Otter’s Village

OK, so tonight's campsite, just before Leer on the German-Dutch border, is also gorgeous.

Balmy post-thunderstorm evening; kids and grebes playing in the lake; refreshing post-88-mile day swim behind me; and about to order a second Bitburger beer.

This solo long-distance cycling is sometimes such hard work…

Heading now with determination towards Brussels, having spent a fascinating evening yesterday with the delightful Holst family, Jana and Henning and their three charming small sprogs (warm thanks to you all), in Sheringham's twin town of Otterndorf.

Yes, Otterndorf, or otter village, really does exist, as often, not to say obsessively, enthused about by our enthusiastic mother Audrey.

And it's every bit as lovely as Mum says it is. (Mum was by the way over here staying with the Holsts just a week ahead of me – they always say two Braynes are better than one…)

Sheringham should and can be thoroughly flattered that such a richly historic and well-ordered place would want to be friends with the Shannocks.

I wasn't quite sure how to illustrate Otterndorf for this blog, so how about some rather obvious bronze otters, outside the town hall, plus a fascinating carving of Moses with a pulpit growing out of his head in the stunning local church of St Severi. And some broomsticks.

The brooms aren't immediately recognisable, perhaps. But if you look closely, they're in brick on the façades of several Otterndorf houses, patterned thus, it is said, to protect the inhabitants against "thunder, disaster, witches and evil spirits, thunderstorms and gales and other calamities."

Sue, not sure if Otterndorf is for you.

I must say that after an evening chatting with Henning and Jana (who's very unpolitically from Erfurt, in the old GDR), I'm even more enthusiastic (it's those mother genes) for twinnings such as between Sheringham and Otterndorf, and Cirencester and Itzehoe.

Across both Western and now Eastern Europe these past two-and-a-half months (just two and a bit weeks to go now), I've found almost every town I've cycled through proudly displaying signs as you enter who else they're twinned with – from the USA to Israel, France and Britain.

The only problem is that I suspect the enthusiasm out here is often greater than the enthusiasm back home.

Henning is for example very keen on a continued schools exchange between the Gymnasium (academically-focused secondary school) where he teaches English and England, but the current response from Sheringham doesn't appear to have been very helpful.

Oh dear. Mother to the rescue??

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

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