I have spent almost three months now in Berlin preparing my next trips and I have had a fabulous time thanks to friends whose apartment I could sublet while they were away hiking themselves. An entire apartment for me alone – what a luxury after 8 months in a tent. I tremendously enjoyed sleeping in a real bed again and having a fully equipped kitchen. Not to mention fast and reliable wifi which was essential for my trip planning.
After my long 5-months winter hike through Southern Europe I will take a break from hiking for the rest of this year. As I am usually alternating between hiking, cycling and paddling to avoid physical (and mental) wear and tear 2014 will be a year of cycling and paddling.
It was very easy to determine my cycling destination for 2014. Last year I have done a bike through Scandinavia that I have enjoyed tremendously. In fact I have enjoyed it so much that I completed only half of my planned route because I did not want to rush. So now it is time to do the second half. Therefore I will head north again, but this time NorthEast. Again I will start directly in Berlin at the place I am staying at right now. From Berlin I will then cycle through Poland to the Baltic States, which will be the first focus of this trip. I plan to spend at least one month in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia doing extensive sightseeing. Then I will take the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki: Finnland will be the second focus of this trip. Last year I had only briefly cycled through Finland from Vaasa to Helsinki but this year I am planning to do a big loop around Finland including the Baltic Sea coast from Helsinki to Oulu on one side and Karelia along the Finnish-Russian border and the other side. A highlight of this Finnish loop will be an excursion to the Aland Islands.
Although I have downloaded various gpx tracks of bike trails I am planning to use it makes no sense posting a route map now. Other than while hiking I usually don't adhere to planned routes while cycling. There are so many options and places to visit that I usually decide on the spur of the moment (and depending on the weather) on which route to take.
Like last year I am planning on cycling at a rather leisurely pace. I know from previous bike trips that I could easily do 100 km + per day, but I found it to be much more relaxing to do only around 80 – 90 km per day which leaves plenty of time for sightseeing, berry picking and just plainly dinking around.
When I had finished the bike trip planning I was surprised that it had turned out to be much longer than expected: Strictly adhering to bike routes without any side trips the whole general route is already around 7,500 km long. That meant one problem: I either had to pedal faster and/or shorten the route – or I would not be able to start the ensuing paddling trip down the Danube in time. But I have learnt one thing during my past trips: Try to avoid time pressure! Another factor was also threatening a „thrupaddle“ of the Danube: The political situation in the Ukraine.
So all of a sudden my leisurely trip planning turned difficult: I needed a quick alternative plan for the Danube. I was now looking for a 6 – 8 weeks paddling trip in Europe that could still be done in September and October without completely freezing my butt off. I received a lot of help from members of outdoor forums who came up with various great ideas. My desk was cluttered with dozens of maps and guidebooks from the library and I spent hours in front of the computer researching the various ideas.
In the end the perfect alternative plan came up: a paddling trip across Southern Sweden. It seems ideal because it is easy to get there from Germany, there is a lot of information out on the internet (and a lot of very helpful people giving me information on internet forums) and it is a very varied trip: My planned route includes the lake districts of Dalsland and Glaskogen, the huge inland lakes of Vänern and Vättern, some canal paddling and lock portaging on the Göta Canal and last but not least some first attempts in sea kaying in the skerry gardens of Eastern Sweden. As there are so many different options the trip can be as long or as short as I (or the weather) likes it to be. The only problem could be cold weather in fall.
So 2014 will be a Scandinavian year.... I will probably start cycling around May 5th – so soon there will be trip posts again. And if anyone of you lives in the Baltic States, Finland or Southern Sweden, please let me know. I always enjoy meeting people for a chat or maybe even an overnight stay along the route.