July 6 – Gluckstadt to Bremervörde
More wind, more rain, more grey, that was what greeted us this morning. Another summer’s day!
We had a later start than usual because the bikes were locked in a garage that we couldn’t get to until 9:00 am, so we were ready and waiting to be off just as soon as we collected them. Then, the race was on. Our forward progress required another ferry crossing to get over the Elbe and there was a ferry leaving at 9:15. If we didn’t make that one, it would mean another half hour’s wait and the way things were looking, that could mean thirty very wet minutes. We put foot to pedal and…GO! Race through the streets…zip over that pedestrian crossing, look left, look right, cross that street, up the road…a gate to get through…push…Quick! Quick! Time’s getting on…back on the cycle path, now go, go, go! We pushed hard and pelted along the path as fast as we could…wait! Another gate to get through. This is holding us up! Up onto the road now, lean into the corner to take it sharp and get onto the entry road to the ferry terminal…there’s still cars there waiting, that’s a good sign…aaaaaand, we make it! The ferry hasn’t arrived and we join four other cycle tourists waiting to board. When we rode into Gluckstadt yesterday we saw the line of cars waiting for the ferry in the afternoon and the line was at least half a kilometre long. There weren’t too many waiting this morning, so when the ferry arrived, we all rolled on and began our river crossing. All we could see in the distance was grey and mist and rain clouds…waiting for us.
Half an hour later, we rolled off the ferry and pedalled on. As we rode down the path, we rode past the line of traffic waiting to board for the return crossing. It went on and on and on and on! The ferry didn’t fit too many cars on it, so some of those people would have a while to wait. Although, we did pass other ferries on our way over, so it looks like there were three or four in operation to deal with the demand. We were over though, so we could continue our forward roll.
The onward ride had us alongside a busy road, with not much to see. We did pass paddocks with interesting looking piles of earth, stacked in blocks. We guessed this was peat because it looked the way peat is cut, although I breathed in, thinking I would get the earthy, peaty smell as I rode past, which I didn’t, but we still think that’s what it was.
Along the road we went and the wind blew and the grey sky looked threatening. We began scouting for elevenses locations and saw a bus shelter, but in the end deemed it and its surroundings just a bit too “character building” for a pleasant elevenses break, so we pedalled on in search of a better option.
We turned into the small town of Osten, that was more of a neighbourhood than a town and saw a bench that looked just the ticket. Steve saw a ferry and went to investigate before we settled in for a break. He soon called me over.
“I thought we had to cross a bridge, but it looks like we have a ferry,” he said.
So we pedalled up to another ferry that literally began at the end of the street. The street stopped and the waiting area for the ferry began. We joined the other cyclists waiting, who all seemed to be having a fabulous time. A group of men, a little older than us, were sitting on a bench beside their bikes, enjoying a few beers. Then a group of women cycled up, one of them produced a bottle of champagne from her pannier and began pouring it out into plastic cups and handing it around to the other women. They stood chatting and laughing and talking to the ferry operator and it seemed to be a day of some celebration, unless this is just how they cycle together all the time, in which case, good on them!
We waited near what I thought was the concrete jetty area, sitting at the water’s edge. I looked to see if the ferry was on its way and would pull up at the end of the waiting area and we would all roll on. One of the men operating it then lifted the barrier gate and we all pedalled on to the jetty and again, I looked and waited, thinking the ferry must be about to arrived from some other location and then we would board and chug over. Then all of a sudden, that concrete jetty began to move! The whole thing was going across the river! This was very cool! It turned out, I discovered, this wasn’t a ferry at all, but a transporter bridge. We stood on what seemed like a piece of the road, or a paved jetty or segment of bridge, but it was actually moving across the water on a steel frame above, with the transporter bridge moving on tracks above us, very slowly, from one side of the water to the other. It was something I’d never seen before.
This particular transporter bridge, it turned out, was constructed in 1909 and an information plaque said this about it:
Unique in its particular design, it is a technical monument of national importance. In the year of its commission, 1909, it was a model of modern steel construction, as it was first presented to the world with the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Above all, however, it is an example of the combination of commercial thinking, bourgeois daring and technical enthusiasm. At the time Oste had no bridges and Praha ferries carried the burden of traffic. East merchants and artisans needed a safe river crossing to maintain their economic primacy in the region. Every sailing ship can pass under the transporter bridge. Winter weather with ice drift on the Oste can not harm the traffic.
So it turned out, this was quite a special thing to have had the opportunity to travel on, something quite unique and historic and there aren’t too many of them operating in the world. I thought it was interesting that the German, British, French and Argentinian flags were flying on it. I still haven’t been able to discover exactly why, other than there are transporter bridges in those places too. So I think the flags represented the few places in the world that are still using such a unique form of river crossing. We’ve had a few ferry crossings now, from chain ferries, to self-pulling ones like the little one in Croatia, to big motorised ones, but this transporter bridge was something very different and pretty amazing to see it in action.
We pedalled off on the other side and saw a perfect spot for elevenses in a hexagonal shelter.
As we took a short break, Steve checked the weather map, because so far, it had been misty and windy and grey and a few spots of rain, but we’d been lucky with it holding off.
“Look at this,” he said, with a tone of gloom.
I looked. It didn’t look good. The weather gremlins were saying, “Resistance is futile, we have you surrounded.” The map showed us as a small clear blob in the centre of thick, heavy rain on all sides. It was coming, the gremlins had us surrounded, they were out for us and they were on their way. Time to ride!
On we went, through a small neighbourhood and then onto a path beside a road, then along a quiet country road. The wind blew and it was straight in our face. I clicked down the gears…and clicked down…and clicked down. It was tough going, there was a full force gale pushing me back and the legs were slogging it out as best they could.
Soon, there wasn’t much to see, but acres and acres of corn. We were clearly in corn country because that’s all there was…just corn, corn and more corn.
The wind kept blowing and then…here it comes…our defences are useless…there’s nothing more we can do…we are surrounded and it’s closing in…we are defenceless…RAIN! It started as a drizzle, then the drizzle became heavier. Steve stopped to put his coat on.
We slogged on and then we got hills! Well, they weren’t so much hills as inclines. They weren’t big and they weren’t steep but they were long and combined with a full force head wind and head rain as well, it was enough to be seriously annoying. It was already hard going pedalling into the gale and the rain, that when the extra effort of the uphill came along, it wasn’t much fun.
On we went and the rain got heavier. It wasn’t drizzle now, it was just rain. The wind hadn’t let up either and we were in a battle against the elements. A saw a sheltered spot with a table and pulled over to wait for Steve, just to check if he wanted to keep going or stop for a break, hoping we could just keep going. When it’s wet I don’t like stopping, I like to just get it done, rather than stop and get colder. Steve was right to keep going.
“Let’s knock it out,” I said. “Nine kilometres to go, let’s just get it done.”
I pedalled off into the wet, with nothing but determination to get this job done.
The rain came down, the wind blew and the battle with the elements was on! I pedalled and pedalled as hard and as fast as I could. I was soaked and ploughing into driving wind and driving rain. I began to use my marathon strategy. Whenever I run a marathon, when I get to the 30km mark, I just start counting down the kilometres, as a distraction to the end…12 to go…11…10…one more kilometre and you’re in single digits, let’s get it done…9…8… and on I go until that final kilometre and the end is in sight. That’s what I was doing today. I watched the distance on my GPS tick down as we neared our destination…9…8…7. I pedalled and pushed and all I could see was the path just in front of my front wheel. I kept my head down, bracing against the wind and rain and just pushing those legs over and over as hard as I could. As I hit a rhythm with the pedals, I began a chant in my head to the rhythm of the strokes…GO!…Come on!…GO!…Come on!…GO!…Come on!…As the pedals turned, I kept up my mental chant and counted down the kilometres at the same time. Then…just when I was as wet as I needed to be and I had enough of the weather gremlins to battle, a car went past…beside the path…right beside me…through a puddle…and…yep…it sent a wave of water right over the top of me! Thanks for that.
Nothing for it but to shake it off and keep going. Head down, wind blowing, rain blowing, feet pedalling, counting down the distance to go. We eventually made it to our pitstop, a hostel in Bremervörde and squelched our way in, carrying soaking wet panniers, dripping over the floor and leaving wet foot prints behind us. At least we could get changed and dry and warm. We’d knocked it out. We’d got it done.
What a day! It was a battle of wills…the elements against the determination to ride through it. The weather gremlins surrounded us and began their offensive manoeuvre, closing in, creeping up on us, then hitting us with all they had. The wind blew like billy-o, the rain came in frontwards and sideways, then the car puddles came in sideways and overhead as well. We had some uphill bits to slog through as well, at the same time as slogging into the weather. Still, we did it. We also got to experience a pretty neat river crossing on a transporter bridge as well, so another memorable experience to add to the collection. We got it done today but the weather gremlins are still there…lurking…ready to pounce. We will get our defences ready though and take them on. To the battle lines we go!
Distance ridden: 53.1 km
Time in the saddle: 3 hours 32 minutes
Weather: See above!