Day 1 – Germany: Hamburg – Itzstedt – 15 May 2016

IMG_3990Excited as could be, the first thing Cat did in the morning was rush downstairs to attach the rest of the things to her bike that we had bought on Saturday. She arrived at the ground floor to find a cut lock and just her bike waiting loyally for her. My bike was not yet tamed, had broken free of its constraints and run wildly off into the night. I can still see it now gallivanting about, riding rider-less along the lake shore and down the canals of Hamburg until reaching some beautiful industrial wasteland on the outskirts; the open fields of man’s creations gone wild.

Alas, Cat, however, was to be found circling around the corner of that block where we’d secured our steeds for the night in bewildered disbelief that only her bike remained. Surely that new bike was just around the corner, or just down at the coffee shop. I was still upstairs fitting all my belongings into the panniers when she came up looking a bit stunned and announced “The bike is gone.” It was as good an excuse as any for a nice long hug in center stage of Anne & Stefan’s living room.

IMG_3986And so, her Dad’s old bike from 1992 was pulled up from the building’s bowels to rescue the day. Monday was a national holiday and there was no way we were staying two more days to go spend another couple hundred euro for yet another bike. The sentimental value alone was worth trying to get this ole dog around the Baltic just to say we did. It had also been our original plan for me to ride this bike until it was discovered it needed 400 euro worth of repairs and improvements to be made upon it. I figure, the pedals move, the breaks work, and the frame doesn’t have too much rust on it… Sally forth!

IMG_3992We spent a few more hours fixing up our bikes with all the new things we had and figuring out the issues of the old bike before we set off. Anne, Stefan, Thobe and Rasmus were also preparing their departure for a camping venture over their long weekend, so shortly after we had our goodbyes with them and they left, we then followed in their wake out into the rain.

Before our morning surprise we had planned on having coffee with Cat’s friends from Lima, Anne & Walter, but seeing as though it was about 1:30pm at this point we thought maybe it’d be better to get going. We had plans to ride to the edge of town and stay with Cat’s good friend from college, Joschka, and his family as our first day. We were feeling the time weigh on our shoulders and the rain was sprinkling then clearing so as we finally straddled our saddles we decided, “of course, we should go have coffee with them”.

IMG_3995It’s always best to be with friends before one leaves on a grand odyssey around the sea. We were still a bit shaken from the missing bike, and some cake and coffee with good friends was the perfect remedy. It was only about a 20 minute ride through the city center to get to their apartment, and all the while both of us couldn’t help but look at every single bike we passed locked up on the side of the road to see if ours was there. Our original intention, once we decided to make the detour, was to see if we could have a coffee with them at a sidewalk café where we could sit by the bikes, rather than take all the bags back off again, and have a quick visit before heading off to Joschka’s. Once we arrived, however, Anne told us about a cake she had made the night before and offered us grilled cheese sandwiches upstairs. How could we refuse?

There was a group effort in bringing up all our gear, and this time we used the super stout strong lock, that we’d bought the day before at the bike shop, to lock up our bikes, and plopped down in their little apartment for some home roasted coffee, cake, sandwiches and good conversation. Anne is also German, so she and Cat started chattering away about all their gossip together in German. Walter is from Peru, so he started chatting me up in Spanish about what we were up to and his life settling in to Hamburg. As many of you know, my Spanish is not the best, so I kept up as best I could struggling along with my broken Spanish, chiming in with English when I could, and catching as much German as I could muster. It was surprisingly both relaxing and a bit dizzying for me. Not to mention that Anne learned the bulk of her English in Ireland, so when she speaks it I feel like I’m in a pub in Dublin.

We stayed about an hour, then had another group effort hauling all our bags back downstairs into the street and saddling them back up. A group picture or two later and we were on our way; and it was only 3pm.

We hit the streets heading north-ish through traffic and over bridges when the rain returned again, and this time with some fury. After just 10 minutes from Anne & Walter’s our bare faces and fingers started take hits from some hail with the rain. This didn’t last too long, however, and within 45 minutes we had cleared the depths of urban IMG_3997Hamburg, made our way into a gorgeous park, and the skies cleared out to bring feeling back to our appendages. At the first full rays of sun we stopped in front of a lake side restaurant, sat on the dock and tried calling Joschka to let them know we’d be a bit late.

The rest of the ride that day was all nature. Mostly it was winding park trails along canals and ponds, but as we got further out we broke out of the park into actual countryside riding along farmlands, forest preserves, and country houses. We reached Joschka and Nele’s house around 6pm, legs sore and ready to eat.

It was a lovely night visiting with them, showing some photos of The Hof after a delicious meal, and sacking out in an extremely comfy bed after just 42 km of peddling our first day.