We had prepared carefully for the journey. A lot of planning and research was done before we started. All of this information was useful, and much of it necessary.
But: many pieces of advice given by the tour guides and data on the maps were worthless or even wrong. The experience is like my personal experience of school and parental education. You are told a lot, all of which is well meant, but often dogmatic and useless.
The best information was from other people who had done the same trip themselves. Free and private information obtained from the internet turned out to be what came closest to reality. And there were some things we had to learn the hard way. We gladly share what we learned.
Above all: be careful when you are at the receiving end of advice you never asked for! I no longer like it at all. It is scarcely ever useful, often wrong and counterproductive.
Like the policeman at the main crossroads who insists on showing you private accommodations that turn out to be atrocious. He wanted to be helpful and save us some money by choosing a place to stay where we allegedly would have slept better than in the hotel. Eventually, you end up in the hotel after having wasted an hour.
Or the local citizen who insists that the small road will not go where the map says it goes and wants to send us back onto the main street. Actually, the small road was correct and took us exactly where we wanted to go – without the high traffic.
But your own priorities, too, undergo change during such a journey. Some things that seemed paramount before the trip cease to play any role during the tour. It is like in real life: you keep discovering things as you move from one phase of life to the next. And then something that used to be very important a year ago is all of a sudden unimportant.
We had also started out with anxiety. Luckily, it turned out that this was not necessary. After having heard the weather forecast, we had been afraid of rain. However, since it was very warm, the rain did not matter to us, on the contrary. When we experienced lightning, thunder and hail, we knew real fear.
The street that our guide calls “extremely full of motorized traffic” is empty of all traffic. The ferry that is supposed to depart every hour only departs on demand. You find the very best accommodation in a village where it is recommended not to stay overnight, because in this very village all accommodation is bad and too expensive.
Stretches of way described as extremely boring have a tremendous potential of fascination for us. Gypsies, who you are advised to not get too near to, are helpful and nice. The only people who cheat you are those who look trustworthy and speak German. But this only happened once and was not a major affair.
Like life, you can plan a bike tour only so far. Each morning, a new challenge awaits you and you have to make a new decision. And all the time it turns out differently from what you had anticipated. Improvisation is necessary. Eventually, you go by a completely different route than you had planned.
Yet one thing is certain: if you have a realistic goal, you can get there. Because the way is the goal. This is especially true when you ride somewhere by bike. Maybe it is also true for life?
(translated by EG)