Saturday 1 July 1989

Yugoslavia, 1989

Yes indeed, so long ago that Yugoslavia actually existed. This written in 2019, but from contemporary diary (the "Japanese fish" book). Mostly so I can get the names of the various places visited written down in a searchable form.

Saturday 1st July.

Return from Dundee conference, sleep etc. and get the 20:30 from Oxford into London, and end up missing the last Dover train and so ending up in Canterbury at 00:10, and deciding to cycle to Dover, without lights; its about 15 miles. Buy a ferry ticket - £15.20 - and change £10 into FF 90, and I'm off, at 2:30 am.

[Diary page Sat and most of Sun]

Sunday 2nd July Calais to near Cambrai (80 km).

A horde of unsupervised infants disturbs my kipping down in a corner, so when the ferry arrives at 4 am I go through customs into la belle France and lay out my sleeping bag in the first empty field I find, and kip until 8. St Omer; Bethune; on main roads. Coffee and beer and rest 4-5 in Bethune. Wx: mostly cloudy. Through Lens (diary says "?Dun? ?Duff? Corner Cemetery", but I now think it was Dun Corner; ah, the magic of Google), to Douai (get lost) 20:15. Head out towards Cambrai; after 10 km turn off onto a field track at the crest of a hill with views to Cambrai and camp. Cook curried lentils but have forgotten salt; thank M in absentia for chocolate.

[Diary page end Sun, all Mon, begin Tues]

Monday 3rd July (to La Basucle; 145 km)

Up 7, off 7:30, Cambrai 8:30, breakfast (no boulagerie, own bread) in "nice park which makes up for the rest of Cambrai being unexciting", kicked off grass by "Interdit sur le pelouse" flic with "a fag and a 2 day stubble". Le Cateau at 10; Le Nouvion-en-Thiérache; bier. La Capelle; Hirson (food and get out 400 FF). A small town near Aubenton, having turned off the main road after being wafted by one bog lorry to many. In the Ardennes, on the route of fortified churches. Much better, less traffic,more interesting, and flatter. Hannapes; Rumigny; Signy-l'Abbaye; Poix-Terron. Watch the sunset from La Bascule viewpoint.

Tuesday 4th July (to 2 km outside Troyon; 140 km)

Wake 6, see sunrise, sleep till 7. Brewing tea when a vieillard wanders up with a cloth sack gathering snails. We talk, haltingly; he's got 66 today and they're best with beurre, sel et poivre. He walks 10 km a day. 7:45 off to le Chesne, cafe, grand tasse. Vouziers, Falaise (write+post postcard bought in le Chesne), Grandpre (some getting lost via the canal path); cafe. Noon. Romagne (sous-Montfaucon); huge elegant spotless cemetery. Brieulles-sur-Meuse. Vilosnes-Haraumont (probably; I've written "Vilogny") for bread, croissant, nectarines. 16:00. Verdun: unimpressive when approached along the Meuse. Look at fortifications; unimpressed with the inscriptions. Visit cathedral, buy new maps (inc S Germany), more fire-spirit. Cafe in Troyon. Stop for the night at a monument to the now-vanished fort du Troyon.

[Diary page most of Tues]

Wednesday 5th July (to Girecourt; km not recorded).

Sleep in, it's so misty there is no light to wake me. Up 7:45, off 8:45, not rushing as it would be dodgy to cycle in the early mist, having b'fast on the last of the Alpen. Swap sides at Lacroix. Saint-Mihiel; food. Looks interesting, but push on into the hills. To Apremont (la-Foret) through the green wet foret de Gobessart. Diary says "Gironville" and "Joues" or "Jouy" but I can't make either of those fit. See the first grape vines; villages changing character, some white-washed houses. But many seem empty or run-down. Toul: in central square / circle surrounded by cafes, the sun has burnt off the early mist. Cathedral is stunning [2019 note: the tour de France went thought Toul this year, which I noticed in passing because of the beautiful cathedral shown in an aerial shot, and it took me ages to find out what it was of.]. 15:00: eat lunch in the shadow of the porch: bread, apricot, fresh almonds. Off: fortuitously pick up cycle path along the Meuse. Hot in sun, deliciously cool in shade. Big dragonflies. A big (3') snake by the path, sunning itself, patterned like a viper. Richardménil. Cafe 17:15 for 45 mins to rest. 2 bieres, 2 almonds, apricot. Main road along the Moselle to Bayon. Charmes. Tiny road to Chatel, where I leave the Moselle for the Durbion. 20:30 near Vaxoncourt think to stop in meadow with water lillies in stream, but don't just as well there are cows just upstream. 21:30 stop near Girecourt (sur-Durbion). Kill a few horse-flies and am left alone. Earlier, I'd climbed a tree to pick wild cherries; yesterday I found raspberries fresh in the rain. Before bed, wash, and again sleep tentless.

[Diary page end Tues, begin Weds; end Weds, begin Thurs]

Thursday 6th July (to ; km). Today I cross into Germany.

Off 7:15. heavy dew; s'bag wet and needs drying on hot stone wall in Corcieux. Get as far as Gerbepal easily, but it's getting hilly and woody: the haut Vosges. I'm heading over the watershed to Colmar. head out from Gerbepal on "a tiny road to la Glaciere that turned into a track, very hard to cycle, then a ski track". Takes a long long time (through lovely forest) to get back to the road. It was a hot day with sticky tarmac later on (and that cafe, at the col, where I waited but they didn't serve me). Identified bits of the route are Sachemont on the Meurthe; Défilé de Straiture; and le Valtin; col de la Schlucht. And then burn off three hours ascent in half an hour getting down to Colmar at scary speed; but it's cool in the wind; via Munster (in France...). To Colmar at ~3. Supermarche for fruit etc. Centre ville... not so keen on big towns. Stop in cafe by Cathedrale for biere (pression is cheaper). Postcards. Quick look at cathedral; briefly round the rest of Colmar but it is too big. Little Venice; and find the stream that Denis threw his cleaned clothes into.

Onto the border.