Snow at night while I was trying to shoot one of the last scenes for Reich der Möglichkeiten.
If it's snowing now, it doesn't seem to make sense to arrive back here in five weeks, on a bike. Two-and-a-half thousand kilometers also don't make sense.
Space and time in general don't seem to make a lot of sense. They're unimaginable — rather: the experience of them is unimaginable.
If I would be more prepared, maybe I couldn't do the trip.
I tried to borrow almost all of my equipment, organized most of that only this week. My uncle even sent me his ultra-light tent. Bought some things I suddenly noticed to be crucial. Maybe the only thing I really owned for this trip was the bike.
An hour ago I figured the tent he sent me doesn't suit my plans. I guess I'll buy one in Lisbon.
But I assume it also helps. The logistics and implications are too many, so the naivety might be what makes all this easier.
If I really knew all that is going to happen, I'd probably just bail.
Offenburg — Basel — Lisboa
Where does a journey start?
Taking an intercity express train to a plane back to Lisbon where I'll pick up things and my bike.
When does a journey start?
From "Wouldn't it be cool to" to "Maybe I'll" to "I think I will" to "I'll probably" to "I'm going"; gradually incrementing decisions built through dialogue.
From planning to preparing to going there to sitting in the saddle the first time.
For ███████ I have to prepare a work or concept around Grenze (border/limit). I'd suggest that every border or limit, no matter of what kind, is an inter-subjective threshold applied to a continuous space of values in order to discretecize (usually into binary categories) the space, thereby reducing the complexity and information, thus being able to think and work with it more easily. (The entire point of "information technology")
Starting a journey is continuous and I apply the threshold of pushing down the pedal for the first time.
They had cancelled my phone number. It seemed surreal.
It's usually quite obvious to me, how dependent I am on my technology. But it still hit me, into how much chaos it trew me to not be able to make or even recieve calls.
I was supposed to meet F. — who will speak the voice — to go through the script of Reich der Möglichkeiten. We were also supposed to go to the studio, but M. — who offered to help us out there — couldn't get hold of one at his school. And, of course, MF. was supposed to join us too.
Planing this without a phone didn't really work out, they'll go to the studio without me after I left.
In the end I just saw F. at his place (offering a gorgeous view over the city). He had come to Lisbon about five years ago, resembling the protagonist of the film even more than me. And to him and his Austrian flatmate, the thoughts were chillingly familiar.
The guy at the bikeshop was also supposed to call me (and he said that he indeed tried), but I had to walk back there to check in physically, luckily the bags had arrived.
He sympthized very much with my trip, giving me a discount, «I can't help you much, but I'll try the little.»
I keep being surprised how much people empathize with the trip. Not just the usual "Oh, I wish you a nice trip" or "That sounds great", but they are somehow genuinely thinking about it, trying to imagine.
Now I just need to pack and mount my bags, I might eventually be ready.
Lisboa — Montijo — Montemor-o-novo
And then day zero came.
The night before I wanted to say goodbye to some friends. Although I missed most of them, I somehow got sucked into the force field of the Anos 60 bar.
Thus, my trip started later, but I started.
I had expected it, but it still struck me, how banal the moment of departure is, riding down the usual roads to the art faculty.
I crossed the Tejo with a boat and then really started cycling. Most things went surprisingly well; I had underestimated the impact of the weight, but for now my legs seem to be fine. My ass, well... I'll get used to it.
I arrived at Montemor-o-novo just as the sun set, so I decided that this had been my daily goal. Because all attempts to find a couch had failed, I left the city again before it would get dark to find a camping spot.
Despite the area being mainly used as meadows or cork plantations (in form of light forests) it turns out to be quite hard to find a spot, because it is - as I call it - the "privatized eternal hunting ground": surround by barbwire and warnings that it's a hunting area.
Montemor-o-novo — Portalegre
Days are long.
Because of the unknown soundscape, the cold (there was a layer of ice on the inside of my tent) and finally some animal trying to come out of the ground below my head I got up as soon as it got light again.
I made it to Évora for breakfast, from there passed by Evoramonte and got to Estremoz for lunch. These cities all follow the same principle: founded after defeating the moors, with a castle on a hill and an old town center on one side of the hill.
The area is generally composed of gentle hills - with the cities located on the highest ones -, so it ends up being a long series of climbs (and brief moments of joy).
Because N. had been very helpful asking around, a possibility to sleep in Portalegre turned up and I quickly changed my route, although doing much more kilometers on that day than I wanted (and should).
L., whom I had met at a festinha once before, lives outside of Portalegre in a very nice old house, without internet and hot water. After two days on a bike I had no choice, so I had a bath in an (at least warmed by the sun) basin in front of the house. It featured a view onto the city; bathing between the orange trees would have been romantic if it hadn't been so cold.
We then went to take a walk through the city and discuss the depressing situation of the Alentejo and other rural areas of the Iberian peninsula, constantly losing population because they can't offer much to the new generations.
We tried watching Tarkovsky's Solaris but both had to give up after part one, being defeated by sleep after a long day.
Portalegre — Valencia de Alcántara
After spending some time optimizing my luggage positioning I started with my first serious climb into the Parque Natural da Serra de S. Mamede. It started to rain.
L. had convinced me to go visit Marvão, so I took the challenge of taking an even steeper climbing to the spectacularly located castle-town. It was well worth it, I admit, and would have been more so if I could have enjoyed the view on the countryside around (it's the tallest town in Portugal).
From there, in no time I got to the Spanish border. Adeus, Portugal. Até quando?
Crossing a border this unspectacularly is still something that makes me happy, given the current political reality. And it also gave me hope that I can actually cross the next two borders.
For the night I had luckily found R. in Valencia de Alcántara through CouchSurfing, so I had a steep but short day.
Valencia de Alcántara — Cáceres
R. had to leave for work, so as the sun was rising I found myself on the road again. It was very cold - that's why I avoid camping - because, as R. and N. pointed out, winter apparently came very late this year.
I had decided to take a detour towards the Parque internacional del Tajo (the same river I crossed on the first day) to avoid the Spanish traffic. Besides them being somewhat less careful - Portugal felt very secure as a cyclist - there is simply a lot more cars.
The road I chose on the other hand was in most parts abandoned, I heard the birds and the cattle's bells all over as I looked over the fog covered country side.
The phenomenon of privatized eternal hunting grounds continued and it was somewhat frustrating that no tree was publicly available to rest under until I eventually, after a long search, found a bird observation spot next to a small lake where I could rest.
After the siesta I inspected the back tire, it had acted increasingly suspicious throughout the morning. It turned out to be three broken spokes. I had no option but to continue with the increasingly deformed wheel, Y. and K. (whom I always consult for my bike related issues) confirmed that I would probably be okay.
This didn't stop me from visiting the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Arroyo de la Luz, it had been advertised on the road (this is a trip of opportunism). I ran right into the novena and noticed that - just like last year - I happen to be in Spain for Semana Santa.
Once again I arrived just as the sun set and found my host for the night A. on the central square. After a reviving shower we figured that all bike shops were already closed for the day, so we went for beers and I actually saw the Champions League matches (which weren't too boring in the end).
Cáceres — A-5 close to Jaraicejo
My day started as early as usual because A. also had to go to work, so punctually at 8:15 I found myself on the street again, with a broken bike this time. I started wondering towards a bikeshop A. had indicated and on the way there found another one. Closed, but with a phone number posted in the window. «Well, usually I get there earlier but today I have things to do, I'll get there by ten and fix your bike immedeatly.»
I had to visit the historic part of Cáceres anyway, so I locked in front of a newspaper stand and asked the owner to have a look on my things. «Of course, as they say here, "You have to help the traveller."»
As I take out my valuables he points to a large locker next to his stand. «Mind putting your things here? Then I don't have to feel nervous about being very distracted.» Delighted I went on to explore the still abandonded medieval part.
Back at the bike shop, the owner D. «I hurried to help you as early as possible, so I've been here for the last half hour already. I'll do it right a way, go for a coffee and it'll be done.»
I come back and meet him on the street; rim in one hand, car keys in the other. «Well, I couldn't unscrew your gear rack, so I went to another repair shop, but no luck. I'll go see another garage now to see if I can find a used rim. That way you can continue until you find another shop.» A little later it's all mounted. «I believe this can get you until Germany. Write me a message if it does, things like that make me happy.»
I continued to Trujillo, a beautiful small old town. Because there were no couches around, my goal for the night was the Parque nacional de Monfragüe to camp.
But it came different.
In Spain, the old country roads have often completely been replaced by a proper highway, but as a cyclist this forced me to use their maintanance roads which weren't that well maintained themselves.
Around six in the afternoon in an especially bumpy spot, a spoke of my "new" rim broke out of the rim and actually stabbed through my inner tube, leaving me with a flat tire and a second broken back wheel.
Until I fixed the flat tire, sun set and I was forced to camp in an elevated space between maintanence road and highway; for a while the cicadas were louder than the cars.
A-5 close to Jaraicejo — Navalmoral de la Mata — Pozuelo de Alarcón
Giving up isn't that easy.
As the sun was rising I wrapped up my tent once more and mounted my wheel back into the bike. Now very slowly and often pushing the bike by hand through bumpier parts I made it to Jaraicejo, slight paranoia about the rim falling apart. It had been my plan to stock up food here the day before, therefore there had been no dinner. Finally I have breakfast. I order a coffee with milk and a toast with tomato; only in moments like these I get conscious how much - besides language - knowing the norms and ways of things facilitate moving around a country.
Asking the owner of the road-side restaurant for advice, but neither her nor the car repair shop she mentions have helpful things to say. «Since they built the highway it's pretty dead here. The repair shops closed. You could've tried the bus, but it's already past for the morning.» «Probably not much luck hitch hiking either, huh?» A single small car passed me on the old N-V route that day.
I know that I could have tried getting a ride closer to the highway, eventually it would have worked out. But I very much disliked the prospect of inactivity and begging so I decided to do the last 50km to the next bigger city myself. The mountain range in between didn't actually make a huge difference, I couldn't go fast anyways. Only downhill it got uncomfortable, I had to dismount my rear brake for the incredibly deformed wheel to be able to turn; still the tire casing got severely damaged from rubbing against the frame on each turn. The price of wanting to do it yourself?
Back in the valley I passed a nuclear reactor. I'm not sure if it was a special day, but the far echoes of distorted voices, yelling and shrieking over the PA was very dystopian; more so as I was just riding into a small, old town.
After lunch heavy rain started, another reason to give up there. Maybe they would be able to fix my bike in Navalmoral, but the projected two days of uninterrupted rain didn't attract me much, this was about seeing things in the end, and maybe even fun.
Fortunately they allow me to enter the train with my bike. On my way to Madrid I create some chaos asking various friends for a couch, but eventually E. (whom I know from art school in Lisbon) responds and I agree to meet her in a suburb-town outside Madrid. As I switch to a Cercanias train I'm astonished by the varied styles and strong characters of people after a week in small and big villages populated mainly by older generations. I thought "Like everybody has a very carefully crafted role." Immediately noticing that to them I had a role too.
Pozuelo de Alarcón — Madrid
I wake up in the house where I. lives, a real mansion with fire places, garden, dogs and incredibly annoying cat. They take me to two bike shops with the car, but they both quickly turn me down, explaining that they wouldn't have spokes of this length, too old.
When we get to the place where E. lives, her mother offers me to borrow her bike and some indications about hip neighborhoods, so I strap my original rim (I had luckily kept it) to my back and started exploring Malasaña.
And yes, the hip bike stores (focusing on fixies and the like) could in fact repair my spokes. But also all recommend me not to waist that money; the remaining spokes would brake soon after, they were all in similar shape.
Strap the rim back to my back and explore Madrid a bit more, drinks with E. and some international friends of hers at night.
███████ ████ ██ █████, █████ (███████) ███ ███████ ██ ███ ██ █████████ ███. ██, ███ █████ ████. ███ ████ █████████ ████ ██ ████ ████ █████. ████████.
Slow start into the day.
Find the Bericht had crashed, sorry anybody who tried during that time.
Feeling very locked out, all passphrases and keys are on my laptop that I don't carry with me. Not being able to fix also made me feel this way. Dependency on digital environments. Remembering why they invented these cloud things.
Checking a retropesctive on Ulises Carrión at Reina Sofia, "Dear reader. Don't read.", a little too archival for me; but interesting concept works. At La casa encendida some crazy video works on contemporary youth life styles. But conceptually not quite approachable and not too deep going. Their (seperate) credits video was noteworthy though, the maybe craziest compilation of media-artist-style 3D effects, samples and general abuse of popular editing and culture.
Rode back home the Paseo de la Castellana on the bike; eight lanes, Madrid's grand classical buildings, the yellow street lights, cars slowly passing by, some music; biking can feel so great and free.
It has generally felt so, throughout the trip. While on the bike, there were few issues, few worries. As long as I was on the right road I could just mindwander and pedal. The moment I would stop though, sometimes unheralded emptiness or tiredness came upon me.
While riding there I noticed that I hadn't listened to music during the trip, at all. And as you know me, I always listen to music. It was as if there was suddenly no need to.
I started wondering why I am so obsessed with it in everyday life then?
(Actually, I listened to music twice: just as I started to motivate and celebrate and when the spoke broke into my inner tube, to calm and cheer me up.)
Another bike and art day.
Get up, bring my bike to a store called Fixieland, get lost, see Danh Vō's Banish the Faceless / Reward your Grace in the Palacio de Cristal, went on to the Reina Sofia and finally saw Hito Steyerl's Duty-Free Art exposition. █████ █ █████████ ██ █████ ███ █ █████ ████ ███ █████ ██ █ ██ █████.
Pick up my bike, the new rim looks funnily shiny surrounded by the old parts.
Cooked Semmelknödel for E. and her mother as to thank them for the hospitality. I love how confused people get when you serve them dumplings made of old bread.
Madrid — Barcelona — ███████
█ ██████████ ██████ ███.
████ ██████ ████████ █ █████ ██████ ██ ███, ████████ ██ █████████ ████ ██████ ██:██. █████ ██ █.██ █████ ████ ██ ████, ████ █ ███ ██ ███ ███████ (██████ ███████ █████ ███ ████████ ███████ ████ ██ ███ ████), ████ █ ██████, ████ █ ████ ████ ██ ████ ██ ███ ███████ ███, ██████ ██ ██████, ██████ ██ █████████████, █████ █████ ██ ███████.
█., ██ ███ ████████ ██ ██████, █████ ██ ██, ████ ███ █████?█, ███, █ █████ ███ ████████████ ████.█, ██ █████ ███████ ██ ███ █████ ███ █ ██████ █████ █ ████ █ ███ ████ ████ ████ ████ ██ ████, ████. █ █████ █ ███ █████ █████ ███.
██████ ██ ████ ███ ████ ████. ██ █████ ███ ███████ ██████, ████████, ████████ ██.
███████ ████ █ ██████ ████ ███ ████ ██ █ ████, ███ █████ ██████ █████ ██████ █ ██████ █████ █████.
██████ ██ ████ ████████, ███ █. ██████ ██ ██ ██████ ██████ ████ ██ █████ ██ ████.
██ ███ ███████ █ ████ ███ ████████ ██ ██ ███████ ██ █████ ██████ ████ █.██ █████████ ███ █████ ██. ████████ ████ ████ ██ ██, ██ ████████ ███ ███ ██████████ ████████. █ ████ ██ ██████ ██ ███████, ████████ ██ ███████ ███ ████████████ ███████ █████ ███ ██████████.
██████ ████ █ ███ █████████ ██ █████ █ ███████████, ████ █ ██████ ████ ███ ██ ███ ██ ███ ███, ████ █ ██████ ████ ████████ ██ ███ █████.
██ ███ ████, █ ███ ████. ███ █████. ███ █████. ███ █████ ████ ██ ████ ███████. ███ █████. ████ ██ ███████ ████ ███████ ███.
████ █ ██████████ ███ █████, ███ ████ ██ ██████. ██████ ████████ ██ ██:███ ████ ███ ████.
█ ███ ██████ ██ ███ ██ █████ ██ ███████ ██ ████ ██, ███ ███ █████████ █████ ████ ████ █████ ██. █ ██ ████ ███ ████.
██ █████████ █████, █ ███ ███ ██ █ █████ ███ ████ █ ████ ██ ██████ ████ ████. █████████, ██ ████ ██████ ███ █████ ████████ █████ ███ ██ ███ ██ █ ██████.█████
███ ██████████ ██████. ████ ████ ██ ██. ███████████ ████?█████ █ ████ ██ █████, ████ ██ ██ ██████, ██ ████ ███ ████ ██████ ████ █ █████████.
█████ ██ █████ ████████, ████ ██████████ ███ ███ ███ ████ ██ █████ ████.█
████ █████ ███ ████████ ██ ███ ██ ███ ███████ █████ ██████?█
█ ████ ██ ███████. ████ █████ ███ ██████ ███ █ █████? ███ █████ ███ █████ ██?█
███ ████ ████ ██████████ ██ ███ ████████ ██ ████████ ███████? ██ ███ ████ ██ ██ ██ ██ ███ ██████?█
████████████ ████ ████ ████ ██ ██ ██████████, █████ ██████████ █████ ████ ████ ██ █████████ ██ ███ ███. ███ ██ ███ ███ ██ ██████████ █████?█
█████████, █████ ███████ ████ ███████ ████ ████. █████ ███ ███ ██████, ████ ████ ████ ███ ██████████ ████ ██. ████ ██████. ███ ██ ████ ████████.███ ██ ████ ███████, █████ ████. ████ ████ ███████ ████ ███████ █████████. █ ███████ (██████ ████ ████████ ███ ██████████ ███████ ███████ █████) ████ ████ ████ █ ████████ ██ █████████ ██████, ██ ███, ██ ███. █████ ████, █ █████ ███ ████ ███████ ██████.
█ █████ ████ █ ███ ███████. █ █████ ████ █ ██████ ████████ ███████. ████ ███████ ██.
█████ ███ ██ ████████████ █████████████ ██████. ██ ███ ████ █ ██████ ███████████ ████ █████ ████ █████ ███ ██████, ███ █████. █ ██████ ███ ████████ ███ ████████, ████ ████████████ ██ ██ ████ ███████. ███ ████ ██, ████ ████, ████ ██████ ███████ ██ █████████ █████ ███ █████ ████?
████ ████████ ████ ███ █████ █████ ███ ██████ █████████ ███. ███████ ██████ ████, █████ █ ███ █████████.
████ ████ ███.
██ █. ██████ ██████ ███████ (███ ███ ████████ █████) ███ ███ █████████ ███ ███ ████ █ ███ ███ █████████ ███ ██████. █. ███ ████ ██ ███ ███ ██████ ███ █ ████ ████ ███████ ██████ █████ ████████. █ ██████ ████ ███ ████████ ██ ████ ████ █ ████, ██ ██ ███ ████ ████████ ██ █████ ███████ ███ █████ █████ ███ ████ ████. ███ ███ ███████ █████(███████-████) ██ ██████████, █████ ███ ████ ████ █████.
██████████ ███ ██ ████ ████ ███ ███ ██ █ █████ ████ ███ █████████ ██ ██ █████. █ ███ ██████████ ████ ████ ██ █-████ ██████████ ████ █ ███ ██ ██████ ██████ ███ ██████████████ ██ ███████ █ ████ █████████ █████ █████ ██████ - █████ █ ███████ █████ █████ ███ ██████ ██ ██████, ███ █████. ████ ███████ ██ ██████ ████████████ ████ ███████, ██ ████ ████ ██ ██ █████ ██████ ████-██-██ - ███ ██████████ ███ ███ ██ ██ ██████.
██████ ████ █. ██ █████ ██ ████████, ████ ██████ ████ ██ ███████████ ██ █████ ██ ███████ ██ ████████ ████-██-██. █ █████ ████ ███████████ ███████ ███████ ██ ███ █████████ ████, ███ ██ ██ ███ ███████ ███████ ███████ ██ █████ ██ ███ █ ████ ██████████ █████ ███ ███████, █████ ████ ██ █████ ███████ (██ ██) ███ ██████ ██ █████ ████ █████.
███████ ██ ███████ ███ ███ ██ ███ █████ ██████ ██:██, ████ ██ ████ ██████ █████ █████ ████ ████ ██ ███████. ███ █████ █ ████ █████████ ████? █ █████ ██████ ██ █████, ████ ██████ ██████ ██ ███ ████ ███████ ███ ██ ████ ████████ ████████, ███ █████ ██████ ██████ ██ (...)█ ████ ████ ████ ██████████ ████ █ ███████ █████ ███████. ██ ██████ ████ █████████ ████ ████ ███ ████████ ███ ███████ ███ ██ █████ ███████ ██████ ████ █████ ████████████ ████████ ██ █ ██████ ████ ███ ████.
███ █ █████ ███████, █████████ █ ███ ███████ ███ ██ ███████. ████ ███████ ██ ████ ██ ███████.█(████:█████.██████████████████████.██████-██████████-█████-██████-███-█████-███████-██-███████████.████.██.████?████:█████████████████)
█████ ███ █ ███████ ███████ ██████ ██ ████ ███ ███████ (██ ███ ███) ██ ███ ██████████. ████ █████ ██████ █ ████ ██████-████████ ██████████ ███████ █████████ ███ ██████████ ██ █ ████ ██████ ███████-████, ████ ██████ ██ ████-█████ █████, ███ ████████ ███ ██ █ ███████ ████ █████ ██████ ██ █████ ██ ██████ ██ ████████.
███████ — Barcelona
███ █████████ ████ █████ ██ █ ██████ ███████ ███ █████ ████ ████ ████████ ███ ███ ██████ ███ ██████.
████ █████ █████ ██ ███████ ████ ████ █████████ ██ ██████ ████ ████ ██████████ ████ ██ ███████ ███ ██████ ██ █████ █████████ ███ ███████████████ ██████ ██████ ███████ ████ ██ █████████.
███ ███ ████ ██ ██████, ███████ █████ ███ █████ ██████████, ███████ ███ █████ █████████ ███ █ ██ ██████ ██ ████? ████ ███ ████ ██ █████ ██ █████ ██.
████ ██ █████████, █. ██████ ██ ██ ███ ██ ████ ███ █████ ████ ███ ████████.
N. and A. were busy so I headed off on my bike to see Barcelona again, from viewpoints. The Castell de Montjuïc, the old olympic facilities and finally the Bunkers del Carmel.
Looking onto the Mediterranean Sea, I noticed that I had now crossed the Iberian Peninsula. And less than half of it by bike.
In between I saw the HUMAN+ exposition at CCCB; a well curated collection of art work, design processes and research concerning the future of humanity (and cyborgs). I was very happy to see a museum space shared by these different approaches that here really showed how close these fields can be nowadays.
I unfortunately missed Floating Points at Razzmatazz but still very much enjoyed the night at Macarena - I hadn't been to a techno club in a month or more.
Missed the crowds from Berlin though, what a difference it makes what people around you came to the club for.
I had traded the morning for the night, so we went straight from breakfast into the barbecue.
With a Tiramisu improvisation in between. Note to readers: Don't call it Tiramisu if you hardly have any of the right ingredients - even if the result tastes good, people will be disappointed because you promised them Tiramisu.
Roof tops are nice.
A. left in the evening, N. was tired; so I let his housemates convince me to go to a (...) club. I honestly don't even know how to categorize the music, was proud of having endured half an hour. Cultural experience, I guess? Having a beer on the beach was a better ending.
Barcelona — Vic
N. and I had some trouble finding back into an early schedule and the electricity outage (read: no coffee) didn't really help. We wandered around to find a coffee place that would open before 10:00 (surprisingly rare) with sun before he left to the university and I finished packing and eventually continuing my journey.
To avoid the endless outskirts of any major city I followed the bike path along the coast as N. had suggested until El Masnou from where I had to cross the first mountain range. After an always too short descent I saw a sign to Vic, but it was a trap and led me to the highway C-17, four lanes and full of trucks that -even if they had cared - had no space to avoid me. I got off as soon as possible and found a nice and even marked bike path along a river.
At some point it ended and I followed another path into a village, but after a while I found myself before the C-17 again.
Next I tried a path that was mainly marked for hiking but also kind of for bikes. It was full of roots and stones, absolutely impassable without a mountain bike (and crazy skills), so after a riverside lunch break I pushed my bike back to the road.
Seeing no more options I decided to check Google Maps and to my surprise it found an alternative, over the hills. It promised to become a tough climb, but I wanted to avoid the highway at any cost.
The climb wasn't just tough - it was insane. First it was just crazy steep. Then the road ended and it was a dirt road.
A few reasons why I had to push my bike:
- Too steep (not enough strength)
- Too steep (front wheel leaves ground)
- Too rocky
- Too sandy (no friction or falling to the side)
- Too deep rain creeks
And so on.
Then the dirt road ended at a monastery.
A passing mountain biker advised me to turn around,
But eventually, every mountain and every bad road has an end. I must admit that the scenery was beautiful and I found an abandoned castle, but I was very happy when I got back to a paved road and could finally do some kilometers.
Back in the valley I was forced on dirt roads again, but apparently the farmers' machines kept them sort of flat.
After sunset I arrive. My host doesn't answer immediately, I sit there watching the evening sky and looking for couches for the next night already. Once I got to V.'s place we just ate (very well) and talked before I fell asleep.
I had planned this as a slow restart, taking advantage of the extra time in Catalunya - but it ended up being was the by far most exhaustive day so far (probably also with the most breathtaking scenery). I was really surprised my bike didn't break; that new rim was damn worth it.
Vic — Fornells de la Selva
After the adventurous day before I was looking forward to a shorter and easier day, V. recommended me a route that promised to be calm. After the initial climb I found myself in a nice valley surrounded by steep and quite rocky mountains.
As I was rolling down I suddenly heard one if my bags dragging over the floor, hit the breaks and found my entire carrier (with the bags still attached) hanging behind the bike.
Apparently the vibrations caused by abusing my poor Vilar as a mountain bike had loosened the screws that attach the carrier to the saddle area (but not the once connecting it to my axis - it didn't fall of completely).
With some searching I managed to find one of the screws on the road and improvised to replace the other one with wire straps (that L. had given to me on Day 1, saying that they could come useful).
I continued to the bottom of the valley, saw an old church tower lurking out of the dammed lake and soon crossed the dam. I trusted the road signs and took a steep dirt road down the dam; for once they were right: after a while I saw that the old (paved) road had disappeared under mud slides.
The issue remaining that I was on a dirt road once again, and even when crossing a bridge back to the supposedly paved side, I was stuck on a dirt road.
My mountain biking skills approved significantly over these two days and even with my thin tires I learned to go through sand, rocks and even small rivers; but nonetheless it is very slow and I had to get off every other minute. At least the valley was beautiful: trees and rocks framing a winding river that turned into another dammed lake with a few abandoned rock buildings.
Back on the national road I could see Catalunya's efforts to create a cycling network: the signs that had accompanied me through the valleys pointed to unpaved paths, in parallel to the road or next to it - but it's all directed at mountain bikes (and I had had enough of that) so I took a smaller road over a few hills to get to my destination. I prefer a paved climb to a dirt road or bigger streets now, as weird as it sounds.
I found that village's church - a great meeting point - and waited for my host, F. to arrive. After dinner I was dead tired, the off road experiences are a lot more demanding, also for my hands and butt which had been fine the other days but were now worrying me.
Fornells de la Selva — Girona — Llançà
As I wanted to see Girona I asked F. and he took me and my bike with him to the library, right outside the city center. I enjoyed wandering around freely though the medieval city (and unlike most medieval towns I had seen in Spain, it really felt like a city). F. had to leave for work and I was back on the road, finally paved and pretty flat, the old N-II, also obsoleted by a highway.
In Figueres I passed by the Dalí museum (only from the outside) and climbed the castle without really noticing, got a good perspective on the surroundings: the snow covered Pyrenees I had seen the last few days to the north, pretty flat to the south, the mountains I had come from to the west and the last mountain range before I'd be back at the Mediterranean to the east.
As I reached the pass I faced a strong and cold wind. F.'s father had told me about it as we were watching the weather channel: it wouldn't rain (unlike the prediction) as long as this cold wind called Tramontanya came down the mountains, but it would blow heavily.
After arrival in Llançà I sat in the harbor waiting for further info from my host; the wind was chilling and I got a little worried, but he eventually replied (he had been in a teacher reunion) and picked me up a good while later. Have to be prepared for uncertainty and waiting with CouchSurfing - but I'm honestly quite surprised how well it all went.
P. (my host) had invited friends for dinner. It surprised me that they seemed to unconsciously switch back to Catalan frequently. I can pretty much understand it, but I had a hard time figuring out if they actually weren't aware or just really hated Spanish.
Llançà — Massis de l'Albera
This had been supposed to be my beach day.
But the Tramontanya grew stronger the whole time (I had heard it shaking the house at night) and it was cloudy, so I decided to do a... Bike trip!
I left most of my luggage at P.'s place and we would have lunch after he finishes teaching; these kilos less make a real difference.
In surprisingly little time I climbed over the Cap de Creus and had a walk and a coffee in Cadaqués, a nice tourist village. The way back took a lot more effort as the wind was now against me and still getting stronger.
We had an extensive lunch including beer and coffee until I suddenly realized it was already after 17:00 and I wasn't on my way to France yet.
The wind turned into a big problem. In the beginning I was just slowed down, had to use the lowest gears even in flat areas - but then I was suddenly thrown off my bike: the wind had taken me all movement, to gain stability I turned the handlebar and that moment offered the wind more surface and it threw me onto the road. Luckily few cars passed there, but I once again found myself pushing my bike from time to time to avoid this.
I very slowly reached the last hill before France and looked around for a camping spot. I was warned that on the border hill there might be patrols so this was the last location before Cerbère, where I had to meet V. in the morning.
Looking around I only saw rocks, in steep formations, arranged into thin terraces (for farming back then?) or cliffs. But two paths left the road into the mountains and in search of a flat area I suddenly saw a tunnel entrance that turned out to be a bunker-like shelter, drilled into the rock, walls of concrete and the entrance covered with rock again.
A bit spooky, but the perfect protection against wind and the upcoming rain. I'd get used to the "anarchist ghosts" N. joked about.
█. █████ ████ ███ █████ ███████ ██ ██████████ █████ ██ ███ █████ ██ ██████: █████ ████ ████ ███ ███.█ ████████?█ ███████ ██, ███████████████. ████ ██ ████ ████ ███████ ██ ███ ████████ ████ █████ ███ ███████ ████.█
██ █████ █████ ██ ███████ ████ ████ █ ███ █ ████ █ ████ ██ ████████ (█████) ███ ████ ███████ ██, ███ ████ ████ ██ ███ █████.
Massis de l'Albera — Port Leucate
Port Leucate — Vias
In the morning, the weather apologized for the day before: clear, some sun, tailwind and good view on the snow covered Pyrenees visible over the Étagns.
Very nice paths along the Canal du Midi, between waters - but slow.
Wind grew stronger throughout the day and turned against us; "missed" daily goal of Agde.
Vias — Castries
Castries — Uzès
Heavy rain in the morning, but better mood due to TTS-enabled turn-by-turn biking app and an old railway embankment turned into the perfect biking path.
Nice landscapes and military areas in the afternoon.
███████ █████ ██ ██████ ██ ███████████. ████ █████ ████ █ ███ ██████ ███ ████ █████ █████████.█
Uzès — Donzère — Valence
Valence — Lyon — Drumettaz-Clarafond
Took train with V. to Lyon in the early morning to avoid Mistral and started an equally long journey up the Rhône; he faced a long day of local trains but eventually arrived.
Leaving Lyon was easy and surprisingly nice on perfect bike paths along train rails. (Didn't see the city at all.)
Further day was coursed:
Chain broke, found no bakery (or other food) in the mountains, pedal started to fall off (I was very worried and did about 40km with the other foot only), phone battery and battery pack died.
Everything got fixed eventually and I did a Tour de France-style race from Belley (only bike shop around) to my night's hosts, a French family.
Stupid me hadn't seen the mountain range between them and my path so I (including the detour to avoid climbing those) saw myself forced to do about 140km - too much.
Drummetaz-Clarafond — Chêne-Bourg
Weather cloudy from the morning on, but not too much wind. Cold though, very happy about the gloves and head band V. left me; the cold as a sign off getting closer to home.
Rode back on the lake-side and took a hilly shortcut to a farther point of the ViaRhona.
Started to rain just before Seyssel, long coffee break hoping it would stop - rained all afternoon, varying strength, but continuous.
Whenever I cross a country border - on this trip - it rains, this time was no exception. But I couldn't take my usual border-sign-selfie: there had been no sign at all. I only noticed that I was in Switzerland when I saw that the "60" on a speed limit sign was in Frutiger, designer details.
I had assumed the ViaRhona would continue as a flat, perfect bike path next to the river, but around Geneva that didn't hold. I enjoyed about three kilometers of bike path before it threw me back on regular roads, up and down, hilly area.
Geneva itself has incredible bike lanes, on roads but also between backyards - but I would have never found them without the spoken GPS instructions, the Fairphone screen doesn't work in rain. (Another story of that day: the rain had changed my route during the day, by clicking something. I trusted the voice commands until it got too absurd and finally checked...)
Eventually arrived more than an hour late at the place of friends of my parents; L. had to leave by then, but I spent some time with N. and large amounts of risotto.
Had searched throughout the day and finally found a cheap-ish ticket to Berlin, with bike:
█████████, ███████ ████-██-██ ██:██.
Chêne-Bourg — Yverdon-les-Bains
First day in a while that went on as planned.
Took a slower start, long breakfast, chatting with N., talking (among many things) about the future in a sense: Technology vs. Mindset, i.e. should we change how we behave or rather look for a tech-fix for everything.
Example travel: Should we shoot for the Hyperloop or learn to appreciate our closer surroundings? She mentions many recent hiking (and other) trips in remote countries and laments air travel being the main CO2 source of many environmentally conscious people - I on the other hand find myself surprisingly content with what I found on the way. Is the act of traveling what we look for in the end?
Took the Route de Suisse along the lake for the entire morning. It was not too busy and had bike paths throughout, but mainly it was a guaranty to make kilometers without too much altitude difference.
Weather was gray throughout and although the surroundings were nice it never pleased me as much as the - maybe more boring - sunny landscapes on the Iberian peninsula had. Gray sky, blurry horizon, green grass, the road is a gray tape.
Lunch break in Morge, sitting on a bench on the lake promenade, stylish international passersby, look at me with a certain rejection or detestation as I make my usual avocado/tomato-and-cheese-sandwiches with a bread I always buy on the way.
Managed to avoid most mountains, followed the Swiss national bike route system; it takes its detours to get you off the big streets, but you'll arrive.
Had gotten a confirmation from my host S. the day before already (for once I planned ahead), quite relaxing, my last couch surfing need. He's a second-generation Portuguese immigrant, but we ended up speaking English because he wasn't quite used to Portuguese and his wife doesn't speak any.
Yverdon-les-Bains — Bern
And Switzerland is beautiful when the sun shines.
Followed the Lac de Neuchâtel and then the Aare, sun on water, sun on grass.
Had really hoped to have no bike failures here (because of prices) - when climbing the last hill from Wohlen to Bern the wire for my gearshift got turn - but least I could still make it to J.'s place and it's cheap.
Stayed at J.'s place, long term friend, which gives me a feeling of getting close to my destination. He's studying jazz piano here, so we talk about new bands, festivals, synthesizers, the usual.
(He's collaborated with me for soundtracks on various video projects).
Bern — Ötlingen
Ötlingen — Offenburg
I set off to follow the Rhein for pretty much the entire day; it promised to be easy to find, nature and quite fast.
And it was, but it was also boring: a big, canalized river or sometimes the old arms of it to my left, trees to my right. Wouldn't this area be of particular interest to pass because I know so many of the cities and villages?
So in the afternoon I headed back towards the Schwarzwald, passed Rust (read: Europa Park), Lahr... Cities as close as 20km to where I lived most of my life and I must admit that I had no clue where they were.
Giant cloud formations announcing thunderstorms surrounded me, passed left and right but I luckily stayed dry most of the way. I pass over a small hill and the valley unfolds before me, air cleaner than I can ever remember, seeing the Vosges in all detail, stacked mountain ranges.
Then I start passing villages where friends of mine used to live, I turn off my navigation assuming I'd know the way; immediately get lost, useless bike signposting.
I reach the city limits, go the usual paths, "just riding home". No monumentality, no splendidness, no realizations. Have I overcome it for worse?
Now when do I arrive "home"?