Germany by the North Sea
Friday, July 14, 2017 Nieuwschans-Emden
We left Nieuweschans in a leisurely fashion after 10 a.m. and rode in sunshine for the rest of the morning. We crossed into Germany while going over the river/canal after about 7 kms. There was no sign or flag at the border but a couple of sign boards explaining the wild life along the waterway. The farms in northern Germany were equally large as in Holland, but the homes attached to the farms were a bit larger and slightly different looking. We also noticed that the homes were of a different style with roofs that were not as steep. Some of the farms have 2-3 very large barns. The animals this far north, have to have shelter in the winter.
To our surprise, Germany also had windmills that looked like the ones in Holland. We tried to visit the one pictured here, but it was closed except on weekends. The landscape in this section of Germany continues to be very flat and wonderful farmland. We didn’t have contact with people except for a very brief and somewhat strange encounter when we stopped at a small café out in the boondocks to get coffee. Except for the couple whom we assumed were the owners, there was no one in the place. They seemed to be busy doing some clean up and some paperwork and paid no attention to us. The woman who served us had to look at the menu to know how much to charge us. They were probably closed, but didn’t know quite how to tell us.
We wandered through a fishing village
which also sported a windmill.
We had our lunch dockside with the docked fishing boats comfortably moored in their births. It started to rain just after we finished lunch and proceeded to rain for the rest of the afternoon.
We could have taken the 2 p.m. ferry, but waited for the tourist office to reopen after its 2 hour break in order to get cycling maps of this section of Germany. We caught the 3 p.m. ferry for the 3.5 kms voyage to the other side of the river which took about 25 minutes. It continued to rain.
The ferry took about 20 minutes and was smooth sailing. The rain continued during our last 11 kms ride into Emden which was at times on a muddy path through the forest…not terribly kind to our drive trains. We stopped for coffee at a bakery and decided to buy bread and rolls for an “in hotel” dinner as it was raining really hard at that point. When the rain stopped we stumbled upon Emden’s annual city street festival that had just started up after the rain had stopped.
We listened to some music
and treated ourselves to a plate of mushrooms and onions sautéed in butter and spices. We walked past booths of games of “skill,” all manner of foods, rides, clothing, jewelry, etc. and admired the ships in the harbor before heading to our hotel about 4 kms north of town. Dinner in was a good idea as there were no restaurants near the hotel.
Saturday, July 15, 2017 Emden to Dornum
Our ride along the North Sea Cycle Way continued flat with the weather mild. The wind was fairly strong from the north, but we were shielded from it by the continuous dike, like the one that prevents the sea from inundating Holland. It rises about 25’ from the floor of the farmland that it protects.
Much of the land that comprises and/or borders the dike is used for grazing sheep and some cows. The land itself is fertile as is evidenced by the grasses and crops, and the farms continue to be very large.
This area has a lot more inhabitants than the adjoining land in Holland. The villages are not big, but they are significantly bigger than the villages we passed through in Holland. One glaring difference between the people from Germany and those from Holland is the fact that in Holland everyone speaks English. In Germany, however, most people in this part of the country do not, or are reluctant to try.
At lunch time we were in a little fishing village of Greetsiel along the North Sea. It was very picturesque and the sun was shining, so we sat on the sea wall and ate our PB&J’s
After walking around a bit we started north again along the sea. Our plan was to ride to Norden then catch a train the last 50 km to Dornum where our Airbnb was, but when we got to the station at Norden there was no train scheduled for today. We found out that it is a historic train and only runs that route on Sundays. Go figure! Ed did some quick thinking and stopped a small van taxi and arranged for a ride to Dornum at about 4:30 which gave us some time to ride around Norden.
The taxi fare to Dornum was 35 Euros which was money well spent as we had ridden almost50 kms. at that point. As soon as we got to our B&B, we were greeted by 2 freshly baked cakes and 2 neighbor ladies and a fellow tourist from Germany who spoke English and could translate for all of us. They were so excited to have a couple from Colorado. Although northern Germany by the North Sea is a vacation spot, there are very few non Germans who use it. We sat down to the sweet delights. They were all so warm and welcoming we felt quite special. Our host is a very nice widow named Elisabeth who is a retired nurse. She made coffee to go along with the cakes and sat down to visit with us. She speaks English well enough to communicate with us.
Since we were a little ways from town, it was suggested that we order a pizza in, which we did. It made for a much more relaxing evening and gave us the chance to get to know our hostess a little better. These are the kind of things that make staying in people’s homes a delight.
Sunday July 15, 2017 Dornum – Harlesiel
It was such a pleasure staying at Elisabeth’s home. She gave us a jar of homemade jam and a very cute stuffed sock doll with shoelace hair as a going away presents. It brightened our morning which had a mono chromed sky and humidity that had to exceed 100%. The coast was only a very short distance from Elisabeth’s. We hugged the sea most of the day and visited 3 fishing villages in the process. Two of which were very cute and charming but fairly crowded with Germans on holiday.
We continue to be the only Americans in sight. We stopped at about 11:30 for our morning coffee and split a piece of apple cake that was delicious. The hotel bar where we had coffee had to call someone from the adjoining dining room (it was closed) to ask if it was ok to sell us the cake. It was all kind of funny as we soon found out that neither business was really open yet. We started their day a little earlier than usual.
It started to rain at mid-day and although the rain was more of a mist, we donned our rain gear with vents open for the rest of our ride today. It stayed warm enough for us not to have to wear more clothing. We had lunch at a small bakery in another fishing village. We got to our hotel about 2 p.m., dried off and then rode a few kms more to the next fishing village. We did a little shopping, returned to the hotel to watch the end of the Tour then went back out to a fish cafeteria less than a km from our hotel. The choices were huge. We had smoked mackerel, backfish, French fries and potato salad. All very good and reasonably priced. We passed on the smoked eel and some other small fish that looked raw or very close to it and oily.
The fishing villages we passed through today are the ferry stops for the islands just off the coast of northern Germany. The islands are supposed to be beautiful and picturesque. They are visible from the dike we were riding on and we have been told that at low tide one can walk from the mainland to the islands, although it is not suggested and one would have to have something like snow shoes to do it. A compass is suggested because if the fog comes in, you can’t tell where to go. Today was not the day to visit the off shore islands.
Monday, July 16, 2017 Harlesiel to Wilhelmshaven
The whole day was riding in sunshine along the dikes and sea from fishing village to fishing village. There are lots of sheep grazing on and around the dike path so it’s a challenge to miss most of the droppings on the route. Needless to say, our wheels are a mess and don’t smell so good. The area was well “lambscaped”. At one village there were loads people out lying on the beaches with kids playing in the sand, but we saw no one in the water. The NorthSea at it’s warmest is only 60 degrees, so you must be hardy to even consider it.
In Wilhelmshaven we’re staying in an apartment. It’s brand new and we’re the first people to rent it. The day was so beautiful that we didn’t want to stay indoors, so we unloaded and set off for the harbor area. Wilhelmshaven has a very large harbor which houses a naval museum and wonderful Strand (promenade) with lots of restaurants and ice cream shops and coffee houses. There were lots of people on holiday enjoying the sun on the grass, but no one in the water.
We rode across the more than 100 year old Kaisar Wilhelms’ bridge to get to the board walk and had our afternoon coffee in the sun while doing a little people watching. Our plan was to take the ferry across the bay on Wed. before continuing on to the mouth of the Elbe River at the North Sea, so we went to the ferry dock to check our route and the time of departure tomorrow. The harbor is huge with navigable inlets on both sides so it is easy to get lost.
We stopped at a really good grocery store on the way back to our apartment to pick up food for dinner and breakfast. When we checked our messages, Gerd (The man we met the evening before our 30 kms. dike ride in the north of Holland.) had left one asking us if we’d ride 40km to their home in Westerstede tomorrow and stay at their place overnight and spend the next day with he and Marianne before continuing on our journey. It will be a day out of our way and in the opposite direction, but we’re excited to meet them again, so quickly said yes. Gerd offered to drive us to the ferry at Bremerhaven on the other side of the bay on Thursday as we already have a reservation set up at a Guest Haus there.
Tuesday July 19 A rest day in Wilhelmshaven
Today we spent five hours at the Deutsche Naval Museum at the harbor. There was a great time line of the many buildups of the German navy starting in the mid 1800’s and ending after WWII. There were lots of ups and downs, but each ended with Germany being defeated and losing their war ships to the enemy. There was also the time after WWI that they actually tried to scuttled all of their vessels rather than have them taken by the victors. There was also a U boat and 3 other naval ships of varying sizes that we got to wander around on. The day at the museum began with an hour’s tour of the harbor by boat. Unfortunately we were not told that the tour was in German only. The guide was animated and spoke for the entire hour. We understood none of it, but got an appreciation of the vastness of the harbor that we would not have had if we had not taken the cruise. We spent most of the rest of the day at the museum and exploring the boats and sub. It was a glorious day to be outside. It was sunny and 78 degrees, so after a coffee stop at 4pm we took a short ride along the bay. We actually saw a few hardy souls in the water today.
Wednesday, July 21, 2017 Wilhelshaven to Westersede
Today we rode to our new friends Gerd and Marrianne’s in Westerstede, about 45 km to the southwest. It was such a lovely day, it felt like spring.
Once at their home we sat out on the patio amongst the Rhododendrons and had coffee, tea, and cakes. This area is famous for its Rhododendrons , which are shipped all over the world. Everywhere is lush and green with the plants.
The fields and yards are in bloom from late April through mid June. Once we were stuffed with sweats, the four of us wandered around the town and countryside seeing the area. Of course we stopped at the town square church to look
Parts of it were from the 11th century. There were thunderstorms predicted for around 7pm and sure enough, just as we pulled into their drive, the heavens opened up complete with much noise and fireworks.
Dinner was at a 252 year old thatched roof farm house in the country by a lake. It had been moved to that spot a number of years ago. It served very traditional dishes. When the meal was over, we were treated to the “Schnapps and Tin Spoon” ceremony. It involved a very large tin spoon filled to the brim with Schnapps. The spoon is held in your left hand. You then recite and respond to a poem and down the hatch in one gulp.
More wine and conversation back at the house and all to bed after midnight. We must get our sleep in preparation for a day of sightseeing with them on the way to the ferry across the Wesser River to Bremerhaven where we’ll spend the night.
Thursday July 20, 2017 Westerstede to Bremerhaven (car and ferry)
A varied and delicious breakfast prepared by Marrianne. It was still raining so we had to eat indoors which is not their costum. After loading our bikes on their car we set off for the day mostly driving along the dike through very small fishing villages around the bay. We got out to look at the sea a few times among the sheep grazing. There was the obligatory church (named the bikers church) visit in one village and a stop for lunch at a fish vender in another village. Everyone enjoyed a fish sandwich of differing kinds of fish direct from the sea. We arrived at the ferry dock around 4:30 and took the 4:40 across to Bremerhaven.
By this time, it was a beautiful sunny day, perhaps the warmest we’ve had since Munich. Once on the other side, we discovered the Maritime Museum and went into a submarine commissioned in 1945 to look around. It had been brought up from the Baltic sea floor in the 1990’s and was the last U boat used in the German Navy. It never saw action and was scuttled 4 days before the war ended. The woman working there was very enthusiastic about this area and gave us some good suggestions about things to do here and the ride along the NSR #1 from here to Cuxhaven. She is an avid cyclist also so we exchanged our contact information.
Dinner at a TexMex restaurant, when another thunder storm moved in just as we were leaving. We rode about a block and the lightning drove us under a shelter. When it had mostly let up, we finished the ride to our n Gasthaus for the night.
Friday July 21 Bremerhaven to Cuxhaven
The morning was sunny and warm so we stopped along the waterfront for a 2 hour visit to the emigration museum.
Improved Steerage in later years.
It took you as an emigrant through the process starting at the waiting room to the dock, boarding the ship, and
journey across the Atlantic and then tue journey fron New York, usually by train , to the places where they settled. Four to five million people went Bremerhaven in the busiest years. The museum noted that emigration from Bremerhaven was open from the mid 1850’s to the mid 1970’s and was the place where most northern and eastern European’s left from for the new world from.
Our PB&Js along the water then off for the last leg of the NorthSea Cycle Route. The sun was bright all day and the temperature even got down right warm. We cruised through small fishing villages and along dike paths for 50km. before rolling into the center of Cuxhaven around 3:30. After a couple of errands and a grocery run, we met our Warmshower’s host at his home at 6pm. Carsten gave us a warm welcome and made a typical eastern European dinner of Borscht . After dinner he took us the mouth of the Elbe river (where we’ll start tomorrow to watch a glowing sunset and see the ships go by very close to the shore. Carsten’s girlfriend, Edith joined us for the rest of the evening.