Saturday, November 29, 2008

Travel blog: Bicycling in Germany July 2008 (Day 6-8)

On the sixth day we ended up spending the entire morning and noon in the Schlachthof Pension before we had rounded up enough energy to get up and running. My bikes gears were still dysfunctional and as we strolled out of the pension round noon we went down to the town to find a cycle mechanic.

At the mechanic we were told to return after an hour and in the meantime we went strolling about the historic centre of Apolda. We found a cafe to get a cup of coffee and a glass of cola and sat near the town square, enjoying the nice weather. As we returned to the bike-shop we were met by an head shaking mechanic who explained that he had fixed the gear, but that there were internal damage inside the gear-shift.
He could fix the problem by inserting an entirely new back-wheel for € 130. As the bike was functional with the temporary repairs already made, we decided to ride on without further repairs and delays.

After the usual out-of-town climb (most towns in this part of Germany are located in the valleys) we rode some 10 km and the started decending into the Saale river valley into Jena the home of Carl Zeiss and the best optics in the world. We had some very light late lunch by the river in the city and the continued down the Saale-river bicycle route towards the city of Rudolstadt.
The afternoon was very pleasant as following the river meant a steady but mild incline. This was in stark contrast to the grinding down and uphill carrousel that we had been on the last two preceding days as we had cut our way
south crossing valley after valley. As the clock passed 8 in the evening we reached Rudolstadt, and decided to stay there for a couple of days. We found a nice pension on top af a small mountain with great view on the Saale valley and the Rudolstadt-Saalfeld area.
A couple of days later we packed our bicycles on a train at 9 in the morning and after some transfers we were in back in Odense at half past ten in the late evening.

As we went from Hamburg towards the danish border we crossed the Kieler-channel (or the Nord-ostsee-kanal) at Rendsburg. 
I had passed the canal numerous times before, but this time I got my camera out and recorded a bit as the train circled the city to gain elevation enough to pass the canal. 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Travel blog: Bicycling in Germany July 2008 (Day 5-7)

Day 5
Artern - Apolda


Distance: 60 km
Average: 13,7 km/h
Maximum: 50,5 km/h
Time on bike (effective): 4 hours 25 min.

As we woke up on the fifth day of our journey the weather was pretty dull, and an old German guy was fishing besides us. We started packing our stuff and made a cup of coffee to get started. I offered a cup of black power to the fisher but he declined and instead offered me a piece of advice on rain moving in during the day.
There were some clouds in the sky, but also patches of blue sorrow less summer sky, so we concluded that the prospect of rain probably was not imminent. The first objective of that quiet morning was to find some breakfast and 5 km downstream (following the river Unstrut) we found something slightly resembling a store, although lights were of and the interior bore heavy indications of the shop being set up right after the reunification and not changing a bit in the following 18 years or so.
We left the hamlet of Schönewerda, and continued down stream following the marked Unstrut route.

As we were following a marked route we only had to go a couple of kilometers before finding a spot where there were benches and tables we could use. Breakfast went down pretty fast and as we did not have to sit on a pavement or grass while eating spirits were high.

We followed the river for some kilometers more and the turn southwards towards Wiehe. The five kilometer stretch from Rossleben to Wiehe (pop. 2000) proved more irritating than we had expected as the road was made up of noumerous materials including asphalt, gravel, bricks, stones sometimes one at a time and some times mixed together into some kind of pavement.

From Wiehe it was uphill in zig-zag turns as we left the painless security of the Unstrut valley and embarked on the conquest of new hills and mountains.
The sky was stille looming with dark clouds as we went southwards constantly going up or downhill.
We were aiming for Apolda as our next target and got there about four o clock in the afternoon. In Apolda we refueled on water (clean water not the appleinfested variant that was the only option we had earlier that day), food, and energy.

As we were going up one more hill and leaving Apolda behind us it started raining. Initially we found shelter under some trees, lit a cigarette and thought it would pass. However this turned out not to be the case, and instead the rain intensified, and the trees offered no real shelter.
In frantic flight we rode down into the forest in search of more reliable shelter as the rain hammered down with increasing intensity. We got to the bottom of the valley and found the small creek there overflooding a good part of the road. At this point we were soaking wet and any shelter could do, so we dragged ourselves under some infosigns where we could just fit.

Standing there we were laughing because of the whole situation, and because we could only see to clearly how idiotic we would look to anybody passing by, as we clung to the sign with one hand and to our bikes with the other.

After half an hour under the sign we decided to go back to Apolda (pop. 24.500) to find shelter for the night and get dry. As we went back into the rain i could see that my gears had malfunctioned and that my bike was stuck in the lowest gear. However that was not the primary concern at the time, because getting out of the rain was. A kilometer down the road we found a garage where we could sit an hour or so until the rain passed and we could limp (in first gear) back to Apolda where we found much needed shelter for the night in the Schlachthof Pension.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Travel blog: Bicycling in Germany July 2008 (Day 4 and 5)

Bad Suderode-Artern

Bike route 63884 - powered by Bikemap 

Distance: 72 km
Average speed: 13,1 km/h
Max: 58,4 km/h
time on bike: 5 hours 23 min

As I woke in my hotel room on the fourth day of our trip I already had the imminent mountain climb on my mind. I went out on the balcony and looked at the mountain we had to conquer with a mixed feeling of anticipation and unpleasantness.

After we had eaten our breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we had to get to it. Not more than 1 or 2 kilometers into the day we started getting seriously acquainted with the Harz. Somehow the climb in all its sadistic steepness did not eat at my spirit the same way it had the day before because i was mentally prepared for the mountain and because i knew that one way or the other i would get to the top, and that this mountain to would come to an end.
Going down the southern slope we had a good road, no traffic and speeds on the fast side of 55 km/h hitting 58,4 km/h as the highest. The downhill ride took us to Magdesprung and then further on a scenic path to Alexisbad from were we rode Harzgerode. In Harzgerode the days first Red Bulls went into our systems and as usual our moods were lifted as we rode with the wind eastwards towards Wippra, where we ate lunch.

On the way out of the city we passed by a small theme park, and decided to have some fun by taking a slide down a hillside. By this time the sun was coming and exhibiting quite some strength - one of the few times we actually experienced a stretch of warm weather.
After spending perhaps half an hour on the slides we went uphill once more to the highest elevation of the day a good bit over 400 meter above sea-level.

From there followed a nice downhill ride to the city of Sangerhausen (31.500 inhabitants). After taking a wrong turn in the city and having to backtrack a bit we rode southwards towards Artern.

Not many kilometers out of Sangerhausen my tire went flat, and we had to make an involuntary break as I tried to fix the problem. As we were sitting in the sun and boiling while trying to fix the tire the result became a halfhearted job.
The last 10 km to Artern became a blood boiling odyssey with endless pumping of my front tire, and exponentially increasing levels of anger and hunger. In the end however we got to Artern (6.100 inhabitants) were we found the only kebab vendor in town and had a well deserved kebab-feast. The evening was progressing and we had to find a place to sleep, and we decided that somewhere along the river Unstrut.

We followed a regional bicycle path along the river but initially we found it filled with evil flying ants and ended running downsteam with ants all over shouting "get them off, get them off!".
A couple of kilometers down stream however we found a good patch of insect free patch of grass by a river lock, where we settled for the night.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Travel blog: Bicycling in Germany July 2008 (Day 3)

Calberlah-Bad Suderode

Distance : 114 km
Average : 17,7 km/h
Maximum : 55,1 km/h
Time on bike : 6h 25 min

As we woke on the third day of our journey the neigh-on magic feeling of the previous evening had vaporised together with our water, which we ha
d used most of the previous evening to make tea and coffee. As we gathered our things from the grass and drank the last half liter of water a cloudy and quiet morning was unfolding.

We had to backtrack approximately 1 km to get to a supermarket in Calberlah, where we could get breakfast and other supplies for the day.
As we were pretty hungry and thirsty we choose to eat our breakfast in the parking lot in front of the store, not exactly the most idyllic of places but we got our stomachs filled and spirits lifted.

As we wanted to avoid going through Braunschweig and Wolfsburg we headed in the direction of the old market town Königslutter am Elm (16,500 inhabitants).

Almost 20 km away from Königslutter we could already spot the Elm hills south of the city.

After a quick red bull in Königslutter we set out to get up our first 8 km climb up to the top of the Elm hills. The first 5 km were manageable but at that point I was starting to melt down. Mathias was strolling alongside nearly 40 kilos lighter than me and with no real effort. In the end however I got up to the summit.
Although the hill was covered with forest and we did not get a view it felt pretty good to get up there and still be able to go on (after a break or two).

On the way down from the hills we got our first misty view of the Harz mountains which were about 50 km further south.

After passing some lower rolling hills we got to the old BDR/DDR border at
the river Grosser Graben. After we had passed the border the villages we passed through changed character and became more closely knit.
The buildings were more worn out with a closed workshop or two in many of the villages.

Not more than some 7 km after crossing the old border we began the next climb up the Huy hills. We had 14 km on the way up, the first 10 relative
ly low degree and the last 3 km was a sick 10 degree and in places even 12+ degree steep climb were I had to give up for a minute or three. Dragging my bike up the hill trying to get some badly needed oxygen into my lungs.

Going down from the hilltop we turned more east which was perfect as the wind was coming in from the west. The next 12-15 km into Halberstadt (39,500 inhabitants) were a pure joy ride: downhill with the wind pushing us on 32-35 km/h all the way. After Halberstadt we turned south once more towards the next destination which was the historic town of Quedlinburg - a UNESCO World heritage site.

The Harz mountains, which had been periodically visible for us since we rode down the Elm hills, were now closing in on us, although we had bypassed the High Harz as we rode eastwards. From Quedlinburg we had some 8 km to Bad Suderode (1,900 inhabitants).

On the way the sun, mountains and clouds were creating a really nice scene as we rode the last stretch of the day.

In Bad Suderode we found a pretty cheap hotel (€30 pr. person incl. breakfast), and had a couple of hours to go around town and the watch the Tour de France on television. The city, a thermal spa resort, was a peculiar mix of abandoned hotels and buildings side by side with still running hotels and pensions that seemed to be doing OK.

The impression made by Bad Suderode fitted well with the descriptions of similar spa towns in "Lonely Planet - Germany". The book mentioning that these spa towns of the Harz had a rough start in 1990 as the unification opened the world to the inhabitants of the DDR who, given the choice, preferred the sunny beaches of Southern Europe.

However this development was in many places slowly turned, and growing numbers were apparently visiting the Harz once more, although the Eastern Harz (where we were) still was quiet and relatively undisturbed.

See the route on

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Travel blog: Bicycling in Germany July 2008 (Day 2)

Day 2: Bispingen- Calberiah (Gifhorn)


Distance: 117 km
Average 17,8 km/h
Max speed: 39,6 km/h
Time on bike: 6 hours 25 min.

On the second day we set out from Bispingen with a good breakfast and w
ell rested legs. As we traveled southwards to Munster the weather was pretty good with sunshine and some non-threatening white clouds.

Morning and noon

When we came to Munster an hour before noon we tried
to find a shop or grocer to get some supplies for the rest of the day. However it being Sunday the only thing open was a gas station, and again our primary source of energy was Red Bull.

While in the vicinity of Munster we noticed several military facilities, military museums, and bars inviting soldiers inside on their door signs.

As we moved southwards out of the city we rode for approx 30 km with military fences decorated with barb wire on one, and some times both sides of the road.

On this stretch we also went though a patch of heath, as we w
ent through the Naturpark Südheide.
But all in all the first half of our second day on the bikes was mostly shaped by the fact that we were driving through some of the biggest military traning grounds in Germany.


After passing the small city of Unterluss (pop. 4000) in the early afternoon we turned more eastwards and quickly felt the whole benifit of the western winds blowing. The next 25 km were taken in a fast
er pace (round 25 km/h on average) and without stops.

As the afternoon progressed we drove out of the dense forests and drove southwards towards the city of Gifhorn with big wheat and maize fields dominating the flat landscape interrupted by smaller patches of forest, and small villages.

We were following marked bicycle paths which meant that we were avoiding traffic. The lack of noise and the freedom from having to have constant attention on the road made the experience more harmonic and on several occasions I lost myself in the scenary and the grinding rhythm of the bike as we glided through this peaceful agrarian landscape with a few clouds in the sky and a manageable wind crossing in from the side.

When we reached the outskirts of Gifhorn (pop. 42.000) we finally found a place where we could get a döner, which was needed as we were running a bit low on energy. Afterwards we drove into the inner city and took a walk though the pedestrian area before heading further south and finding a nice place to sleep a little south of the sleepy town of Calberlah (pop. 5000).
We made camp at the spot where the Mittelland canal meets the Elbe-seiten canal.


Ending the day with a cup of coffee and a beautif
ul sunset everything seemed to be at peace.
I found myself quietly embracing the beauty of the landscape in front of us.

It was not because there was anything "special" about the scene in the sense that I could have easily seen the same landscape and sunset
at home.

The beauty of the scene came form the con flux of the feeling of being on the road, and the
immediate joy of just being at that spot at that time, with all the daily thoughts having been left somewhere along the road.

That evening was exactly what i had hoped the bicycle trip would be all about, the joy of being exactly where we were, and the feeling of being strong in the sense that you can look at a map at some place that is, at that point still nothing more than an abstraction on a map, and then just move your legs, and get where you want to go by the power of ones will alone [helped along with some Red Bull of course ;-)].
Added up over a whole day this had become 117 km. The 117 km were of course in it self an abstraction, but thinking about the places we had seen along the day
Mathias and I agreed that it was amazing just how many of the views and experiences we had during a day on the road that stayed clear in the mind.

As the evening turned into night I looked up at the stars and airplanes, thoughts passing though my mind without any of them getting a hold of my conscience mind for more than a split of a second.
My mind and body were at peace, and everything seemed to be in its right place.
As I closed my eyes, it was therefore with the joy of being in the "traveling mind set".

See the route for the second day on

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Travel blog: Bicycling in Germany July 2008 (Day 1)

Day 1: Hamburg - Bispingen

Distance : 72 km
Average : 16,2 km/h
Time on bike : 3 hours 56 min

Max speed : 53,6 km/h

For a week in July one of my friends (Mathias Kvolsgaard) and I took a week on the German roads. We took a couple of trains from Odense to Hamburg and than set out from the southern part of the harbor and crossed the Südelbe and left the Jutland Peninsula.
On the Southern shore of the Südelbe we rode through the city (or Hamburg's suburb) of Harburg where we found some fuel for our legs in the form of grilled chicken and a can of Red Bull. Fresh on the red power we drove up hill to Seevetal and southwards towards the outskirts of the Lüneburg Heath.

On the way there was a heavy rain shower, but we were lucky enough to find quick shelter at a bus stop and could sit and enjoy the rain knowing that we had just had the good luck of finding instant shelter.
As the day progressed the weather improved and the sun came out, however the temperature was on the cold side round 15-20 degrees.

We had started around 14:00 from Hamburg, and we arrived in the hamlet of Bispingen (90 meters above sea level) around 20:15 with a healthy appetite and tired legs. Before we looked for a place to sleep we got ourselves a good solid meal, and left the restaurant with slight nausea from overeating.

Finding a place to sleep in the little town proved to be no problem as we were in the middel of the Lüneburg Heath. Conveniently enough there where numerous hotels, pensions and even a hostel. We settled in a private pension and got a room for € 20 per person including a good breakfast with an old couple who had made parts of their house into a pension.

See the route on bikenet.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Measuring Poverty

The Greek philosopher Protagoras is known for the saying that "Man is the measure of all things".

When it comes to the issue of poverty, and especially hunger, this saying seems to have some truth to it. Although its questionable whether well being is connected with be economically well of, it is more apparent that poverty seems to hinder well being.

Poverty is usually defined in relative or absolute terms.

An example of absolute poverty is measuring how many people live (or try to) for under $1 of purchasing power per day. In measuring absolute poverty the correlation between being poverty and well being is apparent. In the sense that being able to live your everyday life without feeling hungry gives a feeling of well being.

Relative poverty is more dependant on the society that a given individual is living in. For example in Denmark recent surveys show that relative (or local) poverty can be not having a cell phone or a personal computer.

The thing that puzzles me is that in this sense a person who can consistently eat and have access to clean drinking water, while living in an area with widespread absolute poverty will probably fell better of than average.

At the same time a person living in Denmark, who can not afford a computer will be inclined to feel deprived in comparison with others.

The everyday surroundings of man seem a stronger measure of personal well being than an absolute measure.
This means that a relatively poor person living in Denmark has access to: clean water, has a home with central heating and electricity, access to free health care and free education (even guaranteed state sponsorship every month).
All these goods besides that person may still feel more deprived than a person who perhaps only has one of these but lives in a society where many have access to none of the above mentioned goods.

So beyond the obvious benefits of eliminating hunger and securing basic educational and health care services, is poverty reduction the best measure of human well being?

Is it even possible to meaningfully compare relative poverty across borders and even across social settings and age groups?
Even though the before mentioned survey in Denmark does not mention age i could imagine that older citizens would have a higher threshold for what constitutes poverty, and would perhaps not see the lack of a computer being a sign of poverty.

In the end its difficult operating with absolute terms and humans in relation to each other as each of us seems to have personal measuring units when it comes to well being and deprivation.

Monday, June 30, 2008

My first entry

So here I am writing my first entry. Laying in bed yesterday night I decided to start writing a blog about one theme that seems to reenter my conscious mind on a daily basis: well being.
Questions relating to well being appear in numerous ways in my day to day life. Needless to say well being - or welfare - is a central theme throughout historic political theory and contemporary political discussions as well. Although the theme of well being can seem to be omnipresent in politics in a certain sense it has been lost in modern politics.
Looking at the contemporary political discussions in Denmark (my home country) there seems to be widespread agreement that the best tools to measure aggregated well being are economic.
This is nothing new as the Scandinavian welfare state historically was centered on economic redistribution as a primary tool for increased average well being.

Today however fundamental redistributive discussions are rare and instead welfare is being redefined to freedom of choice in choosing public goods and the freedom from excessive taxation. But are these economic indicators the best way to measure well being? Can well being even be aggregated at all, or is it an personal experience that cannot be measured?
The concept of well being can be used in many ways and have several meanings, in the following posts some of these will be explored, related and compared to each other.