Published: September 4th 2008August 18th 2008
Never walk into a supermarket wearing a Lycra cycling suit. Or, at least, never walk into a supermarket wearing a Lycra cycling suit with no pants underneath. Or, at least, never walk into a supermarket wearing a Lycra cycling suit with no pants underneath and stare for too long at a young German mother's decolleté while she's bent over telling her daughter off.
I mean, Lycra is a fine material for cycling in maximum comfort and aerodynamics, but is definetely not the best one when it comes to hide an e... well, an emotion
. And so I found myself in a deeply embarrassing situation. The only solution, to hold the basket in front of me rather than at my side, as if I was holding it with a plastered arm tied to my neck, and spend a few minutes reading the labels of cleaning products.
So, having discovered that Henkel
soap contains up to 30% of environment harmful products less and that in case of accidental ingestion of Supernatrium
bleach you must urgently call the customer care number, I was ready -all the muscles relaxed- to check out and resume my journey. I must thank the folks down at Supernatrium
, because the scene of a poor devil who drank by mistake the afore mentioned bleach and, while being transported to the hospital, remembers that hadn't called the customer care number, tells the Ambulance driver to stop and get off searching for a phone booth to talk to the Supernatrium
guys and tell them that their bleach tasted too dry for his palate, had really solved my problem with my brain switching from sex
But back to cycling. I'm pedaling in regions that are real paradise for cyclists. The scenario took a 360 degree turn as soon as I left the French-speaking part of Belgium. Incredible: without even leaving the country, simply crossing a region border, and I've passed from sharing my path with cars and lorries to have a whole, perfectly tarred track for me, and with right of precedence at crossroads! And I am not exaggerating: the track begins -as if born out of nothing- in the very same spot where appears the "Welcome to Limburg" post. Welcome indeed!
After the Flanders, I thought things could not improve further, but I had to change my opinion once I entered the Netherlands, where the
situation went from excellent to divine. I Might be sayin something obvious, but the Netherlands are the true land of bicycles, Mao's China doesn't even get close to it! Here everybody rides bicycles, everywhere, and cycling tracks are equipped with their own traffic signs with clear indications of direction and distances between cities. As if in New York, at the beginning of a hypothetical bike path, there were boards reciting Chicago, x miles; Boston, y miles
But there is always a backside. Both in Holland and Germany (another country endowed with excellent cycle paths) invading those areas reserved to motor vehicles is definetely not an option. Obviously, motorists are a here a minority, they feel overwhelmed by the demon of ecology on two wheels and do not miss any opportunity to abuse the absent-minded cyclist who has taken the incorrect lane. And indeed, this anticyclism
seems to be common to motorists and pedestrians. At Leer, a German town close to the Dutch border, I was forced to dismount from my bike in a fussgangezone
(pedestrian zone) despite no one was walking on it. A local lady, in the pathetic attempt to justify such teuthonic intransigence, told me that
there was the risk to run over playing children. I answered that there was no danger because if I an infant had crossed my path I would have simply spread my wings and flown over him. She replied -with a compassionate smile- that she did not see any wings. I answered -with an ironic smile- that I couldn't see any playing children either, and that therefore that conversation was pure metaphysics. She then dropped her smile and finished off with ist verboten
(is forbidden). Apparently, cycling in a fussgangezone
in Germany is as sacrilegious as kickin a cow´s ass in India!
A few days before, in Utrecht, I had experienced my first time
in an girls night
. I was staying at my friend Lieke, who announced to me that Friday evening would have been girls night
at her place. Something forbidden to men where I was nevertheless invited to (for obvious logistical reasons) and that, in addition to her, five other Dutch girls would have attend it. This might sound as the first line in the screenplay of a cheap porno movie that would then continue on with these six attractive blonde babes barricade in a house, the totally
accidental arrival of a man and some absurd excuse to get naked (as in: "My grandfather'testament stated that I would be excluded from his inheritance if a foreigner doesn't massage my shoulders with this special coconut oil before... oh my God, before tomorrow..."). And I don't even want to deny having had similar thoughts (I wasn't wearing my Lycra suit, anyway), but in reality things went in a slightly different way, with the six of them and I eating, drinking wine and chatting in English on more or less amene themes at first, then -with the inexorable toxic alcohol progression- with six women telling in Dutch hot stories of men and me sitting on the sofa sipping red wine and hoping that no one would translate to my benefit. I admit I got as bored as if I had been forced to watch the whole Sex and the city
serie dubbed in Dutch, but I suspect that it would have been far worse if I had understood what they were saying. Ignorance as the true and only source of happiness!
Then I resumed my way to Germany. I thought of following the Dutch northern coast, but wind from the
North Sea was so fierce that try to cycle against it was like tryin to push back into the water a shored whale. I consequently cut through Flevoland, the new territories obtained from the sea with the construction of the famous dam back in the 70s. A rather sad region, I must say, where the otherwise optimistic and merry Dutch people don't want to live. Then, crossed the endless Groningen fields, I was in northern Germany. And here I finally understood that old people, regardless of race or nationality, can be divided in just two categories: those with common sense and old Germans.
The Netherlands, so urbanized and flat is certainly not the best place where to camp. But once you find a suitable space, you can bivouac undisturbed, greeted with friendship and curiosity by locals. In Germany is easier to find good camping spots, but then you have to deal with the locals, very fond of the written law.
It was 9pm, sunset was falling quickly and I was tired. I had just passed through a village called Remels and I had decided to bivouac in the surrounding countryside. The sky was clear, the area rich in
vegetation. Enough to grant me a quiet night of rest. While I was unloading my staff to pitch the tent, an elderly couple, that God only knows what were doing there at such a late hour, approached me to tell me that ist verboten
. I pretend I´m surprised in discovering that camping on private land is forbidden, so I load my luggage back and move on with the intention of going back five minutes later and pitch my tent exactly in that point. A few minutes later I´m back. I'm just about to unload again when I see another elderly couple stro9lling around. Back on the bike and on again with the pantomime, but every time I'm about to stop someone appears. It's sunset, and I wonder: these are the same people that when in Spain queue up outside still closed restaurants at 5pm and that if one did not know their bizarre habits might be forgiven for joining them in the queue believing there will be free dinner for the first ten customers or something. And now, 9.30pm, almost next day breakfast time according to their meals schedule, they are all here takin a walk in the countryside and pulverizing my plans? Finally, I gave up and move elsewhere. I cycled those 200 meters back and forth at least 10 times, that if somebody had observed the whole scene from a distance with binoculars, it would have probably mistaken me for a maniac ready with his plastic bag to suffucate the first child passing by.
Fortunately, I will be in Scandinavia soon. The only region in Europe where free camping is encouraged rather than criminalised.
August 11th: Utrecht..........................................0 Kms
August 12th: Amsterdam....................................0 Kms
August 13th: Utrecht - Lelystad......................85 Kms, 4h25', 19.2 Kms/h
August 14th: Lelystad - Heeg.........................77 Kms, 3h35', 21.4 Kms/h
August 15th: Heeg - Leeuwarden...................38 Kms, 1h51', 20.5 Kms/h
August 16th: Leeuwarden - Termunten........115 Kms, 5h53', 18.8 Kms/h
August 17th: Termunten - Remels (Germany).85 Kms, 4h39', 18.4 Kms/h ITALIANO
La versione Italiana di questo blog è disponibile sul sito Vagabondo.net
Link: Cavalcando Ronzinante V: Remels (km 2673)