Europa – Bikes reassembled

Having flown into Frankfurt from Central America and been reunited with our bikes, we were chomping at the bit to get back on them and start the second cycling leg of our year-long journey, as It had been over 3 months since we had last seen them in Uraguay.

We need to mention some amazing people.

Firstly, our good friends Sina and Thomas who had kindly stored our bikes for us. We spent the best part of a day reassembling them as we had dismantled every last piece in order to fit both bikes plus panniers into the same bike box 3 months before (like a jigsaw without the picture…hopefully there are no missing pieces!). 

We stayed with Sina and Thomas for a week, exploring Frankfurt and caught up with Jon’s son Charles who paid us a visit. 

Thank you Sina and Thomas for everything!! (Thomas was unfortunately away for this photo)
Exploring the trails surrounding the monastery
We also unsuccessfully tried to apply for a Russian visa (our intention being to commence cycling in St Petersburg) but changes to Russian visa regulations in January meant we could no longer obtain a 72 hour visa on arrival at the border and needed to apply from our country of citizenship (not easy when you have been travelling for 6 months!). After phoning and visiting the Russian consulate in Frankfurt we put it in the ‘too hard basket’ and decided we would start from Narva on the Estonia border of Russia instead.

We stuck ourselves and bikes on a train to Berlin via Hanover. There we caught up with friends Rike and Tobi and were hosted for 3 days by their ultra helpful friend Leni and her flatmate Charlotte.

Enjoying a beer with lovely Tobi
The Brandenburg gate (Berlin)
Another train ride from Berlin to Warsaw appeared straightforward but turned out to be far from it. We arrived at the assigned platform in Berlin 20 minutes beforehand to catch the 9.43am train and waited under the sign saying ‘Warsaw’. At 9.40am a train pulled pulled up, we jumped onboard with our bikes followed by other passengers and the train set off. Only when another passenger ask where we were getting off (because our bikes were in front of his) did we discover that we were on the wrong train and heading to Northern Germany rather than Warsaw. Apparently the train we were on had been diverted to our platform at the last moment but no one thought to change the overhead sign or advise the customers on our platform…we had a brief moment of panic.

We got off at the first stop and returned to Berlin half an hour later by which time our train had long since left. The next train to Warsaw was exactly 3 hours later. We were not keen to part with another €120 so decided to catch the next Warsaw train and cross our fingers, hoping that the conductor on the later train would take pity on us and not insist on our paying again or threaten to throw us off. We were lucky, he merely amended the ticket with the correct time, initialled it and said he was happy…provided the conductors at the Polish end of the ride had no problems (which of course they didn’t)…we could have kissed him. 

The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful, other than the last half hour when we were joined in our carriage by a Polish man, who spoke no English but we communicated in Spanish, and who insisted on first demonstrating and then gifting us a torch which also delivered a 1000 volt electric shock! Vanessa was terrified and reluctantly accepted the gift rather than risk him demonstrating its use again. We couldn’t get off the train quick enough.
Arriving in Warsaw we were again amazed by the capacity of some people to be so generous towards us. We were informed by a potential Warm Showers host (Merik) that he was out of town for the weekend but that he was happy for us to use his apartment in his absence. We were not sure we would have been so trusting of complete strangers but needless to say, we left his beautiful apartment spotless and wrote a kickass warmshowers reference for him.

From Warsaw we bussed to Narva via Vilnius (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia) and Tallinn (Estonia). Total journey time including transfers – 23 hours. Whilst all 4 legs were with the same bus company (Lux Express) we had 3 transfers and more importantly, had to persuade all 4 drivers to allow our 2 bikes and 8 panniers onboard too, as bikes are completely at the driver’s discretion. 

Waiting for bus #4
  • Hugely relieved that we had pulled off the multiple bus swaps with bikes intact, we had another slice of luck when arriving in Narva. A Bicycle touring Facebook friend Robert (who we have never met) put us in touch with his Ukranian friend Julia, who not only lives in Narva but has a flat right next to the bus stop. We introduced ourselves to Julia, shared tea, and slept soundly on her pull out bed, eagerly awaiting our first day’s cycle in Eastern Europe the next day.