80th Birthday Celebration

Dad’s 80th birthday was on 2 May. The whole family got together in New Plymouth on the following weekend to celebrate. Here are some photos of the occasion.

Mt Taranaki – looking stunning on our way to New Plymouth

Welcome drinks – William J, Bethany and Reinhard, Jenny, Kris, William

Party time with Housing Colleagues on Friday – Reinhard, Raewyn and Rod

Riding along the foreshore on Saturday – from one end to the other

Reinhard, Bethany and Kris hanging out in the apartment

We had a big celebration dinner on Saturday

Dad enjoying a champagne before dinner

(left to right – Dad, Jenny, Kris, William J, Reinhard, Bethany, Mum)

Birthday cake and candle

Cheese!  

Final family photo – Bethany and Reinhard, William J, Pam and William (Mum and Dad), Jenny and Kris

 

Wedding Anniversary Weekend (1 April)

We celebrated our 27th Wedding Anniversary with a weekend away in the Hawkes Bay over Easter Weekend. We stayed at Palm Cottage near Havelock North. We explored the Napier Bike Trails thoroughly. On the Saturday we did a big trip to Napier and back.

On the Sunday we did a more leisurely trip through the vineyards.

The weather was beautiful and the apple trees were all fully laden.

Frohe Weihnachten

Merry Christmas everyone!
We enjoyed our Christmas eve celebration with Owen, Aaron and Serena. Here are a few photos, starting with decorating the tree on Christmas eve.

Waiting for it to get dark…

Candle light and Christmas plates on Christmas eve

Lunch on Christmas day – still lots of ham to eat.

Goodbye group photo

 

 

Europe Tour 2017 Post Script – a new life for our bicycles

Good new today – Silvia and Andreas have donated our bicycles and they are going to new refugee owners in Stelle. It is great to imagine our bicycles having a useful life after their initial journey from Rome to Hamburg.
Here is an article about Herr Rudolf, who was recently honored by the Stelle community for his work. He runs a small workshop where volunteers repair and restore bicycles before they are donated to local refugees. This is where our bicycles have gone.

28101701

Tour map and travel stats 2017

Here are some stats on the 2017 Europe trip:

Total number of traveling days – 55
Total distance traveled – 3650km
Average per day – 66.5km
Longest day – 110km

Total distance on bicycles (including sight seeing days) – 3837km

I have also completed a map of our route here – tour map

Each point on the map is an overnight stop, and links are provided to the relevant blog pages by clicking on the overnight stop.

 

10 July – Kris’s birthday – Minature Wonderland

Today was Kris’s birthday. It was also the last day of our holiday – so we were determined to make the most of the day.

Unfortunately it was raining, so this was a non-cycling day.

Andreas and Silvia kindly took us to buy some luggage and gifts at the Hamburg Decathlon. From here we drove back into the city, to view the wealthier areas to the north. We saw more burnt out cars resulting from the G20 protests here. We were also interested in the huge Airbus factory and airport across the river.

Because it was raining, Silvia suggested they drop us off at the Miniature Wonderland – a major tourist attraction in the Speicherstadt district.

This is the largest model trainset in the world – but it is so much more. It far exceed my expectations, in terms of the detail of the models, ships sailing in real water, an airport where planes take off, trucks traveling along the many roads. The lights dim on a periodic cycle, a sunset occurs and it is night – when you see another range of effects – such as an erupting volcano and a house on fire, with real smoke.  Airplanes land, taxi on the runways and take off again.   I highly recommend this to anyone – you don’t have to be a model train person to enjoy it!

We spent 3 and a half hours there until we couldn’t take in anymore – before making our way back to Stelle on bus and trains.

Silvia prepared a wonderful birthday dinner for Kris, and we enjoyed our last evening in Germany with good friends. Hopefully it wont be too long before we can return.

Here are a selection of my Miniature Wonderland photos …

The control room where activities can be controlled- the geeks here love their jobs. Some of the trains have cameras mounted to their fronts and you can view the footage on these monitors

Hamburg and the Elbphilharmonie

Los Vegas at night

Trains with castles in background

German village, market, trains

A working lock in the Scandinavian area

Winter Scandinavian scene at night

I loved the odd whimsical touches – such as this dragon circling a castle tower

The Swiss section was the largest, stretching over two stories to encompass alpine mountains (note the viewers overlooking from the top balcony)

Looking down on Swiss mountain scene – cranes, bridges, railways, roads below

Swiss Ski slope – railways in foreground. The ceiling pipes on top right are the only clue as to the true scale of this scene.

Intricate details in the midst of the huge layouts – such as the drama around this road accident

And this bicycle race

Humorous elements are tucked away in the landscapes- such as this alien hunter

Italian section – coastal scene including dolphins that leap from the water

Italian coast

Ruins complete with tourists

 

9 July – Hamburg

Today was our final ride on the bikes – into the center of Hamburg.
Now we can say that we rode all the way from Rome to Hamburg.
Hamburg center is about 30km from Stella.

We spent a very full day sight seeing around the city – with Andreas and Silvia as our tour guides. Our total distance for the day was 61km – we jumped on a train for part of the journey home. We were relatively unaffected by the G20 protests of the previous two days – it was quiet and peaceful in the city. We only saw some graffiti and smashed windows along one or two streets.

On our way into the city, we rode through Wilhelmsburg, the site of the 2013 International Building Exhibition. There is still a lot of building development in the area – using the impetus from the exhibition to uplift the previously low socio economic area. There are a number of very interesting futuristic buildings created for the exhibition. The most notable was perhaps this Algae house, which generate energy by growing algae in algae filled panels on the outside of the building.

Algae building

Our next stop was at this beer garden alongside a canal, where we sampled some locally brewed beer. There was a great Sunday morning atmosphere with people relaxing and enjoying the sunny weather.

People were out for Sunday morning paddles on kayaks alongside the beer garden

Sampling the local brew

We had some discussions on German grammar in this beer garden. Silvia shared this German grammar curiosity (for those who are interested in the language). The two sentences are almost identical but differences in capitalisation and an extra letter change the meaning radically.

Der Brauermeister Heidenreich ist Bräutigam und braut zugleich

Der kannibale Heidenreich isst Bräutigam und Braut zugleich

We had to change our planned route into the city as the old Elbe tunnel was closed due to the G20 protesters. Our new route took us across this bridge, with the city in the distance (you can see the church towers and Elbe Philharmonic Hall).

I was interested in the temporary accommodation that was created for refugees on the outskirts. It consists of shipping containers stacked on top of each other. I’m not sure how warm this would be in the north German winter or if it is too warm in summer …

We were impressed with the size of industrial and building activity in Hamburg. This is an area under development not far from the Speicherstadt.

The first tourist area we came to was the Speicherstadt – the historic “warehouse city”. The warehouses all front onto canals. Newer buildings have been carefully designed to fit in with the historical red brick facades.

Ship turbine on display in Speicherstadt

Speicherstadt view

A highlight of our Hamburg visit was the Elbphilharmonie (Elbe Philharmonic Hall) – which officially opened on 11 January 2017, and cost an estimated €789 million to construct. This is where Angela Merkel hosted the G20 leaders dinner. Here is a view of the hall from one of the canals that criss cross this part of the city.

Canal view with Elbphilharmonie in distance

You can get onto the viewing balcony that stretches around the hall for free – you just need to register for a ticket so they can control numbers. You get to the balcony area by riding up a very long escalator – the longest that we have ever been on. The city views are wonderful from up there – there is a lot of activity on the river – tourist and commercial ships. The view takes in ports and container harbors in the near distance and the Airbus factory farther away.

Andreas and Silvia at Elbphilharmonie

Another view from Elbphilharmonie, St. Pauli Landungsbrücken (piers) and entrance to Elb Tunnel

We went to the St. Pauli Landungsbrücken – another Hamburg tourist attraction. We drank an Astra – Hamburg’s most common beer – here.

Jenny with Astra

Astra – “I want six” – the German Six Pack

Elbe view from pier

From here we visited the Reeperbahn – Hamburg’s night life district. It was all quiet on a Sunday afternoon – just a few alternative looking characters walking around.

We also saw the Bismark monument, the famous St Michaelis church (one of the highest towers on the skyline) and impressive town hall.

Bismark monument – graffiti is a problem here!

Statue over St Michaelis church entrance

We rode past a number of beautiful lakes on parks on the way out of Hamburg.

Lake view, fountain and church towers on city skyline beyond

8 July – riding with Andreas and Silvia

Today was the last big ride of the tour, and our first ride together with Andreas and Silvia.
The ride took us from Hitzacker to Andreas and Silvia’s home in Stella (Hamburg) – 100km in all.

We started along the Elbe cycle path again, with some hill climbs just outside of Hitzacker.

We stopped at Bleckede for a break, and sampled the beer at a local craft brewery and beer garden. The locals can bring their own bottles to buy beer here, just as we do at home – except they use glass not plastic.

Quirky decor at Bleckede brew pub

Beer garden Bleckede

From here we left the Elbe cycle route and headed towards Lüneburg.

We stopped to admire the Scharnebeck twin ship lift, which can lift two ships up to a height of 38m between the Elbe and the Mittellandkanal – really impressive.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scharnebeck_twin_ship_lift

Ship lifts in lowered position

Both ship lifts raised

Our route from here to Lüneburg included a stretch alongside the Elb canal.

Lüneburg is a special historical town – incredibly picturesque.

View on entering Lüneburg

This is where Andreas and Silvia got married. It is also the site of a favorite brew pub and restaurant – Lüneburg is quite accessible to Hamburg by train. It began to rain as we were exploring the town, so we had to stop to sample some soup and beer at the pub. This is definitely one of those places I would like to visit again one day.

Lüneburg Rathaus (town hall)

Lüneburg brew pub and restaurant

The rural route from Lüneburg to Winsen was uneventful, apart from a sudden heavy shower that had us seeking shelter under a car port again. At Winsen we saw where Silvia works and bought some groceries before carrying on to Stella (about 9km away).

Statue in Winsen town center – of people catching a goose

Rest stop at canal on way to Stella

Amazing wood carving on the side of the road on the way to Stella – there were squirrels and owls on the sides of the tree as well

After 100km ride home – tired but happy to have made it

7 July – riding along the stop bank

It was raining in morning when we woke up, but we had a relaxed start and it had all but cleared up when we set off. The whole day was warm and humid. We enjoyed chatting with a lone German cyclist over breakfast – he is cycling the length of the old German east/west divide.

We rode out of town on the west, along a small road, until we hit the next town on the river.  Jenny stopped to take a photo of this old church and spoke (in German) with a good natured old man who stuck his head out of a nearby window – while Kris looked at the route map.

Soon after, Kris stopped to talk with an elderly lady who was tending her roses, while Jenny took a picture of more storks.

We found our way onto the stop bank alongside the river Elbe, which we followed for most of the rest of the journey. The road varied from gravel to tar to cement. The river was very wide, in the distance you could see the stop bank on the other side about a kilometer away. This was a beautiful ride, well frequented by cycle tourists. The blues and greens in the landscape were stunning.

Statue of the mythological ferryman who takes souls across the river Styx

We stopped for a break and to buy some cherry liquor chocolates, cheesecake and juice at a supermarket at Domitz. Here we realised we were not too far away from our final destination, so we slowed down.

We crossed this bridge, which was on the previous border between East and West Germany.

We were entertained by information boards alongside the cycleway about river ecosystems and frogs. We found this frog on the road and helped it back into the grass.

It was very hot in the afternoon.  Hitzaker was recommended by our friends Andreas and Silvia, who also arranged the accommodation. We can see why as it is a stunningly beautiful old town on an island surrounded by dikes. These dikes can be closed when the river floods. There are also huge pumps to pump the water away from the town.

Hitzacker house with pole for stork nest

Hitzacker dike that can be closed if the river floods

View of river from Hitzacker dike

Hitzacker

Hitzacker river view inside dike

The town is full of quaint timber framed houses – with sayings written on them in old Frisian German that is difficult to decipher

We were surprised to find the whole town decorated and tents and carousels set up for a “Schützenfest” – a traditional marksman’s festival. The festivities started with a parade and activities for the children at around 4pm.

children’s parade

We had plenty of time to look around the town and rest before Andreas and Silvia arrived by train from Hamburg. We had a good time together in the evening – drinking beer and eating from the stalls around the festival.