DAY 1 
31 JULY 2021 


Another summer, another bicycle tour.  Even in Covid times.  Germany, cycling some of the grand rivers - Elbe, Main, Rhine and maybe a bit of the Danube.  I should this year have gone to the USA to do the last of the big rides that I have in my plans for the US - the Southern Tier Trans America route from Southern California across the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico and then through a thousand miles of Texas to some of the southern states and then on to Florida.  But that will have to wait for a while now.  

Even thinking of coming to Europe, although seemingly eminently possible a few months ago, has taken quite a bit of thinking and planning because of the new variant Covid times.  Anyhow, I like a challenge, and after a good deal of reading up about the various requirements and restrictions, I worked out that I could come to Germany with the requisite double vaccination certificate, PCR test, and German locator form.  It all worked out yesterday when I flew from London Stansted to Hamburg, and managed to get by the usually arbitrary and autocratic Ryanair check in-people and then the German border guards.  German border guards are infinitely more charming that Ryanair check-in staff. 

So, after a night in the Ibis Hotel at Hamburg airport, I set out this morning on the Elberadweg (Elbe cycle route) to follow the Elbe River as far south as Dresden.  Only as far as Dresden  however, because continuing following the Elbe in to the Czech Republic to Prague is verboten (or whatever the Czech equivalent is) because the Czechs are being a bit precious about we Brits and won’t let us in at the moment.  I had originally planned, before I realised the Czech ban, on going on to Prague and then taking a greenway cycle route to Vienna. Which would not have worked either, because the Austrians are being equally as precious as the Czechs, so I wouldn’t get in there either.  The original plan had been to turn west at Vienna and follow the Danube back in to Germany and eventually pick up the Rhine and head north in the hope of going through either Belgium, Holland or France and getting a ferry back to Blighty. So in the event, it has been a case of back to the drawing board and the current plan is to turn west at Dresden and head to Wagner country near Bayreuth and connect with the River Main and then head to Frankfurt, and from there pick up the Rhine and head north.  Flexible, adaptable and agile.  I think that was what the RAF said it was when I was a small part of it.

Today, Day 1, was getting out of Hamburg (it’s always a challenge getting through big cities on a bicycle) and picking up the Elbe and heading south, along the western  bank.  Hamburg looks like a fine city, almost completely rebuilt since its firebombing in July 1943 by the US and Britain.  It looks a prosperous place, and as I went through the commercial and historic old centre I was struck by how well kept its streets and shops are.  No closed down shops and gaps in the shopping streets, no proliferation of charity shops, just prosperous looking people shopping in nice independent shops selling classy and high end stuff.   It’s a markedly different picture from what I see in Birmingham.  What are the Germans doing right ?

Once out of Hamburg and out along the Elbe the picture quickly turns to bucolic, pastoral, well kept and tidy small towns, villages and farms.  Everything is tickety-boo in Deutschland it seems.  The route follows the flood dyke which has a cycle path either on top of it or alongside it and continued for the 70 or so miles that I cycled today.  The weather was a bit blustery from the storm that we had over us a few days ago in the UK and which has now worked its way east to Germany, but the wind was mostly to my back so it was good riding.

Tonight’s accommodation is not my usual Ibis but a small guest house where they pride themselves on their apples - apple cider, apple wine, apple sherry and so on.  They also have a small kitchen and produced a lovely meal of apple spiced soup, beef involtini / beef olives, and mint parfait dessert, all better than I could have cooked at home.  So all is good with the world.

In my spare hours in the evenings I will write and post a little something about my cycling adventures.  You don’t have to read them.  Just press the delete button if you feel so inclined.  I won’t be offended.

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