There are bicycle groups in Calcutta
Back in Germany
In the morning on the Danube in Romania
Littered idyll on the Danube - also in Romania.
When I was traveling between Antalya and Istanbul in Turkey at the end of March, it was still snowing 1500 meters above sea level. The early mornings were cold, but when it got warmer at Pamukkale in the lower elevations, I was sure that the gloves had been used for the last time on this trip.
After a few spring days in Bulgaria, the cold returned in April. In Romania I shivered in the rain at just over zero degrees, and the cold days stretched over Moldova to Ukraine. In the Carpathians, the snow line was 300 meters at the end of April. Memories of the first weeks of the trip were awakened when we (Walter, Jörg, Gertrud and I) drove for weeks through a snowy landscape on the way to Vladimir in spring 2013.
Village in Moldova
When I saw euro bills again in Cyprus for the first time in several years, the banknotes seemed very small to me. The lei bills in Moldova are even smaller. What is particularly common is that the one-leu and 100-lei notes are very similar.
Many wells in Eastern Europe are still in use.
At the end of April 2017 in the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine: Snow down to 300 meters.
I want to leave Ukraine for Slovakia near the city of Uchgorod. 30 kilometers before I found out by chance that this large border crossing is closed to pedestrians and cyclists. Only cars and motorcycles are allowed to enter the EU there. Again a new experience. There are crossings that may only be used by residents of the countries bordering one another ("non-international" border crossings); but I've never seen a lock for bicycles in Europe.
Adventure Europe! On a dirt road in Slovakia - far away from towns - it starts to rain. The clay floor immediately becomes soapy, the running wheels block after a few rotations. In some places I can push the bike over grass, in other places I have to drag it over the softened clay. I can do two kilometers an hour.
When, after four kilometers, I have solid ground under my wheels again, I pull several kilograms of clay out from under the mudguards for half an hour.
In the evening the Szabo family invites me to Roznava ...
... where I can also clean the equipment in the yard.
Last October, at the Globetrotter campsite in Nairobi ("Jungle Junction"), I met Franziska and Martin, a married couple from Austria who had been traveling all over Africa with an old Unimog for two years. Franziska had severe back pain that no one could explain. She had to take pain medication and was in a wheelchair. A few days later they flew home so that Franziska could be treated in Vienna.
From Cairo I asked how things are going by email. Martin was surprisingly short and only referred to the -> homepage of the two. What I read there was shocking: Franziska died of cancer in December.
Franziska and Martin with their Unimog in Cameroon
When I met them in Nairobi, Franziska was in a wheelchair because of the severe back pain.
In the small town of Petronell-Carnuntum, between Bratislava and Vienna, I visit Martin. He lives idyllically in a building that used to be a riding stable. But Franziska is missing. The urn is in his bedroom, and he scattered its ashes on a balloon ride over the Alps.
Dear Martin, still a lot of strength for the future!
Martin in Petronell-Carnuntum (near Vienna) next to his old 54 hp Unimog. The red touring Unimog is still in Nairobi. Martin will drive him back to Austria in the summer.
In Altheim near the German border a short visit to Heinz, a member of the -> bike travel forum. Return to Germany the next day. I am entering Burghausen. Drive on to the Chiemsee, where I spend the night on a campsite in Prien. Erlangen should only be 250 kilometers away. But because of my long round to the partner communities in Western Europe, there are still about 8000 kilometers to go.
Over there, on the other side of the Salzach: Germany!
The planned route through Europe
Behind Sachrang back to Austria. Along the Inn to the west, after Innsbruck turn left into the beautiful Ötztal and up to Umhausen. I pull the fifth letter from Erlangen out of my pocket and am once again amazed at how good the envelopes still look after more than four years. A few bruises, but otherwise like new.
My timing happens to be very good. On the following day, the Ötzi village is opened for this season, an open-air museum that gives an impression of the life of the people 5000 years ago. Mayor Johann Kammerlander and partnership officer Leonhard Falkner invite me. Erika Simon is also present, the woman from Nuremberg who found Ötzi's mummified corpse with her husband south of Umhausen in 1991.
Season opening of the Ötzi village
Ötzi finder Erika Simon from Nuremberg in conversation with Leonhard Falkner
The Timmelsjoch, which leads from Umhausen directly to Italy, is closed for a few more weeks. So I drive back to the Inn and then left again in the next but one side valley towards the south. It's still too cold for the time of year, but the road at the Maloja Pass is free of snow. The long descent takes me to Lake Como and back into spring.
In Cumiana I meet my friend Wolfgang, who also traveled by bike from Erlangen (although he somehow found a shorter route than me). Together we drive to the official reception in front of the town hall. The "Amici della Bicicletta", a very active cycling group that regularly organizes long-distance trips, are waiting there. Jörg Gruner from Erlangen (Tour de Friends rider to Wladimir, see above) has already undertaken several tours with them. The Amici and Jörg will soon be taking a detour on the Berlin-Erlangen route.
At the Maloja pass
Looking back from Lake Como
At dinner we also meet the mayor Paolo Poggio in a large group. We are invited to "Giro Pizza", to the "Pizza Race", in which the waiter gradually distributes various variations of the Italian specialty on the tables. At the end - almost as a dessert - comes pizza with Nutella.
After dinner, I hand over the Erlangen greeting letter. As in Beşiktaş, the mayor has changed here in the meantime, so the actual addressee is no longer in office. But as in Beşiktaş, one sees it here as well, that it is not a letter from person to person, but a well-traveled greeting from Erlangen to the friends in Cumiana.
Cumiana's Mayor Paolo Poggio with the greeting from Erlangen
Former Mayor Gianfranco Poli sealed the partnership with Erlangen's then Mayor Dr. Siegfried Balleis. Both are friends of cycling.
The partnership with Cumiana has a tragic background. During the Second World War, German soldiers carried out a massacre in this small town in which 51 civilians lost their lives. Decades later it turned out that the officer who presumably gave the order lives in Erlangen. 55 years after the massacre, he came before an Italian military tribunal, but died during the trial. (-> Erlangen's twin cities and friendly communities)
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