Day ten, Hamburg-Frankfurt - four km (obviously not counting the train-ing kilometers...)
This time I waste even more time on the train station - I arrive a staggering six minutes before departure, set for 9:28. As I walk up, I come by track five, with a scheduled departure of 9:28, destination København. Hey, wait, isn't that where I just came from?
So I head on to track 13 and figure out where the bicycle compartment will be (there are guiding plans on the platforms to help people find the cars quicker where they have a reservation for). I go back to my 'no reservation needed' kind of ways - the train does turn out to be fairly empty.
So, time to reflect about yesterday. I started out in Schwerin and it took me a little bit to find the right way to leave the castle area (which defines the city). Then it was a separate bike path for a while until I hit a town with a major snow fun park. I can see the sloped hall from afar - some ideas are just a little crazy.
But from there I hit the rural area and it is awesome. I pass little villages where - as I already wrote - time seemed to have come to a standstill. Not many folks are out, but once in a while I see people working in their yards or teenagers riding by on their bicycles - are they skipping school?
I come by old, abandoned factories, a ruined water tower and other symbols that indicate some areas are dying away here in the east. Pretty sad. The tractors on the other hand are impressive. They make the ones in the south look like toys for boys.
I come by Oak Alley, one of the many tree-lined country roads that would provide any shade if needed - I am having another lucky day. It is sunny, but not too warm, with clouds occasionally hiding the sun. It is windy, but not too much. This is good as today is mostly a headwind, for the first time since I started.
In Boizenburg I hit the Elbe, which is the river going through Hamburg. So all I have to do is follow it and I will be smack in the center of Hamburg. The only question is which side to follow it on. In Lauenburg I decide to skip over to the south side, as the bike path seems to be in better shape. This, I believe, is the bridge that was impossible to cross until 1989, as it marked the border between West and East Germany.
As a cyclist, it is still hard to re-unite with the other side. Two miles from the bridge, the bike path connector loops towards the river. It turns out to be a detour, as the bike path alongside the road would have gone straight to the bridge. But it is a scenic detour, away from the noise. It also allows some bird watching, while the river stays invisible behind the levy.
I have to go under the bridge, and up on the other side. I figured that I would now be simply routed across to the other side of the river. But no, I have to turn away from the river, go under the bridge again and then I am led towards the north! That is like completely the opposite direction of where my vehicle and I want to go. So I turn around, don't spot a bike path sign for once and ride across the bridge on the roadway.
At the end there is a bike path sign - with a three inch high curb. I have to stop and lift it up, confusing both a motorist and a cyclist in the process.
I then ride along the street closest to the river, or so I thought. I know that there is a road on the levy, but it is strictly prohibited to any kind of vehicles (a bicycle is a vehicle under German traffic law). In one town I get stopped at a red light in a construction zone and I see three bicyclists ride past me just 50 meters away.
I became curious and checked out the signage on the next possible way to go to the levy road - sure enough, there is a sign for the long distance bike path. I am not sure how they got approval to route bicyclists on a road that is prohibited to them. Guess I will have to ask the ADFC about that one.
I passed a little bridge, then was again at a loss. There is an official bike path sign (blue with white bicycle) that spots the words "Bicyclists dismount" underneath. Huh? Then there is a sign to Hamburg, 28 kilometers to go. But the road is prohibited to cyclists. I opt for the third choice -a bidirectional bike lane! Have you ever been routed against traffic a couple of feet way from you? I was headed the right way, but surely would have ignored the bike lane coming the other way.
At this point is also a sign that says bike path to the center of Hamburg 38km - so about 10km longer than by the road. Since I expect the latter to have a lot of the same 'quality' side path that I knew from leaving Hamburg a week earlier I am ok with it. The bike path is not actually a bike path - it is small farm roads that allow access to the fields, but it is marked as a continuous way to go into Hamburg.
The quality is a mix of perfect asphalt, easy to use gravel and some sections a little rougher. But it all goes through the farmlands, with green houses mixed in. It is unbelievable that I passed the Hamburg city limit sign a long time ago. The plan to follow the bike path all the way to the end does not pan out, even though a local confirms it is possible. But 2.5 miles from the center, I get stopped at a barrier, with the guard telling me that there is no way through.
So I use the side path next to one of the main roads and hit the train station. I wander towards the direction where I am expecting the youth hostel to be. Eventually I have to ask at a bakery and they point me in the right direction. I was close and I still snatched a room, although it looks like the place was pretty crowded (not many keys left to give out, it appeared).
Friday, April 30
Now, how lucky have I been with the weather? This morning, it rained, but after breakfast, when it was time to head on, the sun was out again. I rolled to the train station, stopping by at an internet cafe first. I remember the problems on the way up with the color printout of the ticket, so I had asked at the ticket counter for them to make me a black and white copy. They did, but said they weren't sure if the copy would work. To be on the safe side, I printed it again.
It turned out the copy worked (but the color version really doesn't). So I have three tickets - plus the three tickets necessary for the bicycle and my discount card - lots of paper work, but you can't argue with the price.
I will leave it for now, as the scenery passing by is to nice to be left unwatched. One last stop will be Frankfurt tonight and tomorrow.
Actually, just a little note before I post from the press center: Received the welcome package, including a free weight (fillabale with water). Is that a hint I did too much cycling and not enough weight training the last week???