All went to plan, arriving in Antwerp shortly before 8.00 pm local time. On Sunday Graham B visited the museum of modern art while Anna, Sue and I saw St Paul's Church with its excellent exhibition of paintings by Rubens, van Dyke and Caravaggio. Sue, who was suffering a bit with her leg, Anna and I got a taxi to the central park. After a short rest, watching local children playing football, we walked around the park, which was packed. We were surprised to see so many Jewish people there, and were especially surprised by the Jewish boys with their tressed hair. I think the Jews were much involved with the diamond trade for which Antwerp is famous.
The statue is of Lange Wapper. According to Wikipedia: "The legend started in the 16th century. Lange Wapper likes to live near the sea, near rivers or canals. He can make himself so tall that he can move from one town to another with a single giant leap. Lange Wapper uses tricks to approach women to get their breast milk. He teases drunks, cheats while playing with children and laughs like the devil."
Graham and I picked up bikes locally while the girls went into Bispingen to get information from the Tourist Office. The bikes Graham B and I got were basic sit-up bikes, so we are no match for Anna and Sue on their touring bikes. We are situated a little south of Hamburg, so we are not affected by the dreadful floods which have inundated southern Germany. It was a fairly short route today (23 miles). Wilsede was the main goal, where we sampled a local specialty called Buchweizenschmant, topped with cream and fruit. Pictures above are of the Totengrund, a hollow crater, which was probably caused by glaciation.
Volkwardingen - Bispingen - Borstel i/d Kuhle - Hoerpel - Doehle - Eggestorf - Underloh - Doehle - Hoerpel - Volkwaringen (26 miles)
Volkwarding - Behringen - Schneverdingen - Wilsede - Volkwarding (24 miles)
In the morning we did a coach trip - organized by the family in whose holiday home we are staying. In the afternoon we visited the Iserhatsche Kastell - a project which has been developed by the owner since 1989.
Sunday 9 June - Soltau, south of Bispingen. Much of this area seems in the past to be connected with salt production and Soltau has a thermal bath. We didn't go in, though the adverts promised quite a lot.
Wed 11 June - last day on these horrible bikes. Sue and Anna did their own thing. Graham and I went to Wendisch Evern (car assisted) and followed the Elbe-Seiten-Canal as far as the Neetze-Canal.
Sue and I cycled in all directions from the house in roughly 30 miles per day. After meeting cobbled lanes and sandy tracks on the first day, we tried to stay clear of them as they did not much good for Sue's leg or my neck. We cycled along lovely little country lanes, most of them had cycle lanes. We watched the 'Schuetzenfest' in Salzdorf and the 'Stadfest' in Soltau. We listened to the frog concert in the marshy lakes and enjoyed the wood carvings along the road. We saw a red kite, a nosy jay and a heron in flight, a deer and a stag. We spent hours in a folklore museum getting acquainted with the life as it had been. We visited bronze age graves and tried to find the source of the local river, but the track was too rough. We found a well in a picturesque setting, where the water bubbled out at 60 liters per second and 9.2 degree C. Some wooden tracks could not be avoided in making a circular trip and we got lost completely at one stage, luckily it was sunny and I couldn't work out what direction we were going till we found a road again. We could not find a bird of prey sanctury either although it had a big sign from the road. We stopped at a lot of little cafes to sampled their ware and looked at the folly of a rich man from the outside ( We did not want to pay 15 Euros to look inside)
The area was not as flat as I had expected, but the hills nowhere as bad as in Devon. We loved the views especially in the good weather we had, it must be absolutely beautiful, when the heather is in bloom.
As a final note - we have had glorious weather the whole time we have been here.