Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 69: to Bottisham (117; 4660)

The ferry has an interesting business model. 

The passenger part is a bit like a casino: there's a captive audience and the aim is to keep them in places that will induce them to spend for as long as possible. It's really hard to find your way out on deck and even the way to the cabins is hidden, so you have to traverse as many attractive entertainment/ shopping/ eating/ drinking areas as possible. The ship docked this morning at 4am but passengers aren't let off till 6.30. In the meantime the other part of the business, the freight lorries, are moving fast. The chap who sold me a coffee told me that they unload 200 lorries and start reloading for before they let the non-freight passengers off. As Alex said, sort of amazing that people put up with this - in Greece there would be a riot! Someone else told me this was allegedly because customs didn't open until 6.30. Which makes you wonder who searches the incoming lorries...

In contrast to the way over I slept really badly - perhaps because a day's riding is no longer enough to tire me out. Or perhaps because I'd been watching the rather scary 'Woman in Black' immediately before bed. 

Once we hit English phone reception I got a reassuring voicemail saying Mum's ok and home, so that cheered me up.

It was a hot an humid day in England but with no longer any fear re. hills or distance I took the scenic route home. I tried out national cycle routes 51 and 13 - both lovely but quite the contrast to be back on UK roads, where marked cycle routes sometimes involve an A road with heavy traffic shooting by... Such a contrast. I definitely had more scary moments in this one ride than in cycling eg in Budapest, Prague, etc.

I only went on the wrong side of the road twice. Oops. Let's hope that part of my brain reprogrammes before I drive anywhere. (I was laughing at a Dutch guy on the ferry who had a printout on top of his handle-bar bag saying 'ride on the left!'.)

So a looping, swooping 117km put me back where I started, at Vic's house in Bottisham. Job done!

Trip stats:

69 days; 4660 km; 12 countries

68 nights:
2 on boats
9 staying with friends
11 in hotels and apartments
8 in hostels
38 camping

Flat tyres: none
Chain incidents: 2 
One broken pannier rack
One new set of rear gears

I'm pretty happy with that! Not bad for a first solo cycle tour. It won't be the last.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 68: to Hook of Holland (86, 4543)

An absolutely beautiful day for the last leg on foreign soil. I hung out with Khanum and family in the morning and set off at lunchtime. I've grown so much faith in the Dutch cycleways I just used their signage for navigation, which was impressively only 6k more than the most direct mapped route. 

Back along the Harlememeer, the beautiful bit of river and lake I've ridden twice before. Now that Dutch schools are out this looks like proper holiday terrain and I was (happily; it was hot) shot at with water pistols by some kids. 

Also passed through miles of glasshouse through the thick of the flower market belt. The auction house in Alsmeer apparently puts 6 million euros worth through every day (says quite an old Lonely Planet, so perhaps more by now). By Dutch auction, of course. It's certainly a massive complex when you're trying to get through by bike.

I hit the sea near The Hague and had a lovely last run down the coast, somewhat overshadowed however by the news that Mum had fallen off her horse and broken her arm. I'm awaiting more news but certainly glad I am already on the way home and hope I can get there and be useful soon.

I showed my passport for the first time since arriving in Holland ten weeks ago. Amazing how Europe now is.  Had some in-depth questioning from passport control ('so... Are you going home then?') and then a long delay while we waited for lorries to manoeuvre themselves onto the ferry. It's an impressive sight: the ramp up starts on quite a sharp bend so the biggest artics have to reverse half way up a different ramp and then take a run at it. 

Day 67: to Amstelveen (again) (78; 4457)

I started the day not that far from Amstelveen, but spent most of looping around more beautiful sand dunes for the hell of it. Some cracking headwinds made the seaside sections interesting, but they turned tail for the run inland, which was amazingly quick and easy as a result. This inland run was along the same section I took in driving rain two months back. What a difference a bit of summer makes.

Khanum and family were back from ten days' holiday in France by just one hour when I arrived, so my bags etc are adding nicely to their chaos!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 66: to Ijmuiden (82; 4379)

Not enormous mileage today as I am rapidly running out of land! But a very pleasant day of cycling through sand dunes in beautiful national park.

The coastline around this part of northern Holland is lovely, and generally protected by a couple of kilometres of sand dunes with scrubland and pine forest. Looks a bit like the sandy parts of the north Norfolk coast, and is grazed by ponies and Highland cows who are totally unfazed by cyclists.

The family holiday havens petered out soon after I set off, and while there are plenty of people around there's been noticeably less dense tourism today. I stopped for coffee at the splendid beach of Camperduins and also detoured inland through the classy holiday town of Bergen and the rather big town of Alkmaar. I was hoping to find a cheese market in the latter but turns out it's only on Fridays. Sometimes having a German-speaking map book lets me down... Still it was a pleasant enough diversion. And other than those diversions it's been just cyclists, walkers and pony trekkers all day. 

Took my second to last ferry into Ijmuiden where I am staying in <sniff> my last campsite in a wooded park on the edge of town. The cheerful Dutchman in reception ('I had an ex-girlfriend called Barnett.. She was from Lewes. Don't worry you can still stay here') kindly gave me a little clearing to myself to celebrate my last night under canvas. So I have pitched my little tent for the last time! What good service it has provided. With a last pasta dinner and a little unladen cruise around town, my camping days draw to a close.

If Khanum and I understand one another correctly, they are arriving home from holiday tomorrow afternoon, and I will detour inland to overnight with them before catching the ferry on Weds night.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 65: to Sint Maartenszee (86; 4297)

Another day, another dyke. This was the mother of all dykes though: 26 straight kilometres with a fairly strong headwind. It felt quite good at the time, especially when the drizzle stopped and the sun came out. 

But by early afternoon I was properly tired. Not just low blood sugar, or legs needing a rest, but actually ready to lay down and sleep where I am. Made me realise how used to continuous moderate exercise I've become, in that it's been ages since I have felt like that. Possibly not since the early days of the camino.

It felt like there was a strong headwind almost all of the day, which doesn't seem logically possible since I wasn't cycling in a straight line. Once over the big dyke (direction southwest) I followed the coast northwest, then around the top of Den Helder (due west) and then down the west coast (south). This last part was through and next to large sand dunes which perhaps help to funnel the wind... Or maybe I was just particularly tired by then.

At 2pm I stopped in a beach cafe for a burger, chips and a beer. Don't judge me. The Dutch are amazing for many reasons, but one is that the teenagers who work in such places will happily serve you in Dutch, German or English.  Another is their totally cavalier attitude to appropriate attire: no shoes necessary in cafés or supermarkets around here it seems. And also their height: I saw a cyclist today who must have been over 7 feet. How did the gene pool get so tall? 

But most of all I love that being on a bike makes you part of the club here. As I cycled across the dyke a wiry older chap slowed down to chat; he'd been at a music festival in Friesland until 3am and was now cycling home (this was at 8.30, and he must have been 65 if he was a day).

This coast is a big holiday destination and just dripping in campsites, the difficulty being picking one that is reasonably priced and not completely monstrous WRT kids clubs, water slides, and the sheer number of pitches. Some I passed today have 800 mobile homes according to my (very useful) camping app. As you can imagine I try and avoid those. With just two nights of camping and 4 days of cycling left, I want to enjoy every last moment. 

One last surprise in store today: a cycling Greek girl en route to Athens! Not entirely sure where from, but she was heading for the Rhine and Danube. I'm the first lone female she's met so we had a nice chat. She's a bit homesick after 9 months away (including 6 months on Skye!) so was surprised to hear I will be there soon. Alex send me a message saying 'see you in a week': moving from the Dutch sand dunes to Cambridge to Athens feels like quite a crazy change of pace ahead!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Day 64: to Sotterum (92; 4211)

A little cooler today, and with no wind in the morning providing perfect cycling conditions.

...Except for the thunderbugs which were at times like a slow form of torture as they crawled behind my glasses, down my top, etc. It's tempting to shave every exposed surface of skin just so they get caught less. 

I was feeling quite lazy this morning, perhaps as a result of the good ride yesterday. I also knew that the day would be limited to the beginning of the enormous dyke that is tomorrow's challenge. It is too long to be sensibly tackled at the end of the day, so I could spend today taking a fairly loopy tour through a last bit of Frisian countryside and hitting up a couple more of the eleven towns.

As always, not a hell of a lot going on around here. For some reason I find it hard to identify sources of food and drink in small Dutch towns. There's often an advert for coffee and a sign saying 'open' outside something that looks like a residential house and is quite clearly closed. Plus a lot of residential properties have awnings and/or picnic tables and chairs outside, further confusing me as to where to go. There's obviously some sign I'm not picking up on. And as an aside I do believe I am back slightly addicted to coffee as I really do feel much more full of joy once I've had a cup.

Lots of wildlife around, especially herons, hares, and oystercatchers. The Dutch have an abundance of comedy domestic animals, mostly ponies (Frisians, Norwegians Shetlands and Haflinger types, in that order of frequency) but also a good few goats, pigs and deer grazing the patches of lawn next to the cottages.

The big surprise of the day was Harlingen, which was a lovely town. For some reason I was expecting an industrial and ferry port, but it has a stunning old town centre set around several little yacht-filled harbours. The Tall Ships Races were here a few days ago: flashbacks to the Baltic trip last year where we chased them down the coast, always a few days behind. Perhaps it's time for another Tall Ship trip.

Harlingen also provided some €2.50 flip flops (hurrah for Hema, the Dutch M&S) and some fresh food to see me through tonight and tomorrow. It was actually really heaving, and I don't say that often around here!

The last stretch of the day was another beautiful ride right along the dyke and, for the sake of a peaceful campsite, a few km beyond where I will turn onto the long dyke tomorrow. I am quite excited about it, and have plans to pre-load with plenty of Nutella and caffeine.

I write this sitting on a warm dyke with a curious sheep nibbling my shoulder!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 63: to Dokkum (105; 4119)

probably have said this more than once, but this was THE perfect cycle-tour day.

A mysteriously condensation-free night gave me the opportunity for an early start. It was a beautiful clear morning and I was away by 7.30, although subsequently delayed by the breakfast temptations of the supermarket, which didn't open till 8. 

With a mostly tailwind, clear skies, easy navigation, and no hills (obviously) I made great progress and had done 80k by 1.30. Which I think is a record. Feeling a bit frazzled by then I was delighted to find a beach cafe on the edge of the Lauwersmeer, a nature reserve and UNESCO site that's basically a dammed inlet of the Waddenzee. Interesting flora and fauna, wifi, and cold drinks on a sunny terrace. Pretty much the perfect rest-stop.

Given that this is the official North Sea route I have been surprised to see relatively few cyclists over the  last couple of days, and no official signposting - not that that matters much around here. More tractors than anything else as it's largely rich agricultural land and with a couple of exceptions not even much tourism around. Lots of horses though, I have twice met a Molly-alike going for a ride today, possibly the first horses I've seen being ridden all trip.

Things got even better this afternoon when I crossed into Friesland proper.  The sluice bridge was up so there was a buildup of cyclists on both sides, including the most glamorous lady in front of me in a 1950s dress and heels, who then totally kicked my butt in the race to be off (on consideration, she may have been on an e-bike). 

It was a really magical moment crossing the few km of dam. I took the route right along the water's edge with the North Sea on my right, dyke on my left, the tide rushing in and a thumping tailwind. You can't get better than that. 

Just hope I'm as lucky in a day or two's time when there is a 26 km crossing to be made! 

There are noticeably more cyclists in Friesland, lots of whom I think are cycling the 'eleven cities' (of Friesland) tour. This is historically a super-tough one day skating race, which hasn't taken place for years because it no longer freezes hard enough to be possible. (Nonetheless my Frisian friend Alle-Meije is often heard muttering about the likelihood..). Cycling it however is a lovely and more manageable holiday. I am staying tonight in Dokkum, one of the glorious eleven, and famous because St Boniface and fifty-odd followers were massacred here in 754. St B, originally from Crediton, was over here missionary-ing, and told his followers not to resist the robbers who attacked them. A storyline worthy of Game of Thrones I believe.

It's a gorgeous place, the town centre is a hexagon of bulwarks and with canals all around that are covered in sailing vessels. The overall effect is very charming but kind of difficult to get around - my trip to the supermarket which is probably about 200m away as the crow flies took 20 hot minutes each way due to the need to detour over multiple bridges.

A cosy campground, a cute town, wonderful weather and a full belly. I think I'm really getting the hang of this cyclocamping now!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 62: to Appingedam, Netherlands (93; 4014)

Through the 4000k mark, into the Netherlands, and an awesome lowland ride on a hot and very humid day. 

I loved the campsite last night, just the dyke between it and the 'sea'. I watched an amazing thunderstorm come across in the early evening and then ate breakfast overlooking the water. Oh and it also had rabbits bold enough to graze the campsite during the day as well as at night. Brilliant.

This morning I cycled southeast to Emden, got lost in the town, and eventually found my way out to a small ferry across the strait. The ten-minute ferry ride was packed with cyclists, and enlivened by a group of twelve retired gentlemen, average age 70 I should think, who solemnly shouted 'hoy hoy hoy' and then each downed a miniature Jägermeister as the ferry set sail. I had been wondering who ever bought the miniatures that are stocked at every supermarket checkout...

I was feeling slightly below par, and assumed that I needed either sugar, caffeine, or liquid so stopped for a coffee and a rhubarb cheesecake in the cute village of Ditzum where the ferry docked. It definitely improved matters and I shot out into the countryside through hot, sunny dykelands. Thence a happy afternoon navigating by the sun, dykes, and number points. It was really humid, the sheep were panting like dogs and I was desperate to take my Tshirt off (but got instantly coated with thunderbugs when I tried).

I didn't notice the border into Holland - my last land border! But did notice as soon as I hit a Ditch village, where the orange bunting was flying and the architecture was just somehow cuter than Germany.

It took till I had checked into a campsite, showered and ordered a beer, in other words till about 5pm, for me to find out that the Netherlands lost the football last night. In fact I had to ask for an explanation since the headline in the Dutch newspaper was 0-0! Which is technically true, though putting a rather positive spin on it. Anyway, luckily there's still the Tour de France to entertain the Dutch sporting enthusiasts. 

Lovely to be back on Dutch cycle paths and if this weather sticks around this is going to be a fantastic last week for me.

Is there a women's TdF? There should be.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Day 61: to Upleward (85; 3921)

A perfect pension last night: wifi, a house full of roses and orchids, a doggie bag to take away extra food from breakfast, and a bed so comfy I didn't bother watching the football - which as it ended 7-1 to Germany was quite the game to miss!

Hopefully my last pension though as I'm choosing to believe there's drier weather ahead. Set off into mizzle and it continued misty +\- drips for most of the day. I had a few map-reading hiccups but mostly had a day of great happiness zooming around warm farmland on little roads and avoiding big towns (of which there are a surprising number). Lots of cows, ponies, and maize. 

My mileage today is somewhat fictional as my cycle comp has again been fried by its drenching. Probably not far wrong though. I could easily have kept going but really wanted to camp out here on the western end of east Friesland. The sun came out while I cycled in, put my tent up, and ate, which was very considerate in drying everything out - though I think a thunderstorm is likely from now on.

Tonight is my last German night! (I do believe I have said this before). Can already feel the Dutch influence: lots of chocolate sprinkles in the breakfast aisle of the supermarket, and the beginnings of the awesome knobpunkt cycle route system.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day 60: to Jever (39; 3836)

A day of constant horizontal drizzle-to-rain: the North Sea doing what it does best!

Took the morning ferry across to Wilhelmshaven in the company of a nice Finnish lady who is couchsurfing as she cycles, and then off to do a national trust working holiday in the Peak District. Typical Finn: an unassuming, unruffled hero.

My map marks 'quaint places'. I aimed up the North Sea route and had a delicious pizza lunch in one such place, the village of Hooksiel. It was indeed quaint, and also full of that wet seaside holiday feel.

The route makes big loops across the landscape, I think to hit more of these 'quaint places' and stay on tiny empty roads. With no let-up in the weather I wasn't sure what to do: man up and head on through the rain or tuck up somewhere and assume tomorrow will be better. I still have some time in hand at this point, and the luxury of a map (rather than route book) means detours and shortcuts are both entirely possible.

In the town of Jever (famous for its beer which we used to drink in Darwin bar) I gave up, and a nice young man in tourist info found me a room. It's not cold, so when cycling it's actually not unpleasant. But as soon as I stop I realise I am drenched, and the prospect of a long afternoon and evening in a wet tent didn't fill me with glee. Instead I dripped all over a very nice landlady and Horace has a garage to dry off in. My tent will have to just stay wet for 24 hrs more.

It also resolves the pressing question, where can I watch the Germany-Brazil match and can I really be bothered given that it doesn't start till 10pm? The answer: from my bed!

The flags are all out in Deutschland today, I hope they win as I am rooting for a Germany-Netherlands final (to be watched in a campground full of cyclists of both nations).

Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 59: to Eckwarderhörne (85; 3797)

Big dramatic thunderstorms late last night, and I packed up a pretty wet tent this morning. 

I'm getting used to a new map again,  and this one does not seem to distinguish well between paved and non-paved paths. After the amount of rain that fell last night this matters! I did a fair bit of getting stuck in sandpits this morning in the middle of some rather nice woods. Lots of flies around but only buzzers, not biters, else I would have been in trouble.

I was navigating roughly west across to the North Sea port of Bremerhaven. The landscape seemed both very rural and quite full of holidaymakers; some German schools are now on holiday and the number of kids on campsites etc has suddenly rocketed.

Had a rare lunch failure in a cafe in Bad Bederkesa: I was expecting meat soup with beans and figs (c/o the translator app) but I think perhaps it was dog meat soup with last night's scrapings from the fruit salad bowl. Feel a bit sick just thinking of it. In recompense to myself I having a banana split for my supper. (It's going to be hard going back to normal meals).

Bremerhaven is a big industrial port but I found my way through and rolled straight onto a ferry which was just leaving. This wended out through some port bits and over the estuary of the Weser, to a rather Bognor-like place called Nordenham. 

Then I had lovely flat straight sunny run cross-country through the German part of Friesland. At least, there were plenty of black and white cows, and the local greeting has changed to 'Hoi!'. So we're definitely not in standard Germany any more.

Needless to say, it all looks Dutch to me. I apologise for this repeated comment - I guess I just never knew northern Germany looked like this, whereas I have lots of previous (happy) associations with Holland.

I cycled on following the sun to what feels slightly like the end of the world. In fact it's merely the western point of the peninsula. But all such places have a tendency to feel like the end of the road. In a good way.

On my map there's another ferry that I need to catch next, across a long stretch of what is largely mud flats at low tide. Florian kindly looked it up for me and we concluded it went between 9.45 and 5.45, perhaps when full. In fact it goes twice a day: at 9.45 and 5.45. As there's no camping close to the far side I decided to settle here for the night and take the ferry tomorrow morning. If bad weather comes in overnight this might prove to be an error... It's calm, sunny and beautiful at the moment but I know that's due to change!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Day 58: to Hechthausen (66; 3712)

Lovely day cycling with Anna and Florian - baby Ida's first cycle tour! 

They have a big new cycle trailer which they've used around town but not thus far on a longer trip. We cycled through the centre of Hamburg down to the port, took the ferry up and across the Elbe and then cycled the southern/western side of it along dykes and paths. Loads of people out on bikes, and when near the water the river is big enough here that the sky has that 'by the sea' light, making it all feel like a lovely summer holiday! 

They did brilliantly for a first time out, Ida was a bit bored of it by the end but mostly it worked really well, hopefully meaning they can do more trips in the near future. Now that all my old rowing crew except Katy are non-rowers, and there are babies etc involved we thought maybe a cyclocamping meet-up would be better than a rowing one...

I left them at Stade where they were taking the S-bahn home. I cycled on across country, now heading west and mostly on the North Sea route in fact which is my route home - barring a couple of shortcuts.

Despite a few drips at one point, and a pretty bad forecast ahead, it's been a gorgeous hot and breezy day. Really a perfect Sunday.

My campsite tonight also seems very satisfactory - and there's a lake that needs jumping in ASAP.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Days 56 & 57: Hamburg (85; 3642)

The last day into Hamburg was again a nice run across through more Netherlands-like landscape. I entered the city via a large park and confusing water-in-every-direction bits of port. Good signposting though and suddenly I found myself in the middle of huge highways and, according to google maps, surprisingly close to the centre. Hamburg is Germany's 2nd city: it's big!

A bit low on blood sugar I stopped into a McDonalds for refreshment and the wifi necessary to find out where my friend Anna lives with her German husband Florian and 8-month old Ida.

As it turns out they live near the centre and close to the shore of the Alster, a big lake. We celebrated my safe arrival with a little tipple of wine down by the Alster and then with delicious steak dinner while Germany won their World Cup quarter final. 

Hamburg seems a very liveable city; this morning we cycled to the market  etc through parks and dedicated cycle streets. It was a super humid morning but broke this afternoon with spectacular downpours which we witnessed from the safety of a tented beer garden (baby's first Biergarten!).

Lovely to see Anna and Florian and to meet little Ida who is a very cheerful and easygoing soul. Not surprising given her genes!

A trip to Globetrotter, an exquisite and enormous outdoor shop, has supplied the mapping necessary to get me to the ferry. With bad weather predicted (rain and headwinds) I'm planning to shortcut a little to ensure I get back without too much pain, and preferably in time for a quick hello to the Dutch contingent on the way past.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day 55: to Radegast (86; 3557)

No mosquitoes, slept like a log, and woke to a glorious morning, much warmer than of late. 

Today consisted of more sweeping along the top of dykes through beautiful empty nature reserve, and occasional cute and unspoilt towns. Stork heavy too: many of the villages proudly display a plaque that enumerates how many nesting pairs they have each year, and at one point I counted ten storks in one (newly-mown) field of about 3 acres!

Totally absorbing, it was of those wonderful days when I couldn't remember whether I'd been cycling for one hour or six. 

The landscape looks like a Dutch 15th century painting. And funnily enough my campsite tonight is Dutch owned and about half the vehicles in it are Dutch. So maybe it's even more Holland than Holland. 

Tomorrow to Hamburg and friends, all being well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 54: to Gartow (83; 3471)

A beautiful day of cycling through the UNESCO mid-Elbe biosphere reserve. Despite an occasionally strong headwind, and ever-threatening black clouds, it was a great ride through an incredibly peaceful and attractive landscape. 

Lots of wildlife around, especially birds: storks, herons, and some kind of very large bird of prey. I watched a guy digging ditches with his tractor, supervised by no less than four storks following closely behind him. A hare strolled across the path just in front of me and at one point I had to swerve to avoid slow-moving crabs. Which certainly makes a pleasant change from slugs.

The HandyDoctor did indeed fix my iphone screen, and in the hour it took him I explored the rather odd town of Wittenberge. Lots of derelict red-brick factories, a modern centre, and a tiny bit of rejuvenation just along the riverfront. And, I am sad to report, a very disappointing cake shop! (I had two just to be sure, and both were almost but not entirely nothing like how they should have been).

The rest of the habitations today have been small picturesque places, all old timber-framed houses and barns made with small red bricks. I stopped in a few to eat, drink, and/or take shelter from showers.

Gartow fits the same mould though the campground is a little out of town in a wooded area. My predictions for the evening are that it will be lovely and quiet here - and there will be mosquitoes!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day 53: to Havelberg, Germany (15; 3388)

I've been feeling a bit blah, so today did something about it. To be specific I left east Germany and the Oder-Neisse behind and took a train due west, across to the river Elbe. Whichever way I worked it I probably wasn't quite going to make cycling all the way home, and the 3 days it would have taken to cut across between the rivers on bike weren't looking very exciting or convenient, accommodation-wise. 

Surprisingly, Horace and I managed fine despite having to change trains twice and take the S-Bahn (metro) across Berlin. 

The train actually started in Kostrzyn though I picked it up at the small German village just over the border. As such, it was an international train and two policemen solemnly turned up and checked the passports of all on board. As there's a train every hour I imagine that's a big section of their day's work! Funny since no-one turns a hair as you walk/cycle/drive over the border.

My first Elbe town is Havelberg, a perfect little place, with the oldest part situated on an island in between two rivers (the Havel and Elbe). It has a lovely tall red brick 'cathedral' (which I think in Cambridge would be called a chapel) and lots of old wooden-framed buildings. Quite a change in architecture etc for a few hours on a train. 

A change in my attitude too; I think the rain and lack of camping had been wearing on me and I feel suddenly much cheerier this side of the country.

Now I have two more legs to go: an easy few days up the Elbe to Hamburg where I hope to visit my rowing friend Anna and family, then a rapid sprint down the North Sea coast to home.

Amazingly, my phone continues to work despite the completely shattered screen.  I'm going to try and get it fixed ASAP since it's very vulnerable like this, and might even get the camera fixed too while I'm at it - imagine photos without a black line through them!?

I love that in German, a mobile is a 'handy' -and I have the address for the 'HandyDoctor' shop.