Martina and I play tennis in the same league and funny enough she even looks a little like the other Martina (Navratilova), just prettier. Needless to say, some of her shots are quite like the other Martina's too, and in our last encounter Martina and her partner won against my husband and me in a hard-fought 3-set match.
After the match we had a nice relaxing chat and Martina mentioned that she and her daughter did a fabulous 1400 km biking trip last year, which ended up being one of her most exciting travel experiences and an amazing mother-daughter bonding opportunity.
Originally from Germany, Martina is a very active Toronto real estate professional, probably in somewhere in her 40s, and Martina's daughter Jennefer just finished her university studies and is off as we speak on another biking trip in Sweden. In the fall she'll start another 5 years of academic studies in the Czech Republic.
Now you can read about Martina and Jennifer's European biking adventure.
1. Please tell us a little about yourselves and your background. How did you come up with the idea for this biking trip? Please comment on the special t-shirts you both wore.
Jennefer had to do so some studying in a library. When we met for lunch she admitted having looked through the travel section and found routes for traveling in Germany and got the idea of biking bike though Germany.
For safety we looked for a buddy for her to go along. but while everyone agreed that it would be a great trip no one wanted to commit. One day Jennefer said: “why don’t you come along”? It was a nice thought but I was very hesitant. Packing light was not my strongest side and I was not sure if I could manage to bike such a great distance. But the idea grew on me and suddenly there was no turning back. We started to dream.
We informed ourselves about different bikes and found the best bike shop in Toronto where we bought our bikes and most of the other equipment as well. Over the following weeks we collected all the necessary stuff. We got the special Toronto bike shirt and wore it a lot during our trip, now it also serves as a constant reminder of our great tour whenever I wear it. We checked out web sites of bike trails, made our own training schedules and e-mailed a lot of thoughts back and forth to each other.
2. Please tell us about the itinerary of your cycling trip. From where to where did you go, how many kilometers did you cycle a day? How strenuous was it?
We started in Fuessen in southern Germany and rode for 14 days and 1400 to Flensburg. Some days we had to take it easy (heavy rain, food poisoning) but the last day we rode 180km. It was tiring; our muscles in our shoulders and legs were tight. Also we were not used to being on a bike saddle for such a long time and that resulted in some pain.
2. What type of landscapes, villages and towns did you ride through?
We started in the mountains and worked our way up north – where the terrain got a lot flatter. We saw the most beautiful places, and were so close to them all. Often we rode along rivers and could hardly believe that we were not dreaming. Every little village had a church in the centre, and the most beautiful flowers decorated the houses. At one point we encountered cows in the middle of the road. They were walking home from the field to the farm all by themselves. We were a little uncomfortable at first. Once the hills were behind us we encountered strong winds – especially around the “Nordsee".
3. There were some mishaps with your luggage and your bicycles at the beginning of your trip. Please tell us about that.
The airline lost our bikes – they delivered them to us four days after we arrived– totally damaged. The bike store had little hope for us and thought we needed to order special parts which would take another three days But since the bikes were so new they managed to straighten out the wheels and repaired the other items as well.
The moment we biked our first meters we thought we were in paradise. The bikes felt heavy due to our lugguage and balancing them was something I had to get used to. At first my bike would tip even in standing position. But we got used to it so much that we could hardly steer the bikes once we took off the luggage. With time we became very efficient in loading and unloading our bikes. We had each two panniers and one bag on the carrier. We did not have a stand or holder to place our maps – which would have been a great advantage to have. Very early on our tour we encountered dirt roads and we felt sorry for our touring bikes. The first flat we got while pushing the bike towards a well to drink some water.
4. You also had other mishaps (flat tires, food poisoning] along the way. Please tell us more about that.
We had four flat tires in all. Jennefer was able to change them very quickly. But first we had a wrong pump that did not fit to our valves and we needed to find stores that would sell pumps. Other bikers were most helpful – as soon as someone saw us struggling they would offer help.
In a little village – we waited for a night tour – we ate some typical German food and Jen's food must have been spoiled. At night she got terrible stomach pain. It lasted for over a day. The following day we could only bike 30 km. We found an accommodation with a nice lady who made us tea. Next day we continued and the lady offered us to call if Jen got sick again so she would get us with her car. We were amazed at this helpfulness.
One day it rained so badly that the rain dropped out of our shoes – that was a very cold experience. We needed to dry our clothes fast for the next day. Jen found out that hanging the clothes on the window was great – I was uneasy about the looks of it – but it was practical.
5. What was your daily routine? When did you get up? Where did you eat your meals? What did you do in the evenings?
We got up at around 6:00 a. m. , wrote notes into our journals, and went for breakfast. The breakfast was always very good and we also took a sandwich along for lunch. When we found a great spot with a nice view we took a break for lunch and ate what we had in our bags. For dinner we would be in the next town and have a typical meal for the region. We really liked Spaetzle in the southern parts of Germany.
Twice we got in so late that we could not find any food – so we survived on power bars and some sweets that we had bought. The next morning we would have an extra big breakfast. We ate a lot of delicious cakes – no need to worry about calories – we would burn them off fast through biking. One town was celebrating a wine festival. Two bands played in the town centre, wine booths were everywhere and happy people were just chatting, listening to the music or moving with the beat.
In another town we wanted to take a guided night tour with lots of historic stories. We only survived half of the tour because we were way too tired. Often we would get some delicious cake from the local bakery and eat it on our beds while watching the Olympics, reflecting on the past day and making plans for the next.
6. What types of places did you stay in? How did you find those places?
Some accommodations we found through a book called “Bike and Breakfast” , these places would provide a safe place for the bikes and a healthy breakfast. Other times we went to the local tourist information and they found a room for us. One fellow who biked with us for a day offered us a room since a convention was being held in his city and we could not find a reasonable place to stay.
7. Please tell us about your encounters with local residents along your route.
We got lost way too often – adding to our driving time. People would steal the road signs as keepsakes. The moment we stepped off the bike someone would ask if we needed help. Sometimes people did not know what they were talking about and sent us in the wrong direction, but they were all most helpful. One lady offered us lunch at her place. We were so surprised how friendly the local people were. Kids would ask as where we were from and where we were going. We slowed down a little to tell them, and they would wave and wish us good luck.
8. Packing light is a key requirement for a long biking trip. Please tell us about how you dealt with that issue.
We made lists of things we would need on our trip. We wanted to bring as little as possible but still the mountain of stuff added up. We fitted everything into our panniers and backed them into a big duffle bag for the plane. We would save on space by just bringing one shampoo for both of us. We worked together as a team – one would carry all the cosmetic articles, the other all the road maps and so on.
The full interview with photos is published at Travel and Transitions - Interviews
Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions(http://www.travelandtransitions.com ). Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.
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