Friday, September 3, 2010

Baltic Vacation

The day starting with the Cuxhaven ferry put us into Brunsbuttel, where another canal starts and crosses a huge stretch of land - the Nord-Ostsee Canal. This canal goes from the North Sea to the East Sea, and some of the biggest boats we have seen bring their cargo through Germany, avoiding the trip all the way around Denmark. The East Sea is what the Germans call it - you may know it as the Baltic Sea.

In Brunsbuttel we stopped at an Eis Cafe, or ice cream shop, so Joshua could fix his tire, which had a hole needing a dollar bill fix. Those RiBMo tires are awesome, but very difficult to remove from the wheel.

Canals are usually a pretty straight shot from point A to point B. The Nord-Ostsee Canal goes from Brunsbuttel to Kiel, Germany. We didn't really want to go to Kiel, we wanted to go to Hirtshals, Denmark, the far northern city where there is a ferry to Bergen, Norway, so we had to decide which way to go north. There is the North Sea Bike Route, which meanders its way along the western coast of northern Germany and then Denmark. We had seen the North Sea at the end of August, and we thought there was a good chance it would only get less hospitable as the days past. But rolling up the center of the country didn't sound like the best fun either. The North Sea route is considerably longer, and as the weather was getting colder and wetter, we wanted to see if we could hustle along a little.

In the end we compromised, or took a totally random option instead. We went across the Nord-Ostsee canal as far as Rendsburg, then headed north and east towards the Ostsee Bike Route, along the Baltic coast. We like the sea. But first, the Canal:

Really big, but deceptively small once the really, really big boats are coming through.

Can you tell what this boat is carrying?

Pretty nice bike route

We took some fun ferries across this, too. The ferries are pretty regularly spaced, and we found out that they are free!

This was a normal, straight across the canal, quick on-and-off ferry

This we will call the air ferry

Dangling from the railroad bridge above

Ahead you see the 'dock'

Shortly after this ferry, Joshua got his first flat! He found another nice big hole in his tire, which he fixed with another dollar bill. As he sat down to patch his tube, I went into town for supplies, and luckily found a grocery store not too far away. We left the canal just after Rendsburg, and headed northeast towards the Gross Wittensee, a big lake with a campground. As dusk settled we started following smaller and smaller paths, until we were on a single track between two fields, the grass as high as our pedals on either side. When we hit the lake, we saw many lovely looking summer cottages, probably empty for the winter. The campground was also right on the lake, which was beautiful - a nice place to go back to, maybe one day.

The next morning we made it to Eckernforde, a really nice, big town at the base of the fjord with cool beachy culture.

We liked Eckernforde so much that we stayed almost all afternoon, wandering along the pedestrian only street at the middle of town. Once back on our bikes, we saw the also lovely harbor area, and biked towards a storm.

Wait. What?

As we were leaving town, a black cloud started to gather ahead of us.

Ramona: Should we go back to a cafe or something and wait it out?
Joshua: Is that what you want to do?
Ramona: I mean, who bikes towards a storm?
Joshua: Do you want to stop?

That kind of conversation got us right to the edge of town and just as huge raindrops started to fall we stopped under a tree to put on some rain gear. We could see the lighter sky beyond the storm, it would just be a squall. But to go ahead would mean getting soaked.

We were stopped in front of a kind of industrial looking, fenced off set of buildings, with a guard at the gate. There was a little check in window near a pedestrian gate, with an awning that would shelter us, so we headed for that and left the bikes under the tree. The place turned out to be a military base of some kind, and one of the other people waiting was a man who worked there and was about to head home on his bike. Turns out, his job is to map and then destroy undetonated mines in the Baltic Sea, leftover from WWII. That was a more interesting rain storm than we were expecting.

Sure enough, it was over very quickly, and we headed back out after saying goodbye as our new friend rode off home. Blue skies ahead!

And the sun came out! Nice bike path, too

And holy crap it looks like fall!! Walnut trees are losing their leaves!?!!? Just seeing the browning leaves, I could almost smell the cool, wet smells of fall in the north east US; riding through the leaves made me feel like the start of a new school year and the excitement of changing seasons, oblique sunshine barely warming the air, but feeling so precious for the shorter days, getting shorter in the near future.

We already found ourselves attempting to stop earlier in the day. In Switzerland, we were riding until 7pm, sometimes later, because it stayed light until 9.30 or 10pm. Already, at the very end of August, we were finding ourselves eating dinner in the dark if we stopped after 6pm.

Our destination for that night: Waabs (you can see it under Damp). But we were also very excited to see what Damp was like.

Some nice bike route signs - see the little Ostsee Radweg sign? We followed that.


Only a few km to go! We saw lots of horses, and the path rolled up and down soft hills. We arrived at a turnoff for Kleinwaabs (small Waabs) and saw that Grosswaabs (Big Waabs) was further down the road. Which Waabs were we looking for? We didn't see a Kleinwaabs on our map at first, but then we noticed Grosswaabs, which was not where we wanted to go - we had arrived! Waabs, Kleinwaabs, what's the difference?

We had a pick of two campsites in this Waabs, and we picked Camping Jordan. Our site:

Looking down from the campground on our second day

Fall didn't seem like it was falling so fast, all of a sudden. In fact, we couldn't think of any reason to hurry anymore. On our first morning, we decided that this was a really nice place to stop for a second night. Do some laundry, read books, go for walks along the rocky beach. Then on the following morning, we decided we still weren't ready to leave. We ended up staying three nights, enjoying a lovely Baltic Sea vacation.

Blackberries are ripening! And in Waabs, what grows wild in among the berries!? Hops!

Beach day

How to chill beer - the water wasn't actually cold enough

Some of the rocks are chalk, and some are iron colored

We built a little wall of rocks, to create a semi-protected pool

On the third day we watched a huge storm build up to the north. 

The wind was blowing solidly east, and we knew that as long as the wind held, we wouldn't have to worry about rain. It blew east all day long. But as we were sitting at dinner in the pizzeria by the water, the wind changed. And quickly. By the time we were walking back up to our tent, the first drops were falling and the sky was very dark. The storm stayed to the north of us, so we didn't get a complete downpour drenching, and by the morning the storm had passed. But the wind continued to blow, and not in the direction we wanted to go.

We loved Camping Jordan. The owner was friendly and helpful. He didn't speak English, and I actually had a lot of fun trying to speak German with him. Each morning he would ask, 'Und heute?' or 'And today?' and I would respond 'Wir bleiben noch eine nacht!' or 'We're staying another night!' He always smiled happily, seemingly pleased that we liked his campsite enough to keep staying. It certainly wasn't the money, because it was very cheap to camp there. When we finally left I had the feeling we might return there again one day.


AA said...

A very intimate posting, thank you for sharing again. Those are turbine blades aboard the Wilson, or perhaps paddles for the oars of an enormous viking ship we will see in the next post?

marks moody said...

you got it. that ship kept pace with us all day. we travelled faster that it but it would inevitably catch up to us when we stopped for snacks and lunch. we think it was taking a windmill to Poland.

Ramona said...

we wondered if the rest of it was inside the ship. possible. handy.