Ascension Day is traditionally a day for outings and day trips. The most notorious type of outing is the Father’s Day tour, where groups of men set out with handcarts full of beer and other alcohol and proceed to get very drunk. This regularly causes problems – for example, today there were warnings about pedestrians and cyclists on the highway on the radio every 15 minutes or so due to lots of people getting drunk and throwing caution into the wind. Though nowadays, most of the people getting drunk on Father’s Day are not actually fathers, but young men in their late teens and twenties, while actual fathers and grandfathers prefer family outings or cycle tours. And the groups of those who do elect to get drunk are increasingly mixed. I saw lots of mixed groups of young men and women out and about.
Now I’ve never been one for getting blindly and stupidly drunk. Nonetheless, I did go on an outing for Ascension Day. Initially, we had intended to visit the historic town of Glückstadt on the North shore of the river Elbe. Now the Lower Elbe is very wide and very deep. It’s so wide and so deep that even such giants of the sea as the Queen Mary II or the CMA CGM Marco Polo, the biggest container vessel in the world, can travel all the way to Hamburg, 110 kilometers inland.
Since the Elbe is so deep and so wide, getting to the other side is something of a problem. Now the last bridges and tunnels before the Elbe meets the North Sea are located in Hamburg, some 110 kilometers upstream. After Hamburg, there is only one more possibility of crossing the Elbe, namely the Glückstadt-Wischhafen ferry. There’s also a planned highway tunnel, but that will take a while, so the ferry is all there is.
Initially, we had planned to cross the Elbe on the ferry, walk around Glückstadt and then return via Hamburg. However, by the time we reached the town of Wischhafen across the river from Glückstadt, we were faced with a long line of cars, all waiting to get onto a ferry that isn’t all that big to begin with and that takes approx. half an hour to cross the river. The waiting time would have been approx. two hours. And since nobody was keen on spending the holiday cooped up in a car waiting for a ferry, we abruptly changed our plans and drove along the south side of the river through the Elbe Marshlands to the town of Cuxhaven, where the Elbe meets the North Sea.
The transporter bridge across the river Oste at the village of Osten. Built in 1909, this transporter bridge was the only way of crossing the river Oste until the adjacent road bridge was built in 1974.
The Osten transporter bridge viewed from the dike.
The Osten transporter bridge viewed head on.
A close-up view of the gondola of the transporter bridge. The roly-poly gentleman in the traditional fisherman’s garb on the far left is the bridge operator.
The gondola of the transporter bridge about to make landfall. Nowadays, the bridge carries mostly pedestrians, cyclists or – as here – bikers. It can also transport two cars at a time, if necessary.
The historical “Fährkrug”, i.e. ferry inn, at Osten with the transporter bridge looming above the building.
Flood gates in the dike at Osten. When the water level of the river Oste gets dangerously high (and the Oste is close enough to the Noth Sea to be affected by regular tides and stormfloods), these gates are closed to protect the village.
Houses on top of the dike at Osten. Note the dandelions growing on the dike.
Sheep graze on the dike at Osten, while a typical North German farmhouse peeks over the top of the dike.
This snowman does not melt. Sculpture in a garden in the village of Osten.
A field full of dandelions in bloom near the town of Hemmoor. Note the telecommunications tower in the distance.
Another view of a field blooming with dandelions near Hemmoor.
Close-up of some dandelions
These small light purple spring flowers are called “Wiesenschaumkraut”, literally meadow foam, in German. The English name is either lady’s smock or cuckoo flower. But whatever the name, they’re very pretty.
The skyline of Cuxhaven. From left to right, we have steel storage tanks for rum arriving from the Carribbean, a radio communications tower, the HQ of the “Havariekommando”, the authority which coordinates rescue and clean-up efforts in case of maritime disasters and oil spills along the German coast, some ships, two church spires and a lighthouse.
A historical water tower in Cuxhaven. Note the riggins of two fishing boats lying at anchor.
The survey vessel “Atair” and the fish trawler “Norma Jane” lying at anchor in the harbour of Cuxhaven.
The so-called Hamburg lighthouse, built in 1803, on the Alte Liebe (Old Love) promenade in Cuxhaven. In the background, you can see the harbour control tower. The parking lot sign on the right includes the warning that the parking lot is not flood-safe, which should be bloody obvious, considering it’s located directly next to the spot where the river Elbe meets the North Sea.
View across the fishing harbour at the so-called Hapag-Hallen.
A closer look at the Hapag Hallen. In the 19th and early 20th century, these buildings housed the luggage as well as waiting rooms for passengers embarking for America. There is a direct railway connection from Hamburg.
The old passenger terminal building at Cuxhaven Steubenhöft. Into the 1970s, this buildings housed the customs authorities and passport controls for passengers embarking for America. With the decline of transoceanic passenger travel, the terminal building has been transformed into an exhibition hall and restaurant.
No, this isn’t a new cover for 50 Shades of Grey, but a view across the river Elbe at Cuxhaven. Mind you, this is not the North Sea, but the mouth of the river Elbe. It’s so wide here that you cannot see the far side.
Finally, here are the two worst German town names ever:
Worst town name ever. “Fickmühlen” means “fuck mills” in German. The jokes practically write themselves.
And here is the second worst town name ever: “Flögeln” is phonetically very close to “Vögeln”, a colloquial German term for what the people are doing in Fickmühlen that is only slightly less vulgar than the f-word. And wouldn’t you know it, Fickmühlen and Flögeln are neighbouring villages. We wonder about that region, we really do.