Tag Archives: Hamburg

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.