Day two in Denmark -a wet one! 10th June

Woke at four with sleepiness and lethargy deciding that rain wouldn’t arrive for a few hours. Woke again at six and immediately changed that decision. I’ve never packed up camp as fast. However good fortune was again with me as I arrived in Haderslev just as the rain did and I dived into a supermarket cafe. Unknowingly, I had the best part of the day.

The western coastline of Lille-baelt is charming, rolling hills, lakes and long views east across the water. I hung onto those thoughts throughout the day.

There isn’t too much to say about today. On leaving the supermarket cafe the rain returned with a vengeance as I cycled to Kolding. The camera remained in it’s pocket. I got drenched. I also got three punctures all in the rear tyre and all within a two miles. My thanks for the owners of the open sided garage for lending me the dry space to repair the first puncture. I did ring your door bell several times before taking the liberty. You have a very nice classic motorbike that should really be secured more effectively. There was no shelter for the second puncture and for the third Benjamin and the family who he has just started working for, assisted in getting me back on the road.

The plus side of the day? (because there always is), there was no wind and the cycleway was smooth and fast.

Anne, my established travel agent, general manager and tour operator, booked me into a B and B in Kolding. Where I’m now showered, shaved and the gear is drying out. Although I have failed to locate the sea view from my room, but found the provided ear plugs for the traffic noise.

Tomorrow will be a better day. That said, the rain and the punctures weren’t that irksome.

To finish, the only photo taken today was in Haderslev minutes before I dived under a pub parasol.

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Auf Wiedersehen im echten Norden. 9th June.

My last night in Germany was peaceful, just the sounds of nature, including the barking of a racoon some way off. Surrounded by tall grass with no buildings in sight, this was the most isolated site since some in Spain.

After a leisurely start, a fast ride of 28km had me in Flensburg by 8:30 and drinking a coffee in the town square where the Saturday market was in full swing.

I’m hoping to find Sankt Jurgen Strabe where there are some historic, albeit now upmarket, fishermen’s cottages.

I found the cottages, not in a location expected such as a warf or harbour, but behind more modern buildings remote from harbour. I also found the rain, or it found me. It is steady and heavy. What more of a reason does one need for another coffee:-

The rain eased and I continued to explore the town. Old buildings, a trumpet being played beautifully from high up in an ancient house, drew a small crowd. On the finish of a particularly rousing piece there was spontaneous clapping. The performer never showed themselves. The harbour with many types of ship including a Clipper.

The ‘Angel’s were in town. About thirty, leather clad sitting astride their Harley’s.

Note the age of the men. Probably original Cafe Racers. Also the stilettos the lady in black leather is wearing. Changing gear and breaking must be awkward for her. It hurts me to say that these bikers didn’t show as much interest in my bike as I did theirs.

On the gentle hill up to the last German supermarket before the run down to the country border, I passed two cyclists. The lady’s load must have lacked for nothing. I asked whether they were going to Nordkapp. They said that they were “nearly” going there. Near, being a relative word, I asked no more and said enthusiastically, but little conviction, that we would see each other again.

On The Border (Chris Rea). Once this boarder was policed heavily and had a nervous atmosphere about it. Now there is a relaxed procedure. Two police officers occasionally and at random check a vehicle’s contents from under a semi temporary structure and drink coffee from an urn in the rear of a transit van. There are no buildings.

So what changes once you have crossed the border. For the cyclist there is an immediate change. No more weaving around pedestrians or stopping at every minor road when cycling the major road. In Denmark the cyclist isn’t usually separated from other vehicles, but has a dedicated strip of road on both sides. No swapping from one side of the road to the other and playing Chicken with oncoming cyclists or tree roots that break up the tarmac and if not vigilant, provide crushing experiences both for the rider and bike. Put simply, in Denmark a rider can remain in the saddle for more than five minutes.

I wasn’t expecting such a dramatic change in the local wildlife or an even more relaxed attitude towards some subjects, (first shop over the bordered). I should have done a Google Street view and blanked out the number plate:-

Aabenraa was my first Danish town. On the approach there is a mixture of industry, shipping, marinas and holiday makers. The town, set on a slight hill, has cobbled streets and several well preserved streets of period buildings.

I was aiming to find a suitable camping spot with a sea view and stumbled on Genna Strand. With it’s quaint marina, white painted fishermen’s cottages and a circular walk around a small peninsula where you can find a Viking long ship at anchor. It is a gem of a location.

There are so many official camp sites in the area. There is the noisy young persons camp site, the ‘I’ve been thrown off Ryanair and Easyjet flights, men will be idiots’ site, the ‘all campers like loud music on Saturday nights, site, or if you are fortunate, there is the field with the cockoo and dabbling stream.

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Back to Basics. 8th June.

The town clocks are striking 9am in Rendsburg and already I’ve seen some diverse sights. A warm day lays ahead, which sits nicely with my intention to have a short one and stay at an official camp site on the banks of a lake or fjord near the busy, but picturesque town of Schleswig. The old part of this town is very appealing with immaculately maintained beautiful cottages, (even the climbing roses have their individual pailng fences half mooned around them). The streets are narrow and cobbled radiating from a small central church, who’s unusual circular graveyard is void of a single weed. ( there were two gardeners working there with an array of tools as I cycled slowly around).

Photos of Schleswig:-

Couldn’t resist this one.

I had slept well and again had no need for the sleeping bag. When I emerged from the tent at 5:30, there was a dense early morning mist laying over the field, this evaporated quickly as the sun shone through.

The railway line ran parallel to the road behind the hedge where I’d pitched the tent. This morning I again followed it until it became elevated on an extended steel structure that eventually bridged the river. The minimal supporting structure seemed incapable of carrying the weight of any train let alone extended freight trains.

It wasn’t immediately apparent how to cross the river into Rensburg. The road I had intended taking, most definitely didn’t entertain cycles. There had to be another way over, other than a ferry or another bridge some distance east. The Fussganger tunnel, not as grand as that under the Elbe, but equally convenient provided the solution.

Photo of the Fussganger Tunnel:-

What a pleasant town Rendsburg is, with it’s brick and cobble sett streets, old buildings and enormous cobbled square. There is a relaxed, tranquility about the whole town. The modern buildings have been blended well with the old, save perhaps for H&M and C&A. The brick built church surrounded by Sycamore trees under which the smooth brick path runs caused me concern. My bike had developed an immediate fault and was about to fall apart, such was the noise from both the front and rear. The bike beside me was also about to fall apart, as were all the bikes around me. The noise was being produced by the sticky Sycamore tree deposits on the smooth surface. This was acting like a suction between the tyres and bricks.

As I write and drink coffee here in Rendsburg,

Photo of a cup of coffee and …..:-

I have a character sitting at my table in the town square, he has an incredibly long mustache, ponytail, an ornate ring for each of his fingers and a different country’s flag painted on each of his fingernails and an inability to recognise that I’m unable to understand what he is saying. He is probably a very interesting person, but I have no way of telling.

So it’s 9:30 am, I have no idea what lays ahead today, or tomorrow, or any other day until Nordkapp and that’s what makes this journey so enjoyable. So best get some water and get moving.

I didn’t find the campsite beside the Fjord, well I did, but the wrong sort, it was only for Camper vans and Utility Vehicles, some housing motorbikes in their rear compartments! So I’ve headed north through a weird area of a square mile, east of Schleswig consisting of numerous large buildings all boarded up. It looked like an old barracks, but with a renovated windmill in the middle.

So my last night in Germany, only 17km to Flensburg and then about 12km to the border with Denmark. I’m camped not in an official camp site, but a field of long grass listening to the evening bird song and a cuckoo drinking the finest German beer I could find. Life is good, but definitely back to basics.

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The Second Half starts. 7th June.

This morning the whistle blew for the start of the final 4,000 km.

Anne and I had a great time discovering Hamburg. It’s industrial and maritime history, the Speicherstadt museum, the incredible Minatur Wunder museum, the water light show to music and the St. Pauli tunnel among others. We had a beautiful apartment that was so peaceful given it was in the city. With the windows wide open throughout the night, there was silence broken only by an enthusiastic Black bird at first light who sang with gusto from exactly the same place on the roof of the opposite house every morning.

With additional clothing and replenished stocks of energy additives and toiletries and warmer clothing, including cycling shoes, my load is heavier than previously and trying not to increase the overall volumn was difficult.

The weather has been perfect for days now and is set to stay warm to hot for a few more.

Some photos of Hamburg:-

Minatur Wunder World. We took so many photos at this wonderful big kids playground.

Maritime Museum.

Water-Light to music performance.

St. Pauli tunnel which runs under the Elbe and is accessed via deep shafts on either side of the river. Built in 1911, it is 400m long and cyclists are required to push their bikes through the tunnel.

I write this on the headland of a cornfield, where the tent is pitched on soil. No rain is forecasted, lets hope its accurate otherwise it’s going to get messy. The temperature hit 31 degrees today. However this is a shady spot with a cooling breeze and minimal mozzies and flies.

I’ve decided to try and reduce the daily distances back to my original targets. Having arrived several days too early in the Hamburg area, it was good to spend time going off route for some sightseeing, but this wasn’t the intention. I’m in danger of doing the same both for Gothenburg and Oslo, where three days have already been allocated for each city. The main reason for this is the surfacing of an old injury. Several years ago I sustained a sever knee injury in a climbing accident whilst descending one of the Russian Snow Leopard mountains in poor conditions. The accident could have been far worse for the three of us, but it has left me with a permanently weakened right knee. Riding every day is testing it, particularly the constant stopping and starting at side roads and transferring body weight to the front wheel to reduce the shock loading to just the pannier weight on the rear wheel when going up and down curbs. Cycle paths have their merits but require more vigilance than when riding on the main carriageway and it isn’t possible to maintain a constant speed for more than a few minutes. If I don’t exceed the intended daily distances the knee should hold out, otherwise it’s a cocktail of pain killing drugs.

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Day Three of Four Sightseeing. 31st May

The storm cleared the humidity for the night and with the sun again warming the air at 6am, it promises to be a hot day.

After the storm the night was beautifully silent until aggressive barking started about 2am. Previously I had put this sound down to Roe deer, as foxes are far less common and make a different sound. However cornfields are less favoured by deer than wood and grass land. Chatting with Anne this morning I mentioned it. She did a search and as a result we have learnt something. Germany has a racoon problem, a ‘one million’ problem. Although they cull 60,000 a year, they are still a growing problem and a menace. First introduced from America before WW2 they were farmed for their pelts. During the war a stray bomb landed on one of these farms allowing around 24 to escape. Now, Germans love their hunting, hence why most fields are covered by line of sight with raised timber stands where the rifle men shoot from. For variety of prey, more racoons were released. Similar story to the seven rabbits released in Australia, originally again to provide sport shooting. That also went a little off track. So maybe it has been racoons barking on every occasion I’ve heard the sound. I also now know traps baited with chocolate are used, care needs to be taken when walking through undergrowth. Racoons carry disease and are not shy. They have been know to get on a train. Presumably by accident, or have they taken to commuting.

Today’s sightseeing involved visiting some beautiful towns via country roads, all, bar one having cycle ways.

The day started with a ride through woods on a dirt track and finished sitting on the bank of the river Elbe watching Container ships and two emergency services speed boats in action.

Arriving in the town Buchholz at 7:30 am nothing was open except for one coffee shop- fortunately! By 8:30 there were many cafe’s open and hundreds of people around. Wenzendorf was nice and the larger town of Buxtehude was special, however the prize, should one be needed, must go to Stade.

From Stade it is only about 50km into Hamburg. I was tempted to use a proper camp site this evening anticipating back to back industry along the Elbe south bank. What a lovely surprise having walked up a flight of steps that took you over the flood embankment, there was the river, maybe half a mile across and immediately I saw a Container ship that was going into Hamburg using the northern channel behind an island and not ten minutes ago two emergency services speed boats skimmed the water going flat out on blue lights. The whole bank is still rural. So peaceful, apart from a drone that is spying on a few of us beneath. It’s currently over the water- we can but hope the batteries aren’t the Rabbit ones.

Tomorrow I’ll ride into the German chancellor’s home city. I would like to use the historic tunnel that goes under the river, if I can find it.

So some sights from today:-

This lovely water mill and wheel went without mention. There are so many eye catching structures.

Buxtenhude historic centre.

Historic centre of Stade.

The historic centre of Stade, yes I was impressed.

Container ships heading up stream to Hamburg. The second one is behind the island and pylon.

Wild camp beside the Elbe. Last for a while. An apartment awaits in Hamburg. Picking Anne up from the airport and no she isn’t going to do a seven km. ‘Croggy’.

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Thunder and Good fortune. 30th May

A second night with no need for a sleeping bag, it’s very warm and muggy. Through the night I was being crawled over by small ants. I wondered how they had got into the tent. Over the years I must have spent hundreds of nights in tents. This one opens on both sides and I usually use the left side. Last night due to where it was pitched, I used the right. I had failed to fully close the left side that morning and scores of little ants had come searching, inquisitive little creatures. My fault, silly mistake, coinciding with there being ants around. This prompted an early breakfast and pack up. The clouds built rapidly, looking very ominous. A bus shelter would be handy. Sometimes fortune does favour. Not two miles down the road in the little village of Oldendorf there was more than a bus shelter. A four metre wide hexagonal covered barbeque area with lighting and power was waiting. Within minutes the rain arrived accompanied by thunder building to a crescendo. If the ants hadn’t invaded, then everything would have got very wet.

Minutes before the storm in Oldendorf.

On the ride onto Luneburg I travelled on a concrete road with expansion joints, but this one is in Germany, not America. It was smooth and definitely not an invitation for Mr and Mrs Boil and the baby Boils to start travelling with me again, (see blog Seattle to Boston in 40 Days). I stopped on this road to put sun cream on. My casual glance at a lorry driver as he passed had me instantly angry, he was turning the page of the book he was reading that was placed on the steering wheel. Estimated vehicle speed, about 40mph, chances of survival of a cyclist if rear ended- NIL. You have to wonder how many others are doing the same.

Luneburg is a very impressive town, from it’s cobble streets, to an amazing array of different building styles. Not only did the designers achieve individuality with the angles and shapes that form the skyline, they also used brick, stone and timber to make the whole external appearance as ornate as possible. Several horse drawn carriages, pulled by two Belgium horses a piece take tourists around the old parts of this quaint town.

Here is a taster of Luneburg:-

After a very pleasant few hours in Luneburg, made just that bit better with an excellent ice cream for one Euro! I did my evening shop early and headed NW for Luhdorf ( where there is a massive Amazon warehouse) and Pattensen. Again a suitable camping spot couldn’t be found. En-route I visited the woods, as nature called, only to have it confirmed that the mosquitoes are both starving and exist not as individuals but one harmonious cloud of blood suckers. With the sole intention of draining me of mine. Sitting on the saddle for the next few miles was not a pleasant experience. I cycled on through Thieshope, Brackel, Asendorf and into the up market town of Jesteburg, where shortly after, I found a lane that looked promising. The tent was pitched on the edge of a wheat field behind a lane hedgerow.

The clouds had been building rapidly. No sooner had I got the tent up when a repeat of this morning occurred. Preceded with long, loud rumbles of thunder, there was a crack of thunder almost above, spontaneously followed by a sustained flash of lightning. The wind came from no where, blowing the hedgerow and then a curtain of rain swept across the sky, within a few seconds it had travelled across the field I’m in. To increase the drama further, the thunder was literally continuous for twenty minutes, there was never a quiet moment. Always rolling, frequently crashing, it was quite a show. I can’t recall having ever experienced such a storm before. Now, the birds are singing, everything is dripping and still the thunder can be heard in the distance.

Storm imminent.

Storm front arrives.

The day started with a storm and closed with a spectacular one and the ‘old Git’ didn’t get wet, now that makes a change.

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Photos for 28th and 29th May blogs.

I’m now in our Hamburg apartment and loading up five blogs and Strava rides. As previously, some blogs load the photos without a problem, whilst others omit them completely.

Not that any of you will be into Strava, but since last year if you load a series of rides they no longer appear sequentially. You now need an additional App to correct the random entries, that I’ve yet to get.

Anyway hopefully here are the omitted photos from the above two Blogs.

28th May

Statue in Munster. The town is the nearest to Bergen-Belsen, a large military camp. There must have been a platoon in the supermarket when I was there.

My pitch for the night – not realising hunters would be after deer until the small hours.

The site even had facilities.

29th May.

The monument near the platform from where prisoners were marched to Belsen.

Before the mass murdering began.

Belsen covered an enormous area, this is just one small corner.

Back in Munster having had the bike serviced.

Munster has a collection of reconstructed medieval building adjacent to a working water mill.

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