Friday, July 25, 2014

Back in NL.

Gradually the weather changed for the better. When we reached Münster it was really hot, in the high thirties. Our last campsite in Germany was the worst until now. A big site full of caravans on small lots, completely stuffed with sheds, make shift verandas and stuff like that. Typically a site for long stay summer campers from the region. For us there was an open meadow in the full sun.
The next day we entered the Netherlands and found – to our surprise – the Villa Mondriaan in Winterswijk. Very well designed art centre on the spot of Mondriaan's youth, a worth while stop. 

an early Mondriaan
The campsite that evening was the opposite of the one before, a big, full, fully equipped and well organised recreation centre. Despite the crowds we had a good stay.
The next day we rode north in the pouring rain and had to stop at a B&B. The day after was beautiful again and we reached the beautiful and shining valley of river Vecht, where we put up our tent on a fresh meadow on the bank of the river. Awakening after a good night sleep was extra nice, as the weather wat at its best and so was Eveline, it was her 65th birthday. Lovely breakfast in the field we had!
Now we have reached our son's house, where the little one greeted us with a big smile and a show of her new skill: walking! While we were on our journey, she had decided to learn how to walk. Such a nice surprise.

Tomorrow we will head for Breda and conclude an interesting European tour of a good 1600 k.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Romantic and beautiful, when not bombed and erased....

The route from Dessau to Münster led us through the Harz. Harz can be substituted for “Hard”. The paths were like mountainbike-tracks now and then, steep and in bad condition due to the heavy rains too, and we were forced to take to normal roads in order to make reasonable progress.
But then we discovered the Germany as it must have been everywhere in the past. A whole series of small historic towns, often from the 12th and 13th century, and in their original shape. That is, with medieval buildings in the typical wood and plaster style (half-timbered), narrow streets and cosy market places, each with beautiful Rathaus and church. Lovely and romantic. It shows that the Germans obviously cherish their heritage, as they so succesfully succeed in preserving these intimate places.

Too many towns and cities in this country are so different, so lacking this warm small-scale atmosphere. The reason is clear; in order to defeat the lunatic Nazis the clever and honourable allied forces found it necessary to bomb all these treasures of civilisation off the face of the earth. The smaller towns we now passed through were saved, or maybe the war ended too soon for them to have their turn. So lucky.
War clearly appears a very intelligent method to settle differences of opinion: large scale killing, ruining and demolishing as a method to solve problems or achieve goals. Why care for a personal history, personal integrity and suffering, for a collective heritage of centuries?
And how we have learned from our past..........
Today we spent the day in Münster. Nice historic center, that is..., correctly rebuilt after WOII's destruction. Unexpectedly for us there is a Picasso museum here, dedicated to his graphic work. A beautiful collection, completed by a series of photos of Picasso and his family in the villa “California” near Nice, taken by the American photographer Duncan. We were very pleased with it.
Strikingly in accordance with the theme of this entry of our blog, the second floor of the museum had an exhibition of graphic work of Francisco Goya, the famous Spanish painter from around 1800. The graphics at display here were made by Goya after the uprise of the citizens of Madrid against the French oppressors (under Napoleon) in 1808. In this work, which seems to have never been displayed before, he depicts the horrors of this war. It was of all ages, will it remain so?
The most famous paining by Goya about this uprise is in the Prado in Madrid:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Exit Poland – Berlin and on

Altogether we cycled some 370 kms in Poland. Beautiful agrarian countrysides, often just a little hilly and very small villages along the way. No places to sit and have a drink, very few shops. The country simply is not densely populated and as cyclists we use small roads en therefore we encounter few facilities. We didn't camp, the weather made us make other choices. We stayed with our WarmShowers hosts of course, as mentioned before, but later we used hotels. Prices are comfortably low for us Euro-people.
We made long days, as distances were great but most of all because our speed was very low because of the strong headwind, sometimes combined with showers of rain. This, and our tight schedule, made us decide to skip some kilometers and take a train from Pila to Kostztryn on the Polish-German border. And, as we had been in touch with our old (since 1990) friends in Birkenwerder, just north of Berlin, we were met at Kostzstryn station by Olaf in his motorhome. All our gear was loaded in the moving house and off we were to Olaf and Gudrun's lovely home. On our way home we visited the Seelöwer Höhe, were there is a memorial of the battle in February 1945 of the Red Army against the defending Nazi troops, so close to Berlin and near the end of the war.
The next three days we spent in Berlin. We commuted to and fro by S-Bahn, a 30 minute ride. We appreciated the city, its atmosphere and relaxedness. 

We walked a lot, saw all the highlights, and the musea, that is, just a selection as there are so many of them. But we saw everything, from the Dutch and Flemish masters to contemporary artists as Joseph Beusz and Andy Warhol.

Now, after having seen the Dutch soccer team beat the Costa Ricans in a penalty series and after having said good bye to Gudrun and Olaf, we are on our way again. We will remember their great hospitality and cordiality.

We crossed through the region around Berlin with the magnificent rivers Havel and Spree and all the lakes full of boats and got to Lutherstadt Wittenberg yesterday. Beautiful historic centre, we took the opportunity to see Chagall, Dix, Kokovska, Picasso, Beckmann and others in a religious artss exhibition in Das Alte Rathaus. Again it appeared not to be our favourite theme.

After a very rainy night in our tent we are now in a hotel in Dessau, the Bauhaus town.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


It's our second visit to Poland. The first time we were in this country was 43 years ago, 1971. We were much younger and we were highly interested how life really was for the ordinary man behind the “Iron Curtain”, that was there in all it's dark and threatening cold war status. We must have been one of the very few tourists to travel to this country in that era.
We had to prepare the journey very carefully. Visas were difficultly obtained and expensive. You had to state beforehand how many days you intended to stay in the country, as one was obliged to spend a minimum amount of money per day and buy vouchers to that amount at the embassy before you left.
We travelled in our little red Renault 4 and there were the checks at the borders between West and East Gemany at Helmstedt, into West Berlin at Drewitz, then again out of West Berlin at Heinrich Heine Strasse and again out of the GDR at Frankfurt an der Oder and into Poland at Slubice. Each time mirrors under the car, unloading of luggage on to the street, thorough examinations of the travel documents, all by frowning and unfriendly border guards.
In Poland we experienced that shops had little for sale. “Niema” is the word we remember, “not present”, we don't have it. We saw houses in bad shape and hardly any paint, many drunks in the streets (mostly in the morning!). Food was hard to get, both of us lost 4 kilos of weight during our 18 days stay. We also saw that some people had motor boats on the Masurian lakes, military families. Most people had nothing. We saw with our own eyes how the socialist utopia worked out in practice.
During our current trip we saw the workings of the EU co-operation. Differences between our countries have faded and we are extremely happy to see that.
How good would it be if all Europeans, many of whom are now so critical about the European co-operation, would realize how the world was just some years ago and how it has changed. If everyone would realize how it was, where we come from, and what has been acheived in a lifetime. To be more precise, in my very own lifetime (born 1945). From killing each other by the millions in WW II to sharing great freedom and peace with hundreds of millions in this continent. It would only be wise to cherish this.

In Poland

by Eveline

During our visits to the beautiful cities of Gdansk and the impressively large castle in Malbork (Marienburg), we stayed at WarmShowers addresses. Couples in their early thirties. Their apartments are small (44 m² for dad, mom and baby), but everything is there. In both cases we slept on a sofa bed in the living room. Fine, but it requires great adaption of the hosts. Their living room suddenly filled with panniers, electronics for GPS, Ipad and laptop, toiletbags and towels. Obviously they find it important to be WarmShowers hosts and be in touch with cyclists from other places.

Later we cycled on the lovely Polish farmland. Cloudy, occasional a watery sun and a drop of rain. Sometimes a stormy wind, headwind of course, but with temperatures of about 21˚C cycling was alright. No good weather to camp though, thus we stayed in hotels.
The countryside is hilly and varied, there are quite a few villages, but with no facilities as a terrace for a coffee or things like that. We see many waving yellow fields, wheat, rye etc, sometimes with the blue and / or red glow of cornflowers and poppies. It gives me a nostalgic feeling, but I do not know if that is true, because were there cornfields in Zundert when I was young? Frans knows that they were there, but if it was barley or rye? Probably the latter, the farmers made their own bread with it. In any case, it is nice.
We notice the farms are well taken care of. The people look well too. No difference with our country, except the German oriented architecture.

We had a special meeting with a farm worker, at least that's how he looked. His clothes were dirty and he didn't look well cared. He stood at a cafe and we wondered if we could get coffee there. No, but beer we could have. He opened a bottle for himself and smiled. Moments later, he passed us on his rickety bicycle and gestured that we could have coffee with him. We arrived at a grimy little group of houses. People were hanging about in a messy little street. His mother (?) grudges him because of our arrival we thought, but his wife Monica welcomed us warmly. By a 'kitchen' we be are guided into a living room that is stowed with beds and knickknacks. Here is also the television. The children, three of the six are very charming. There is a table in the kitchen that they move to the room for our coffee. We have a choice of instant coffee or "primero", Polish coffee, which requires caution, because the sludge is at the bottom of the cup and you would rather not drink that. Dad tells his Monica to provide us with food and she's already preparing it when I tell her not to. We can only communicate with hands and feet with them and I think this is enough. Such a cordiality of such a simple little family.