Displaced by Water – a tale of thunder and lightening.

In our constant search for campgrounds we have come to find that marinas, harbors or kanu clubs will offer very cheap camping. These camping places are much nicer than the big camp grounds because they are in great locations near the water, cater to walkers, bikers or boaters, not well known (read as uncrowded) and very quiet.   So, naturally, when we approached Torgau we searched for such a campground.  Just before we entered the town limits Jay switched on the GPS and surprise, a kanu club less than a kilometer away.

We pulled up to the outer fence and I called out to the gentleman who was sweeping the grounds. “Do you know of any camping nearby?”  in my best German.  Unless the camping is advertised we don’t assume that they allow camping.

“Ya, Heir”  he responded.

Finding out that we needed to be back by 5:30pm, we darted off to find a grocery store to purchase supplies for dinner, breakfast and lunch. Returning to the boothaus we were greeted by four young paddlers, one who had studied in the US for a few months and spoke English relatively well.  (Better than my German). He explained that Boothauses along the Elbe all offer this same service because the boaters like to camp.

For seven Euros each we settled into a camping spot on the small patch of grass between the boothaus building and the dyke for the river. We were given a key to access the bathrooms, showers and a small kitchen and were offered cold beverages for one Euro, on your honor.  We were set.

The evening was perfect- I even posted about the perfectness of the evening on facebook.  I did note that the humidity remained high- but other than that, we had everything we needed. I played hacky-sack with Jasmine, the 7 year old daughter of the boothaus owner,  made dinner, read for a  little while and then turned in early.  Jay worked for a little while and came to bed around 10pm.

No sooner had Jay settled into sleep did the wind pick up.  We could hear the trees above us whipping violently around.  We were sheltered from the wind by the wall on one side and the dyke with tall trees on the other.  We listened to the wind for a while and only became a bit weary when we started to hear branches breaking and being strewn all around us.

Then the real fun started.  Thunder.  Flash 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 and bang in the distance.   Not too bad, we were settled in to enjoy the show. After all, who doesn’t like a good thunder storm?

Within minutes, the thunder grew more violent.  More consistent, louder and definitely closer. It quickly became difficult to separate the flashes and bangs- and then it was right on top of us – flash bang and the sky opened up with a torrent of rain. The lightening was so intense like a thousand camera flashes going off right in front of your eyes at the same time in the pitch black night.  The thunder rumbled and shook all the way down to your bones- you could feel every clap with your heart.

At times, the tent would light up with the poles making an eerie shadow- a black skeleton on a brightly lighted backdrop.  One flash caused the poles to light up brightly – giving an inverse skeleton when all you see are bones all lit up- like Wiley Coyote when he gets electrocuted.  Both of us thought we were seeing things – but my hair standing on end told me otherwise.

We decided instantly that we needed to vacate the tent and move into the boothaus.  I reached down to support my weight with my arm and found the bottom of the tent felt like a water bed.  Water had poured between the ground cloth and the tent floor.  This prompted us to move a little faster.  Jay’s first comment was “ damn-it, I need pants”  and mine “better find my glasses” – and with that we were shuttling everything we own from the tent into the boothaus with the thunderstorm raging on all around us.

We got everything inside and pulled down the tent.  Amazingly the tent itself and any of our stuff that was inside the tent remained dry!  Yay for Big Agnes Copper Spur Ultra Lite 3 tent!

The bags stored in the vestibule were floating along with our bike bottles and fuel bottles.  My shoes, even though they were in a plastic bag were under water and soaked. Jays shoes were saved as he had placed them on top of his crazy creek and they were happily floating.

We hung the wet gear out to dry all over the boothaus and settled in on the floor of the lobby. We were very grateful that we had access to the boothaus.  At 6am the keeper came by to check on us and left us a key to a bed room in the boothaus – at no charge.  Very kind.

The most amazing part of the whole episode was how fast it went from calm and quiet to a raging thunder storm – this was all within a matter of minutes.

We are sound and safe and have taken up a night in a radhostel – a hotel for bike tourists.  It is quite shwank – complete with a bathtub.

Added July 31, 2014:  The bathtub was very nice!  We enjoyed our brief encounter with luxury.

The tent was just to the right of the bikes (under the red tarp) - flooding drained by morning.

The tent was just to the right of the bikes (under the red tarp) – flooding drained by morning.

 

The tent just before we took it down... at least 6" of water below the tent floor.

The tent just before we took it down… at least 6″ of water below the tent floor.

Jay removing the last items from the tent!

Jay removing the last items from the tent!

This is where our tent was!

This is where our tent was!

Standing where the tent was in the middle of the night.

Standing where the tent was in the middle of the night.

Posted in Bike touring, Camping, Germany, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Crossing the Elbe – a lesson in physics.

Waiting for a ferry on the Elbe (Germany).

Waiting for a ferry on the Elbe (Germany).

The Elbe river starts as a spring in Northern Czech Rebulic, just on the border with Poland.  The Elbe courses south east towards Prague and then takes a sharp western turn into Germany.  It heads North West and 1094 km later drains into the North Sea at Cuxhavel 100 km or so west of Hamburg.

We have followed the Elbe in a reverse direction, heading towards the Czech Republic.  The Elbe is a placid river with an obvious strong current – but no rapids that we have seen so far.  A fun part of our cycle trip down the Elbe has been the multiple crossings of the wide waterway.  The crossings are completed on bridges or by ferries – and one time by a water bridge. Yep, that’s right- there is a bridge that carries the Havel Canal over the Elbe.  How cool is that! So cool that it deserves its own post!

The ferries have generally been of two kinds- a small flat vessel with an engine that runs every 15 minutes or so crossing the Elbe.  The captain of the one engine based ferry that we took was quite unpleasant, generally not a happy man. Perhaps he was grumpy because his Ferry wasn’t as cool as the reaction Ferries- that’s where the physics comes in.

Reaction Ferry Anchor

Reaction Ferry Anchor

The reaction ferries are anchored up river by a long cable. Some have two additional cables that run to either side of the boat, a few have a simple ruder and one has an overhead set of cables.  The captain manually tightens the cable on one side (or manipulates the ruder) which allows the boat to move into the current.  The Ferry then “pendulums” to the other side. The Captain then makes a quick adjustment to the other cable and boom, the ferry lands perfectly and you are on your way.  The captains of the reaction ferries have all been jolly –probably because their ferries are the coolest and apply simple laws of physics for movement.

On the Ferry from Tangermunde

On the Ferry from Tangermunde

Wall mural of the Elbe

Wall mural of the Elbe

The placid Elbe.

The placid Elbe.

Reaction ferry anchor

Reaction ferry anchor

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The Next Leg

Now that we’ve settled into Germany and will be meeting friends and family tomorrow afternoon for a few days, it’s time to peek down the road to where we expect to go next. The general plan, always subject to revision, is to head south, skirt around Hamburg and pick up the Elbe River Radweg. A conservative estimate has us arriving in Prague during the first full week of August.

Come join us for a day or three along the way or see you in Prague!

Enjoy the ride,

Janet and Jay

Posted in Bike touring, Czech, Germany, Travel | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Food in a Tube

We are now in our third country and are having fun walking through supermarkets and marveling at all of the different food choices.  Sometimes we will buy something based on a picture on the label- because we can’t decipher the name or ingredients.  So far this technique has worked in our favor.

Yummy Breakfast Foods -in a tube

Yummy Breakfast Foods -in a tube

In Norway we were introduced to the concept of “food – in – a – tube” .   Which, as gross as it might sound (and very processed) – was actually an advantage for us when out on the road. The tubes are easy to store and have an exceptionally long shelf life.

 

 

 

The foods that we tried in tube form are:

Caviar (yummy- salty)

Mayonnaise (all different kinds of flavors)

Liver pate’ (a common choice for kids- high in protein and vitamin D)

Mackarel in tomato sauce (yummy)

Smoked salmon (yummy)

Various cheeses

Various cheeses

And last but not least cheese (ost) – lots of cheese!

Ost with bacon

Ost with Jalapeno peppers

Ost with Taco Seasoning (not our favorite)

Ost with bacon and pepper

Brown Ost

Light Brown Ost

 

An example of the nutrient breakdown for Bacon Ost:

The Bacon Ost (100 g – 6.7 tablespoons) = 250 calories: 75% fat, 8% Carbohydrate and 18% protein.  A nice addition to a bicycle tourists protein and fat intake on a long hard riding day.  And, well, it tastes like bacon.  It spreads easily- and stores for an infinite amount of time. A perfect addition to the bike touring kitchen.

Brunost

Brunost

Brown cheese (Brunost) deserves its own explanation.  We were introduced to Brunost by Katie and Morten in Oslo.  It is a soft cheese with a slightly sweet taste usually sliced thin and eaten with toast and jam or butter.   The Norwegians typically eat Brunost as a sweet addition to their food.  Brunost is made from milk, cream and whey.  The milk sugars caramelize during cooking giving the Brunost its characteristic (and not very appealing) brown color.

We like our Brunost- and although we were informed of the traditional uses we found ourselves adding Brunost to any sandwhich – savory or sweet!  Then we found Brunost in a tube.  Fantastic.  Jay and I purchased our last tube of Brunost as we left Norway and it lasted all the way through Denmark.

Food in a tube 5

A tower of Ost!

Alexa enjoying some cheese in a tube on a lunch stop

Alexa enjoying some cheese in a tube on a lunch stop

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A Perfect Day in Germany

Yesterday was an amazing day on the bicycle.  We had stopped in at a caravan park 15k East of Glucksborg Germany (on the North East coast) the day before to wait out a rather nasty rain storm.  I now know what they mean when folks say “the sky just opened up”. The rain came down in sheets complete with heart vibrating thunder and lightning.   The caravan park owner offered the poor, drenched cyclists his sisters caravan for the night – which was a lovely reprieve from the rain.  The evening was complete with a showing of the world cup semi-finals in a converted play room and makeshift bar.  All in all it was a fun evening with Germany making football look easy.

Sleeping in a bit, we picked up our freshly baked rolls from the park store.  A nice touch for most campsites in Europe is that they will provide you with a choice of yummy, fresh baked bread for your breakfast.  We packed up slowly knowing that there was no rush for the day.  The sun was shining, an onshore breeze kept the temperatures mild.  A beautiful day to ride a bike.

Bicycle route signs in Germany.

Bicycle route signs in Germany.

Having made a Warm Showers reservation in Kappeln which was 60K down the road, we knew that we had nothing but time.  So we headed out along the Ostseekosten Radweg-  east sea coast cycle route.  This cycle route hugs the coast line as closely as possible for most of the journey.  Following the route is easy as it is very well sign posted.  The track was an ever changing surface, sometimes road, sometimes dirt and always close to the sea.  In, out and around the next hill, back out to the water and head south.  Each turn brought new landscapes and beautiful beaches.

A sample of the route!

A sample of the route!

Not being in a hurry is one of our goals for our entire trip.  We want to be as stress free as possible. And yesterday we reached that perfection.  We would ride some, stop at a beach and watch the kite surfers.  Ride some more and take a nap on the beach after eating fresh erdebeer (strawberry) ice cream. The best. Ever.

We arrived in Kappeln (pronounced Kappel – with a silent “n”) just in time for dinner and to met up with our host, Katherine and her roommates. Katherine lives in the heart of downtown Kappeln – a bustling center for a small coastal town.  After settling in and meeting everyone, we were whisked away, by bicycle to the neighboring town of Arnis five kilometers to the south. Arnis is the smallest official town in Germany. Katherine, Laura, Johanna and Felix put together a feast, brought all the necessary accoutrements and took us to a very beautiful picnic spot on the south side of Arnis.

“No eating before swimming” was the rule.  So, we all jumped into the Schlei Fjord, a mixed fresh and salt water inlet.  The water was pleasant, mostly fresh water and warmer than the North Sea in Norway.  After a short swim, we were treated to a fine meal of fresh salads, cheeses, breads, pasta and all kinds of fancy spreads.  These four 20 somethings really know how to put on a picnic.

Arnis Picnic and swim

Arnis Picnic and swim

We stayed chatting until the sun went down.  Me with my terrible German and Katherine doing most of the translating.  Katherine, Felix and Laura are all completing a boat builder apprenticeship.  Kappeln has four boat yards and offers a selection of apprenticeships.  Laura and Katherine are the only two female boat builder apprentices (that they know of) – way to go girls.  Johanna is finishing her pottery (ceramics) training and is about to set off to become a world famous potter!  A few of the  bowls they used for the picnic were made by Johanna – they are beautiful.

We cycled home with the last light of the day and were tucked into our bed for the night by midnight.

We cannot thank Katherine and her roommates, Laura and Lilli enough for hosting us and sharing the evening.  A beautiful ending to a perfect day on the bicycle.  :)

picinic group picnic group 2

Posted in Bike touring, Germany, Warm Showers | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments