Leaving Hamburg behind, we were soon in the North German countryside, hiking in a huge half circle through fields and vast forests, until we reached the Elbe again. Unfortunately, our luck with the weather did not continue (it was fall, after all), and we had to make use of our rain capes quite often. The grey days were compensated by the warmth of wonderful people we met on the way, and those memories are the ones that will stay with us. Our way led us westwards to the river Weser at the port town of Bremerhaven.
On day 159, we were hiking through a vast area of tree nurseries, sometimes interrupted by natural forests.
That night, we stayed with Julia, Sven and their kids. They didn’t only receive us in their home and invited us for a nice family dinner, their eldest daughter even offered us her room for the night and the parents picked us up and dropped us off where we stopped walking. That’s what good friends do, right? Only we had never met them before and even Moiken’s sister Swanje, who made the connection, didn’t know Julia personally. The time we had the privilege to spend with this great family was a result of social media combined with sincere hospitality.
We started the next day with a calm breakfast with Julia and the youngest son, the girls were already off to school. After saying good-bye to our hosts, we faced a rainy and grey day of hiking until the next town, Elmshorn, where we stayed in a very average hotel.
Things looked much brighter again on day 161. Attracted by a beautiful display in the shop window, including pastéis de nata and fluffy croissants, we entered a delicatessen bistro in the pedestrian zone. While we enjoyed our breakfast, we had a chat with a patron and told her what we were up to. The bistro owner, overhearing our conversation, was so excited about our adventure that he offered us the breakfast! That gave us a boost for the rest of the day.
Huge ships, heading towards the sea or to the harbour of Hamburg, to our left: We were back at the river Elbe. Our next destination was Glückstadt, where we stayed in a youth hostel for the first time in our trip. It seems the most obvious place to stay for hikers, but all the hostels we had passed before were either not close to our route, or fully booked, or more expensive than a double room in a B&B. In Glückstadt, we made our peace with the youth hostels, as this one was super modern, comfortable, affordable, and beautifully located at the historical harbour. Moiken was suffering from back pain that day, so we decided to take advantage of our nice lodging and stay another night.
The following day, we were relaxing and writing in the lobby, when a friendly lady approached us: “I heard you are long distance hikers. I am on a quite long walk myself.” Helga had decided to make her dream come true, so she gave up her flat, said good-bye to her children and grandchildren, and packed her backpack to walk from the South of Germany to the very North, where she grew up. We were impressed with this dynamic woman, and happily exchanged e-mails to stay in touch.
It was a relaxing day; Glückstadt is an enchanting little town with pretty buildings around the central market square, in narrow alleys, and along a peaceful canal. Oh, and it is called the soused herring capital of Germany. We don’t contest.
We resumed our hike on day 163 (Moiken’s back had fully recovered), and started by crossing the river Elbe on a ferry.
Until hiking day 166, when we reached the river Weser, we were mostly walking on dykes and along small rivers, at a distance of 20km from the sea. Countless herds of sheep were our travel companions on those days, curiously watching as we approached, only to run away in panic when we came to close. The opposite happened when we were hiking on a section of the dyke on which cows and bulls were grazing. When they came closer, wondering what those two living beings in red(!) capes were doing on their meadow, we jumped to the other side of the fence faster than we would normally need to figure out how to get over the barbed wire.
In the small town Osten, we had the opportunity to cross the river Oste in one of the only six operating ferry bridges. The bridge was built more than 100 years ago and is now operated by a group of volunteers. We leave you with some impressions of this technical monument, and of the beautiful sunny day at the Oste.