An Autumn cycle tour along the French and Portuguese Camino Routes to / from Santiago de Compostela
In the early autumn I find myself cycling the French (most of it) and the Portuguese Camino routes to Santiago de Compostela. There is a variety of traditional Camino routes, reflecting the wide range of travellers and pilgrims who over the centuries have come from far and wide, heading towards Compostela, which is said to be the burial place of the Apostle James, son of Zebedee, whose remains somehow ended up in Santiago and were discovered by a shepherd guided by a star. Allegedly. Sound familiar ? Well, stranger things have happened, I guess, including Jesus going to the USA after his crucifixion to talk to a long lost tribe of Israelites who had ended up there and leading to the creation of the Mormon religion. I suppose Apostle James ending up in Santiago doesn’t seem any more odd or unlikely ?!
God bless Ryanair, cheap and cheerful, but they got me to Santander. It’s a small airport and I was out of it fairly quickly and able to put my bike together and cut up the cardboard box which was deposited in various trash cans around the airport. Then a quick ride to my hotel, which smelt of cigarette smoke because the two old brother owners seem to spend their time walking up and down smoking cigarettes. Smoking seems to be alive and kicking in Spain. I won’t be going back to that particular hotel, not because of the smell of cigarettes, but mainly because they charged me €15 to put my bike in the downstairs storeroom. Never had that happen before. Food was cheap and cheerful in some local bar with an enforced wine stop on the way home because of a storm. And so to bed.
I had a lovely whole squid for dinner last night in Palencia. See the pictures. That was about 10:30 pm, and people were still coming in to the restaurant at 11 pm sitting down to eat. Spaniards don’t even think of starting dinner until at least 8:30 pm. In the morning I was up very early and on the road shortly before 7 am, when it was still dark. It doesn’t get light util 8 am here at the moment. The weather was not great, rain showers and a stiff breeze out of the west right in to my face. I had 115 km to do, so it was doing to be a challenge. However, I made it, arriving in Leon for 7 pm, meeting up with Dean and Bev, and going for dinner. It was a tough day of cycling, mostly across the flat plains of Leon, but made difficult by the weather and especially the wind. There you are, I have mentioned the wind !
A half morning’s ride along the Baltic coast, and then I was heading south towards Szczecin to join the Oder river which I will be following south from now on. Szczecin is at the bottom of a large bay into which the Oder runs, and so I was zigzagging a bit across county to get in to position so that I can follow the Oder.
Today's riding was just what I like. Once I had worked my way out of Szczecin, I was quickly across the border in to Germany and following the left / German side of the Oder along nice bike paths along the flood defences. The Oder is a wide flood plain river, to look at not very impressive initially, but all that green growth between the two banks is shallow water. Some parts of it have been canalised for transport. I’ll follow the Oder for the next few days as it forms the border between Germany and Poland, which then follows the Neisse.
It's Monday, and the shops are now open in Poland, and in Germany, as I head south along the River Oder backwards and forwards across the river and the border. Being able to pop in to a small Aldi or Netto as I travel along is such a boon to the weary and thirsty traveller, and I don’t need to plan too far ahead. Unlike when I was crossing the USA last year and services were so sparse and distant from one another. Or when in Germany and Poland on a Sunday !
I love steak tartar, which is very popular in Poland. Nearly every restaurant does it. Usually it is fine. Occasionally it can cause problems. Last night’s offering at Slubice was fine, but in the course of the night it causes problems with my stomach. It would be advisable on today’s ride to keep upwind of me.
I headed inland west in to Germany from the Oder in the direction of Dresden. Following the Oder further south it becomes very windy and complicated, so I will cross over to the Elbe (Labe when it passes in to the Czech Republic) and go on from Dresden to Prague. Going across country from one river to the other means hills, which I’ve not been used to as I’ve been following the river so far. So, today’s ride was a little harder than I expected, but at least for the most part I was on decent German roads with bike paths.
I’m heading today down the Elbe / Labe in to the Czech Republic and then on to Prague. The river will take me all the way as it meanders along. Dresden is very monumental, not just in buildings but also in lay out, and I found myself pretty quickly riding down a Mall like way through a huge park, Grosser Garten, on the way to the river. The opposite bank very quickly is in the Czech Republic, and by lunchtime my side of the river had also passed in to the Czech Republic.
A shortish ride today in to Prague, still following the Elbe / Labe. I’m staying in an AirB&B just up from the main station but in a nice area, and just beyond it gets even nicer. I like AirB&B for lodging because usually it’s self check in and I can get the bike in to the place without any bother or pleading.
At the end of day of cycling there are a few things that are essential - a shower, a decent bed, some beer, and FOOD.... ! Here are some of the recent meals I've had on my travels through Poland, Germany and in Prague. Generally, the food has been good, with one or two exceptions, and one unfortunate incident with some steak tartare !
I am hoping in late September / early October to go to northern Spain and cycle the majority of the Camino route to Compostella, and then head down the coast to Portugal and take in most of the Portugues Atlantic coast through Porto and Lisbon, ending up eventually in Faro for some sun and relaxation. It's all in the planning and I hope it comes off.
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