It was on one of these little trips that I experienced one of the great things that happens when you are travelling. I was feeling a bit down and fed up of my own company having been wandering through a park watching everyone chilling with their mates
. For some reason I found myself off my bike and walking down a street in one of the sleazy parts of Hamburg (I think I was looking for a supermarket). I stopped at a pedestrian crossing and looked around as I waited for the lights to change when I saw a t-shirt and pair of sunglasses is recognized. It was Beno a Swiss guy who I had met in a hostel in Bremen. He was also on a bike and was using the bike and trains to head north to Stockholm. I know we were both planning to go to Hamburg but we left on different days, I was on my bike, he took a train, we were staying at opposite ends of town and there are quite a lot of people in Hamburg. This is why I find it so amazing that you can happen to be on the same side of the same street at the same time on the same day (if I had been on my bike I would have ridden straight past).
He was trying to find an Irish pub to watch the Wimbledon final (being Swiss I think he had become accustomed to watching it and seeing his man be crowned champion, again!) The bar ended up being closed but we soon found another with it on, just in time to witness championship point. We sat with some beers and talked though our plans (hopefully we might be able to catch up over a beer in Stockholm as we should be there at the same time). It was not the day I had planned not that I had one planned but it's amazing how just when you are feeling lost in a big city you can bump in to a Friendly face
On the way back we happened on something which I had read about in my travel guide. The travel guide mentions the red light district, I'm not seeking them out it just so happens that Hamburg like Amsterdam is quite famous for it (I think it's has something to do with sailors as it's always been a huge port). Anyways when your travel guide tells you that there is a street (called Herbertstrasse) down which it is forbidden for women as well as lads under 18 to walk down it can't really be missed (well if you happen to be a male over 18 that is). You can probably guess what the street was like but I can't say just in case there are any women or people under 18 reading this so you'll just have to use your imagination he he!
When cycle touring it is quite hard to sort out accommodation. You can't really book as you never know how you will feel the next day or if you will have set backs (read broken spokes, ARG!). Because of this I am perfecting the art of stealth camping. This is not wild camping (camping in a field or layby without facilities) although you have to be prepared to do that from time to time. Stealth camping is the art of staying in or near a campsite/facilities for free. I must put the disclaimer here that i don't condone this, when I have a job and am minted I will pay my way i will even be happy to pay over the odds to compensate however at the moment I'm not and due to the high cost of camping in Europe (sometimes £15-20 a night!!!) i often have no other choice. It is much more easily done when you are travelling by bike as you make no noise, can slip past barriers and gates and you have a tiny tent which often goes unnoticed. Usually due to being rubbish at getting up in the mornings i will arrive at campsites after the reception closes (I have the rule that if there is someone there to take my money I will pay, hence the reason I just paid nearly £14 to camp here in Denmark)
. generally stealth camping on large busy campsites is easy. Last night however I did some proper stealth camping and upped the stakes. I had over estimated the distance i could cover and was never going to make the campsites I planned to stay at. The problem was that I had a small town on the map which i needed to pass through. The route my sat nav picked was a little strange I needed to cross to the other side of a river, the main road had a tunnel marked on the map but obviously bikes couldn't go on this so the sat nav was taking me along the river bank to a bridge and then back on the other side to the centre of town which seemed fair enough. What was puzzling me as I travelled down the river bank was that i couldn't see a bridge, it was also getting pretty late and I was concerned about where I was going to sleep. I followed the path which went through an underpass, I was ready to see the bridge as I came out the other side. I was however a little shocked to see a small ferry which could only fit 8 cars on. I watched for a bit to see how it worked. It appeared that you didn't have to pay, it just waited until there were 8 cars, did the 200m crossing filled up on the other side then came back, just like part of the road. It is something which we don't really get back home but I have seen them in other places like Holland as well, in Norway I believe they are very common. The ferry was full when i arrived so i had to wait for it to cross and come back, this delayed me, I was all set on heading out of town and finding a nice field for a spot of wild camping. As a last attempt I asked at a petrol station for a "campingplatz" and was quite surprised when I got directions, even more surprised when I realised the directions took me back into town! I arrived to find a campingplatz for mobile homes witch was basically a glorified car park by a lake with facilities. I was pretty annoyed and there was no way I could put my tent up on gravel. So stealth camping it was, in a park in the middle of a town 15 feet away from a footpath
. I checked out the facilities and typically you needed a key to get in to them all but water. I waited until it got dark then pitched my tent (to be a good stealth camper you need to be able to erect your chosen stealth camping house in the dark, bivvi bags are easiest). I had a pretty good nights sleep but the only problem was i had to get up before 7 to remove my tent before people started to use the footpath to go to work. By the time I had packed up the cafe was open so I decided to have a coffee and plan my day. I then got tempted by the fresh bread other people were being served so I ended up getting brekki. The cafe was run by a youngish woman who only had one hand, I hadn't noticed at first but when i did i was in the middle of talking to her and had the awkward period where in was trying not to look shocked or stare too much whilst thinking of what to say (even harder when speaking German). As I munched away I watched her single handedly (pun very much intended!) run the cafe, a small shop and the campsite it was pretty amazing, she had some skills it was no wonder I didn't notice at first.
I think the extended periods if time alone are beginning to get to me. Why i hear you ask? Well I have invented new carb loading meal for a start. It is often a hard choice to decided whether to have pasta or rice for dinner so I have invented a new dish... Rasta. The dish consists of a highly carbohydrate loaded mix of rice and pasta (they go surprisingly well together) topped with a special rasta sauce. Red pasta sauce with yellow onion, yellow and red pepper, green beans and black olives (dya see what I have done there). I have sampled this dish and it's really good the rice and pasta are especially good together who knows it may even catch on...... Or I may end up in an institute, I guess only time will tell.....
Most towns and cities have a massive list of attractions for tourists to check out. What you realise when you are travelling for an extended period of time is that often very few of these are actually worth seeing. Because of this and because I am going to so many cities around Europe I have decided that I'm not going to try and see everything. If there is something that sounds like it can't be missed I will check it out otherwise I tend to get on my bike and ride round town for a bit. Usually you will bump in to the main attractions anyway but it has the added benefit of getting you into some untouristy places so you can experience what a town is really like.