On September 4th I was back in Hamburg and crossed the river Elbe on a ferry from Cranz to Blankenese. In Hamburg the E1 splits: the main route heads East and continues up to Schleswig along the Baltic Sea Coast. But there is also a shorter Western variant which I took due to time restraints which is called Schlei-Eider-Elbe-Weg. Therefore I now walked East around Hamburg. I was really worried about this stretch because I was still very close to a big city and could not get all the way around it in one day of hiking. I had carefully studied the map and had found a little forest that looked suitable for free camping but it was still awfully close to civilisation. Two hours before sunset I was still in the outskirts of Hamburg where I found a little Asian take away restaurant. I decided to have dinner there before I headed out again to find a stealth campsite. All turned out very well in the end. Although there were still plenty of dog walkers and joggers out there I found a great hidden place in my little forest and slept very well.
Josef und Ute
Two nights later I slept under a roof again. Ute and Josef, two "fans" of my book had invited me to their place close to Itzehoe. They are planning to hike the AT next year and had plenty of questions for me. We spent a pleasant evening with lots of trail and gear talk - and great food. They made a fantastic barbecue for me and Josef prepared the world's best fried potatoes for me! They became trail angels before they turn into thruhikers and gave me some very nice trail magic!
Container ship on the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal
Next event was the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal, a very busy canal that connects the North Sea with the Baltic Sea. I hiked 13 km along the canal with huge container ships at my side which saved me more than 50 km on the E1. But time saving was not my main reason for this shortcut. I really love canal paths. They provide easy and quick hiking - and love ship viewing. The sun was burning down relentlessly this morning but I chose the shady side of the canal and therefore spent a cool morning.
Campground in Tellingstedt
In the little town of Tellingstedt I struck gold again. I had just wanted to fill up with water again here but then I discovered a campsite on my map. I hardly ever stay at campsites but I thought that maybe I could pay for a shower there and then hike on. When I got there a sign announced that the campground was still open but not a single camper was to be seen. Only in one corner of the huge place two locals were enjoying a barbecue. They told me that the place was indeed officially open but hardly any campers ever came here because the town council was hardly promoting the place. The last permament campers had left the site some days ago. I asked them where to pay the camping fees and they just laughed. So I stayed at this perfect place with nice hot showers and an immaculate lawn for free. There was even an Aldi close by where I bought an opulent dinner before I bedded down in this huge place.
Shopping at Aldi's these days was bit bizarre. Outside temperatures still reached more than 30 degrees everyday but at Ald's they were already stocking Christmas sweets. I also discovered that Aldi and Lidl stores are air-conditioned - a great relief from the heat. Hiking became more and more tedious because the landscape was completely flat now, hardly any forest and the trail consisted mainly of bike paths. Schleswig-Holstein is definitely more suitable for biking than for hiking.
From the town of Schleswig I took the train to visit a friend in Rendsburg and have a rest day. In Schleswig the two E1 variants come together again and now follow the Ochsenweg which is also a pilgrimage trail. It is called Ochsenweg or Cattle Trail in German because this is the route on which cattle was driven from all over Denmark to the big cattle market in Hamburg. I liked it best for its two lakes that made great swimming! The weather was still unbelievable good - I have had only best summer weather for four weeks now. Summer weather does not get any better than that in Germany!
Still I must say that the part through Schleswig-Holstein was my least favourite of this hike. More than 50% of the route were on pavement, mostly on bike path. All I saw was endless fields that smelled horribly of liquid manure. And stealth camping was a huge problem because there is hardly any forest. There are much better places in Germany for hiking!