Day 54 – 4th November 2013
Innsbruck – Köln
It has been more than 2 months away from home and more than 50 days spend on the bike. 4300km. And lots of hours on the bike.
But like everything even this awesome journey has to come to an end.
I learned a lot on my adventure, met awesome people, and discovered magical landscapes. Every picture that I took tells a story and I would be happy to share them with you in person. (Stay tuned for that, there will be a picture-showing-event.)
Now I will be back to the normal life and I know this journey has changed me in a good way. Not only physically but also mentally. I hope all of you enjoyed the blog and that I encouraged you to use the bike more often, (As you can see you can get very far with those 2 wheels) or helped to improve your English skills.(I know it helped me)
I will also try to make a small movie out of all the videos that I took. I think it is about 30 GB of video footage.
But I especially would like to thank all of you for staying with me during the whole trip and all the personal messages and comments that lifted my spirits when I was feeling low or just made me happier when I was already happy.
Even though this is the end, who can ever say if it was the last trip like this. I might do this kind of thing again. Maybe somewhere else. Then I will most definitely also have a blog where you will be able to follow me and share the experience.
Now I will for once enjoy the luxury of sleeping in my own bed and having a parent that will cook for you.
Until next time. Roll on!
“The world is full of wonders, but you will have to get out there because they will not come to you.“
Revan Sarikaya 04.11.2013
Day 53 – 3rd November 2013
Trient – Brenner – Innsbruck
I spend the last few days with Mark and Michele. Going from one place to the other. Sleeping one night at Michele‘s place and the next at Mark‘s. I was downed in hospitality.
All the talk about Italian food and how it is so good was still bugging me, because I had not yet eaten the delicious food that I was promised. But now I have figured it out. I believe that you will not find the wonderful Italian food in restaurants, but rather in the homes where you will get a good home cooked meal from a real Italian mother(or father).
I had no money during my whole stay here, since I had left my EC card at a supermarket in Caldonazzo. Thanks to my friends I did survive as they took care of me.
I proved the fact that you could still have fun without money. We played soccer, went to a bar in Trient where I spent my last 2 Euros for a beer and I helped Mark to paint his garage. But we had a lot of fun.
About my credit card: I knew where I had left it. It was a Coop supermarket in Caldonazzo. So we looked the phone number up on the Internet. The Friday was a holiday and we had to wait till Saturday to call. When we did call they told us that they had the card and we could just come and get it. We were very busy that Saturday and after soccer and painting the garage it was already 6.30pm and we were told that the store closes at 7pm. It would take us about 30 minutes to get there. We were in a hurry. And after racing through the Italian cities with Mark‘s astonishing driving skills, we reached the supermarket at 7.08pm. But the luck was with us. The store did not actually close at 7pm but at 7.15pm. I got in and got my card back. The happiest biker in the world.
This morning I decided to take the train back home. I know it is sad but I reached a point on my journey where every KM is just bringing me closer to home and I am just tired of being a homeless rider.
As it turns out the man at the counter cannot give me a ticket. He said the problem was my bike and I should try it at the DB counter. When we reached the described counter it was closed. It seems like it is impossible to get out of Italy.
I even called my parents and asked them to go to the central station in Cologne and book me a ticket but even that plan failed. How hard can it be to get home?
I guess it is how I said it a few weeks ago on my blog: “The end is always the hardest.“
I will test my luck to the maximum. Now my plan is to take the train to the Austria-Italy border and see if I can get a ticket here. I mean there is no pressure. No time schedule. And no place to be at a certain time.
I arrived at Brennero at 6.50pm and it seems like there is no TIcket office whatsoever here. But another traveller struggling to get out of Italy. His goal is Innsbruck. Which is on my way. The ticket machine would not accept Innsbruck as a destination. By chance we found a man who was willing to explain to us that there is a train that goes to Innsbruck where you can get the ticket for the ride inside the train. So we jumped in and after a few minutes the train was full of people.
No one came to check our tickets and so we reached Innsbruck. He had to take the bus to some other place and I had to find the ticket office.
I found it instantly and got myself a ticket to Cologne! The train will leave tomorrow at 8.58am and will arrive in Cologne Central at 18.42pm. I do not know why it was so hard to get that ticket when I was in Italy.
Now I had another problem. Where do I sleep? I made my way through the city to look for a place to sleep. On my way I found the guy from the train again. He could not find the bus station. So I guided him to the station and waited until he got onto the bus.
I called my parents. And they looked up places to sleep and guided me to a cheep place.
Tomorrow I will be home.
Km today: 17.34km time on bike:1h 22min km total:4294km
Day 52 – 31st October 2013
Bassano del Grappa – Caldonazzo – Trento – Lavis
The day stated well with a nice breakfast that actually filled my belly. The only confusing part were the people around me: Straight in front of me was a German couple, Behind me an English or American and on my right 2 Turkish guys. All the languages I speak were united in one room and I did not know what to listen to.
Satisfied with the breakfast I started to head into the mountains. Those things looked impressive. It was a totally different atmosphere being surrounded by 2 “walls“ that reach into the sky and disappear between the clouds. I started out on the country road. But soon it turned into some kind of highway but still remained a country road. Soon the trucks began to honk at me while I was riding at the far right end of the road. A few minutes later I saw it. A bike way along the river. But i was still on the car road and there was no way off. I was forced to ride along a bit longer until I found a place to rest for a bit. While resting I checked if there was a bikeway that went parallel to the car road.And there was. It was a well build bike route that would lead me almost to Trento.
The ride was hard. I always had the feeling that I was slowed down by something. I realized that it must be the slight and continuous slope that was dragging me down. But even though the ride was hard the view and the landscape was astonishing. The river had water as clear as Ice and the mountains were glowing in the sunlight.
After a few hours of riding I got hungry again. As if I had planned it I passed an apple plantation and got myself an apple. Turns out it was the best apple I had ever had. I kept 5 pips and I am planning on getting my own apple tree. (I hope it works. Any tips?)
I still was hungry after the apple and so I went to a supermarket in Caldonazzo. I was missing 6 Cents so I sadly had to pay with my card.
With a full belly I went on my way again. But from now on the bike route stopped and I had to find my own way. Turns out I got lost a few minutes later. And after that the road would lead into a tunnel where I could not go in with my bike.
I had to take the long detour up and over the mountain. A painful ride. But once I reached the top, the view was amazing and from now on it was only downhill. I reached a velocity of 60 km/h and Trento in a few minutes. Michele was waiting for me at the central station with his bike and we rode the last few km to his house together.
I was welcomed very warmly and felt comfortable at once.mAfter a shower we went on our way to get some money from the bank and to get some Pizza. But when I was standing in front of the ATM I could not find my card. I looked everywhere but could not find it. I must have left it at the supermarket. I will keep you updated about that matter but for now I will relax a bit.
Km today: 116.22km time traveled: 6h 7min km Total: 4277km
Day 51 – 30th October 2013
Venezia – Castel Franco – Bassano del Grappa
Yesterday I stayed up long to finish that almost 3 page long blog entry. The result was that I was still tired in the morning. I got kicked out of the hotel at 10 am and tried to find my way off the island.
I decided to go the way I came since i did not see a place to ride on the other side of the street. This worked out nicely on the bridge, but once I was on land I had a problem. The way lead me onto the motorway and the cars were all going into the opposite direction. I had two choices. I could either ride all the way back to Venice and ride back on the other side of the road. Or push my bike over the little bit of green bush and wildly grown grass behind the guarding board of the road.
I chose option number 2. It was very tiering. Tons of spiderwebs caught my fingers, face and my bike. And I even had to carry my bike a few times to avoid deep ditches or water.
It was hard and annoying work and when I finally reached the end of the motorway and had a chance to get on normal streets again, my mood was at rock bottom.
I don‘t want to go. Don‘t want to ride. Don‘t want to get anywhere.
I sat down. And everything was stupid.
I do not know how long I just sat there. Doing nothing. Just sitting. Then I remembered that I put some presentations about happiness on my iPod that I could listen to. Suddenly everything was going well again. I got on my bike again and listened to some Professor holding a speech about what happiness is and how to archive, maintain, and just becoming happier in general.
To any of you who travel a lot, or do things where the mind can wander off and listen to someone talk, like driving a car or cooking I highly recommend to download some speeches/presentations about things you find interesting. I learned a lot today just being on my bike and listening.
You can get these speeches and talks on iTunes University or as Podcasts. If you also think about what happiness is and so on I think you should check out the “What Is Happiness?“ course from iTunes U. (these are videos but they also work as audio)
While I was riding on my bike on the surprisingly well build bikeways I saw an old woman struggling to get up and a similar woman trying to help her up. I immediately stopped and helped her up. She must have crashed with her bike somehow. I double checked 5 times if everything was OK. But she seemed fine and they both left with a kind “Gracie!“
The rest of my journey was just riding my bike to reach Bossano del Grappa. The last city before the Alps. And from here the mountains look very dangerous and like a lot of work tomorrow. I know tomorrow is going to be a hard day. I will try to get a good night sleep and remain happy.
Km today: 84 km time travelled: 5h km total: 4160km
Day 50 – 29th October 2013
Ferrara – Rovigio – Padova – Venezia
I had an idea yesterday. I thought it would be a good idea to learn some Italian. Since the people here do not care about learning English.
But how can I do it. I am on my bike all day. Luckily there is a thing called the iPod where I uploaded some Italian lessons which I can listen to on the bike while riding.
Only downside is that I probably look very stupid repeating all the words the voice on the headphones is telling me to say.
“Capisco = I understand.“ says the voice in my head.
“Capisco“ says the kid on the bike.
“Come si dice….? = How do you say ….?“ says the voice in my head.
„Come si dice…?“ I repeat and an Italian woman at the side of the road looks at me in a confused way.
“Just keep going“ I tell myself.
I have to say it works a bit. I think I now know a few more words than before.
At the supermarket I tried using some of the phrases I learned. They worked and I was happy.
But the happiness did not last.
Right after Rovigio it started raining and the lessons where repeating themselves for the 6th time. No more joy in riding the bike. No more funny Italian words to repeat.
Only cold wind.
I did not let that stop me. “The show must go on.“ I said to myself and put on my rain clothes.
Then suddenly the rain stopped. The sky cleared up and I got closer to my goal for the day: Venezia.
The music that I was listening to while riding was playing a happy tune and I sang along. And there were the confused looks again.
But who cares as long as I am having fun.
Padova got me confused. The road lead me onto the highway. But me and my bike are not allowed on that street and I spent about half an hour just to find the way around the highway.
Somehow this day looked like a day of ways that are dead ends or streets that are not accessible with the bike.
Finally I got to the sea. And as some of you might already know: Venice is an island that is connected t the mainland over a single street.
I found that street after asking several people for directions and when I got on the road it was horrible.
Somehow I missed the opening for the sidewalk and was stuck on the street. With huge busses and cars passing me with no space at all between the bike and the cars.
There was a guide board on the side of the road so I could not just switch to the side walk. So I rode down this dangerous road and was waiting for a gap. But there was non.
So I stopped on the road when no car was coming for a while. And lifted my heavy bike over the board that was as high as my hip. But I could not get it all the way over and the bike bag on the side caught on the board and fell off.
I was lucky. Nothing broke. It just fell off. Puhhh.
I had a second to breath. Only now I realized the beautiful view I had from the middle of the sea. Venice on the one side and the main land on the other.
I had made it. I reached Venice. I was there. But now what?
Venice is a city that had no roads but canals instead. What do I do with my bike and more importantly where do I sleep?
The train station is the first place you see when you enter the city. I do not know why but I had always imagined Venice to be little and a place of quietness. I was wrong. Of course, this place was full of Tourists. In front of the train station was a little information booth that sold Tickets for the boats and booked Hotels for you. So I went in there and asked nicely if they could book a hostel for me.
I guess helping tourists every day must be a hard job, because I just got an harsh answer that they do not book anything under 100 Euro.
Wow! I am not paying that.
So I tried my luck over the Internet. But all the numbers I called were either wrong or no one did answer the phone. While struggling I could not overhear the conversation 4 guys right next to me where having. I guess they must have been looking for a place to sleep and where looking for a WiFi spot. So I just offered them my Laptop to use so they could look their stuff up. While I was talking to the guys from LA that were living in France, an older man came to us and asked if we were looking for a Hostel.
I could not believe my luck. But the 4 guys wanted a Hotel and not a Hostel. I told the old man that I would like a bed in a Hostel but he just said that he could not put 1 person in a room for 5. An there goes my luck again. I turned to the 4 guys again and the old man disappeared without a trace into the masses of people in front of the train station.
I did not know that he would be my hero later.
The 4 guys did their research and recommended a hostel to me and left. I tried to call but this number was also wrong/no one answered.
How I hate looking for a place to sleep. Something so basic is so hard to find.
I went into the train station to try my luck there. Here I found another tourist information. But the man at the desk was already helping someone else and made me wait outside.
Here I met the old man again. I had to play this smart.
“The room will be empty anyway. So why not give my one bed and you would make some money when otherwise you would make none at all?“
But he just repeated himself and said that he could not place one person in a room for 5.
“And if I pay a bit more?“
It was hopeless. And I grew tired of these games.
“What about a single room?“ I hit the jackpot.
“Yes! I have one. For 50 Euros. And a place to put your bike.“
„Done.“ I mean it is Venice. I guess nothing is cheap here.
He walked all the way with me and we talked a bit on the way. By now it felt like, he was my grandpa. Actually it turned out that he lived in Düsseldorf for a while. Which is right next to Cologne.
Finally I had my room. It is plain and simple, but enough for 1 night.
I took a good shower and then went on my way to explore the city.
I must say I have always imagined Venice more beautiful. I mean I get the thing with the canals instead of roads. That is kind of cool. But somehow I could not really fall in love with this city.
By the time I was on the other side of the island i got very hungry and went into a restaurant, ordered some Tagiatelle and looked at the pictures I took.
Suddenly the couple at the table next to mine turned to me and asked from which part of America I was from. (I did not know my English was that good). And soon we got into a conversation and I talked about my adventure on the bike.
They were from California and on the journey though Italy. Very sweet people that really cared about me and my health. It is always wonderful to meet such loving people. After finishing my meal I went on my way again, but not without giving my blog address to them.
Now it was time to find the way back to the hotel. But Venice has a lot of small alleys and dead ends. If you want to get somewhere in this city you have to forget everything about common streets. The smallest alley in which you can only move sideways can lead to a huge Piazza. You have to change directions several times and as it happens I got into many dead ends until I finally reached the Hotel all tired and exhausted. But happy.
Only thing left was to write the Blog entry. I would have never thought that it would take me this long to write this but I have been sitting in front of the computer for about 2 hours. Of course with some distractions but still.
The stats of the Day now in Italian:
Km oggi: 130.82km durata del viaggio: 6h 13min km in totale: 4076km
Day 49 – 28th October 2013
Bologna – Ferrara
I left the beautiful city of Bologna at about 12 pm, but not without walking with Michael to his university and saying goodbye to him.
So I made my way up north. Soon I realized that the pullover that I was wearing was not necessary at all. The sun was shining and the sky was, apart from a few little white clouds, blue.
The 50 km to Ferrara were easy to handle. Why Ferrara you might ask? The reason was my roommate in Piacenza who told me that the city was wonderful.
He was right. This city is as astonishing as it is beautiful. The old wall of the city is almost as it was when it was build.
There are roads that are wide and bright with many impressive buildings. But if you turn into one of the smaller alleys you find yourself in another world. Or I should say in another time. I felt like I was thrown back into the medieval age but in a wonderful way.
I should just let the pictures speak.
Km today: 67.63km time traveled: 4h 2min km total: 3945km
But who cares about stats if you can look at pictures.
Day 48 – 27th October 2013
Reggio Emilia – Modena – Bologna
The breakfast was as poor as the last one. I guess the italian hostels don‘t care about a good breakfast.
The conclusion of this lame morning was a hungry ride. Since it was Sunday there were not even stores open where I could buy something to eat.
I decided to get to Bologna as fast as I can to be find something to eat in the big city.
On my way I passed Modena. Because of my belly I could not even look at the city but rode through.
In my condition Italy can be hell. Every 20 Meters there is a Pizzeria, Trattoria or a poster of food. But since every place was closed it only made my condition worse.
Finally I reached Bologna and met my friend Michael. And he showed me the city.
No other city in Italy was this alive. There was a musician or some other street performer on every corner. And the streets that are all covered with arches were shining in a orange tone. The atmosphere was just very beautiful.
While walking though the city with its little alleys and its tilted buildings I got a few life lessons from Michael.
- If a girl says YOLO to you, you gotta be there in 5 min.
- Never invest in a girl that has no interest in you
It feels so good to catch up again and talk about old times. Especially if the person you talk with shares so many interests with you.
Here are the hungry stats for today:
Km today: 73.72km time travelled: 3h 57 min km Total: 3878km
Day 47 – 26th October 2013
Piacenza – Parma – Reggio Emilia
I think I was spoiled in Germany with all the youth hostels over there. The one I woke up in this morning was bad.
My bed was missing a few duckboards, the shower would not get warm and the breakfast was poor.
I got out of that place as fast as I could and got on my bike again.
The way was easy. I just had to follow one road that would lead me all the way to Parma and then to Reggio Emilia.
On my journey I had just one critical moment where I was just about to get on a highway. In the last second another biker from a side road yelled something in Italian and I realized that bikes were not allowed on this street.
A few minutes later I reached Parma which reminded me a bit of Fierenze. I was happy to see a bigger city because on the way from Milano there was only Industry and dirt.
I also have to take back my comment from yesterday. There are actually some bike routes but only after Parma on my way to Reggio Emilia. As you can figure the ride was a lot easier now.
When I arrived I first looked for the Hostel and found it immediately. It looks like an old Roman Villa. And there are paintings on the walls and in the middle is a big yard that is surrounded by the building.
After I got my stuff in the room and took a HOT shower I decided to look at the city. It turns out to be very beautiful with lots of small alleys but also large open spaces.
I had myself some Italian Gelato and took a few pictures.
When I was done I went back to the hostel and here I found a piano. I asked the guy if I could play a bit. He said yes and I sat down in this roman yard and gave the whole place a classical touch.
We will se how good the breakfast is tomorrow.
Km today: 96.24 km time traveled:4h 31min km total: 3804km
Day 46 – 25 October 2013
Milano – Castel San Giovanni – Piacenza
I spend the last few days at Mark‘s awesome flat. He showed me Milano and I went to his University to learn some stuff about rocks. Everything in Italian. Even though I did not understand much I learned a lot. Not about rock but about the language and now I can add a few new words to my vocabulary.
During my stay it was raining without a pause. I started to wonder if it was ever going to stop. And since I could not ride with these weather conditions, I decided to give my bike to another Bike-Shop. The reason for this was that my carrier had a broken piece. I guess the weight of the bike bags was too much for that thing. The guy from the bike store was a nice guy and even cleaned the bike a bit.
I really enjoyed my stay at Mark‘s place. So much that I even though about living with him and try to work at the bike store for a few months. But that was just a thought.
Mark had to leave yesterday to go home and left me alone in his flat. This time I was the one waving goodbye to a friend. But I also left the next morning.
Mark lives in the north of Milano so I had to cross the whole city to get to the south side and escape the traffic lights and the city. It took me an hour just to get from one end of Milan to the other and I have to say this city is not really made for bikers.
After this hour of stop and go and trying not to get hit by a car I was finally out of the city.
I should say something about the Italian bicycle network. Well… There is none. Only streets for cars and no sign of a bikeway anywhere.
As it happens I got out of the city on the wrong street and ended up at the south part in a town called Rozzano. Now I had to figure out a way to get East again. But the way lead me to a place where it looked like I was trapped between the way I came from and the highway which I could not use because I am not in a car.
So I stopped and asked. The man looked surprised when I said that I was going to Piacenza. But then he said I should follow him in his car.
He had a little Smart and I tried to follow him with my bike. I was chasing this car in the Italian traffic and he was showing me the way by putting his arm out of the window and giving me signs. Somehow he lead me behind the highway and parked at the side. I have to say that this was the coolest way of giving directions that I have ever experienced.
He got out of the car to show me the way from here on and then asked some questions about my trip. We had a little talk and he took some pictures. He took off after that and said he had to go to work, but a few seconds later he pulled up at the same spot and asked if I had Facebook. I gave him my blog address instead. ( Hey man. I hope you read this. YOU ARE AWESOME! If you still have those pics and want me to upload them on the blog you can send them to my Email address: email@example.com).
We said goodbye and I was on my way again. Only stopping to pick up some apples.
And after a while I was lost again. I think I turned right too early. So I asked a woman if she knew the way. But she did not speak English or German or Turkish. Only Italian. And I tried to explain her where I wanted to go. What I understood from her facial language and the few words of Italian that I know was that there was no way to get where I wanted to with the bike. Because the streets were “autostrada. no strada!“. I was not satisfied with this answer and tried to ask for direction in the next store.
So back on the road again. Following my compass down south. Turns out to be a dead end. Ask someone else.
“Do you speak English?“
“Yes a bit.“
But she had no idea about the way.
So I turned back the way I came from. Stopping to ask for directions.
The answer were a lot of Italian words I did not understand. But I got that I had to continue going the way I came from.
Finally I found the road. It was the country road SS412. Lots of cars were passing me and there was not a lot of room between the bike and the cars.
Somehow I was really fast when I was on the road. I do not know weather it was the 2 days break, or the fixed bike, or the adrenaline that was running through my blood because of all the cars, or all of those things together, but I was going really, really fast. I think it will hurt tomorrow.
Finally I reached Piacenza at about 4pm. I found the Hostel here and got myself a Pizza with Würstel and then went to the Supermarket to my some snacks for tomorrow.
Coming back to the hostel I discovered that I had a roommate. But he does not speak English as well. Only a little. Like my Italian. And we try to communicate. With legs and hands and Google translate. But he is a nice guy and I see this as a chance to improve my Italian.
I know this has been a long entry but I know you like it.
Now you can see how fast I really went:
Km Today: 100.62km Time traveled: 4h 29min km Total: 3708km