Author Topic: London to Auschwitz  (Read 7819 times)

alfapete

  • Oh dear
London to Auschwitz
« on: 10 July, 2023, 06:58:03 pm »
Almost two years after retirement I set out on an adventure. I'd never done more cycle touring than a three day indirect ride to an LEL meeting in Birmingham and I'm not a strong rider - after 15 years regular riding I still find a 200km audax event really hard and usually finish towards the back. I'd always fancied visiting Aushcwitz, more so after reading Primo Levi's "If This is a Man", and one day I plotted the route from home to see how far it was. A thousand miles, so I thought: 10 days at 100 miles a day. I discussed it with a super fit work colleague who had cycled to Spain as a teenager - she thought that was a bit ambitious and eventually so did I, so i settled on aiming for 100-120km each day.

It was a while before I shared the idea with my wife as I was anxious that she wouldn't be too impressed with me being away for so long, but she knew I was keen to do a touring holiday, preferably with her. She was not at all keen to go to Aushcwitz or to witness the horrors there within, and she wouldn't have committed to the distances involved. When I finally revealed the vague plan she was very supportive and began to plan a walking holiday in the Lakes for the same time. There was no set time schedule and I had a good four weeks or so available, planning to return by train. I spent many an hour on ridewithgps and very much enjoyed the planning.

The following is my daily update from Facebook. I tried to post each evening but it didn't always work. The positive vibes amongst the comments were very motivating (though you won't see those) and I've edited it a little to make it appropriate for a different audience. I'll post it 'as live' so you'll get one day at a time.

alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Aushcwitz
« Reply #1 on: 10 July, 2023, 07:12:05 pm »
DAY ONE: London to Aushcwitz.
An early start on the train from Cheltenham to Paddington, and then a ride to stay with our lovely friends, Kim and Matt, near Folkestone.
I hadn't really allowed for the weight of the luggage so it all felt tougher and slower than I was expecting. Kent was quite hilly, and at 130km it will probably be the longest day of the whole trip. Stay tuned for more updates!

Where it all begins. Cheltenham Station early on a bank holiday.
The house where I spent a very happy 3 years as an undergraduate (near Lewisham)
Stopped for lunch at the Ebbsfleet cycle park which was teeming with youngsters.
Chatham
My bike leaning against things (you might see quite a few of these)
NCN1 in Kent
These blue weeds were everywhere...
Beautiful Kent countryside - at this point I hadn't seen or heard a car for at least half an hour.
Leaving the house - picture out of order as my wife had to send me it.
alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #2 on: 10 July, 2023, 07:41:32 pm »
Looking forward to reading the rest of this.

By the way, it is spelled Auschwitz.
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


barakta

  • Bastard lovechild of Yomiko Readman and Johnny 5
Re: London to Aushcwitz
« Reply #3 on: 10 July, 2023, 07:57:17 pm »
Great writeup so far, I look forward to further updates.

I too am a huge fan of Primo Levi's books. The first one I read was The Periodic Table as a youngun going to university to read chemistry. I later read If This is a Man which is an astonishing book. I am probably due a reread of both.

I have never been to any of the former concentration camps, I'm not sure I'm brave enough.

alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #4 on: 10 July, 2023, 09:06:43 pm »
Looking forward to reading the rest of this.

By the way, it is spelled Auschwitz.

Just checked through my FB posts - about a 50% success rate on getting it right so you'll have to wince a few more times if you continue following. Humble apologies.
alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Aushcwitz
« Reply #5 on: 11 July, 2023, 08:00:50 am »
DAY TWO: London to Aushcwitz. Kortemark, Belgium
Set out at 0715 and had a lowsy ride to Dover, legs really suffering, too many hills, sleeping bag fell off bike but finally arrived bang on my check in time (not early😲). Crossed from Dover to Dunkerque and really enjoyed a couple of hours rest.
Then just had to do 50 miles to my first Airbnb but the wind was a nuisance which made the very flat terrain a bit of a struggle. My legs were certainly feeling yesterday's efforts, but at least I can have a lie in tomorrow.

The old France/Belgium border control is now a coffee shop.

This ride is sponsored by....

Wonderful cycling infrastructure, this fine gravelled pan flat cycle path was heavenly because for a short while I had a stonking tailwind.

Diksmuide for tea. I asked for a 'not too strong' beer and it was 5.4%.

I didn't see any large war cemeteries but this modest in in Zuydcoote was beautifully maintained.

alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

T42

  • Apprentice geezer
Re: London to Aushcwitz
« Reply #6 on: 11 July, 2023, 08:04:51 am »
Re the spelling of Auschwitz, the SCH is in the same order as in schedule.
I've dusted off all those old bottles and set them up straight

alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #7 on: 12 July, 2023, 01:26:52 pm »
DAY THREE: London to Aushcwitz. In Miese, Belgium
The last couple of days my accommodation was booked ahead so I felt I had to push on to get there, even though there was no deadline. My head was in a better place today as I wasn't trying so hard (my legs needed reminding from time to time) and I didn't book my BnB till 2pm, resulting in a relaxed ride. The wind had moved round to an easterly which represents a block headwind, but I just chilled and spun away. Same again tomorrow, unfortunately, but changes are in store for Friday. More comments in the photos.

My new friend, Tibo, was interested in my trip, and was riding with his cycling club later in the day. He kindly gave me a tow (ie cycled ahead to protect me from the wind) for 9km along a perfect flat cycle lane approaching Gent. Thanks, Tibo !

Much of the day was on main roads, apart from the last 10km or so. Cycle lanes all of the way, protected by a grass verge, a rumble strip, or just a white line.

Some of the paths were more rural

 I love the sharp, clean look of northern Europe's modern architecture. Why we have to build Barratt homes I don't understand. (Unfinished)
Even those with a 'heritage' are beautiful, and the gardens are universally well manicured.

Paris-Roubaix here we come!
alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #8 on: 13 July, 2023, 08:20:03 am »
DAY FOUR: London to Aushcwitz. Bilzen, Belgium
Cor, it's hard, this is. My legs felt quite stiff this morning after a good night's sleep. It was another day into the wind with the added attraction of long gentle slopes (far more up than down). Anything greater than 5% is going to see me walking, the way things are going! There were a good few lanes through very efficient fruit farms, the sun came out, and we reached 22°C - hot enough. Another unfortunate Airbnb location (they're surprisingly sparse) made me push on to 119km for the day. Definitely not going so far tomorrow - need an easy day, and there's some rain forecast, too.

Industrial size engineering in a small village

for industrial size ships. Lucky I was there at the right moment as it passed.

Need to get a better picture. When I started cycling around 2006 I spent £50 on eBay to set me up. I vowed that I'd get a decent bike if I kept at it for a year. Twelve months later I got the Tifosi for £690. Most of the components, apart from the frame and brakes, have been replaced over the years. There's normally a 5 litre barbag in place but it had my sandwiches in when the photo was taken.

I followed the road a short way to see if I could spot the monument but once I reached the top of a hill I ventured no further. Google told me it was 58 miles away.

Gnomes

Orchards? I venture these are apples, but they could be pears, or something else. Suggestions welcome (there were acre upon acre of them today).

The lovely roads were fewer than the main roads once again, but I loved ALL the downhill ones.
alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #9 on: 13 July, 2023, 09:01:50 am »
Great trip, not sure if I could handle the destination though.
You probably just missed one of the largest WWI cemeteries near Diksmuide, its where many German soldiers are buried (over 25,000)

     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladslo_German_war_cemetery

Most of the Commonwealth ones are further south towards Passendale and Ieper.

The area around Hasselt is quite famous for its fruit (mostly Apples) and mild undulating terrain which often goes unnoticed
as cyclists generally head for Maastricht en South Limburg (NL)

Look forward to following your adventure.



 
Regards,

Alan

T42

  • Apprentice geezer
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #10 on: 13 July, 2023, 09:39:53 am »
+1, great trip. Nice well-travelled saddle on there, looks comfy.

Bit funny having an Eddy Merckx monument while the bloke's still alive. Dunno what else you'd call it though. Ugly thing anyway: looks as if he's come unstuck on a descent and modified a wall.
I've dusted off all those old bottles and set them up straight

Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #11 on: 13 July, 2023, 10:34:02 am »
I think you're referring to the one in the Ardennes hills, this one is next to his birthplace near Tielt, outside a Cafe (Sums up the Belgians).
I bet Alfapete wasn't that far away from it but google was sending him to the Ardennes.

   https://goo.gl/maps/mHjPFYqUCYYVX8yz8



Regards,

Alan

alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #12 on: 13 July, 2023, 12:41:40 pm »
I think you're referring to the one in the Ardennes hills, this one is next to his birthplace near Tielt, outside a Cafe (Sums up the Belgians).
I bet Alfapete wasn't that far away from it but google was sending him to the Ardennes.

I thought that was the case but couldn't find any reference to it on my Maps search. Should have switched to proper Google but you know what it's like when you're on the road: tired, can't see the screen because of the sun...
alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #13 on: 14 July, 2023, 08:44:51 am »
DAY FIVE: London to Aushcwitz. Langewehe
Put the kettle on, this will be a long one! I slept well and was crossing the border into the Netherlands and towards Maastricht after 10km or so. It was a busy town with a huge market in the square in the centre (the family know I LOVE a market). It was a bit tricky lugging my bike around so I didn't stay long. There were moderate hills after leaving Maastricht and after another invisible border I was in Germany. The legs coped better than expected and the tailwind was a major boost to my spirits. I sat out an early shower eating chips and once I'd put the waterproofs on the luggage and self it barely rained all day. A few more ups and downs and I was booking my Airbnb which, this time, was bang on the route at 77km for the day.
Thunder was all around when I arrived but there was no answer at the door - it looked very appealing, though. When the raindrops began to fall I sought cover. The first balcony under which I was going to shelter had a prickly hedge surrounding it so I moved on to la Vita restaurant and sat under their canopy with a beer to think about my next move.
The waitress, Courda, was the only English speaker and thankfully they knew my host, Monika, and so called her. She was in hospital but somebody picked up and gave us the access code. I dashed through a shower back to the place but couldn't get the code to work. I went back to Courda who sought permission from the boss to head for a hotel room with a stranger(!). She tried the code and it worked: my problem had been not turning the knob, but it certainly didn't look like a British knob! What a saviour. I was hoping to take her picture but when I returned to the place later - well, I had to - she was off shift so it wasn't possible. Off to Bonn and the Rhine tomorrow.

Maastricht City Hall

The market

Not sure what they grow on this land, or what machinery produces the furroughs in the fine, sandy soil, but there is quite an area dedicated to it in Belgium and Germany (and possibly the NL, but I wasn't there for long)

Anyone say 'Thunder'....

Like Worcester Bosch....  private joke for Worcestershire residents

Apfelstrudel - had to be sampled.
alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #14 on: 14 July, 2023, 10:18:19 am »
It is one of the great pleasures of cycle touring being able to try every single pastry on offer!

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #15 on: 14 July, 2023, 01:06:31 pm »
The weird earth furrows are potatoes.
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #16 on: 14 July, 2023, 03:08:08 pm »
The weird earth furrows are potatoes.
That makes sense, but I've not seen anything similar in the UK.
alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #17 on: 15 July, 2023, 08:13:59 am »
The weird earth furrows are potatoes.
That makes sense, but I've not seen anything similar in the UK.
That's because you don't live in potato country. It's a fairly common sight in East Anglia or the tattie fields of Eastern Scotland.

Enjoying the travelogue, Pete. Onwards!

alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #18 on: 15 July, 2023, 08:38:36 am »
DAY SIX: London to Auschwitz - in Mehren, Germany
The bnb last night was gorgeous with a wonderful bed. I slept really soundly but woke early and thought I may as well make some progress so was on the road at 7.30am. The legs were very stiff and never feel strong, but I've got used to that.
The start was super flat on lovely tarmac. For the first time at the end of a cyclepath I joined the road, but heading on the wrong side of the road. It was the first time it had got close to happening and a 'friendly' wave from a passing motorist sorted me out 🙂. I also used some farm tracks which resulted in mud accumulating under the mudguards (see pics).
I had a difficult decision to make in Bonn (big and very busy) - accommodation was expensive, there was a big climb looming and Airbnb's on the forthcoming route were rare. I also wasted an hour trying to find an Alfa Romeo garage which was no longer there (I'm an Alfa enthusiast) and sourcing some rope to improve the sleeping bag fixation.I made a decision at 4.30pm and knew I'd regret it: take the pain, climb the hill, and then just another 25km to bed. And then it started raining so it was a soggy climb, partly walking for 5km through a very pretty forest with steamed up glasses so I couldn't easily read the Garmin (GPS).
I arrived at a very basic apartment with no one to greet me and, most important, no WiFi!!! I didn't read the description carefully enough, but it was only £40 and would have accommodated four. Another 118km day, further than anticipated but one less hill to climb.

Even the power stations are picturesque in the sunshine, it's as flat as the fens.

Most of the tracks were drier than this!

But the mud accumulated everywhere and dragged progress back. Took 5 mins to clear out and then gunked up again. Cleared it out three times!

Aldi shopping, German style. There's a hefty load in that trailer, and not an e-bike.

Presumably a former windmill which is now a house in Risburg, on a hill overlooking Bonn

First view of the Rhine - it's a mighty river which flows very rapidly.

On the ferry

Many alpine style buildings round here - this is Eudenbach.

This hill 5km from bed was not welcome with almost 120km in my legs.

But there was a descent into Mehren where I stayed.
alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #19 on: 15 July, 2023, 08:51:16 am »
Lovely write up and so many memories. The Rhine cycle route is so good. I stopped in Bonn for lunch at a little cafe and ate my fill of wonderful sausage. Thank you.

Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #20 on: 15 July, 2023, 10:00:07 am »
Really enjoying following your adventure 👍

A

Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #21 on: 15 July, 2023, 10:46:36 am »
Ditto  :thumbsup:
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Cudzoziemiec

  • Ride adventurously and stop for a brew.
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #22 on: 15 July, 2023, 10:51:34 am »

Presumably a former windmill which is now a house in Risburg, on a hill overlooking Bonn
Or a water tower?
Riding a concrete path through the nebulous and chaotic future.

alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #23 on: 16 July, 2023, 08:43:11 am »
DAY SEVEN: London to Auschwitz - in Breitscheid
Yesterday was a really tough one so I decided to keep things sensible today. My German correspondent tells me the Cotswold-like hills in this area are the Westerwald, lots of very pretty scenery and relentlessly up and down. Some of the tracks were gravelly (and one disappeared briefly in a wood). I've been lucky that the forecast rain has been minimal and it was warm and sunny again or I would look a real sight being covered in mud. I toiled up a hill to an isolated restaurant and really didn't trust Google Maps that it was open, but I had a fabulous meal there just before reaching the boarding house. Highlight of the day was cresting a rise and discovering an open bakery next to a closed Aldi. Couldn't have been better timed, and I spent an hour with wifi doing yesterday's update. And recovering.
Total for the day was 74 hilly km. Start with a lengthy bit of descent tomorrow on my way to Giessen.

Just what I was expecting to find.

Michelle or Georgi? Private joke, I adore them both

The pics don't show the hills well, but I walked this one.

The Belgians, Dutch and Germans seem to love their American muscle cars - this was one of many I've seen.

Always a good sign when one of these is close - must be at the top of a hill. Not so good if it's a long way away, though.

Curly: A couple of weeks before I set out I said to Erica I ought to have a mascot, but didn't have anything to hand which meant anything to me. A couple of days later we were clearing out the spare room and discovered Curly 😁 in a drawer. Erica reminded me that she gave him to me at least ten years ago❤️ . He's enjoying the view a great deal. And I made those green ties myself☺️.

The unlikely restaurant.

Schnitzel!

Heribert helped me immensely with the automatic check in machine at the hotel. He was interested in my travels!
alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa

alfapete

  • Oh dear
Re: London to Auschwitz
« Reply #24 on: 17 July, 2023, 08:36:13 am »
DAY EIGHT: London to Auschwitz - in Ulrichstein - early May 2023
A fabulous birthday, thank you to everyone for your good wishes (60 today!!). Keep them coming, I need all the encouragement you can manage.
The forecast was for a dry day but I heard rain on my bedroom window at 6am which didn't show any sign of letting off. Set out at 9.00am ish but the cold 9°C and damp, and speed of going downhill chilled me rapidly so I pulled into a bakery after a mile. There was one table inside for me and I stayed for almost an hour. The young assistant there (no name or picture) spoke excellent English which she'd learned from school and TV. The older folk are much less capable (and my German is non-existent).
I set out as the rain eased at 10am and was treated to 8km of pure downhill on smooth surfaces as the rain faded. I eventually travelled alongside the River Dill downhill very gently for a further 20km: heaven. The last 10km into Giessen was flat on lovely cyclepaths but it took four cafes before I got wifi and lunch.
More notes on navigation for the map nerds in the pictures below.
After lunch I knew it was a long uphill but it started gently, slowly ramping up, for 42km! I had to walk the final 200m to my hotel and was delighted to discover that I'd done 98km for the day!
Nice meal, and TWO beers to celebrate my birthday, but no pudding available apart from ice cream! Tomorrow begins with a long downhill towards Fulda.

After lunch there was a lot of open terrain which very gently climbed. It only got serious very late in the day by which time my legs had lost the ability to cope.

Stop before a walk

First ice cream of the trip, came at just the right time. Dark chocolate plus vanilla - gorgeous, but should have had them the other way around.

That village on the right had been spotted from miles away but I thought it was too far off to be where I was going. But that's where my hotel was!!!

Well, it is my birthday. The waiter had NO English but I spoke briefly to some Italians to tell them about my love of Alfa Romeo. Not about my birthday, though.

Navigation: I use a Garmin Etrex 30 which is an ancient machine that runs on AA batteries so charging is not a concern. I just have to follow a line on the map and can zoom in and out as I like. I also have these stage guides which vary in length from 20 to 170km (home made). They just give me an idea of where to expect the hills very approximately. I switched on to section G at lunchtime today, and every section change is a big landmark (they go up to O, I think). Section G is 83km from Giessen to Fulda with 1100m of climbing. Any climb greater than 100m is classified, so there is a 6km easy climb peaking at 43km and a 2km hard one at 72km.  Although I made all of these and vaguely know what's coming I'm not currently looking at the next stage until I've completed the former - a big reveal! Both horizontal and vertical scales are not fixed, so in Belgium the high point of one stage was a bridge over a motorway. Tonight I'm at the highpoint of this section at 520m. At times I look at every little bump with intense scrutiny!
alfapete - that's the Pete that drives the Alfa