Water Under The Bridge

After a decent night’s sleep, we were awoken by the neighbours (a group of teenage boys) chatting at about 05.00, and though we were loath to get out of our warm beds, we knew that we needed to get moving so that we could have time to dry our clothes the other end. Though we were dry inside the tent, there was a definite dampness to our stuff that had not been protected from the rain in time.

We set off to a watery sunrise, on what was a very still Sunday morning after the torrential storm of yesterday. Though we did not have too many miles to travel today, we were traversing Hamburg, which is Germany’s second largest city after Berlin, and as we are aware, city miles are considerably slower and more stressful than countryside miles.

The initial part of the route was through woodland, but soon we were coming to the outskirts of Hamburg. The cycle network was pleasant taking us through green spaces and away from the main roads, but inevitably we came to the busier arterial roads through the city. Hamburg is a major port city and is connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River. There are also hundreds of canals and evidently more than 2,496 bridges, and indeed we did feel like we crossed a fair few that morning, the first very impressive structure being the Alte Harburger Elbbruke, which now as a dedicated cycle/pedestrian way, is a joy to cross slowly and admire the elegant construction.

It was not too long before we hit a bit of an obstacle, our navigation system was sending us along a route that we could see from our vantage point was impossible, it was telling us to cross a major dual-carriageway, but there was a rather high concrete wall obstructing where we needed to pass. After assessing the lay of the land and referring to alternative routes, we were able to get back on track. However, hiccups like this happened another few times over the next hour or so, as it seems that there are considerable constructions going on to the cycle network.

Eventually we reached the more commercial built up area of the city and found that though slower, due to the frequent stops at intersections, our progress was far more straightforward. The fully integrated cycleways, with their own traffic signals, does make the going feel safe and less stressful, given that we were cycling through a major city, however we were still pleased that it was early on a Sunday and therefore though relatively busy with traffic, was much calmer than a week day! Hamburg though is immense, and it seemed to take us an age to get through, but eventually the houses became larger and the surroundings greener as we reached the outskirts prior to open country. By this time, though it was only 08.30, we had obviously been in the saddle for two hours and were in need of a break, and as luck would have it we passed a supermarket of the brand that we knew has a bakery/coffee shop attached and were soon sat at a proper table drinking coffee and eating streusel cake.

The camp site that we had identified to head for, was not actually that far out of Hamburg, though it felt like a different world as it was in the middle of woodland and surrounding a lovely lake. As we cycled up we stopped at the gates just as a car drew up and opened them, we then blithely pedalled in behind them, set to make our way to the reception. However, the lady driving the car informed us that this was essentially a private camp site, and though it had previously been possible to camp if you are passing through, since Covid it had essentially closed down to ‘outsiders’ and was accessible only to those who have permanent pitches there. She did say though that she was not sure if things were being relaxed and we could come in and she would speak to someone in charge. We followed her in to find that the office would not be open until 11.00, but she thought that as we were one small tent for one night, it might be ok so showed us were the tent area was for us to wait. We did not want to be presumptuous by setting up our tent so we got out our chairs and put our wet clothes out to dry in the sun. Fortunately the lady in charge arrived early, and was lovely about us staying, saying there would be absolutely no problem, so we settled in for the rest of the day before making the excursion for supper provisions. As we were now ‘insiders’ we were entrusted with a gate key, which also opened the ablutions, this one of us wore around their necks like it was ‘the precious’.

When we retired to bed, there was a definite ripeness to the odour inside the tent, which we narrowed down to our shoes (particularly Mr V’s) that had been drenched the previous day, but whereas I had stuffed mine with paper towel, both Mr V’s shoes and socks had been allowed to marinate, and were now diffusing a certain ripe Brie odour.

Part of the sites attractions was what was referred to as the ‘pond’ but what was in fact a sizeable lake, which had a lovely small sheltered beach near the site itself. The weather had been warm so children had been enjoying larking about until quite late into the evening, so we had not wanted to intrude. However, as we usually wake up early, and this morning it was light at about 05.00 so we thought it would be nice to have a swim in the lake before setting off. We could also see if we could submerge the slightly deflating thermarest and see if we could identify the leak and patch it. The swim was lovely, after the initial chill, the water was actually not that cold at all. It was teeming with fish, perhaps making the most of the quiet water before the children woke, it was blissful swimming amongst nature in the warm still morning, though the little floating water snails did detract from the overall loveliness for me. Unfortunately the source of the air seepage from the thermarest remained elusive, so we continue to take turns in sleeping on it. Showering after our swim, I intended to wear a cycling top that had been dried in the sun the previous day, only to find that it was definitely not fresh smelling. It appears, that our damp clothes, which had been warmed in the defective tumble dryer, and then sat in the sun inside a watertight bag during the journey, and then dried in the sun, had in fact festered somewhat and infused the essence of ripe sock. Needless to say, I changed quickly to a ‘clean’ top.

Despite our swim and a quick shower, we were still packed up and setting off before 08.00, but could already feel that there was going to be real heat in the sun as the day wore on. We were heading for Lubeck, where we had booked accommodation for two nights as we are overdue a rest day. The route took us some way along a disused railway line which meant that it was lovely and flat. Once we had left this behind though, the countryside was definitely more undulating and it was hot work as the sun rose higher in the sky and each of the hills seemed to take an increasing effort, that the payoff of the cooling downhills did not quite make up for. Eventually though we reached Lubeck, and though I had agreed an early check in, we still had a few hours to kill, so given the heat and that we could not exactly lug the laden Talula around, we found an area of wooded parkland near to our accommodation and made ourselves comfortable. We think that there must be a retirement home close to where we occupied a bench, as a steady stream of little old ladies walked past, saying hello and then resting a while on the neighbouring bench, before moving on.

As the time neared to be able to check in, we gathered up our stuff and made our way to Hansekammern, where we were staying. We were pleased to see that the house had an enclosed front area with bike racks so we could safely secure Talula rather than dismantle her and take her up to our room. It was enough of a perspiration inducing effort to get all the bags off and lugged upstairs. The room itself was extremely spacious with a large bedroom area and separate seating/eating area, there was a shared kitchen and the only slight downside; a shared bathroom. However, this proved not to be too much of an issue, and the other residents we met, two ladies who are also cycle touring and attending various music events, were lovely.

As it was Sunday, there were hardly any shops open, but we found one on google maps that was near the train station, so after having a revitalising shower, to wash the salt and grime of the day off, we sallied forth to get some provisions. When we arrived, we were surprised that there was a considerable queue to get in. There clearly is a great demand for groceries on a Sunday. Fortunately, they were just limiting the amount of people at a time in the relatively small shop, so we did not have to wait long, otherwise it would have been supper from the Subway next door.

Provisions purchased (along with an ice cream) we headed back to the accommodation to sort out our washing, as that was an errand for first thing in the morning!

Sorting out the washing…

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