Gdansk, and Stockholm!
It’s been a rather intense week since I last updated the blog. New countries and altered plans!
Luckily, the strong headwinds of the previous days eased off a bit and made life easier. Not only that, I was expecting Lithuania to have worse roads but they actually turned out to be better than in Latvia and there was even a fair bit of riding along cycle paths through forest and along beaches. Very nice!
I spent some time sightseeing in Klaipeda, a nice harbor town with an old center and the starting point for my trip along the long peninsula that stretches into Kaliningrad.
And my visa had finally come through!
I took the ferry from Klaipeda early in the morning, wanting to get to the Russian border with plenty of time left during the day, just in case there were any problems with my visa.
It was nice cycling along the peninsula, nearly all the way through Lithuania consisted of cycle paths rather than along the main road.
I made it to the border just after lunch and they let me in straight away!
The Russian side was not as pleasant to ride as I was now forced to ride along the main road, and the area is a national park and there was a fair bit of traffic, some of it large tourist busses, and the road was narrow.
But I made it into Zelenogradsk, a seaside resort town and enjoyed a quite night at a hotel there. The staff did not speak any English, but registered me and filled out a lot of papers, taking one that I was given at the border and giving me another. Which was to prove interesting later on.
Next day I had a short day into Kaliningrad and spent the afternoon walking around. Right in the middle of the town, there is a gigantic building that looks abandoned. Not sure what it was or had been, but it felt really strange just standing there, occupying what must have been prime real estate.
Next morning I again got an early start as I planned to do about 100 km and there was the border crossing into Poland to contend with. As it was a Sunday, I was not sure how quickly I was going to be able to get through.
Not very quickly it turned out, I was missing a very important piece of paper. Or so I assumed, despite the fact that this was a major tourist route, there was nobody that spoke any English, and my Russian leaves a lot to be desired.
The lady behind the counter waved pieces of paper, talked a lot in Russian and when I answered that I didn’t have any more papers, she started gesticulating and waving even more pieces of paper. That didn’t help as I really did not have any more paper, so I just shrugged and said that’s all I have. Which resulted in what sounded like complaining in Russian, more paper waving and a number of phone calls. In the end, she just sort of gave up and finally stamped my passport and told me to leave!
It’s slightly ridiculous, but it felt good to be back in the EU!
The last part of the day was hard, especially from around 80 km to about 90 and I could not work out why to begin with. There was a slight wind, but nothing serious, yet I still felt like I was being forced to change down a gear more than usual all the time. To start with I just put it down to being tired but after the 90 km mark, I finally got the answer. Suddenly, I was changing up all the time and the kilometers were flying past.
It turned out that the last 10 km had been a slight incline, with only a 1 to 2% rise. Not enough to make me notice it, but enough to make it harder work than along the flat. The beauty with bikes is that you get most of the effort you put into climbing back again when it comes to descending, and the last 10 km of the day was a breeze.
The next day I pedaled the last 70 km into Gdansk and to the ferry to Stockholm.
I had decided to make a, hopefully, last resupply run to Stockholm to change some equipment. Everything has been working reasonably well, but after almost 3 years of walking, I have a good idea about how I want things to work and what makes life easier in the long run when you are living out of a few small bags.
The biggest problem I had been having was with the bag containing my electronics and valuables. It was difficult making sure it stayed dry, especially when constantly wanting access to stuff like the camera. I also want to be able to easily take that bag with me when I stop at stores or have to leave the bike for any reason. In the end, I ordered a new Meanwhile basket bag to keep my stuff dry and enable me to quickly and easily take my valuables with me when needed.
I also decided to change the frame bag. Not because it wasn’t working, in fact, the Ortlieb frame bag has been great, but because it is too small for Mister’s frame. I originally bought it for Sir, the bike I started on. As I like to see this trip as a test run for future long trips, I wanted to maximize the utility of the frame bag and ordered a new frame bag as well.
Now I am just waiting for the Swedish postal service to get their thumb out so I can repack and get back on the road. I’m using the time to make sure everything is ok with Mister, and at the same time fixing up Sir in order to try to sell it.
I might also make some changes to my camera equipment as I am a bit too lazy to get the camera out and use it as I should. I might need to change to a set up that I can have accessible more easily.
Finally, I have decided that I will try to cycle the Trans German bikepacking route. As soon as I am finished in Stockholm, I will take the ferry back to Gdansk and cycle to the start of the route in Germany. If I manage to cycle the whole route, I will then be able to ride over the Alps, through Switzerland, and into northern Italy. A plan then might be to take the ferry to Corsica, then Sardinia and finally Sicily. But that is a long way off and as you already know, my plans have been known to change…