Tag Archives: Germany

07 & 08 October 2015 – to Freudenstadt and Saverne

I’m back in the UK now, so time to catch up on my blog for the last week of riding through Germany and France.

By this time I was mostly focussed on getting back to the UK, with it getting colder, wetter, and campsites starting to close, so some long days and not a lot of sight-seeing, however still some good pedalling.

Routes and stats for the 7th and 8th below:

–> 07 October – to Freudenstadt, via a lot of hills (153km)
Today was pretty hard work, with a lot of climbs to contend with, so I was thankful I’d had a good night in Ulm, and some excellent Bavarian food to keep the pedals turning.

I hadn’t had a cup of Red Bush Tea in ages, so that and some breakfast set me up for the day ahead. The Brickstone Hostel had proven to be an excellent stop; very homely and comfortable. I was a little unsure of the route, however I basically just needed to keep heading West/North West towards France, so set off into a grey and drizzly morning.

The first part of the ride was on cycle routes, often with little or no traffic, up to Blaustein and Blaubeuren, then over the hills to Bad Urach. A bit of a head wind made the going tiring, however I made decent progress, and was encouraged by a couple of cycle tourers going the other way; few and far between now. I somehow ended up on a dual carriage-way near Reutlingen, which I discovered isn’t legal in Germany; the police were very nice about it though, and directed me to a much quieter cycle route into the city and beyond!

Then hills seemed to go on forever today, and my chain was starting to slip more and more; I need to replace that, plus the rear cassette, plus brakes, rear tyre, cables and maybe even the front rings. I’m hoping everything will last until I get back to the UK, however I might try to find a bike shop in Strasbourg for a service.

I finally made it to Freudenstadt, after a slow ride that seemed to take ages, especially with all the climbs and headwind. I cycled through the town and ignored the suggested cobbled route towards the campsite, which would have just hurt on a bike (me and Smaug), instead taking the main road around to the campsite in Langenwald.

It was a relief to make it to the campsite as the sun started to set, disappearing behind he thickly forested mountains. At about 750m elevation the campsite is pretty high, and also quite cold at this time of year, however the surroundings are wonderful and it would be great to explore over the summer. I pitched my tent, then enjoyed a very hot shower before dashing to the campsite restaurant before it closed for the evening; services are somewhat limited at many campsites at this time of year.

After a long day, schnitzel and a beer, I felt tired, so it wasn’t long before I crept into my tent and settled down to rest, listening to the rain patter against the canvas. Thankfully it wasn’t hard, and always makes me feel cosy, so I fell asleep quickly.

Tomorrow I’ll make it to France, and probably only have about 400 miles to go before I reach the English Channel; the end of the tour is sneaking up pretty fast now.

–> 08 October – to Saverne via Strasbourg (108km)
Despite being in the middle of the Black Forest I wasn’t, as far as I can tell, visited by werewolves or other denizens of its interior during the night. I woke up to another cold, grey, but dry morning, and was on the road by 08.30. It doesn’t really get light until about 07.30 now so it’s not worth leaving much before then. I’ve made a note to remember this campsite, as it’s located in a lovely spot and worth coming back to: http://www.camping-langenwald.de/index.php/en/ The owners are really nice too, which always makes a difference.

I had one more climb to do to reach the top of the mountain, before the road down towards France, so made short work of the 300m ascent to the top. There followed a lovely long descent through cloud shrouded forest, as well as small towns and villages, with relatively little traffic to contend with; a few dogs barked at me but nothing unusual there.

I found a cycle route signposted to Kehl, then Strasbourg, which made things easier and avoided the main roads, then crossed the River Rhine over to France; I was back in country number 9 of the tour again, and the last one before getting back to England.

I spent a bit of time looking around Strasbourg, which is a lovely old city, with wonderful crooked buildings, canals, and a spectacular cathedral. I’d also returned to the land of boulangeries, which makes lunch a lot easier and tastier; I very much enjoyed a large chicken salad baguette and pain-au-chocolat.

After wandering about for a bit, and stopping for a webcam shot, I visited a bike shop to see if they could replace my chain and rear cassette, however they didn’t have any free time until tomorrow evening, so I decided to press on and not worry about it until I get back to the UK. It’s mostly flat from here to the Channel anyway, relatively speaking, so fingers Smaug will make it.

Whilst I say it’s relatively flat through France to Dieppe, it was still a bit of a slog over the hills from Strasbourg to Saverne, on quiet D roads, through farmland and villages. I arrived in Saverne about 16.30 after 108km, and checked into the campsite not far from the town centre; still open for a while yet, whilst lots of others are closing for the season. After a quick visit to the supermarket to get supplies, I relaxed for the evening, enjoying a few glasses of Alsace wine whilst planning my route to Verdun tomorrow. The ride to Verdun might turn into the longest day of the tour, however unless I want to wild camp, or use a hotel, I’m somewhat constrained by open campsites, and I really appreciate a hot shower at the end of the day now it’s colder. If it turns out to be too far I can always stop in Metz, or try one of the various Auberges dotted along the route.

Escargot-au-chocolat, Lobster impressed

Escargot-au-chocolat, Lobster impressed

Good to be back in France!

05 & 06 October 2015 – last days on the Danube; Donauworth and Ulm

These were my last two days pedalling alongside the Danube river, which has been a great experience, and a bit of a bonus after completing my two main tour objectives of Nordkapp to Tarifa, then on to Istanbul. I’d thoroughly recommend the Danube cycle route; the scenery, people, food and culture are all brill. Here are my routes and stats for the last two days; you’ll notice I went a bit wrong on 05 October:

–> 05 October – to Donauworth (170km)
So, yep, 170km pedalled today. I’d love to tell you they were all intentional, however that would be a bit of a fabrication on my part. My main learning was that if you reach a fork in a river, make sure you take the correct fork. To be fair I hardly noticed the river branching, and found the cycle route signs very confusing, and it was foggy, however really it was my own fault for not concentrating more. I added on about 30km to an already long day, and ended up having to go over several large hills, meaning over 1,000m in climbing, resulting in jelly like legs by the time I reached my hostel for the evening.

Thankfully I left Regensburg early, so had enough time to get back on track after my unintentional detour. It was a damp and chilly morning, with thick fog for the first few hours as I made my way up the Danube cycle path. The river meandered somewhat as I made my way to Kelheim, which is where I think I went wrong, heading North West instead of South West up a river that flows into the Danube; the Main Donau Kanal.

I pedalled for miles up my ‘alternative’ route, blissfully unaware of my error as the sun came out, revealing beautiful countryside and lovely small villages and towns. This part of Bavaria, and perhaps Bavaria in general, is simply delightful. I pedalled along saying hello to several other cyclists, passing lots of churches with their bells ringing. I think I was following the Baroque Cycle Tour route, however there are others signposted.

I reached the town of Beilngries and finally got a bit suspicious that perhaps I wasn’t going the right way, and decided to check the map on my phone in a bit more detail. There followed a ‘small’ amount of cursing as I realised I was miles off course, followed by a big and somewhat ride South, fuelled by haribo, on busy roads and over some big hills, to get back to the Danube.

The corrective ride itself was quite pleasant, despite the climbs, as it passed through lots of cool forest; I spotted lots of interesting bird life, and got laughed at by Green Woodpeckers several times, which seemed fitting. It also proved what I’d thought was the case; the terrain is a lot more hilly away from the river! I made it to Eichstätt, then cycled down to Neuburg on der Donau and rejoined the right cycle route. By this point I was feeling quite tired, and still had 40km left to pedal, with several more hills that frankly just hurt.

Needless to say I was pleased to finally make it to Donauworth, after 170km, and glad to have a bed for the night in the Youth Hostel, rather than having to pitch my tent; hostel staff also really friendly, helpful, and sympathetic! I walked down to the nearby supermarket to get some food, and ended up buying far too much as I was famished, however I’m sure it’ll all get eaten eventually.

After eating and a bit of planning I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so retired for the night; my blog might get a bit behind over the next week or so, but I’ll catch up eventually. Planning a short ride tomorrow, to Ulm, with hopefully no further route confusion. I’m also hoping Smaug doesn’t break; my chain is just starting to slip occasionally, the back tyre tread is getting a little sparse, and my brakes need adjusting – fingers crossed he’ll make it back to the UK without having to do much maintenance.

–> 06 October – to Ulm (89km)
As planned (phew) it was a relatively short day’s riding today, and my last alongside the Danube, at least for this tour; I’d quite happily come back. I’ve decided not to follow the river all the way to its source in Donaueschingen, which would mean another day or two of riding, but instead to turn North West tomorrow and head for Strasbourg and France, on my way back home; feels weird thinking that home is only about 700 hundred miles away now.

The hostel breakfast was an excellent affair, with warm bread, cheese, cold meats, butter and jam, fruit and hot chocolate; all hearty fayre for a cycle tourer with lots of miles to cover. After eating my fill I set out, a bit later than usual, and a bit slower, intending on a recovery ride after yesterday’s epic if somewhat unanticipated lengthy ride.

The route didn’t always follow the Danube; for the first section I was next to the main road, on a cycle path, before joining quiet country roads.

I passed through several picturesque towns, then stopped for a picnic with about 20km to go to Ulm.

I made it to Ulm in good time, mostly thanks to no erroneous detours, and found the Brickstone Hostel I’d booked for the night after a quick look around the town; it started to rain so I didn’t linger long.

Instead of heading straight out for a further explore I had a snooze, as the cold I’m suffering from is making me feel a tired, even if it’s not directly impacting my cycling. I’d arrived just in time, and a snooze turned out not to be a bad idea, as the light rain turned into storms for the next couple of hours.

Post snooze I chatted to the hostel hostess Anja for a bit, who offered me a few route tips, and some pears from a neighbour’s garden which were very nice, then I headed into Ulm to find some dinner, and to have another look around now the rain had stopped. It was getting on for dusk as I walked around the old town streets, which has some lovely old buildings sitting next to river channels.

For dinner I headed to Barfuber, a traditional Bavarian Pub type place, and had one of the best meals I’ve had in a while; Roast Pork shank with potato salad and dumpling. I think I could get used to Bavarian food, it’s delicious, especially when accompanied by a cold beer. Germany also appears cheap to me, compared with France away; meal was very good value.

I know some people don’t like eating out alone, but I’m used to it now, especially as I do so quite a bit when I’m away for work. I just enjoyed watching what was going on around me, and read my book for a bit. The waiter also supplied me with extra beer gravy, which went very well with the dumpling, and earned him his tip.

Feeling replete I headed back to the Brickstone Hostel and relaxed for a bit before bed. Despite all this fine dining, I noticed my belt needs another hole in it to prevent my trousers falling down; still losing weight, which I guess isn’t too much of a calamity on the health front, but will mean some clothes shopping is needed when I get home.

On towards the Black Forest tomorrow, the land of cuckoo clocks, fairy tales, werewolves and gateau; not sure about the latter. The weather is starting to look a bit dodgy but should be in France in a couple of days.

02, 03, 04 October 2015 – the Danube; Austria and into Germany

I’m a little behind on my blog due to some long cycling days, and lack of decent wifi; it’s a bit odd how the wifi in Western Europe seems to be worse than further East and down South. I’ve made good progress along the Danube, and am currently contemplating how I get through the rest of Germany and into France. It looks like a bit of a convoluted route, with a few mountains in the way, however I’m sure it’ll work out.

Here are my routes and stats for the last few days:

–> 02 October – to Au an der Donau (150km)
It was a cold start to the day in Vienna, or just West of Vienna anyway, and my tent was soaked in condensation; I hate packing up a wet tent but no choice.

I had various thoughts on my route today, including heading North over the hills to join the Danube cycle path, however in the end I stayed on the roads and pedalled West, joining the official route later on.

After riding down some fairly quiet roads, through some nice farmland, and the occasional town, all with a central church, I made it to Melk and the Danube after 70km. Oh, and I also passed Weiner Wald, which amused me greatly.

I crossed over to the North side, then continued on the cycle path that runs right next to the river, enjoying the flat pedalling and nice scenery.

The rest of the ride to Au an der Donau was easy-going, with a tailwind to help speed me along, and a few random phone calls to people at home to help pass the time; my mobile data was on anyway and calls are free once I’ve paid the Vodafone Euro-traveller rate for the day. I passed several cycle tourers going the other way, all struggling a bit with the headwind, but didn’t catch up with any going my way. The cycle path was busy for some stretches, with a lot of casual cyclists out and about, and really quiet for other bits.

I realised I’ve been slowly but steadily climbing since I joined the Danube cycle route, from just over 100m in Bulgaria, to over 200m in elevation now. It will be interesting to see how high I get before I leave the Danube, wherever that may be. Needless to say I’ve climbed up and down a lot more than that; the path isn’t always flat!

After a quiet last stretch, aside from a few ducks and herons, I made it to my campsite in Au an der Donau, where I met up with several other cycle tourers staying the night. Patricia and David were from Canada, on their way to Budapest, along with Malachi from Ireland, and George also from Canada who was heading up to Poland then Berlin. It was great to meet up and chat with other cycle tourers again; we headed to a restaurant (Gasthof) in the village for a couple of beers and some food. A very pleasant evening of swapping stories, route tips and eating was had; I ate a lot, consuming two dinners to try to replace the calories I’d used pedalling 150km.

Patricia and David mentioned the concentration camp (Mauthausen) they’d visited just the up the road, which I could go and see tomorrow, however I think I’m more likely to press on towards Germany and Passau. It’s probably important that I visit such a place at some point, however after the House of Terror in Budapest I think I’ll keep things light for a bit!

–> 03 October – to Passau, Germany (140km)
I was up early, ready to ride back to country number 6 of my tour, Germany again. I said goodbye to my fellow tourers, who were heading North or South East respectively, then set off into a cold but dry morning; much less condensation on my tent so easier to pack up!

The ride was fairly standard until Linz, at about the 30km mark, then things started to get interesting with the cycle route entering a valley, or I guess you’d call it a gorge, through which the Danube flows.

The scenery was beautiful, much more exciting than yesterday’s, with lots of other cyclists using the well signposted routes, on both sides of the river, and several tourers to say hello to.

I remained on the North side of the river for a long time, spurning several opportunities to cross to the other side by ferry or bridge. There were several large barges cruising up or down the Danube, transporting various goods (not sure what, maybe coal again); looks like the river is still used as a major haulage route as well as for tourism. The cycling was pretty effortless and very enjoyable, however I knew it was too good to last. Close to St. Martin, where there’s a castle on a hill, the path ran out at a bend in the river, at some cliffs where people were climbing; looked awesome fun. A footpath carried on however it wasn’t passable by bike, even if I was to carry it and my gear (I checked). I had to backtrack a hundred metres or so to find a track heading up the hill, which looked like it might take me where I wanted to go.

The narrow trail was very steep, and initially covered in brambles and stinging nettles which didn’t do my legs any good. One of my pedals also slammed into my right calf, whilst I was pushing, causing a fair amount of bleeding even if it was only a shallow scrape. Eventually the path widened, passing through pleasant woodland that was very peaceful, even if I was sweating profusely, stinging, and still bleeding slightly. I made it to the top, where thankfully the path joined a road at the castle, and then sped down the other side to rejoin the cycle route. I reckon it was a good mini adventure, or side-quest, and I don’t doubt many other cyclists have experienced the same thing; if they spotted the side path that is, it’s a bit obscure but prevented me having to backtrack several kilometres to find a crossing.

I’m not sure what was causing it however I heard a loud siren, like an air raid warning, a few times near my mini-adventure site. I wondered if it was perhaps a flood warning being testing, or a faulty siren being triggered by the large barges and tourist boats on the river. I was just hoping there wasn’t really a flood in progress, which could have provided a more dramatic type of adventure.

I took the ferry to the other side of the river near Kirchberg ob der Donau, not wanting to repeat my side-quest, and followed the signs on to Passau. Again the riding was really good fun, and I’d recommend the route to anyone. It’s obviously very popular with cyclists as I passed a lot of people out for a day’s ride; lots of e-bikes too, which confused me a little when quite elderly people started to overtake me.

I crossed back over to the North side of the river, by a bridge this time, near Niederranna, still in Austria I think, although it as hard to tell with no border crossings visible. Somewhere along the line I crossed into Germany, as I noticed I received a text from Vodafone welcoming me, and suddenly there were a lot more cars with German number plates. It was a long ride up to Passau, through lots of small towns, and passing yet more cyclists. I paused in Passau, which is definitely in Germany, and is also known as the city of three rivers (Dreiflüssestadt); the Danube is joined by the Inn from the South and the Liz from the North. It’s another ancient city, with a large University, and an interesting history (look it up).

I couldn’t find any open shops, which was slightly annoying as I needed supplies, but eventually found a garage where I could buy some chocolate and fizzy pop. Then it was on the Dreiflusse camping, just West of Passau, where I was given a friendly welcome and a place to pitch my tent for just €12. I was feeling pretty tired, so was glad they have their own restaurant; the Gypsy schnitzel was very good, as was the beer, and the Hungarian goulash soup.

Unfortunately the wifi wasn’t working, so I couldn’t update my blog (one of the reasons I’m a bit behind), however as I was tired, and full of good food, it was nice just to relax in my tent and get an early night. Aiming for Regensburg tomorrow; Germany is going to take a while to cross, but that’s okay, it’s a great country.

–> 04 October – to Regensburg (140km)
140km kilometre days seem to be becoming the norm, and my legs aren’t complaining in the morning so all good. I wouldn’t have been able to keep this up a few months ago, so I must be a lot fitter than when I started. It probably also helps that I’ve lost at least 10kg!

My tent was a bit damp again in the morning, only on the outside, but it takes ages to dry now it’s colder so I had to pack it up wet. As well as it being colder I’ve developed a cold, which is more irritating than anything else, although it does seem to be getting a bit worse so I’ll have to feed it lots, and perhaps try to cure it with wine, or schnapps.

I was on the road again by 08:00, pedalling off into a quiet Sunday morning, with only river and birds for company for the first hour. It was lovely cycling in the peace and quiet, as a pair of herons flew over, and with ducks dabbling on the over. I spotted loads of birds today, including the aforementioned, but also buzzards, various tits, a Green Woodpecker, Grebes and I think Cormorants; lots of crows still too, which again seem to follow me sometimes.

The scenery wasn’t as exciting as yesterday, however it was still pleasant riding, despite a bit of a headwind getting up in the afternoon. I rode up to Deggandorf, then lost the cycle route signs somehow, and ended up crossing over to the South side and following roads to Straubing. The roads actually made a nice change, with some different things to look at; various small towns, farmland and German Sunday life going on.

I stopped in Straubing for a lunch break, and had a wander around the Sunday market that was in full swing. After a cheeky Mcdonalds, just because it was convenient and I hadn’t had one in a while, I bumped into Charles from France, on his way down the Danube on his touring bike complete with large trailer. We both stopped for a bit to exchange advice on the route; was good to speak some French again.

After Straubing I crossed the river again, then passed through more countryside on my way to Regensburg. Unfortunately the day got duller as it progressed, with cloud cover moving in, and rain starting as I entered the city. I had intended on having a look around Regensburg, as there are loads of Roman remains to visit, however I was feeling pretty tired, and wet, so headed pretty much straight for the campsite.

I later learnt there’s a famous sausage restaurant in Regensburg; missed out there but enjoyed some traditional Bavarian fayre at the campsite restaurant. My tent was under siege from rabbits when I got back to it, however they didn’t prevent me from falling asleep very quickly. On to Donauworth tomorrow.

10 & 11 June 2015 – to Holland and a heatwave

Greetings from Belgium! As is often, if not always the case, my blog is a few days behind. You can usually catch up with where I actually am via my Twitter feed, which feeds into my blog site on the right hand side anyway. I could probably keep my blog more up-to-date by pedalling less, but I enjoy the pedalling bit and get frustrated if I don’t cover what I equate to a good distance each day; 60 miles on average, so nothing in comparison to the likes of Mark Beaumont on his Cairo to Capetown epic, but sufficient for me, and besides, my bike and gear is a lot heavier ;o)

I also get asked about rest days quite a bit. I sometimes have one, if I feel like it and it’s a nice spot, but I don’t generally yearn for them and can find myself getting twitchy and wanting to cover some more distance. I think for me at least half of this cycle touring malarkey is the journey not the destination, although I do have a few definite breaks planned for later on. Same with cities; some, like Hamburg, I click with and want to have a look around, others I can happily leave. I think I prefer the countryside and wilderness more, however a break in a cafe or roadside bar is always welcome!

Here are my routes and stats for the last couple of days, leaving Germany and cycling down into Holland:

10 June 2015: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/800978508

11 June 2015: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/799947473

The 10 June saw me cover 117km in about 6 hours and 20 minutes, enjoying some good riding through the last bit of Germany and into Holland.

Sunny day in Werlte

Sunny day in Werlte

I’m pretty sure I’ll be back in Germany later this year on my way back from Istanbul, probably via the Danube and Vienna, but I’ve yet to firm up those plans. Depending on time available before I have to go back to work I might have to get a train for some bits, but not if I keep up my current mileage. Lots of time for exploring yet!

It was a great ride through the countryside on my way past Meppen and on to Emlichheim, with a bit of a tail wind and loads of sunshine. I took a few cycle routes which went generally in the right direction, with a few interesting results.

River crossing near Meppen

River crossing near Meppen

River crossing near Meppen - narrow but serviceable bridge

River crossing near Meppen – narrow but serviceable bridge

The route turned into a forest path after this, but was still perfectly passable, just a bit bumpy.

Forest path on way to Meppen - keeping an eye out for tree root ambushes (and Orcs)

Forest path on way to Meppen – keeping an eye out for tree root ambushes (and Orcs)

After passing through Meppen and waving at an enormous group of cycle tourers going in the opposite direction, I headed West through Twist and on to Emlichheim, deftly avoiding a couple of close calls with water sprayers, much to Lobster’s disappointment.

After Emlichheim my maps got a bit vague as to how to get over the border, as they don’t show the really small roads, however I pointed my Garmin at Hardenberg and it did a superb job of directing me there (for once). I pedalled down small roads and tarmac’d tracks, and was suddenly in Holland almost without realising it. The only traffic came in the form of a few mopeds that generally use the cycle paths too.

Stuck in traffic on the way to Holland

Stuck in traffic on the way to Holland

I had to go down another ‘closed’ road at one point, however after navigating the last two successfully I took a risk, figuring the cycle path would probably still be open. Again the whole road was closed due to resurfacing, however the cycle path was mostly open, and I only had to duck under one JCB; I waved at the driver who waved back, so figured it was all okay.

Passed lots of cows and wind farms, as well as several nodding donkey oil wells in the last bit of Germany. Oh, and I’ve figured out why Lobster likes cows, apart from them making funny noises; they make milk which makes chocolate, which is his favourite thing.

In general cycling in Germany is good, with well signposted routes and maintained cycle paths, however Holland has proven to be a step up, with even better signage and wider, smoother, cycle paths; an absolute delight to pedal down.

One of my first Dutch cycle paths

One of my first Dutch cycle paths

Which made me pretty happy

Which made me pretty happy

There are even more people on bikes, which I wasn’t sure was possible after some parts of Scandinavia and Germany, and all, for the most part, riding sensibly. There’s a saying that Dutch people are born on a bike, albeit with stabilizers initially, which sounds a bit painful if you ask me.

The other thing I noticed today, both in Germany but more-so in Holland, was the number of ponies, mainly Shetland ponies (at least I assumed they were), and also horses; loads of them in paddocks, and thankfully little in the way of sheep.

Abundance of ponies - in Germany and Holland

Abundance of ponies – in Germany and Holland

Arriving in Ommen

Arriving in Ommen

So it was a great pedal down to Ommen, where I’d spotted the Recreatiecentrum Besthmenerburg campsite on my ACSI app. It turned out to be splendid site, and was cheapish at €11, with a perfect camping spot for people just staying one night.

Campsite near Ommen, nice spot in the woods

Campsite near Ommen, nice spot in the woods

I was just in time to catch the campsite snack bar before it closed, and quickly made my way there for a cold beer and some junk food to fuel tomorrow’s endeavours; had already had some salad etc in case you’re wondering! The restaurant also has free wifi, which was handy for planning and blogging purposes.

A Mexicana and chips; different from the Hamburg version of a Mexicana

A Mexicana and chips; different from the Hamburg version of a Mexicana

The campsite itself was very tranquil, with different camping and caravan/tourer areas dotted about in the forest, along with small lodges you can rent. It reminded me a bit of a Centre Parcs, but without the hordes of screaming children. The only downside was the midges and mosquitos, so it was time to break out the insect repellent which had mixed results. Still slept well though, and awoke refreshed to the sound of birds giving it there all.

Ready for another day on the road, in Ommen

Ready for another day on the road, in Ommen

There was a cockerel crowing too, from the small zoo area; it was an enormous bird which Lobster suggested he could use as an alternative steed.

The Besthmenerburg Cockerel

The Besthmenerburg Cockerel

Pretty sure it was  bigger than the resident goats

Pretty sure it was bigger than the resident goats

The 11 June turned out to be mostly about cycling, covering 123km in about 6 hours and 40 minutes. It was just nice to pedal in good weather, along smooth and quiet cycle routes as I made my way down to Devanter, then on to Arnhem and Nijmegen. I didn’t stop in any town or city for a long time; they were busy and so much more hassle than the quiet countryside. It was just a joy to be riding, although my water consumption rocketed in the heat.

Before Arnhem I decided on a quick detour over the River IJssen to Bronkhorst, via a small €1 car ferry that was very popular, then down alongside the river on a dedicated cycle path and back over via another ferry. It was a great detour and I flew down the raised cycle path, which wasn’t on any of my maps or Garmin; the latter got a bit confused. There were lots of other cyclists out to say hello to.

Note on cycle routes in Holland; it’s all done my numbers or ‘nodes’. The number represents a destination you can find on the map, and you just follow the numbers on signposts until you get there. Pretty efficient, unless you don’t know the number you want, or get it mixed up, or forget it; I prefer place names. Thankfully there are also red signs with the place names on, most of the time.

I walked through a bit of Arnhem, which looked pretty much like the centre of most biggish cities, with the same shops (H&M, Mango, McDonalds, C&A, etc). I’m not sure what I’d been expecting really; I know I’ve watched a film involving Arnhem and a battle for the bridge, and there was no doubt a lot of fighting in the area in WW2, but I didn’t spot anything relating to it on my brief wander through. It was nice to cool down though, and pedalling over the bridge gave a good view.

I didn’t know anything about Nijgemen, but it was certainly bigger than I’d anticipated, and with a great bike parking area next to the station. Despite its size it was easy to cycle through and out of, although with the volume of cyclists on the cycle paths I had to take care not to bump into anyone, or be bumped into; lots of people going at different speeds, and saw several close calls.

There was one casualty; the rear reflector fell off my bike on a crossing, then got run over. Oops; I tightened it the other day but it must have worked loose again.

Rear reflector falls off and is run over

Rear reflector falls off and is run over

Via a bit of a roundabout route I made it to Alverna and another campsite I’d found on the ACSI app. Reception was closed but the staff at the bar next to it telephoned the owner who just said to pitch up and he’d be over at some point; the shower and toilet blocks were all open anyway.

Solitary camper at site near Alverna

Solitary camper at site near Alverna

There were no other campers around, but quite a few people in the lodges/caravans; don’t know if they live there all the time or if there just holiday homes – some of the ‘lodges’ were very done up. On a walk-about to fill up my water bottles I passed one Dad giving his young (under 8 I reckon) son pretty vigorous kickboxing lessons; rather him than me.

Set for another night under canvas in Alverna

Set for another night under canvas in Alverna

Unfortunately I’d forgotten to shop, so dinner was slightly limited involving radishes, a bit of bread and chocolate, then toasties and beer from the same bar. I’d have had something more substantial from the menu but toasties was all they did, and honestly, that was fine, especially accompanied by a couple of cold ones.

Good cheese and ham toasties though

Good cheese and ham toasties though

I stayed at the bar for a bit, chatting to the locals; it was very much a ‘local’ bar, and lots of people were smoking inside which is still legal Holland, but was a bit odd after it’s been banned in the UK for so long. One patron was preparing to leave for India a bit later this year, via the Himalayas; India and Nepal would be great for a cycle trip. I retreated after the music got just a bit too Europop; there’s only so much Vengaboys, Ace of Base, mixed in with Shakira, that one can take.

Set for another night under canvas in Alverna

Set for another night under canvas in Alverna

Back at the tent it was all quiet, aside from a few largish bats flitting about after insects. I’ve still got Vengaboys going round my head now!

Apologies for any typos or randomness; I’m in my tent after a very hot day (it’s still boiling now), besieged by insects of many varieties. Most of them seem to want a piece of me. What we need now is a big thunderstorm to clear the air.

08 and 09 June 2015 – Hamburg to Bremen, and heading West

Since Hamburg I’ve been pedalling for 3 days, so a bit of a blog catch-up is in order. I’ll cover the 08 and 09 May on this post, and might get to today’s ride later, if not tomorrow; in Holland now, where cycling is just a pleasure.

Here are links to the routes and stats from the last couple of days:

08 May: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/799082018

09 May: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/799082125

–> 08 May 2015
I was frankly surprised not to have a hangover after a very good night out in Hamburg, however I’ve noticed before that a lot of cycling tends to reduce the severity of hangovers, plus I probably don’t drink as much as it goes to my head more quickly after all the pedalling.

First order of the day was to find a bike shop to get some replacement inner tubes, just in case. Reception pointed me in the direction of a few local to St Pauli, and whilst I couldn’t find any tubes that were exactly the right size, I bought a couple that will do the job, should the need arise. Again most inner tubes in Europe seem to use Presta valves, however I found one in one shop with a Schrader valve, and another in another shop that was Presta; my pump will work with both so think we’re good. I got my stand tightened up too, however I don’t think I’d better use it as the metal has fatigued where it joins on to the bike, and will eventually break; not structurally integral to the frame but annoying none the less. I might get a replacement stand fitted to another part of the bike, or use the forked stick trick; not vital in any case.

One other addition to the bike; added a St Pauli Jolly Roger sticker, their unofficial logo, to my panniers. I need to remember to get more stickers to add on my travels.

St Pauli Jolly Roger

St Pauli Jolly Roger

I’ll have to start thinking about getting Smaug serviced soon, and maybe a new chain and rear cassette, but I’m loathed to change anything whilst it’s all working. Will get the chain checked for stretch anyway.

Once back at the hostel I packed up and said goodbye to Alex, before hitting the road towards Bremen.

Preparing to leave Hamburg - with Alex, my compadre from last night

Preparing to leave Hamburg – with Alex, my compadre from last night

Alex was flying back to London later that day; weird to think the flight takes 1 hour, whereas it’ll take me another 5 months, admittedly via a rather roundabout route.

The rest of the day was fairly straightforward riding. I pedalled North West out of St Pauli, alongside the River Elbe, chatting to a few random people along the way (friendly place Hamburg), and got the ferry over to Neuen. You don’t quite realise how big Hamburg port is until you see it – goes on for ages.

Bit of Hamburg port

Bit of Hamburg port

Cool fountain in Altona, Hamburg

Cool fountain in Altona, Hamburg

On the ferry I ended up speaking to a man who is finishing his job in a week, and going hiking in the Alps for 7 months; amazing who you randomly bump into.

Smaug on-board passenger ferry across the Elbe

Smaug on-board passenger ferry across the Elbe

Then it was a case of skirting around the airport and heading South to Bremen, albeit it via a rather ‘scenic’ route.

Road to Bremen 1

Road to Bremen 1

ALERT – this post is being temporarily taken over by the CCFC – Crustacean Committee for Corrections. So, Lobster here, we did not take the ‘scenic’ route, the human pedalling the bike, known as James, went the wrong way because he wasn’t paying attention to sign posts. What a dufus. Probably added 20km on to the day’s ride, and meant we nearly ran out of chocolate, which would have been a crisis not worth thinking about. I had to take over the navigation for the rest of the ride; it was quite boring, apart from the cows who are funny, and the bit where James got sprayed with water from a farmer’s irrigation spraying device thingy; that was very funny. Luckily I have a carapace and am not averse to water, unless it’s hot, so it didn’t bother me.

Through the countryside to Bremen

Through the countryside to Bremen

Ahem, yeah okay, we might’ve gone the wrong way for a bit, but it wasn’t that big a detour, and we had an emergency McDonalds when we got to the outskirts of Bremen to make up for it; they accepted MasterCard, which was handy as I was running out of cash. It’s really quite tricky to find a cashpoint that accepts anything other than Eurocard/Maestro in Germany.

Wizards Tower on the outskirts of Hamburg

Wizards Tower on the outskirts of Hamburg

I found the campsite relatively easily – Stadtwaldsee, on the outskirts of the city, and unfortunately right next to the motorway so it was a bit noisy.

Stadtwaldsee Campingplatz, Bremen

Stadtwaldsee Campingplatz, Bremen

I had enough cash for the campsite, but not for the restaurant, which also didn’t accept MasterCard, so instead ate some biscuits and had a relatively early night. Tomorrow I’d find an ATM and get out a decent amount of cash so I don’t run short again. There were quite a few other tourers at the campsite, including a couple of French guys heading North; more and more cycle tourers as I head South.

Nice sunset at Stadtwaldsee

Nice sunset at Stadtwaldsee

118km pedalled, in 6.5 hours.

–> 09 May 2015
Today wasn’t an amazingly exciting day, but I covered a good distance and it was good to see Bremen, even if I did spend most of my time looking for an ATM that would accept MasterCard or VISA.

Visit from a Hare in Stadtwaldsee

Visit from a Hare in Stadtwaldsee


Smaug ready for another day on the road

Smaug ready for another day on the road

I headed into Bremen on cycle paths, taking care to avoid the trams, as well as tram lines which can be lethal if you get your wheel caught in them. I went straight to the historic Market Square, where the World Heritage listed town hall (Rathaus) can be found. I glanced at it then found the Tourist Information office who were able to point me in the direction of a couple of banks that would accept my cards; ended up at a Santander and withdrew some Euros – a big relief, and I can buy food now! I could also use the free wifi at the Tourist Info office to check my route for the day, and my emails etc, very handy, and meant I was able to check-in and get spotted on the Bremen marketplace web cam.

Bremen webcam shot

Bremen webcam shot

Bremen has a lot of older buildings, compared with Hamburg; here are a few photos from taken on my meanderings.

Somewhat relieved to not be penniless still, I made my way over the river and cycled to Delmenhorst, passing a ship called the Admiral Nelson on the river – probably a restaurant by the looks of it.

The Admiral Nelson

The Admiral Nelson

I was paying particular attention to signposts, so as not to take any unplanned detours, and to avoid a Lobster takeover again. It doesn’t help when the signs are missing from the posts, however a combination of maps and my Garmin saw me out of the city and suburbs, and into the countryside.

Fields of Barley with cornflowers

Fields of Barley with cornflowers

The roads took me through fields of Barley, where cornflowers added a vibrant purple colour to the landscape. There were cows too, much to Lobster’s delight; I don’t know why he likes them so much.

At one point I opted to risk it and continue down a cycle path next to a road that was allegedly closed. It turned out fine, just like the other day – the road was being resurfaced but the path was open still. They don’t do things by halves in Germany; if the road needs mending they close the whole thing and get it done quick.

Road being resurfaced but cycle path open

Road being resurfaced but cycle path open

The route to Werlte, my destination for the night, was easy-going and well signposted, with the next village on my map always having a handy sign to point me in the right direction. There were no hills to speak of either, so despite the 112km it felt like an easy day. My only complaint is that some of the cycle paths can get unexpectedly bumpy at times. Tree roots growing under the tarmac can ambush you, and are a little jarring to say the least. It doesn’t help that I’m a bit paranoid about my wheels, both spokes and punctures, so am constantly checking them.

Before checking in at the campsite I did a shopping run to Lidyl, and probably bought too much now I’ve got some money, however I’m sure it’ll all get eaten.

Smaug loaded with supplies

Smaug loaded with supplies

There were some interesting garden ornaments in a nearby garden centre; these are just a few of them.

German garden ornaments, not quite gnomes, but purple sheep are, urr, interesting

German garden ornaments, not quite gnomes, but purple sheep are, urr, interesting

I don’t think I can fit anything like the above in my panniers, so friends and relatives are probably safe, this time around.

The Humminglingerland/Werlte Campingplatz is a great campsite, and I’d arrived in good time; it was cheap at €6.50, and has free wifi. There’s no restaurant, but I didn’t need one tonight, and it’s lovely and quiet so I was just able to chill out for a while in the sunshine, enjoy a mug of wine and the birds singing; je suis tres sophistique, non?

Chilling out Humminglingerland/Werlte campsite

Chilling out Humminglingerland/Werlte campsite

I had some radishes too, so getting my 5-a-day, or thereabouts.

Radishes - awesome and wholesome

Radishes – awesome and wholesome

A bit of planning saw me work out my route to the Netherlands, however I’m still undecided on whether to visit Amsterdam or not; going towards ‘not’ at the moment, as it could just be a lot of hassle with my bike. I’ll make up my mind tomorrow, and try and work out where I’ll be around my  birthday for the purpose of family visitations; looking forward to that!

07 June 2015 – Hamburg and St Pauli, a day off

Well, almost a day off, I did a bit of cycling (28km), some to get to St. Pauli and the hostel where I was staying, and then a quick sightseeing tour of the city. Routes and stats below:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/799081745

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/799081879

After a somewhat restless night I had a bit of a lie in, I didn’t have far to go after all, but was still up and ready to go by about 10.00. Yannick, who I’d met the day before, pedalled off on his way to Puttgarden, to get the ferry over to Denmark; one of the routes I’d considered, but from the other direction.

Yannick - off to Denmark and then Sweden to Norway

Yannick – off to Denmark and then Sweden to Norway

Good luck with your tour Yannick; hope the new saddle works and your leg improves. Nice to know I’m not the only one who encounters bike issues that can have knock on effects.

It was only a short ride into Hamburg centrum, and pretty straightforward in comparison to some cities (mostly British ones). After riding past an Ikea, who’d have thought it, I passed the Specialised bike shop Yannick had mentioned yesterday, where I’d hoped I might be able to get new inner tubes and fix my stand. Unfortunately like most shops in Hamburg/Germany it was closed on a Sunday; cool Fat Bike in the window though.

An Ikea in Hamburg, what a surprise...

An Ikea in Hamburg, what a surprise…

It’s actually quite refreshing to see shops closed on a Sunday, and a city calm down a bit. I know for a lot of people it’s very convenient to be able to shop on a Sunday, especially if you work the rest of the week. Still think it would be nice if everyone could have Sunday off, and give everything a rest; restaurants, cafes and pubs aside, need them to stay open for calorie loading purposes!

Specialised bike shop, closed unfortunately, but cool fat bike

Specialised bike shop, closed unfortunately, but cool fat bike

I made it down to the River Elbe, and realised I’d forgotten to take a photo of the online map showing the location of my hostel.

Made it into Hamburg unscathed

Made it into Hamburg unscathed

I didn’t want to use any more data roaming, after clocking up a rather large unintentional bill, so went to the tourist information office instead and got a free local map. Not sure if I’ve already mentioned the rather unexpected bill I got from Vodafone, however I thought I could use the free data test drive I’m on, which gives me unlimited data until later this month, in Europe with the £3 a day Eurotraveller deal. Unfortunately it turns out I can’t, and that the £3 a day deal only applies to the 3GB standard data I get each month; I really wish they’d told me this in the shop when I said I’d be going to Europe for 6 months. Needless to say the resulting bill is a lot more than my standard £19 a month, but I’ll just have to put it down to experience and move on. I did talk to a Vodafone rep about it online, and they gave me an extra 2GB of data for this month, but wouldn’t refund what I’d already been charged for because apparently it says the test drive isn’t included somewhere on their website.

Anyway, back to Hamburg; loads of bikes around again, including lots for hire like the ones below.

Lots of Boris Bike equivalents on offer, and red too, good choice

Lots of Boris Bike equivalents on offer, and red too, good choice

As is normal with all the European towns and cities I’ve been through so far on this tour, you can cycle on most pavements, with a lane allotted to you, and you have right of way most of the time. Really very impressed with cycling in towns in Scandinavia and Germany; good signs most of the time too.

Using the map from Tourist Info I located the street the Backpackers Hostel is on, in the St. Pauli area of Hamburg, and slowly made my way there after checking out a bit of the waterfront and Fish Market. I also rode down the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s Sinful Mile, centre of a lot of the city’s nightlife and Red Light District; maybe Europe’s most famous Red Light District.

Reeperbahn means Rope Walk, as it’s where the cities ropes used to be made in the 17th and 18th centuries. Close to the river I expect all the sailors used to pile into the Reeperbahn to spend their money after being at sea for ages, and hence the entertainment area took shape. It’s really quite a bizarre place with theatres, restaurants, a big market and bars, intermingled with sex shops, strip joints, and McDonalds, as well as Currywurst stalls! I also noticed a lot of people living on the street, quite literally, a theme repeated throughout much of Hamburg, which is a big contrast to the obvious wealth of the city, with a lot of millionaires living here.

The Backpackers hostel is on the side streets of St Pauli, in a quiet area. Upon arrival I was greeted by Tanya, who manages the joint and is very friendly and helpful. I couldn’t check in until 15.00, so relaxed for couple of hours enjoying a local beer, Astra, in the sunshine. Beer in Germany is so much cheaper than Scandinavia, where I didn’t really drink, and Astra is excellent at €2 or less a bottle. I also got talking to Alex, who was staying at the hostel and offered to show me around later. He’s a veteran of Hamburg having lived here for several months a few years back, and is passionate about the city. He was just visiting for the weekend this time around, and recommended a local kebab shop, so after checking in I nipped out to get some food, being forever hungry as usual.

Mr Kebab - a most excellent Turkish purveyor of quality foodstuffs

Mr Kebab – a most excellent Turkish purveyor of quality foodstuffs

The Kebab was excellent, probably the best Doner I’ve ever had; delicious lamb surrounded by crisp bread, with salad and a yoghurt based sauce, all for €4. Whilst enjoying it I had a walk around the back streets of St Pauli.

Best Doner Kebab I think I've ever had

Best Doner Kebab I think I’ve ever had

There are a lot of Turkish immigrants in the city, many having moved here after the Second World War; I think they helped rebuild Hamburg after much of it was destroyed by the RAF and USAF. I read that in one operation called Gomorrah, the RAF and their US counterparts bombed Hamburg with incendiaries, creating firestorm that killed over 40,000 civilians and practically destroyed the city. It felt a bit odd wandering through the narrow streets, years after those terrible times, thinking about such things and what it would have been like in war-time.

It’s a very relaxed area now, especially in the sunshine, and has a very Bohemian atmosphere to it. There’s a lot of graffiti too, and not all of it good. People were sitting out in cafes, or just on the pavement, chatting and drinking coffee or cold beer.

St Pauli wall art

St Pauli wall art

Post Kebab I had a bit of a rest, then went out for a cycle around the city, heading to the centre and some of the parks. As well as the impressive looking town hall the parks were lovely, along with the lakes and waterways. Tourists abounded, as did street performers, expensive cars, and as mentioned before homeless people.

Being on a bike I could see a lot of Hamburg quite quickly, so was back at the Hostel in an hour and a half, in time for a quick shower then to meet up with Alex to head out for a few beers.

Alex proved an excellent guide, his passion for Hamburg coming across as he walked me around St Pauli and down to the waterfront. He showed me the house where the Beatles lived at a point quite early on in their careers, when they were resident in the city for quite some time. I think Hamburg proved quite a formative experience in shaping the band and their music.

Beatles house - plaque showing they live here

Beatles house – plaque showing they live here

If you didn’t have someone to show you, you probably wouldn’t find this vine shrouded doorway, and know this world-famous band once lived here; as always local knowledge is much better than any guidebook in getting to know a place.

Beatles house 2

Beatles house 2

We also walked past the Kaiserkeller, where the Beatles used to play, including at least one gig that went on for 12 hours. I think they played one show here with toilet seats around their heads for some reason.

Kaiserkeller - venue where Beatles used to play

Kaiserkeller – venue where Beatles used to play

Typical Reeperbahn side street

Typical Reeperbahn side street

From a cultural point of view I guess no visit to Hamburg would be complete without a wander through the Red Light District, a slightly odd experience having not encountered anything quite like it before.

Reeperbahn Red Light District - this street is closed to under 18's and women, unless the women work there

Reeperbahn Red Light District – this street is closed to under 18’s and women, unless the women work there

We walked through fairly swiftly, ignoring the invitations from various ‘shop’ windows and their employees!

Waterfront - the Elbe

Waterfront – the Elbe

After a walk along the waterfront we headed back into St Pauli for a few beers, and a Curryvurst. An excellent evening was had taking in a few different bars, one of them very English (the London Pub), and chatting about travelling, life, the universe and everything.

Alex also introduced me to a few of the local spirits/shots including one called Mexicana, which is like a Bloody Mary but with chilli, and different degrees of chilli depending on the bar; it was lovely. Here are a couple of others I tried, both warming.

Kuemmerling

Kuemmerling

Underberg

Underberg

Feeling decidedly merry we headed back to the hostel, stopping for another kebab on the way, just cos they’re so good here; I did mention I’m always hungry when cycle touring didn’t I?! It was nice to chill out with a few of the other residents in the common room; a few Australians over visiting Europe with their guitars, and one guy who works for VSO and has just got back after several months in Malaysia and China. Hostels are great places to meet up with diverse and interesting people, and to find out about new places you then add to your list of destinations you want to visit someday.

So a late night, but a great night, and many thanks to Alex for hosting it and bringing the city to life. Back to cycling posts tomorrow.

05 & 06 June 2015 – to Bad Bramstedt and Hamburg

After an entertaining evening with Claudio, Larissa, Alex and Romulus I had a bit of a late start on 05 June, and still half asleep I left my shampoo in the campsite shower; won’t be the last time. I think there’s something karmic about leaving shampoo in campsite showers, as generally you find someone else has done the same at one of your subsequent campsites, and you can use that instead.

Morning in Jarplund; Stuttgart crew heading off to Flensburg

Morning in Jarplund; Stuttgart crew heading off to Flensburg

Claudio headed off early to get to a nearby garage for a tyre change before Iceland, and the others pedalled into Flensburg for a day’s sightseeing. It was good to meet them all, and probably marks the start of running into more tourers at campsites now I’m further South, and the touring season has started in earnest.

Sunny day in Jarplund - thumbs up to meeting more folks on the road

Sunny day in Jarplund – thumbs up to meeting more folks on the road

I set off about 10.00, and had a great day’s riding down to Bad Bramstedt, most of it on cycle paths, or pavement doubling as cycle paths that run next to the road. I covered 119km in 6 hours and 45 minutes of pedalling, but was on the road for quite a bit longer than that due to a puncture repair session. Here’s a link to my route and stats for 05 June:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/794919245

The only drawback of riding on some of the marked cycle paths, especially in the towns, is they’re a bit juddery, and can be stop/starty due to junctions, so I have to admit I didn’t use them all the time as it made progress too slow and increased discomfort in various body parts.

My route took me down to Schleswig, and on through gorgeous countryside, often lovely woodland; a lot of it Beech which is my favourite.

Riding through Beech woodland

Riding through Beech woodland

It was the hottest day of my tour yet, and the first time I’ve worn only one layer; just my Icebreaker top, plus my lightweight buff under my cycle helmet to stop sunburn on receding spots and the back of my neck.

Schleswig waterfront

Schleswig waterfront

Close to Dannewerk I decided to follow a cycle route that pointed in the right direction, disappearing into farmland. I was a little dubious as to what the route would turn into, after yesterday’s experiences on Route 8, but thought I’d give it a go.

Pedalling through farmland following a marked cycle route

Pedalling through farmland following a marked cycle route

It started off well enough but deteriorated into a farm track, which the bike coped with fine, but it knocked me about a bit; no suspension!

Cycle route turns expedition like near Dannewerk

Cycle route turns expedition like near Dannewerk

I think there must be an airbase near Dannewerk, as I’m pretty sure that’s what I passed at one point. I also passed a lot of wind turbines, doing their bit to help save the environment. I hope they checked the areas for bats, as wind turbines can have unfortunate effects on these delicate creatures due to the air pressure changes they create; causes bats to haemorrhage. Nearly everything humankind does has some sort of adverse impact on another species, even if we think we’re doing right; wind turbines can screw with bats and birds, tidal power with whales and dolphins. It’s a bit depressing really however I guess it’s a case of choosing the lesser of evils; got to be better than fossil fuelled power-stations.

Pedalling past lots of wind turbines

Pedalling past lots of wind turbines

I reached the 60km mark and noticed my front tyre was going flat. This was slightly vexing, but on such a fine day it was going to take a lot to annoy me. And besides, I was able to stop next to the village bakery/ice-cream shop so it wasn’t all bad.

Puncture repair in Hohn, Lobster claiming he's trying to help but pincers make it awkward

Puncture repair in Hohn, Lobster claiming he’s trying to help but pincers make it awkward

On examining the inner tube the last patch had come loose, maybe due to a combination of hot weather and friction. I tried to patch it but it wouldn’t take for some reason; I might’ve rushed it. I stopped for an ice-cream break to consider my next course of action.

Ice-cream break in Hohn

Ice-cream break in Hohn

Whilst mulling things over, and trying to keep Lobster away from MY ice-cream, a friendly local pointed me in the direction of a bike shop a few hundred metres down the road. Great I thought, I can just get a new inner tube. Unfortunately they didn’t have an inner tube in the right size, which is an issue I’ve previously had on this tour, however I dug out an old one I’d repaired from my panniers and put that on instead. It’s still going over 100m later so the repair job seems to have been a good one, touch wood. I’ll definitely be buying a few spares in Hamburg.

After a protracted break I got back to it and rode to the Nord Ostee Kanal, which I had to cross via a car ferry; only a short jaunt across the canal.

I still had quite a way to go to get down to Bad Bramstedt, so after the canal tried to speed up a bit, making good progress, aside from on the cobbled bits.

German roads often cobbled through villages

German roads often cobbled through villages

Riding along wooded roads very pleasant and shaded

Riding along wooded roads very pleasant and shaded

I arrived at Campingplatz Rolande in Bad Bramstedt a little later than anticipated, but reception was still open; I think the owner lives on site as he was wandering about doing stuff for most of the evening, including trying to speak to me in German which whilst appreciated wasn’t very successful as far as a two-way conversation goes.

The Campingplatz Rolande is a little small and quite noisy, but did the job for me after a fairly long and hot day in the saddle. The owner was able to supply me with a couple of cold beers which went down a treat.

Cold beer always brings a smile to my face

Cold beer always brings a smile to my face

Note – beard still present, decision still pending on its fate.

I passed quite a lot of other cycle tourers today, including one guy looking very relaxed on a recumbent. I noticed a lot of them seemed to be around retirement age, or older. I guess people have more time on their hands for touring once they’re retired, however I wonder if this was just today’s sample or if the trend will continue; great to see people travelling by bike well into their sixties and possibly seventies though.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to decide what to do next, settling on a short leg tomorrow to a campsite just on the outskirts of Hamburg, followed by a hostel for one night on Sunday. This will allow me to see a bit of the city, whilst not getting trapped there for too long, and it’ll save on money too; hostels are expensive on Saturday nights. It’ll also give me a chance to do some laundry! I need to think about getting Smaug serviced, as I’m pretty sure he’ll need a new chain soon, and maybe a new rear cassette, and the stand needs tightening; don’t have the right allen key and too wobbly to use at present.

Top tip: If there a flying bugs in your tent, and I had quite a lot mine, shine your torch into the porch area to lure them out, then shut the door quickly; worked well for me.

Luring the bugs out of my tent via head torch

Luring the bugs out of my tent via head torch

–> 06 June 2015

I had a rather broken night’s sleep, partly due to passing traffic which proved pretty noisy, but also due to the massive thunderstorm that struck about 03.00. I didn’t get out of my tent to watch, as I could quite happily see the lightning flashing from inside, followed by thunder and heavy rain. Thankfully I stayed dry again, and it probably explained all the thunder flies around earlier.

Today’s ride was just a short 38km down to the outskirts of Hamburg, which only took around 2 and half hours, at a pretty slow pace. Here’s a link to the route and stats:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/795595199

Not a lot to report from the ride. I did go around some road closed signs at one point, and just carried on to the next bit; they were resurfacing, but no-one was working on Saturday, and it was fine to cross the short stretch by bike.

Road closed - thou shalt not pass, unless you're on a bike

Road closed – thou shalt not pass, unless you’re on a bike

I made it down to the Knaus Campingpark in Hamburg just before midday, and checked in. To my surprise there was another cycle tourer with a Hilleburg Akto Tent right next to my spot. Yannick is from Belgium and currently touring up to Norway. It as great to meet up and chat about routes, bikes and share a few stories.

Another tourer with a Hilleburg Akto

Another tourer with a Hilleburg Akto

As the day progressed 3 more cycle tourers turned up, however I’ve only spoken to them briefly so far as I’ve been busy doing laundry, and a bit of bike cleaning/maintenance. One couple are on their way up to Sweden for some island hopping, so we shared a few route suggestions.

Laundry dome and drying; feeling accomplished

Laundry dome and drying; feeling accomplished

I’ve also discovered that, at least so far, MasterCard isn’t so widely accepted in Germany. This proved a problem whilst trying to get supplies in an Aldi earlier. I ended up having to take some cash out on my debit card, which’ll cost a lot more than using my Prepaid Travel card; something I’ll have to prepare for in Germany, however I reckon l be able to use it more easily in the centre of Hamburg.

That’s all for today. Blog now up-to-date. Tomorrow I head into Hamburg for some sightseeing, but also to visit a bike shop or two to top-up on inner tubes and get a couple of things fixed.