Friday, June 16, 2006
Day 24 (June 16, 2006) Rotterdam to Amsterdam
Well, I took a train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, so it wasn't like a grandfinale in Tour de France:-) I will post more detail diary as soon as I get LAN to my PC.
Now in Internet cafe, not "coffee shop," so I can't do anything to post a photo or upload my diary from my PC...
As soon as I got to Amsterdam, I found true what everyone I met told me. Very attractive city. I will stay here for 5 days till next Wednesday, and then go to Paris by train. At least that's the schedule at this moment.
Now I go back to my hostel, and take a rest. I'll have lots of fun from tomorrow!!
Day 23 (June 15, 2006) Gorinchem to Rotterdam
So, this is the final day in my second bike route, from Mainz to Rotterdam along the Rhein. I was a bit excited at this fact and remembered the first long day from Dresden to Leipzig.
The breakfast was served at the living room from which a small but very neat garden was seen. It was a very clean and well-decorated house. The owner showed me his garden of full of flowers. I wondered my dad would love to see it.
I left this small town called Arkel a bit earlier to get to Rotterdam not too late. While I was waiting for a ferry back to the other side of the river, I called a youth hostel in Rotterdam for reservation. All set. Now nothing to worry about.
It was a bad weather. Drizzling all the time and no sunshine. Few bikers were out on the road.
Somehow I lost my track although I was following the bike route sign posts along the way. The description of signs has changed in Netherlands, and it was no longer the Rhein route, but some other local bike routes with numbers which I didn't know. In addition, rivers are winding a lotn in this area, and the roads made a web like form. When the sun is up, I can tell a general direction, but when it's cloudy like this, no help except a map and traffic signs. I took a picture of maps whenever I found one, and in this way, I could find route numbers in this image whenever I was not sure about the route.
Finally I got to a ferry stop which was in my map. Cool, back on the track. Dordrecht, the mid-point of today's route is just 10km away.
Dordrecht has a wide residential area, and its housing structure looks very unique to me. First of all, water. Many of them surround a water area within its estate. Each room has its small pier. Second, windows are very big, and you can see all the rooms from a street. Then, lastly, canals run higher than the residential area. I have never been to such a place where people literally live under the water level. I was curious about their water management technique.
The local map told me that the symbol of Netherlands was coming soon: windmills. It's located between Dordrecht and Rotterdam. I also saw the first traffic sign of Rotterdam. Almost there.
I got to the windmill area listed in UNESCO world heritage: Kinderkijk, or something. I went to
the one open to public. You can see the active windmill from its inside, and learn all the structure of the gears which generate windpower to scoop water out of the paddler to canal located behind the mill. That's how they developed this low mashland to what I see now.
My friend just called me when I was about to leave the windmill. He used to work with me in US, and moved to Europe to find a job and experience something different. He is my precedent in a way. It was good news because he found a job in a very good company. He made it, and I was totally happy about it. I hope I will see him soon.
Now Rotterdam is just within an easy reach. After the windill area came the suburb of Rotterdam. Most of it was nothing to mention here, but there was a picturesque residential area as well. Water runs very calmly at almost the same level as their very pretty garden. In canals there are many ducks, geese, and water plants floating on the water. The parking spaces and cars stand way below the water level of canals. I enjoyed and amazed at each house in the town.
Rotterdam!!! I didn't get that excited at this final, but I was very happy. It took some time to get to the hostel, but I got there anyway. I checked in the hostel, parked my bike in their backyard securely with 2 locks. There were 3 mexiican boy and girls. who just arrived from Bruge, Belguim. We introduced each other, and found out that all of us are in the middle of long trip in Europe. Very friendly nice people.
After taking a shower, I took a walk around the town. I got 2 cans of beer to celebrate this finale of my second trip, and found a nice seat along the river with a very good view of a tall white bridge. It was a beautiful sky and clouds were slowly floating. I felt so refleshed.
In the evening I went out to a club with the mexican roommates, and had a lot of fun. I only had to take a train to Amsterdam tomorrow. We came back at around 3am.
Day 22 (June 14, 2006) Tiel to Gorinchem
I couldn't get up early. I realized how hard the yesterday's ride under the strong sunshine was. After 3rd beer (300ml), I couldn't even brush my teeth and collapsed into my bed.
It was getting colder during the night, and I didn't feel that strong sunshine outside. It looked like there was a shower in the night. I found my sox, which I dropped last night, lying on the ground soaked.
I had a small but nice breakfast at a table outside. I ate all Gouda cheese last night with beer, so only sweet stuff. I made a fresh coffee as well. I finally decided that I wouldn't go farther than Gorinchem, 44km away, because the next large town is another 30km away and it would be too late to get there by 5pm when a Tourist Information closes. Also I was tired from the yesterday's ride.
I changed the balance of my luggage by making sidebags heavier. I bought a bike-stand in Kleve, and it doesn't hold standing if the bag on the top is too heavy. Another good point is that this downward weight shift reduces swings when I make a turn.
It is a bit chilly. What a change from yesterday! It was burning hot... I head for the ferry station to get back to the other side of the Waal, or the Rhein. It's true that Netherlands is good for cycling, at least along the river. Flat bike roads go on the small mounted hill (I forgot it in English) that divides the riverside and the farming area. On the riverside stretch marsh lands partly used for sheep and cows while on the other side well-organized vegetable fields.
I soon arrived at a city called Zaltbommel. It wasn't a big city, but there were nice restaurants, pubs, and bakeries. I was starving so much that only eating places caught my eyes:-)) I got a lunch at a bakery. Croquet roll, some meat paste pie, and apple cake. They warmed them up for me. It was really delicious, one of the best. Maybe because I was starving...
I kept going on the riverside, and it started raining. Suddenly the bike route turned to a sheep-shit road... I was skillfully passing all the shit, but soon I gave up, and went straight on. It's almost dry, and they eat only grasses. Why should I care?;-)
Crossing the river by ferry, I got to Gorichem at 3pm. Not bad. I went to the tourist information in the center. In Netherlands the sign of Tourist Information is different from others: "v v v" in a blue triangle. That's why I didn't find it on the city map in Tiel... A lady in the tourist information found a room in a small town Arkel, 4km from the center for 25 euro with breakfast. Sweet.
It was raining hard, so I took my raingear. I had a glass of Amstel beer, bought a dinner at supermarket, and stopped by at a bike shop to take a look at another lock.
A very kind guy in the bike shop scared me a lot. Well, he just confirmed what I heard about Amsterdam from other people. He told me his friend now has 4th bike, and he's been there for a month. He was riding a shitty bike, but it didn't matter. They come by truck, and scrape all the bikes. Whatever tough locks will be managed later. And if they want, they can cut any chain or lock, so you must not keep your eyes off your bike... When he was walking on the street, guys were coming and asking "You want a bike? 5 euro.” He took a look at my bike, and told me with smile "that'd be a very wanted bike... it wouldn't survive. They would ask for 25 euro." He recommended me to use a gated parking under the main station. It's the safest place next to your own room. I bought an ugly thick chain lock. He said "even this chain won't protect your bike. Just put it in the gated parking." OK OK. Oh, my poor bike, now in a great danger of kidnapping...
I somehow got to the house I would stay tonight. It was a very clean house next to a farming field. I hear cows. I ate in the room and took a long nap. Then, I watched the game Germany vs. Poland. I didn't buy beer... I regretted.
Day 21 (June 13, 2006) Kleve to Tiel
It was very hot in the night. I left the window open, and took off my shirts, off the blanket.I could see another bright sunshine out of the window. I stayed in a bed for a while, trying to get a bit more sleep. It was already close to 9am.
I went to a bike shop nearby to have my bike checked because it had been making strange ticking sound everytime I turn the pedals. I thought something was off and touching a metal part, but I didn't find any. A young guy in the shop told me in German that it was something to do with a motor. It sounds like the inner system between pedals has some problem. I made sure that it would not be anything very serious to get to Rotterdam, which is my end point of the Rhein series. It sound OK. I bought a bike stand for 20 euro. I felt its need lately when I wanted to park my bike for a minute. I got air to tires, and all set.
The first destination is the border of Holland. I was curious how it looked like.
It took less than an hour to get to the border. No sign about Aufwiedersehen kind of things in German side, and the signboard of the town changed a bit to Dutch one. I looked back, and found a sign of EU that says Deutcheland. OK, enough for a proof. I took a picture and said goodbye to Deutscheland. Now invade Holland.
The first change I saw was the sign of a beer brand in a pub, to Heineken...
Then I found another change, a thatcher roof. It somewhat reminded me of countryside in Japan or Cotswald in England.
I decided to go to Tiel, 65km away from Kleve because a closer large town Nijmegen is just 30km away, and it wasn't enough long to make a beer tastier under this good weather.
I passed Nijmegen quickly. Quite a big city on the hill. It was getting really hot and I couldn't wait for a beer. I stopped at a Turkish Kebab restaurant to get a beer. First beer in Holland. Of course, Heineken with World cup version. A short break at the park.
Third finding, a house on a boat. I once saw a TV program about this. I kept going on a mounted area along the river bank. Wow, it's hell hot today. It must be like 30-35 C... Sooner or later I drank up the already boiled water in the water bottles, and needed to drink much more. I stopped at a supermarket in a village and drank up about 1.5 l of sports drink and fruits mix juice. Now feel good again.
I got to Tiel by crossing the river by ferry at 5pm, and found no Tourist Information on the city map... I went to the center anyway, hoping to find one. I luckily found one coincidentally far from the center. It was about to close. A lady managed my room for 35 euro somewhere far from the town, and said that I had to wait till 9pm to check in...
I went to an internet cafe listed on a city map, and spent 3 hours there to catch up with everything. Email, this blog, MSN, and some research.
There was a little problem of finding my place, but a lady cycling by helped me call this owner. We talked for a while about Yosemite since she has been there a while ago.
I finally checked in at 10pm, and bought 2 bottles of beer from him. It was a small cottage by a canal. Quite pretty location. I made a toast, and eased my hunger with Gouda cheese for tomorrow's breakrfast.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Day 20 (June 12, 2006, Mon): Xanten to Kleve
Today, only 38km to Kleve, the last town in Germany. I decided to stay here mainly to watch Japan vs Australia in this host country.
My parents called to my cellphone using Skype Out in the morning. They wanted to have some advice for my cousin's trip around Europe this summer. After that I took a walk along the lake for a while.
Back in the lobby, my washed clothes were ready in a cart. All dry. Super. Smells good finally...
Then, I had a breakfast, made sandwich for lunch, and checked out.
Another hot day. I went really slow not to arrive the town too early. I had a time to stop by
at a town on the way. I bought a Top-up card for my prepaid phone. I will not use this phone once I go out of Germany except short messages and emergency. I have to pay for receiving a call as well (roaming fee). So far it looks like my phone in Germany cost 0.5 Euro per minute, which is already outrageous. It's not 0.5 dollar or 50 yen. Euro is very strong now...
Finally Kleve! This is the final city I will stay in Germany, and goodbye Germany tomorrow.
As always I went to a Tourist Information, and found a room for 25 Euro with breakfast. Good enough. I had to wait until 4pm, 3 hours from then, so a girl in the office suggested that I leave my luggage there. Very kind. Not only kind, very very pretty...:-)))
Stuffed my stomach, now I have to find a pub or bar with a good screen. Walking for 30 min, I finally found an American bar. Then, I watched the game over 2 bottles of beer. No comment about it. Too hot for them to keep moving fast. And Australians were playing rugby occasionally. Good at using hands effectively. Anyway, sad ending. Staff were sorry for me. Danke.
Then checked in, took a shower, and nap for an hour till 8pm. I still didn't feel well after the loss although I'm not crazy about it. It's a good time to leave Germany, so I told myself...:-((
I wanted to have a good last dinner, so I went to a restaurant recommended at the Tourist Information. Nice one with large balcony facing a small nature-looking canal. I had white wine and schnitzel with mushroom sauce. One of typical german dishes. Lecker (delicious). I finished 3 postcards for my family, and took off.
Now, good night, and goodbye Germany
Day 19 (June 11, 2006, Sun): Duisburg to Xanten
Last night 2 Japanese joined in my room. Both are going to Kaiserslauteln to watch Japan vs Australia. Then fly back the following day for work. We are only 3 Japanese in this entire Youth Hostel. We got beer and snacks to watch Argentine vs Ivory Coast.
Further later in the night, all of sudden a Turkish guy opened a door. He spoke no language we understand. Just Turkish greeting I know. It was really wierd because the reception was closed at 10pm, and he came at 11pm. We stopped talking and went to bed.
In the morning, the guy woke another Japanese, and said "What time?" with quite a serious face. He left the hostel at 6am...
Saying goodbye to my roommates, I took off for another easy ride to Xanten. I was wondering whether I should stay 2 days there, and do all the laundry and Internet, if any. There is only one more city before Netherland, and if that city sucks, I can't do all these work.
Once I passed the industrial part of Duisburg, a scenery turned to very country-side one. Last couple of days, my lunch has always been sandwich from free breakfast. The hot burning sunshine forced me to choose 2 more beer after cycling than lunch in a restaurant. Under this weather, I drink 1.5l of water during cycling and at least 1.5l of beer after the "work".
I arrived at Xanten, an old quite city, and I quickly realized that there was nothing in this town for internet or laundry machine. Bingo. I asked about it at the Tourist Information, and nothing in this town. OK. Then came to my mind "Youth Hostel might have them." Good guess, they did.
The hostel stands right next to a lake. Very new hostel, just 2 years old. I was one of 5 guest that day. At reception I found a sad fact that I left my Youth Hostel Membership Card in Duisburg. It wasn't a problem, but will be. I asked them to send it to my friend, with whom I will see soon.
In the evening, I took a bike to Xanten to watch World Cup. It was such a pretty evening (sun was still up, though), and when I was riding on the road in the middle of a wheat field, I felt a kind of happiness being here with my bike feeling a cool but mild air...
I watched the game at a Kebab shop. Other restautants were closed.
I spent a night along in 4 bedroom with very new bathroom for 21 Euro. Good deal.