My Bike Tour across Europe - Some Memories
When I left home with my friend Ravi Shankar on our Bike Tour, I was full of optimism and confidence that I was going to meet great people all over the world. I am glad to say that I returned home with a resounding affirmation of my belief, which to me is the most important facet of my travel experience. Let me share some snippets, which I feel would be interesting.
Milk of Human Kindness
Most of the families that I stayed with treated me and my friend like their own sons. They received us with warmth and kindness, and made us feel at home right away. In the matter of showing us around, they nearly always managed to get at least a couple of young ladies - their own daughters or their friends' - to perform the duty. They took special care to meet our vegetarian needs, offered to have our clothes washed and showered us with genuine affection and concern.
When he knew that we were travelling without a camera, our host, unbeknownst to us slipped out of the house, bought a camera and some film and reappeared to present us with the surprise gift - all in about 15 minutes.
Another host of ours in Germany printed out neatly what my friend and I would like to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all in German, to make life easy for us during our stay in Germany.
Some gave us money (like 50 deutsche marks) to ‘have a nice evening', but we made that money take us through several small meals prepared by means of inexpensive supermarket purchases!
(I will have to search among my tour memorabilia to get at least some names connected with these touching incidents, but I hope the point and the sentiment I seek to convey is understood.)
When we arrived at Weilheim in Germany, it was late and dark and the Youth Hostel was quite far. Spurred on by an idea, we went up to a few young men on the street and asked them to direct us to the nearest police station. Upon arriving there, we explained the situation and requested to be put up for the night. (This idea, we knew, worked in India.) To our surprise, the officials agreed to take us in, but on one condition: if they catch offenders that night, we will have to vacate the cell. Luckily, no one broke the law that night and we enjoyed our stay in the cell, locked up. We were woken up at 6 in the morning, offered some steaming coffee and sent off with good wishes.
Bikes Got Better and Better
We were originally using the solid roadsters from India, but while we were in Cloppenburg, Germany Mr Kalkhoff, our host who manufactures the famous Kalkhoff bikes - see http://www.kalkhoff-bikes.de/ - fitted our bikes with Torpedo 3-speed device. This made for faster riding. And when my bike was stolen (probably owing to its antique value) in Copenhagen, plenty of consolation and support came forth after the newspaper Politiken carried a report of the theft. (The newspaper clipping in the headline says 'Bombay-Saxogade and Cycle Stolen. The reference to Bombay is because that is where we began the tour, on board a cargo vessel owned by the Government of India. We were offered free passage on the vessel, for it was not possible for us to leave India by road because of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq war. The voyage lasted a month with halts at a few ports until we arrived at Rotterdam where we disembarked, to set forth on our bikes.) Soon after, the local Lions Clubs, in a grand gesture, gave us two new bikes - the Austrian Puch - for they realised it would be an odd sight if each of us were to ride a different bike! And the 10-speed Puch made a huge difference.
There are more stories to share with you. But I guess they could wait until I see how these stories go down with you.