We love Zoe’s mother because over the years she has given us a home base in Europe that we use to recover from our travels as well as to store our junk. Plus she loves to feed us and Pan Sitarz has lots of tools we can use. All-in-all it’s a great place to crash. But what a week! Last Wednesday we woke up at 3:00 am and Sławek came to pick us up to take us the 100 km to Piła where we got a train to Poznań and then another across the German border to Berlin, then Hannover and finally to Frankfurt where we did some last minute shopping and hopped on a plane.
Piła – Poznań: 100 km, Our first train left the station while it was still dark out. PKP, Polskie Koleje Państwowe (Polish State Railways) was the only train game in town when the communists ran things and the old pociag osobowy (ordinary trains) are the good old lines with only second-class seating and the baggage cars in the front and rear which we could comfortably ride with our bikes and bags.
Poznań – Berlin: 280 km, Our next train was an InterCity train with the fancy padded chairs and the dining cars. After the communists lost power in Poland around 1990 people no longer had to share the train with cargo deliveries; but, that also means that on the IC train, gone are the wonderful cargo cars to hold our bikes. Zosia bought and paid for special tickets just for our bikes but nobody seemed interested in designing any place to put them. So in the aisle they went.
Berlin – Hannover: 280 km, Our next train was a typical sweet German train with a giant car just for bikes, and we happened to be the only two bikes in it. The Germans pretty much have the public transportation thing figured out: always plenty of trains where you need them, easy to understand maps and schedules, clean & comfortable cars and they’re always on-time.
Hannover – Frankfurt: 350 km, Our last train into Frankfurt was equally sweet and we had the bicycle car all to ourselves again. Getting on and off the trains was not difficult if we unloaded some of our bags from the bikes and basically the whole bike/train experience was rather uneventful, which was nice. Our hostel was across the street from the train station so we got a couple of dorm beds in the very friendly Frankfurt Hostel.
Frankfurt: We contacted Jochen thru Hospitality Club and he was nice enough to host us for four nights; but, we decided to come in a day early on Wednesday to have an extra day of shopping because we still had lots of stuff to buy so we spent the night downtown. Actually Jochen was more than nice enough, he was quite warm in his welcome and his hospitality was super, we felt like part of his family.
Frankfurt airport: We got some free boxes from the nice guy at the Cannondale shop, mainbike and boxed up our steeds in Jochen’s basement. On Monday morning Jochen brought us coffee in our room again and the taxi was right on time at 8:30, we were at the airport before 9:00 am. We labeled our bike boxes, wrapped and tapped our cargo luggage into two gypsy-bags, checked them in and got ourselves some Starbuck’s to get rid of our coins. We were basically running around thru checkpoints and dealing with luggage for five hours; good thing we got there so early.
Our 2:00 pm flight was delayed for three hours because it was cold today and we had to wait for the single deicing truck to get around to spraying our wings with probably ethylene glycol or some car-like anti-freeze. Then after we got airborne the captain informed us that, because of the long delay, his crew now cannot legally fly the entire way to Cancun since they would be on-duty for 15 hours, longer than regulation permits. So, we need to land on the other side of the Caribbean. The two of us were actually happy since we would score a free hotel night out of the deal. But after we landed in the Dominican Republic the captain again informs us that we will have a new crew to fly us to Cancun today which is not good news for us because we want to get some real sleep.
We land in Cancun and clear customs by 8:30 am Europe time which is exactly 24 hours since we left Jochen’s. The problem was that it was only sometime after midnight in Cancun and the small airport was basically asleep. So we tried to make ourselves comfortable on the chairs until a respectable hour that we could call Gilberto. After breakfast we called and the great Genaro picked us up in Freddy’s little VW Bug and we get to Gilberto’s and eat yummy bean soup.
Getting to Mexico was pretty easy, our air travel not withstanding, and getting picked up in the airport with our bike boxes also made it easy on us since we didn’t have the hassle of assembling everything in some hallway with people staring at us. But the real deal was that Genaro scored us a place to rest, recover and rebuild our bikes at his friend Gilberto’s future Mexican Taj Mahal. He is building a small hotel resort and we are his guests for the next few days. Way to go Genaro and many thanks to Gilberto!