Friday, July 14, 2006


Trip dist: 69 kms. Trip time: 5 hrs, 17 min. Tot dist: 3,681 kms.


Every time I'm about to cross into the next foreign country I get jittery. What worries me, exactly? Is it the unknown maps, that is, the fact that I don't know if the ones I bought will be accurate with the distances or elevations? Is it the unknown culture, the stress of knowing you will have to quickly adapt, ditch your pre-conceived notions of what things are supposed to be like, and most importantly forget all the "adaptations" you had to make to the current country, and learn the new ones as fast as possible? Is it wondering: will the people be friendly? Will I understand the language? Is it wondering about the actual bike routes chosen? Are there unfriendly lands or more dangerous roads than others? Also, the Western Germany border seems to have lots of forests, which apparently I need to cross through, not just pass around like in the other countries up to now. This doesn't sound bad, right? Except for the fact that the forests are national park type places, which means that they are scantily inhabited. While trees should fill me up with glee (canopy in hot summer!), it is actually rather eerie, for what do you do, all alone with no population for 20 kms, if something goes wrong?

Most of these things you can't know a-priori, especially if you don't have friends there you can call up and ask.

Which feels a bit lonely. All these questions, uncertainties, that you just have to face alone, you see.

But it all goes away, you see, eventually. Still, it always takes about a week inside the new country. Not sooner.

So one hangs on in the meantime, I guess. Cheerio. Right?

Nah. I get just as scared and stressed and worried as the next normal person, if not more. I'm just telling you,in case you thought even just for a second that this kind of travelling is all fun and easy. ;)

Route planning, too, is a bit confusing from here on. What now? If the next "goal city" is Cologne do I go through Luxembourg to Trier and then up northwards, and finally figure out what language the "Luxemburgians" really speak once and for all (;P), or do I go through Belgium to Aachen and then East from there: a shorter, more direct route, and leave Trier as a day trip from Cologne?

I don't know! I am anxious and confused. Luckily I've budgetted a day before border crossing for visiting Reims. Maybe I'll get it sorted out by then.

The Youth Hostel here in Reims, by the way, is delightful: spacious, full of light and lots of amenities (internet, ping pong, two or three lounges with TV, laundry, etc), and pretty much empty, too! It reminds me a bit of Baker House or Next House back at MIT. So there's also a bit of nostalgia coming from this as well.

The ride to Reims was also/again very pretty but very tough (see the long amount of time it took me to travel the short 70 kms!), uphill overall, plus the dreaded z-direction (unnecessary?) sinusoids, and with strong headwinds. All 3 tough situations combined in 1 ride. Uuuygh.

It was also a rather frustrating day: the internet cafe was closed by 8 p.m. (the one at the hostel is only good for short visits and not worth using for serious time consuming business), the credit card seems not to work, there are no people on the streets in the city of Reims.

Maybe, tomorrow will be better.

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