September 1945 - Lehrte to Hamburg

"We arrive in Hannover at lunchtime. The woman feels very ill. I send her to the red cross to be examined, and wait with all the children for an hour at the completely destroyed station. She comes back. It’s not time yet, and so she can continue the journey. The next train to Hamburg is due in the evening."

As this is the last day of travel, I am determined to walk as much as possible. We map out a route that takes us all the way from Lehrte to Hanover station. The walk takes us through now familiar fields and back roads, with a lot of factories to be seen in the distance. After the half way point, Rach hops on the train to spare her now blistering feet, and I carry on, making the full and final 20k of walking.
30th July - Lehrte to Hamburg via Hanover
"On my suggestion we head into town, and find a fine restaurant. A kind waiter clears the regular’s table for us, and allows us to take the pram in with us. The table is in a corner, and so I can feed Inge there, and clean her up. We eat without tokens; soup and coffee. We stay for several hours. I strike a deal with the waiter. He finds a barter-happy guest, and I manage to swap a small bottle of schnaps for meat tokens, fat tokens etc. Now we can go for it. I order two roast beef with cauliflower, and for the children 3 x spinach in butter. Then we eat ‘knackwurst’ and salad. It’s like a fairytale. "
"At 6pm we are back on the platform. I chat to a security man . . . for over an hour. There’s a reason. We have learnt a lot on the road. When the train pulls in and the crowd piles in, we have a respectful helper! We get into a nice compartment. The pram has to be covered – it is not permitted to take them. Then we are off – to Hamburg ! ! ! ! Just before Uelzen, a lady gives me her sausage and two apples, as she gets off here, but we still have a lot ahead of us. "
"Just before 11pm, I find myself at Hamburg main station. Because of the curfew, we have to stay inside the station. Gerlinde lies across two chairs in the second class waiting room. I could never have dreamt that it would see us again in this state."
The arrival into Hannover itself feels very quick; I manage to catch some glimpses of the grand old station in between the crowds of people gathered here. I don’t enjoy the experience of being around people again, especially this many, and in this heat. I have to push through a lot of the main shopping district, to get to the old town, where I eventually meet Rach. I have the same questions here as in Dresden - if there are this many new buildings here, does that mean all these areas were destroyed by bombs?
The walking is unremarkable today really. The landscapes feel quite urban, as we are so close to so much industry. The path I walk on my own takes me over a large river, and through an animal park, which is open to the public. I see a few big-antlered deer, but nothing else. They feel like the crowing finale of all the deer I have seen on my daily walks so far.

Quite soon the path goes into a forest, which is also the entrance point into Hanover. It is pleasantly cool in here, and there are, as in the last few days, many more people making use of this open space.
We have a few hours to kill before our train leaves for Hamburg. In this time I don’t find many things to recommend Hanover to me – not the crowds of people, and nor the unfriendliness that we experience here again in the cafes, though once again the older part of town has a real charm to it, in terms of how the buildings have been decorated.
Our train is set to take two hours, but becomes severely delayed on the route, and we end up stopping at a station which was artfully designed by Hundertwasser.

As we finally move towards Hamburg, the train passes through rain, and through it we see the most complete and vibrant double rainbow I think I have seen.
We arrive very late in Hamburg, and just have the energy to find dinner, before making our way across the city to Wandsbek, and our hotel.
Hamburg central station