Retirement Cruise 2013 Scott Proudfoot and Dan Kwak (un-brake-able)
We called the trip retirement cruise because we were retiring from school, and cruising Europe on bikes. Dan believes a good life has several retirements, most people call them vacations.
Retirement Cruise 2013 Scott Proudfoot and Dan Kwak (un-brake-able)
November 2013 ÂŠ Scott Proudfoot Photos by Scott Proudfoot and Dong Kyu Kwak 7
After the last exams of our undergraduate career, David, Dan, Kassie and I
planned a camping trip to Tobermory. As this was the fourth annual Tobermory trip, we recruited past participants and new adventurers. With five days in the wild, we swam the clear waters of Georgian bay. At the peak, we had twenty people spread across four campsites. One night around the camp-fire, we began talking about bike trips. I mentioned I wanted to cycle across Canada, but there was no time. Dan piped in that he wanted to tour Europe. That's a great idea. We should do it right away, before we get jobs and families. As we packed up the tents, we reaffirmed that a bike trip was a good idea. We spent a night planning a few days later. Dan wanted to see Germany again. I wanted to cycle around Amsterdam and Copenhagen. We chose Paris as a home base as that is where Dad is stationed. The big choice was between the wind and the weather. We could head South from Copenhagen, and chase the warmth, or head North from Paris and follow the wind. I chose the wind. The other smart planning move was heading directly North from Paris to the lowlands of Belgium and Holland, then cutting West along the North sea where things are flat. We avoided a lot of hills in France and Southern Germany.
Cyprus Lake Provincial Park, Tobermory 9
That night, we bought flights to Paris. It was eight days before we took off. Dan
did not own a bike. He spent the next week doing research, and ordered a Kona touring bike, which arrived two days before we took off. I packed my trusty Rocky Mountain cyclo-cross bike, fitted with new panniers.
Here we introduce our two intrepid explorers, Scott Proudfoot and Dan Kwak, in the magical field of sunflowers. We discovered these on our return from Tobermory.
Amsterdam The Hague Breda Antwerp Brussels Lens
Our route took us North from Paris towards
Belgium. We passed Vimy Ridge (Lens) and crossed the border. Belgium has great canal-side cycling routes and beer. Leaving Antwerp, we crossed another border into the Netherlands, with great cycling routes. At Amsterdam we turn East, and enter Germany just after Denekamp. Then we rode along highways to Bremen. We took the exciting German cycle routes to Hamburg.
Arriving in Hamburg with less time than planned, we took a train onwards to Copenhagen instead of riding. After tooling around there for a few days, we flew back to Paris.
We landed in Paris at ten in the morning on September third. By that time
the next day, we were saying goodbye to Dad and Noreen. Dan and I scooted around Gare du Nord to la Villette. Here the Canal de l'Ourcq enters the old city. We skipped the suburbs of Paris by riding along the canal out to Charles de Gaulle Airport. At the end of the canal we had our first lunch. Noreen doped the sandwiches with spicy mustard. We also had a spicy encounter with stinging nettles on the roadside. They are everywhere in Europe.
Leaving Rue Juliette Lamber in Paris Canal de l'Ourcq. It supplies water for cleaning the streets of Paris and drives public fountains.
From the canal we turned North past Charles de Gaulle airport. The weather was sunny and above thirty, we chugged water. The first Proudfoot short-cut was a small road over the TGV tracks. It began as rough going on cobblestones, then after the bridge turned to broken glass. The base was gravel, but someone had seen fit to patch up the road with broken bottles. Miraculously we had no flat tires. At one we stopped at a Carrefour for snacks and a nap. The terrain was mildly hilly, in a low rolling fashion. The roads are rough and fairly busy, but drivers are very considerate in giving space to us. We kept stopping in small towns to refill our water bottles. Dan was fading as we approached CompiĂ¨gne. We passed a neat wake-boarding centre on the way into town. The hotel is a comfortable family affair. We locked the bikes in their garden. After dinner in town, we were very tired and had a great sleep.
Tired, Dan could not make it home after dinner without a nap.
CompiĂ¨gne to Amiens was a blast,
we rode through 24 small villages. Before noon, we worked our way uphill to Montdidier. We hoped there was not a mountain there, as the name implied. As we rolled downhill into each village, we were on the lookout for signs for the next village. With luck we could conserve speed and come up the next hill. Many times we had to stop and consult the map. After climbing the hillock that was Montdidier, we cruised down into a river valley. This river flows down into Amiens, so theoretically it should be easy going. Instead, the road wove up and down the valley. We passed lots of recreational cyclists, which is a good sign you are on a nice road. At four thirty, we decided to quit the windy roads and join the highway. Immediately after passing a "trous en formation" sign, I hit a big pothole and blew my back tire. We changed the tube, which had a 10mm gash from the rim. Getting back on the bike, I realised the front tire was flat too. A gravel bicycle path appeared alongside us as we came into town. Dan swerved to it, and slid right off. He was ok, and we gained a new respect for the low friction properties of highly inflated tires. Amiens is very nice, a bit of an Amsterdam feel with canals. Dinner was at a nice spot Jen recommended, along the canal. We are both super tired.
Dan hams it up outside of Moreuil 19
Dinner at L'Envie with a superb sunset.
I bought a new tube this morning, as my
rear tube had a 10mm gash from yesterday's flat. We rolled out of Amiens uphill, and across a rolling landscape, very picturesque. I did not get any pictures because it started raining hard just after lunch. We kept on rolling, and joined a freshly paved rail trail for 13 kilometres. This was a welcome relief. Arriving at Arras at three, we chose to keep on going. Heading uphill, it stopped raining and the sun came out as we hit Vimy ridge. The visitors centre was open this time, and looking at the topo map we saw that we had gone over all the hills in northern France. From now to Hamburg the terrain should be lowlands. Vimy ridge was spectacular, and this time we got to ride down the big hill into Lens. The mystery of the conical black hills is solved, they are coal overburden piles from Lens' industrial past. Our bed and breakfast is very nice and the food here is good, tending towards Belgian. Tomorrow we will try for 100km to Mons, Belgium. We had planned to go direct to Brussels, but that is 169km along the bike routes, a silly distance in retrospect.
The tumultuous terrain on Vimy ridge where the bombs dropped. Following pages The Canadian National Vimy Memorial 23
Today things flattened out as we cycled 105km from lens. Cycle infrastructure keeps getting better as we go north. We spend half the day village hopping and getting lost. The houses here are fantastic, conservatively shapes homes with superb red brick detailing. We found the Belgian border, and crossed on a grass path through a field and over a foot-bridge, very low key. The roads near the border in Belgium are paced in concrete, I'm not sure if that is normal or is for the movement of tanks in case of war. The second 50 kilometres we rode along a canal. The ride was very pleasant but boring. There is no need to stop as all other traffic goes around the canal. We raced two barges, "Wouter" and "Spido" they were travelling empty at 15km/h. With our lunch and detours we kept getting behind them and passing them all day. We passed signs welcoming us to Wallonia, the French speaking Belgian province. It's nice that my French still works here. Wallonia is a much cooler name that Belgium. Mons is very pretty. For dinner we scored half chickens with fries.
The Wallonian-French border is a small bridge over a stream. 27
Today was an easier 63km ride to Brussels. Dan's knee is hurting so we went
slowly. The sky gave a great show but did not rain.
Arriving in Brussels by canal, we came through a dirty neighbourhood near the train station. We went right past our hotel, and went to search for one in a better neighbourhood. As we wandered around Brussels, we turned a corner and found ourselves in a parade. We were right behind the marching band. It was fun to roll along and look at all the spectators. Feeling out of place, we scooted out a block later. The other cheap hotels were out in the university area, far from town. We ended up back at the hotel we had started from. We missed the Belgian beer festival here by half an hour. The central square is full of tents with hundreds of beers. The festival is winding down, and they are not letting anyone in. Dan is royally pissed. Some annoying Americans are holding each other up and singing loudly, but most people are well behaved. We bought some chocolates and headed to dinner. Tripadvisor sent us to a superb restaurant, Fin de Siecle. We both had sausages and mashed potatoes. Good food to fill hungry stomachs. Belgian beers are excellent, flavourful and powerful. We had Leffe with dinner and a Rochefort later at a bar.
Today we rested from cycling by walking everywhere. Talking to some
locals, we found out that yesterday's parade was the parade of giants. For lunch we ate waffles at Mokafe in the Gallerie de la Reine, a spectacular covered street. Liege waffles are very sweet and tasty. Later we had some Belgian fries with a paprika mayonnaise.
Grote Markt, Brussels
Dan is enjoying his Kwak Beer. It comes in an hourglass shaped beaker with wood handle. Gallerie de la Reine
We cut our Brussels-Breda trip in two, because bike routes take a much twistier
path than Google assumes. Their cycling directions had us coming up Belgium's major NorthSouth highway. We rode out of Brussels on the same canal we followed in, going North this time. Lift bridges got much taller, we are heading towards the sea. The weather was scattered showers all day, but many of those were sun-showers, so it was nice. Arriving near Antwerp, we got to experience the connect the dots cycle network. Numbers 1-100 are assigned to intersections of cycle routes and you plot a path through them, and follow signs to the next number. This led us though a nice long, but scenic path through the villages surrounding Antwerp. Antwerp is very clean, it rained and we walked around the old city and visited the architectural boondoggle that they had recently built in the north of the city, the MAS museum. It is a folly of wasted space and extremely expensive materials. They deep fry their burgers here. Belgian fries are great though.
The clubhouse at a golf course. I wish I was kidding. 39
A slow flat delayed us in Antwerp. Dan's tire was empty when we came to load up the bikes. After negotiating with a reluctant garage door, we left Antwerp by the Jewish district.
I should explain that nearly all diamonds are traded through Antwerp, and a portion of that business is handled by Antwerp's orthodox Jewish community. When we rolled into town yesterday, we were stopped at a streetlight with a 13 year old boy wearing a black suit and black hat. He stared at us in our cycle gear, and we stared at him in his traditional clothing. Then a whole bunch of Jewish kids showed up. Some put plastic bags over their hats to keep the rain out. We continued the cycling by numbers technique along a canal and then through small towns. The directional signs are very sparse, so you can go a few kilometres doubting yourself before you see a new sign. We made references to religions, when the earthly signs were insufficient, we would deploy technology to interpret a sign from the sky, GPS. In this haphazard fashion, we managed to stumble across the Dutch-Belgian border ahead of schedule. In hindsight we went down a gravel road past some women on horses, and then the license plates changed and the real estate signs changed from .be to .nl
Look how smooth that bike trail is. 41
In the Netherlands, cows and corn turned
to plant nurseries, mostly growing hedging material: yew, beech, boxwood. We followed a nice river into Breda on the most beautiful cycling paths. The Dutch have roads with one car lane in the centre and a bike lane on each side. Oncoming cars must move aside to pass each other.
Breda is somehow even cleaner than Antwerp. We joke that all they do is clean and garden in this country. We found a local eatery through the hostel and had a typical Dutch meal, a mound of mashed potatoes with endive and sausages. Dan called it Mama's restaurant. Today we had two rains, but three hours of sunlight and one sun shower. For now things are warm. Tomorrow we are skirting Rotterdam and heading to Den Haag. Then the day after it's Amsterdam.
Modern Art in Breda references google maps
The Hague 106km
It rained all morning in Breda, so
we got out of there early. We took a very scenic 30km route to the bridge 15km from town. Coasting over the river near Rotterdam, it stopped raining. We passed a whole school, 200 or so kids cycling with their backpacks in the front basket. Some though Dan was Japanese, we got hi, allo, and ni hao. We passed through a tunnel under the next branch of the river. It became apparent as we cycled on the dikes that all the land was below sea level. Sometimes they install sea level indicators along the road by putting a blue wave symbol high up on a stick. We cycled past the Rotterdam dockyards, and under the sea again. This was the first time all day we had no wind, the headwind we pedalled into had windmills spinning happily.
The gravel road is covered in steel plates to support a drill rig. The bike path was freshly paved. 45
At a stop to take off our jackets, two sheep came in to protect their grass from Dan, I had to scare them off.
In Delft we stopped for a third lunch of sausage pastries, and followed an-
other canal into The Hague. The European route inflation is in effect, our 60 kilometre line of sight route was 80km on google maps and 106 km on the odometer. I miss the straight canals of Belgium. Coming into the hostel in The Hague we heard Alain Clark, Father and a friend on the radio. Tomorrow we cycle into Amsterdam in the rain. On our return from a good Indonesian dinner, we stumbled upon the Hague's red light district one block away from our hotel. No wonder the hotel was cheap.
The cycle routes are getting denser, I had 40 numbers written on my wrist as today's directions. A kayaker on the canals of The Hague
With a promise of rain in the afternoon,
we left The Hague early, and took a detour out to the ocean. The sea is obscured by casinos in town, so we rode the North Sea trail through the dunes for a while, and climbed one to look at the ocean. The coastline is dotted with WWII bunkers. Turning back into town, we rejoined the bike routes. These are now fantastic. Some are bumpy herringbone red brick, but newer sections are paved in a special red asphalt, with smaller aggregate to make things smoother. We were attracted by some contemporary architecture, which turned out to be a brand new graveyard. We ate our first lunch among the newly dead. With a great tailwind, we rode along a highway, then diverged to the side of a canal, where things really picked up. The speedometer read 27km/h. The canal brought us into North Holland, which is off our map. I chose to enter the city through the Amsterdam Bos, as we had cycled there three years ago and I figured I could find my way.
Dunes outside The Hague 53
Second World War bunkers along the coast
Planes roared overhead as we passed
Schipol airport. We entered a residential neighbourhood built on a lake, each house has a 1.5m canal separating it from the road and the houses next to it. The best part was the variation in bridges to each house along the five kilometre street, from concrete to wrought iron to wooden lift bridges. Amsterdam Bos was calming, and we segued from that to Vondelpark, which was hopping. We passed the little industrial area with tram tracks where Noreen fell, I made sure not to make the same mistake. 55
Then it was a hairy ride through
Amsterdam to our hostel in Borneo-Sporenburg. This weekend is the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam, apparently the busiest weekend no-one has heard about. Hotels floated around 200 euro, so we found a hostel on the outskirts that was not booked full. We had a nice dinner in town, and walked around the canals and red light district. One of the guys in our room is Dave from Ottawa, he is doing a carpool tour of Europe.
Our Amsterdam day started slowly.
We were woken up by the Algerians talking. There are three men in our room from the Algerian state broadcaster, attending the IBC. I spoke with them in French, but in the morning they were talking Arabic. Dan and Dave found it grating, but I liked it as it reminded me of living with a Tunisian, Aness, in Switzerland. After some unsuccessful planning, we left the hostel at noon and took a rainy tram ride to the van Gogh museum. They have a great exhibit on his influences from other modern painters, and a few masterpieces. Most of the masterpieces must be sprinkled around the world. Dan was inspired by van Gogh so we went and bought him a sketchbook. I found a map store and purchased the cycle map of northern Holland, which includes Amsterdam and our next two days. The storekeeper pointed out that the map doubles as an umbrella, as it is printed on plastic. It was open monument weekend so we visited the Amsterdam Beurs by Berlage, a building my Swiss architecture prof was obsessed with. For lunch we had panini in an Italian deli and got to speak Italian. Then I got a maoz falafel for second lunch. Walking around Jordaan, we found a nice Thai restaurant for dinner.
Creative bicycle parking
We had another late start, attempting
to plan for Hamburg and Copenhagen. We have used up two days so far splitting long journeys. The result is we do not have enough time to cycle to Copenhagen, now the challenge is finding a train journey there. We left the hostel at 11, and joined a superb bike path out of the city. Now, and for the rest of the trip (fingers crossed), we have a tailwind. This is great along the flat Dutch landscape. We followed the North Sea trail, which threads up the coast from France to Denmark, and back down the East of England. They had a sailing race out on the water today, and the sails shone in the unexpected sunlight. We came into Naarden, which is a tiny fortified town on the 8 pointed star model of moat. Very charming. Merging onto the Main Street we found ourselves behind Romans and World War One and Two soldiers. We rolled behind the parade, as there is no way of passing it, until it came to a podium with the mayor. The banners proclaimed it was an open monument day event. The town must have been founded by Romans. Lunch was at a charming marina in Huizen, which we spent the next hour trying to get out of. As we waited for a ferry over a narrow canal, rereading the sign, we deciphered "zontag gescloten" meant closed Sundays. We had to backtrack five kilometres upwind to reach the nearest bridge. Along the way we got to try one of the do it yourself hand crank ferries. The rest of the day was an easy, straight ride with the tailwind. We passed through a huge forest for two hours, and arrived in Apeldoorn. The town's only attraction in the home William or Orange and Mary of the English crown who lived there (in exile?). Their castle and gardens are said to rival Versailles. We got a steal on the hotel as tourist season has wound down.
In the forests around Apeldoorn A hand crank ferry. You spin a wheel that drags the ferry along a chain than dangles off each end.
Our destination was supposed to be Nordhorn, in Germany, but the Germans
are apparently still in summer, because all the hotels within 10km were booked. So we settled for a small town, Denekamp, just on the Dutch side of the border.
We set off with a terrific tailwind, travelling at 28km/h. As soon as we stopped for lunch we got cold as the wind caught up with us. In the early afternoon we were an hour from the hotel, travelling along a canal when "Bang! tinkle tinkle" I had broken a spoke. I could not ride the bike any longer, but we spotted a local guy with a cellphone and he found us a bike shop 1.5 kilometres away. Coming into town, some ladies and their kids gave us directions to the bike shop, but warned it may be closed. It was. In this part of the Netherlands everything is closed Sunday and Monday. Nice life. I came back to the ladies and asked if there was a train out of town. They laughed. "Train, no, no train in Albergen, no bus either." They got out a phone book and started looking up bike shops nearby that might be open.
Great separated bike lanes in Northern Europe
One of their husbands showed up, and unable to find a bike shop, he offered to drive us to our hotel. We could get the bike fixed tomorrow morning. Dan had left in search of another bike shop and gotten lost, and at this point returned, led by a local man on a bike. We piled our bicycles into the husband's contractor van and headed off. The ride was dizzying, travelling fast in a big van along roads we had gone so slowly on. He dropped us off at our hotel, the Dinkleloord :) and refused any money. Tomorrow I will get up early and go into town to fix my bike.
I got up at seven, packed, and left Dan sleeping to be at the bike shop for their
8:30 opening. They have an incredible number of bike shops per capita in the Netherlands, our tiny town had two of them. As I walked my bike into town, I was worried that they would not have the right spoke. Everyone else's bikes use J pull spokes, while my bike has racing tires with bladed straight pulls. When I snapped a spoke in Vancouver I had to try three bike shops to find one that could fix it. The very competent guys in the repair shop took the bike, measured it, and determined they had one left in stock. Twenty minutes and â‚Ź22.50 later, I was rolling.
Returning to the hotel, we had the same problem as yesterday, no accommodations in Cloppenburg. This time we settled for the tinier town of Herzlake, 30 km away from Cloppenburg. These organized Germans are messing up our ad hoc planning style. We crossed the German border 5 kilometres out of town, this time marked with a sign. The German side is very similar so far. Houses are uglier, there is more horses and corn, less cows. The cycle trails are great outside the city, but are bumpy and disorganized within towns. They are having an election in Germany, so Angela Merkel looked down on us from everywhere. As we were travelling at the speed of the wind, we followed a particularly cold rain-cloud for half and hour. In the future we should just stop and let it pass, as the locals do. Our short day ended at 2:30 in Herzlake. The town is tiny, but we found schnitzel and beer for dinner at a local spot. Tomorrow is a big day as we push to Bremen.
Just on the Dutch side of the border 69
Crossing the German border 71
The morning was cold, with a fresh rain and gloomy clouds as we rolled out of Herzlake. Our first twenty kilometres were along rural cycle routes, through forests and small towns. It reminded us of Vancouver, the smell of wet pine trees, gravel crunching underfoot. At 38 km, we had lunch in a cafe in Cloppenburg, our planned destination for yesterday. There is not much in town, so no big loss. Dan did not find his legendary Cloppenburg sweater, it appears the department store Peek and Cloppenburg is not related to the town. German food is cheaper and comes in bigger portions. Things must be like the US, farm subsidies and control of oil. The price of gas went down for the first time, â‚Ź1.54 compared to â‚Ź1.65 in Belgium and Holland. They get their oil from Russia and the ocean, so have to pay more. France is cheaper because they have relationships with their North African and Middle Eastern former colonies. This may explain all the concrete roads in Belgium, if you do not have a lot of refineries pumping out tar, you cannot afford to pave the road with asphalt. But then what do their cement kilns burn? In the afternoon we cruised around the outskirts of Wildeshausen, and the sun came out. I ate some tasty rose hips by the side of the road. Someone has planted wild roses along kilometres of roads. The hips are plumper than Canadian ones, perhaps they are bred for their fruit and flower. Bremen has a beautiful old centre on an island. We found an amazing Art Nouveau alleyway all done in brick. Dan finally got his Paulaner at dinner, with schnitzel.
This cat graffiti makes me happy 73
This morning we bought tickets to Copenhagen. Due to the European
route inflation effect, we used up days meant for Hamburg-Copenhagen earlier in the trip. We are taking a train to Copenhagen so we can catch our flight back on the 26th. The ticket came in 9 pieces, with seat reservations, reservations for the bikes, and international bicycle passes. It took a while to figure them all out in German. Bremen's mayor is big on cycling, so we rolled out of town on very nice cycle paths into the country. Now we are following the German national cycle route, which promises to be more scenic. The area around Bremen is low marshlands, shepherded into cultivation. An seventy year old man on a bike passed us, and stayed ahead for several kilometres. Dan and I invented a whole story about him. He had cycled from Hamburg this morning, to drink the milk of a lowland Bremen cow. Having filled milk bottles for his wife, he sucked the cow dry, and cycled home before noon. Into the woods we passed charming villages, the first pretty German houses so far. They build with heavy timbers, which are in filled with brick. Lots of timber braces on diagonals connect the structure. Yesterday, when it got cloudy and rainy, Kwak arrived at one stop with "wind cuts" He was bleeding from his knuckles and leg. He says he always gets these when it's windy. I'm not sure how he could have crashed without me noticing. The rain was slated to arrive at four today, so we are looking over our shoulders all the time. Dan talked to his wind friends who say it will not rain until we arrive at the hotel. If he has wind friends, why did they cut him?
Detours along the pink cycle route. The trail zags through Wilstedt, then goes all the way around the centre of Nartum, Finally making a big detour to Zeven and Heeslingen.
After lunch we followed the bike route as it detoured through several
villages. The local tourist board must have been involved in planning the routes. Often we would come into a town from the North, go all the way around the downtown, and leave from the NorthEast. When we arrived in Zeven, we found that the hotel would not open until five. So we found a dessert cafe and ate waffles with beer. For dinner we settled on an Italian restaurant, and made friends with the waiters and the boss. They were from Sicily, and we talked with them in Italian about Rome and food. 79
The morning was fresh as we rolled out
of Zeven. Instead of a 60 kilometre highway ride, we chose the scenic route, which in Germany is a wild affair with zigzags and dirt roads. Dan's Kona touring bike is made for these trails. My bike used to have rough cyclo-cross tires, but now the 25mm road tires plough into dirt under the weight of panniers. Just outside of Zeven, we stopped in an old forest beside the trail for photos. I was riding around in the woods for a bit, then we heard dogs barking in the distance. A man in a large hunting jacket was approaching, with his german shepherds off leash. We quickly got back on the trail and sped off as the dogs ran toward us.
Fixing a flat in Apel
After some cross country riding in forests, we stopped for lunch on the bleachers of a soccer field in Tiste. At that point we had travelled 31km, and passed a road sign for Zeven 17km. Quite the scenic route. We missed a sign on the way out of Tiste, and went on a 6km detour West before the fact that the sun and wind had switched sides brought us to stop. We are following HH/HB signs that should lead us to Hamburg. The cycle route takes the path less travelled, so often we leave a village on asphalt, which disintegrates to cobblestones, then these fall away to gravel, and dirt. We follow a trail through woods, that grows cobblestones and then we are back on asphalt coming into a new village. Dan loves these muddy dirt trails, as it reminds him of mountain biking in Vancouver. I even saw a big yellow slug. After all that off road fun, I noticed a slow flat in my front tire. I switched it with a patched tube. Big mistake. After the biggest climb of the trip so far, we had lunch and cut into the gravel roads of the regional forest park, following the HH/HB signs. 81
Dan really loved the offroad downhills, while I was apprehensive about another
flat. I was also afraid of sliding out, as my front brakes would seize, and the rear ones were loose. Dan calls me unBRAKEable. I have to go first or I plough into him if he taps his brand new disk brakes. I managed to tighten my brakes a bit at a stop, and realised my front tire was leaking again. No sooner was the tire fixed than we realised we were going in circles. With help from some German grandmas who did not speak English, we found the next sign. We rode downhill towards town, and took a picture beside the welcome to Hamburg sign. However, we were still two hours away. As we descended into the forest, the HH/HB signs became more confusing. They stopped entirely, and we were lost in the woods. Hemmed in by private property signs, we rode down some exciting singletrack hiking trails into Harburg. Slogging through Harburg, we carried our bikes up a railroad overpass to get into the dockyards. It is Friday, and they seem to be setting up a bunch of outdoor parties in a trendy area. Then we began crossing bridges. Hamburg is the European town with the most bridges. We rode through 10km of industrial dockyards. Now we began unsuccessfully looking for Wifi at fast food joints. We had reserved a hotel, but did not know where it was. From the saved e-mail, we picked out the street name, Steindamm. I managed to find it on the map, which was a start. The North of the dockyards is spotted with public housing. We passed five police officers yelling at two dishevelled men, and another five officers holding back a whole immigrant community. We did not hang around.
The sun was setting as we navigated to the head of Steindamm Ă&#x;trasse.
Coming down the street towards the main train station, we passed the ritzy hotels. Kebab shops popped up everywhere as we arrived at our budget hotel. For the first time we feel uncomfortable about locking our bikes on the hotel's roof. A short wall divides us from a community of African tents on the adjacent roof. The hoteliers look uneasy about their neighbours. We snagged Kebabs for dinner, and wandered into town, which has superb brickwork.
Blurrisms makes a resurgence
Our hotel room is up five flights of stairs, which keeps our legs working. Working
our way into the dockyards on foot, we picked up some â‚Ź3 Moleskines at a design sale. This led us South through the old, pretty dockyards. We spent two hours at the excellent Maritime Museum. The building reminded Dan of his bath house design. Then we wandered into Hafen City and the excretable Philharmonic under construction. We had lunch along the shores of the Binnenalster, then home for a siesta. For dinner, we found great food at a Portugese restaurant. Dan had a tuna steak, and I salmon. In the evening we wandered along the Reeperbahn. Named for the rope-makers that worked there, the street is now the district of sin. There were innumerable bars and clubs. We passed the infamous red light district, and stopped for beers. Dan finally found his Paulaner, the weissbier version. It was a long walk home.
The national elections are today,
so everything is shut down. They expect Merkel to win. We wandered around Hamburg in the morning before a train at noon. A few minutes before departing, I stared across the platforms and saw our train at the other side of the station. We drew many looks as we ran up and down stairs with bikes on our backs. We found the bike car at the end of the train. After a quick change of trains in Neumunster, we then got on a bigger intercity train at the border town of Flensburg. We rode that for four hours across water and flat country into Copenhagen. On the Copenhagen streets we zoomed to our hostel along superb bike lanes. The Danish Krone is worth 1/5 of a dollar, so we each took out 1000 krone. Things are expensive though. It turns out they are self sufficient in oil. The Danes drink really watery Pilsner beer.
On the train 89
We got breakfast at a grocery store, and ate it in a park, because everything in
this town is so expensive. They do have excellent German style croissants with chopped almonds on top, and a hazelnut chocolate filling. Yum.
Then we got on our bikes without the panniers. Dan has taken to calling them dead babies, because each pannier weighs about as much as a dead baby. We blasted around Copenhagen, going in circles and turning wherever a light was green. We found ourselves out in the dockyards sketching beside the Majestic Maersk. Maersk is doing a PR drive by letting people visit their ships. Google research shows this ship is two months old, and is the world's largest container ship, carrying 18 000 twenty foot equivalent containers. We rode along the waterfront to the other side of the harbour, to Christiania. This hippie community has been squatting in a naval yard since the seventies. We passed through the green light district (marijuana sales) and had lunch in a cafe there. A procession of stray dogs came to our table to beg, about fifteen in all. The best was a little black pug with cute eyes. Some very stoned guys at a table nearby were feeding them.
Someone photobombed Dan a few seconds before this
We tooled around the opera house, then swung out into the suburbs. We rode over to the ocean, saw the yacht clubs, and came back for Dan's camera. Until we got to Bremen, we had only taken rolling pictures in tree lined country roads. As we looked through the photos and realised this, we decided to get some urban environment cycling shots. After fettucine amatriciana for dinner (Italy was better) we went for a night ride. I reversed my black jacket to white, and we got out our lights. Zooming around at night was fun, with no-one on the roads. We ran loops around down-town, and ended up at the opera house, looking across the harbour to the city. After a nap, we cruised back. 91
After another hobo breakfast in a park, we went off in search of bike boxes for
the plane ride. We found some near the hotel, with the help of a lazy bike store employee. As we were walking out the door, he told us we had to pay. I tried arguing, as the boxes were waiting for the dumpster anyway, but we ended up paying 50 kronor ($10) each. He pocketed the cash. Dan was pissed as he had gotten a shitty box. In hindsight the guy had ripped us off. Dan went out to look for a new box, while I cycled out Orested. BIG has several neat projects there. I saw their diagonal hotel and the Bjerget mountain. The neighbourhood is newly built with great bike lanes. We met back at the hotel and walked to the Danish Architecture centre. Their exhibit was a semi interesting piece on Zaha Hadid that we had already seen in Venice. Lots of 3D printing. In the afternoon we walked the old centre and shopping district. We did not buy anything, but I got two Lego bricks and canvas bag for free. Instead of dinner, we headed off to Humlebaek, to the Louisiana Modern Art Museum. We hopped on a regional train for half an hour. Louisiana is an estate on the Oresund, owned by a man whose three wives were all named Louise. The museum is spectacular, overlooking the ocean from the sculpture garden, a grass landscape that steps down to the water. The sun was setting as we arrived. Exploring the garden was an adventure. After dark, we got lost inside the museum. There was a boring exhibit by Yoko Ono, and some mediocre modern art paintings. The best part was the sculpture garden, and stories of the museum's founder, a sixties cheese magnate who held wild parties in the galleries.
Bjerget housing and parking The Copenhagen Stock exchange 95
We spent all morning packing bikes, and our belongings, into the bike boxes.
The bikes have to be substantially disassembled to fit inside. We have a great ticket through SAS that allows bike boxes to count as regular luggage, so we carried one pannier each. We ate lunch in the park again. Dan's kebab was so spicy he was jumping up and down and hyperventilating. We tied our flat inner tubes to the panniers, creating backpacks. Then we were off, headed to the nearest metro station. The inner tube backpacks have a bad habit of slowly tightening around your shoulders and cutting off circulation. As we neared the station, I made a joke about the elevator being broken. It was. We wrestled the bikes down four floors to the platform, and rode out to the airport. Things at the airport were easy, and we killed some time at Burger King. We landed in Paris at the Terminal 1 Octopus. As we retrieved our bikes and walked out of the terminal, we were stopped by customs in a spot check. They asked us about the bike boxes. I guess we kinda stuck out with 6 foot tall boxes on our carts. I started to fast talk our way out of there. Apparently the rules are that everything over 500 Euro must be reported. He was concerned that we were importing the bikes illegally. They gave us a really hard time, I kept repeating that we were foreign students who were sorry, but we were not aware of the rules. After 20 minutes, he had us read the rules and let us go. Then we lined up for the Roissybus into town, and bought tickets. We were the last stop at the airport, and a half full bus pulled up. The driver told us we could not get on. He refused to be persuaded. The bike boxes were too big. We waited 40 minutes for the next bus. The next driver was nicer and let us on. At Opera, we changed buses, and arrived home late that night.