What a wonderful part of Germany this is. 25th May

It is 6:30 am, I am looking down the hill to a small pond surrounded by reeds. There are ducks on the water and from the water’s edge a small deer has fixed me with a frozen stare. The weather is perfect, still windy though. This is the life, only the sounds of nature and solitude. I pack up, check the bike – puncture front tyre, couldn’t care, life is still good.

I cycled less than a mile and had to stop. I was surrounded by small managed lakes teeming with wildlife. Ducks of numerous variety, swans, rabbits, hare and more deer. No wonder the gentleman had wanted me to move up the hill into the trees to camp. I had no idea I was on the edge of what is probably a wildlife sanctuary.

I cycled through beautiful lanes to Harpstedt. Well maintained and profitable farms abound. There is a fair amount of intensive pig rearing going by the telltale odours. There is money in this area. The photo below is of a bus stop. Would you actually want the bus to arrive with these facilities?

Similarly there seems to be no expense spared even for the birds when they are waiting for the bus.

Every bus stop has a cycle stand adjacent to it. The process being that bus passengers cycle from home, part their bikes, have a picnic and never get wet whilst waiting for a bus that always arrives within one minute of the timetable. German efficiency!

Now in Harpstedt with it’s red brick church:-

And working windmill:-

This town, with cobbles streets, void of litter, with a place for everything, reminds me of a German town north of Adelaide in Australia, build by German immigrants to remind them of their Fatherland.

All the traffic that hasn’t been around this morning was forming massive traffic jams through the suburbs of Bremen. Just to confirm that my initial reluctance to embrace the cycle ways of Germany is now history. I have cycled only for a few miles actually on a road with other vehicles and whenever, which is frequently, a cycle path crosses adjacent roads ALL motorised vehicles give way, unless traffic lights say otherwise, or your the young driver three days ago coming up a slip road off the motorway looking in the wrong direction. Your face was a study in horror, as you thought you were about to exterminate an old English cycling git. The cycle paths are wonderful, but progress is considerably slower, although so much safer, ( when drivers are vigilant). This means that none of the traffic congestion affects cyclists, this in turn encourages more to cycle. Hence the thousands of cycles.

I’m now in a hostel for a few nights and have swapped the sounds of nature and solitude for the sounds of trams, trains, buses, cars and aircraft. The positives are, no tics and no cyclist eating dogs.

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They didn’t return with guns. 24th May.

With their reference to me being safe because they didn’t have their guns, a thought was sown and in the depths of sleep, grew. They seemed nice enough though.

I didn’t know how early the farmer would arrive to start silage making. Unlike hay, morning dew is no problem, so I was away by 6am in anticipation of the farmers arrival.

A beautiful cool sunny day, (still a brisk NE wind). In Vorden the bakery was open at 6:30. The lady serving spoke perfect English. When I asked her where she had learnt, she shrugged her shoulders and said, school, many many years ago. I wish I had listened to my language teacher, Ms Burgess, all 6ft of her and size 11 shoes.

Damme, the next town was still asleep, except for this character in the town square.

Each town in this area has a large red bricked church, all of regular shape and void of ornate architecture. Many of the streets are cobbled that form various patterns, all relatively recently laid.

Arriving in Steinfeld you could be forgiven for thinking you were in race horse country. Life size statues of horses all in the same pose adorn the town and surrounding area.

I liked the reference to Coventry.

It was here I had my second coffee, not two hours from the first, we are killing time – I have eight days to do 200km.

Sitting having my coffee, a lady using a wheeled zimmer frame came in. She parked the frame in a deliberate and precise manner, turning it to face the direction of her intended exit. Perhaps alcohol was to be consumed and the immediate support of the frame would be essential. The frame could not have been more central in the confined space, but was obviously a procedure well practised. She sat at a round table laid for eight to eat. Then the waitress arrived with two enormous oval plates laiden with food. A conversation between this lovely lady and me commenced. She was enthusiastically telling me everything about …… I have no idea and similarly my responses were taken as if they were completely understood. The reality was that neither of us comprehended a word of what the other said. So how was it possible to have this ongoing dialogue? We both smiled and used expressions. Did it really matter if we were none the wiser, it was an exchange of happiness. Maybe she intended to eat all the food before her Brunch colleagues arrived.

Also in Steinfeld there was a perfect example of a half timbered barn seen so frequently in the region.

Lohne, another large red bricked church at it’s centre and a very good market where I bought smoked salmon and strawberries. A strange combination, but very nice.

Just south of Lohne I happen to look to my left into a large window and caught sight of a fleet of classic cars and a few motorbikes. There was no signage to say why they were there. The collection included a 1940 Wanderer motorcycle, an Esabella coupe, a 220S Merc. and a Porsche Standard tractor. Yes, Porsche made tractors before cars.

I believe I have entered the German equivalent town of Cheltenham, Harrogate or Bath. The ladies are dressed for luncheon as others would for an evening meal. Some men are wearing ties. Designer clothes outlets and jewelry shops abound. High class cafes host well heeled customers, me being the exception what with no tie, unshaven and looking as though I’ve been on the road for a few days. Not a single vehicle is over two years old and all spotlessly clean. What a difference a few miles make. I understand that Vechta is one of the homes to those who earn the highest salaries in Germany. The shops reflect this, Esprit, Marco O’ Polo, Leos and Weiss. All facing me from across the street.

New York cheesecake and an excellent coffee. Life is hard work sometimes. Since Tarifa I have lost 7kg. My arms are scrawny and my legs reflect the work they have done over nearly two months. The problem will arise when the cycling stops. The determination to stop eating will have to be considerable.

Another fantastic camping spot for tonight, although it took some finding. Having chosen my site I sat for a hour, drank a beer and noted that one cyclist and one tractor had passed in that time and if I stayed low in the tall grass I was invisible. Time to pitch the tent, I stood up and looked straight into the faces of a couple walking their dog not ten metres away. “OH!” I said, a pregnant pause followed. “Good evening “, said the sweaty cyclist, “may I camp here?” It’s all about timing. Their dog, a large one of an unknown breed, was enthusiastic about me. He smiled, showing a complete set of both top and bottom teeth. He was that enthusiastic about me that he was emitting a rubbling sound from deep inside. Had he not been attached by a lead to his master, I’m sure he would have now been attached to one of my legs.

The gentleman was adamant I could not stay there. However after some persuading he suggested I camped in the trees at the top of the hill. So here I am under a Crabapple tree hunkered down in the Cow Parsley. Only thing is that they know I’m here, but again, in a few days time not even the grass will show that anyone has been here.

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Coffee and Sightseeing. 23rd May

I like Germany. As cyclists we see more than most, what is discarded from vehicles, the pizza boxes, the take away coffee and soft drinks cups and plastic bottles and broken glass, most at a calcuable distance from where they were purchased. Lets see if we can apply a formula:-

PoP = Point of Purchase.

CPET = Car Park Exit Time.

ETD = Eating Travel Distance.

PH’s = Progress Hinderences. ie. Traffic lights, roadworks and cyclists.

ET of P = Ejection Time of Product, ie. electric or manually operated windows and time to remove spilt produce from lap – without mowing down a cyclist.

So to apply the formula lets say:-

PoP+CPET+EDT- the total of all PH’s+ETofP(with a loading value of 5:1 for manually operated windows or if hands are covered with Ketch-up). Once calculated, discarded ‘take away’ food WILL be found in the roadside verge as ‘throw away’ rubbish.

BUT not in Germany. It’s amazing, yes Spain, to a lesser degree France and certainly the UK. From where I am sitting in a busy area having my third caffeine fix of the day, I can not see a single piece of litter. Enough of this philosophical clap-trap, but there is a point to be made.

Today has been laid back, almost horizontal. I’m some days ahead of my schedule and at this rate will be arriving in Hamburg a few days before Anne. So I’m ambling along, or is that rambling?

The weather has been near perfect, save for that pesty NE wind. Before I convert you all to the attributes of travelling as a free agent and wild camping, one final mention of a less favorable aspect. Tics, yes, previously mentioned but I have acquired several more. These little criters usually aren’t very large. These however were minute! Only having used the camera on Macro setting and enlarged the image, could you identify the little ****. Less than a mm! They had buried their heads in my skin under my watch strap and in my chest. Not for the squeamish, but these seemingly innocuous parasites can carry some serious diseases. I’ve developed a method of minimising the chances the effect of their generous, but unwanted fluids may have. I have a small Swiss army knife given to me on my retirement from the Fire Service by the then OIC of Summerbridge, Pete Somerville. The Method- remove tic with tic remover, insert knife blade into skin on site of where tic’s head was submerged. Now the easy bit, get it to bleed. As I have no idea how long the tic has been feasting, the whole process is far from exact, but if what they have injected can be washed out, then perhaps some horrible disease has be averted. Finally and importantly, sterilize the area.

Ah lad, yesterday was a rit joy. T’was like being back in Yorkshire, what with them there cobbles in roods. Was surprised not t’ see locals in clogs and flat caps. Mind yus, they were talking rit funny like.

The city of Munster is captivating. It’s architecture, the peaceful atmosphere, even though thousands of people are moving around. The cleanliness and order and not forgetting the patience of everyone. It lacked that intense urgency that so many people who live and work in cities have.

Today the treats continued. After an enormous breakfast at the hotel Europa, I headed for Tecklenburg.

This Medieval hilltop town was certainly worth the hill climb to it’s centre. Where I was met by a portly and friendly police officer’s smile. Sweating I may have been, but I’m jolly sure it had been many years since he had cycled up the 300m elevation. Still can’t get use to them all wearing guns slung low on their hips like a Smith and Weston. The character of Horse, from Bonanza came to mind.

The run down the hill from Tecklenburg to an enhanced oxygenated atmosphere was a delight, reaching terminal velocity on my ‘rig’ for the first time in many days.

Not that I know much about The German people, but I wouldn’t have them down as being too much into quirky things, more practical and forthright. So the edifice on this roundabout was a surprise.

This evening I’ve found a great camp site near the small town of Lappenstuhl. There is a beautiful setting sun which is highlighting the Silver Birch and Pine trees. A massive modern wind turbine is rotating slowly and again, has the sun reflecting from it and there are NO mozzies.

There are now only 200 km to cycle to Hamburg and seven days until Anne arrives. I am averaging around 90 to 100 km a day. So have decided to have some time in Bremen.

The next two weeks are going to be relaxing and as Hamburg marks the halfway point between Tarifa and Nordkapp, (excluding all the climbing in northern Spain and The Pyrenees), this break will be a good launching pad to continue through Germany, into Denmark, Sweden and then the long trip north through Norway.

A FOOT NOTE:-

Four gentlemen and two GSP dogs (German Shorthaired Pointers), have just turned up. They were very friendly and told me that the farmer is cutting the grass for silage early tomorrow and they have come to remove the fawns that will not run away. They were very pleasant and interested in my ride. However I think I ought to be on my way early tomorrow in case the tractor driver is on his phone texting when he gets to my tent.

It any of you four gentlemen do read this. It was good to meet you and to know that the deer are removed prior to grass cutting.

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And a few more photos that went AWOL. 22nd May

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WordPress and photos. 22nd May

So having loaded up five blog entries from my hotel room, where I’m now clean and shaven after several nights rough camping and was feeling quite content. Only on checking the website did that contentment evaporate. Why do all photos load for two entries and the others don’t. Same pixel sizing! Anyway, as previously, I reload the photos, sorry guys.

How did they know we were arriving in Munster.

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Thunder and Lightning very, very Frightening. 22nd May

Found a flat grassed headland to camp on last night and was entertained by the antics of half a dozen Hares chasing each other in the grass as dusk arrived. Slept very well, but was woken by a massive machine that I first thought was in my dream. It was a hay bailer and I was about to be chopped into segments and rolled into winter fodder. In reality it was a grass verge cutter on the road side of the hedge. Although I wasn’t aware of this until I cycled past it later.

During the night the thunder and lightning had again been spectacular. The thunder was quite something. Needless to say I have a wet tent to dry out in my hotel this evening. Yes, its that time again, three nights roughing it and I need to charge my devices and get a shower and shave. So here I am in the wonderful city of Munster. The ride in was a short one in early morning sunshine. Here are a few photos:-

The double layer cycle park at Munster railway station.

St.Lamberti church.

Shops on Prinzipalmarkt opposite St. Lamberti church square.

St. Paulus-Dom (cathedral).

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In favour of cycle paths. 21st May

I need to retract some of my criticism of cycle paths. Unlike many in other countries, they do not stop just outside the towns. They run for miles along side major roads. This makes cycling these routes so much more enjoyable and safer, regardless of the damage caused to the cyclist’s rump, (see tree root reference- yesterday).

The neat little town of Alpen. Note the classic car, there are many around.

The bridge over the Rhein to the west of Wesel. I missed the cycle path approach that started a mile away from a disused road (no signs). Once committed to the bridge with regular traffic there was a 4 foot high barrier to protect cyclists, no way of getting to the other safer side. However once on the bridge you could frustratingly see the cycle path approach route, mmmm! The bridge is a beautiful piece of engineering.

Embrace the wind! Today it has increased noticeably. Still no change in it’s general direction, into my face. Sometimes I feel as though I’m pushing a London double decker bus sideways into it. So today the head phones went in and Genesis filled my head and 100 kms later I arrived in Haltern where there was this reminder should I do too much cycling.

And this more disturbing one:-

Haltern is in a festive spirit. The town square filled with people enjoying the sun. It was here that a gentlemen approached me and asked about my trip. He was a keen cyclist having ridden the Tour de France a few years ago. He offered his age at 68 years young. His son and grandson looked in awe at him. It invited my comment that he was an inspiration to them. The response was three smiles of agreement.

Haltern town square.

Supper!

Off to find a quiet rural spot to sleep tonight. It’s going to be a windy night.

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