The German border passed us by but we didn’t actually see it. Straight through onto the famous autobahn, truth be told we don’t yet get the fuss! Our second experience and we were still under-whelmed, thinking it similar to the M62. Mostly two lane, reasonable road surface, plenty of road-works. The occasional nutter passes by at 130 something per hour but other than that we are missing where the excitement is – for us the Dutch have better motorways.
Our next stop was Cuxhaven for a night before catching the ferry up the coast and avoiding Hamburg. Our first real experience of the Stellplatz – the German answer to campsite aires, upwards of 90 pitches, and looking very much like a car-park. We went through a painful process of registering with Frauline Unhelpful, two forms / 15 minutes cost us €5.60 tourist tax, then the meter wanted €10, plus €2 electric to Herr Elektrische, €1 shower and even 50 cents for the loo – it all seemed a bit chaotic and there was us expecting it to be very German and very organised – not a bit. It actually cost us more to stay there than on a campsite – not one of our better choices of overnight stop.
You meet the best people on a roundabout
Cuxhaven, most famous as the exit point for millions of German emigrants is now more known as a holiday resort. It felt very like being in Eastbourne, according to Iain, a 12 km promenade lined with private beaches, shops, cafes and hotels and lots and lots of retired people. Very few younger people or family groups, possibly still a bit out of season but the attractions seemed more directed to the older generation. It was busy, very busy, possibly the most people we have come across anywhere on our travels.
We were both very taken with the German alternative to deckchairs – Strandkorb – a two seat affair, for a couple of Euro you receive a key to remove the little picket fence. The seat tips back, the awning comes down and hey presto you have your own mini cabana on the North Sea. Once we saw them in Cuxhaven we saw them pretty much everywhere, even a couple seemingly abandoned on the dykes.
Cuxhaven Cobanna beach
The best deck-chair ever?
After seeing all that Cuxhven had to offer we looked up details of the ferry times – to find it no longer runs!! Bit of a bugger and there is a moral in there somewhere. Alternative was the shorter crossing at Elbe. It took 100 km off our journey but we had to wait nearly 2 hours as the ferry queue stretched back over a mile. My German severely let us down when I ‘heard’ the ferryman ask for €70, when in fact he wanted €17 – thankfully an honest German ferryman :).
in 600 metres take the ferry (or get very wet!!)
For the last few days we have been keeping very much to rural Germany. A couple of days on the coast staying on a wind-surfers campsite, to one side the dyke and the Wattenmeer, to the other a large lake with crowds of German wind-surfers taking advantage of the gale force winds. We were welcomed in to what seemed to be a bit of a makeshift set up, charged a few Euro and given a free cup of coffee. Miles from anywhere we attempted a walk on the dyke but it was way to windy, so we made do with learning the art of wind-surfing from the warmth of our van.
Saturday morning we were up and away before 7.30am! Iain felt the need to see the day fully so we took the quiet roads North, within an hour we happened across Tonning, where we promptly stopped and pitched up overlooking the river. It’s a small village with a historic harbour on the edge of the River Eider just a few miles in from the North Sea. A new one on us here is the apparently popular ‘ring jousting’ tournaments. Twenty or so blokes on horses riding along a narrow stretch of park trying to lance metal rings suspended in the air. It may sound a bit dull, but was actually quite entertaining.
The only shop open was a bakery where we bought the last of the days bread. We then needed a cart to carry it home. Not due to the quantity, we bought half a loaf, more due to it being heavier than a brick, whilst its very tasty it is surely the densest bread known to man.
North Germany to us feels very similar to Norfolk (language and bread weight aside). Very flat, lots of waterways, mostly thatched houses, antique shops in every old house and plenty of evidence of some well to do inhabitants. The people are friendly, if a little more reserved than most countries we have visited. Possibly here it was due to my putting the proverbial towel out – staking our claim to the washing machine for several hours yesterday to do over two weeks worth of washing!
Norfolk meets Germany
Today we cycled out to coast to see the Eider Barrage, the largest coastal defence in Germany. Built following the floods of the 1960’s the barrage is now a popular tourist attraction with two nature reserves, a couple of cafes and cycle paths galore around parks and coast. On the two ends of the barrage a small colony of Arctic Terns have established breeding grounds, we were fortunate to witness the parents feeding chicks from just a few feet away, brilliant to see – pretty disgusting smell though.
The Eider Barrage