“It is particularly ironic that the battle to save the world's remaining healthy ecosystems will be won or lost not in tropical forests or coral reefs that are threatened but on the streets of the most unnatural landscapes on the planet.”- Worldwatch Institute. 2007

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

September 14th Hamburg – Flensburg

Found out after updating the blog last night that I’d got a couchsurfing response after all but only that morning (although I only sent it the night before but I didn’t put the country code with my mobile) – from Kristoff who is an electrical engineer with an interest in renewables. Really gutted I send a massive apology back. The internet place is small and cramped, with row after row of little booths barely wider than the screen and afterwards when I go looking for food I realize I’m slap bang in the middle of the red light district. Bored looking girls in short skirts wait outside every other building on the side streets and the main drag is pretty much all sex cinemas offering every combination or variation imaginable in neon lights (with the odd dead or flickering light and some peeling paint just to give it all that really glamorous feel). It’s all quite tawdry and depressing and I lose interest in exploring a new city and instead get some food from a grim supermarket (I feel like washing the outside of the packets when I get back to my room). I find ‘Flight of the Conchords’ which I’d forgotten I had on my netbook and watch that before going to bed without a shower (I looked in it but had no confidence I’d come out any cleaner). I sleep like the dead and wake up to rain. Fortunately I’m even closer to the station than I thought so I don’t get wet. The currywurst vendor is doing a roaring trade (that’s sausage with curry sauce) but I get some fresh orange juice from the shop next door. They sell cakes too - they are nearly, but not quite, as big as my head so I don’t buy one.

The newbike is not happy to be going back in it’s bag so soon after coming out and the two of us wrestle for a good ten minutes before the train arrives and I get on still without having managed to get the zip fully zippered. The 2nd class carriages are the same style as the 1st class ones I was on yesterday so I get the comfort without the obnoxiousness.

I cycle up to Flensburg Youth Hostel (and it is up) and check in, drop most of my luggage and set off to Glucksburg. I decide to take the main road rather than risk getting lost on the back roads and so am disappointed when the cycle lane beside it veers off away from it – until I realize that what I thought were back roads on the map are in reality a network of clearly signposted scenic forest paths – the Ostsee fitnesstrail. I start to feel a bit precious about the newbike who hasn’t even been on the canal towpaths back in Manchester but it’s fine. I go past a lake covered in waterlilies and another with a fairytale white-towered castle on the other side. I stop to take too many photos of mushrooms and little frogs. I’m grinning like a loon on loon tablets at everyone I meet and have to remind myself that to them this is all perfectly normal. Like Lenny Henry in Bernard and the Genie (if you haven’t seen it, do – or better still come round mine when I’m back and I’ll watch it with you) upon discovering that New Yorkers are completely blasé about having 36 different flavours of ice-cream I want to throw back my head and shout ‘YOU’RE CRAAAAAZZZYYYY!’ but I don’t because they’re already looking at me like I’ve just escaped from the asylum.

I get to Artefact and am greeted by Werner. I try to explain my joy at the cycle paths but when I say ‘In England we don’t really have this’ he says, ‘The forest? No – I’ve heard this’. He gives me tea and talks to me about the situation with renewables locally and in Germany generally against the backdrop of climate change and global inequality (see the next blogpost) for a couple of hours and then I walk round the power park in the rain. It’s on a much more modest scale than CAT although clearly built with as much thought and passion. It’s drizzling and apart from a couple of staff I’m alone as I walk round the displays. They’re well done and they’ve just added some English to the signs. They do some education as well and seem to struggle with the same issues as CAT but they have to close right over the winter due to lack of customers. We sit in the communal area of the guest house – an adobe-walled structure created from a number of circular rooms interlinked by a central corridor. After my tour we chat some more and then I cycle back down the forest trails in the rain getting well and truly mudded. I am unsurprised to see that the inside of the fashion panniers are soaked through. After a shower I stroll to the supermarket and get some fish in a jar which is really salty and a yoghurt, and some weisbier. Internet at the youth hostel is a rip off at €8 for an hour or €29 for a month which would be reasonable but I’m only here for three days.

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