We are off again, this time aiming to cycle the whole of the Rhine route. We’ve seen two sections before – around the Swiss/German border and into Liechtenstein in 2014, and north from Cologne to Emmerich in 2015. Both were great, but very different. Hoping this time to see all the many contrasts along the whole route.
The cycle out of Amsterdam to IJmuiden was a bit more of a navigational challenge than we were expecting, but was otherwise fine. My legs were protesting a little as they had not recovered completely from the previous day, but the short ride was probably just what they needed even if not what they wanted. We were in plenty of time for the ferry and joined lots of other cyclists at the fish restaurant on the pier before joining the boarding queue. Different ferry this time, with a different section of the car deck set aside for bikes, but it still all felt very familiar – probably because the cabins had the same layout and the restaurants and cafes have the same names as on the other ferry, even if they are in slightly different places.
A good friend has a cycling blog with a great name: ‘Al playing in the traffic’ (well worth a look if you don’t already know it). Our farewell ride in the Netherlands could have been called ‘Bruce and Elly playing in the wind’. We had one full day left after catching the train back from Berlin to Amsterdam and we could (should?) have spent it sight-seeing in Amsterdam – but we have been to Amsterdam a couple of times before, and there were knots to work out of the legs after the train journey, so getting out on the bikes seemed like a better idea. Since we had already crossed the Afsluitdijk earlier this trip, we thought it might be fun to try the other major sea dike, the Houtribdijk, between Lelystad and Enkhuizen (see map above) and make a loop back to Amsterdam. Particular fun would be cycling without luggage, so it would be really easy…
We made it to Berlin: between us we have a moderate collection of insect bites, only a little saddle-soreness, three dodgy knees and one niggly back muscle, but we are happy. Majorly off target given that we were originally heading for Copenhagen, but delighted to renew our acquaintance with Berlin. It is one of my favourite cities.
We didn’t see a great deal of Rathenow, as it was determinedly raining all yesterday afternoon, so we had poor visibility and little inclination to do anything other than find our hotel. The Hotel Fürstenhof is evidently familiar with cyclists. They were completely unfazed by people whose ability to speak German appeared to have dissolved in the downpour turning up and dripping in their nice lobby. Some other cyclists showed up at the same time but irritatingly they managed to look as though they had been cycling rather than swimming. The hotel showed us all to a garage where we could store our bikes and took away our wet clothes to dry them overnight. They gave us a map and directions to various restaurants in town. Fantastic service.
High contrast of cycling days yesterday and today. Yesterday was hot and humid, with a lot of headwind and (for me) flare ups of knee and back pain. We had planned to cycle to Wittenberge, which would have been around 100km from Bleckede, but bailed out at Dömitz where we found an Apotheke which supplied a knee support, a lovely bed and breakfast in a former brewery and an old fortress which is being restored and turned into a museum.
A rapid change of plans was needed yesterday, when we discovered that the sensible train connections between Copenhagen and Hamburg on the dates that would have worked for us had no bike spaces left. This effectively ruled out Copenhagen as a destination, as we don’t have time left this trip to cycle there and back. Some complicated versions with multiple quick train changes would have been technically possible, but a bit too high stress for me when we have a hard deadline to get home. I did look at the Travemünde to Malmo ferry option, which was just about feasible, but we decided against a further two overnight ferry crossings.
Yesterday must have been about as good as a cycle touring day gets. We had sunshine, but most of the route was shaded by trees so we were not baked. Route finding was pretty easy, as we were on a path along the B75 (B for Bundesstraße – a federal main road) for a lot of the way. Even finding our way out of Bremen turned out to be easy, with a well marked and thoughtfully laid out cycle route straight out of the city. The countryside was still flat, although a little less so than in the Netherlands, but a total of 591 feet of ascent was not exactly taxing and added a bit of variety. Navigating the suburb of Harburg to find our hotel involved a rollercoaster-style descent and ascent to round off the day.
It rained on Saturday. There was a relentless drizzle, occasionally heavier, that did a much better job of making us wet and uncomfortable than the sudden downpours on Friday. It was too warm for full waterproofs, but I did put shoe covers on which made a difference for me. We decided to ride on through and wait for it to brighten up, so we pedalled soggily across the border into Germany and, sure enough, the rain stopped and we started to dry out. Then the rain started again. The forecast said it would be on and off all day, so we admitted defeat and headed for a station. Continue reading
The curse of day 3 struck me right from the start: heavy legs, various twinges and a nagging voice in my head telling me I am too old and unfit for this trip. This is so familiar that I wonder if the expectation of a difficult day 3 now contributes to my problem. Aside from physical and mental weariness, the cycle was very pleasant, with a sight-seeing stop at the docks in Harlingen and then a cross-country route to Leeuwarden, where we stopped for coffee.
Getting going again after coffee seemed too hard. Bruce took pity on me and agreed that we should spend the night at Leeuwarden. Quick search turned up an intriguing hostel in a former prison building with a private room free. Conversion turns out to have been done very well to creat comfortable and quirky rooms, and the man on reception could not have been friendlier or more helpful. To get in and out we had to pick our way through a major building site, but all was quiet up on the bedrooms (former cells). Really recommend Alibi Hostel if you are ever in this area.