The cycle from Henstedt-Ulzburg to Neumünster was lovely. After the first few urban kilometres, we had a well-surfaced, shady path and could finally get up some speed (note to any roadies reading this: speed by luggage-laden touring standards, not *actual* speed). It was great fun and we made such good time that we were far too early to check into our hotel in Neumünster. We needed cold drinks and bathroom facilities so wound up at a nearby McDonalds for a pit stop – which turned out much longer than intended when a thunderstorm passed over us. Still, we were lucky to be sheltered under the McDonalds umbrella and able to watch the rain in comfort. When it finally stopped, we pedalled off to see a little of Neumünster, which is quite a big town with lovely old buildings and some extremely vicious cobbles. We wanted to visit the sculpture park, which seems to be a major attraction, but it was closed on Tuesdays.
Hotel aanders in the south of Neumünster was lovely when we finally checked in – small, comfortable, beautifully decorated and only nine weeks old. Some building works were still underway in the grounds, but this didn’t interfere with us at all. It was still ridiculously hot, but external metal shutters on the window were doing their very best to keep the room cool. Once showered, neither of us had any enthusiasm for getting sweaty on a bike once again, so we ventured into the centre by bus. It turned out that our 9 Euro regional and local train tickets were valid for buses too, so we had a free mini-tour and vegan dinner courtesy of Burgergallerie near the main station.
We had the idea of swinging by the sculpture park for a visit the next morning before leaving Neumünster but after bouncing dustily down multiple cobbled streets to find it, we discovered that it didn’t open till midday. We really couldn’t face waiting for so long so we got on our way. The cobbles turned out to be only the start of the problems. We had all sorts of different surfaces but with a good collection of tree roots and potholes, and many switches from one side of the road to the other. We only occasionally managed to get up enough speed to benefit from the cooling breeze – mostly, we cooked, although not as badly as when we were trying to leave Hamburg and Bruce’s phone, our main navigation device, shut down completely in the heat. We had a coffee stop by a very pretty lake at Bordesholm and by an effort of will managed to get back on the bikes and drag ourselves to Kiel. First order of business (of course) was to take the contents of our panniers to the laundrette and then we had dinner and collapsed for an early night.
I loved Kiel. We set off the next morning to the Schifffahrtsmuseum (shipping museum), housed in the old fish market, and tried to absorb some small fraction of the rich and fascinating maritime history of Kiel. We then took a bus (9 Euro tickets again – we really got our money’s worth from these) to visit a swimming spot for Bruce to enjoy the Kiel Fjord up close, but the way onto the pier appeared to be blocked even though we could see people swimming out from it. We tried to find another way but were driven back eventually by the smell – rotting fish, rotting seaweed or rotting sewage, whatever it was smelled even worse than our laundry!
Using another couple of buses, we went to the viewing platform over the Kiel Canal. In Kiel, it’s called the Nord-Ostsee-Canal (North-Baltic-Sea-Canal), which makes a lot of sense. Apparently it’s the busiest artificial waterway in the world, with around 32,000 vessels per year. That’s many more vessels than the Suez Canal from what I could find online, but I still need to find comparative figures on tonnage. There is usually more than one possible measure, but either way, it’s a very busy stretch of water.
Back on the bus after canal viewing, quick bite of lunch by the main station and then we caught yet another bus out to the east side of the Kiel Fjord and visited a little beach, Strand Hasselfelde, where Bruce finally got his swim. Then back (bus!) to the hotel, and organising things for the remainder of our trip before a late dinner and a tired but happy collapse into bed.
Before we left, I had booked train tickets with the bikes from Kiel to Osnabrück in Germany for the return leg of the trip after Oslo. That was the best I could manage online, and we intended to cycle as much of the way from Osnabrück to IJMuiden as we could in three days and train hop for the rest. If I am honest, I have been slightly dreading that part of the trip as I’ve been so tired and struggling to cycle long distances. Bruce took charge of this and decided that we need to get ourselves back to within easy reach of the ferry home and have a few days of relaxation and only doing whatever cycle rides appeal. He sorted all of this out at the travel centre in Kiel Station – we will have a massively long day with three trains, but we should get all the way to Amsterdam and can then enjoy our last three days in Zaandam, our favourite base. The thought of this makes me very happy 😊.
We managed to fit in a short ride to see Hiroshima Park in Kiel, a very pretty and appropriately peaceful spot, before cycling across to Norwegenkai to catch our Oslo ferry. It was a good bit cooler and a little misty – quite a relief after so much heat. And we are now on the ferry, on our way to Oslo – but this is like no ferry I have ever known. To someone reared on CalMac, the North Sea ferry is unimaginable luxury, but the Kiel to Oslo ferry has someone playing a grand piano in the observation lounge where some people are sipping champagne. And there is a promenade with bars, restaurants and shops. There is a spa, a swimming pool and some kind of golf simulator also, although we haven’t explored these so far. This is much more cruise ship than ferry, and I’m struggling to get my head round it. We have blue skies and calm sea, for which I am grateful, but the small yacht that was struggling to get out of the way of the mighty ferry as we left the fjord might have preferred a bit more wind (it made it just in time, though). Onwards to Oslo!