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It was a 2 hour flight which took us from Helsinki to Berlin on Day 222 (9th August) arriving in the evening, and what a contrast to St Petersburg.
Todayís Berlin has to do with what happened in November 1989 _- the Wall fell. Berlin had been divided for 28 years. The efforts to restore the City have made it just about the biggest construction site in Europe. and the largest to be undertaken in modern history
In view of the limited time at our disposal a large number of Odyssey riders elected to undertake a conducted City tour by cycle! In 4 hours we covered the Victory Column, Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz. Checkpoint Charlie. Site of Hitler's Bunker,
The Reichstag, Bebelplatz (site of Nazi book burning) and the remains of the 155 kms Wall.
Our departure from Berlin went smoothly but not our approach into the City of Dresden. A combination of cobblestones and tramlines had the disastrous effect of 5 Odyssey riders being brought down, one of who needed hospital treatment.
It is difficult for todayís visitor to Dresden to appreciate that in 1945, 85% of the City was destroyed by allied bombing. Rebuilding of the City to its former glory has been the top priority for the City Fathers over the years Many buildings now stand in their former glory, but there is stilt much to be done.
The harmony of the City with the River Elbe is impressive. Add to that the fact that 60% of the City area is taken up with parks and gardens makes it a place to want to linger. However it was not possible to linger as I would like to have done, as on day 225 we were heading for the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic is at the heart of Europe, and made for pleasant cycling with rolling countryside, wooded hills and fertile valleys. Whilst the quality of life in general still lags behind that of itís neighbours. great strides have been made since the former Czechoslovakia freed itself from Soviet satellite status in 1990.
We arrived in the beautiful City of Prague, where we were to spend 2 nights. Our campsite was on the outskirts of the City, which gave us the opportunity to use the public transport system that is reputed to be one of the best in Europe.
We departed from Prague on day 228 for the 3 days ride to Salzburg in Austria via Passau with a dramatic change in the scenery. This also meant that we were back into the hills. From Salzburg we are now heading for Munich, with an increase in the daily temperatures. This was to change briefly as we entered Munich following a long and hot day, approx 3 Km from our destination we were greeted by a violent thunderstorm.
One thing that can be said about the Odyssey 2000 experience, it helps you to understand and wonder at the lifestyle of citizens around the World. Germany, for example with it's many Biergartens, a very popular place to socialize. The Germans appear to be the Worlds greatest lovers of garden gnomes and sausages. There are a reputed 35 million garden gnomes around the country. There is also for the gourmet sausage lover 1456 different varieties of sausages. They also have chip distributors, and a home delivery service for condoms. Not quite sure what, if any, is the connection there.
The route from Munich took us to Oberammergau, famous for it's Passion Play held every 10 years and guess what ?. Odyssey picked the year and time for the Play. It would have been very difficult for an Odyssey rider to attend the Passion Play as I understand it lasts for around 9 hours with an audience of 5000. The itinerary then took us into Switzerland via Braz and very briefly through another Country. I refer to Liechtenstein, making it one of the shortest cross country rides where we covered a distance of around 25 Kilometers. This is where we start climbing again with a 4000 ft climb over the last 14 Kms into the mountain resort of Flims. It is here that we have a rest day before tackling the route to Raron via Andermatt. We are now riding into some of the most spectacular scenery we have seen to date.
On 25th August we have a very pleasant ride of 86 Kms from Chatel to Geneva, and following a long descent we were riding along the banks of Lake Geneva. It was around 28 Kms from Geneva that we stopped for lunch at the Historical and Medieval Village of Yvoire. This was the place to lock up our bikes and meander around the cobbled streets of this beautiful lakeside village. It was just 10 Kms from lunch that we were invited to indulge in a glass of wine plus cheese and biscuits arranged by one Gilbert Filchard who is the only Odyssey rider from France. Gilbert a retired Pharmacist from Lyon spent the first 20 years of his life here. He is a part shareholder in a family vineyard along with his Brother and 90 year old Mother, who has a reputation for driving fast cars.
Geneva is another beautiful City which has it all and appears to cater for the well healed Porsche owner, as well as the modest cyclist.
I was not aware of this but Geneva is known as the City of refugees. It has earned this reputation by making it's extensive bomb shelter bunkers available to those in need around the World, the latest being the Bosnian refugees. Now it is the turn of 200 odd, homeless, and itinerate bikers on their way around the World. Must admit we have had an assortment Hotels, Hostels etc, since Jan, but this must be just about the most unusual accommodation to date.
The bunkers were constructed at the height of the Cold War, and took you below ground level equal to 3 stories. The entry to each level was via a large doorway, with an 18 inch thick door, constructed of steel and concrete. Walls were 2 meters thick and my first reaction was a fear of claustrophobia. My fear was unfounded, in spite of the fact that there were around 48 bunks per dormitory they were spacious with air conditioning throughout. Adequate toilet facilities and showers together with medical sections would enable a large number to live in reasonable comfort for some time. Fortunately our experience was limited to 2 nights only.
Two days later we arrived at the Spa Town of Bad Zurzach, which I found to be a friendly little town with an illustrious history. As we arrived at the camp site on the outskirts of the Town, we were given an ovation from the residents who were lining the street. The site was primarily a residential and vacation caravan Park on the banks of the River Rhine. Bad Zurzach became famous after a successful drilling, on 5th September 1955 when a warm spring was discovered at 1400 ft below ground. Since that date 600 litres of healing water at 40 c have gushed from the ground every minute. So all year round now visitors can take advantage of the unique bathing pleasures of the thermal baths. It was lucky that this, our last stop in Switzerland was a rest day. Suffice to say that there were many Odyssey bikers (inc yours truly) who relaxed in the spacious spa complex with it's numerous pools and whirlpools.
The Bad Zurzach thermal spring is recommended by Doctors for anyone suffering from rheumatic diseases of the spine, joints, cartilage as well as follow up for injuries and accidents. So it was a relaxed and refreshed bunch of Odyssey riders who set out on day 243. Two days later we were back in Germany at Koblenz (in the rain). With only one night here we were not able to fully appreciate what the locals call this 'beautiful corner of Germany'. The town is at the junction of the Rhine and the Moselle. Needless to say that for the next 2 days we were riding along the River Moselle with vineyards as far as you could see. There was a good bike trail along the River which should have made a pleasant ride but for a change in the weather, we had almost 2 days of continuous rain. We arrived in Luxembourg on 3rd Sept, with just 4 days riding to Amsterdam where there was a 5 day break before our flight to Australia. So having covered the 4540 Kms and 2 stages from Norway, yours truly was ready for a break. Total cycling distance since Jan 1st 22,415 Kms. Only 5 folk have so far ridden every Kilometre. My next report will be from Down Under.
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