Sucking warm fizzy water out of my camel

(I’ll explain this post’s title later. The post covers Tuesday 1st and Wednesday 2nd August.)

Newsflash

We’re not cycling to Denmark this trip. We could easily cycle to Copenhagen, either via the mainland or via some interesting islands and ferries:

But we can’t easily get back to IJMuiden in time for our ferry on the 11th. There are trains from Copenhagen to Amsterdam, but the only ones that have bike spaces are fully booked or require multiple lightning-fast-changes. So, no worries about

  1. exchanging £ or € to the wrong sort of krone
  2. not speaking any danish
  3. trying to cycle from Hamburg to Copenhagen, then to IJMuiden (900 miles) in 8 days.

Instead, we’ll cycle to Berlin via the Elbe and (maybe) the Havel. (That river meanders a lot!). Then we have booked ourselves and the bikes on a train from Berlin. We’ll arrive in Amsterdam late on the 9th, have the 10th for pootling around, then get to IJMuiden in time for our ferry on the 11th.

Hamming it up

Booking this train journey until well after midday at the Ticket office in Hamburg’s main station. It didn’t actually take us that long, but finding out what we couldn’t do, forming alternate plans, finding out that we couldn’t do them either, then finally finding we could get us and the bikes on the Berlin to Amsterdam train we wanted took several hours. (We’d not booked the return from Copenhagen in advance because we had no idea about how far we could cycle in a day.)

The booking process was also lengthened by a visit to Karstadt Sports to look at bike accessories, and let off steam. (We don’t actually need anything, but between us we were interested in alternative handlebar luggage, panniers that convert into rucksacks, gloves which can convert into mitts on the move. In the end, all we bought were some reduced-price padded pants. So hopefully you won’t see my VPL when I’m wearing civvies!

We then went on the obligatory bus tour. The guide flipped fluently from German to English, and was very informative. Here’s the cyclemeter route, and here’s some photos:


Even though my German is very poor, I’m curious about variations in language and the links to history and politics. So some of my snaps are of interesting language seen from the tour bus.

The tour finished for some reason in the docks. We avoided being shanghaied, instead walking along the docks, just enjoying the boats, the architecture, the locally-brewed beer, the amazing tunnel under the Elbe and the Elbphilharmonie building.

Dinner was at the cutest little restaurant in downtown Hamburg: Krameramtsstuben (Tripadvisor). That sounds patronising, but it’s meant well. Good food and a waitress with a sharp but not malicious sense of humour. Hamburg seems to be an enjoyable, lively place, at least for a pair of 40- and 50-somethings to meander around. Your mileage might vary if you’re a docker or sex-worker of course.

More pix from around Hamburg

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Going down in the Elbetunnel (YouTube)

Going up in the Elbetunnel (YouTube)

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Looking around the docks (YouTube)

About St Pauli docks (YouTube)

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Eastward ho!

We know from previous experiences that cycling along rivers involves more mileage than the map says. It must be something to do with the fractal nature of riverine reality. (I don’t quite understand, despite having been a sea scout.) Anyway, we headed east out of Hamburg, my nose following Google Maps. (Lev didn’t always follow my nose, which led to some scrapes.)

Truthfully, it wasn’t hard to find the Elbe: it’s a big river, so it can’t get much easier. Then we pootled 27 miles, mostly along the south bank to Marschacht. Lunch was bought out of a supermarket café. For me, there was yet another espresso (a habit I must kick), along with Laugenwecken (Wikipedia). The local variety has very light, bubbly dough and comes with pumpkin or sunflower seeds on the top. If I was to properly learn German, the niche vocabulary I’d want is all the different types of bread.

Ecke Von Laugenecke!

After eating, we wondered around the supermarket, buying water, energy bars and insect repellent. I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that we don’t like being bitten. Here’s one of the other, er, delicacies on offer:

Coloured picnic eggs!

The cold water we bought turned out to be carbonated. Nevertheless it went into our water-carriers (‘camelbaks’), but soon warmed up. That should explain this post’s title.

We had a few more stops along the way, chatting with people we’d met at a ferry-stop, then for more food across the river from Lauenburg.

Looking at Lauenburg!

Lunch-stop 2, where you’re forbidden from walking on the wall. (I didn’t try cycling on it either.)

wood-piles

I hope the photos do justice to the scenery. Most of the route is at the bottom of the Deich holding the Elbe in place, so you can’t often see the actual river. But the scenery is gorgeous most of the time, and interesting when not. There’s quite a few thatched buildings, with gable-end rafters ending in carved horse-heads. Most of the old (and many of the new) buildings are made of red bricks, with the occasional bit of half-timbering.

The only problem is the cycle-path surface. It’s mostly 4-metre long slabs of concrete. That’s great for longevity, but not so good for fleshy suspension because there are bumps between the slabs.

one of Blekede’s bike-shop’s attractions

Anyway, we arrived at Blekede just before 5pm, and gave been wonderfully fed at the Elbhotel Blekede. Give it a try: the family who own it are a lot of fun, the chef can cook so well that our tastebuds and stomachs are in love, and the beer slips down more easily than I can say in any language. Just bring your insect repellent. (I don’t blame the hotel at all for this need. It’s high summer near a lot of water!)

And to end these ramblings, here’s today’s cyclemeter map. 50 miles today. I’ll update the log later.

A few more Bruce-pix

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where the hoopty froods come from

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Deichkontrol?

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