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North Sea to Baltic Canal (NOK)

The Canal between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea is a classical Northern Germany bicycle tour. The landscape is verdant and lush. You will learn the history of the canal and the two canals that preceded the construction of the current canal. The English name for this canal is the Kiel Canal.

But wait, what does "NOK" stand for? The sea that the English call the North Sea the Germans call the Ostsee, for East Sea.

Touristische Arbeitsgemeinschaft NOKTour Overview: July 2009. We start our tour in Brunsbüttel and ride to Kiel, a 166-mile (266 km) ride over 5 days. The canal is 61.3 miles long (98.7 kilometers), but the bike path alongside the canal is 202-miles long (325 kilometers). How is this possible? Well, the bike path is circuitous and the map of it looks as if someone dropped a worm with the bends on it. That elongation does not detract from the adventure; in fact, it enhances it because you will see much more following the bike route than merely riding on the somewhat boring towpath along the canal. You do get a taste of that towpath though. The bike path route is 325 km if you take every loop and stay strictly on the mapped path – which we did not. We were almost religious about it though we covered 266 kilometers of the mapped route.

The map of the route above is through the auspices of Touristische Arbeitsgemeinschaft NOK, which sponsors the following websites: and

Neil, Maxa, and JudithWe are accompanied – in actual truth we are led, on this tour by two expert cyclists and renowned authors, Neil and Judith Forsyth. They have authored several touring books about bicycling in Germany. We defer to the more experienced riders, don’tchaknow. Please visit their website: They have published a book about this tour entitled Cycle Touring in Northern Germany. Click the link to read a summary.

While the tour itself starts in Brunsbüttel there is no train station there. We agree with Neil and Judith to meet in Glückstadt, which does have a train station and is a short bike ride along the coast to Brunsbttel. So, I will record the mileage from Glückstadt, then restart the cyclometer again at the start of the canal.

By the way, when I use the initials “NOK” I just mean Nord-Ostsee Kanal, the German abbreviation for North Sea-Baltic Canal, also known in English as the Kiel Canal.

Route Sign stolen from Signage is good the entire length. The square sign on the left says NOK route and between the two words is a blue green graphical swoop with bicycle. However, this logo is not always used but the initials NOK (Nord-Ostsee Kanal) are usually on signs. The signs on the top right are for the Elbe bike path that we take from Glückstadt to Brunsbüttel. The other picture on the right is one of several informational signs we find along the way.

With the exception of the pranks of prepubescent boys, every time you need a sign to help you find your way it is there. When there are none or when they point the wrong way, I blame the prepubescent boys. I know, many years ago, I was one. If that is not bad enough, so was my brother; but that is another story.

Glueckstadt main squareAccommodations: There are more than sufficient overnight lodgings along the way. I refer you to our Overnight Accommodations page.

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Day 1: Glückstadt to Brunsbüttel (prologue)

Day Overview: Consider this ride just a commute to get to the real start of the ride in Brunsbüttel. As mentioned above, we meet Neil and Judith in Glückstadt on a sunny afternoon. We have a room with a living room, kitchen, a large bedroom, and a TV. Glückstadt was founded in 1617 by Christian IV king of Denmark and Norway and Duke of Schleswig and Holstein. The path along the coast is flat and mostly paved.

Waiting in the rain for Neil and JudithMile 1.1 (1.8 km): We spent last night in a Privat Zimmer owned by the family Gehrig, 17 Rallenstieg, Glücksatdt. The cost is €44/night per couple but it would be only €40 if one were to stay longer. The price includes a great German breakfast. The house is right on bike path and only ½ block from the ferry crossing the Elbe. The telephone is 04124/2760. These people keep a gorgeous garden that would be eligible for a full page spread in House and Garden Beautiful. Starting at our room, mile 1.1 (1.8 km), from downtown Glückstadt. We hop on the bike path and await our fellow riders who are coming from downtown. It starts to rain as soon as we say goodbye to Herr and Frau Gehrig. We pedal up to the ferry landing and wait for Neil and Judith to catch up with us. They started in the youth hostel near downtown Glückstadt.

Labscause with herring

The photograph on the left is our meal of labskaus with herring and fried egg. Beer was needed to wash it down, of course. Labskaus is a mixture of corned beef, potatoes, onions, red beets, spices, and garlic. It is typical fare of East Friesland and one of my favorite dishes.

Dike GateWe are used to these gate arrangements they use to keep sheep in the dike and off the car traveled roads but there is a process to get thorough the self-locking gates. Sometimes we have to ride through a herd of sheep. The sheep are not the problem, but what they leave behind will dirty your tires. Note to self, do not lick your tires.

Light house near BrunsbuettelThe Keil CanalMile 16.3 (26.2 km): We ferry across the canal in Brunsbüttel to begin the bike tour. I reset my odometer to zero here. The ride along the Elbe is not eventful if you do not count the rain and the sheep dung. If stops and turns sunny before we reach Brunsbüttel.

Still Day 1: Brunsbüttel to Burgferry

The Lock at BrunsbuettelBridgeMile 0 (0 km): Brunsbüttel. We take time to gather information from the Tourist Information Office and purchase ingredients for a picnic lunch and a bottle of wine for this evening. The path takes us all around the town but we cheat right at the start and connect with the path as it heads out of town instead of doing the whole chamber of commerce loop.

The lowest point in GermanyMile 27.3 (44.0 km): We turn off the path to the right here to ride 2 kilometer in order to see the lowest point in all of Germany. It is just a lark but why not? The sign reads “Tiefste Landstelle der B. R. Deutschland” or “Lowest point in the Republic of Germany.” The “NN” means Normalnull or mean sea level.

Neil and Maxa on FerryFerryFerryFerryBridg over Canal high enough for big ships
	Mile 26.0 (41.9 km): We cross the river on another ferry into Burg. We look for the Tourist Information office to choose an overnight here. Maybe the wine is getting heavy or maybe we have done enough for one day. We have gone a total of 49 miles (79 km) counting the mileage from Glückstadt. We spend the night with Peters & Peterson address Grosse Mühlenstrasse 25712 Burg (Dithm). Their cell phone is: 0176/232494, telephone 04825901515, email: I do not remember the cost but breakfast was not included so we ate at a bakery in the center of town that had a very typical selection of good breads and a couple tables. We added some coffee, butter, and jam to their Brötchen.

Day 2: Burg to Hanerau-Hademarschen

Day Overview: Today you might find a little …ah, altitudinal undulation. It is not hilly but then again you do ride up and down something akin to hills. Nothing steep but the undulation seems constant. The highest climb is outside of Albersdorf and it is about 50 feet.

Burg BakeryMile 0 (0 km): We start the day at the bakery in the center of Burg.

Mile 10.4 (16.7 km): We cross on yet another free ferry at Hohönn. All the ferries on this ride are free.

Mile 17.3 (27.9 km): We check in with the Tourist Information office in Albersdorf. Just thinking about a stopping place down the road.

About Mile 23.6 (38.0): On the map near the small village of Hackelberg (after Albersdorf but before Thaden) is a table like symbol that marks a “Grabstein” or ancient grave. An 1874 archeological dig found stuff and an 1908 gig looked further and found a grossstein grab (big rock grave) from the early Stone Age or about 3,500 years before Christ. In addition to the 8 vertical weight baring stones, there are flat stones atop which served as a roof. Atop the older grave, they found a Bronze Age grave with bits of a wooden coffin.

Mile 36.4 (58.6 km): Thaden. From here we took a shortcut alongside Wester Strasse directly into Hanerau-Hademarschen. There is a nice bike path parallel to the main road.

Mile 38.7 (62.2 km): In Hademarschen we stop for the night at a house owned by Karen and Werner Manke, Stettiner Strasse 5, 25557 Hademarschen, telephone 04872/3160. The cost is €20 per person per night. This is a whole house but we have the main level and another person has the 2nd floor. Unfortunately, breakfast is not included with this lodging either but that is not much of an obstacle since there are plenty of bakeries.

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Day 3: Hanerau-Hademarschen to Rendsburg

Day Overview: We start the day climbing a 70 foot hill just out of town; but then comes the drop or downhill ride. Not that the following will apply to you when you ride the NOK but we contend with drifting thunderheads that are causing localized showers. When we see them coming and can find shelter we do. However, as in the case in the photograph, sometimes we have shelter but the shower happens elsewhere.

Fisherhuette ?Mile 2.7 (4.3 km): It is downhill to the Fischerhütte, a place we were yesterday before we swung south in a circuitous route.

Timms GasthofMile 22.7 (36.5 km): Riding through Haale, I notice a sign that seems to be calling me in for a beer. However, my three fellow travelers drag me along kicking, crying and suddenly thirsty.

Mile 35.6 (57.3 km): In Rendsburg, we stop at Schützenheim am Kanal a hotel and restaurant owned by Gisele Westphal-Raub and Peter Raub. The address is Itzehoerchaussee 2, 24784 Westerrönfeld-Rendsburg, telephone 04331/89041., They can accommodate up to 100 guests and their price depends on the room but a double bed for one night is €85. It is right at the southern end of the tunnel under the canal. The rooms are large, good for hanging up your hand washed laundry.

Day 4: Rendsburg to Sehestedt

Day Overview: Today is rainy. We did not get started on time because we were waiting for a shower to pass.

Mile 5.4 (8.7 km): We join the NOK bike path in Jevenstedt. We left Rendsburg following the Ochsenweg bike path leading here because it looked more interesting than the towpath to Hasenkrug, etc.

Information about flags on shipsUs on the horizontalvadorAnother Shot of the horizontalvatorYet another shotFrom this booth they hail the passing ships Mile 13.1 (21.1 km): This is the southern end of the high railroad bridge at Rendsburg. If you wonder what we are doing back in Rendsburg, we are simply following the twisty, windy, loopy route on the map. After riding 21 kilometer, we are just a few blocks from where we spent last night. However here is a horizontal elevator (huh?). Well, I have never heard of a horizontavator before. But that is what this is. It hangs below the Railroad Bridge and moves people, cars, and bikes from one bank of the canal to the other. In German, it is called a Schwebefähre, a type of Hängebahn. A Schwebe means to swing or suspend and Fähre means ferry. A Hängebahn is simply a hanging vehicle. Why do I capitalize nouns in German? Because the Germans do; what can I say?

Herrenhaus Another typical buildingBarns typical style in this areaMile 27.6 (44.4 km): We stop for the afternoon in Sehestedt. It is a quiet village with a bit of history. There is a Gut here. A Gut is a large set of farm buildings that were occupied by a very rich farmer of a member of the petit nobility. The main house of a Gut is usually a Herrenhaus. This one was built in 1728. The buildings are typical of the architectural style of this part of northern Germany.

Close=up of battle monumentBattle monumentThere is also a monument in town, not far from the Gut that memorializes a bit of history connected with Sehestedt. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the defeated French fleeing from the battle of Leipzig (October 16, 1813), marched north to meet their allies, the Danes. The Danes had a fortress at Rendsburg but before the ragtag remnants of the French and Danish Armies could reach the fortress, they encountered a few units of the allied Prussian, Swedish, and Russian armies. Who even though vastly outnumbered, denied the French and Danish access to Rendsburg. The Battle of Sehestedt occurred on December 10, 1813. If you are interested in this battle, click here for a Wikipedia page.

We spend the night in Pension Alteschmiede, owned by Frau Fell. The address is Haupt Strasse 20, 24814 Sehestedt. The telephone is 04357/1021 or 04357/580. This is a Ferienwohnungen or a vacation apartment. It includes a bedroom, a kitchen, and a living room. Usually, they expect a multi-night stay but for only one night they charge €55. After securing the Pension, our first order of business is to cycle 4.5 kilometer to Holtsee to purchase a picnic supper and something to wash our food down. In Holtsee, we found a wonderful cheese manufacturer that we support by leaving behind some of our tourist Euros.

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Day 5: Sehestedt to Kiel

Day Overview: There are some minor hills but nothing over 30 feet or so. There is also a small amount of gravel. As to the path conditions, one area between Albersdorf and Lüjenwestedt is downright challenging but only for about a kilometer through a nature preserve alongside the Haaler Au.

Mile 0 (0 km): We wake up to the sound of pounding rain. It does not look like a fun day to bicycle. After slowly eating breakfast to wait out what we hope is just a shower, we admit that the sky is uniformly leaden and it looks as if we will just have to be wet today. We shove off downhill toward the ferry just a block away and head to the south side of the canal.

Map of Alter Eider KanalDrawbridge over Old Eider CanalInterpretive sign about the old Eider locksMill on the EiderNeil Judith and Maxa near old Eider MillThe Alte Eider KanalMile 1.9 (3.0 km): Our first mission is to check out the Alte Eider Kanal. This canal was built between 1777 to 1784 and it was used until 1884. In those days, one could ship goods from Kiel to Rendsburg in as little as 12 hours. Today however, one can go from Kiel all the way to Brunsbüttel in less than 7 hours.

From the Old Eider Canal, one could continue to follow the map on another one of those loops but it is raining and one would need a sense of humor for that. I check and no one here has any of the humor necessary. So, we ride the 3 kilometers back to the ferry and turn east up the towpath towards the Eiderkanalschleuse, or the Eider Canal Locks. That loss of humor saves us 33 kilometers.

Mile 22.2 (35.7 km): We stop in Ottendorf for our picnic lunch (leftovers from breakfast). The sign says it is 14 kilometers to downtown Kiel and the end of the tour.

KielMile 30.9 (49.7 km): We end the tour at the Tourists Information Office in downtown Kiel. We spend the night in an inexpensive pension across the Kieler Förde (the harbor, basically) from the center of town. It is not noteworthy and if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t stay here. We did, however, save enough money to buy a sandwich and a couple beers for the train ride home the next day.

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Bicycle Repair, Sales and/or Rental Stores (including flat tire service along the way)

Fahrradhändler / Werkstatt

Bike Sales / Repair




Brunsbüttel Brunsbütteler Fahrradservice Repair and Rental
Koogstr. 93 0482-8837574 Mo-Fr 9-18 Uhr Sa 9-13 Uhr
Wilster Zweiradhaus Lamberty Rent, Delivery, Repair
Burger Str. 15 04823-8216 Mo-Fr 8:30-18:30 Sa 9-13 Uhr
Burg Nordoeltankstelle Reparatur und Verleih
Burgstr. 11 04825/902544 Mo-So 6-24 Uhr
Hochdonn Manfred Pohlmann Reapratur, Verleih, Service
Huptstr. 3 04825/8703 0172/8749203 Mo-Fr 9-18 Uhr Sa 9-12 Uhr
Albersdorf Fahrradhandel Knobloch Reparatur und Verleih
Mühlenstr. 62 0435/8614 Mo-Fr 9-19 Uhr
Hanerau-Hademarschen Hollesen & Sohn Verleih und Reparatur Landweg 21 04872/2294 Mo-Fr 8-12 Uhr +14:30-18 Uhr Sa 8-14 Uhr
Lütjenwestedt Fahrrad-Service Falk Reichert Reparatur
Hauptstr. 24 04872/967752 Mo-Fr 8-18 Uhr Sa 9-12 Uhr
Westerrönfeld Rath Verleih und Reparatur Schmiedestr. 23 04331/8211 Mo-Fr 8-18 Uhr Sa 9:30-12 Uhr
Rendsburg Neuwerker Fahrradhaus Reparatur Jungfernstieg 25 04331/55040 Mo-Fr 9.30-18 Uhr Sa 9.30-14 Uhr
Rendsburg Servicestation am Bahnhof Verleih and Lieferung
Am Bahnhof 04331-55835 Mo-Fr 5-19 Uhr Sa-So 10-17 Uhr
Büdelsdorf Fahrrad Rosacker Reparatur und Verleih Hollerstr. 27 4331/300277 Mo-Fr 8.30-12.30 +14.3-18 Uhr Sa 8.30-14 Uhr
Gettorf Bike Point Reparatur Am Markt 12-14 04346/600577 Mo-Fr 9-18 Uhr Sa 10-13 Uhr
Kiel Ruckenwind Kiel-Gaarden Selbstbastler sind willkommen Medusastr. 14 0431/803991 Mo-Fr 10-18 Uhr Sa 10-14 Uhr
Kiel Velo Center Knooper Weg 165 0431/803991 Mo-Fr 10-18 Uhr Sa 10-140Uhr
Kiel Fahrradhaus Russee Reparatur und Verleih Rendsburger Landstr. 378 0431/697762 Mo-Fr 8-18 Uhr Sa 9-13 Uhr
Flat tire Service Brunsbüttel to Osterrönfeld
Hollesen & Sohn Hanerau-Hademarschen 04872/2294
Flat tire Service Rendsburg to Kiel
Fahrrad Rosacker Büdelsdorf 04331/300277

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