'Saturn Twice' (continues)
Germany... I'd been in Germany before, but never in this part Germany, the far northwest ('Nordfriesland'). It's cold and damp (even in the summer), the countryside dotted with wind generators (indicating a cold and incessant wind from the North Sea).
The border between Denmark and Germany is transparent (European Union), as nothing evident in terms of a gate or billboard/sign 'welcoming you' to Germany. I actually wasn't sure I had crossed into Germany until seeing 'Zentrum,' versus 'Centrum.' 'Centrum is used to connote the center of cities in Scandinavian countries, while 'Zentrum' used in Germany.
The last town in Denmark was 'Tender,' and in Germany, I stopped in 'Neibull' for something to eat.
When I saw a MacDonalds I parked Ms. Fiets and went inside. Normally, I would never partake of a Ronald MacDonald's, but in Europe, MacDonalds have cheap coffee/food and a salad bar (basically better food). Plus, I had to save my Euros. This one was absolutely jammed with customers, on this Saturday, Easter weekend. So, getting my coffee and salad I retreated to sit outside. I'm not into noisy children, but you go right ahead and have ten for me! I often quote what my Grandmother 'Hutchie,' was famous for saying, 'Children should be seen, but not heard!'
After lunch and a respite I returned to Highway #5, as seemingly the best way to head south. My goal for the day a town named Tonning, or thereabouts. Part of my problem on this trip was that I never had a very good map. Thus, never quite sure...
Several hours later I remember turning onto what appeared to be an Expressway (as four lanes), and suddenly the honking from motor vehicles started again. But, this time I knew they weren't encouraging me, but warning me to get off. So, when I saw a sign that said 'Zentrum,' I took it as I was basically lost!
The town I discovered myself in was named Husum (and interestingly as I had lived with my sister in Washington State, U.S.A. -- across from Hood River in the Husum Valley.).
Suddenly, there I was on a city street, stuck next to a line of automobiles waiting for a light to change. For some reason I knocked on the window of the vehicle next to me (so close to my right). Turns out I knocked on the right window, as the man rolled down the window. I tried to explain I was lost and needed help. He gestured that he would pull over.
This young man whose named turned out to be 'Tim,' couldn't have been more helpful. In fact, what happened in the next several hours with two other people remains as one of the most amazing afternoons of my life.
Poor Tim got so frustrated with his English he kept apologizing. But, he got an idea to buy me a better map. So, he told me to follow him, which I did. He led me to the train station which confused me, as I wasn't in a mind to get on any train. All I wanted was directions to Tonning (basically south towards The Netherlands). But, I locked Ms. Fiets to a lamp post and followed him inside. Of the concourse, one of the many shops was a bookstore that had maps. Tim examined several but then decided they wouldn't work for me as all in German.
Outside on the concourse he pondered what to do with me. He tried to explain maybe taking a train would be a good idea. He showed me how he could buy me ticket from a machine. While he was doing this a woman walked up gesturing with some tickets in her hand. They discussed her idea, which he tried to explain to me. But, I was immediately suspicious of this woman (how wrong I was). I didn't really understand that on holiday weekends the German Government reduces train fares, that she was offering some to me. But when I didn't respond positively she retreated into the background.
At the same time another woman walked up gesturing I should take the cash (Euros) she held in her hand. I was takenaback. Here was a complete stranger offering me money. I tried to explain I didn't need money but directions south. But, she was unrelenting, thrusting a 20-Euro note into my hand (she could speak some English). It was unreal, these three strangers acting like my guardian angels (don't ever let people tell you Germans are cold and unfeeling). They conferred in German amongst themselves and decided I should take a train. They explained what I should do: Go get my bicycle and meet them upstairs, where the trains arrived and departed. But, I had to hurry there wasn't much time. They would purchase a ticket for me. What could I do at that point, but go with 'their program.' So, I went outside got Ms. Fiets, rolling her inside the building and cramming her into an elevator, me behind. It was a tight fit, the door barely closing.
On the train platform I found the three of them, Tim, Petra, and Rotrautt waiting for me. Rotraut thrust another 20-Euro not ($25 U.S.) saying, 'You'll need Euros, the banks are closed for Easter!' I tried to protest, but she persisted. The train was already boarding and I had to go! They helped me lift Ms. Fiets, onto the train. Note, in Germany you're allowed to take your bicycle with you or put in a special coach for bicycles (very 'cool!'). Additionally, Petra would accompany me, Rotraut explaining they were concerned about me making a connection! My destination a town called Gluckstadt, but I'd have to change trains halfway (why Petra had come with me). I thanked them all as best I could.
So, within an hour of being lost outside Husum I was suddenly sitting on a train with a German woman heading for Gluckstadt! Ms. Fiets parked in the vestibule a few feet away. Amazing grace, on Easter weekend! Petra couldn't speak much English, but Rotraut had explained once Petra got me to Gluckstadt, she would continue on home to Hamburg.
The ride to the first stop was hypnotizing, as I watched the green blur by outside the window, the train rocking me into a reverie. The love that had been shown me by three complete strangers was a 'ressurection' of sorts (and on Easter weekend no less)! We expect love from family and friends, but complete strangers, in a foreign country...? It was surreal!
At the first stop Petra helped me unload Ms. Fiets from the train, and then on the platform asked about the train to Gluckstadt and where to load my bicycle. We had to wait thirty minutes for it to arrive, but when it did I was ushered to the bicycle coach where I fastened Ms. Fiets to the bulkhead (wall). Petra and I walked to our passenger coach and boarded for Gluckstadt.
This turned out to be a shorter trip. I remember arriving on a high trestle, making it seem like we were landing in Gluckstadt in an airplane.
Here, Petra helped me again retrieving Ms. Fiets then we parted. I thanked her over and over, as I knew we'd never meet again. Luckily on one of the train rides I'd had her write her name and address in English. Somehow she knew the others as well. If only I'd thought of taking a photograph of all three of them back in Husum.
It was late afternoon by the time I exited the station in Gluckstadt not knowing where to go. But, again my 'guardian angels' were with me! I stopped a young German man and asked him if there were any places to camp for the night. Not only did he know of one but he drew me a map.
It turned out this campground was further than expected (20KM), but I eventually found it tucked next to the huge dike, southwest of Zentrum/Gluckstadt. Because of Easter weekend this campground was packed with people. But, the operator, a farmer, showed me where I could pitch my tent.
With my tent up, and most of my belongings inside, I cranked into the little village of Kolimar. I noted two restaurants, as I thought flush with Rotraut's Euros I would treat myself to an Easter brunch the following morning.
That night it rained of course, but I was snug in my tent. There's something about being warm and dry in a sleeping bag with the weather raging just inches away!
I'll never forget as long as I live being blown off Mt. Hood in Oregon. I had pitched my tent on lava 'sand,' as more comfortable than the rocky ground. What a mistake as the stakes not in solid. But, it was a calm night with no wind when I had set it up. About midnight I woke up hearing the tent flapping in a breeze. It increased in strength, until I was holding on for dear life! Then a gust picked the tent off the ground, and we went ass over tea kettle down the mountain all my things crashing onto me! At one point I managed to unzip the door and slithered out like a snake the tent itself flying away like a sail. I zipped up the bag, as being blasted by wind-driven sand. When it finally subsided, I walked down picking up what I could find, and then beating a retreat back to my car. But, the mistake had cost me much. I never found the tent or many of my camping things. Oh life experiences... Painful but instructive. You can believe I've always been more careful about where and how I set up a tent when on a mountain.
The next morning (in Kolimar) I was out early as wanted to beat the crowd at the restaurants. The first one adjacent the dike was open, but only for a party. So, I coasted down the hill to the other which was also open, the tables set but no customers yet.
I discovered two women sitting at a small bar. One of them spoke a little English. They were celebrating their day off smoking a drinking. So, I bought them a 'round of drinks.' I ordered something to eat with coffee. I languished in the civilized atmosphere, not unlike my time eating breakfast at Dan Hostel.
Along about noon, I cycled off to investigate the dike, and the Elbe River. The Elbe eventually from Hamburg and beyond.
This part of Germany a series of rivers to cross when traveling from north to south. All of these, I would imagine, flow out of the Alps (east and south), or some such.
Later back at the campground I chatted with the farmer owner who explained where to catch the ferry over the Elbe. I took a shower in their bathhouse.
The next morning, a Monday, I packed up and headed for the ferry, cycling the path near the river. The ferry takes you across the Elbe to highway #495. I didn't know exactly where to go but I turned left, and heading east and south for a town called Stade. I remember I found a very chic bakery/coffee house in Stade, and watched the locals rushing hither and yon. Traveling, is a good way to observe people as you're not part of their daily 'drill.' Afterwards, I found highway #74, heading south.
I think I ended up around Bremervorde by the end of the day, and started looking for a place to camp. I picked a motor vehicle rest stop in a grove of trees. It had picnic tables which makes cooking/eating easier. I decided to try cooking rice, as I'd picked up some fuel for my stove. Unfortunately, it was the wrong fuel and it burned up my stove (which was never to recover). But, I was able to eat the rice.
In the morning, after packing up (a wet tent) I was off again, but now getting closer and closer to The Netherlands. I don't know how long I'd been on the road, but more than one week. I think I was heading for Stadland, as the map indicated a bridge to cross the Weser River. I think it was hereabouts that I ran into two Germans traveling on bicycles (like me), the only ones I'd seen on this trip. We stopped, of course, as cyclists always share information. They spoke English, and told me they were returning to Bremen after cycling over to the coast for the Easter weekend. They had all the latest, greatest Ortlieb bags and rain gear. Me, I probably looked like a drowned rat!
Later and hungry, I stopped at a restaurant in a village. This, by chance, turned out fortuitous as here fortune smiled on me again. At the bar I ordered coffee, and a German man, hearing English, invited me to his table. When I explained my trip he informed me the bridge at Stadland was impassable because of construction, and I should take the ferry at Bremerhaven. Had I gone to Stadland, I would have found out too late and had to double back to Bremerhaven (losing an entire day). I offered to buy his lunch, but he wouldn't allow. After he departed I partook of their luncheon buffet, which was expensive (7E / $10), but not very good. I would call such 'pub food.'
Bremerhaven, is a fairly large city/port (on the North Sea). I had to ask several times to find the ferry, but I remember getting there just in time to catch one (or would have had to wait another hour). It was a short ride over the Weser River, but Bremerhaven's huge container port loomed to our right.
Bremerhaven was heavily bombed during WWII as a ship building port for the German Navy.
Here I had to head east on highway #212, trying for a village called Varel. I don't know how I managed to find highway #437 to Varel, as sometimes it's very tricky. Europe is over developed, and has so many highways you have to be very careful (so many ways to get to the same place). And the locals, not always reliable about directions.
Getting near dark I sought out another 'car park' or 'rest stop.' The one I found was almost perfect, at least the night before. It was set back behind a grove of trees, as in, since I'm breaking the law I don't want to be seen. I pitched my tent in a small space between the trees and the parking lot. No problem except everything was wet (northern Europe in April).
In the morning I was awaken by the sound of a large truck. Peeking out, I was staring at one very large wheel/tire as it had stopped just adjacent me. I waited until it departed then packed up and went into Varel for breakfast.
Somewhere I passed through a village named 'Marx' (picture at www.cyclingpeace.org). I thought this might be where Karl had been born, but then later someone told me he was born in Trier (near Luxemburg).
In the afternoon I found myself in Leer (made me think of Norman Lear a television producer), a city of some size. So, I sought out the library to check my email messages. The library was difficult to find, and then required payment for use of the Internet. But, the young woman was very nice.
It was difficult finding my way out of the city. It was all very confusing as Leer is on a smaller river named Leda, but you have to cross the Ems River (much larger), going south to The Netherlands. I couldn't find a way to get on the bridge, getting lost in a park. Finally, after asking many people I managed.
I headed south for Weener, looking to take highway #436 into The Netherlands at Nieuweschans. The goal for the day was Winschoten. I had decided to stay east of Gronengen, as one of the largest cities in The Netherlands.
I crossed into The Netherlands late in the afternoon. Again, the old border gate house was abandoned and no signs even saying 'The Netherlands!'
Labels: 'Saturn Twice!'