30.05.2012 30 °C
Getting in to Germany is proving trickier than expected. All the roads in are closed to cyclists. The Netherlands won't let me leave!
Finally I enter Germany and a change is immediately noticeable. The cycle path is poorer quality, though still pretty good compared to the uk, and the road is poorer and much busier. The traffic seems much faster too. Compared to the Netherlands it feels curiously like being back in the uk. I pull into an aldi supermarket and the illusion is complete.
Something else I noticed in the Netherlands is that the houses, though generally much larger than those in the uk, are all of a similar size, except in the city centres. There are very few huge country mansions like you see in the uk. In an hour of cycling through Germany I've seen more very large houses than throughout my whole journey in the Netherlands. Curiously, my economics textbook indicates that Germany has less income inequality so I'm not sure why.
My first campsite in Germany isn't too great and I have to fill in a form, but I manage to complete the procedure without any english being spoken so I feel quite pleased with myself.
I've now been on the road three weeks and am feeling quite relaxed and enjoying myself. The budget is going roughly according to plan though I'm spending more on food and equipment than I would like. Each day the main worry is finding somewhere to camp as it's very difficult to plan in advance on the road. I spend an awful lot of time cycling following signs to campsites that turn out to be miles from the main road and often aren't even open. Add this onto the time spent setting up the tent and packing away in the morning and a large amount of time is spent each day. It's a very inefficient way to travel.
The quality of campsites doesn't seem to bear much relation to the cost; the campsite I was in last night was beautiful and well equipped and only cost seven euros wherease the one I'm in tonight is dire and costs twelve. Of course it has a lot to do with location. It's curious that, considering the vast importance place has on our lives, economics has little to say on the subject. I've been studying economics nearly two years now and I don't think matters of geography have ever been mentioned.
The scenery on the trip hasn't been all that great really; the first two days through the Penines are the best so far in that regard. I'm really looking forward to getting into Scandinavia and seeing some mountains. It's all been a bit flat so far.
Baguettes are hard to come by in Germany. It pains me to say it, but any country where baguettes aren't readily available is perilously close to barbarism. One of the things I liked about France was that every village had a bakery selling fresh baguettes at good prices. German supermarkets are pretty awful - they're all pretty much the same as Aldi and Lidl but the food is pricier than the uk. The supermarkets weren't much good in the Netherlands either. I've heard it said that the UK is one of the best countries for buying food and was sceptical but from my impressions that is the case. The selection of food that one can get in the UK is far wider than any country I've been to yet. It's possible to eat much more cheaply and purchase food at almost any time of day. People may moan about the big supermarkets in the UK but the range of food they provide is extraordinary and only the hypermarkets in France are comparable.
Chatting to another cyclist in a campsite, who was also touring through norway, I was given the idea of cycling along the nord-oost canal to Kiel, then getting the ferry to Denmark. You would think it impossible to get lost cycling along a canal but signposts in Germany are atrocious and the cycle paths pretty poor so I somehow found myself, though following the signs carefully, dropped about ten miles into the countryside at a four way junction with no indication which way to go. I finally got about two pages worth of directions from someone and found my way back to the canal two hours later. It's amazing seeeing huge ships on an inland canal. The next day, arriving in Kiel, I found that no ferries actually go from there to Denmark, although several were marked on my map, and it appears almost impossible to sail out of Kiel without running into Denmark at some point. I have to continue cycling up the coast. It's absolutely gorgeous by the Oost sea so I' m taking a couple of days rest before heading into Denmark tomorrow. I've been on the road nearly a month and have just finished a university assignment so feel I deserve it.