We had an overnight stop in Winschoten in 2017, when we cycled from Amsterdam to Berlin. I looked back at that trip and see that we arrived in Winschoten having cycled 101km fron Leeuwarden (where, incidentally, we stayed in the wonderful Alibi Hostel, converted from an old prison). I cannot imagine cycling 100km in a day this year. We are dying in the heat and it was cooler in 2017, but that is not the only factor. We did the Rhine trip in 2018 in the midst of a tremendous heatwave and we were managing longer distances. I could blame it on Covid, which we both had just over a month ago, but I think that is not the full explanation either. We just don’t seem to have the stamina this year, and we will have to work on that if we want to come touring with the bikes again. I. Spite of that, my legs and my lungs feel strong, so the training through the winter has definitely paid off.
Trying not to be depressed about this, let me instead rave about the hotel in Winschoten. We had a hot ride across the countryside from Assen with a moderate headwind that at least provided some cooling. No matter how much I try, though, I’m struggling to drink enough in this heat. By the time we arrived in Winschoten I felt not so much dehydrated as desiccated. Our room for the night was at the City Hotel, near the railway station, and 10 minutes or so walk from the centre of Winschoten. What a little gem – owned and run by the incredibly friendly and welcoming Karin, who was full of advice about the local area. It was wonderful to have cold water, as the water in the Camelbaks was long since past lukewarm, and to rest in the shade before venturing out to explore.
Winschoten is not a big town, nor especially picturesque by the standards of the area, but it does have a pretty park. We wound up there eating Subway sandwiches for dinner because vegan food options were minimal. This wasn’t a hardship, and there was ice cream available on the walk back to the hotel. We had a hot night in an environmentally friendly, non-air-conditioned room but still slept well.
Papenburg is a shipbuilding town, with an older centre and a lot of modern development – retail and industrial – wrapped around it. I was surprised initially that there would be shipbuilding when we are some way from the coast, but we are on the Ems river and shipyards on a river should be no surprise to anyone from Scotland. Our hotel tonight looks as though it is geared for business travellers, which perhaps explains why it had a room available on a Saturday night. We had originally intended to spend tonight in Leer, about 20km north of here, but couldn’t find any accommodation available there at all. First accommodation challenge this trip, though, so counting our blessings.
We need to bite the bullet and do another train hop as we are simply not covering enough distance each day to make it to Kiel on two wheels in time for our ferry booking. The current plan is to head to Leer tomorrow and, space for bicycles permitting, catch a train from there to Hamburg via Bremen – as we have cycled from Hamburg to Bremen before so have already seen that route from the saddle. We would then have a few days to cycle gently through Schleswig-Holstein and still get to Kiel on schedule. Fingers crossed!