Monday, June 30, 2008
Anyway, here we go.
Reason Number 1 - I'm the boss
This seems simple enough. I'm not a Christian because I trust my own judgement, and would prefer that I am the one that makes the decisions in my own life rather than some god or higher power. I feel I'm smart and able enough to be able to make moral choices in my own life without having to be told or forced by a higher power to take a certain course of action. I'm responsible for my own life, I make my own decisions according to my own rules and beliefs and I suffer the consequences of my own actions. I have all the risk, and I suffer all the consequences for my choices. I make the choices I do, which seem to be along Christian lines (In my actions I seek not to harm others) and I do so for my own reasons, and not because some God forces me to. There is also no passing of blame to some god or devil.
Reason Number 2 - I make myself guilty, I don't need any help with that
Christianity seems to have a focus on sin, how we are sinful creatures and I have been told that only a belief in God will allow you to live a sin free life. I do what I do for my own reasons, and don't enjoy hurting or harming people, whether it is physical, emotional, or psychological harm. Emotional blackmail doesn't work for or on me, and I find attempts to do so quite demeaning.
Reason Number 3 - Have the Christians even read their own bible objectivly?
I'm reading the bible at the moment. I started in Israel with a transliterated copy of the Jewish bible (The Old Testament) and after losing that am continuing with a new copy of a Christian bible which contains both the old and new testament. I find it hard to believe that the Christians can read the Old Testament in particular and still have the strong beliefs that they can. A lot of the stories are downright ridiculous, hypocritical, self-serving and doesn't prove the existance of God at all, only that Moses was a very good showman with Aaron as his front man.
Internet time is runnning out. That's a few of the reaons, and I'll continue this later I think.
To be continued...
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I left Amsterdam on my second day. I didn't actually bother to see the nightlife on the Friday or Saturday night and just ended up leaving the place. Spent a nice Saturday and Sunday with a very, very Christian family in the very, very Christian Katvijk and headed back to Amsterdam to give the Christian thing a try.
Now I'm not relgious. I'd probably say I lean a bit into the atheist camp, and I'm definately in no way Christian. I have, however, found an opporunity here to spend some time in Amsterdam observing things from a Christian, and religous perspective. I will also be spending quite some time in the drug, and bike theft capital of the world.
Some information about the job though. It won't be reception work, but will rather be a cleaning position, with me working from 10am in the morning till 2pm in the afternoon, minus half an hour of bible study first thing. I've signed of for 2 weeks at this stage, and may extend this to a month (The maximum I can volunteer for) depending on how this goes.
Anyways, this effectively pins me in place for the time being, and means that I won't be moving around any time soon. That's a bit of a bummer, but free board, free food and free Jesus sort of makes the deal a bit sweeter.
So, I begin work on Sunday and will probably post an update once I've got something to write about. If you're also wondering about the lack of photos, it looks like I've lost my camera somewhere along the way (Took me this long to notice). Either that or it was stolen at some point. I wasn't really using it for the most part, so I'm not tearing up about it, but it is a bit of a shame. As I've been waiting for my work to begin (I applied on Monday, and my first shift starts Sunday) I've been spending my time relaxing and reading in a camping ground a short ride from Amsterdam. It was a bit of a hard decision to decide to stop for this length of time, as I've recently become somewhat bored with travelling and with the prospect of starting a business with a friend from highschool dangled in my face I've been wanting to get this over and done with. I've decided though that there isn't any point going through the motions if I'm not going to enjoy, and make the best use of my time, so I'm going to finish this trip properly before rushing off to a new project.
Anywho, until next time.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I'm not sure what to say. The place is just that hilarious. Sex and sexuality made so graphic, so over the top, so ridiculous, so..., so... I don't have the words. The absurdity of the whole place was just overwhelming.
Still a fun night all in all. Walking around, talking to the drug dealers, waving at the prostitutes and just taking in the atmosphere of the place. I was also a witness to a "business transaction" between one of the prostitutes and 3 American lads, where to save money they negotiated that they would purchase one 60 minute block of time and they would each take one 20 minute slice with the girl one after the other. Hilarious!
Now I don't know if I'm a magnet for drug dealers, or they approach pretty much anyone that looks like a tourist, but I was propositioned by over 6 dealers in my walk around the red light district. So, if you need cocaine, ecstasy or anything else not entirely legal while in Amsterdam, you know who to take alone. I also had a bit of talk with one of the drug dealers. A large, strong, black fella about the cocaine business, profitibility of his trade and the state of affairs on the street in regards to the legality of his wares. An interesting perspective on the matter all in all. Ended my conversation with the signature badass handshake followed by fist tap.
After my jaunt around the red light district I went to find a cup of coffee. I must have tried around 3-4 "Coffee Shops" before I found one that actually served coffee. A misleading name if I've ever seen one. I also briefly considered trying either weed, some weed based pastry or some magic mushrooms, but didn't want to risk deflating my current high (Weed seems to chill me out, which is something I usually prefer not to do). Sometimes I do wonder if I am missing out in my policy of drug avoidance, as a way to engage in a different state of mind, to get a different vantage point in life for a time. After seeing some of the people walking around on the street I've decided that I probably made the right decision, and from my experience drugs seem to be all hype and headfuck rolled into one.
I've slept for most of today, and that means I'm bright eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for tonight, which I'm going to try and give more of a club and pub focus. We'll see how that goes.
I'm actually staying in a hostel here at the moment. This is my last night here though, so I will probably have to leave, organize something else or sleep on the street (Something I'm not looking forward to with the number of crackheads wandering around).
Friday, June 20, 2008
Since you've heard from me last I've slept at a couple of people's places. One a couchsurfer in the city I just left named Timo, the other a student in a small university town named Wernigerode that I met randomly. With the latter we met while he was cycling to Uni, he invited me to his University Cafe for coffee, and I ended up spending the entire day there consuming books in the library. He extended an invitation around lunchtime for me to stay at his house for the night so I wasn't too concerned about finding a place to sleep.
Now in Amsterdam, apparently the drug capital of the world. It seems like pretty much any other city, and I'm hoping that the nightlife is a bit more out there than the city has been so far. I am fearing for my bicycle right now, seeing as I've left it right outside a tatoo parlor with all my bags strapped to it, and this is the capital for bike thefts in the world. On that note, I better run.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Now the "hiccup" with my back bike tire happened while I was in between two small towns. Luckily enough it occurred in the front of the house of a nice German lady who didn't mind me using it to try and fix my tire. Now things started getting more complicated when the tool I used to undo the bolt on the back tire snapped in half. I don't know if it was the shoddy metal that the spanner was made of or my own amazing brute strength that caused the break, but I prefer to think that it is the latter. However at the end the bolt on the bike was still very much fixed in place, and the tire was not about to get fixed that night. As all the shops were now closed I asked, and got permission to camp the night on this lady's front lawn. Now it was fairly lucky that my back tired died when it did, as the rain had been pursuing me for some time now, and I had managed to outrun it up to now. I had no sooner set up my tent and got the bags inside than a virtual downpour started. Something which would have completely soaked me had I been out in the open, and assuming my bike was still functional, between cities far from human habitation.
The next morning the lady at who's house I was camping went as far as to drive me into town to get a replacement tool to remove this bolt. Tool in hand I tried again to remove the bolt on the bike. Again I only succeeded in bending the tool significantly and stopped short of breaking this new spanner in half. I ended up wheeling the bike down to the bike shop, and getting them to use a much larger, sturdier spanner to remove this bolt and from there I was able to replace the back and front tires. The lady at who's house I was staying even brought me out some coffee while I fixed the bike up.
Now after my first leak in the front tire, there had been a slow leak in the front tire which had caused me no end of grief, constantly pumping it up again. I also took the time to fix up my breaks, oil my chain and do all the little jobs on the bike that I hadn't done as they required me to remove all the bags from it. I also found out that the tires had been extremely underinflated. I had only been inflating the tires to the same pressure as I had originally received the bike, which I found out to be nowhere near enough. After inflating the tires to the proper pressure I found myself speeding along. It made a whole world of difference as I was now able to cycle up hills above the first gear.
I am now in the Netherlands, and appreciated the change. Will work my way towards the coast now, and most probably to Amsterdam.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Another thing that has contributed to my slower pace is the uphill section of the trip which I have thankfully passed. This began with the Harz Radweg path which the R1 route began to follow which was identified by a witch riding a bicycle with her broomstick strapped to the back. I quickly found that this witch on the sign to mean "Welcome to your new hell". My introduction to this new section of the course was a immediate 60 degree climb up a dirt path which took me quite some time ascend. Thankfully the majority of the hills I had to climb were not so steep and had an easier surface on which to climb. A number of the last few days has been spent pushing my bike up steep hills in the sun, and sometimes in the shade. When I haven't been doing that, I've been speeding down gravel surfaces at insane speeds. Considering I don't wear a helmet, or even shoes, this is probably quite dangerous. The roads aren't the best maintained as well, so it isn't a case of avoiding the potholes, but rather picking the more shallow potholes to fly full speed into. The wisdom of taking these downhill sections at highspeed was illustrated to me when I hit what I assume to be some sort of drain at Mach 10 which was curved in such a way as to give me some "fully sick air" propelling me around a meter in the air. Thankfully I landed the bike and continued on full speed. I probably shouldn't be suprised that I developed a flat the way I treat the bike.
There is a positive out of this whole sign debacle though. I am now not relying on the R1 route or the signs at all. I usually keep myself aware of the main roads that the R1 route passes through, the towns I need to go through, and whatnot. If I then lose my way due to a lack of decent signs posted, I continue along to the next town along one of the major motorways. In fact, I'm doing this more often now if I see that the route that is planned for me is going to take too much of a winding course and I would prefer to take a shorter route to my destination. All in all, I'm probably only following the R1 route around half the time now, and am happier with the result.
After saying all this though, the signs are now quite a bit more reliable. I have been able to follow them for the last day or two now without running into any missing signs, or signs pointing me in circular routes (Something I encoutered once or twice more after I circled Concordia See). Even still, I no longer follow the signs blindly and will only follow them as far as they lead in the direction and path that I am going.
All in all my trip has been overwhelmingly positive. After a short frustrating period where I was hunting for signs it is now back to the relaxing city hopping experience I had at the start of my trip. I also discovered ice tea, or as the Germans call it, "Eis Tee" which is about as cheap as water here, and tasty to boot. This has pretty much replaced water as my liquid intake, however I do make sure to drink a decent amount of pure water as well.
My diet at the moment consists of mainly Muesli and..., well..., Muesli. I occasionally throw something else in there just to mix things up a little, and make sure to eat fruit on a daily basis, but this is the staple of my diet. As I'm getting pretty sick of Muesli, and I heard that rice is pretty good for you as well, I tried for a while to eat raw rice (As there is no way I'm carting around cooking gear). Now, I usually pride myself on the fact that I will and can eat most anything, but even I couldn't stomach raw rice in any great quantity (Tastes sort of like eating chalk). So I guess it's back to Muesli then.
Where have I slept recently (Not in chronological order)
1. 2 x Camping sites
2. 1 x Wooden area beside the side of the road
3. 1 x Camping site strictly for mobile homes (Some nice elderly Germans let me set up a tent on their allotmént)
The Germans on at the mobile home place were pretty cool, and they taught me a bunch of German to boot. I can now form actual sentences in German, rather than being limited to "Hello", "Goodbye", "Yes", "No" and "Thank You". This is rather helpful as rather than going up to random Germans and spitting out the name of the place or facilty I'm looking for like some mentally handicapped person with tourettes, I can now form actual sentences asking them for the location of said place.
Now that I've stopped to actually look at where I'm at, I've found that I've actually passed the halfway mark and are almost to my destination. around 4 or 5 more days and I should be in The Netherlands. Should be good as I've gotten fairly sick of Germany (I get pretty sick of any country that I become overly familar with).
We'll see how much distance I can cover today, and I may update things in the next day or two.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
It seems that I have trouble paying attention,as I'm constantly having trouble keeping my bike upright. It happens fairly regularily. I'm either mounting my bike or holding on to it, my mind wanders off and I forget that I'm holding it. Next thing I know the bike is either crashing to the ground or I'm fighting to keep it upright.
Anyway, here's a rundown of the second half of Day 3.
Day 3 (Second Half)
As I left the internet cafe I was using and started off again towards my next destination, I found no sign pointing me in the right direction after leaving the town's market center. I assumed that I must have missed it, but the sign was indeed nowhere to be found. Cycling down what I assumed was the right street I still found no sign to point me to the next turn.
Further on I started to see a pattern develop. Ever time that I got to an intersection that should contain one of the signs leading me on, there were empty brackets connected to a sign post. It seems that someone (Or something) was removing the signs. This was though, after around two hours of wrong turns and guesswork to get me down the right streets. As the maps in the guidebook for this route don't usually go into much detail, and only usually list the street names that I would be travelling on if it was a major city, it was absolutely essential that the signs be in place.
From some of the features on the map, and from what I could understand of the written German directions (Which is fairly little, as well as the fact that the direction are written heading in the opposite direction), I headed out down a series of small side streets and ended up riding through a small residential area on the outskirts of the city.
Now this was completely normal, and what I was expecting. The route I've been following seems to keep as far as possible from areas of heavy traffic and usually winds through all sorts of out of the way places. Now, while I was driving past a series of small houses I spotted a drunk staggering around on the right side of the road, going in the same direction as I was. Now, normally I wouldn't be worried about a drunk, but this drunk had some sort of pistol holstered in his belt. This had me a little worried, as drunks are fairly unpredictable in the first place, and should he have some sort of deep set racial hatred of Australians, or foreigners in general, I could be in a bit of trouble. As I passed him on the left, I saw to my suprise (and relief) that he wasn't drunk after all, and merely retarded (Thus the staggering) and as well as the pistol in his holster, he was also carrying a more obviously toy gun in his right hand which was obscured from me. Happy that I wouldn't have to worry about dealing with a crazy, gun toting German full of liquor, I continued on my way.
Now I eventually ended up where I thought I needed to be, however this street offered two choices. Choice number one would have me heading down the street which as far as my guesswork could determine was the correct street to get me to my destination, and would have me winding through a few smaller cities. As it was getting late this wasn't looking too attractive. Choice number 2 would have me heading straight to Bernberg, which was where I wanted to get to tonight to try my luck with a camping center. This would however, have me travelling on a major motorway.
Slightly frustrated and not willing to trust my luck on guessing the right small side streets to take me to the next destination city I threw in the towel and just took choice number 2. This had me arriving in Bernberg's camping area while it was still bright out (Something I may not have achieved otherwise).
At the camping area I found only one other person staying there, who also happened to be travelling on the same route as me, just in the opposite direction. He was also travelling the full length of the route which would take him all the way to St Petersburg in Russia. He had a couple of issues with his bike so far. A broken chain which he repaired on the road as well as a ripped tire, which he replaced at a bike shop. He also warned me that things would get a bit more hilly in the next section of the route.
With that I was able to sleep comfortably without fear of being discovered. A lot of wasted time this day, but a successful ending.
On a closing note, here's another beautiful forest path.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Notice the craziness at the start of my trip, which has pretty much cleared up now.
I woke up bright on this glorious Day 2, and now armed with my map, I headed off the next major city I was trying to reach: Lutherstadt Wittenburg. I arrived there around 10am and proceded to go shopping, and try and get some information about the R1 bike route that I was thinking of following.
Now the R1 (http://www.euroroute-r1.de/) is the route that I was roughly unsuccessfully trying to follow mapless with just the list of some of main cities that it passes through which I nabbed off the internet. Usually there are signs posted to let you know where to go on this route, but as I had strayed quite far from the path that this bike route took, and as I hadn't actually come across any signs for this route, I had no freaking idea where it was. Lutherstadt Wittenburg was my chance. Assuming though, that I could find a map that detailed this route in the city (Something I knew did exist, but would have had to travel back to Berlin from Potsdam to get, thus why I didn't bother with a map in the first place hoping to stumble along the route along the way. I only also found out about this route while in Potsdam by leafing through a pamphlet detailing German bike routes.).
Luckily enough I found a bookstore that carried the map. I was quite enthused and praised the store keeper, telling her how much this meant to me, that she was my hero and thanking her prefusely before leaving the shop. With this, I had a map! I had a plan! It looked like things would get a world easier. I picked up on the route at a road not 100m from the bookstore, clearly marked with a R1 bike route sign, and with that, I was on my way.
I headed out of the city and across a bridge which spanned the Elbe river and was at this point, hot as hell. My first day was fairly sweaty as well and considering that I hadn't showered, I was starting to smell a bit ripe. Luckily enough I spotted a populated swimming spot down some stairs near the bridge I was transversing. With that in mind I parked my bike, ran down the stairs, ran past a group having some sort of beach party and threw myself clothes and all in the water. I surfaced, said a quick "Tschuss" (Seeya in German) and ran back up the stairs soaking wet, feeling clean and followed by laughter continued on my way.
Now there was a world of difference between the first day of my trip and the second. The thing that stands out the most is the route that the R1 trail took. Rather than taking major or minor motorways and competing constantly with trucks and cars as I did the first day, I was on dedicated bike trails for the most part, travelling through parks and forests which I can only describe as "fairytale-like". A change from the somewhat stressful, sun exposed and exhausting route I took the first day.
The second major difference was the posting of signs along the way. Now, anyone that knows me knows I'm quite horrible with directions, and consider reading the map a last resort. Usually when driving I'm quite happy to go in the wrong direction for around half an hour hoping that I'm on the right track before getting out a map and figuring out where to go. With the R1 trail however, all the work was done for me. Each time any of change in direction was required there would be a sign pointing me on my way. There were even signs at regular intervals to show you that you were indeed, on the right track, and to continue going in this direction. Absol-bloody-lutely perfect! I could now cycle without any attention to where I was going, and allow my mind to wander any which way it chose to.
I continued cycling on until around 8.00pm at night where I started to look around for a place to sleep for the night. Another long day. I really did mean to take things a bit easier today than the day before, but when you get started you have the tendency to reach "Just one more town", which ends up keeping you going the whole day. As the sun usually is up at 4am in the morning and doesn't set until 9.30pm at night (Gotta love the Northern Hemisphere), it seems a bit of a waste to stop while the sun is up (Though more resting might be a good idea).
Eventually my search for a suitable campsite was interupted by the beginnings of a lightning storm. Brought to mind by a song that I was listening to early in the day I recalled a bridge that I passed by earlier and backtracked around 15 minutes to get back there.
Now, under a bridge isn't somewhere that I'd usually sleep for the night, but two things made me decide on this as my new home away from home:
1. If I camped out in the open my bike would get wet. I could take the bags off the bike and put them in the tent I know, but I'm pretty damn lazy.
2. I wouldn't have to put up a tent. See point 1 about me being lazy.
3. Now my main issue with sleeping under the bridge was being bothered by passers by, police officers and other homeless people. The storm changed all this as I now was betting on the fact the the rain, thunder, lightning, and generally opressive atmosphere would keep most never-do-wells away. As well as this, the storm gave me a perfect excuse for sleeping out in the open with the old "I was trapped by the storm while cycling" excuse, which I figure most people/authority figures would buy. There were very few suitable camping sites as well, as the R1 route took me through national parks for the most part which I wouldn't really feel comfortable camping in. With that I rolled out my sleeping bag and groundsheet and settled down for the night.
Day 3 has been relatively uneventful, and as such I've included this as part of Day 2's post. I woke up and started out for Dessau at around 4.30am in the morning without being disturbed the entire night. I would have prefered to sleep in a bit more, but considered answering questions to be too much of a bother to risk sleeping in an extra hour or two. At this point I've covered over 220km from Berlin, and should make it to Bernburg in Saxony Anhalt before the end of the day. Here I'm planning to give an actual camping site a try, more for the company of fellow travellers and amendities provided than the camping spot. Depending on the price though, I may opt for a more DIY solution. I'm not finding not showering to be an issue however as the new route covers mostly shaded areas, I'm not really getting to sweaty. I am now also only wearing a pair of bathers, and a white, loose cotton shirt which are keeping well since my impromptu bath the day before.
Fairy-tale castle gate in German forest:
And with that, I'll leave. I'm off again now, and will probably post more down the track.
Alrighty. I am now in Köthen in the Saxony Anhalt region of Germany and am taking this chance to update what I've been up to.
I'm going to refer to the last couple of days since leaving Potsdam as days 1 and 2 of my trip. Even though I "officially" started in Berlin, due to the short distance I went and the fact that I spent around a week there, I don't really consider it the first day of my journey, but rather, more of a test run.
My first day, and I ended up leaving around 10am in the morning completely mapless, but working with the knowledge that each city/town that I cycle to *should* contain road signs pointing to the next major city or town. Long story short, this proved not to be the most effective way to get to my destination. I seemed to be doing OK for a while, but spent a large part of my day somewhat lost, and when I wasn't lost I was taking large detours in order to enter cities on a road that would allow bike traffic (e.g. Not the Autobahn). Though I did get to where I needed to eventually I spent a great deal of time somewhat lost, or taking inefficent routes to my destinations. Quite annoying to say the least. After spending the majority of my day doing this I bit the bullet and ended up buying a map of Germany which made my life a whole lot easier.
Germany seems to be fairly densely populated. At least, compared to what I'm used to. You can't go more than 5km without hitting at least some small farming town or something similar. Something which I found extremely handy. Each town points to the next town and occasionally also shows the major city that you can also reach by travelling down this road. As I had planned my trip on the more major cities, and most of the smaller towns didn't feature on my map at all, this turned into something of a guess/memory game as I had to recall which towns were also on the way to the major city I was headed for (It only occasionally listed the major cities on any signs).
My day ended at around 9.00pm with me stoping to camp inside a wooded area beside the motorway after cycling for around 11 hours that day with only 3 quick 15 minute stops during that period (once to eat lunch once to buy a map, once to lay down in the shade for a bit). I set up my tent, had some dinner and lay down to sleep for the night.
No pictures where taken during this period, though I have upload an updated picture of the bike as it is currently outfitted.