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.