Starting up the Elbe River

Saturday July 22      Cuxhaven to Neuhaus

Last night we had a great meal by Carsten before he drove us to the place where the Elbe River flows into the North Sea which will be our starting point tomorrow. We were treated to a great sunset

and watched as a cruise ship left the harbor for Norway before we returned to Carsten’s home and met his girlfriend, Edith. We stayed up late talking.

Carsten & Edith made us breakfast of homemade porridge with plenty of fruit, nuts and honey which was as good as the meal last night. We said goodbye to Edith who had to go back to her home near Bremerhaven. We loaded up and accompanied Carsten to the Saturday market where we got fruit and bread before we all went to the starting point of the Elbe River Route where the North Sea and the Elbe River join. Carsten left us after about 1 km when it started to rain. We hung out at a café drinking coffee for 45 min. before the rain slowed and we headed out with rain gear on. The rest of the day was very pleasant. There was not much variety along the dike so we headed a bit inland through small villages which had their own charm and thatched roof houses which seem more plentiful in this part of Germany than in either England or Holland. IMG_3146

We were passed by a container ship a very short distance from shore.  They are huge and carry thousands of containers. Seeing them up close is like seeing the Empire State Building on its side.

We got to our hotel in Neuhaus at about 4:30 and were told that there was a restaurant that would deliver so we did more relaxing.

Sunday, July 23, 2017     Neuhaus- Butzflethmoor
Around 5 AM we were awakened by pouring rain. The highlight of today, aside from the weather, was the small, continuous, cute village houses that faced the dike on the safe side. Most had thatched roofs and were similar is style and vintage 18th century style, although many were a lot newer. IMG_314702-IMG_331104-IMG_331306-IMG_3315 All had manicured yards in grass with flowers and plants with occasional lawn ornaments.. We have been told that thatched roofs last about 50 years and keep the houses cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
The weather was the other highlight. Although we didn’t keep count, we made somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 weather related changes of outerwear. It was warm/rainy and cool/rainy with periods of no rain. The sun came out about 3:30 and was a welcome relief for the last few kms of our ride. We stayed at a modern hotel out in what used to be the moor, ie: marsh, about 4 km from a very small village.IMG_3149 We watched the finish of the Tour de France and celebrated with a glass of wine. The hotel didn’t serve dinner, so we rode the 4 km back to the village for a Donor wrap (Turkish). It was the only place open for miles around as rural Germany closes up tight on Sundays.

Monday July 24, 2017          Butzfliethmoor to Hamburg
A cool, but dry start to the day. We rode 7 km to the medieval port city of Stede, with its old buildings,

 

church,

and waterways. It has a really beautiful small old center of town with water all around.  We did coffee and  little people watching.

 

The rest of the day was peaceful riding along a small road with more thatched roof homes and apple orchards. This area is the largest contiguous fruit growing area in Europe with more than 170 square kms devoted to raising fruit, mostly apples, cherries and strawberries.
Near the village of Cranz we took a “foot” (i.e. no cars, but bicycles are allowed) ferry across the Elbe to ride the last 11km along the river bank into Hamburg. Most of the ride to the center of town was on a wide “boulevard” for walkers and bikes with no vehicular traffic at all. We felt it was necessary and to show our appreciation of their efforts we stopped to have a cappuccino and apple strudel to support their orchard industry. While we were having our snack, it started raining and didn’t stop for the rest of the night.

Tuesday July 25, 2017           Hamburg
A day off to see Hamburg. It was raining when we got up so we took a cab to the Miniature Wonderland at 0800. It is not a museum in the classic sense, but rather a massive and continuing venture into reducing familiar places and universal experiences into miniature on a grand scale. It is so huge and fascinating that we spent more than 6 hours there. Reserved time admission is a must as the place gets very crowded and visitors have to wait in line to get in. It was quite crowded with families, where the children had probably had enough after an hour, or so, but the adults were so fascinated that the family stayed for much longer. There were many animated scenes with the largest model railroad in the world moving more than 6000 railroad cars of every kind on at least 6 levels. The entire thing is animated with cars, trucks, trains, boats, Ferris wheels and airplanes all moving, in both day and simulated night

IMG_3302

in 6 or more scenes and miles of highway with cars and trucks moving, stopping, signaling and turning the lights on when the scene grew dark IMG_3178and off when the artificial sun came up. There was a harbor with ships of different kinds and sizes navigating through the port on actual water.IMG_3233IMG_3234IMG_3231 There were some scenes with tongue in cheek humor hidden in these massive scenes. IMG_3281IMG_3279There was a fictionalized American National Park and the Las Vegas train station,

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Hamburg, Scandinavia, Austria, Switzerland, Rome, Vatican City, and a huge airport with planes revving their engines and taking off and  landing

and a rock concert with thousands of individual painted “people” to name and illustrate just a few.

It was wonderful stuff with hundreds of thousands of individual objects, like the people at a rock concert in a stadium, moving cars, trucks, trains and airplanes and hundreds of thousands of people hours to get the thing done. It is, however, a work in progress with people at their work stations making additional scenes that are planned to open in the next few years.

Although we were completely unaware that this place existed until we did a search for things to do in Hamburg this is a gem. If we are ever in Hamburg again, we will return. There is so much to be seen and admired, that we would return over and over again. Since Hamburg was almost completely destroyed during WW II and has chosen not to rebuild in the historic style, there was not much of historical interest.
When we left the “miniatures” it was still raining. We looked inside St. Paul’s Cathedral then went to an upscale indoor food market for coffee then dinner. At last the rain stopped long enough for us to walk back to the hotel without our umbrellas open. We worked on planning the next few days and making hotel reservations. It has been unusually difficult to find accommodations, even in small, out of the way places. We have discovered that this is the German vacation season, children have just gotten out of school and this is also a big 400th anniversary of Martin Luther’s (We are not sure if it his birth, death, self banishment or the reformation,) but whatever it is more than the usual number of Germans are celebrating by going on holiday which has made finding affordable places more difficult.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017              Hamburg-Schnakenbek
No rain today. The route was well marked after we found our way down to the port and out of the middle of Hamburg. In the few places we were off course, we realized our error and were able to correct it very quickly. On our way we came across another lost rider Anna from Kiel, Germany, compared maps, etc. then rode the rest of the morning together on a rails to trails route including a cappuccino stop in a converted railway station. Toward the end of the day we rode 4 kms up a hillside on a dirt and muddy path into the very small town of Schnakenbek. This area has much farmland and a few neat old houses.
The big event of the day was Ed’s fall. We were riding on a two track path with grass and mud in between the two paved surfaces. A bug flew in between Ed’s eyeglass lenses (he has riding sunglasses with a removable insert for his prescription lenses) and while trying to get the critter out he veered into a patch of mud in the middle aisle and went down, mostly in the muddy area. He hit the back of his helmet on the paved surface and somehow managed to get a bruise on his nose where the nose pad of the glasses sits without damaging the glasses. No damage done to either Ed, the helmet, or the bike. Only a broken mirror and very slight road rash on his forearm and a mildly bruised hip as well as muddy shorts and shirt, but mostly chagrin.  We arrived at out Airbnb about 3:30, went into town and got groceries then back to our B & B for the night.  Not many pictures today, but what we did take are above.

Thursday July 27, 2017            Schnakenbek to Hitzacker

Don’t you just love the names of these towns? Makes you smile doesn’t it?
All of today was terrific riding along the dike. There were many very tiny villages, large fields of grain, loads of sheep, cattle, and horses, and thatched roof buildings everywhere. The number of touring cyclists since Hamburg has increased 10 fold. It’s wonderful to see so many people out traveling by bike, many with E-bikes which has surely raised the average age of touring  cyclists especially in Europe. . Mid afternoon we came upon Konau, a small community of about 20 half-timbered and thatched roof buildings that used to be in East Germany when the border between East and West was the Elbe.  In 1994 it was listed as a World Heritage Site and was also an Expo 2000 site. It has been beautifully restored and was really cool to visit. At the end of our ride today, we had to take a short ferry ride across the Elbe with a number of other touring bicyclists to our 4 star hotel along the river. HItzacker is a medieval village on an island with a canal surrounding it on 3 sides and the Elbe on the 4th. It is a quaint place with loads of charm. After a wine spritzer that left us both loopy and coffee to even things out, we walked our bikes and ourselves to the hotel and checked in. Dinner in the hotel dining room with just a few other guests. There are no big hotels in these tourist visited small villages so they empty out around 4 and are very quiet after that. Most of the shops close at 5 or thereabouts so the places get lonely. We’ll take the ferry back to the east side of the river tomorrow after breakfast.

 

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