Cycling in Northern Germany 2002
The summer started badly in 2002, with Carol falling off the Brompton
and breaking her wrist - we suspect that she had not properly locked
and the bike folded as she was riding along. Our summer trip to Germany
therefore appeared to be in danger of being sans velo, but, as it
out, she recovered sufficiently to ride the tandem - where, if
necessary, the stoker can take one hand off the bars without
endangering life or limb.
Carol is a great enthusiast of Germany and the Germans, she has
living there and has worked briefly in Hamburg on a job exchange
Our sons took part in student exchanges with a German family with whom
have since kept in touch. We had cycled through part of the country
we did a trip down the course of the Rhine in 2000, while we have also
a cycling holiday near to the very bicycle friendly town of Munster, so
knew that it was possible to find safe routes on specially
paths. This time we elected to visit northern Germany, the area known
Schleswig Holstein, which borders Denmark in the north.
We considered various options for getting there. Given Carol's healing
wrist we decided to take the car, rather than get involved in
the loaded tandem on train journeys through Holland etc. Having decided
car would be the way, the next choice was route. It is actually cheaper
drive deep south to Dover, cross the channel there, and then drive up
France, Holland etc., than to take the longer ferry crossing starting
to where we live in the north east. The prospect of spending several
driving did not appeal one bit however, so we eventually opted for the
Shields to Ijmuiden ferry. Carol's wrist permitting, we hoped to make
use of the car, parking at camp sites and cycling from them.
Carol wished to look up some work acquaintances in Hamburg, so our
first stop was within outskirts of the city, at a small camp site that
was primarily used by touring caravans and motor homes. Hamburg is a
very large and lively
cosmopolitan city, with plenty to see and do. Throughout this holiday
would encounter a mixture of torrential rain and sunshine, and in
we had a bit of both. Hamburg appeared to be a reasonably cycle
place, certainly by UK standards. You are allowed, for example, to take
bike on the subway during off peak periods, while there is an extensive
of cycle paths.
We did not attempt to cycle in Hamburg, but walked up the
course of the Elbe out of city to the prosperous suburb of Blankenese,
the home of wealthy sea captains and others associated with the sea. It
a very pleasant walk, but we were very slightly alarmed to see
phones located adjacent to the path; perhaps not the place to be on a
Later that day we took a bus into Hamburg in search of food and came
home in the evening on another bus that was driven by a man assisted by
large Alsatian dog. The dog was wedged into the driver's cab, its head
more particularly, teeth) protruding into the passenger space. I
that the driver had a scar on his face, presumably he didn't want that
happen again and the dog was providing cover! While this was not a very
welcoming sight, the driver made up for it by allowing us to travel
despite the fact the we were a few cents short of the required fare.
The following day we drove towards the town of Schleswig and found a
camp site on the side of a deep inlet, with Schleswig a few miles
visible across the water. All around the camp site were references to
Vikings, the manager being of an appropriate stature and with the
beard. He was friendly rather than warlike however and we elected to
our tent there for a few nights and explore the area around by bike. It
that there was a Viking settlement nearby (Hedderby) and a museum
to the Vikings had been established. Beautifully presented in
wooden buildings, were both the remains and reconstructions of the
long boats, while a range of artefacts from Viking times were also on
This camp site appeared to be on an established long distance cycle
as there was a succession of people cycle camping throughout the time
This is a very good area for cycle touring, there are safe separate
cycle paths or quiet minor roads for cyclists to explore, while it is
also a holiday destination so there are plenty of camp sites to choose
from. The terrain is gently rolling, with no severe hills.. Many
Germans cycle, both for recreation and for utility purposes, so cycling
is seen as a "normal" activity. Most towns have a well stocked cycle
the assortment of machines equipped for some serious use with, lights,
appreciate separate good quality separate cycle paths when the roads
busy, but in this part of the world we encountered cycle paths
almost deserted roads, and in some cases the quality of the newly laid
was far superior to the road itself.
Some of the paths went decidedly off
road, and in places the quality was not of the highest, e.g. forest
or compacted sand, but this was not the norm. Signposts are at a
particularly on the off road sections, take a good detailed map and a
or one of those clever global positioning gadgets. We got lost once or
Despite the crazy speeds encountered on the autobahns, urban speed
are lower than in the UK, (and are more rigorously adhered too) with 30
km/hr the norm where people live, making
for safe cycling.
Where the cycle path runs adjacent to a major road, the cycle path has
of way over the minor roads that are encountered, something that the UK
adopt to advantage. Note the separate road and cycle path route signs.
must adjust the rear saddle on the tandem, it does look very
If you wish to take your bike by train there is special provision made
for cycle carriage on some services.
With plenty of room inside for all of the bikes.
Our next camp site was an award winning operation near to Eutin, a
town in the lake district to the north of Lubeck. When we booked in the
noticed our struggles due to our lack of reading glasses and promptly
a pair from beneath the counter! This attention to detail was typical
the place, possibly the cleanest and best organised site we have ever
with most plots looking out over the lake. The site was also
with colour coded waste bins and automatic lights in the toilet block.
network of signed routes leads between the lakes, and further afield to
resorts on the Baltic coast. It was here that we survived one of the
storms in living memory, when seven people were killed in Berlin.
the tent it sounded as though someone was playing a fire hose onto the
I remember thinking that no good could come of this, that we must
washed away and perhaps we should retreat to the safety of the car, but
I must have fallen asleep and we awoke to a gloriously sunny morning.
We visited Lubeck by car but I was not impressed by the rather gloomy
brickwork of the city's historic buildings, perhaps I had expected too
One motive for visiting this area was the lure of steam trains in
town of Bad Doberan not far from Rostock in the old East Germany. The
Molli line runs through the streets of the town, and everything stops
the train comes through.
The train crawls through the streets sounding a warning bell, but once
it reaches open countryside it speeds up to a fair gallop. These steam
provide a valuable service for the locals, with several stops through
town, and for the holiday makers who are travelling to the seaside
along the route. Our train was well patronised in both directions.
Unfortunately the cycling environment in this area did not appear
be very good. We did not notice any special provision for cyclists,
narrow roads and fast cars. Bearing in mind that our experience was
to a single visit, on the basis of that, I could not recommend this
of Germany for cycling.
However, back at Euten, the situation was much better, and we managed
pedal through a forest in order to dip our toes in the nearby Baltic
Note the traditional wickerwork bathing seat. The water was
Traditional German food seems to involve a lot of everything, with meat
on the agenda. Prices were very reasonable, and we enjoyed a superb
at a restaurant in Schleswig. We can't
remember the name of the place, but there was a small stream flowing
to the restaurant and we ate in a large conservatory that formed an
to the original building. Much lower down the gastronomic pecking order
this huge feast eaten outside the Germanic equivalent of a UK greasy
Being great fans of the Dutch and Amsterdam in particular, we arranged
spend two nights at the municipal camp site on the Schiphol side of
on the edge of Amsterdam Bos (Wood) before leaving for home. From here
is possible to cycle through the wood and parkland into the city (about
miles), and then across the free ferry and onwards to the delights of
Monickendam not only boasts one of the world's best bike shops, but
also a coffee shop of unparalleled excellence!
Overall a successful holiday. Carol did very well considering
her broken wrist, we cycled most days and managed a maximum daily
of 60 on one occasion. We were pretty fortunate with the rain, it
mostly at night when we were safely under canvas, while we did not have
erect or dismantle the tent in the wet. Camping with the car has the
that you can take a table and chairs and a few other comforts that
be impossible when restricted to the bikes alone, but I confess that I
the sense of adventure and achievement that you get when you rely
on pedal power to get from A to B. We intend to put that right next
with a planned circumnavigation of Brittany - without the car.
Ferry travellers boarding at Ijmuiden should look out for the very
bicycle shop in the town, while they might be interested to know that
hyper market is located behind the main street, next to the public
Ferry catering is good, and the excellent buffet is very tempting, but
has become a lot more expensive over the years. A very acceptable meal
be had at a fraction of the on board restaurant price if you stock up
the town - don't forget your corkscrew!
Some images re-scanned October 2008
For details of more cycle tours that I have documented, please look here