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.