Friday, June 23, 2017

It really is over -- Friday, June 23, 2017

It is all over now except for packing the suitcase and flying home. But first, a photo from Potsdam which did not get included in the blog two days ago -- This is Warwick holding up the platter of sushi for two which he and I shared in an excellent Asian restaurant near our hotel.
We had our farewell dinner last evening, but the tour wasn't officially over since we had a 2 1/2 hour guided tour of the Berlin Wall.  This was a very different tour than the one Kathleen and I took a few years ago of the area around the Brandenburg Gate in which references to the Wall were only coincidental. This tour started at the checkpoint where the Wall first "fell" as crowds pressed through. The tour then progressed through the former "no man's land," the area between the outer wall and the second, inner, wall. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, and the tour was very informative.

We saw lots of graffiti, as well as one section of the inner wall where painting is officially permitted and is quite popular.

A light-hearted moment for Philip
After this walking tour, our merry band began to go our separate ways. I was fortunate to have my son Douglas join me for the afternoon, and we did some sightseeing and window shopping on the famed Kurfurstendamm (the "Champs Elysees of Berlin"). We visited the Church of the Reconciliation, stopped for coffee, and returned to the hotel. The two of us then had a light supper before Doug headed back to Cottbus. It was a perfect way to end two great weeks in Denmark and Germany.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The End of the Journey -- Potsdam to Berlin -- Thursday, June 22, 2017

413.4 miles of pedaling from Copenhagen to Berlin and we made it without getting rained on once! I consider this amazing, since the long range weather forecasts before I left called for rain, wind and cold for a good part of the tour. We did get our wind, it was cool for a couple of days, but we did not get rained on (although Philipp, who was marking the route and riding ahead of us did get rained on one day.) As we were having a celebratory drink in Berlin, the thunderstorm started.
The celebratory drink

Joan, Philipp, Ronnie and Annibal, our excellent guides

All 18 of us celebrate our arrival in Berlin
Today' ride was short but very interesting. We left Potsdam and after getting out of the city, had a nice stretch on the road through the forest, with some long but easy grades to climb. As we approached Berlin, we stopped at the 1936 Olympic Village. On most days there is free entry to the stadium, but today they were setting up for a concert, so we had to take our pictures from outside.
At the Olympic Stadium

The closest that I will ever be to the Olympics
After leaving the Olympic Stadium, we had some slow going along a very busy street. We had our own bike lane on the sidewalk, but had to deal with cross traffic and other cyclists. We then had some easier riding through some parks (unexpectedly coming across some nude sunbathers) and then had a majestic entrance into the center of the City. We passed the famous Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (Parliament) before coming to our hotel. For most of the day I was riding with Loreen and Colin, great riding partners.

Colin, Loreen and Lynn
Diane and Warwick

Nancy and Charlie

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Brandenburg to Potsdam -- Wednesday, June 21, 2017

After a leisurely breakfast, we started our day's cycling which closely followed the Havel river. The weather was perfect -- not quite as warm as yesterday, but plenty of sun and not too much wind. We passed each of the two suggested coffee stops before they opened, and there was not much else along the way to see or do until we came to the town of Werder. Here we crossed a bridge to an island in the Havel where we had an out door self-service lunch. You went to one small building to order food, and a different one to order beverages. There were several tables for enjoying our selections.

sAfter lunch we approached Potsdam, through the Park of Sansouci, with several magnificent palaces, gardens and royal outbuildings from Frederick the Great, including his summer palace, the new palace, the Chinese House and others. although we stopped for a few pictures, we did not go in any of the buildings or explore them in detail. The park is not far from the hotel and some members of the group headed back there after changing from bike clothes.

I opted to explore additional areas of Potsdam, including the main shopping street, the Nauener Tor (see the picture), and NikolaiKirche (St. Nicholas Church).

At Park of Sanssouci

Chinese House in Park of Sanssouci

Nauener Tor

Nikolai Kirche

Our Hotel, the Hotel Brandenburger Tor
Tomorrow will be our last day of cycling. We will have a short, easy ride into Berlin. We will have a guided tour on Friday morning, and I will meet up with my son, Douglas, for the afternoon and evening.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tangermunde to Brandenburg -- Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I will start with a few photos from yesterday that did not make it to the blog. The first is the houseboat where I ate lunch in Fitzhacker, and the rest are in Tangenmunde -- the castle where we stayed, and the Rathaus

Evening briefing

Lynn and Tom        

Today we had an easy 42 mile flat ride through fields, forests and small towns. The first stop was at the Romanesque Jerichow "monastery." After a quick photo, we kept on pedaling.

We encountered varied road conditions today -- the cobblestones (which I have come to hate), some excellent paved roads, some not-so-excellent paved roads, nice forest paths, and, a first, several miles of tank tracks. These consist of two parallel ribbons of concrete and were built for tanks to travel on.

Practically all of us stopped at a lakeside cafe for a leisurely lunch about seven miles from the end of our ride. It was a pleasant interlude because the temperature was about 80 degrees.

The final part of our trip into Brandenburg required crossing the Havel River on a small ferry. We are staying at an excellent hotel, and will have a guided tour of the town before dinner tonight.

Only two days of cycling left:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Luneburg to Fitzhacker by bike and Fitzhacker to Tangermunde by bus -- Monday, June 19, 2017

Today's ride generally followed the Elbe River, with a few modest hills for a change of pace. We only cycled for about 35 miles.

For logistical reasons, we are taking a bus from Fitzhacker to our evening destination of Tangermunde. Our lodging for the evening is a castle that was the home of the former emperor of Tangermunde. Our day sheet says that the castle's unforgettable charm casts a spell on all who visit.

We have also been informed that the hotel's coed sauna strictly enforces the "no clothing" rule. Readers of this blog should know that I strictly enforce the "what happens in Tangermunde, stays in Tangermunde" rule.

Along the route today, my only stop was a lookout point just off the road and high above the Elbe. To get a view unobstructed view you had to climb about 8 stories to the observation platform. The view was worth it.

In Fitzhacker, I had a light lunch at the Houseboat Cafe -- basically a small barge in the canal. I was able to get out of the sun to eat my currywurst and then stroll through the village and get a gelato.

I am writing this post on my phone on the bus (a first, I think). We just had a brief halt to allow a parade of the local gun clubs to pass by. This was specially arranged so that I would have some photos to fill up the blog😉

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hamburg to Luneburg -- Sunday, June 18, 2017

This morning I awoke to the sad -- but not unexpected -- news that my dear Mom passed away last evening. I am truly appreciative of the hugs and kind words of condolence from my fellow cyclists and from my many Facebook friends.

Our forty mile ride today in perfect weather and easy terrain provided lots of opportunity for reflection on Mom's wonderful 101 years.

We rode a short mile and a half from our hotel in Hamburg to a ferry boat that would take us some distance from the city. We then got on the bikes and pedaled our way to Luneborg. Around noon we stopped for coffee at a delightful cafe. A delicious mango cake to accompany the coffee constituted my lunch for the day.

After the coffee, we rode straight into Luneburg which is celebrating some sort of city Festival. The town is alive with music, bratwurtst, beer, wine, and people dancing in the street. I happened upon a small wine garden where there was a four piece dixieland jazz band playing -- I was amazed at the serendipity of it all coming together -- Mom's oft-expressed desire was that we celebrate her life with a New Orleans Jazz memorial service. We will do so on July 13th, but I got a little head start today listening to the kind of music that she loved.

Until tomorrow ...

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Non-cycling day -- Saturday, June 17, 2017

In our first week, we cycled about 225 miles. Today was a well-earned day off from the bikes while we explored Hamburg in nearly perfect weather.

We met after breakfast for a subway ride to the harbor, and then a guided tour of the harbor/port in our own chartered boat. this is a bustling seaport, although it is located on the Elbe river 60 miles from the coast. Our captain spoke very good English and gave us a comprehensive tour of the harbor. We had lots of good views of the city, including several different views of the Elbe Philharmonic hall that I mentioned yesterday. It was interesting to see that many of the boats that ply the harbor with tours are painted as large billboards for musical theater productions. We also say U-434, a soviet build submarine which is the largest hunting and espionage submarine [non-nuclear] in the world, and which is now a museum.
Floating billboard for the Lion King

After the harbor tour we were on our own, and I spent the day walking through the city, visiting the Rathouse (city hall), St. Michael's Church, and various shopping districts. No particular plan -- just exploring on foot.

Several of us met for dinner and rather accidentally, came upon a fascinating and very good Turkish restaurant. Each patron is given a card (like a credit card) and you wander through the various food and drink stations. As you order something, you swipe the card, and it is added to your bill. You are also given a pager so that you will know when your food is cooked. It is a unique business model -- sort of like a self-service cafeteria, except that all the food is cooked to order. What made it stand out is that all the food was really, really, good, and quite reasonably priced.
St. Michael's Church

Hamburg Rathaus

An interesting demonstration/protest march, although I don't know the cause.

Because we are so far north, the days have been really long. Sunrise this morning was at 4:49 am, and sunset will be at 9:52 pm.

Tomorrow we cycle the first couple of miles from the hotel, then take a ferry with our bikes to get us out of the city traffic and then continue on to Lineburg.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Lubeck to Hamburg -- Friday, June 16th, 2017

What a delight to be in a modern hotel room with super fast WiFi. But I am getting ahead of the story.

We left Lubeck this morning with a less than promising weather forecast. Wind and rain. We did have the wind (pretty strong at times) but avoided the rain, although we did see some wet spots where scattered storms had preceded us.

The ride was mostly along small country roads and bike paths with nothing of significant note, except for a small antique/curio/tea restaurant.  It was very English in atmosphere, with a variety of teas, coffees, scones and other pastries to satisfy hungry cyclists. I had carrot cake with my coffee (I must confess that I have had better -- this was rather dry.)

I love these traffic lights

Because of the impending rain in the forecast, it was suggested that we not linger over lunch, and most of us just kept pedaling. As we approached Hamburg, several of us caught up with Philipp who was marking out course with the chalk arrows.  We stopped for coffee to let him get ahead of us again and finish the route marking.

We rode into Hamburg, passing through a large Middle Eastern market district with Halal meat markets, lots of fresh produce, kebab stalls, hookah shops, etc. It was rather interesting. This was the first major ethnic neighborhood (other than Danish or German :) ) that I have seen on this trip.

We arrived at our hotel. It is the nicest of the hotels so far, and we will be here for two nights. Tomorrow is a non-cycling day. (We have done about 230 miles so far.) Instead, we will have a harbor tour by by boat and then free time to explore the city of Hamburg.

We were joined by two new riders this afternoon who will be with us for the second week. Peter and Patty -- Peter is a fellow graduate of Georgetown Law. (Andy and Gwen are non-Georgetown lawyers, but great cycling companions.)

Dinner tonight was at a restaurant adjacent to Hamburg's new Elbe Philharmonic hall. Because it caters to the theater crowd, it has two seatings and we ate at the early one -- 5:30 pm.  The main course was duck, which was excellent, as was the first course of melon and prosciutto. 

The Elbphilharmonie