Through the Iron Curtain.

Written by Peter on July 28th, 2009

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I pitch my tent beside the Danube to protect me from the mosquitos. They are waiting for me when I wake, so that I have to pack inside my tent, then make a dash for my bike.
I decide to leave Bratislava, and cycle to the Czech Republic, to a small town that houses the epic work of Alphonse Mucha. Before I go I replace Rose’s rear axel, buy gas for dinner, and enough food for the two day trip to Moravsky Krumlov.
Cycle along the boarder of Slovakia, the rail of the iron curtain, until it parts at Zahorska and lets me through to Austra. The difference is immediate, a well signed cycle path welcomes me and leads me through vineyards north. I feel soft after so many days off, traveling but not cycling, so that after only 80km or so, I am tired. I wash off days of dirt in the shallows of a small pond. Girls frolic at the other end, the dramatic clouds make way for sun. The  landscape is lush and green compared to Spain, the forests are overgrown and wild. But its beside a cropped field of wheat that I pitch my tent for the night, scattering rabbits.

 

Barcelona to Bratislava

Written by Peter on July 28th, 2009

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four hours later. I am woken by drunks come to watch the sunrise. So I leave and pedal to the beach, where the party is still going at half six. People swim naked in the dawn, stroll along the promenade, or lying where they have fallen in the sand. I make coffee, and share it with a french girl, Lis, who wanted to talk travel after emerging from a beach side club as the sun comes up.
Short cycle around the city, before disassembling Rose in the bus terminal, nervously watching my belongings. And then, soon I am landing in Slovakia, arranging my panniers, and piecing my beloved back together. Its cooler here, in temperature and mood. Somehow its more restrained, maybe cleaner, or maybe its just sunday. But its dignified by the strains of violin playing through the streets.

 

Train Valencia Train Barcelona

Written by Peter on July 28th, 2009

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I wake up often in the night. The windmills collect sounds with their giant sails. Distant sirens, discoteques, planes, and birds. A few cars pull up to admire the view. They don’t see me.  Morning wind hums through the cables that restrain the windmills arms. Make my breakfast on the steps of the train station.

Valencia is hot, humid and huge. A long river of trees and park through the sity ends in collection of incredible architecture, like huge bleached fish skeleton, a city of art and sciences. I ride, and get lost, find the beach, the empty historic centre, and eventually the train station again. Its a five hour trip.

Barcelona is teeming with people. La Rambla is full of tourists, vendors of spraypaint fantasy art, characature artists, trinkets and designer knock offs.  I push through the crowd on rose. All the hostels are full, and I don’t want to pay for them anyway. Something as simple as a sliver of space to sleep should not be so expensive.
So I make my way to a park, and after making a late dinner, ride up a gravel path to a find a concrete slab bench hidden in the shadows to make my bed. its 2 before I lay down in the hot roar of the motorway nearby.

 

Castilla y La Mancha by bus, train and faithful steed

Written by Peter on July 28th, 2009

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Leaning against the windmills that Don Quioxte fought, as sun sets over Castilla y La Mancha, where Cervantes set his story.
I didn’t expect this. Bus and train travel deposited me in some unknown town on my way to Barcelona, but I soon discover its the centre for Quioxtes adventures. I like to think that the stubborn train man, who insisted that I had to pass through here, knew its significance, and that it would be right  for me to finish my riding in spain here. Among giants, looking out over hundreds of kilometres of patchwork farmland. Red wine and Tortilla.

 

Alhambra

Written by Peter on July 28th, 2009

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Trudged the long road to Alhambra early, to join the queue into the palace.
It didn’t fail to impress. The incredible intricacy of design really pays homage to craftsmanship, and the glory of Allah. It evokes the harmony of nature withour being a direct copy of it. The christen chapel within the grounds looks gaudy in gold, and clumsy in its representations and symbols.
Centuries old gardens, fragrant with flowers and musical with the play of fountains. Its close to being Eden. I don’t draw, I am overwhelmed.
Sleep and read the rest of the day away, feeling better for seeing something beautiful mankind has done.

 

Granada day one

Written by Peter on July 28th, 2009

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The sun creeps over  torn paper hill edge to wake me. I follow rail tracks to Granada, perhaps spains most picturesque city, the Sierra nevada rises up behind and around it. I stay with Luna, in her tall narrow house, orange tree courtyard, and a terrace view over the city, and to the fluttering flag of the Alcazabar, the citys icon.
At night the city streets are filled with sweet smoke from shisha.

 

Feed the ants

Written by Peter on July 28th, 2009

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Restless night, flashes of headlights through trees and mosquito whine, too strong moonlight and a heat that doesn’t abate until the sky begins to lighten. But I wake happy and excited. Cycle to a castle on a thumb of rock, friendly people sell me my days fruit. take water from the plaza fountain, old men watch on from the shade. Drip sweat to a pine shaded picnic site. Feed the ants, even though they bite me as I read Utopia.
The stretch of road between Cordoba and Granada is some of the most beautiful yet. Cliffs and rock outcrops frame the Sierra Nevada, and its few specs of snow.
I stop just short of Granada, beyond the train tracks, next to a field of wheat. I don’t want to be in another city yet. I moisten cracked and dry lips with tepid Sangria, so that I can tootle on my Harmonica. This is my life, and its this that I want to share with Caroline, watching the hills change colour and the shadows darken to night.
I try to recreate the spinach tapas her and I enjoyed together. It tastes great, but there is someone missing.

 

Cordoba and Caroline

Written by Peter on July 28th, 2009

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Within 15 minutes of cycling I have left Cordoba behind, wide open fields have quickly replaced the tight streets, clumps of eucalyptus in place of plazas and patios. The avenues are of olive trees, uniform rows of dark green dots on the hill. Climb to the hilltop curch of Espejo to earn my dinner, to prove I can still ride after the days of glorious decadence with Caroline.
Wandering through Santa Cruz. Sevilla, her and I look in the corners for second coffee, and find only bright bitter oranges. Spinach and Queso tapas and beers and a rowdy bar. Berneeja con Miel, sweet and oily. Keep our feet cold in a park fountain. Carolines neck exposed, hair up in the heat, invites sweaty kisses.
Secret patio in Cordoba, where their confusion gives us free drinks and a salad.
Together, dwarfed in the mosque cathedral, hiding behind its columns, or standing in pools of light. Midnight Arabian baths, candlelit and content.
It was a great couple of days, the heat we had hoped for from Spain.
Now I am alone again and just a shadow at the edge of an olive grove. Though I am glad to be cycling, I miss her already though

 

Return to Sevilla and Caroline

Written by Peter on July 9th, 2009

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Fine coating of sea spray. Reprimanded by the Policia for sleeping on the beach.
It is an exciting day. Today I reach Spains most southern point, Tarifa, before returning to Sevilla to meet Caroline again.
And when we do meet it is terrific. The people fill the streets, we drink a cold beer on church steps, then Tinto Vernano by the river, catching up quietly beneath the loud conversations of spanish, and the sound of flamenco that flows along the streets of Triana.  The evening is warm, and we are both happy.

 

In sight of Africa

Written by Peter on July 9th, 2009

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Steep hill climb through lush green. The Faro de Trafalgar, marks the point, where the Spanish Armada was defeated. Stumble bump slide down a shortcut/cliff to an isolated beach near Balonia, dotted with few encampments of naked people.
So I spend the afternoon there, turning my white bits pink, practicing sommersaults in the waves. Push Rose through the sand, and lift her over barbed wire to reach Balonia. In the evening Morroco is clear and close across the straight of Gibraltar. Sleep on the roof of a gun emplacement, bridge of moons reflection between me and the african continent.