Dierhagen & The Baltic

With the better part of a week to travel along the north German Baltic coast while we wait for our front fender (which needs to be ordered and painted). We’ve travelled up through Rostock, although we did not stop there, having had enough of urban space for a while. So here we are 50m away from the sea, just outside Dierhagen and on our way to the National park at Darss for a bit of cycling.IMG_5012

Travelling on the back roads has been a bit interesting, and I’m at a loss as to how the speed restrictions work. There are very few speed signs as you approach a town, and typically none when you leave. That means 50km/h in town, sometimes 60 or 70km/h when leaving, and, at some unmarked spot, the limit goes to 100km/h. As there are no signs this is more usually indicated by cars riding right on your bumper to add some encouragement. Usually doesn’t work for me, except in the case of huge trucks, which certainly are intimidating. And in this area it’s not as though there are any hills on which you can leave the trucks behind.

We’ve had some lovely sights on the way up, with autumn colours now predominating. The Baltic has been the flattest lake ever! Cycling to Dierhagen – next to the beach, all forested – took us to the small harbour where we spent some time trying to distinguish sky from water. There is a bit of mist around, and between the deep green colour of the sea, the grey/blue of the sky, and the reflections off the mirror-like surface means that it is quite disorienting. I think if I were on a boat I’d have difficulty knowing which way was up – apart from the breathing thing, of course.

Baltic … Lake?

We had a big van cleanout yesterday, which has proven relatively easy to do on a regular basis. This morning we still need to do the water tanks as they’ve not really been cleaned in a year. Our fresh water supply has been in good nick, mostly because we use so much water that the tank is being filled with fresh water every three days. We are also very careful about not having food scraps etc go into the grey water tank – I don’t shave in the van for the same reason. Even so, we put dose of cleaner in monthly, but I think it’s time to get out the cloths and do it properly – an unpleasant task, I’ve been told. We are also good for another two weeks on the clothing side, having done three loads of washing – at exorbitant prices, unfortunately.

With a bit of luck we’ll be in Hamburg (again) tomorrow, get the van sorted (hmmm, some insurance issues on the horizon) and then start heading south (again!).



Round ‘n Round They Go …

It’s been a higgeldy-piggeldy kind of two days, with more of the same coming up…

The Hanseatic Museum on Saturday should only be spoken of in superlatives, but I lack the skills, so … It took us almost 5 hours to do the main tour, at the end of which we decided to forsake further wanderings through adjacent historical sites. The museum is filled with the most stunning ehibits, and the information given on each area was very informative. Your ticket, with a QR code, triggered explanations and mobile exhibits, in your language of choice, and with enhanced information depending on what you chose in the setup. I chose Bergen and ‘Law & Order’, so, at appropriate points, the interactive screens added info for me – how cool is that, Norway? We had to take a break halfway through and calculated if we didn’t speed up our walking / reading / comprehension / ooh/ahhs we would be there long after dark!

Sunday saw us heading to Hamburg, intent on getting the van sorted out. We slept in a narrow, tree-lined road in a residential suburb, with passing kids staring in and making comments – perhaps not the usual sights on the way to school? That meant we had much of Sunday to walk around the main tourist harbour area, Speicherstadt, and take in the waterfront in weather more summer than autumn.

Maritime Museum, Hamburg
Canals, Hamburg

Having a beer outside in the sun Niki had a bit of a tearful moment. Her mum, Ursula, was born in Hamburg and lived through the bombings, and the last time Niki and mum were together had recounted those experiences. An interesting point I think I remember from somewhere … a greater tonnage of bombs dropped on Hamburg in the Firestorm than dropped on England in the entire war?

Old & New, Hamburg
Loved this reflection …

This was brought home with a visit to St Nikolai, left in remembrance to the horrors of war.

St Nikolai
St Nikolai

Monday brought hours of driving through Hamburg’s busy suburbs as we went from a) Fiat dealer to fix the fender dinged in Sweden months ago – come back next Monday  b) Burstner dealer to have a water integrity check done – no, we didn’t know we had to pay for this ourselves, it’s got a 5-year warranty  c) Pioneer to sort out our satnav – No, we didn’t know the data card was from 2015, but thank you for checking with Pioneer and sorting the card out, not charging us €65! Ho Hum.

So, what to do with a week while we wait for our new fender? Hmmm, how about back to Lübeck? So here we are having Grille Hax, rotkohl, kartoffel salat und weisswein … I’m fully engaging the culture! Tomorrow will see us heading north Rostock along the Ostsee to Stralsund before looping back to a national park in Müritz, north of Berlin. With a bit of luck we’ll get back on the bikes and cycle through what looks like a 1000 lakes. IF the weather holds … beach und bier for the next few days!

Last thing: Big ‘Thank You’ to Niki for navigating today. Strange city, pedestrians/bikes/buses/carscarscars, a navi that went on the blink (almost said, ‘went on the fritz’!!), and all of it on small suburban roads: Kept her cool, overrode the GPS (with 50/50 success, if truth be told) and got us to each point with minimal fuss. Really cool!

Lübeck and the Hanseatic League

So, true to form, we’ve been absolutely useless at heading off as planned. Reasons for this are quite simple: Absolutely stunning weather, fantastic parking spot, and the medieval capital of the Hanseatic League, Lubeck.

Welcome to Lübeck

When we arrived on Thursday morning the intent was to spend a day or so going through the old city. Turns out that there is just way too much to see, and that’s just part of it. It’s great being back in Germany – we have quadrupled our beer intake, had coffee and cake whenever we’ve wanted, and opened our evening fare with a standard German dinner.

Niki goes German

Today we went on a pretty full-on walking tour of the old city, with Niki going full Deutscher, proceeding at pace and stopping at each of the points marked on the very good tourist map. I hadn’t taken a watch, so was unable to control the flow of walk – rest – walk – beer – repeat, and it was only when nearing collapse that we were able to settle down to a bite to eat and a large beer. The latter was required because I couldn’t reach the water bottle in my bag, and also because the steadily increasing temperatures required adequate rehydration – forecast for tomorrow is 26°C. When thinking that we left Norway at a midday high of 6°C, well, we are enjoying this.

Niki meets an old friend at St Marien Kirche

The city has proven to be an absolute gem, and even with Niki cracking the whip we didn’t get round to seeing the Hanseatic museum, and that is apparently a 4 hour expedition. So we’ve shelved plans to move for another day or so, and will look to get to Hamburg on Sunday. We’ve booked the van in for repairs to the fender on Monday in Hamburg, which is only 60km away, so no need to rush anywhere.

Hanseatic Gates – What symbols of commercial power!
Might look into a van conversion – this would pay our way. Coffee Van To Go.

Highlights of the walk today – Wow, so much! The St. Marien Kirche was simply astonishing. Begun in 1200 it underwent various additions. Entering the church is impressive enough, with soaring aisles that really characterise the gothic church construction – but then you take a few steps further, and the main vault soars almost 40 meters above ground, with twin spires of 125metres – the highest brick vault in the world, and Germany’s third largest church. I had no idea brick could sustain those stresses, and it’s clear to see why the church itself was used as a model for 70 churches in the Baltic region. Bombed in 1942, reconstruction began in 1947, in the process uncovering some of the original frescoes painted over during the Reformation. The church bells remain where they crashed to the ground in 1942.

Vault, St Marien Kirche
Church Bells in St Marien Kirche

History all around you here, from magic marzipan shops to the salt cellars of the Hanseatic Leagues (salt fish for the English), church spires and merchant homes, Willy Brandt to hidden gardens. I’m looking forward to another day here, particularly as coffee and cake right outside the van gives us another opportunity to see an eye-wateringly kaleidoscope sunset, fish eagles, migrating birds (collective noun for a group of swans?)… etc etc!

And … Happy Birthday Devon! (Yes, Dad knows he’s a day late!)

Lübeck from our campsite
Not bad, 5min from the Old Town