Saturday, 25 July 2015


Nervous, apprehensive, excited, worried, confused. I had all these thoughts swimming around my head as I set off on my trip. In fact they lasted for the first few days. You'd think that after all the travelling I'd done I would have got used to it, but not so. This trip will probably last 40 days but the feeling I get at the start will slowly dissipate and I may well forget it eventually so it needs to be said now. I still question why I'm doing this and worry about all the things that could possibly go wrong. On my first night, camping in Kent, I looked out at the sea, France was just visible on the horizon, and I tied to imagine myself riding a bike all the way down to the Balklans and back. It's a bloody long way! 

A reasonably uneventful ferry crossing was followed by a reasonably uneventful 200 across Belgium to a lovely little campsite on the Luxemburg border. Wifi let me communicate with Tracy as I had already created a problem for myself. At the campsite in Kent my smart phone had stopped working as when I took the back off ( I thought taking the battery out might help) the screen cracked. Now it won't work at all - totally unresponsive to my touch. Not so bloody smart after all.

So I have no phone. And therefore no easy way to take photos to put online. I have a small camera but can't upload the pictures and I have iPad but haven't used it to take any photos yet. Sorry, I'll remedy that asap.

I also carry a lot of my money with a preloaded Caxton MasterCard. But it appears to not work, a PIN number problem, even though Tracy used it in the USA a few months ago. So I have to email them and get that sorted out.

I don't know, I manage to ride half way around the world and when I want to go on a shortish easyish trip to the Balkans technology lets me down. 

Day three saw me ride across Luxemburg ( I knew  I had enter Luxemburg as I saw a sign that said so, and I knew I was in Luxemburg because I filled up on reasonably cheap petrol, but I didn't see where/ when I left Luxemburg so perhaps, in a way, I'm still there) 300 miles later I was in Augsburg, Bavaria - Heidi had come home - the B in BMW stands for Bavaria for those of you who know less than me :)

I have been to Augsburg once before, 29 years ago looking for work on my doomed GAP year. Then I was camping in van with two other people. It didn't end well. This time I'm on a perfectly performing Bavarian motorcycle and spent the night in a cheap IBIS Budget hotel (cheap in Europe means £30) 

The 18 year old me, in 1986, couldn't have dreamed of things like WiFi and IPads and the Internet. I wonder if the next 29 years will bring as many amazing changes. I doubt it. I think those of us old enough to remember life before the Internet but young enough to appreciate it now, really have lived through something special. I tell my teenage students this. And in a way I feel sorry for them. They can't, just can't, appreciate all we now have in the same way that we do. 

Or maybe it's just an age thing. 29 years is a bloody long time. I wish I could back to 1986 and tell myself to go to Berlin. But be quick about it, the wall won't be there for ever! I would have laughed. Oh and while you're at it buy a house, you won't believe what will happen to house prices!

I think I'm getting a little obsessed with the weather. Bloody Internet, tells you everything. And today it told me that a huge storm was coming through central Europe. Anyone out on the road, or camping would surely die after being hit by lightning. If you've read my book, or know me a little then you'll know that I've got a ( I would say perfectly legitimate and sensible) fear of lightning. So a slight change of plans for Saturday. Just 100 miles today to a small Bavarian village with a nice hotel, after an unexpected detour to visit Dachau Concentration camp.

You can take the History teacher out the classroom.....

I've been to a couple of Nazi concentration camps so I wasn't expecting to be overly moved by Dachau ( In the right way if you know what I mean) -  I was wrong. I took an audio tour and spent a couple of hours wandering around the vast complex, just north of Munich. I found myself at the crematorium  and was quick overcome by it all. I remember visiting the crematorium in Auchwitz and thinking that I never want to do that again, and then I find myself in Dachau's crematorium. 

Sometimes, as a History teacher, I wonder if I've become a little blasé about this sort of thing. And then I come to a place like this and while I'm wandering around, wondering why I spend a little time watching my fellow tourists. Although we're not really tourists or at least we're not supposed to be tourists. Dachau isn't, or at least to my mind shouldn't be, somewhere you go as a tourist. I didn't actually see any 'selfie sticks' but people where taking photos with themselves, smiling, in the shot. Chatting, loudly, about all sorts of things as they walked around and just generally oblivious to the quiet, reflective, somber ambience they were cutting through. 

As I sat, near the crematorium, contemplating man's ( and it is, usually man's ) inhumanity to man, and how we still haven't overcome this yet- I'm well aware that I'm on my way to the Balkans! - two British students passed me. Fully kitted out in rugger shirts, shorts, flip flops and carry loaded backpacks, one was even carrying a rugby ball with him. They were openly discussing the methods of the SS. 

'Travel broadens the mind' but sometimes it can be hard to see. 

*Less introspection and more (ie some)  photos next time, I promise. But at least I've remembered why I write a blog. It helps me process my thoughts and ideas as I'm on the road.

Four countries in one day tomorrow as I head to Croatia. 29 years ago an 18 year old me would have been astonished by that sentence. 

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