenly and I still had to adapt from the cold. Also I had emailed my old football team in Kiel to ask if I could play with them on Sunday, and they said yes, so I wanted to be fit for the match (or at least rested a bit), and so instead of biking much that day I went swimming in the sea, sat at the beach and watched the terns and then took the train to Kiel. Clearly the best thing about being back in Kiel was that I could just take my bike and cycle to where I wanted to go without having to follow signs or looking for the sun to find the right direction. I just knew my way around and this way it felt like home, or like a place that I had gotten to know over time. This also made me realize that really the hardest part of being on the road all the time was that I constantly had a feeling of being lost. I could tell by the sun (most of the time) that I was going south or east or west, or whatever but I tried to follow road signs that indicated little villages that I had never heard of or seen on any map. Every time I was approaching an intersection I was worried that I would lose my way. I spent so much time looking out for road and bike route signs that I barely had time left to look at the landscape or enjoy anything. Only when I stopped for the night I could relax and pretend I had arrived at an arbitrary goal and I would have a home for 8 hours or so and even when I would not have been able to point out on a map where I actually was, I still felt okay there. I felt like I was where I was supposed to be. But while I was biking I always felt like I should be somewhere else, I should be moving faster or on a different road or in a different direction, I constantly felt lost in one way or another. I think that was the biggest problem. This is also why I decided to buy a map for the Danube part of my journey, hoping that it will help.
In Kiel I stayed with a friend for the first two nights, and we went swimming in the harbour in the morning and then went to visit our friends at the refugee home in the afternoon. The next day I was supposed to play football but the match was cancelled due to rain. Actually, there was a thunderstorm in the night and funnily, when the thunder woke me up my first thought immediately was: do I have a roof over my head? I remembered that I slept inside a house and that I would be dry and relaxed again to listen to the thunder and the raindrops on the window.
After the first two nights I stayed with my former house mates, which was really nice because there I really felt home and it was also nice to see them again and to chat with them. Apart from the fact, of course, that I spent most of the time not at home meeting people and doing other things, but that was okay because it was just normal in a way.
When I told them about sleeping on the beach two of my friends decided they wanted to do that as well and so the three of us set off one afternoon in order to stay at the beach over night just because we could and even though we did have beds and houses that we could have slept in but the beach was the nicer option. And it was, really. It was a really nice thing to do. We went swimming before dinner and before breakfast and we watched the sunset and the sunrise. It was really amazing and to me it even felt so natural. I also realized that - for whenever it is not cold, which is about 2 months per year in Kiel and longer in other places - probably the walls we build around our "homes" are not so important as shelter when we sleep - like I always thought - but really just to protect our possessions from other people. Which seems particularly stupid if you think about it more. And I am really glad that I was able to reduce my possessions so much and divide them into valuable and not so valuable stuff (literally all the things I currently carry with me I really need and if some of them would get stolen I would have to replace them but some are easier to replace than others, that's all). And so I have a big backpack with things that I can just leave anywhere hoping that no one would steal them but if they did it wouldn't be too much of a problem because they are easy to replace. And next to that I have a small backpack with things that I do not want to be stolen but that I can easily carry with me at all times (i.e. my money, binoculars, laptop and passport). This means that I am quite independent of a built home for as long as it is warm enough. And this is a very nice feeling, really. Because, honestly: if you can sleep at the beach, why would you voluntarily choose to sleep in a house if the weather is nice? Well, apart from the fact, of course, that it is not quite legal to sleep at the beach but otherwise...
Ok, so, I will leave you with less than 3 pages this time, I am still trying to relax, I also have some translation work to do, to earn some money and I will be in Bad Aussee now for a few days and knowing myself I will not have as much time as one could assume when I am on holidays. I will continue on the Danube bike route in about a week and I will write again whenever I find the time...
One last remark: My camera died, and funnily I actually think that this is not such a bad thing right now because I had gotten tired of taking pictures anyways. It will mean for you that you will have to do with the descriptions I give you and I will probably not upload photos for a while (I don't know if or when I will buy a new camera). But also on my way I had realized that, basically, if I wanted to just look at a place, I might as well just do a google picture search of that place and I will be able to see what it looks like. The point of actually going there is that you get more than just the looks and the pictures so I will return to the deeper feelings and experiences now and leave out the pictures on purpose. Sorry for that but, as I said, you can just do a google picture search if you want to know what the places I go to look like. And I will provide you with the deeper insights in written form.