Our last ten days in Germany brought a lot of variety; from the city of Bremerhaven to rural areas with cows, horses, and sheep, from the mighty Weser to the peaceful Ems-Jade canal, from days with non-stop rain to beautiful sunny days. The closest we got to the North Sea was walking on a dyke along the Jade Bight, but thanks to a day trip to Norderney, we were able to enjoy the sea on this beautiful island. Our friends Tânia and Jojó opened their home to us for a week, during which they supported us in every possible way and we enjoyed good talks, fantastic food, and Tânia’s company on two hiking days.
On day 167, we started with a tour along the harbour of Bremerhaven and even found time to visit the German Emigration Center, a very lively and interactive exhibition. For centuries, European emigrants had departed from Bremerhaven to the New World.
We embarked on a rather short crossing of the Weser and soon found ourselves walking next to a huge industrial complex. Here, parts for the Airbus as well as smaller planes are being built. Our day ended with another positive youth hostel experience in Nordenham – we even enjoyed a three-course dinner at budget rate.
The next two days put our rain gear to a severe test – which it failed. For the first time on our hike, we had the experience of walking with wet socks, water squelching in our shoes at every step. In the beginning, we could still appreciate the surroundings – horses running excitedly on huge grazing areas, herds of black-and-white cows, enormous fields – but soon we were walking for hours along the endless dyke, only guessing the Jade Bight at our right, and focusing on making it to our destination as soon as possible. Fortunately, we had nice places to stay on both nights, with enough space and good heating, so our clothes could dry overnight. Add to that a hearty German breakfast, and we were ready for another wet hiking day.
On our way, we discovered a farm shop selling local specialties, and were very well received by the owner. She enjoyed hearing about our adventure so much that she included us in her shop’s hall of fame and continues following our progress until today. (Hello, Bianca!)
Day 170 brought better weather and the excitement of soon being with friends again: Tânia and Jojó had invited us to stay at their place in Aurich and even offered to pick us up where we stopped hiking. We wanted that point to be as close to them as possible, making the next part of the hike easier, but the Ems-Jade canal is very long. After a 32km hike until Wiesens – the last six kilometers almost running – we were happy to see Jojó waiting for us on a bridge. That evening, while catching up with our friends, we enjoyed a wonderful home cooked Portuguese dinner.
The following two days were rest days, and we started with a fantastic day trip to the island of Norderney with Tânia and Jojó – so we could finally see the North Sea! Once we had arrived on the island, it stopped raining, and we could appreciate the beach and the seaside town, enjoy some coffee and cake, discover the 200-year-old Conversationshaus, and watch José and Jojó play a game of outdoor chess. To make the most of our day on the island, we took the last ferry back.
Whenever we stop for a day (or more), we have a small to-do list of tasks that can’t be taken care of while we are on the move. In Aurich, it was to run some errands and to get Moiken a haircut. One of her strategies for the hiking year was to let her hair grow, so it fits better under the cap and there is less need to visit a hairdresser. But after almost half a year of uncontrolled growth, it was time for a little trimming. She managed to find a salon opening on a Monday and to get an appointment. At the moment of paying for the service, the hairdresser, who had been listening attentively to our story, simply said: “This one is on the house.” Thank you, Angela, that was a nice surprise!
The weather had improved enormously, so we could enjoy the sunny afternoon with Tânia and Jojó in town, before heading out to see the sunset at the picturesque Pilsum lighthouse.
We never had started a hike so early as on day 173, when Jojo gave us a ride to Wiesens before going to work. At 5:00 AM, Tânia and the two of us started walking along the canal in complete darkness! Good we all had headlights, as dawn wouldn’t break for another two hours. At 8:00 AM, we had already walked half of the distance and stopped for breakfast. During the other half of the hike, we could finally see our surroundings, and arrived before lunchtime at the end point, conveniently located next to a local brewery.
We were very grateful to be able to stay with our friends two days longer than planned. José had a strong pain in his leg, so we used another rest day for him to recover, and we didn’t have to look for lodging in Leer, our destination on the following day’s hike.
To our delight, Tânia could join us a second time on day 175. With pretty good weather, we followed an deactivated railway line until 5km before Leer. Unfortunately, Tânia had trouble to continue walking at that point, and as we were close to a bus stop, we agreed to split. She would wait for the next bus, scheduled to arrive within 40 minutes, and we would walk the last kilometers until Leer. When we arrived at the train station, Tânia was supposed to be waiting for us, but there was no sign of her. As it turned out, the bus didn’t run on school holidays – but how were we supposed to know the holiday calendar of the state of Lower Saxony?
In the end, Jojó came to our rescue and picked us up at the different locations.
On day 176, we had to say goodbye to Jojó, Tânia, and Germany – in that order. In the early morning, we gave Jojó a last hug before he left for work. We took the bus to Leer together with Tânia, but at the train station it was farewell from her as well.
Crossing the old town of Leer, we enjoyed the sights of the beautiful buildings.
Then we were on our way to the Dutch border, still 20km away. We ate a last bratwurst in Germany, and went on, always looking for any sign of having arrived in the seventh country of our trip – in vain. The small white bridge in the picture is probably the crossing from the German to the Dutch side of the border, but we saw no sign, no flag, no stone, all very low profile. However, we could definitely be sure to have crossed the border when we saw a van, selling all kinds of deep fried snacks. With a portion of patat (fries) and a kroket (ragout in breadcrumbs), we celebrated our arrival in the Netherlands!
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