River crossings to the Elbe

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May 27th 2008
Published: May 27th 2008
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Photos now up!

Well today is my birthday and what a way to spend it - battling more Siberian winds across northern germany. There have been some ups and downs, including my first breakage on the bike and the first rain of the trip but finally I've made it for a late lunch (which I'll skip as i've had so many mini-snacks on the way) to a place called Gluckstadt, just the other side of the magnificently muddy and uninteresting Elbe.

Since Groningen then the trip has taken a downward dip. You only have to look at the faces of the locals to know why. This part of the world is a dull windswept place, lacking any pretty little towns like Holland, but certainly not lacking in rain, at least not on the first day. It was almost precisely the same moment I was crossing the border into Germany (having seen some interesting stoneage relics predating stonehenge in a place south of Groningen) that I heard an unfamiliar snap. Pulling over several miles later to take a check I discovered a broken spoke, nothing terminal, but a worry - being a sunday I'd have to battle on anyway with an ever so slightly wonky back wheel (rubbing a little). At this moment the heavens opened and the wind picked up a notch to compound my 'what on earth am i doing this for?' feelings. Anyway I pushed on past undending oppulent mansions on the dutch side of the border, to a more farm orientated germany. Into my first biggish town called Weener. Obviously I had to get a photo of this, for my dad. The rain had turned into a steady drizzle that had long since saturated my rain jacket. I pushed on through more dull towns, no people, no central squares, no bicycles (except for an increasing number of rain-crazed tourers like me) and got on a cycle track through some woods, a welcome relief from the wind. The final push for the evening saw me at a place called Wiesmoor (which may or made not literally translate to wet, boggy moor, but certainly was). I pulled into a campsite which turned out to be one of those super-luxurious camper van only places so, having used their facilities, I skipped out the back and found a bit of sheltered moorland to pitch the tent in the rain. The Ortlieb panniers so far have been a godsend. Everything inside was bone dry, so despite having to hang all my cycling gear around me to dry at least I had dry stuff to sleep in. That night I slept pretty well, with just birds twittering around me and the comforting hum of about 10000 campervan generators floating in from the distance.

The morning saw the rain, but not the headwind, abating. Donning my still wet cycling gear I set on somemore, direction Wilhelmshaven, hoping for 1) that there'd be a bike shop there, and for 2) that there'd be a ferry across the bay there which would neatly save me about 20km cycling. Alas there was neither, there was an exceedingly nice cherry cream slice and a cool statue of a plaice on the main shopping street, but no bike shops. And when I went to get the ferry, he said 'Ja ja, next saturday 9 o'clock' Being that it was monday I figured I'd best cycle around the bay.

The bay itself was so muddy you'd think you could actually walk across it to the otherside - I stuck to the cycle path, and with a tailwind taking me the first half of the circle made speedy progress, taking in a number of unusual sculptures on the way (presumeably commisioned to break up the monotony of the coastline at this point). Pushing away from the bay I cut across to the ferry for Bremerhaven. I'd hoped to get there for 4pm and take in the famous shipping museum there, which even the lonely lanet raves about. Alas it was 6pm as I touched into town, so I raced down to the waterfront to see the staff all pouring out and locking up. Still there was much to see in the dockland area, old ships and new, and lots of new development made this the first interesting place I'd seen in Germany so far.

I avoided get lost on the way out by chance really - it's a big-ish city with some areas that look a wee bit rough, best not to get lost there after dark. That night (last night) I rolled up over my first hill of the trip and down the other side into a town called Bad Bederkesa which has it's own little lake and is not a bad spot at all. I ended up stopping for a beer, figuring I'd time for one before shooting around the lake and pitching the tent on the far side. As it happened I got chatting to an interesting German chap (another musician) who bought me another beer, whilst telling me how much he liked Scotland! So we ended up chatting till 10pm, and I was left with a frantic drunken cycle around the lake and tent-pitch in the fast disappearing twilight. One sausage later, I was fast asleep, dreaming no doubt of a nice comfy bed.

Today, my birthday. Well after taking a birthday portrait I whistled back into Bad Bederkesa as I'd been told by the german bloke the night before of a good cycle shop. He was right. The chap fixed my wheel, and a few other bits and bobs, so my bike is rolling like a dream now. Except of course in a dream you never get a headwind like you do here. I've just done a fairly uneventful 30 miles to get to the last river crossing on the north sea, the elbe, which runs down from Hamburg and beyond. The sun has peeped out just now so it looks like i might get pleasant cycling for the rest of the day. I might treat myself to a birthday beer, meal, shower, and/or bed tonight!

Day 8 - Groningen to Wiesmoor - 25/5
Dist (miles): 81.70
Ave speed (mph): 11.6
Max speed (mph): 20.0
Time on saddle: 7h00

Day 9 - Weismoor to Bad Bederkesa - 26/5
Dist (miles): 83.87
Ave speed (mph): 11.8
Max speed (mph): 21.5
Time on saddle: 7h04

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


28th May 2008

30th May 2008

Happy belated birthday
love the photos, looks like your having a fab trip!

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