Sorry, couldn’t help it. Another 100 miles today, driven by a glorious tailwind westward out of Poland into smooth-roaded and copiously-cycle-tracked Germany, to the Scharmützel Lake (see pic) just short of Berlin, where ended the day with a magnificent swim.
Riding constantly west for the past week in what’s now a very warm, sunny early central European summer (AT LAST!!!) means that I am getting sun-tanned in very peculiar ways.
Toasted on the left/south side, and only in the patches that face the sun – tops of thighs, backs of calves, arms and hands, back of the neck – up to where Lycra and helmet take over.
The result, when exposed in full, is a rather dramatically piebald. I thought of posting a photo, but decided it would either shock you into stopping reading the blog (all four of you who clapped your hand..) or not get past the porn filters.
So, you are spared, but imagination paints the more vibrant picture, as we know from radio.
What a contrast between Poland, charming, unspoiled but still way behind Western Europe economically, and Germany.
Twenty years after the end of Communism, Eastern Germany is indeed – for all its problems with unemployment – the “blooming landscape” for which then Chancellor Kohl was derided for predicting at the time of unification in 1990.
Clearly, a few thousand billion deutschmarks and euros have helped. But the East Germans have done this themselves, and this is THE most lovely part of the world to visit and to cycle in.
France, eat your heart out.
It is also home, as I discovered by complete chance today cycling up along the German side of the the old border with Poland, to the factory that produces those amazing plastinated bodies, as they’re called, that you might have seen or at least heard of, displayed in Gunther von Hagen’s travelling Bodyworlds exhibitions.
Von Hagen is from old East Germany, and indeed even served two years in a Stasi jail for trying to escape to the West. He’s now set up his production house and standing exhibition in an old factory in Guben, a town now shared but previously divided with Poland and straddling the Neisse river.
Above there’s a picture of a stripped-and-flayed Bodyworlds-style human chatting on his (very definitely his, see his crotch, exposed in very great detail) mobile phone.
And the other photo is of the very undramatic border between Germany and Poland, open for pedestrians just to amble across, with both countries fellow members of the European Union.
I haven’t had to show a passport once on this journey of now 2800 miles so far through Europe east and west. Nations different, but members of the same family. And getting on better, probably, than they’ve ever done in their long and bloody history.
British sceptics about the EU should be sent on a trip like this. Not necessarily by bicycle and taking three months. But come and seriously LOOK at and get to know this New Europe.
For all its many problems, idiosyncracies and idiocies, this is a continent transformed for the better in ways our grandparents who fought the last two wars couldn’t even have dreamed of.
So, my old home Berlin tomorrow and then heading west. Like a horse approaching his stable, I have the smell of home in my nostrils. Perhaps that explains the 2 x 100 miles.
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