We were very excited to get to Germany as we had heard from many other cyclists that there were fantastic bike routes and the riding was great there. I don't know if we've become cycle path snobs or if we're just idiots but we had no luck finding these bike paths that people spoke of and when one actually did appear for a short time it was anything but pleasant to ride on. I think what it comes down to is that we were terribly spoiled with the well-marked and superbly maintained bike routes in Switzerland and Austria and were expecting the same in Germany. Rather, we found no maps or signs for long distance cycling in the eastern portion of Germany and the tourist offices we stopped at were of no help at all. Every now and again a path that paralleled the road we were on would randomly appear so we'd get on it only to discover that several miles further on it stopped just as abruptly as it began and spit us back out onto the same narrow, busy, shoulder-less road we were previously on. In the towns, there were generally 2-colored sidewalks made of bricks or uneven tiles, the red side for bicycles and the gray side for pedestrians. First of all, cycling on these surfaces was very uncomfortable and they might as well have made the bike paths out of cobblestone and secondly putting bicycles and pedestrians on the same path is never a good idea. Though there were designated sides, no one looks both ways before crossing a sidewalk when they're leaving a store or stepping of of a bus. We couldn't let our minds wander or look around for an instant as we certainly would have clobbered countless people; there were already too many close calls when our complete attention was on navigating the sidewalks. Needless to say, the ease of traveling by bike and a general sense of bike friendliness was a bit of a disappointment in Germany.
Aside from our few days in Berlin, the rest of our time in Germany was spent cycling through rural landscapes. It reminded us very much of Minnesota in the summertime with the endless fields, numerous lakes and torturous mosquitoes that attacked in swarms the instant we stopped cycling. I guess it's a good preview of what we'll be dealing with in Scandinavia. We enjoyed a week of riding over flat terrain for the first time since we left the Midwest 9 months ago. Our knees were grateful that the longest they had to work to power us up any hill lasted, at most, 2 minutes and our minds loved the psychology of jamming effortlessly down a road and at the end of the day when we checked the odometer finding that we'd covered far more ground than expected.
For the first time on this trip we have run into ticks. Germany seemed to be heavily infested with these spooky little arachnids. Looking at our lifestyle over the past year of living outdoors and setting up camp almost nightly in tall grass or forested areas, it's actually a surprise that we haven't had issues with them until now. Since we crossed the border, we've both been bit by one and we've found them crawling on us, in our coffee mugs in the morning and across my notebook as I do our bookkeeping at night. They seem to be everywhere, some of them a few millimeters long and easy to spot, yet some as tiny as the tip of my pen. Maybe we're just worry warts about the potential harm these critters can cause but for nearly 2 weeks we've felt like we constantly have things crawling on us and when a mole or speck of dirt on our arm or leg catches our eye we immediately think tick and rush to flick it off. We're like a couple of chimpanzees and check each others back and hair for bugs when we get to camp at night which is kind of disgusting, I know, but it really is incredible that we've seen more ticks in 2 weeks than either of have seen in our entire life. We're hoping there will be fewer in Sweden but our senses tell us otherwise so I guess we'll just keep on riding and try not to be paranoid.
It's no wonder we're full of ticks when this is our home.