Cold enough to visit an Eisbär

I live in a smallish, northern, German city on the Weser River. Bremerhaven has five first class museums (that I know of) and a zoo. All of these are a short walking distance from my apartment. Exciting for a suburban girl from Delaware.

This morning Andreas’ graduate student, Cassandra from New York, (so upstate she can “see” Canada from her house) and I decided to visit Zoo am Meer. (zoo next to the sea). We chose to go on an icy cold day because the zoo is home to mostly colder climate animals and creatures that live in the water, including an Eisbär (polar bear). I’m not a huge fan of zoos and I certainly did not want to see the poor polar bear in the heat of summer. Thus, a frosty November morning seemed like happy polar bear weather.

We assumed this was a duck until she decided to check us out. Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
We assumed this was a duck until she decided to check us out. Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Before moving to Bremerhaven, I read a short chapter in a German guide book describing the city. The book suggested that Bremerhaven was good for a day visit at most, and there was a very strange zoo created out of cement to look like a giant rock.

Arctic Fox, Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Arctic Fox, Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The zoo is strange, however, I really enjoyed my visit. It may be because Cassandra and I were the only visitors for a while. The habitats were nice and well planned around a climbing area for children in the giant rock landscape. Most of the animals seemed pretty content for being stuck in a zoo in Bremerhaven, including the polar bear.

Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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No match for a polar bear. Photo of the author by Cassandra Elmer.
No match for a polar bear. Photo of the author by Cassandra Elmer.

Hell Bent for Spandex*

Bremerhaven is the best city I’ve ever lived in for bicyclists, even though I’m told that the local bike club considers the city to still be in the middle ages for German bicycling. There are separate bike paths on most sidewalks that share a wide space with pedestrians. This means the rider is a curb above and away from traffic. The lanes and riders are respected by most, but once in a while you’ll get stuck behind a grumpy old dude in a jazzy chair or a family of six with a pram.

Bicycle parking at the train station. Beyond the bikes you see here are little bike boxes that you can lock your bikes in that I call veal huts. Beyond that is a large caged area for maybe long term parking?20180723_105145

I like bikes and support bike culture but I haven’t been a daily rider since 1993. Andreas, on the other hand, has been commuting by bicycle almost as long as I’ve been alive. He is bike culture. The other day he said, “Riding a bicycle is as easy and as enjoyable as drinking a glass of wine.”

Andreas the biker at the Fischmarket.20180722_154642

This is wonderful for him, and for me when we run out of something and he happily rides off to the store. A fun time for Andreas involves a long bike ride to get there. He will laugh at that statement because a long ride for him is very different than my idea of a long ride. Over the past few weeks he has been “pushing” me to ride further and further each day to build up my endurance. This is not appreciated at all. I’m a walker, not a biker. My biking muscles went away with my last mohawk.

Andreas puts up with a lot of grumbling and dirty looks from me. Especially when he changes route to go to the familiar places. “What’s down this road, he asks, let’s go check it out.” “No, I say, you can check it out I’ll find my way home.” I’ve blamed frustrated, tired tears on wind and sunscreen in my eyes more than once. COBBLESTONES, oh my God, cobblestones…try keeping up with Speedy Gon German on cobblestones. No, really, I challenge you.

Lately he has decided that riding behind me so I set the pace is a better idea. This is a horrible idea. I feel like a fat, snail loser making him ride so slow, which for some reason makes me mad and then the sunscreen tears pop up. Grrr, also, I don’t know where the hell I’m going.

Me in the bike lane on my chunk of a coaster brake bike. The brand is Stevens. I call it Stevezie after Bill Murray’s character in the Life Aquatic.  Photo by Andreas MuenchowDF_0439

Now, all whining and complaining aside, I love that my boyfriend, almost a decade my senior, is super fit and happy. I’m sure that after my year here I’ll be more fit too. I can tell that I’m very very slowly getting a little stronger every day. I have also seen some cool things and been to some beautiful places that I never would have discovered on foot.

Andreas very happy after a bike ride to one of his favorite places.20180720_184504A mural we discovered after turning down a new street.20180722_154505

Andreas looks longingly at the couples that pass us loaded down with traveling saddle bags on their way to other countries with hilly terrains. If our relationship survives this “training period” imagine the adventures we’ll have.

P.S. * Andreas wouldn’t be caught dead in Spandex, or with a helmet, Camelback or lights on his bike. (I think lights are required by law here)

The author at the Fischmarket preparing for a long ride home.DF_0445