Country Archives: Germany

Introducing Lutske

After a few days of sailing on the Baltic Sea I spent a night in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. I had Lutske with me, an inflatable Stand-Up Paddle board and new tender to Balkonia, and wanted to try and see how she would perform on some ‘long-distance’ paddling with light luggage.

I had picked a short canal between the towns of Bützow and Güstrow, aptly named the Bützow-Güstrow-Kanal, for the trial. The canal was built as part of a larger route between Berlin and the Baltic Sea at the end of the 19th century, which was – unfortunately – never finished. It is only 14 km long. The stretch I had picked for paddling was even shorter: 10km from Bützow to the historical draw bridge near Lüssow.

The canal is beautifully located and quiet. The weather was amazing. Lutske performed well. However, being new at SUP paddling, I certainly didn’t manage to release her full potential.

After 5.5 km the canal started to be quite infested with weeds which the aft fin got entangled in and subsequently slowed me down a lot. I removed it from the board. This helped with speed but not with directional stability. The experiment ended after 6 km and approx. 2 hours. In my defense, this included a few photo stops as well as two portages.

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Oldenburg – Bremen

Today’s leg of the trip was most amazing. The total distance from Oldenburg to Bremen is approx. 57 km. Under ‘normal’ circumstances (i.e. on a canal with no current) that would be a 9.5 hour trip at 6 km/h. Enter the tide.

I left my tight parking spot approximately an hour after high water and went down the lock onto the tidal river Hunte. The current helped immediately and the top speed on the ~23 kilometers to the confluence with the river Weser at Elsfleth was a shocking 11 km/h (compared to the usual 6 km/h).

At Elsfleth I waited for an hour for low water to pass and continued upriver on the Weser. And again, the rising tide pushed me towards Bremen with up to 11 km/h! That was somewhat unexpected for me. I arrived in Balkonia’s (new) home port after less than 8 hours of traveling.

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Surwold – Oldenburg

Today was quite a long leg so I started early, around 7am. When I left the harbor/marina the sun was just rising and there was some low fog over the canal. Nothing too bad, visibility was still good. However that changed after a short while and especially the side of the canal not yet reached by the sun (‘my’ side) sometimes disappeared completely. I wasn’t sure whether I was in fact allowed to drive without radar… But what could I do? Stopping (and mooring) was neither possible nor allowed, so I pushed on and after a couple of hours the fog was gone.

The rest of the day was almost uneventful though beautifully relaxed cruising. Boat and engine performed well and I made it to Oldenburg lock by 4.30pm. I decided not to go down onto the river Hunte yet, and instead to leave Balkonia on the Küstenkanal over night, just above the lock, in the smallest possible parking slot ;) (almost).

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Haren (Ems) – Surwold

Exactly at 8am the bridge keepers were back at their post (the traffic light at the water side of the bridge went from off to red) and a few minutes later I was on my way through Haren. At the end of the Haren-Rütenbrock-Kanal I dropped down onto the river Ems through the Ems lock, and paid the fee of 5 € for using the canal. Then I moored just outside the lock and went to town to get some breakfast and coffee…

On the other bank the skippers of the passenger ship Amisia took some interest in Balkonia and we chatted a bit. In the end they gave me their booklet about the canals and rivers in the area, with detailed information about locks etc. Thanks! My Dutch ‘guidebook’ ends here at the Haren-Rütenbrock-Kanal.

Then it was down the river Ems. There isn’t much of a current here due to weirs and locks, and obviously no tide either. Everything went fine and near Dörpen I turned to starboard onto the Küstenkanal.

I made it to Surwold where I stopped at the local marina for the night. The harbor master gave me some hints for the next leg to Oldenburg tomorrow, and there’s supermarkets and petrol stations just around the corner.

Trip: Going Home on Balkonia | Country: | Comments Off on Haren (Ems) – Surwold

Stadskanaal – Haren (Ems)

After a well-deserved Sunday break I returned to Stadskanaal this morning. Luckily, Balkonia was still where we had left her on Saturday.

I called the number of the local bridge keeper (coordinator?), who told me that someone would be with me to open the next Bridge (Eurobrug) within 10 minutes. And indeed, I had just finished preparations for departure when the lights went red/green at the bridge.

From then on traveling was again a blast, along Stadskanaal, Musselkanaal, and finally Ter Apelkanaal. I was ‘handed over’ from one volunteer lock/bridge keeper to the next without delay. Unlike on Saturday, where the two bridge keepers operated all 20 or 30 bridges and locks (or more?) on Leinewijk, Kielsterdiep, and Grevelingskanaal, these guys here only did a few each.

Just after Ter Apel I turned into Haren-Rütenbrock-Kanal, which connects the Dutch canal network with the river Ems in Germany. It used to be part of a bigger German canal network east of the Ems, but most of those are no longer navigable (with the exception of the Ems-Vechte-Kanal a bit further south which is a dead end and not rated for Balkonia’s length anyway). Bridges here are remote controlled from the Ems lock in Haren. Sometimes the bridges were just 10 or 20 centimeters too low, but they were always opened completely and stopped traffic over it for much longer than I needed to get through. Perhaps a technical limitation?

At the outskirts of Haren I was forcefully stopped at a bridge because the lockies/bridgies had gone home for the night. Unfortunately, the only option to moor didn’t have access to the shore. Luckily I had some timber with me and built myself a bridge so I could meet my friend Andi for dinner and a beer.

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Two hours in the snow

My travel bike has had quite a long break now and it was time to remove the dust and get it in shape for the next trip. Two spokes needed to be fixed that I hadn’t fixed after my last cycling trip. I did that a few weeks ago, only to discover the next day that 4 more had cracked over night. All of them broke somewhere in the middle, not near the rim or the hub.

I fixed them yesterday and left for a test ride at 9pm. We’ve had a bit of snow over the last two or three days and I was looking forward to the ride in the dark and cold; temperatures were around -4°C.
In the end it wasn’t overly spectacular, though still very enjoyable. There was not a lot of snow left and the paths I rode on were partly covered with ice instead. On the other hand, it hadn’t been freezing long enough so that the soil on the fields was still soft and puddles under the thin snow cover weren’t frozen. I got stuck in the mud a few times. As soon as the rims got wet they developed a coating of ice that prevented the brakes from working properly.

On the way back another spoke snapped and I found yet another broken one this morning. I need to work on my wheelbuilding skills.

Cycled 32km in about 2 hours, partly off-road.

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First spring ride

A short 75km ride that took me to the villages of Oyten, Posthausen, Ottersberg and Fischerhude east of Bremen. The first half was easy and quick, but the second half was a bit of a pain due to headwind and hunger. :)

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Blockland and umzu

Another 3-hour ride today in beautifully sunny weather. I rode to the northeast this time, to Tarmstedt, along the marsh Blockland on good-quality cycle paths. From there I went to Worpswede on minor roads.

Worpswede is a small town with a large artistic community. Surprisingly, for me anyway, it is located on (the slopes of) a hill – the Weyerberg. I tried to find an open bakery or some other place for a snack there – to no avail.

Ritterhude was next, almost back in the federal state of Bremen. Then I cycled back home, along the river Wümme and through the Bürgerpark. Total distance: 74km

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Not Visiting degree confluence 53°N, 8°E

It was time for another degree confluence visit. 53°N, 8°E is located 65km west of Bremen and a wee bit south-west of the city of Oldenburg. Consequently, the return trip is about 130km.

The weather was sunny but not really warm. I left Bremen towards Delmenhorst, where I stopped for some breakfast, then continued eastward along minor roads to Dingstede (where I had a look at a reconstructed thingstead; the name Dingstede is derived from Thing/Ding) and Munderloh.

In Munderloh I noticed that my phone/GPS’s battery was almost drained. Without it I would be lost! So I decided to turn around early and cycle back on a more southernly route, via Ganderkesee and Varrel.

All in all a nice ride of roughly 85km, even if I missed the original goal.

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Visiting degree confluence 53°N, 9°E

Have you heard of the Degree Confluence Project (DCP)? It’s a website that records integer degree confluence visits. If that sounds a bit geeky… well, it probably is.

Anyway, degree confluence 53°N, 9°E is just around the corner and since I had a bit of spare time today I paid it a visit.

The ride with the singlespeed was lovely. The confluence is located just south of Achim, a small town just 20km east of Bremen, inside a grain field. Accidentally, I found a geocache there, too. On the way back I practiced following cycle path signs. ;)

According to DCP, 53°N, 9°E has been visited a couple of times. I plan to attempt a couple of first-time confluence visits during my upcoming summer trip, though.

Trip: Day Trips | Country: | 1 Comment

Ollerup – Flensburg

A few days ago, Freja and Andreas had suggested to go to Jutland (the mainland part of Denmark) via the islands south of Fyn instead of Fyn itself. Since I hadn’t found a couch to surf in either Kolding or Vejle, and since I’d thought about cutting the trip a bit short for various other reasons anyway, I’d decided to go for that island-hopping route.

Had breakfast with Helle and Louise and chatted with ’em for a bit too long so that I missed the ferry that would bring me from Svendborg to Ærø. Instead, Louise gave me a brief tour of their school.

I then changed the plans for the remainder of the tour entirely. Took a ferry from Bøjden to the island of Als, had a look at beautiful Sønderborg, cycled along the northern shore of the Flensburg Fjord, and crossed into Germany at border stone No. 1 of the German-Danish border.

On the last stretch before the border my router ( had a little easter egg for me: uncompacted gravel up a steep hill that was impossible to climb on my bike. I had to push it for the second and last time.

Cycled into Flensburg from where I took a train back home.

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Rostock – Lund

Once again I’m traveling, if only for a few days. After a trip to the Netherlands had to be canceled twice for various reasons, I’m now setting out to see Denmark. A cousin of mine studies in Lund, Sweden and I’m using a visit to her and that town as an excuse to go back home via Denmark.

What’s special about this ride? First, I’ll be riding the singlespeed, and second, since I won’t be able to take much luggage, I’ll be couchsurfing all the time along the way.

Got dropped of at Rostock’s port to take the ferry to Trelleborg at 8am. When unpacking the bike I noticed the front wheel was flat. Inflated it by hand, bought a ticket and boarded the ferry. 6 hours of boredom followed. Disembarked shortly after 2pm and cycled around Trelleborg looking for a supermarket to get some lunch. Left town at quarter past 3pm.

The weather was lovely, the road to Lund was mostly flat and I arrived there at quarter to 5pm. Checked into a pretty cool hostel – it’s housed in an old train (from 1936) and the original sleeper compartments are all still there.

Met up with my cousin and we spent the evening in the town center.

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Second Outing

Today I took the singlespeed out for the second ride to the countryside around Bremen. The route went east to Delmenhorst and then northeastish to Oldenburg. I live in Bremen for a couple of years now. Amazingly, though, I never got to see some of the nearby towns and cities. For example, I have never been to Oldenburg. This town strikes me as really beautiful. Especially the city center is very nice, with a huge pedestrian zone and pretty houses. Also, people there seem to have the right attitude! :)

The pizza I had for tea was expensive, though.

From there I cycled a bit further to the north, to Rastede. I turned west at the Rastede racecourse, took a forest track, cycled along the quietest of back roads, walked the bike through a nature reserve, rode on on more dirt tracks, and finally emerged back in civilization a bit south of the town of Elsfleth at the river Hunte. From there it were some quick and easy 30km back home.

In total I cycled a bit over 110km in exactly 6 hours, including breaks!

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Taking the singlespeed out

The sun has been out a few days now. It is dry and somewhat warm when the sun shines, though it’s still chilly at night and in the shade.

Yesterday I had started planning a couple of potential trips I’d like to do in the coming weeks. Ranging from 55km to approx. 200km, they’re all easily doable in less than a day.

So today I started with the shortest one, from Bremen down to Syke and back via Emtighausen and Dreye. The weather was lovely and the bike did an excellent job. Though the bottom bracket may need to be changed, it makes funny noises. With a top speed of approx. 30kph it doesn’t come near the abilities of a road bike, but it’s a whole lot of fun nonetheless. It was its first ride outside Bremen.

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Rostock – Trelleborg – Höör

I’m traveling again. The plan is to cycle Scandinavia and the Baltic states.

Took the train to Rostock to catch a ferry to Trelleborg. At the ferry terminal I met René, who is going on a cycling tour through southern Sweden and maybe Finland.

We arrived in Trelleborg around 7am. We bought some breakfast at a petrol station and talked about our plans. I wanted to go to a village called Skegrie, a few kilometers to the north-west of Trelleborg, to see Skegriedösen, a 5000-year-old Megalith. I asked the lady at the counter for directions and asked her to pronounce Skegrie in Swedish for me. Her reply didn’t seem to have much in common with the spelling of the word. I tried to repeat what she had said but failed miserably. Trying to comfort me, she said: “Yeah, we have a strange accent here in the south.”

So we cycled to Skegrie – and beyond, but didn’t find the stones. Even the locals didn’t know what we were looking for. After about 5km I decided to go back because another place I wanted to see was Ystad – about 40km to the east. Rene turned north. When I came back to Skegrie I saw it, Skegriedösen, just off the main road we had crossed earlier.

Ystad, former member of the now defunct Hanseatic League, is supposed to have a picturesque town centre. I probably missed the good parts – I didn’t find it too exciting.

From Ystad I cycled north. The tail wind I had enjoyed so far changed to a nasty head wind. Around 7pm (IIRC), after 147km, I reached a campsite near Höör – and met René again.

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