I followed the HH-HB / route 7 for the first two-thirds of the day…
It’s now Friday morning and I’m doing a bit of a catch up on blog side of things. Cycling day 49 was Wednesday and I wrote the above sentence last night before succumbing to tiredness and falling asleep! However, it’s now 6.15am on rest day 8 on a bright morning in Hamburg (which is promised to be the best day of the year so far) so I’ll have another go at catching up on cycling days 49 and 50. More about Hamburg, incidentally, later.
So I did follow the HH-HB / route 7 for the first two-thirds of the day. HH is Hamburg by the way and HB is Bremen. It’s the code that is used on the number plates of cars for people who live in the cities and along with (I think) Lubeck, Hamburg and Bremen insert the H before the initial letter of their code due to their Hansiatic league status as independent cities. Other places like, for example, Cologne normally use just the first two (sometimes three) letters of their name, for example CO. You do tend to notice these things when on a bicycle. It’s rather ironic that I should mention seeing lots of cars as you cycle as during that first period of cycling day 49 I saw very few indeed. The HH-HB route seems to keep you well away from any major or even minor roads for 90% of its length leaving me and the bike to cycle along deserted country roads and ocasionally along rough tracks although never sufficiently rough enough to make cycling problematic. It was very enjoyable indeed even though at that stage the weather was still stuck in the grey sky period that it has been glued into for many weeks now. Rain threatened but never fell.
As with most such picturesque cycling routes, the HH-HB didn’t go in a straight line from Bremen to Hamburg of course choosing instead to head east, west, north (and probably a bit of south as well thrown in for good measure). This did throw me a little in the first hour or so of cycling upon arrival in a very pretty place called Ottersberg where I duely took a few pictures and tweeted them describing the village as ‘somewhere north of Bremen’. It was no such thing as the HH-HB route had taken me much more to the east than the north. A sign of things to come over the next few hours but eventually progress was made in a northerly direction as well. Eventually.
I would probably have happily continued to follow the HH-HB all day had it not been for an episode between the towns of Elsdorf and Zeven which had me ping-ponging between the two towns due to contradictory signage. Strange because up until that point of the day I would have said that in terms of direction finding, cycling day 49 had clearly been the easiest since leaving Tarifa on the 9th April. Signs wherever you needed them and often where you didn’t. At no point was I left scratching my head thinking ‘so, where next?’. Until half way between Elsdorf and Zeven. In order to avoid covering the same stretch of road for the fourth time I dedcided to cut my losses and head straight in the direction of Harsefeld where there was a campsite. It meant abandoning the HH-HB but in the end, after 95 km of cycling, it did get me to a place where I could pitch the tent. Would I have managed to get to Harsefeld by following the cycling route? Unlikely and certainly not before another 10 or 20 kilometres had been squeezed into the day.
“Sprechen Sie Englisch?” I enquired politely to the old lady womanning the reception desk at Campingparc Harsefeld.
“Nein” she shouted back at me. In fairness I think her volume was as a result of deafness rather than disgust at me not speaking her native language.
“Ein, ein, ein” I replied pointing first at me, then the tent, then the bike.
“Ja. Eine Nacht.”
I was at severe risk of giving her the impression that I was a compulsive liar and that actually I did speak good German. €6.50 plus 50 cents for the shower.
“Funf minuten” she clarified.
“Schnell, schnell, schnell…” I replied in order to inject a little humour into the episide as I smiled.
I’m not convinced that she understood that I was referring to the time allowed in the shower and not simply telling her to simply get a move on. She didn’t smile back but shouted to her younger male sidekick who himself was of pensioner age to escort me to the area of land where I could pitch the tent. I did so, erected said tent, showered (for five minutes exactly), ate some food and crawled into the tent to sleep.