Riding Rocinante VIII: Zielona Gora (Kms 5622)

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October 6th 2008
Published: November 1st 2008
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Oslo on Sunday is a rather curious spectacle: you see around only Middle Eastern immigrants and a significant number of alcoholics. Humans derelicts, the latter, result of years of proto-prohibitionist policy. And the longer I live, the most I grew convinced of something: forbid something is the best way to push people en masse towards that specific vice.

The ferry to Frederikshavn, Denmark, didn’t leave until 7 pm, so I loitered around the Norwegian capital’s streets all day, then at 5 I went down to the harbour to get myself a ticket. The Viados were already on the boulevards and I came to think that one must really get the balls (never better said) to stand still on a Norwegian road wearing a miniskirt.

While waiting in line, a brute just arrived from the stone age approaches me and chat me up. Has a pestilent breath, yellow teeth result of smoking and neglect, a red face so typical of those who have the liver reduced to paté and a half absent look. He tells me that he’s going to Frederikshavn too and that we may perhaps be in the same cabin. How fortunate! Previous night’s Stine’s words come back to my mind: "These ships are full of drunkard sailormen”.

When my turn finally arrives, the clerk informs me that the only remaining cabins are the individuals one at a cost of 100€. I reply that a plain cabin-less ticket is fine for me, that I do not need a sleeping place. But apparently it cannot be. Because of passengers welfare, Stena Line doesn’t allow berthless travelling on night routes. A not too nice debate with the two employees begins. Even the above mentioned caveman stands quiet now. I adjective the company of mafiosa for advertising a 25€ price while is actually compulsory to rent a cabin, and of classist for not wanting poor passengers on board. Obviously enough, I get nowhere and I was finally forced to travel overland to Larvik to continue on from there with a different company.

Both me and Rocinante begin to feel the weight of bad weather and Kms over our shoulders. The rear wheel have being giving me problems since the very beginning of the journey itself. Shortly before leaving home I had broke the axle. The local mechanic changed it and assured me that there was no need of replacing the whole wheel, but unfortunately it was a somewhat approximate repair that eventually forced me to endless stops to bolt the axle itself back. Now, reached Denmark, I had no choice but to buy a new one. It cost me 60€ and is not even fitted with a quick release device. But it was the only one they had in that shop and there were no other bike shops in town.

As for myself, I have been suffering for days of lumbar pain, result, I suppose, of the cold weather endured in recent weeks. Luckily, I have a friend living in Ranum, 100 Kms in Danish territory. Izabella, a Romanian-Hungarian woman married to (and divorced from) a Danish man. True southern hospitality and a week of stop to recover from my ailments. When you get used to sleeping in tents any bed then seems soft. Yet, some are softer than others.

Calling at her place was good on nutritional grounds too. I mean, Scandinavians are generally excellent people, but they seldom cultivate the cult of eating. Indeed, I would say that many of them merely put something in their stomach now and then just to survive. A few weeks ago, for example, my occasional host, when leaving to go to work told me to do as if I was in my house and to take anything I wanted from her fridge. At lunch time I open the fridge and all I can see is canned dog food, canned cat food, cans of beer and three tomatoes dating back to some earlier geologic era. I remember in the evening, after a dinner of half pizza each, the same lady asked me -with the same satisfied manner of someone who has just consumed the most opulent of meals- if I wanted something else. I had to bite my tongue not to say that canned dog food with a dash of cinnamon on top has actually always been my favourite dessert. Yet, I kept it for myself in the knowledge that sarcasm might leads to… sleeping outdoor.

But back to present time, after the stop at Izabella’s I started pedalling with renewed vigour and in just two days I practically crossed the whole of Denmark and passed the German border at Flensburg. European national boundaries, though partially eliminated by the Schengen Agreement, retain for me a very special charm. On both sides of these imaginary lines all sort of trades, ad hoc created to elude neighbouring country’s taxman, are carried on. It happens in Africa or Asia as in Europe, only here the whole thing is codified and neatly organized and thus lose part of that sense of frontier.

But back to Germany also means back to being told off for the most absurd reasons: how I had missed these Germans! This time I did not quarrelled with anybody and I was indeed as meek as a lamb. But here's a brief overview of new episodes of absurd Germanic mental rigidity: 1) I ordered a coffee in a bar, when I saw the bartender taking a cup the size of Wimbledon’s trophy, I kindly asked for a kleine (small). The girl came down with this never-ending story about why had I asked for a coffee when what I really wanted was an espresso. 2) I enter a library to access Internet, but before sitting down I wanted to go to the toilette. An employee stopped me and asked me what I was looking for. When I replied "Bathroom", she told me that they didn’t have one. Five seconds later I was sitting in front of the PC and -the same woman- told me “OK, now you can use the bathroom because you are now a library user”. 3) On a bicycle in the middle of a wood I hear someone shouting from behind, another cyclist, I move then to the side of the road to let him pass, but the guy keeps yelling. So I turn back to see what he wanted and see that he’s waving me to move apart and shouting "Rechts" (Right). I do not understand what he wants, so I stop and leave him a path wide enough for a "Harley Davidson", but still the man keeps shouting "Rechts". Finally he reached me, stops and -pissed right off- told me off for having moved to the left instead of the right. All this on a completely deserted bike path! 4) While having a coffee in a kind of roadhouse I see that a man orders two sausages with bread. The bartender serves him two plastic plates with one sausage and one empty roll on each plate. The man tells her that he meant sausages into the rolls, not beside the rolls. She says they don’t do it (God knows why), he says "Yes", she says "No". The scene goes on like this for a while -the two of them getting increasingly angry-. In the end the bartender, rather than cutting the two rolls open, an action that would have taken 10 seconds, hands the bread knife to the customer -situation falling into crass surrealism- but he refuses the knife and goes on with the principle über alles thing.

I finally reached Berlin. It was Sunday and there was the marathon, the one where Gebresilasie established the new world record. A broad stream of human happiness ran through the centre of one of the most liveable city I have ever set foot in. Certainly the least German among all German cities. I met Heiko, a broke but full of ideas writer. I spoke of my ongoing contacts with the absurd Made in Germany. He quoted even more surreal episodes lived in many years in Germany. I told him that I was by now convinced that the average German obsessively loves rules. He corrected me with a more accurate theory: "A German man blindly follows a whole set of rules that are basically the sole cause of his unhappiness. He’s aware of this and hates himself for not being strong enough to break the circle, consequently he can’t tolerate that others do not observe the same rules and so feels to be in the right of telling those people off. It isn’t love for the rules; it’s hatred towards oneself!”.

September 15th: Fagernes - Nes 75 Kms, 4h18’, 17.6 Kms/h
September 16th: Nes - Hønefoss 55 Kms, 3h04’, 17.9 Kms/h
September 17th: Oslo 0 Kms
September 18th (morning): ferry to Hirsthals (Denmark) 0 Kms
September 18th (afternoon): Hirsthals - Ranum 105 Kms, 5h31’, 19.0 Kms/h
September 19th: Ranum 0 Kms
September 20th: Ranum 0 Kms
September 21st: Ranum 0 Kms
September 22nd: Ranum 0 Kms
September 23rd: Ranum - Salten 107 Kms, 5h03’, 21.1 Kms/h
September 24th: Salten - Hoptrup 117 Kms, 5h59’, 19.5 Kms/h
September 25th: Hoptrup - Rieseby (Germany): 110 Kms, 5h42’, 19.2 Kms/h
September 26th: Rieseby - Preetz 84 Kms, 4h54’, 17.1 Kms/h
September 27th: Preetz - Lübeck 69 Kms, 4h06’, 16.8 Kms/h
September 28th: Güstrow - Teterow 30 Kms, 1h50’, 16.3 Kms/h
September 29th: Teterow - Seewalde 105 Kms, 5h26’, 19.3 Kms/h
September 30th: Seewalde - Oranienburg 69 Kms, 3h59’, 17.3 Kms/h
October 1st: Oranienburg - Berlin 40 Kms, 2h36’, 15.3 Kms/h
October 2nd: Berlin - Buckow 79 Kms, 4h35', 17.2 Kms/h
October 3rd: Buckow - Kostrzyn (Poland) 75 Kms, 4h08', 18.1 Kms/h
October 4th: Kostrzyn - Zielona Gora 120 Kms, 7h03', 16.0 Kms/h
October 5th: Zielona Gora 0 Kms

La versione italiana di questo blog è disponibile sul sito Vagabondo.net
Link: Cavalcando Ronzinante VIII: Zielona Gora (Km 5622)


11th November 2008

love it!!
I like your blogs very much, Marco, but I must say the German ones are my favorite!!!... is very relieving to see someone else with the same thoughts as me... Dax is German and, obviously I love him and I like his family and most of his friends... but Germans are very special!!!... I always joke with Dax that "verboten" is the most used word in German language!!!... he doesn't deny it, by the way!!!... hahaha...

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