Cycling in the UK and Scotland

10 days ago I embarked on my long and often talked about trip to Scotland. I started in Berlin, myself and my bicycle on the train to Rotterdam, then some 30km of cycling to the ferry port, Hoek van Holland and the overnight ferry to Harwich. Looking out on the sea from the ferry I was filled with feelings of joy and freedom.

The next morning in Harwich it rained and I decided to take the train to Cambridge. My first stop was Birmingham where I would meet Don, a cycling traveller I had met on a campsite in NZ. We had stayed in contact via email and around last Christmas decided to cycle the Outer Hebrides together.

From Cambridge I cycled west to a campsite in St. Neots. I had imagined to cycle for a few days towards Birmingham, however, studying the map in more detail, I did not find any good campsites on the map and encountered a feeling of intense lonelyness during my first night in St. Neots. I really could not feel any enjoyment in travelling by myself anymore, felt lost and a bit disoriented. I stayed another night on the same campsite to find my inner bearings again, but no relieve. Then I decided to call Don and check if I could come a few days earlier then planned. Yes, I could, so I started off the next day to cycle around 50 km to the next big town, Milton Keynes to take the train from there to Birmingham. On the way I got amazingly lost and it started raining so hard I could not use my phone anymore to find out where I was and where to go to. People I talked to sent me into weird directions. Inner lostness mirrored by outer lostness. But in the end I arrived at the station, very wet and very cold and arrived ok in Birmingham. In Birmingham Don and I had a few days to get to know each other. My system relaxed and we actually enjoyed a few beautiful sunny days, I learnt all about cricket watching a game and we went on a day trip to Liverpool.

Yesterday we finally boarded the train to go to Oban. From here we will take the ferry this morning to go to Barra, an island in the South of the Outer Hebrides. Then the plan is to cycle North hopefully with the wind. The forcast is for wind and storm for the next two days and then some calmer weather. Feeling lots of respect for the wind and possible cold. And we already found out that even campsites are booking fast, we called a few campsite places last night and only found a place for our two tents on the third site.

But feeling adventurous and loving the feeling of being in Scotland again. The trainride from Glasgow to Oban yesterday along the Loughs was wonderful.


Bornholm in April

I returned to Bornholm for a week. When I spent nearly 6 weeks on this beautiful island in winter, I was told that April is particularly beautiful with spring coming through the defrosted ground and trees starting to bloom. And yes, nature was full of abundance. Anemones covering the forest floor and wild garlic growing everywhere. My first afternoon I spent in a magical valley, sitting still on a rock in the midst of anemones looking for an answer to my sudden exhaustion that had come over me after arriving. I prayed a round of my mala and received the answer, to get up and move intuitively and slowly to free my body of some inner tension or some blockage, maybe caused by long sitting on the train and on the ferry the day before. After my little movement session I felt refreshed and clear again.
My friends’ house felt as lovely as I remembered it, lots of work done in the garden and preparing for more.
On my second day, I tried a little bicycle trip, enjoying the wind in my back on the way to the shore and then also along the shore towards the South. I would have enjoyed being pushed a little more, but I stopped to check how it would feel to cycle back to my temporary home. The wind was fierce. I decided to start cycling back immediately, smiling at my illusion that I won’t have to face up to letting myself be carried along. I cycled myself into a bit of a struggle, starting to wonder if I would make it back, certainly not enjoying the ride so much anymore. And then I remembered my experiment with the wind in November on Amrum. Back there I started interacting with the wind and for a moment felt like being one with the wind. So I started singing to the wind, humming a very simple melody, maybe four notes. Somehow it felt as if the wind was opening towards me, cycling became less strenuous, I felt like being in relationship with the wind, not fighting against it anymore. I was still tired in the evening, but somehow happily tired, having learnt an important lesson I feel.

On another day I reconnected with a new friend I had made in winter and we went for a little tour to the North of Bornholm, walking along a valley to a waterfall where masses of wild garlic were growing, looking at rock paintings possibly many thousands of years old and venturing into a cave. Seeing the wild garlic inspired me to cycle to the same valley again the next day through foggy landscapes. I collected a few bundles of the wild garlic and processed it into pesto in the evening.

Another highlight were the times with my tree friend, a beech tree I had found in January and which was featured he on my blog before. One morning before breakfast was particularly beautiful. The tree’s first green started to come out on the very top were it’s twigs stretched towards the sun. Again I found deep peace and solace here. One evening, a little shaken by what had happened, I came to my tree and had the impulse to connect to the spirit of Bornholm staying close to the tree at the same time. I asked how to find peace inside and it felt like the island was offering herself to me completely. I received an image of myself as a giant body, a little bigger than the island and I was invited to lay down on the island, soak up all its vitality and wholesomeness while letting my feet and hands tangle into then water. This brought instant relaxation and peace to my body.

Then another beautiful bicycle trip, taking most of the day, including some resting in the sand in the South of Bornholm, watching the swans nearby. Inbetween deep and sometimes healing conversations with my friends, meditation, proof reading of a small booklet, getting a little more proficient in working with my new tablet, finding useful apps and finally putting use to an external keyboard, that I had bought months ago.
Amazed by the power of Bornholm again, the island seems to be able to take in whatever one brings, ready for transformation, and providing nurturing at the same time.

Most of this I wrote while being ferried over the Baltic Sea back to Germany, on a sunny and quiet crossing with few other travellers as the tourist season is yet to begin on Bornholm. Once I reached the habour of Sassnitz, I cycled into town, had some lunch and boarded the train to Kiel. A few very interesting conversations on the 5 hour train ride and reading in my lovely book. The book feels precious: ‘The Lady and The Monk by Pico Iyer. It is about his trip to Kyoto in the late 80s, beautifully describing the Japanese culture, funny intercultural encounters, his fascination with Zen, and Japanese poetry and it is about love. Reading it often makes me laugh out loud, even on the train, or feeling very touched. I would love to share a part which touched me in particular and which is about connecting Heaven and Earth. Here it is:

‘Increasingly, then, as I went on reading Singer, I began to see that the great project of this closet pantheist was, quite literally, to build a rainbow bridge between heaven and earth. Again and again, his robust tales turned around men who wished to renounce the world in favor of some unearthly, abstract love – a devotion to scholarship, or even God – and then, of a sudden, found themselves confronted with the presence of something less lofty that seemed to betray a higher source; again and again his people were divided, their eyes on the heavens and their hands on earth. And invariably, Singer resolved the issue by showing that the earthly love could be just the manifestation of heavenly love, that it revealed to us a radiance and a beauty that were otherwise concealed; that this was all we could know of heaven here on earth, and all we would need to know. “The more we know of a particular thing,” Spinoza had written, “the more we know of God.” ‘

Stone Circles in Cornwall

From my notes from a few days ago:

Yesterday I said good-bye to Cornwall and travelled on to Bath, a 6-hour train journey. Arriving here seems to have been a bit of a shock to my system.

I felt very happy and grounded and somehow cared for in Cornwall. The cared-for feeling was also mirrored in the connection to my airbnb host. We had a few interesting converstations in her kitchen which I could use to cook my meals and she was always ready to pick me up somewhere if the bus schedule was not cooperative with my walking schedule. Particularly after visiting the Boscaven-un stone circle I needed her. It was Sunday, the forcast had been for more snow, and I was ready for a day inside. But then when I woke up, the sun was shining from a blue sky, the ground was half frozen and I decided to walk to the stone circle, a 1,5 to 2 hour walk from the cabin. Beautiful scenary on the way, and I got lost only once and found my way again. On my map it looked like there was only one path to the circle which I took. It turned out to be the most muddy path I walked in Cornwall, some parts I could only walk because of the frost still in the earth, so I was not sinking in more than ankle deep into the mud. I was determined to get to the circle, climbed over fences to avoid deeper water holes and then there it was in the sunshine. It felt to me like a very powerful place, I walked around it three times, then asked if I could enter and did enter into the circle. Inside there was such a high vibration that it felt like a sound in the air, similar to the hissing or static that you can hear inside your head when in very deep meditation or when you put a shell to you ear. A very peaceful place. Standing in the middle I connected to each of the 19 stones one after the other (there might have been more stones when the circle was first built). I had a sense of different aspects or perspectives or frequencies coming from each stone as each stone is also different in size and shape, and all these perspectives coming together in peace, as a model for showing us that this is possible and letting us feel how strong such a wholesome place feels. I like the theory that some stone circles where built for that purpose, to create a perfectly balanced and aligned place for people to go to, to find balance if they had fallen out of it, and particularly spend time in such a circle during the changes of the wheel of the year, e.g. summer and winter solstice and equinoxes when our whole system needs to align to a new flow of energy to stay in balance.

While being in the circle some clouds appeared in the sky and the coldness got to me. I needed to keep moving and found a different path to the next street and on the street to the next little village where I was hoping to catch a bus. But somehow I had misread the bus schedule. When I could not reach my airbnb host on her telephone I started walking another 1,5 miles to a bigger village where I would be able to catch a bus later in the day. But then she called back and came to pick me up. What a relieve, as after the experience in the circle I did not feel like sitting in a pub by myself, waiting for a bus.

I told her about the stone circle and she became curious and wanted to experience it too. So on my last day I took her, or better she took me in her car to the circle again and to two other interesting places. And we completed our outing with a lunch in Sennen Cove an old fishing village at the coast which I had visited before on my coastal walk and loved.

When I was writing these notes I sat in a square beside the Bath Abbey, listening to a man playing piano with lots of people sitting on the benches around him, enjoying his music. I don’t feel so much in balance here. Listening to the music felt soothing, but inside I am highly activated. Curious how this all belongs together.

Walking in Cornwall

Nearly two weeks in Cornwall already, it looks like such a small area on the map and there is so much to discover. I have extended my stay for another week, also because I love my cabin so much. And all the beauty! The snow cleared quickly and made room for milder days often with long sunny stretches.

I have explored most of the coast while walking parts of the South West Coast Path from Penzance clockwise to 6 miles before St. Ives when the terrain became just too muddy and hilly for me. I liked the challenge to walk the Path, often very rocky and always close to the sea. The structure of a walking day suits me a lot: getting up fairly early, having a good breakfast and then head out, spend the day outside in beautiful scenary, picknick outside or in a cosy cafe or pub and then coming back happy and tired, eat some more, rest and sleep. In between there were a few rainy days which I enjoyed too, resting in my cabin which is now comfortably warm, reading, writing, connecting with my friends online.

Today is such a rainy day, I cooked a meal in the kitchen of my host and chatted with her and one of her friends. The friend grew up around here and told me about the most interesting stone circles to visit. Stone circles are coming more into my focus now after which felt like honouring this area by walking along the coast.

As you might know this was once the most important mining area in Europe. Mining (mostly tin, then copper and arsenic) started here around 2150 BC says wikipedia and the last mine closed in 1998, most mines however starting closing around 100 years ago when cheaper metals came in from other regions. The mining industry made this area a rich and thriving place for hundreds of years. However, today this is one of the poorest areas in the UK. I had mixed feelings when I walked along the ruins of the old mines and chimneys, there can be beauty in looking at the ruins with a backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. And at the same time the Earth feels terribly pierced here, sometimes every few meters there is an old mining shaft. One has to keep well to the paths not to fall into one of those shafts. I read that some of the mining shafts had tunnels that went far out under the sea.

The most peculiar thing happened when I tried to connect to the spirit of Cornwall close to the area with the deserted mines. The voice of the spirit felt like it was choking, it seemed to come through in a very high pitched voice. Not that I exactly hear a voice, but when connecting, I could feel how my throat was thightening. At first I thought it had just a funny character with this special voice, then I was wondering if it is maybe not doing so well. Maybe with all the mining and digging and extracting the Earth here might suffer, or as most of the old shafts are now filled up with dirt the Earth cannot breathe? First I asked myself what this might have to do with me and then I asked a few women friends to tune into this together with me and we had a sense that there is not ever only the pain to be felt, it helps to look at it more from a more holistic or integral point of view, also to see the beauty or necessity (e.g. to extract metals). We all sensed that somehow any presumable suffering of the Earth is always connected to human suffering, in the sense that it is only mirroring the suffering of humans, our fates are deeply connected. We could also sense a strength wanting to come through from the Earth which needs each of us to let it come through us, in the case of Cornwall maybe making us aware of all the things that we don’t allow ourselves to express. This feels important and I will elaborate on this in later posts.

People kept mentioning ‘Poldark’ to me in conversations as if this was something everybody should know about. I was curious to find out, but as I don’t normally watch TV, I had to read up about it and actually found parts of this apparently very successful TV series on youtube and watched some of it online for a few days. On my walks I found myself wondering what will happen next in the film and being excited and worried together with the characters. I imagine this is the fun of following a TV series, to kind of feel with the people in the film. Maybe I am just too easily distracted as I noticed that this took me from being present with where I was walking and from my walking practice, so I stopped watching further episodes. However, I quite enjoyed it and it gave me a good idea of how life might have been here around 150 years ago.

Back then and still today one of the most well-known landmarks around here is Land’s End, the westernmost place of England. This is also where we can meet the energy lines again that I mentioned in my post on Glastonbury: Michael and Mary enter England here, very close to Land’s End. I think I detected them and sat down on a rock which I felt was close to the energy from one of those lines. Anyway I felt restored and happy when I moved on. Similar to the landscape near Glastonbury, the land around this area seems to be filled with some special light, everything is a bit more sparkling then in other places or I like to see it like that.

Cornwall

Yesterday I travelled on to Cornwall. When I was tuning in where to go after Glastonbury a few weeks ago, the most southeastern corner of England would kind of light up on the map in my mind’s eye, it seemed to be blinking at me. This happened several times and I started to read up about this part of Cornwall and finally booked an airbnb place here in Penzance. The journey was quite adventurous. I had been aware of the forcasted snow and people in Glastonbury even went as far as suggesting I should travel the day before, but when I felt into it, it seemed to be ok to go ahead with my plans. When I stood in the snow waiting for buses yesterday, there were times when I was not so sure anymore. But the buses came eventually, the first local one however, which I was on for 1h 30 minutes was freezing cold, outside -4 degrees and inside just a few more. I was able to warm up for 15 minutes in a cafe at a bus coach stop after the ride. The next bus brought me to a junction close to the M5 where the Falcon bus to Plymouth would pick me up. In that short stretch I overheard people saying that bus services would be stopped in the afternoon.

My Falcon came, I had to clear my bag of a layer of snow when I boarded the bus, and going on the M5 was ok until just before Plymouth where snow fall was getting heavier and everything slowed down. When we arrived in Plymouth, many bus services from Plymouth had been cancelled. A young man from Egypt had just heard that his bus to London had been cancelled and we walked together to the train station where he wanted to check if he could instead go by train. I had chosen to get from Plymouth to Penzance by train anyway and though my train was delayed it did go and we had a beautiful ride through snowy Cornwall. But most of the connecting services had closed down and as I listened to fellow travellers trying to phone a taxi to get to their home it seemed that also taxi companies had stopped going because of icy roads and continuing snowfall. They have not had this amount of snow here for 40 years I was told. I called my airbnb host to tell her about the delay, and asked if she would be able to drive as she had offered to pick me up at the station. She was indeed waiting for me at the station, one of the few people in Penzance without four-wheel drive car who dared to drive on the snow. She told me that she was not sure if we would make it up the hill to her house, a 3 mile drive, and if not a friend of hers with a tractor would come and help us … But we made it thanks to her courage and winter driving skills. Yeah.

I am staying in a cabin in her garden. The water in the kettle was frozen when we arrived and there was no running water because the water pipes must be frozen I think, but a mobile heater is bringing some warmth to the room and the internet is working. I had a good night under two duvets and my hat on. Today the forcast is for strong winds which are already blowing around the cabin, but temperatures are to increase.

This is what happened as an outside adventure. Inside I was enjoying my ‘knowing’ that I would get to where I needed to go. A similar knowing that also keeps me from following plans sometimes, as it kept me from cycling when it was too stormy on Lanzarote for example. Yesterday, even when I started to be insecure when buses were running late, the part in me that focussed on imagining arriving here was stronger.

And then this joy, that is filling me since I am in Cornwall, during the train ride a very intense joy full of light would pierce through me sometimes. I don’t think I have ever known this kind of joy, it is deeper somehow as I was able to feel until now.

And waking up this morning the joy was there again and is here still. It feels precious and I want to share it too. I am aware that the whole setup with the cabin and the snow deeply nourishes the adventurer in me. Also aware of being an adventure for beginners as from this cabin I could walk a few meters and enter the warm house of my host if things are getting too extreme. But imagining to be in a cabin in the mountains, tending a real fire instead of an electric heater and preparing my food on the fire too feels good. I want to experience that soon. At other times in my life I have stayed in real cabins and sat by the real fire deeply happy, but not alone.

Curious what the day will bring. Sending love from happy Cornwall. And sending blessings and warmth to all those who were not so lucky and got stuck with their cars in the snow and do not have electric heaters and double duvets and a kettle beside the bed.

The view from my cabin. There is a little stream just beside it too.

Glastonbury

The Avalon of Marion Zimmer Bradley, place of King Arthurs adventures, entry to the fairy kingdom, holy wells, ruines of the Glastonbury Abbey, legends around a hawthorn bush. I am truely delighted to spend time here. It feels like a happy place to me, friendly and enchanting. I started writing this post earlier, but here I am on my last day, only now ready to share some of what I experienced in and around Glastonbury. 9 days of glorious sunshine, though quite cold for the last few days. I learnt to keep myself warm while spending most of the daytime outside walking and wandering. My base was a lovely airbnb room not far from the center of Glastonbury. Here I spent the evenings reading up on the stories around King Arthur, the history of the Abbey and mostly on ley lines in the internet. So much information to digest.

On my first day I was drawn to the remains of the Glastonbury Abbey, and the surrounding gardens. The story goes that here one of the very first Christian Churches was built by St. Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of Jesus. The church emanated such a holyness that it attracted people from near and far. It was built from wood and was destroyed in a fire in 1184 along with the Abbey buildings. Today there are remains of the Chapel St. Mary that was built on the foundations of the old church. The holyness is still there. I saw young people sit on the bench and take their shoes off to connect to the grass, I copied them and it felt like being connected to a flow of energy, refueling on joy and wellbeing. It feels timeless, joy and wellbeing must have always bubbled up there, even before any churches were built.

I spent a few hours in the garden around the ruins of the old Abbey, walked beneath the many different kinds of trees and rested in a lovely orchard. A few days later I spent another afternoon in the garden near the ruins. In the meantime I had read about the ley lines or better maybe to call them lines of earth energy that run through the Abbey garden. These particular energy lines start in Cornwall and flow in a more or less straight line through to Hopton-on-Sea on the Norfolk coast. Dowsers have detected two distinct energies, one fairly strong and the other softer and calmer. On the current of the stronger energy line churches named after St. Michael can be found, often set on hills. On the current of the softer energy line the churches are more often dedicated to St. Mary. So the energy lines are called St. Michael and St. Mary respectively. Knowledge about this is assumed to have been around for thousands of years. In the Abbey garden the St. Michael and St. Mary line are supposed to cross each other. Starting in Cornwall they kind of dance with each other and cross at certain points. I tried to sense where they are flowing and did not get very far. I spent some time on a bench where I could feel the strongest flow of the joy and wellbeing energy. Dowsing might be the next skill I want to learn.

On my second day I walked up the Tor, Tor is an old word for hill. This hill would be the old Isle of Avalon I assume. A few thousand years ago the land around the Tor was mostly under water and only through drainage the land has dried over many many years. On the Tor a tower, part of a church call after St. Michael, is standing. Today I walked up to the Tor again, however could only stay briefly with strong and cold (-2 degrees) winds.

At the foot of the hill, the Challice Gardens with a sacred well with healing waters can be visited. According to legend Joseph of Arimathea burried the holy grail here, the grail which was used in the last supper and in which he collected Jesus’ blood. One can decide if the coloring of the stones over which the water runs comes from Jesus’ blood or from the high iron content of the water.

And beside many more, another meaning place in Glastonbury is the Wearyall Hill, where the same Joseph planted his walking staff and it started to grow into a Hawthorn tree, the sacred Glastonbury thorn tree. This particular thorn tree used to bloom twice a year, around Easter and Christmas. I was wondering if the legends hold some truth and yes, maybe they do. And maybe the more important part is that through the legends a connection is made between the Middle East or more specifically Jerusalem and this part of the Earth. This is a special place, not because of the legends, but beyond the legends.

When looking out from the Tor enjoying the excellent views over Somerset and the surrounding fields and small towns something caught my attention. The street to one side of Wearyall hill, which is situated opposite of the Tor with some of the town of Glastonbury in between. I wandered along the street a few times since I discovered it and found the most beautiful energy there. It is called Roman Way, so most probably built back in those times, it crosses the hill on the southern side so that the houses get the full warmth and power of the sun. It felt like an area of richness and clarity, the soil, the plants, the houses. I would want to live here if I chose to live in Glastonbury. And I started to be poetic up there. And marvelling how the people in the older time knew so well to built in partnership with the landscape which benefited both, the people living there and the landscape.

Lanzarote II

Lanzarote deserves one more blog post. Such a special place.  I came back a week ago after experiencing beautiful, however, unusally coldish, sometimes rainy and often windy days.

On my last day I tried to go to the energetic church again, about 17 km from where I was staying. To get there I had to first cycle up a mountain against the wind, when I was on the top, I thought that it was just a matter of rolling down the other side, but there were windy gusts so strong that it was difficult to continue. After trying for a bit and finding myself being blown around with little space on either side, the cars on my left and lava fields on my right, I decided to turn back. I let myself role back down the hill and then further on to the sea. I took a walk at the beach, feet in water which I enjoyed a lot. And maybe the energy I was supposed to feel that day was from the sand at the beach when I lay down and rested.

dig

Another day I went on a guided walking tour in the north of the island, the wildest part I would say. We climbed up a cliff with beautiful views of four small islands off Lanzarote, one of them, Graciosa, is a tourist attraction in summer, mostly for day tourists and a few people live there. Our guide explained some of the plants, many of them endemic, that were growing along the route we were taking. He also told us about the difficult water management on the island until around 80 years ago, when Lanzarote was one of the first islands that installed a desalination plant. Today most of the water used comes from two such plants, but as the water still tastes salty, most tourists buy their drinking water in plastic bottles which need to be transported to the island by ship. That is the fairly crazy water situation today. Back before desalination, the islanders had a system to collect the rain water, rain was scarce, and still they had to live on what they managed to collect in winter for the whole year. Farming was possible through a special method using a volcanic gravel. Farmers spread a layer of the volcanic gravel onto the field, to not only protect the earth from being blown away by the constantly blowing trade wind but also to soak up the condensed steam from the dew of the night and then transfer it to the ground during the day.

 

When tourism started to get bigger on the island, however, farmers left their fields to work in the hotels. Today only few people grow vegetables this way. However a similar method is used to grow vine. Driving through the vine growing area of the island was most impressive. For each grapevine a round protective wall has been built to shelter the plant from the trade wind that is always coming from the north. The view of these hillsides is peculiar.

cof
Grapevines

In my last post I mentioned the Centre of Anthroposophie, I continued going to the regular eurhythmy sessions and took one private session. I was curious about the effect that it might have. To the session I brought my issue of feeling cold most of the time, my cold feet and hands and needing to wear a hat often. It was interesting to feel how small adjustments of body movements could have an effect on the energy management of the body. My main insight was to generally put awareness when I am standing more on my heals than on the front of my feet. Generally I seem to have a tendency to lean forward which could be one aspect why I am not able to keep my heat for myself so well.

Oh, and I have to mention another house that I visited, designed and built by Lanzarote artist Cesar Manrique and others. Truely magically placed into the volcanic lava with fantastic views. The story goes that Omar Sharif when filming on Lanzarote saw and loved the house and bought it, only to loose it in a bridge game the same day.

cof

On the flight back to Berlin I chatted with my neighbour a young woman from Prague who was suffering from multiple sclerosis. But she seemed to be quite well and she said that spending a few months every year on Lanzarote for the last 10 years helped her to heal a lot. I am interested in hearing more about the healing powers of this island.