Bring Your Own TP

Day 73: June 30th, Bad Bentheim to De Pollen, The Netherlands

We had a big breakfast, thanks to the kitchen in our room.

It was a bit wet and grey, but not bad, and we covered the last 10 km of Germany quickly.

The part of the Netherlands we rode through is apparently very popular for weddings. We saw a couple of brides, even though it was a Friday.

We found that often the cycle paths were better than the paralleled.

More rain to come, so we looked for a campground with cabins. We found one, and were happy to get it. It was cheap, but it also apparently hadn’t been opened up for the season yet: cobwebs and a grubby floor.

The campground itself was oddly empty. There seemed to be groups of wild children all over the place, and hardly anybody else. There was a bar (closed), a big lounge (locked up).

We had also read that most Dutch campgrounds don’t supply toilet paper. This was true here, but furthermore, there was no hand soap, hot water, or any way to dry your hands at the toilets. When we found the showers, we discovered the women’s section was locked, so Deb and I brushed our teeth in the men’s. No worries, because, like I said, there was hardly anybody around.

Distance: 50 km

$23

Run for the Border

Day 72: June 29th, Bad Iburg to Bad Bentheim, Germany

There was rain coming, so we got out early, heading west, mostly on busy roads, towards the border with the Netherlands.

It was very flat and quick, but not particularly noteworthy until we reached our destination: a small hotel in Bad Bentheim.

Bad Bentheim is really nice, and has a really impressive castle. We chose a promising old bar and had a couple beers.

Our place had laundry machines, and our room had a mini-kitchen. We took full advantage.

Distance: 80 km

$115

Thunderstorms

Day 71: June 28th, Bad Iburg, Germany

With big thunderstorms coming we stayed an extra day in Bad Iburg. We walked around the town and got ice cream. Deb bought a USB key for more photos.

Detail from a sculpture that was part of a water feature

I cleaned the chains on the bikes and we did some planning while watching the rain.

Distance: 0

$91

Big Bad Hills

Day 70: June 27th, Diepholz to Bad Iburg, Germany

Our Diepholz hotel included a small breakfast, which we made bigger by purchasing fried eggs. Then we got back on the D7 south.

Mostly country roads, and at one point we rode through wetlands where many serious birdwatchers were set up with their big cameras.

Remains of a Neolithic tomb

We rode into Osnabrück, a fairly large city with a beautiful old town. It wasn’t a fun ride in: too many cars and trucks, and not enough bike lanes. But when we finally got past the crust, we enjoyed the soft centre. We bought decadent big cheese pretzels, and then had ice cream cones while wandering around and looking at the old buildings.

We were mostly on the D7 heading to our Airbnb destination, and we finally ran out of flat land. Our last twenty kilometres were pretty gruelling.

The start of the rolling hills

The apartment turned out to be great: very big, and with a full kitchen. Deb hurried to a grocery store before it closed and I showered, shaved, and managed to lock myself outside. Fortunately our hosts had a very friendly cat who kept me company until Deb came back and we found the guy who could let us in.

It was already starting to rain, and the forecast called for a day of thunderstorms. The place was so nice (and reasonably priced) we extended our stay for another night. Time to do some laundry, oil the bike chains, arrange for our trip to the UK, and get the blog caught up.

Distance: 80 km

$59

German Valentine

Day 69: June 26th, Bremen to Diepholz, Germany

We packed up the bikes without seeing our hosts, so we left a note. We also didn’t have a place to stay, but figured we’d find a “zimmer” in some town on the D7 cycle route.

With all the recent rain we were a bit concerned that a national cycle route would mean mud and soft gravel, but the D7 turned out to be very nice. Lots of farmland, some woods, good terrain.

I watched the bikes and did phone research while Deb popped into a grocery store. I discovered a reasonably priced hotel in the middle of Diepholz, a town within a reasonable riding range.

The room was very nice, and the restaurant looked a little swanky for us. But it had an inviting bar. After cleaning up (it was a sweaty ride) we went in to have a look. There was a woman behind the bar, and a guy having a beer. It turned out that they were the proprietors. We had local pilsner and, with some language issues, managed to a have a nice talk. They explained “May Birches” – strangely naked birch trees we’d seen in towns. (Guys put them up and decorate them to express love to a girl – like a giant valentine). They also told us about their own travels around Europe. As we got ready to go out, we were presented with another round, and finally a traditional shot of chilled aquavit.

Distance: 75 km

$108

Town Musicians

Day 68: June 25th, Bremen, Germany

We were at the bridge over the Weser River, almost in Bremen’s historic old town, when the rain hit. We hid under a tree, and while we waited the cafe behind us opened: a perfect excuse for coffee. It worked out well, as the rain tapered off (though it came back off and on later), and it was a nice place with excellent coffee.

I was stunned at how impressive Bremen’s old town is. We’ve seen a lot of nice town squares with old town halls and big cathedrals, but Bremen’s is truly exceptional.

Detail from the Town Hall. Merpeople are a popular motif in Bremen.

The most famous thing in the market square is a sculpture of the “Town Musicians of Bremen“, after the fairytale by the Brothers Grimm. It has become a tradition to touch the donkey’s hooves and make a wish. The animals from the story are depicted all over the city.

Just off the square is the Böttcherstraße, a narrow alley of shops in architecturally significant buildings. The “Lightbringer”, a bright bronze relief at the entrance to the street, was intended to honour Hitler, but apparently the Nazis thought the whole street was an example of “degenerate art”, so it’s okay to like it.

Also on the Böttcherstraße is the Glockenspiel House, with bells of Meissen porcelain. Deb and I made a note of when the bells would ring next before moving on.

We wandered the maze of medieval streets called the Schnoor, and Deb purchased a knit boiled egg warmer that looks like a donkey.

We returned to listen to the glockenspiel, then went into the brewhouse right next door.

Strangely, we never saw our Airbnb host, Bar, again.

$112 plus souvenirs

Eid Night

Day 67: June 24th, Harsefeld to Bremen, Germany

It’s hard to rush out when you’re in a great B&B and it’s raining outside, even if you know you have a long ride ahead.

We thoroughly enjoyed the big breakfast Werner prepared for us before he drove off to spend the weekend with his girlfriend. Then Deb found us an affordable Airbnb in Bremen for the next two nights, and we slowly packed and prepped.

It was mostly mist, with a little full-on rain, and even a little sun. Because it was wet, we decided not to bother with any national cycle routes, as they love to send you onto gravel roads and into the woods, which is nice, but can often mean mud. They’re also usually much longer, as they wander around, and it was pretty far to Bremen.

Instead we used the Google Maps most direct route, which meant nice cycle separated cycle paths, but always next to roads, sometimes busy roads. Even then, there’s a lot of farms and small towns, and even some forest to keep things interesting.

There was a convenient break in the rain when we got to Zeven, where we ate a picnic lunch by a war memorial.

Bremen has significant sprawl, and we rode through the suburbs, following the trams heading downtown.

When we saw the Beck’s brewery, we knew we were close.

We texted our host, Bar, and waited outside the apartment building. Soon we heard, “Hello!” from a window four floors up. Bar came down and helped us with our awkward luggage, and we got acquainted. He and his cousin, Noor, are from Syria, and after settling us in they invited us to join them for dinner at about 10 p.m. We guessed it might be Ramadan, and Deb looked it up. Not only Ramadan, but the last day. This was a big dinner for these guys.

After the ride we’d couldn’t go entirely without food. We hit a grocery store and surreptitiously snacked. When the sun finally set, Bar set the table with a traditional Syrian meal: a green salad, followed by bulgar with an okra/tomato sauce and then chicken legs. It was delicious, but we couldn’t help feeling like we were imposing on these young migrants. Bar assured us that we were welcome, and explained how in ancient Syria, guests were automatically welcome for 40 days before a host could even ask them a single question.

Distance: 72 km

$94

A Final Farewell to the Elbe

Day 66: June 23rd, Krautsand to Harsefeld, Germany

The storms had passed, but it was misty when we woke up. Snug in our cabin, we didn’t get on the road until 11. It was cloudy, but dry by then.

The campground was right on the Elbe cycle route, so we were immediately on a path beside the river.

We had no idea that Stade was a nice place, but we stopped at the tourist office looking for cycle maps and noticed a promising little street. Following it, we discovered an amazing port-side neighbourhood full of bars and cafes. We had to stop for a patio beer.

We followed the river route a little longer but finally we came to the crossroads where the Elbe Cycle Route went toward Hamburg (only 31 km away – we almost came full circle) and the Mönchsweg (Monks’ trail) went toward Bremen.

The forecast called for a lot of rain overnight, so Deb found us a tiny Bed and Breakfast. Werner our host was also a bike tourer and hiker. Unfortunately, his big tour was of Ireland, not Holland. I was hoping he’d have some route tips. I’ll be doing a lot of research tonight.

Distance: 55 km

$102

Tropical Storm

Day 65: June 22nd, Krautsand, Germany

Big bad weather was a-comin’, so we asked if we could have a cabin at the campground in Krautsand. No problem, they just needed some time to clean one up.

It turned out to be really nice. Simple, but with a good bed, a coffee maker, and tables inside and out. We had the key early enough to eat our breakfast in front of it.

Then we went shopping. We could see the dark clouds coming, so we brought rain gear. Good thing. The storm hit hard and fast. The winds were incredible. We waited at the shop until the worst of it passed, but we got soaked on the way back to our cosy cabin.

It cleared up for awhile, and we went for a walk. We saw a lot of trees torn up by the wind.

The Elbe here has a nice beach. We walked along it, dipping our feet in the cold water. I spotted a “message in a bottle”, we pulled it out, but felt that it was intended for a North Sea journey. Debbie threw it back in. At a bistro on the beach, we got a couple draft beers.

When the next storm hit, we were safe in our cabin. There was even a little hail.

$96

Reunited with the Elbe

Day 64: June 21st, Meldorf to Krautsand, Germany

We ate our breakfast (with coffee!) at a picnic table in front of the reception house of the campground. A car pulled up with the buns we’d ordered, fresh from the local bakery.

Soon after riding out, we stumbled across the North Sea Cycle Route, discovering that it moved inland near our campground. That made it easy to decide how to head south.

By early afternoon we’d rejoined an old friend: the Elbe, this time near the mouth of the river. Soon after we found a lovely port-side street of bars and restaurants, and we just had to stop for a patio beer.

Around the next corner we were momentarily confused by signs telling us that the cycle route to Glückstadt went onto a ferry. Sure enough, it was a short, free ride across the North Sea Canal.

We were now doing a section of the Elbe Cycle Route that we’d skipped before, as we’d started our journey farther south, in Hamburg. It was also the North Sea Cycle Route, and probably a few other routes as well.

Just before we entered Glückstadt, we took a ferry across the river, as the campgrounds are all on the other side. It was a bit of a wait, and we didn’t get across until just before 8 p.m. This meant that the camping reception was likely to be closed; not a problem at most campgrounds, but you never know.

Then Google Maps told us to cross the Wischhafener Süderelbe river on a drawbridge that was up, and showed no signs of coming down any time soon. It was a detour of many kilometres to find another way across.

At “Camping Am Leuchtturm” (Camping by the Lighthouse) there is a bar/restaurant, which was still open. They told us where we could camp, and that we could pay in the morning, no problem. We’d hoped to get a cabin, because of potential rain that night, but it was too late for that.

We set up (the only tenters again) next to a pretty lake, and ate our dinner at a table outside the camps’ bistro (which was closed). We tried tinned Herring in a tomato sauce – not bad.

Distance: 78 km

$67