Hamburg and Lueneburg Heath. Daisy in full swing

With just short of three weeks tandeming behind us on our 12-week jaunt through Northern Europe, we’re settling into a pretty solid routine of about 70km a day, regardless it seems of how early we start or how far we intend to travel – feeling a bit guilty about the electrics, but it really does remove the agony.

After two 70km days since our last post, first to Lueneburg (thanks to EMDR Germany colleague Michael and Anja Hase for the warmest of overnight welcomes there) and then here to Hamburg, tallies will get longer as the trip progresses and we’re up and away next week heading east along the Baltic coast to Gdansk.

We’re now taking a(nother) couple of days out from cycling to see another old Reuters friend, Volker Skierka from our joint Berlin days 45 years ago.

In July 1979, the three of us – Jutta and I on Daisy1 and Volker on my old Condor – cycled a crazy 240km through East Germany in just one long summer’s day.

Volker’s brilliant SZ account of that journey (in German) was an incomparably better piece of journalism than my own account for From Our Own Correspondent (sadly no longer available to read), reminding me what wise career choices we both made in the longer term, mine to quit reporting and his to stay with, and excel at, our formerly shared trade.

On Monday, we’re staying to catch a concert at the spectacular Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg (something I’ve wanted to do ever since that extraordinary and visionary building was completed) with the equally amazing Tallis Scholars from the UK .

Photos in due course, so turning to pictures of the lovely Lueneburg Heath from yesterday, a brief thought about just how wonderful it is to be in Germany again for a longer stretch.

We continue at times to be irritated by the critical snappiness of folk we pass.

But that collective compulsion to name the perceived anti-social behaviour of others (cycling in a pedestrian zone, walking across the road – heaven forbid – against a red light) is just one side of a coin which on its other face manifests workmanship, professionalism and a shared, quiet commitment to quality that take the breath away.

I jest not, but as a long-distance cyclist now of many years standing, I can tell the quality of a country’s public services by the smoothness of the road surface (Jutta’s brilliantly effective Thudbuster seat shock absorbers easing her ride still further on the back), a measure by which Germany is decades ahead of the UK.

As it also is in the arrival of e-bikes, making up the very clear majority of most two-wheelers we encounter on the road – two million electro-powered bikes sold in Germany last year compared to just 150,000 in the UK.

Anyway, I digress.

Thursday saw us taking a(nother) day off cycling to train (49 Euros a month each for a ticket with which we can travel at will through Germany, and, like the roads, German trains impress enormously) to Bremen and Bremerhaven, to visit one of the most brilliantly conceived and imaginative museums we agree we’ve ever visited.

It’s the Auswandererhaus in Bremerhaven port, capturing personal stories from among the seven-million-plus Europeans who embarked towards a new life in the Americas or Australia between the mid 19th and later 20th centuries, and also those from earlier who went East (as did our own daughter-in-law Lena’s family, the Ottos, 200+ years ago, invited by fellow German emigree Catherine the later-Great.)

Yesterday, Friday, impressed in a more rustic way as we took Daisy across the sometimes-sandy top of the Lueneburg Heath, encountering what we think was our first ever real shepherd – the real thing, not just a tourist attraction.

Not that he looked overly impressed by passing tourists, even the very few at this gloriously green time of year.

Three weeks in, we’re both now feeling pretty fit as muscles retune to the daily call of five-plus hours of riding.

And for the sceptics, note that our heartrate-monitoring watches tell us that even with the motor (and Pendix, like the roads, continues to impress, managing a usefully consistent 70km on each battery’s charge), we’re regularly up in the 130-150 bpm range.

So, pictures – bit of a random order, and probably as ever too many – with captions, noting most of these now taken with a new powerful but VERY small Sony RS100 camera. The Huawei phone is good, but mobiles aren’t the same as real cameras…

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