The main train station in Leipzig

OK, so I didn't ride from Liepzig to Bremen in one day! I did take the train from Leipzig to Hamburg in one day and bicycle from Hamburg to Bremen the next day. I am combining those two days into one ride report / webpage. Since I had decided to take the train, and since I was staying at a nice (***) hotel, I asked the lady at the hotel desk to make a reservation for me, then rode my loaded bike down to the spectacular main train station in Leipzig. It has 20 tracks coming into the building. It also has shops equivalent to those in a large shopping center, a very fancy shopping center.

Leipzig is a good train station for bicycles since no stair climbing is necessary. Almost every train except the intercity (fast) trains, has a bicycle car and lots of travelers had bicycles. I took an interregional train which went to Hanover (and then on to Bremen, it started in Dresden). At Hanover I took another interregional train to Hamburg. Hanover is also very well set up for bicycles, unlike Liepzig where the tracks end at the station, you do have to go down into tunnels to get between the tracks, but there are gentle ramps, elevators, and escalators to make that process easy. My only problem was with the assigned seats on the trains. The bike cars were at the front of the train. My assigned seats were at the other end. I had to remove all my bags, hang my bike in the bike car and then carry everything to the other end (10 cars) of the train at Leipzig.

When I got to my assigned seat, it was already occupied. The young lady sitting in it would have moved, but I just sat in another, nearby seat, Nobody seemed to care. When we got to Hanover, I started making my way to the bike car through the train, 15 minutes ahead of time. It was hot, the train was crowded, especially at the far end - assigned seating at work? - and it was hard, sweaty, work getting through the train with four panniers and a messenger bag. I wasn't sure how long the train would stop at Hanover, so I needed to be at the bike car when it did stop.

The train going from Hanover to Hamburg only stopped for five minutes. I, along with several other bicyclists, hustled to the bike car and helped each other get our bikes loaded. All the available slots were filled, and we finished as the train pulled out. This time I ignored my assigned seat and sat in the first good seat I found, about two cars down the train. The first two cars were smoking permitted. At Hamburg, we were all at the bike car ten minutes early and again everyone worked together to get the bikes loaded and off the train. I was the last to get off and I didn't load my bike on the train - that seems silly - I just put my bags on the platform, then got my bike, and loaded it on the platform. Several folks used an elevator to get their bikes up to the walkway which was above the tracks. I rolled mine down to an escalator, went up that way, then rolled it out into the middle of Hamburg.

Downtown Hamburg was fun - when the sun shines it is like a special holiday in Hamburg <grin> - and very active. I found a place to eat where I could watch my bike, telephoned my wife, rode around a bit, and decided it was too active for me. I checked my mapping software and used one of the main churches, Sankt Petri, which has a very high steeple as a reference, headed south out of town. It is not easy to get out of Hamburg to the south because of there are a lot of river channels, rivers, and canals to get across. It is six miles straight south from the first bridge to the last bridge. most of those bridges don't have bike/pedestrian paths.

I found my way, with some problems due to left turns on multilane roads with heavy traffic and to road construction into the middle of that mess, then headed up the Elbe through the port area. I caught up with some other bike tourists heading the same way. but they were also just trying to find their way up the river. Eventually I ended up at the Elbetunnel which crosses the river and decided to try my luck on the other side.

The tunnel, which is free for bicyclists, was fun to ride through. It was also chilly which felt good after all the heat. When I got the other side I discovered a strange combination of fancy businesses and a four star hotel and sleaze; sex shows and that sort of thing. I decided I really didn't want to stay in that part of Hamburg, so I headed back to the tunnel. As I rode up to one of the elevators - that's how this tunnel works, elevators at either end - a local bicyclist rode in ahead of me.

Dirk, of of my two new friends in Hamburg
bringing me my water bottles

I pulled up beside him, asked "Sprecken sie English?" and he responded that he did. I told him I wanted to go south from Hamburg and find a hotel. He said he was heading home on his 20 km commute and that he went south so I should follow him. Ahhh, what a relief it is in a big city to have someone lead me where I want to go rather than having to find my way. We visited as we rode when were on bike paths or quiet streets. He was from East Berlin and had come to Hamburg three years ago to work. He lived with a woman who was half Spanish and half German and there were having a baby soon. We really enjoyed visiting, and, when were past the south branch of the Elbe which is the southern edge of the waterways, and it was time for him to head west, he asked if I would like to come home with him for supper. I was very pleased to have the chance to do that.

Once again a chance meeting led to a wonderful evening where I got to know two really good people and to learn a lot about their world. Dirk and Susanne live on the southwestern edge of Hamburg. They moved there because she was pregnant and it is a good place for a kid. Dirk normally bikes in and takes the train home, but this day he forgot his wallet and didn't have his train pass, so he rode home. We met because of random chance, a very small random chance at that, but the three of us had a marvelous time together and, I think, will see each other again. I look forward to hearing about, and later meeting, their child.

The next morning, Dirk and I left at about 8 AM, It was going to be at 7:30 but Susanne came down to say goodbye and I forgot to fill my water bottles and none of us really wanted to part. I rode east and south and Dirk rode west and north. His street going east connects to a small road which parallels an autobahn south, then I took another road west to get to B75 going south. I didn't know how bicycle friendly B75 would be, but it turned out to have a good bike path all the way to Rotenburg some 35 miles to the southwest. I stopped to eat a second, larger, breakfast at Tosted. Near Rotenberg, the bike path left B75 and headed for Bremen, at least sort of...

Bike path to Bremen

Riding that path, I noticed that I was going back north! Bremen was west, not north. I checked my maps and discovered I was heading for Zeven and that, at least on my maps, that was how I had to go to get to Bremen without going on B75. It was beautiful country and easy riding, so I decided to continue to Zeven and then to Bremen. That route had bike paths almost all the way and very little traffic on the few parts without paths. It was only six miles longer than taking B75 directly to Bremen. However, if I had to do it again, I'd leave B75 at Wistedt and ride to Zeven on L142. That route is twelve miles shorter than the one I took.

The bike path on L133, the road from Zeven to Bremen

When I got to Bremen, I was tired, which surprised me since I'd ridden less than 80 miles. There was more wind today, but I think those bike paths, which, although more peaceful than the road are also often much rougher than the road, wore me out and beat me up. Bike paths in German are a mixed blessing. They are nice for utility riding, and there is more of that in Germany than in any other country I have ridden in, but are less than ideal for my kind of riding. Because the paths are there, even when a rider is not legally required to use the path, some drivers feel that I shouldn't be on the road. Some times the path is dangerous to ride and or almost impossible to ride at any speed, but those drivers will still blow their horns and tell me that I should be on the path. I much prefer riding in France where bicycles are treated as vehicles with the same rights as cars and being on the road doesn't mean being in the way of drivers who don't think you have a right to be there.

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