We had a change of pace and break from cycle touring to spend time in Berlin and environs with Elsbeth.
Here are photos of some of the highlights.
We had a change of pace and break from cycle touring to spend time in Berlin and environs with Elsbeth.
Here are photos of some of the highlights.
Today we made it to Berlin, where we are stopping our cycle tour for a couple of weeks to spend time with Elsbeth.
We first rode around the Straussee lake on our way out of Strausberg. It was very scenic and fresh, and we spied a few people having their morning swim in the lake.
Once we got out of the forests, we began to make good time.
We noticed that Kris’s back tire was worn through to the inner sleeve. We decided to change direction and go into the center of Berlin (Alexanderplatz) rather than skirt the city to our accommodation in the north. We knew there is a big Decathlon there, so we planned to get a new tire fitted. Luckily the tire held out – on our previous trip Kris had the experience of a tire bursting.
As in most large German cities, it was easy to ride through to the center, Berlin has good cycling infrastructure with cycle paths alongside most of the bigger streets.
We had Decathlon fit the tire and had to hang around for an hour or so, so we walked around the Alexanderplatz area.
Then we cycled through to our accommodation in Birkenwerder in the north of the city. Riding north was interesting, we left the tourist route and rode through some very cosmopolitian areas, some a bit rough with a lot of graffiti on the walls. There were many different ethnicities in the city and also some lovely streets with lots of cafes and little shops. The city is BIG!
Part of our route out of the city was alongside the Berliner Mauerweg (Berlin Wall Trail), which runs along former Berlin wall patrol roads. It was a nice park-like area, so close to the city.
The total distance of our ride was 87 km.
The accommodation was a unpleasant surprise – we had expected a ground floor flat, as the AirBnB site stated “garden apartment”. When we got there we found that it was in a cellar apartment, with steep stairs. It also had a toilet pump that was a bit smelly and started up each time water was used. The stairs would be a problem for Elsbeth, so we stayed up late trying to find an alternative. I was very lucky to find another AirBnB apartment in Lichtenfelde (south west of the city). Luckily we could cancel the initial accommodation without too much expense, so we only stayed there for the two nights until Elsbeth arrived from London.
Today we rode 83km from Kostryn to Strausberg.
The ride was characterised by humidity and biting insects. Luckily we had another early start, as by midday the heat was really building and we were happy to get to our destination at around 2pm.
Much of our route was along the Euro-Route R1 – one of the oldest bicycle routes in Europe – though we did divert from this route once or twice.
The first part of the ride was alongside the river Oder again – the river bed is very wide here, you can barely see the river.
Just after we turned away from the river we passed through a tiny town – Sophienthal – where we saw another stork family – and an unusual arrangement instead of a bell tower, at the church.
From here we traveled at a good pace along small country roads, alongside wheat and corn fields – we passed through Letschen and by-passed Neuhardenberg.
Eventually we entered the Markische Schweiz nature reserve area and the roads became more varied. We had some hilly forest roads, with lots of flying insects – we tried to keep moving at a good speed as every time you slowed down or stopped they were buzzing around your head. Eventually we reached Buckow which seemed like a big town and we planned to stop for some refreshments. There were lots of cobbles and neat smart houses with rose gardens, and some youth hostel places, but we never passed a shop or cafe, so it was a disappointment.
We lost our route a bit from here and ended up going through Harzenholz and then Garzin. The road to Garzin was unique – a long stretch of cobbled road, but with a narrow strip of good brick surface along the side – just wide enough to cycle on. A good way to discourage cars from the road, while keeping it cycle-able.
The next piece of road – to Hohenstein was very uncomfortable to cycle on – with some sandy patches that made it hard going – we were also getting very hot and thirsty at this point. Kris asked a couple sitting in their garden in Hohenstein for some water – it was such a relief to have a drink.
From here it was not far to Kosterdorf, where we passed a large military base. Just beyond this was our hotel in the north of Strausberg, and happily near a supermarket.
We bought some food at the supermarket and ate some ice cream, before making our way to the hotel. We got there at around 2pm and it was already so hot that you didn’t want to be outside.
Our hotel was expensive, but it is a nice big room with air conditioning, which is a bonus.
We decided to go to our Berlin accommodation two days early, rather than try to source other accommodation in Berlin.
Today was such a short and easy ride it was almost a rest day. We rode just 40km on the Oder-Neisse-Radweg – from Frankfurt (Oder) to Kostrzyn.
We set off early, as we knew it was going to get hot later on. It was pleasant in the morning, though there were many flying insects which can be nettling. Both Kris and I are suffering from a number of bites over the past few days.
The first part of the ride took us a little away from the river, on some nice shaded paths – then we came alongside the river riding on the stop banks again.
The river and flood plain are a lot larger than when we first started riding alongside it yesterday.
We saw some nesting storks again at Lebus. I always stop to take photos of storks I am particularly happy with how this one came out.
Our hotel in Kostryzn is in Poland, just across the river-border. It is also next to a ruined fortress and abandoned town, which are the main tourist attractions of Kostryzn.
The fortress lies on land at the confluence of the Oder and Warta rivers. It was one of the greatest fortifications in Europe after its completion in 1590. It was conquered for the first time in 1806 by Napoleon’s army. And almost completely destroyed by the Red Army in 1945, together with the neighbouring town. The town and fortress have not been restored. All that remains of the fortress are some gates, ruined foundations and bastions along the river.
All that remains of the town are cobbled streets and building foundations, overgrown with trees. It is a strange place to wonder around in. It was hot and humid and the place was teeming with biting insects.
We rode around the new city, on the other side of the Warta river (for about another 10km) – we were searching for an old town, but there was not much to see. We went through a market with lots of stalls selling cheap cigarettes and brick-a-brac of all sorts just on the border – it was under canvas and felt like being in a maze we would never escape from – hot and humid.
Our hotel has a 24 hour restaurant where we had some very nice goulash soup and some (not so good) Polish beer. We unexpectedly found a good Polish APA (beer) at the Kostryn supermarket, which we had in the room later.
Today we spent the whole day on the Oder-Neisse-Radweg – which follows the river north – from Guben to Frankfurt (Oder). The cycle path was easy to follow and sealed the whole way.
It was also nice and cool – the possible showers forecast didn’t eventuate. The only thing that was not perfect was a strong headwind, especially on the unsheltered stop-banks – adding to the exercise value of the 75km ride.
The river is the German/Polish border – the cycleway is on the German side – we rode alongside these German border posts for much of the day.
We were impressed with the mobile high-water dike at Ratsdorf – Locals just need to slot in the barrier when the river floods.
A canal joins the river at Eisenhuttenstadt – after we crossed it we lost the bike path for a while – but Kris quickly found it again and the path reverted to easy cycling alongside the river once again – alternating from riding on top of the stop bank with riding alongside it.
We stopped again at Aurith, as we couldn’t resist a cute cafe/bar set right alongside the cycleway – to share a Weizenbier.
The last ten kilometers or so into town seemed to take forever – the cycle path left the river and after a messy transition (not sign-posted!) picked up again alongside the main road into town.
There were some beautiful homes alongside the river riding into town. And then every now and then a property falling into ruins. The houses in these photos are literally next door to each other!
We arrived in the early afternoon – there was a ceramics market in the town square, we enjoyed some pea and lentil soup from one of the food stalls next to the market.
Finding good food is always of top importance when traveling by bicycle, as this is your fuel. We tend to eat one large meal a day, mostly catered from the supermarket, and at the end of our ride. During the ride we may stop to eat a pastry, ice cream or other snack, but nothing too substantial.
We really enjoy the ready made salads that can be bought in most German supermarkets and they have become a staple meal for us. They are substantial and cheap. Here are some photos of salads from Kaufland supermarket – these cost only 2.59 Euro each.
Today we reached Poland. We rode 75km from Burg to Guben, and then across the border to the Polish side of the city (Gubin), where we are spending the night at the Hotel Onyx. Accommodation is cheaper in Poland!
It was a day with lots of confusing roads criss crossing the canals – some on our map and some not.
At one point Kris decided to take off into wet land nature reserve – a sign stated that there were water buffalo in the park and that we should not feed them, but we didn’t see any.
Kris struggled to find a path out of the reserve, we didn’t want to back track back to where we came in. We eventually found a tiny little bridge across a river – sitting just above the water surface. From here we could ride along a stop bank to exit the reserve, more walking track than bicycle track.
The sky grew rapidly darker as we left the reserve and a strong wind began to blow. It was the start of one of the summer thunderstorms you get here after a few hot days. Luckily we were out of the reserve and near a picnic shelter when it started raining heavily. We ducked into the shelter with the bikes – Kris sat on top of the table and Jenny under the table.
When the rain reduced we continued on – and found some random bicycle paths, We rode close to a huge power station with multiple cooling towers (near Janschwalde). The rest of the route to Gubin was along small bicycle paths through forests.
We did some shopping on the German side of Guben and then crossed into Poland across the bridge – the Neisse river is the border.
We had to ride a few kilometers into Poland to get to the hotel – the cycling infrastructure immediately deteriorates on crossing the border.
We were struck by this parish church, next to the town hall, which has been in ruins since it was burnt out in the second world war. Restoration efforts started in 2005, but appear to be very slow.
Our three star hotel is in a semi industrial area, but is otherwise pretty good with a big clean and modern room and a nice restaurant. Even though Poland is has its own currency, they don’t mind us paying in Euros. We had another heavy thunderstorm in the evening.
Today we made an early start at 7.30am – which was just as well as it got very hot later on. In all we rode 89km from Shonewalde to Burg in the Spreewald.
Most of the journey was along straight flat roads, alongside wheat fields – with wind farms looming on the horizon every now and then.
We passed through many small villages and some bigger towns. Starting off we took a route through Weizen, Meinzdorf, Herbersdorf, Ihlow – to the first biggish town Dahme – where we got a pastry from the Lidl supermarket for our breakfast. This old town had great cycling infrastructure, with bike paths built alongside some of the cobbled streets. There were quite a number of older people out on their bicycles doing their morning shopping.
Shortly after Dahme we got onto a good bicycle route that gave us a short cut to Kummritz. Then we made our way into Luckau, then Lubbenau. Lubbenau had many soviet era style apartment blocks – very neat but not pretty.
From here we were skirting around the Spreewald – but couldn’t really see water.
The Spreewald is a UNESCO biosphere reserve known for its traditional irrigation system, consisting of more than 200 small canals. It consists of wetlands and canals interspersed with agricultural fields. Tourism and agriculture are the main activities.
As we got closer to Berg we started to see some of the tourist activity, such as these people on a horse cart.
We also saw a group on quad bikes. A little later on we saw some storks, including a nest with young. I love the fact that the nests are on poles especially erected for them.
The canals are relatively narrow, good for kayaking and you can also take a ride on a gondola type tourist boat through.
There is a “harbour” for these tourist boats at Berg. There are also many health and wellness type places around Berg, including a natural warm water spa.
We just relaxed at the hotel, and drank a Weissebier on the veranda after exploring the town.
Today we crossed both the Elbe and the Elster rivers, though we didn’t spend time riding along either river.
Our route was an easy 61km, from Bad Schmiedeberg to Schonewalde. Once again Kris’s navigation along the small “Landstrasse” (rural roads) was straight forward.
The small towns we passed through were Patzschwig, Korbin, Pretzsch, Mauken, Kloden, Rade, Schoneicho, Grabo, Jessen, Linda, Stelzehain, Schmielsdorf – to Schonewalde.
There was a castle at Pretzsch, and just around the corner – the Elbe river! We had to take a ferry to cross it.
The landscape is very flat and quiet. We only found ourselves onto dirt roads once or twice which slowed us down. All in all an easy day as we left late and arrived early.
Our accommodation in Schonewalde is much nicer than last night, though comparatively expensive (and doesn’t include breakfast).
Today was a smooth and well executed 60km ride. We hit every town on Kris’s planned route without missing a beat – and making great time. The weather was also wonderfully overcast and cool – very comfortable for cycling.
Jenny’s bicycle was humming along smoothly with its’ new gears.
On leaving Leipzig, the towns we passed through were Plaussig, Portitz, Merkwitz, Gottscheina, Mutschlena, Kupsal, Boyda, Wolkau, Goritz, Krippehna, Noitzsch, Wellaune, and Bad Duban.
The distance between each town was around 2 to 3km, on rural country roads – mostly alongside wheat and vegetable fields. These included a strawberry field at one point – you could even smell them from the road.
We stopped at Bad Duben, to pick up some maps at the tourist info and meander around a bit. There is an old watermill, a small castle, a little lake and a windmill.
We had some slower forest paths just before and after Bad Duben.
We made our way through this forest to Sollichau, before finding Bad Schmiedeberg.
Bad Schmiedeberg is also a spa town, and this is very apparent when you arrive – there are lots of clinics, disability scooters, and people shuffling around with walkers. The main central area next to the big rehab clinic (specialising in orthopedics and gynaecology) is very attractive with ponds and gardens. There is a special water source that is evidently good for kidney stones – we refilled our bottles here just in case.
The town was very quiet with hardly anyone about, as was our accommodation. It is pretty overpriced for what we are getting. All in all quite a strange place place to stay.