I was terrified of getting a puncture and missing my train. The previous day I got one on the spiky, glass-covered streets of Berlin. It was my second in Berlin, third in my lifetime, ever. But then, I have only been cycling for a couple of years. I was a late starter – put off by an accident I had when I was twelve: hill – park bench – slide – concrete. I snapped my two front teeth in half, exposing raw nerve. After that the bike just sat in the garage until Dad saw I wasn’t using it and asked for it back.
I became a born again cyclist in Brighton two years ago. A friend went traveling and lent me her BMX – a bike small enough for me, but with no gears hilly Brighton was tricky to navigate. So I made myself a “new” bike out of recycled parts and lots and lots of help from Cranks DIY Bike Maintenance Workshop in Brighton. Florence the bike cost me a total of £11 to build, and although she was heavy (like a tank in a petticoat), she’s the non-human thing I always miss most when traveling.
The bike I pedaled, loaded down with stuff, across Berlin this morning is the same one I picked up in Copenhagen just before the Cop 15 demonstrations. I donated 50DKK for her, which some people said was a lot, but €6 isn’t much for a bike and despite needing the odd touch up, she was pretty much ready to ride. I knew we would be together for a while.
When my friend Samantha emailed from Brighton to tell me about her cycling adventure from Vienna – Budapest – Belgrade – Montenegro – who knows where… demanding to know when I would meet up with her, I thought maybe my two-wheeled companion and I could go on a trip.
Now here I am munching Salzstangen (like long, straight pretzels) and drinking Yerba Mate on the train to Budapest. Today is Friday. My train gets in at 22:32 and I will follow my printed map to the host of my Couchsurfing host in her flat in Buda and stay with her until I meet up with Sam on Monday.