We had a short cycle to Leer yesterday to catch with a lovely coffee stop at a cafe selling all kinds of fresh produce. There was a golden retriever at the next table that definitely had the right approach to dealing with the heat!
When we made it to Leer, the plan was to get ourselves and our bikes on a train to Hamburg but it was Sunday and the ticket office was closed, so we opted for tickets as far as Bremen – where we had to change trains anyway – and hoped that the ticket office there would be able to sort us out with bike reservations. Alas, there were none to be had (on IC/express trains) and apparently we were not allowed to take our bikes on any regional trains until 10pm on Sunday, for reasons that were not adequately explained.
Bruce negotiated all of this and got us special ‘anywhere in Germany for 9 euros’ rail tickets, which was fab. The advice was to travel on a regional train on Monday morning (today). The bike spaces are not bookable but there is a train every half hour so if there is no room, we should just wait for the next train.
We therefore spent last night in Bremen, and Bruce was able to enjoy a vegan burger at the favourite Hans im Glück (seriously good burgers – strongly recommended if you are in Germany). When we set off again this morning, I had some idea that we would find morning trains post-rush-hour half empty and we would have a very smooth journey to Hamburg. There were a few small things I had not taken into account, however…
It is apparently some kind of Monday holiday in Germany today. Also, it’s August, so presumably a lot of people are on their summer hols. Many of them are presumably taking advantage of the ‘anywhere in Germany for 9 euros’ rail tickets as well. And then, two regional trains in succession from Bremen to Hamburg were cancelled or severely delayed. The net result was that roughly half the bike-owners of northern Germany were on our train, with their bikes. Plus a few people with pushchairs and/or outsize luggage. It was a double-decker train with the whole of the lower part of one carriage for bike space but it was still sardine time. And more people got on at various intermediate stations, to the point where I couldn’t really move my feet and I was jammed up against the window trying not to bash my head off the luggage rack. Being a regional (Metronom) train that stops everywhere, it took an hour and a half from Bremen to Hamburg. By the time I unfolded my overheated self and staggered off with the bike into the Hamburg crowds I was not in much of a fit state for anything.
Cycling out of any unfamiliar city centre is challenging, but in this case really not too bad. There was a good bike route heading north (shaded by trees initially – wonderful!) and we were soon weaving through the suburbs – but it was slow, urban cycling with many traffic lights and navigation challenges all the way, and we baked once the shade ran out. We found an Italian cafe after around 20km and had a very welcome break involving ice cream then pedalled on. Bruce was navigating and pedalling strongly, with me pottering along in his wake nursing my painful left foot (still struggling with the toe cramps).
This all sounds a bit miserable, reading it back. It certainly wasn’t the best cycling day so far, but we have made it to Schleswig-Holstein and we should be out in the countryside more tomorrow. Kiel is in reach now. Looking forward very much to our ferry trip on the Baltic and seeing Oslo.