Day Seven: Barßel to Bremen

Distance: 93 km

Time: 4 hours 11 minutes

Average speed: 22.2 kph

Total distance: 549.7 km

Total time: 26 hours 8 minutes

Wordle scores: Captain 3, Stoker 4

We were lucky yesterday. After time-trialling the last ten kilometres at high speed in order to beat the rain, we were settled into our room at the Hotel Ummer when the heavens opened, and it poured down for hours. We had decided to go to the Greek restaurant close to the hotel for dinner, it was only two minutes walk away. Raincoats still needed, though.

It was a warm welcome, and a lovely meal served by friendly Greek chaps, it was very popular, and deservedly so. One of the waiters chatted to us for a while, about where we were coming from and going to, how much he had enjoyed visiting London, and whether he would need a visa now to visit. We assured him just his passport would do, but there’s clearly an impression in these parts that tourism to the U.K. is much more difficult to arrange now for our European friends.

He disappeared for a while and then came back bearing a gift. A Greek bearing a gift, I know, I know….! It was a little wooden cheese board with a knife which slotted into it.

It was very sweet of him, and it’s not too heavy, so it’s in the panniers from here back to Apeldoorn now! At least when we arrive at an AirBnB for the rest of this trip we won’t have to hunt for a sharp knife or a chopping board!

After delivering his gift, he made us drink more free ouzo (which was surprisingly delicious, I’ve never had it before), and then we staggered back over the road to the hotel where a buffet was in full swing, with lots of people, many of whom were quite merry even without the benefit of free ouzo!

A good sleep, a good breakfast in the hotel this morning, and we were ready to hit the road just after 9am, with 90km to cover to Bremen. The lady conducting the breakfast summoned the owner by phone, and when he told her he was going to have a shower before coming to sort it out for us she was less than impressed. We had explained we had a long way to ride! She did manage to release the tandem from the locked garage for us, and was quite happy to let us go on trust having taken an email address so they could send the bill. At the last moment the owner appeared and we got it all sorted out. All this was conducted in German, as they spoke no English, thank goodness two years of DuoLingo is paying off. During our stay in Friedrichshafen on the dash home from Cortina at the start of the pandemic, I was unable even to remember the German word for ‘spoon’!

The skies were a bit grey as we pedallled off, and there were a few spots of rain in the air, but it stayed dry as we covered the first 10km at a good clip. The scenery was not massively picturesque, a bit ‘vasty fields of Germany’, as the Captain likes to say, but we had a strong tailwind and were making good progress.

The fields then gave way to some extraordinary square conifers all in lines.

It was like a set of leafy monoliths. Very strange. As we pedalled on it became clear that we were in the middle of the topiary centre of Germany. They were everywhere! Balls, twists, cones, all manner of sizes and shapes. They are evidently for landscape gardening, very impressive specimens.

At Bad Zwischenahn we stopped for a drink by the lake, and then pounded on through Topiary Central, following a route past Oldenburg towards Berne, in order to pick up the Weser cycle route which follows the Weser river. We both felt strong enough to wait to take lunch when we hit the river at Lemwerder. I think we both had in our mind’s eyes a little cafe next to sparkling water, may be a willow or two. Reader, it looked like this:

It was huge! German rivers work really hard, transporting goods, supporting industry and so on, and we’d both kind of forgotten that, really, and how large it was likely to be given its proximity to the sea.

We scoped out a simple-looking Italian place for lunch amid the factories and industrial workings, and found it just in time before the Captain’s blood sugar crashed completely.

“Are you open”, I asked, in my best German, confident that it was because Google had said so, and there were people inside preparing tables and the like. “Not until 16:00”, he said.

Oh no! It was very disappointing. We stood outside, poring over Google maps, trying to find somewhere (a) open and (b) not too far away. It was proving rather difficult. And then, rather wonderfully, they came out to offer us pizza, even though they weren’t open. Isn’t that lovely?

Gosh they were good. Spicy salami for the Captain and gorgonzola and spinach for the Stoker, with lashings of fizzy water.

Fortified for our final 25km, we thanked them profusely, and headed back out to the cycle path, right along the river now. I can’t say it was beautiful, because it wasn’t, but it was very impressive – muscular, robust, productive and honest.

We arrived at a huge lock we needed to cross with just 10km to go. People were loitering, there was a barrier down at one end and a sign saying you could only cross on the hour and the half-hour, which was annoying as it was 2:34! There was no-one enforcing this, though, and whilst we pondered what to do, two cyclists crossed from the other side without anything bad happening to them, so we followed their example and scooted efficiently across.

The last part of the day into Bremen centre was a little tedious, but we found our hotel, right on the river, and are settled into a lovely room. No bath, sadly, but a view of the Weser, alongside which we will cycle all the way upstream to Nienburg tomorrow. It’s going to be a long day – over 100km!

Here’s today’s route and a short video

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