Start at the Frontdoor
Geitelde - Gifhorn/Garmsen 60 km
We start earlier than 7 o'clock for it will be a hot day. Of course the last evening yesterday was somewhat too late and funny with our neighbours which will look for the flowers and various animals. As we leave our village the early sexton (Küster) shouts behind us "Will be a hot day". That's what we should know. Now it is chilly yet. The first sections are known to everybody but half an hour later new paths begin.
As we reach the Tankumsee we have to pause for the rest of noon and afternoon. We can swim and so overcome the hottest period. Finally the sky is cloudy and a thunderstorm comes near from the west. We head for the town of Gifhorn to find a secure place. As a fine drizzle begins we enter the Cafe an der Allerbrücke. There is a telephone and we can book the night at Garmsen, two double rooms.
We have a short glance at the castle and the museum for windmills. The rain gets stronger but soon we are at our hotel. The rooms are comfortable and we have a good mood, may be because the bill is not to be paid until tomorrow. We find a Greek restaurant and after dinner we have a look to the village. The farmers gradually begin to turn to grow ecological products and have own shops at their farm.
Due to the busy main road we do not sleep very well.
Garmsen - Lüder/Bodenteich 50 km
The morning is grey and dull caused by the rainfall during the night. The breakfast is OK, but thereafter the bill is no pleasure. The rain has stopped and we can start. Of course I have a flat tube at the front wheel - this is Murphy's Law. I am not willing to repair this at once, may be we find a nice place on the route. So I pump the tire and put the pump at an accessible place. Off we go.
The orientation of the bike path Braunschweig - Lüneburg is accomplished by concrete mushrooms with the direction sign. We pass the Platendorfer Moor and the small river Ise (remember the crossword puzzles). Meadows and small forests, traffic free. A large black bird sits at a pole, caws and looks like a raven. But may be it is only a crow. Then there are the raptors (Greifvögel) as usual, buzzard and red kite (Roter Milan). The swamp birds like lapwings (Kiebitz) and herons (Graureiher) as well.
Once there is a fork without a sign. Though the description of the route is straight forward we better ask a lumberjack (Waldarbeiter). But he is completely uninformed, may be he is imported from Austria. As usual we decide to use the wrong direction. This is not too bad, some time later we can correct the mistake. At Wahrenholz we have the first rest. We admire the church built of brickstone. As we finally get up we detect the nest of a stork at the backside of the church.
Rest at Hankesbüttel
Now let us explain the Heuhotel. Some farmers got the idea to offer their sheds and barns for cyclists and hikers as accommodation. One only needs a sleeping bag and can sleep among the hay. But be careful if you suffer from hay-fever. We have found a very nice place and would like to have an immediate nap.
But at first I must perform the repair. The old tube looks very suspicious, so I better trust to the spare tube. But thereafter I had to pump every second day until the end of the tour, but don't bother.
We have early afternoon and 3 km to the touristic place Bodenteich. We take our swim suits with us but it is too cloudy. At Bodenteich we look around, find the tourist bureau at the old castle. At a creek there is a weir with a cabbage elevator. Once we detect a "bike-tour" and this is another 4 member cycle family. We feel superior for we got our accommodation already and nobody can realize that we are a "bike-tour" too. We then go shopping - and meet the cycle family at the shop. We look for a dining restaurant - and meet the family. We walk to the park with minigolf and a Kneipp bassin. And there they sit - the family - at the pond and consume their shopping supplies. I must keep some distance to my lady-party which bursts out in laughter. We then enter the Kneipp-Bassin and wade like the storks. On our way back the family has disappeared and we will never come to know what furtheron happened to them.
After we had our dinner at a frugal restaurant we return to Lüder. Stefanie is invited to attend a coach trip. We have a chat with a couple from Berlin who spend their holidays here. As we start to enter our hay lodgings the farmer's wife comes back from a birthdayparty. We need some time to get rid of her nonstop chatter. The night in the hay is ambivalent. It is romantic, but one can sink into the depths of the heap if you slide in the gap of two hayblocks. Then there is a sound of rustling from now and then: the mice. And there is much dust in the dry hay and this could block your nose or tickle the eyes. In the future no one ever insists to sleep at a hay hotel.
Lüder - Satemin 50 km
The rural breakfast is very good and we can put some supplies for the day into our bags. We will come to the Wendland today and we will see why this is a very interesting region. We have a slight headwind but the weather is fine (cyclists always talk about the weather). We come to the village Schafwedel and a viewpoint to observe the German frontier. An officer of the border control strolls around and does not know how to overcome the boring time of the day. He is happy to have a chat with us and we tell him of the hay hotel.
We continue on a side road, smaller hills and the headwind are a little strenuous. The villages have neither shops nor pubs so we cannot supply our food and drinks. We have to ride until Bergen an der Dumme to reach a civilized area again. But just now at noon the shops are closed. We enter a nice imbiss. We meet other cyclists who have come from Hankesbüttel and want to go to Lüchow. Then a boy comes up - he has difficulties to speak correctly but doesn't bother to enumerate all local nests of storks inclusive the number of the family members.
At the next telephone box we try to book any accommodation. This turns to be difficult. We nearly use up all our Groschen (10 Pfennig coin) until we succeed with the Reiterhof Henke, Satemin. We are happy because Satemin is said to be the most beautiful Rundlingsdorf of the Wendland. You don't know a Rundlingsdorf? Those are built around in a circle - it is not quite sure why. We decide to stay there for a day and purchase for two nights.
Now we are pleased and can stroll along with much time. The roads are sometimes boring but the villages are very nice. At Luckau we see a stork's nest up above a telegraph pole at the central place. We sit down there and watch the storks as they clatter with their beaks. Some one-day-cyclists come along. We continue and come to the first Rundlingsdorf Schreyan. Some time later we arrive Satemin. Stefanie stealthily takes care for the fact that she is the first who passes the sign of the village.
We get a room in a beautiful house at the main place. Stefanie and Annika get an apartement at the estate of a pottery. After we have arranged our stuff we stroll around - and this is evident for the whole village is round. We have a look at the church and the graveyard, the church is closed. We then study the inscriptions at the pediments of the half timbered houses. There was a big fire blast at 1850 which destroyed all houses within hours. But the folks were busy, they succeeded to rebuild the houses within one year. So all houses have the same year's number as their origin.
Everything runs well and after we have paid our purse is empty. The owner picks us up and we must admire the toilets(!), the rooms and furnishing, the music installation (for classic only). Thereafter we sit at the bar and have our drink. We promise to recommend this restaurant to everyone known to us. Finally we can relief and go outside to sit at the romantic central village place. Of course we would like to have a beer now - so this is bought from the Reiterhof on credit.
Restday at Satemin
We must go to the town Lüchow today to get money from the post office. At Lüchow we have a dense traffic which does not harmonise with the well restarized half timbered houses of the main street. We then go shopping and end at the swiming pool. We can spare one entrance fee because two of us fit as one to the entrance barrier. But the saving is obsolete some time later as Annika buys some shoes which turn out not to fit. As we return to the town we see our restaurant's owner licking an ice cream. So we approve a coffee at the Lukullus after we are back. Now the story of the "Fummelpfennig" happens. Some boys have lost their coins for an ice into the doormat pit. But a helpful guest fumbles the coins to light again though he obviously has lost some of his fingers at some time - may be he was a carpenter. In the evening we have a mor frugal but cheaper meal at the Reiterhof.
Satemin - Walmsburg 60 km
Breese im Bruche
On a gravel and sandy path we ride per Predöhlsau and Grabau to Wussegel. And now we have hit the river Elbe. in consequence we have a longer rest at the dike and consume some Kohlrabi. High above there are many storks, some at the sky, some in their nests. The town of Hitzacker is in sight and we get there in the early afternoon, too early for an accommodation yet. Much touristic activities around. We rest at a kiosk looking at the Elbe and a steamer taking off for a boat trip. Unfortunately there is no ship going down the Elbe to Lauenburg. But I can tell you: we would have missed a lot!
We continue on a road along the Elbe. This is a wide stream and its bed a streamway from the ice age. And aside this streamway there are unbelievable hills and we have to cross them all. They push and grumble, nearly a mutiny. At the steepest intervals I push the bike for one of my ladies. At the gradient of 12 % I have to push my lorry too. But no ascent is longer than about 10 minutes and so this should not be the problem. At the summit there is a look-out tower. There is a nice view to the Elbe and cross over to Mecklenburg. There are some people from the TV but they are not interessed in our activities.
We start to look for an accommodation. The next town is Darchau and we cannot detect any "Zimmer Frei" sign. As well we find no address in the accommodation list. There is an inn but that would be too expensive. So w head on to the next town, this is Walmsburg. And there is no restaurant, no pension, no market nor shop. The only chance is the campground. But the weather is fine and why shall we carry all the stuff with us in vain. So we are welcome at the family Grobe who runs this site.
The campground is very clean and cultivated and we find an idyllic spot among the firs for our tent. But how to buy any food now? Our pockets and stomaches are empty. As Mrs. Grobe will go shopping by car she invites us to accompany her. So Heidi and Annika will go out, Stefanie and I will build up the iglu. Meanwhile we have a proper entanglement of the tent-rods but finally success before the others arrive.
We have a wonderful dinner on our isomattes on the floor. Then we have a shower. We have some difficulties with the coins and a buckling tube but finally this is done. At last we enter the homelike taproom for beer. We soon find out, that the Grobes and we stem from the same eastern parts of former Deutschland, and so we chat a lot about the past times and its literature. So we have unexpectedly one of the most interesting evenings.
Walmsburg - Lauenburg 40 km
We do not sleep too good as four persons in one small tent. But at morning we find all our bones at their place. We have the breakfast on the floor again and then set off, after there is some more work to pack all the camping stuff. We come to Bleckede, a nice little brickstone town. We sit down in the front of a bakery for a coffee and some pieces of cake. We have a look at the castle and the post office aside to get some more money.
We then have a beautiful path at the dike of the Elbe. If one will have a glance of the swamp meadows on the other side of the dike one has to climb up to the top. There are fish ponds with many plants and animals, herons e.g. And cows or sheep populate the dike area.
The Llama ''Elfi''
I cannot remember, how we came out of this situation, probably the llama had a rest and we jumped on our bikes and fly down the dike. Some hundred meters later we dare to look back and feel safe again. After we have enough distance (a couple of kilometers) to the place of horror we sit down and laugh and laugh and laugh...
(Some time later we read in the newspapers, that somewhere in France a llama was to be found among a herd of cows. We think our event was just as adventurous but there was no journalist nearby...)
The rest section to Lauenburg is very nice again. Then a large bridge appears, we cross over to Lauenburg and the tourist office at the castle. We get the last private accommodation for today but must ride all the way back and cross the bridge. The pension is very friendly, we sit in the garden and have a coffee ant tell our story.
Lauenburg - Ratzeburg 40 km
Elbe - Ostsee Kanal
On a small road we ride to Seedorf at the Schaalsee. There is an idyllic restaurant and we have coffee and cake and have to fight against a couple of wasps. A fisherman is catching baitfish with a dip net at the lake side, a cat sitting nearby now and then gets one of the small fishes. The Schaalsee is famous for a certain fish named Große Maräne which is a relict of the ice age.
We head for the last section to Ratzeburg and twice pass the canal from the Schaalsee to the Ratzeburger See. We then reach the village Schmilau. Tonight two of us will sleep at our aunt at the senior's residence, but the other two must find an accommodation yet. At the Gasthaus Schmilauer Hof they tell us that they are booked. We get the tip to look at a farmer's pension near the church. We meet Mrs. M. in her kitchen. May be we look somewhat out of shape and sweaty for immediately she offers a glas of juice to each of us. Unfortunately there is no free room for two couples from Berlin have come already. May be I can set up the tent anywhere at the farm? Sure, between the barn and the large silo there is a fine place. And no smelliness from the silo.
We set up the tent and prepare things for the night. We then ride the last 3 km to Ratzeburg to meet our aunt at the senior's home. We spend an evening in a homely atmosphere, and when the television program (Spiel ohne Grenzen, Games without frontiers) starts, Stefanie and I set off for our night camp. The other two can sleep at the senior's home. We finally have two beers and a coke at the Schmilauer Hof and come to know, that some time later this afternoon we would have got a room for someone had quitted his reservation. Meanwhile someone else has got the room and we are happy with our encampment at the silo. We sleep like the groundhogs (Murmeltier).
Der Dom in Ratzeburg
At noon we have dinner at the senior's home and some time later we stroll to the Farchauer Mühle, a garden restaurant. So nothing specular happens this day until we return to our aunt's home. Thereafter a pouring rain starts. This time Annika will come with me to the tent. We do hard to fight our way through the rain. We feel like blind and finally success to find our destination. Unfortunately we closed the entrance of the tent only by the gauze flap. So there are some water puddles inside. For we have a warm weather this is no problem and soon we have a comfortable sleep while the patter of rain sounds on the tent roof.
Ratzeburg - Lübeck 40 km
In the morning it is still raining. We get up at 8 o' clock to pay for the breakfast. Thereafter the rain has stopped and we pack the wet stuff. At Ratzeburg we all meet again and say farewell for the next stage. At first we use a nice path at the lakes but soon it becomes too muddy and we have to change to the Bundesstrasse. They have a bike path there and due to the unsteady weather we prefer to use a secure route. We arrive at Lübeck in time for dinner and another family party with Tante Otti and Onkel Walter. Another 90 year old aunt from the USA is there, but not by bike.
At the Lübecker Marktplatz...
...Stefanie watches over a bag of bananas
In the evening we plan for the next day. The weather looks awful with strong western winds. We decide to go by train to Bad Oldesloe.
Lübeck - Barmstedt 60 km
During the night I once awake and realize, that I have caught a diarrhoea. So the breakfast only consists of two cups of peppermint tea. But then we set off in time to catch the train to Bad Oldesloe. For the railway station is jammed by visitors of the Windjammer Parade we do hard to purchase the tickets and carry the bikes and baggage to the train. The voyage finally lasts about 10 minutes and we had to pay 40 DM for this affair.
At Bad Oldesloe we have a horror of the impending headwind. We buy a local road map and start towards Grabau. The first kilometres are a struggle and somewhat depressed we sit down at the central place of the village. In the future we learn to ride one after the other to protect from the head wind. Guess who is in front all the time. We don't know why - but we proceed anyhow, pass Henstedt and Ulzburg and finally arrive at Barnstedt. No one has any appetite to continue for one more additional kilometer. Soon we have found a Gasthof with associated butcher shop, which is always a straight tip. But not for me, I even must resign to watch the others at their fine dinner.
Barmstedt - Neuhaus 50 km
From Wischhafen we ride a boring road to the north until Freiburg. We have a rest in an imbiss restaurant and wait until another rain stops. We argue if we should better use a bus or train to Cuxhaven but then think that things will be too difficult. So we continue dead ahead, each bend is a sensation. At the street there are self service boothes with fruits and vegetables, the money is voluntarily to be spent into a box. We only count the kilometres. Near the Oste-Sperrwerk we enter a bakery for some food and hear, that the ferry of Belum where we wanted to cross the river Oste does not exist any more. So we must use the high bridge above the Oste and the wind nearly blows us off. Then another rainstorm,we find ourselves behind a hedge.
But we now arrive at Neuhaus and find the Hotel Ramm. And this is a nice little town with small brickstone houses along the dike. The dinner is fine, and after a walk in the evening we soon go to sleep.
Neuhaus - Cuxhaven 50 km
This will be the last section and then we will enjoy our holidays for the rest of the time at the beach at Cuxhaven. The wind is not so strong so we have good progress today. We stay to the boring Bundesstrasse for we want to avoid any risk of detours. We pass Otterndorf and Altenbruch and arrive Cuxhaven before noon. As usual we ride to Döse and find the tourist bureau open. They can arrange to book an apartment for us and from now on we can relax from the bad weather in sleeping and reading. Not to forget to tell, that the rest of the family got their diarrhoea as well. And after this was settled the weather was fine and we had four nice days with the beach chair.