If you have been once in Finlnad you may also know the song “Olen Suomalainen”?
(Well, if you don´t know the song listen it below!)
It’s a kind of Finnish unofficial anthem, but somehow regarded more proudly than the official one.
If you translate the song, then you see how Finnish people is strong, determined, and resilient.
Well, I don’t doubt they are, but…
…what’s happening with all that strength when it’s about cycling?
Why nobody in Helsinki is able to pedal if is not summer time?
It seems that both institutions and citizens forget about the magic two-wheeled machine most of the year, when is not too warm.
Finland, the country that had been described as the happiest land, with the strongest folk, becames a desert of snow and lazy people in the winter, where cyclists have no rights, the bike lanes are left totally abbandoned. This is true at least for Helsinki.
Is it impossibile to cycle in the winter in Finland?
No. It’s actually easier than using a car, walking or even taking a bus.
BIKE VS CAR
If you use a bicycle, you don´t have to remove huge amounts of snow from it, as it happens with cars; you don´t have to warm up the engine, you don´t have to defrost the windows, you don´t have to worry for parking space under snow.
BIKE VS WALKING
If you have the right tires on your bike—and there is an actual acceptable bike lane—it may be less slipery than walking. You would warm up yourself cycling. And, if you don´t want to risk to sweat, you could get an electric bicycle.
BIKE VS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
With the bicycle you don´t have to freeze at the bus stop waiting for the bus, when you don´t move, you feel the cold even more and the time passes more slowly.
If you have the right bicycle, you may be even faster than a bus and could get straight from point A to B.
These above are just my simple considerations. These are some comparations that come straight to my mind, without even doing too much research about the topic.
However, if you do want to do a research about how easy is to cycle in the winter (with the right gear and the right biycle), just do it! I am sure that you will find more reasons why to use a bicycle in the winter.
I really can´t hope anything else than a wake up in Helsinki´s institution and residents. Let´s have a look at the cool–not too far–neighour Denmark: Copenhagen.
For this trip I needed normally to do some changes to the bicycle, three gears may be not enough to go 5.190 meters uphill, but I will challenge myself and still be with three gears! Pushing the bicycle up the mountains.
Komoot and Gmaps will be my main information source, I will not use the internet, so I have to rely only on offline maps.
This time I have more gear with me: full-body reflectors, fisherman rain-coat & solar-powered batteries; however, I have just a few pieces of clothing to fit all the stuff and the bigger sleeping bag, cause now the temperature will be a bit colder on the mountains.
Click on the pic to open the details of the tour
TBILISI – YEREVAN CYCLING DIARY Personal feelings and some useful Trip notes for bicycle travelers.
Main points about the trip
I felt Safe all the time,
There are many water springs on the way, in both countries,
The folk is hospitable & they like Europeans, Georgians and Armenian are similar, even though they have some contrasts between each other, Cold on the mountains in the nights,
The month of October has great weather for cycling (not too cold, not too hot), Not too much traffic and cars keep space when they were passing me, being really polite.
Ready for departure
Daily cyclo diary
TBILISI – KVEMO TELETI 30KM
It’s late when I realize that I don’t have a sleeping pad.
I had to throw away a battery in the standard trash cause in Georgia there is no recycling going on.
Gas stations don’t have air for tires.
No one friendly met on the way, expect a fruit seller and a tire shop owner.
I get some pain in the left leg, I don’t enjoy too much going on the mountains with a three gears city bike.
Testing the solar panels, they seem to work great, I already project to make some permanent installation.
I went to sleep early, I got asleep soon but in the night many thoughts came to my mind. It’s so hard to get empty.
Cemetery. Both Armenians & Georgians have a heavy worship for dead people
KVEMO TELETI – MARNEULI 46 km (tot 76)
Cold in the night
Freedom feeling in the morning
Disgusting smell of exhaust gas from cars
I buy a one-year-expired sweet from a small shop
Hygiene issues: while the seller serves the customer the food falls on the ground, then the seller put it aside, but does not trash it, after five minutes the food is back on the shelf; several shops did this.
Cool kids in the street with bicycles cycle with me.
Car accident, yet another.
Horse with a small lace between legs and neck.
A local asks me what’s my religion, I reply: ” the bicycle” and everything circular.
A fruit which I have never seen before attracts my attention: it’s green, hard, as big as an orange, smelling a bit like a citrus fruit, it has spiral patterns on the skin, and I don’t manage to open it.
In the night there is a mix of different sounds:
Music, like a folk festival
Dogs, many of them, barking
Train, slow and as noisy as a drill machine.
My back hurts.
I manage to get car’s attention with all that reflectors
MARNUELI – SHNOGH (ARMENIA) 34km (tot 110)
It rains, so I stay in the tent and play some harmonica.
Cows licking my bicycle.
All Custom guards are eating while checking my documents.
Friendly custom control.
Arrived in Armenia.
The streets are a bit worse here than in Georgia.
The Armenians I crossed look similar to each other; many men have flat dark hair going on the forehead, a mix between Dracula and Calimero. Several Armenians I have seen have gold teeth, I am not sure if it is a symbol of wealth.
The night was cold. Many animals were roaming around the tent; for sure groups of dogs, some kind of foxes making an acute sound, and maybe even wolves, or maybe they were just dogs. I have heard animal’s sounds that I have never heard before, some kind of sad dogs group crying, even though they could have been other animals too.
I have heard another scary sound, like an army with many tanks, moving slowly next to me; then I realize is just an Armenian train. Same happens for the trucks on the road. Two similar slow metallic sounds.
In the morning my tent is still wet due to the dew. I pack anyway.
Camping in the fields
SHNOG – DSEGH 80km (tot 156)
Many cars in panne in the street.
Indiana Jone’s bridges.
Abandoned cable car hanging on the cable on top of the village.
High voltage electricity wires about 2 5 meters from the ground.
I didn’t meet any attractive Armenian woman or girl yet
A bicycle traveler crosses my way, he doesn’t even smile to me.
Surrounded by dogs around the tent.
I get sick, maybe the food (kebab or fish), maybe the water, maybe just influenza; my belly, muscles, and head are painful, I vomit four times.
Locals are extremely friendly
DSEGH – VANADZOR 20km (tot 176)
Today I am fasting
The sun is high in the sky and I am still in the tent, sick.
I have finished all the three bottles of water.
My solar panels don’t seem to charge the battery
I try to get some motivation and energy to pack and leave :
I need water,
It’s hot in the tent,
There is too much noise from cars here,
And, if I arrive soon to Yerevan, I will probably meet a cool girl there.
I start to cycle even if I am sick.
Armenian drivers behave with cyclists as Italian drivers behave with girls: they annoy you by using the horn for no reason.
The way is uphill, I have to push the bicycle; nevertheless, there is a positive thing: Yerevan is not like Rome, where ALL the streets bring you there, for Yerevan there is only one street and not even much traffic.
Luckily the road has been flattened, however, there is no protection net for rocks falling from the mountain.
I struggle to find a place to set up the tent, finally, I camp near an abandoned industrial site, full of trash in the grass, as often happens in this trip.
The mist is the enemy number one
VANADZOR – SPITAK 38km (tot 214)
Today there is a lot of mist.
Regardless of the fact that this location is a bit grotesque and full of trash, I didn’t get disturbed by vehicles or dogs, so I had a good rest.
I still feel a little weak, but I have positive mental energy, probably I will fast today too.
When I look at the map in the mornings, I see there is a long way to go, nevertheless, as I start cycling, I regularly get surprised of myself about how far you can get just with a bicycle.
Even though I still feel sick, by cycling I feel better.
Thinking of my mother, I wonder if she had ever had big traveling adventures.
All cars have dark windows, even the front ones.
Smelly, polluting, and extremely dark smoke comes from the exhaust pipe of the majority of the vehicles.
It’s incredible how many car’s tire shops there are in Armenia.
Two men invite me to a warehouse where I meet Saro, the manager. He is really kind and speaks English, I get invited to eat with them but I am still not feeling good with my stomach, so I prefer not to eat.
Mountains are all around me, they seem made of velvet.
The silence and quietness of traveling by bicycle are priceless.
I am about fasting today too, but finally, I eat some grapes.
It seems that between Armenians and Georgians there are not great relationships.
I have to climb mountains again and my back hurts.
The night is freezing cold, I absolutely need a warmer sleep bag and extra clothes.
Someone comes to visit me in the tent during the night, I don’t understand if he needs help or is offering me some.
A kind man came to offer his help while I was repairing the bicycle
SPITAK – APARAN 33 km (tot 247)
This is the third day of fasting.
Many birds roam around my tent.
I have a flat tire.
A kind man offers me tea, accommodation, and little help to repair the bicycle.
I was thinking to climb these mountains yesterday before sunset, luckily I didn’t do it, because I would have ended up in the darkness on a mountain with nowhere to camp and a flat tire.
Finally, I realize that the many cars horning at me, do it just for friendliness, while in Italy they do it also to annoy and make stupid jokes at you.
After the wheel reparation, the tire seems to be damaged, so the bicycle is riding wonky.
I get invited for a tea from a kind man.
Suddenly, I am in the middle of a wedding, they ask me if I am hungry, I reply: “a bit” (I didn’t eat since three days), the people of the wedding go to ask others, probably asking if I could join the wedding, after a while they go to the supermarket and buy me food: sweets and chocolate. I do eat the food, but I didn’t have to, cause I am still sick, so I am about vomiting again.
Both in Armenia and Georgia—even though there are no bicycle lanes and cars don’t drive good—I have to admit that the most of the vehicles take a large distance from me when they pass me.
Safety is also not an issue here, for so far I have traveled, people don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don´t commit crimes; for sure not as much as in Europe.
Aran is a nice small town to stop.
I camp when is still about 17:00, I am afraid to not feel well enough to cross the next village.
There is a nice spot to set up the tent, I have a great view and some privacy; the only issue is the nearby traffic, noisy and smelly: from the tent, I cough because of the disgusting oily smoke from diesel vehicles. They have probably engine’s issues and therefore a lot of oil is burned. Luckily there are many other vehicles that run on methane.
Yet another freezing night, regardless the fact that I have even put gloves on my feet, they were still cold.
APARAN – YEREVAN 47 km (tot 294)
It’s sunny and I am not that sick anymore.
Today I will absolutely fast.
Everyone has talked to me in Russian in this trip, assuming that I would speak—or be—Russian; some people thought I was American, when I told them that my family is Italian they loved me, they like Europeans in general.
I find trash even next to a worship place.
While I am cycling there is a bicycle passing me on the left, I turn my head and I see a group of cyclo travelers, we cycle until Yerevan together, sharing food, drinks, and information.
They are kind Russians, I try my best to speak Russian, but of course, I can just say basic concepts.
I am happy to arrive in Yerevan and take a break, I love to cycle but I really needed some rest, a better sleeping bag, and sleeping pad.
I don´t manage to fast this last day.
Learing Georgian & Food
Thanks = Madloba
Hello = Gamarjoba (gamargioba)
GoodBye = Nakhvamdis
My name is = chemi sakhelia
Nice to meet you = Sasiamovnoa sheni gatsnoba
No = Ara
Yes = Ki
Maybe = sheidzleba’Me = me
You = shen
They = Isini
I like = me mikvars
You are really kind = dzalian chkviani khar (zalian cikviani kar)
Girl = gogo
Boy = bichi
I love you = me shen mikvarkhar
I love Georgia = me mikvars saqartvelo
You are beautiful = shen khar dzalian lamazi
You have beautiful eyes = shen gakvs dzalian lamazi tvalebi (eyes)
I like your skin = me mikvars sheni kani
Are all Georgian girls beautiful like you? = kvela qartveli gogo shensavit lamazia
Can I kiss you? = sheidzleba gakotsoDo you want to watch a movie with me = ginda chemtan ertad kinos kureba
I would marry your brother just to be near you = shen dzmaze davqorwindebodi rom shens akhlos vkopilikavi
Extremely hospitable and kind people, I have got helped in all kind of ways, even with money.
I needed food, they gave me food.
I needed a ride, they brought me with them.
I was thirsty, I had free water.
I had no money, people spontaneously gave me money.
No, is not the Bible, it’s just what happened to me. Many times. Both in Armenia and Georgia.
It seems that both, Armenians and Georgians, are in competition for whom is the most friendly and kind.
Free water as fundamental right.
Until about 2014, the water at home was free.
Yerevan, city of mirrors. You don’t have to carry a mirror with you, there are hundreds of them around the city
Armenian gastronomy: Persil & Coriander everywhere. Unlucky me that I don’t like coriander!
THINGS THAT COULD BE IMPROVED
Builders working on an expensive hotel construction don’t have any safety equipment
Small kids drive mini electric car toys, these cars are mini luxury cars and have even loud disco music integrated, to make the kid fully similar to the father.
I have seen more porches car here than in the wealthiest countries of the world.
The day that the world sow I got balls, but literally!
Many people asked me how I did became a CycloNudista; well, the first sign about this virtuous vocation appeared when I was just a little more than a child…
It happened in a small, countryside, village of southern Italy with roughly 5.000 inhabitants. The main disputes in this village are about how you are a better person if you come from one or another side of the village, there is a river that divides the two sides and many people feel proud to be from the “right side”.
This location in southern Italy is extremely conservative, old-fashion, and fascist: the best place to be a CycloNudista!
My home was two kilometers from the village, I had a bicycle and I was using it regularly to go to cafe´s or do groceries.
In this small village, when you are on a bicycle, people always look at you with superiority,—actually they do it also if you walk or are in a car that is worth less than 20.000euro—making you feel miserable, even if you are just a child. Just for that reason, I always loved to cycle: each move of my pedaling was for me a march against that sick society.
Another rebellious behavior I had, was to be a punk. I had eight piercings, a crest in my hair, broken pants, and colored nails; this made me look ´somewhat´ little different than anyone else around there.
It was for me quite usual to get attention from people, because of my bike and because of my look; actually maybe also because of many other things, but here let´s limit my unique weirdness to the bicycle and my appearance.
One day I went to a shop in the center, I was hurrying up so I didn´t even bother to put my underwear–I was a punk after all!–.
Strangely enough, I could immediately notice something different in the look of the locals, their look was full of superiority, as always, but this time there was also some kind of intense interest mixed with astonishment in their gaze.
As usual, I don´t take the trouble to care about them or react, I just do my stuff and get back home. While I was climbing the stairs, I was still thinking about these faces I crossed the look with: how could it be that every single person was having exactly the same expression?
When inside the house, I go straight to the kitchen, there is a large mirror at the entrance where I catch a glimpse of something pink above my legs. I walk rapidly back to the mirror and I finally understand the reason why I had so much attention today by the village people: my broken punk pants exposed my lovely precious parts!
Mud, wind, sun, rain, the black sea, Russian Army with helicopters, lack of food, lack of water, my back hernias, my painful knee, lack of money, drunken Georgians driving like there is no tomorrow, holes in the street, toxic substances, any kind of animal in the middle of the street, Georgian excessive hospitality, mountains, hunters shooting even at night, the fact that I a have a city bike, and even farmers with axes pointed at me: none of these stopped me from getting from Kiev to Tbilisi.
Wanna know what happened on the way?
Simply read below.
CYCLING VS MOTORIZED VEHICLES
You can call a cyclist irrational, or even masochist, you may think it’s meaningless to cycle when you can take the car or an airplane, and be much faster.
Nevertheless, a cyclist believes in what he does. He believes that using the legs instead of polluting vehicles, makes you feel proud of yourself, proud of your body and of your respect to nature.
Hence, why do painters still exist when you can take a picture and get everything much faster?
This was the sentence my father used to pronounce when someone would argue that his paintings are not exactly as reality.
The same difference between a painting and a picture we can transpose to bicycles and cars.
That’s the reason why a while ago I jumped on an abandoned bicycle and decided to go to the other side of the world with it.
INSPIRATION TO CYCLE
The books that inspired me the most:
– The tour of the world in 80 days
– Future Boy Conan
– Don Chuck Monogatari
– Hokuto no Ken
I Share my Bicyle Diary with you
KIEV – ODESSA
Kiev – Bila Tserkva, First 50 km’s
I can’t easily find vegetarian food, the most people eat meat and milk products.
On the right side of the road, there is a small fence with a crowd of cows constricted inside. They have extremely little space, being forced to squeeze and can barely move.
The people I meet along the way are not too interested in interacting, some of them don’t even look in my direction. I guess this is not due to anything negative in their character, they are probably introverted and reserved. That’s actually a polite way of behaving; I appreciate much more who gives me my personal space and privacy, instead of those who go behind my boundaries. Nevertheless, while bicycle touring, one is more open and can get benefit from getting to know locals.
The 80% of the houses in the rural areas, have the roof made of this toxic material. Asbestos is everywhere. Fences, walls, water pipes, and aqueducts are in asbestos too.
I initially felt preoccupied and sad about the people’s health here, but after seeing how old peoples get, I feel released: even though they grow up around toxic’s substances and not far from Chernobyl, many manage to get quite old and still in reasonable shape.
My curiosity made me wish to know the real age of those old men and woman, still, I didn’t dare to ask.
The worst thing a cyclist can encounter are definitely dogs, that’s a constant in all countries. Northern countries are much more safe in this aspect, dogs are friendly there, they don’t bother you.
The more you go south, the more dogs become aggressive, without being racist, we can make an analogy about people.
From the moment it’s proven that dogs behave in a parallel way to humans around them, these in Ukraine start to become a problem, luckily, they get scared of me once I look at them in the eyes and they run away.
Installing the tent on the side of the road, behind few trees, where the level of the ground is about two meters below the street; I have little space cause the road is right on my left, on my right I have a grain field.
The ground is not smooth, the noise of vehicles, many of which are tractors, is annoying my sleep. Furthermore, dogs from a nearby farm, bark all night and I get really cold.
Bila Tserkva 50km – Rokytne 110km
A BABUSHKA KICKS ME OFF
In the deep countryside, I see some nut trees along the road, so I decide to harvest this healthy dry fruit. While I pick some nuts, a babushka, from a house at the other side of the street, shouts at me and points her right hand to the street, showing me the way to go away from her surroundings.
Everything is made of asbestos here, people do not seem to care.
The night passes with a continuous barking of dogs, they seem to be near the tent, I shrink into a ball in order to avoid any of them to reach me at the edges of the tent.
The sunflowers bend their head down, to the opposite side of the sun, it seems almost like a sign of rebellion to nature or maybe it could represent the nature itself, surrendering to humans, which burn and pollute the fields without respect.
It’s hard to count all the camps of sunflower, now dead, that I find on my way. I have the impression sunflower is in absolute the main crop of Ukraine, following, in smaller number, I see grain and corn fields too.
ROKYTNE, MY FAVORITE TOWN
A different town is in front of me, it’s called Rokytne. I notice immediately the many cyclists, friendly people, and finer shops.
I have a break here, it’s the only place that stands out from the standard Ukrainian post-soviet, outdated style. Also, the mentality of the people seems to be more forward. I get to this conclusion judging by how the cars drive and the fact that many locals ride bicycles for choice, not because of poverty.
Rokytne 110km – Skibin 150km
DRUNKEN MAN, WANTING TO PAY AND KISS ME
In order to get water and some food, I stop in a “Magazin”, an omnipresent small shop that sells a bit of everything. NB: the everyting that you can find in a country where import is quite limited due struggling economy and an active war.
I see a table outside, where a drunken man is napping, in a deep sleep, which is for me surprising because it’s about 10:00 in the morning; I seat at the opposite side of him, there are two bottles of beer on the table, one is right where I am sitting. From the moment nobody is there, I move the drink away from me.
After few minutes, a man comes straight to me and shouts something. I understand that I took his place, I try to explain but from the moment he realizes that I cycling a long way, he smiles, holds my hands, and introduces himself; proposing me some food. Once I tell him that I am coming from Finland with the bicycle, he becomes euphoric, offering me money as help; at a certain point, he even tries to kiss me while we take a picture.
Highlights of the rest of the day:
Too much wind, I can’t cycle.
Stop for a long reparation. My hands get black and I don’t find a place to wash them.
A scooter stops next to me, the driver has a technical problem.
Skibin 150km – Uman 220km
All the way with no restaurants or snacks.
A man is on the ground, lying on a bicycle.
Many cows and goats attached at few meters of chain.
I talk to a woman milking a cow.
Uman 220km – Kryve Ozero 310km
Lost in the woods full of trash.
In a snack, the shop owner tries to cheat with the price. It’s the first time I notice someone tryes to cheat about prices in Ukraine.
Many dead foxes on the highway.
I meet Alexander, a young boy walking on the highway attempting to reach Odessa by foot. He has not even a bag or backpack, wears dirty clothes and broken sandals. I think about the difference between him and me.
A golden toothed man gives me fruits.
Many horses on the chain.
Without knowing, I slept at the entrance of a school.
Cryve Ozero 310km – Zhovten 400km
EXTREMELY HOT AND SUNNY, I GOT A SUNBURN
A man hosts me, he is caring and helpful, drinks vodka, but misses two front teeth. He heals my burning arms by applying milk cream on my skin.
When I am about to sleep, he comes to the room without knocking, looks at me smiling, makes a circle with his right hand, putting the index and the thumb together, then releases the index finger to his neck making a sound.
I am not sure about what this may mean, but I go to another room with him.
He shows me a bottle of Ukrainian vodka, I get a full glass of it. Explaining that it’s too much, I take another glass and pour one finger of vodka in it, he takes the rest and drinks it all in one shoot.
Not even five minutes are passed, he wants to show me how strong he his, so he starts to do push-ups and similar exercises.
Zhovten 400 – Odessa 500
Main issues: disastrous road, dogs, wind, sun.
ODESSA – BOAT
Going fast under the rain: slaloming around huge ponds, crossing with red traffic lights to get to my ship, which is departing soon.
Before boarding, in the check-in room that looked more like a refugee camp for mentally disturbed and alcoholic, I already get to know that Georgians are heavy drinkers. They drink and drive, and as it turns out, they also drink and sail: a drunken officer coming from the ship confirms this.
Waiting for hours in the corridor of the custom control area, I discover that inside this small space a full ecosystem is around me. There is a mini bank office, which is actually a two square meters hole with a think glass; a miniature restaurant and even toilets, the latter smelling like an open latrine.
THE GEORGIAN NEANDERTHAL MAN
A drunken tall man, featuring a Neanderthal walking style, argues with me about his ‘priority’ in getting through the entrance.
For unknown reasons, he was carrying an old washing machine from Ukraine to Georgia. He was there with his mother, which was constantely embarassed by his behavior.
There is not much I can tell him because he is totally drunk and doesn’t appear to understand any language that I know, anyhow I explain him the situation in English, he does not get any happier.
This individual continues, during the long hours of the custom control, to harass people and disturb. He reaches the point of repeatedly attempting to kiss a well-shaped female bank employee, a security woman—old and of the dubious attractiveness—, and other women.
During these absurd actions, he was leaning so close to the victims that his lips almost reached them. He was explicitly asking to have sex, verbally and physically.
Constant shouts, aggressive approaches, pushing and pulling, verbal assaults, were all perpetrated by this monkey-man. He was talking no-sense even with whom didn’t speak his language.
We were maybe fifty passengers, there was at least a dozen of people working in the station, nevertheless, nobody stopped him, not even the border control police, customs, and military personnel.
Walking with feet at two shoulder distance, bended knees, and open arms, he looked like a zoo escape.
After the initial feeling of indignation, I could not stop to laugh, I thought to be in a dream, real life can’t be so funny.
There were continuous grotesque scenes, going from unreal hilarious to unbearable, these could all have been used in a low-quality comedy, which could have been really funny somehow.
He ended up falling asleep on the benches of the waiting room.
Two Russian helicopters visit us, they roam around the boat for about half hour. Coming approximately ten meters close to the vessel.
It is a quite intimidating experience, also because I am on a regular, innocent, ferry boat. The only issue with it is that it’s a Ukrainian ship, that’s why the Russian harassment.
DANCING ON THE DECK, DRUNKEN
Passengers offer me drinks, I drink more vodka than what I am supposed to drink, this caused:
Discussions with officers.
All night vomiting.
Sleeping for two days.
Back highly painful.
BATUMI – TBILISI
Batumi 0 – Kobuleti 35
HILLS ON MY WAY
My first kilometers in Georgia are a new experience for me.
All is really different than in Ukraine. The traffic, the roads, the altitude and the people.
A kind-hearted man helps me uphill and gives me food. There is no mutual language we both speak properly, so we communicate by hands. He tells me that with his car he just needs two hours to get to the capital. Pointing at the Coca-Cola he is drinking, and at his chubby belly, I tell him: “this drink, together with a car, are the worst for health”.
The way was becoming really steep, it seemed that the mountains I was cycling on would never end. My back it’s painful since four days already, today more than ever, I can barely walk. My bicycle has just three gears so I have to push it, operation almost impossible due the condition of my spine.
Next the first high hill, three young girls give me some water, cause my bottle was empty
Kobuleti 35 – Lanchkhuti 100
A minibus stops, there are two men in it, one of them tells me to get inside, he helps me to load the bicycle. He does not speak any English, it’s hard to communicate, nevertheless, I do understand that he is offering to bring me to Tbilisi.
I speak also with his wife on the phone, she could speak English and was really kind too.
My point is to cycle to Tbilisi, I explain this and I tell him that I just needed a bit of help for these hills and because my back hurts.
His sense of hospitality it’s really disarming, he definitely wants to do more for me, so he offers me a coffee, food, and asks if I need anything else.
Before leaving he gives me a bag full of food. There is a piece of flatbread, which is really tasty. When they are about to leave, the minibus does not start, I help to push it but it does not work. Luckily, the other person, who is his father in law, knew a trick and by maneuvering at the engine, managed to make the vehicle start.
It starts to rain, I stop at a snack, the only of the village. There I spend half day and I get to know nearly all the students of the village.
They are friendly and many of them speak english. It seems they don’t want me to leave.
One of them tells me that he knows a place where I can put my tent, I follow him but instead he brings me his home, not sure about what to do, I cycle fast to the first possible place where I can install my tent, it’s pouring rain and I am in the mud.
Lanchkhuti 100 – Samtredia 150
I get Bread and water from a sweet old lady.
I am outside the tent, shirtless, about to pack my stuff, when an older woman passes by, I regret to not have asked the people nearby if I could camp there, so I say to the woman who I am, that I have slept there and where I am going. She says something like “cleb” , I just understand that she may want to offer me some food, so I try to explain that I have already bread–offered me from another kind Georgian the day before–.
She is faster than me, I get a big fresh backed piece of bread and a bottle of water.
RAIN IN THE MORNING
I was about to depart when it started to rain, the tent and the bicycle were all wet, the sky didn’t promise any sun, I packed and I started cycling anyway, hoping to find a place where to get my stuff dry.
HORSES ON CHAINS
One of the nicest things of Georgia is the freedom of domestic animals, they are just everywhere, with no chains.
Horses don’t have the same fortune, I have seen many of them with short chains; which is horrendous for an anymal that is naturally made to roam fast in vast spaces.
Samtredia 150 – Meore Sviri 200
RAIN AND MUD: A CAR STOPS IN FRONT OF THE TENT
Blocked in the rain I can’t move from the tent, I hear people passing in front of it.
An old mercedes is slaloming in the mud like a rally car. Two man with a little beard are inside. They tell me to get in the car, I do it.
I am brought some kilometers away, in a house where there are six more men, I don’t know what to expect, also cause we don’t have any language we can use to communicate.
Some tension and worrying feeling builds up, I relax and it all ends up really sweet.
They are all very welcoming and hospitable, offering me food, drinks, even drugs!–the latter I refuse–.
I am invited to stay for the night and I get even the mud from my feet and the bicycle cleaned up by them.
Watermelons are brought to me by them as present for the morning breakfast.
The only negative side is that the host is drunk since the beginning and he does not hesitate to drive the car, like there is no tomorrow.
Meore Sviri 200 – Kvesrevi 300
Rain, rain rain.
Kvesrevi 300 – Tsromi 350
I have to depart with the tent being wet and the rain continues almost all day.
A young dog followed me a little. For the first time not to attack me, but in search of company, or food.
He was so sweet that I almost wished to take him with me.
One of his legs was injured, in a car accident probably. Anyhow he managed to run and jump run behind me. Happy as I have never seen a dog before.
Once I shouted at him to make him stop following me, he makes a dog cry, it’s disarming and pitiful, even for me that I don’t consider a dog better than a pig.
PERCEPTIVE ILLUSION OF THE STREET INCLINATION
I have to do the highest climbing now, reaching almost 1.000 meters of height.
The bicycle seems not to cycle properly, I feel that something is preventing its wheels from spinning smoothly. Therefore I stop and by putting the bicycle upside down, I check what’s the problem. All seems to be normal with the bicycle. The way, a two-lane road, goes uphill but it seemed to my eyes that it was downhill, so I got confused thinking that the problem was the bicycle. Probably my perspective made me have a wrong perception of the road’s inclination.
After the long climbing, here the fun part comes: the downhill!
In the first village, a Kid asks me for money, I am really touched by that, unfortunately, I am not able to give him money, nor I manage to spend some time with him to understand his problems.
In the fields, where pastors bring animals, I met a Man who served in the USSR army in the Baltics. We can’t understand each other much cause he speaks Georgian and Russian, I just understand few words of Russian. He seemed to be nostalgic of the USSR time.
Few hours before the sun sets down, when you still see a strong yellow-orange light, I set my tent up, on a beautiful hill, where there are cultivated fields and no garbage, finally, except for a couple of synthetic napkins.
I hear shootings nearby, it’s gonna be another night of worrying for hunters.
Tsromi 350 – Gori 400
In the night before, I have a visit of several different animals around the tent.
It was deep night. A craving creature comes out from few centimeter of my tent’s back side.
After few hours, something that could have been a fox, defecated just outside the entrance of the tent.
HOUSES AND CAR – POLICE AND COMMON PEOPLE
My eye catches many houses with just the front façade painted: it first seemed funny to see houses where the only finished side is the one facing the street. The other three sides have just bricks. Later I understand that poverty is still rampant here, the most people don’t have enough means to finish the building works. Probably stucco and paint are also expensive because they need to be imported.
From the other hand, Police buildings are really modern and luxurious. For reasons to me unknown, they have the European flag outside their police stations.
Police cars are extravagant too. They often leave police vehicles in the street with the engine running. When they are driving they keep the emergency lights, blue and red, always on. As it’s permanent emergency. Which is true, seen how georgians drive!
It seems there is a lot of money for police, but not for the Georgians or the streets, the latter often with rainwater draining gaps unfinished, transforming them in a mortal trap.
Georgians drive Cars, mostly vans actually, with German and Dutch text on it.
In first instance I was surprised, I thought many Germans were living here. Nevertheless, when I started to notice that these vehicles had German and Dutch minor businesses’s advertising, I realized Georgians were driving them.
They simply didn’t have means to paint the cars again, probably it looks cool for them to have a van with some European ununderstandable text such as: “schilderwerken Van Den Lieve”
TOMATO SELLERS GIVE ME FOOD
I was going off-road, for about two hours, going at walking speed and stopping often because the way was uphill. The bicycle was heavy, the weather is hot, therefore I get quite tired.
To get out of the dirtroad, I cross tomato sellers, one of them invites me inside a van, offering me tomatos, bread and anything he had on the small table.
In a small shop, they are kind to me, offering coffee and sweets.
This time my politeness got me into troubles, because I am not supposed to drink coffee, still, I accepted it. The coffee made me totally nervous for all the day and I could not sleep properly at night.
I discover that Georgians shops owners, to save electricity, do not keep the freezers for food always on, they unplug it for a while. They ignore maybe that unfreezing and freezing again makes food going bad.
Now I finally understand why ice-cream’s taste like expired here.
Gori 400 – Noste 428
THE CITY OF STALIN
I actually got to know just after have crossed Gori that it was the city where Stalin was born. Anyhow I had a feeling of strangeness while I was the city.
NIGHT VISIT OF A KIND THIEF
I have my tent in a side path of a muddy county road, between cultivated lands with low trees and green crops.
It’s really dark, late, cold, and it rains.
A kind shop owner offered me a coffie yesterday, I did the wrong act of drinking it, so I am restless all night. This makes me really sensitive to noises.
The bicycle is parked at the tent’s side, from the other side, I hear footsteps: “hallo”—I say immediately—“hallo”—the man replies, —“karasho”—I say, but there is no reply to it.
I hear footsteps going to the back side of the tent, then I don’t hear anything, I guess he went over a small path behind the tent.
Trying to sleep again, when not even ten minutes are passed, the same man is passing by, I pop out with my head from the tent and I see, in the darkness, his shape, the reddish light of a cigarette, and three animals going with him.
He does not come to talk to me and seems evasive, so I deduct he has stolen the beasties.
It rains since yesterday, I was wet when I went to sleep and I wake up wet, in the morning the sky is totally covered with gray, intimidating clouds, so I stay in the tent.
I discover that the ‘thief’ of yesterday, was actually the pastor of the animals.
Maybe the fact that I have eaten yesterday a tomato from the, not too clean, hands of a farmer, or maybe some other food I got in a shop which was not really hygienic or not rinsed properly; possibly a mix of these, plus a coffee that I was not supposed to accept—because caffeine act to my body like a drug—all this made my belly going crazy in the night.
I had cramps and swollen stomach, my sleep was constantly disturbed, it seemed like the digestion was having main issues.
SHOOTINGS IN THE NIGHT
Hunters became a constant, they hunt everywhere and do not seem to have much legal regulation.
I am not surprised anymore to hear shootings few hundred meters from the tent.
What surprised me was the fact that yesterday night there were shootings during hours of complete darkness, it could have been after midnight.
I wonder: “How can they see where they shoot in the night?”
Hoping they will not shoot in my direction, and that there will be no bullets coming back from the sky to me, I managed to sleep a bit.
INVITED FOR LUNCH
I go in a restaurant to eat, before I am able to order any food, I get invited from a group of people eating. They are really sweet and caring, adding food to my dish every five minutes.
GEORGIANS EATING HABITS
Just one is person talking while toasting, and strangely to me, he just cheers with few persons. I get to know that some of them are deputies.
At the end, suddenly, all people stand up and leaves within one minute.
I MEET A BICYCLE TRAVELER
From far, I see a shape of something that looks like a bicycle coming in my direction.
It’s a cyclist, traveling.
Henk, is his name, he is Dutch and we have a lot of experiences to share.
Homelessness for example, he is involved in helping people sleeping rough.
Moreover, our cycling route has similarities, he is doing the same route, but the opposite direction.
He started in America, coming from California to Asia and Middle East. Now heading to Greece, to help in refugees’ camps.
Two hunters with dogs pass by us, between the harvested corn fields. After circa five minutes we already hear shootings. For few hours they will be hunting just next to us.
Noste 428 – Tbilisi 460
A COLD NIGHT
On top of the high Georgian hills, the wind blows strong, the temperature drops steep down in the night and I get quite cold.
I have an unfortunate body setting that makes me feel extremely cold at night.
My sleeping bag is too thin, I need to wear all my clothes, even the jacket, hat, and gloves. Yet, I am not warm enough, I wake up often.
This cold night, added to all other cold, uncomfortable nights I had so far, makes me thing about people sleeping rough for all their life.
I have dreams of Henk, a boat, and a girl.
ARRIVING IN TIBLISI
The first huge advertising panels I find:
Great at hospitality.
Superb with food.
Bad with trash disposal.
Horrendous with driving.
The most recurring Georgian question: “how are Georgians” – meaning if they are welcoming enough.
Hygiene to improve.
Expensive cars, but broken teeth
As other post USSR counties, Tbilisi it’s full of architectural barriers. Car culture it’s spread as the plague and a pedastrian has big difficulty sometimes just to cross a road. Risking maybe his life.
HOSPITALITY CUSTOMS AND HOMELESSNESS
Why hospitality rules don’t apply for an homeless?
What’s the meaning of these hospitality traditions?
Are they more a “show off” or do they have social implications?
THE MORE SOUTH, THE MORE CONTRASTS
Traveling south, traveling slow, connecting with locals, this will make you truly understand a culture.
It seems that the southern one goes, the more people are different in their kindness and honesty.
In Northern Europe, you will find mostly friendly people with strong ethical values.
In Central Europe, some people may be less trustworthy.
Southern Europe is considered to be a region where you can’t really give a generic opinion, some people are extremely sweet and helpful, others quite dishonest. Asia and USA could also be placed at this level.
More South, in middle-east and North Africa, this contrast becomes more visible, many would help you no matter what, while others are just waiting to get any kind of own advantage from you.
In the Southest of the world, central-southern Africa and Latin America, you find angels, but also devils.
I still have a long way to go to prove this thesis.
It’s time for me to cycle from Ukraine to Georgia.
I am on my way to Georgia, I am leaving Europe to get to Asia, on my way, for the first time I will be cycling on mountains, this will challenge my tour.
I am first heading south from Kiev, I will avoid Crimea and the war zone because I already have enough troubles on my way without armed conflicts going on.
I will reach Odessa and there take a boat to Batumi, in Georgia.
From Batumi, I will cycle to Tbilisi, the capital. Which is near Azerbaijan.
I am quite excited because I am going south where the weather should be good!
Georgia is known to be a welcoming country, I have heard great things about Georgia, especially the fact that Georgians are quite hospitable and make good food. Let’s hope they have some vegan stuff for me, let’s also hope that they will offer food to me while I cycle, as I have heard cyclists saying.
This time I have also a helmet and a 280 degrees camera.
I have just discovered an app with maps for bike touring, hiking, running and outdoors. It’s called Komoot.
After long online researches, it seems that this software it’s the best for people traveling to by bicycle.
It tracks your route and you can also share it.
What makes this app more useful than others is the possibility to get cycling directions for any country in the world, you can also download the maps offline (paid).
Once you planned the tour, you can save it and see how the way will be, the elevation, which kind of street you will be on (asphalt, path, paved…).
It tells you also how many kilometers will be uphill or downhill.
You get even information about how fit you should be to do a certain route and you can set your own fitness level.
From Kiev to the black sea
From Batumi to Tbilisi
AFTER HAVE TESTED THE APP
I have to say that Komoot is practical, fast, intuitive, easy to use, user-friendly, effective, smart.
It really covers all the world, the instructions easy to use, allowing you to share routes, embedding, and see them online.
All important information are on the panel when you navigate: altitude, next stop, speed, average speed, time to destination, km to destination.
No, I am not going out of path, I assure you that this blog is still about minimalism.
Here I list gear you may find useful to add on your bicycle if you want to cycle the world, or just have a couple of days on the saddle, even though accessories are not the most important thing in life.
I list what can be useful to take with you for a long, maybe never-ending, road bicycle trip.
It’s a short list for a minimalistic bicycle touring set up, starting with the most important items and ending with the gear you don’t essentially need.
Security – This is the most important gear you need
Lights – Solar powered
2x on front with steady light, to fasten on each side of the basket eventually
2x on the back, installed on the mudguard Reelight – Electromagnetic: one on front & one in the back
Bike locks, two – Best with code
Pepper Spray – You will be probably approached by dogs, so you really need it
Strong stick for dogs – Anything light and practical to take with you
It seems strange, but the lights are the most important accessory. You need in total six lights fastened on the bike!
In this post I don’t disclose about which bicycle to use simply because it’s not important at all, any bicycle can be good to travel the world, it all depends on your budget and needs.
I can say that the best bicycle is the one you find comfortable to cycle with, possibly a strong bicycle that matches the geography and urbanistic you have to cycle in.
As you may have noticed, the most of those gear I have mentioned are inexpensive and can be easily bought on eBay, keep in mind that the shipping may take about one month, so plan your trip ahead.
The most extravagant Many-FIEST-Action of the year! – For the fourth time in Suomi!
Do you know that oil kills more than wars, traffic accidents and murders all together?
For me this is already enough to dissent against it.
JOIN US To protest against INDECENT exposure to cars and pollution! Celebrating Cycling, Nature, Human body, simplicity and freedom of being.
The concept is simple: we do once a year a bicycle tour around the city, to get the city back from big motorized vehicles, shout against pollution, cars and hypocritical prudery.
12 June – 16.00
Varsapuistikko (next to Kaisaniemipuisto – Kaisaniemi park)
– To manifest against car culture & Pollution;
– Promoting Bicycle, nature & simplicity;
The reason YOU do it may be infinite:
You love bicycles,
you love your city,
you want noiseless means of transport,
you don’t want big and fast vehicles in the city,
you don’t like the oil industry,
you want to sensibilize drivers to mind the bikes
…and because you may be an exhibitionst!
Varsapuistikko – next to Kaisaniemipuisto – Kaisaniemi park, close to the main train station.
16.00 – MEETING
We meet in the park.
come on time, or anyway before 18:00 (if you are working) because we can share some time together.
We can bodypaint each other and decide which is the specific message one person wants to share.
I will bring a big amount of snacks, it will be for sure enough for the first ten persons, you are welcome to bring something if you wish.
21.00 – SAUNA & GRILL
We celebrate the celebration in the sauna, warm & cosy!
Sompasauna (a free public sauna by the sea).
In the sauna we will have time to share our thoughts and feelings about the ride, what it meant for each of us.
There is also a grill there, if you have some vegetables you wanna grill, feel welcome to bring it.
WHAT TO BRING:
– Bicycle, another green mean of transport or good legs to run!
– A smile on your face,
– Any decoration that you find appropriate,
– Body painting material,
– Music instruments to play,
– A camera to record some pictures/videos,
– Drinks and food (for picnic and/or grill) to share if you wish,
– Blanket for picnic,
– Towels (for sauna).
Of course you are free to join/leave whenever you want and nudism is not mandatory.
… WHERE IT BEGAN
On June 12th 2004 cyclists in 29 cities across the world took to the streets of the world, mostly wearing nothing more than a cheeky smile.
It was not only a huge success, but also a huge surprise, neither the media or the police actually thought that it would happen.
This was the worlds first international naked bike ride. Since then it has spread
to more than 70 cities around the world with thousands of participants.
HOW IS IT ORGANIZED
Well, the first thing to know is that it does not have any leaders, hierarchies or even any bureaucracy. It is an event that belongs entirely to its participants. You are not only invited to participate in this event, but also to take ownership of it.
Cycling through the Radioactive area of Chernobyl and ghost towns
I start cycling from Minsk and I go south to Ukraine, I pass nearby Chernobyl: Naroulia–one of the most radio-contaminated city of the world–, the Radioecological reserve Polesky and the nuclear ghost town of Poliske (Ukraine), which is between two military checkpoints.
Many dangers on the way, but the radioactivity pollution is not the biggest.
The Belarusian army, police, wild animals, falling apart bridges, injuries and even lack of drinkable water was what made the cycling challenging.
It’s like an authoritarian father, not allowing his children to do anything he does not like them to do.
I feel it from his army and police, so close minded and standardized.
THE HIERARCHIC WRONG FAIRYTALE OF CINDERELLA
Belarus make me think of fairytales.
Children’s stories that can make kids adults heroes, or just robots, depending on the content of the narration.
Let’s take Cinderella as example, an apparent nice story.
But there is a manipulative teaching: kids learning that a prince or a king is more important than a common person.
Cinderella wants to get out of her poverty through marrying a prince. This is not just sexisst but higly hierarchic and non meritocratic.
If there would be no prince there would be no poor ladies like Cinderella.
GETTING INTO TROUBLES WITH BELARUSIAN ARMY
To take a shortcut, I go through the forest, crossing a falling apart bridge I see a strange field in front of me: it’s not forest, neither cultivated, on the map is shown just as a gray area. I go into it to cross it.
I see big holes on the ground and I have a strange feeling.
All the patterns marked on the map don’t match the real path and I am stuck in this place. I decide to camp there for the night, feeling a bit worried.
During the night I hear trucks passing, I look more carefully out of the tend and I spot a destroyed war tank far from me.
I start thinking I may be somewhere where I should not be!
In the morning I am awaken by a big military truck passing, a soldier with three stars on is jackets comes out of it, telling me, ‘almost friendly’, that I am in a military exercitation camp, where they are shooting with fantery and heavy weapons. He tells me to leave asap.
I thank him and I leave, I think that he was quite kind to have just told me to leave without even asking who I am.
After two kilometers there is a checkpoint, with soldiers and the man I spoke previously was there waiting for me, he politely tells me that I have to be interrogated.
I am ready for interrogation and I am quite happy to be alive, not aware that the interrogation will lasts seven hours and I am asked about EVERYTHING.
They check all my stuff, included my private pictures on my phone, emails, facebook and all you can find on my google account.
The find some naked pictures of me, where I promote Cyclonudista, and tell me that pornography is illegal in Belarus, I tell them that that’s just my body as I was born.
At the end I am told that a truck will come to pick me up and bring me “on the right way…”.
After another half hour a truck comes, I am helped to get inside of it with my bicycle, there are soldiers with weapons in it.
I am not able to see outside, it’s dark and I am about to vomit for the shaking and the dust.
I can now understand a little what animals in cages feel when they are transported from one place to another, I understand why many of them die on the way. I almost wished to die myself on that truck.
I am worried and paranoid, I think that they would harm or even kill me. They seem too kind to be true.
The truck stops, the same people who inspected me open the door from outside and I am free, for real.
Never felt better in my life.
DOGS AND WILD ANIMALS ON THE WAY
In the tent I clearly hear wolves, I am ready with pepper spray and a metal stick–a detached handlebar–to fight, but luckily they don’t come too near.
Dogs are barking to the wolves all night long. What to know what I think about dogs?
Dogs are the most evident example of human insatisfaction.
I see a farm in front of me, I see people kicking and pulling cows as they are pieces of
EVEN IMPORTANT THINGS ARE EASY TO FORGET
When we change from different situations we can forget really fast, and deeply. We may easily forget all the struggle we were in before, if we are suddenly in a more comfortable situation.
The ones of us with memory for the sad past, the ones that remember also the bad times of others around, the persons that have this sensibility, those are our heroes, those are the ones to whom we have to be grateful.
YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND
When you have a home, you can’t understand homelessness.
When you have a full belly, you can’t understand the hungry one.
When you are healthy, you can understand pain.
I also don’t understand how I am able to cycle: just one week before starting, I do a wrong movement and my back gets blocked, people need to pull me up and lift me for about three days in order to let me move.
My right eye has some loss of sharpness; while cycling I fall down, I hurt my hand and I am not able to use it for all the rest of the trip… But this didn’t stop me.
USSR AND COMMUNISM – UKRAINE OPEN TO EU
Kiev is much different than Minsk or Riga, which both give me USSR, anti western, pro-Putin feeling.
I was more keen to like the Soviet Union before my trips to the Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine.
After the seeing huge economic and social differences even in Belarus, which is the only country in the world that continues on the USSR regime, I am not sure I like this kind of communism. I would not even call it communism, but dictatorship.
I have noticed that freedom of speech is unknown in Belarus, the country is ruled by police with little-no personal liberty.
I would say that among ex-USSR countries, Ukraine is the most open and EU-oriented country, even if there is a long way to go.
While Latvia was the most unfriendly country for western people.
I mostly travel alone because I am often disappointed by travel companions. Some of them pretend to be lovers, but are much better than expected as traveling companionship, much worse than expected as lover.
WAR IN UKRAINE
What’s the difference between a detainee and a soldier?
The only difference is that the soldier can let out his hunger and frustration freely on other people.
EUROPEANS SHOULD LEARN FROM UKRAINIANS
In Ukraine people is not smiling all the times, sometimes they give you the impression of unhappiness. Except this, I have experienced great manners, honesty and really friendly attitude.
Things work well here, public services are smooth and internet is really fast and cheap.
The subway in Kiev works extremely efficiently, it’s clean and everyone is perfectly well educated to stand up from their seats for an older person. The same in the tram, trolley bus and minibus.
Walking at night, even in really dark areas, is totally safe. Nobody bothers you even if is clear that you are a foreigner.
Police and army people are friendly. They are working hard and will not bother you, in south europe (especially in Italy) this is not the case.
I never felt unsafe or threatened here , to be sincere I felt much better that in many European capitals.