And we’re off!
Contrary to what you might think, it’s actually harder to try this again. We now know all the things that can go wrong, and know to expect more than we can think of. In true Zen fashion, the journey is more daunting now that our minds are no longer “empty”.
It’s one brief stop after another for now, until we reach UK – only then does the actual journey start. Poznan, Berlin, Hamburg… one or two more stops before Amsterdam, and then a hop across the channel. 300 km a day – a lot more than what we, and the car, is used to. We stay on city campsites, not very glamorous, but simple and close to transport links.
There’s lots of military activity along the A2 linking Berlin and Warsaw. Army trucks, armoured cars being towed, fighter jets scrambling over Poznan. Not a happy sight, considering what we hear in the news. Maybe it’s just a coincidence…
Northern Germany is the flattest land we’ve seen. It’s field bug season, and the van is committing a windshield genocide; we have to scrape off a layer of smashed insects at every gas stop, or else it’s getting hard to see through!
The Germans are taking the energy crisis seriously. Half the land between Berlin and Hamburg is now one big alternative power plant: forests of windmills, hectares of solar panels, interspersed with fields of biofuel crops.
We don’t do any sightseeing in Berlin and Poznan, just grab a bite to eat, meet a friend and go back to the campsite. We’ve been here before, anyway. Hamburg is the first city we do a short trip around, and we’re loving it. It’s everything a “second city” should be – almost as big, as rich, and as vibrant as Berlin. It’s huge and somewhat chaotic at first sight – we jump straight in without any research, and so we have hard time finding out where the “centre” of the city is supposed to be. It turns out way too big a place to just randomly wander about and hope for the best, especially with swathes of the centre burnt out in the war and rebuilt as inconspicuous residential districts. But it doesn’t matter.
There’s a good vibe here, as in any large German city. I like to think it’s a vibe of a prosperous and industrious people, but I don’t know enough about the Germans to make sweeping statements like that, and I don’t want to play on stereotypes. But like Berlin, it’s a city I can imagine myself living in in some comfort, and not getting bored with it for a few years.
We finish the day eating a vegan Curry Wurst in the famous St Pauli – Hamburg’s Soho, though it’s really more fair to say Soho is London’s St Pauli. It’s still a bit of a shock to visit a legal red light district – on a rainy day there seems to be more girls than clients on the street, hiding under umbrellas as colorful as the neons of the sex shops and night clubs. Unlike Liverpool, the Beatles fame (they have a poignant monument on the “Beatles Platz”, showing the four musicians together and a forlorn Sutcliffe aside) and the throngs of tourists swarming to Kaiserkeller did nothing to change the character of this place – it’s just as sleazy and entertaining as when the Fab Five drugged their way through the gigs here.
A few problems with the car already, though that’s to be expected after the long winter. So far it’s still moving forward, which is always the best we can hope for.