Update: 10 days to go

Day 474 of the adventure
Total distance travelled: 17,200km

10 days to go

Update from Oldenburg, Germany.  For you, Dad! 

In Hamburg

On 30th November, we catch a ferry from Amsterdam and arrive back in Newcastle, England on 1st December.  It's a roller coaster of a time just now.

The second installment of tales from Tajikistan is well underway, but it will be a few days yet before it is ready to be uploaded to the blog.

In lieu of chronological stories, a little update from here in Oldenburg where we are staying with wonderful Warm Showers hosts Miriam and Jacob, Richard, Jacob's dad, three-month-old, little Greta, and seven-month-old Linus the Labrador-retriever pup.  

We have been cycling in Germany for almost three weeks and started in the east in Dresden.  Save for a weekend in Berlin with our brilliant friend Hannah, we have been blessed with Warm Showers stays the whole way.  The generosity we have experienced has, as ever, been overwhelmingly wonderful.

Last night, in fact, we didn't stay with official Warm Showers hosts, but with family of a previous host who "passed us along".  Our stay with Johanna, Fritz and their two young children in Bremen was also brilliant, not least when little, three-year-old Konrad came through the front-door and proclaimed confidently in perfect English, "My name is Konrad".  Little Louise rummaging through our panniers in search of who knows what was also good fun.

We were passed on to Johanna and Fritz by Kerstin and Jens in Geesthacht whom we messaged on only the morning of our planned arrival due to some confusion over dates.  (Oh, how wonderful it has been to not worry so much about what day it is.  It is going to be a shock to the system when we have to so carefully take note of the time again, like going back to school after the summer holidays when you were at primary school and it genuinely taking a few goes to get back into writing.)

Kerstin and Jens were awesome, not only for offering to host us as the eleventh hour, but also because they shared stories with us about their transformative bicycling trip to South East Asia, and in particular Vietnam, a couple of years ago.  They have fallen head-over-heels with this part of the world and are due to return in just a few weeks' time: first stop, Bangkok!

Hanging out with Kerstin and Jens

In between these stays, we spent the weekend - just gone - in Hamburg, a city brought to life by Rosel and Hannes whom we stayed with for three nights.  This brilliant couple made us feel so at home.  Rosel runs her own shop and business as a seamstress and pattern-maker and is a passionate mountain-biker, leading tours of the Alps in the summer. Prior to running her own business, she was the costume maker for The Lion King which has been showing in Hamburg now for fifteen years!  (I looked and I think it is going on tour in the UK next year, it might finally be time...!)

Sitting around the table with Rosel and Hannes this weekend, sharing stories, thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears was so nice, even when Hannes pulled some interesting liqueur out of the fridge and encouraged us all to give it a try!  Hannes took us on a 13km walking tour of the city on Sunday - Saturday was a washout - and his passion for his town meant we didn't realise how far we had gone until we were back in their traditional, "bone-shaped" apartment in the official red-light district.  We were interested to learn a little about the history of the city, the sex-business included: "for the drunken sailors", Hannes told us!  It was also fascinating to see the Portuguese quarter and the four Scandinavian churches (which were alive with Weihnachtsmarkt) for when sailors from Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway were in town.

Throughout our time in Germany, we have been following the river Elbe and the brilliant Elberadweg that runs from the source to the sea.  We spent out first nights in Germany in Dresden with Ela, Frank, Charlotte and Oskar, a young family living in Frank's family home just south of the centre of the rebuilt city.  Ela has been a Warm Showers host for almost ten years having completed a very similar cycle to ours in 2009.  It was so wonderful to be in her presence and share in her enthusiasm for life on two wheels, which she is definitely passing on to her children.  Frank, a climber at heart, spent time cycling in South America and chatted happily with Olly about the climbing techniques used in the Saxon Swiss area of Germany wherein no metal protection can be used.  Olly wasted no time in sending a photo to his climbing buddy, Tim.  You just wouldn't want to confuse it with a dog toy!

And then, everything in between then and now.  We saw bears in Torgau and photos taken by our host in Berlin, Norbert, on the night the Wall fell thirty years ago on 9 November 1989.  We met a German cyclist in Turkey who, when we shared our intentions of cycling along the Elbe, said it would be "boring".  It has been anything but.  This leg of the trip has been filled with emotional conversations about "the end of an adventure" and interesting discussions about the history of Germany which is, in fact, not at all yet in the past.  The German people we have met and stayed with have blown us away with their command of the English language.  I occasionally and tentatively speak a few words in German, but I did get laughed at by a class of Year 7 pupils to whom we did a presentation about our trip.  I think they were laughing kindly...  I am absolutely determined to blow their socks off next time we meet.

Ich bin ein Berliner (OK, it's not a doughnut, and Pretzels are from the south, but...)

Bears guarding the castle in Torgau

Dramatic skies and light on the Elbe River in Dresden

And so, it is time to return to the Tajikistan blog.  Reliving these epic days cycling along the Panj river make us long to be back East.  The days are now so short and today we cycled our 50km from Bremen to Olenburg in a bitterly cold fog.  It hasn't been above 2 degrees.  We continue to consume Lebkuchen at an alarming rate and now that the cycling is so flat, we might be starting to gain a few unwanted grams...  We are lucky to be heading to a stay with our friend Tom in Amsterdam: I can't think of a better way to start the end of this almost-sixteen month adventure than with a pal.  And then, brilliantly, we have Olly's Aunt Ali to stay with in Newcastle, back on home soil.  A traveller herself, I think a few nights with Ali will see us right as we start to work out what (or where...) next.

You can keep up to date with our final few days of adventuring using our Polar Steps page.  This free app, for which you don't need an account or profile, just this link, has been a real hit with my nanny!