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Day 46 and 47 – Hamburg to Rødby

cycling to the Baltic sea

 Day 46 – Hamburg to Scharbeutz.

It was a sunshine and birdsong day as we joyfully rolled out of town, the three of us on our eeeee-bikes. It took us most of the morning to get going. City exits are complicated. Once you’re out into the lushous countryside cycling is a breeze.

This cycle path was a railway in the past, so an easy level chuffing along the now smoothly tarred surface. My companions are much faster than me with their lightweight overnight bags. We speed along the flashing green tree-lined path.

Instant coffee at a supermarket around mid-afternoon where some caffeine relief had Regina smiling once again. One becomes acutely aware of circadian, nutritional, and sleep rhythms on a long distance journey. I have become a completely different creature compared to my home self. It became obvious now, in the company of other humans, just how the body finds a rhythm and a rut that suits the individual for best success. When travelling in a group one must make compromises to stay together, and that makes a difference to your natural fitness.

In Lübeck we sat down at a busy bar for a celebratory sundowner glass of Prosecco. Surprised to hit my 3000 km mark right here in the center of this delightful town. I’m surprised because I thought I would be in Oslo by now.

We decided to ride a bit further north before calling it a day. There is a tunnel under the Trave estuary which is forbidden to cycle through. In Germany you can be sure there is a solution. Along came a shuttle bus dragging a trailer made especially for bikes. Not only that, there is also a ramp so you don’t need to lift your bike up. You ride on, snap the lock, jump into the bus and off you go through the tunnel.

This evening the three of us tired girlies are sharing a room at the ArtHotel in Scharbeutz. We rode here in the dark along the fabulous promenades. The elite have magnificent houses on this riviera. Regina rubbed deep-heat cream on her legs before hopping into bed because her knees hurt. Unfortunately she’s allergic to it, so she hopped right out again. Her legs turned a fiery red and burned all night while I snored!

106 kms.

See the route map here

Day 47 – Scharbeutz to Rødby.

My brother and niece are in Copenhagen. According to them my plan to ride up to the north of Jutland to catch the boat to Norway is NOT acceptable. That would be cheating. I am to catch a ferry at Puttgarden to Denmark. They will take a train south with their bicycles and meet me halfway. We’ll spend a night somewhere on the coast then ride together into Copenhagen. (May take a ferry directly to Oslo from Copenhagen – but don’t dare mention that). They say “From there you must ride up the west coast of Sweden to Norway. No shortcuts, if you say you’re going to ride to Oslo then you must ride all the way.” –

Slow start on Friday, but fun riding all day towards Puttgarden with my two enthusiastic friends. Crossed over a mighty high and windy bridge. Access via a tiny gate in a security fence. Then we rode like witches on broomsticks to reach the last train of the day at Burg. Waved a sad goodbye to my friends Regina and Zoe, then dashed across to the other side of the island to catch the last ferry. Many huge trucks on the ship and one solitary bicycle.

Forty five minutes later the boat pulled up to Rødby and I staggered into the first hotel called “Stop and Sleep” right in the middle of the truck stop turning circle. Delectable dinner and good clean room.

96 kms

See the route map here

End of part two – Thoughts on bike seat with a view!

I have spent two thirds of this journey tripping across Germany. Two thousand kilometers by bike from the Alps all the way up to the coast of the Baltic Sea. It has been such a privilege to use the vital infrastructure, cycle lanes, paths and safe hotels with bicycle storage. Solid breakfasts and dependable service all put together by generations of hard working, thoughtful people.

In my experience the northerners make little attempt at small talk but they do like to share practical information. They enjoy high levels of education and culture, create logically designed systems, build organised towns, grow pretty forests and control beautiful rivers. There is no time for meaningless chatter.

They’re also good at making never-ending road-works.

The enormous volume of construction and farming is quite overwhelming. Much of the land is being plastered with more roads, more cement and mono crops. The economy is booming to the sound of earth moving machinery, cranes, trucks, bigger ploughing tractors or harvesting machines and factories.

My wish for Europe is more flowering fallow land for the bees, magical wild forests for children, and a ban on bulldozers and cement for everyone. I think we have enough roads, enough car parks and supermarkets. Cities are like scabs on the Earth’s skin, if we stop scratching the ground then cities will heal up and the face of the Earth will look lovely again.

Leanne

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Day 21-Stuben to Rorschach-going down

Friesian horse in the forest

Dropping down from the arms of the lovely mountain today, with the Alfenz stream happily cascading at my side. From Stuben to Bludenz to Nenzing to Feldkirch. Dropping as a spider does, black wheels spinning below the Scots Pines. White water widens into a deep teal river and you can see the trout. As the altitude changes so does your attitude, going from high to low at the thought of the complicated web of agriculture and urban crust to negotiate from now on.

Soon there is a tunnel but the panic isn’t so bad this time, a bright spot at the other end is visible, and there is a shoulder to ride on. But I much prefer riding on the gravel forest roads in the mountains.

My tires crunch passed a forest clearing where an Oompah band blows a tune to a crowd in a carnival tent. Everyone is wearing traditional dirndl and lederhosen. To add to my delight around the next corner a beautiful black Friesian stallion bolts out of the bush, his shaggy mane waving over his face. I take a moving shot from the hip. One of my best photographs so far. His rider reins him in with a smile. The heavy camera hangs by a strap around my neck, bouncing off my thigh at every pedal of the way.

I’m officially over the hill.

There will be no more mountains until I reach Oslo. The flat air is strangely full of cooking smells on this side of the Alps. Windows are squarer and the cars are mostly black. Everyone is smart and sober except at the biergarten.

The joyous Alfenz runs dying into the dykes of the Ill which merges with the Rhine River or…Rhenus, Rein, Rhein, le Rhin, Reno, Rijn….This famous river is going to be my travelling companion for the next chapter of the journey. One thousand kilometres or so. But first there is the beautiful lake Constance to circumnavigate.

Feeling highly oxygenated after crossing the Alps. Approximately 450 kilometers on my odometer. I used to think the range was a stretch of two mountains wide with Austria snug in the valley between them. But if you ever fly over in a plane you can see how the snow covered peaks go on and on. The whole range makes an arc of about 800 km long (east to west), and about 200 kms wide as the crow flies.

103 kms later in Rorschach (Switzerland) I flop onto a bunk bed in a modern youth hostel Herberge See, happy to have all the bunks to myself. The room offers a fabulous northern view and one funny looking plug. Swiss plugs and money are unique. None of my electronics can be charged. The receptionist has locked up and gone away, so no chance of borrowing an adapter.

I must go out in search of food which is a lot of trouble for my legs. The closest food places are already closing up so I walk into town. Some nice ladies feed me green asparagus with yellow hollandaise sauce, and a little beer while they close the restaurant. Stacking up chairs around me as I eat. The World Cup soccer tournament – Switzerland versus Brazil game is on. Enthusiastic boys shout from speeding cars covered in Swiss flags. As I leave the restaurant the rain comes gushing down. My plastic sandals are slippery on the inside, so I walk the two kilometers back to the lonely hostel barefoot and bedraggled.

It was a lovely day but I’m buggered and tomorrow is going to be fun with no battery.

See the route map here.