7 July – riding along the stop bank

It was raining in morning when we woke up, but we had a relaxed start and it had all but cleared up when we set off. The whole day was warm and humid. We enjoyed chatting with a lone German cyclist over breakfast – he is cycling the length of the old German east/west divide.

We rode out of town on the west, along a small road, until we hit the next town on the river.  Jenny stopped to take a photo of this old church and spoke (in German) with a good natured old man who stuck his head out of a nearby window – while Kris looked at the route map.

Soon after, Kris stopped to talk with an elderly lady who was tending her roses, while Jenny took a picture of more storks.

We found our way onto the stop bank alongside the river Elbe, which we followed for most of the rest of the journey. The road varied from gravel to tar to cement. The river was very wide, in the distance you could see the stop bank on the other side about a kilometer away. This was a beautiful ride, well frequented by cycle tourists. The blues and greens in the landscape were stunning.

Statue of the mythological ferryman who takes souls across the river Styx

We stopped for a break and to buy some cherry liquor chocolates, cheesecake and juice at a supermarket at Domitz. Here we realised we were not too far away from our final destination, so we slowed down.

We crossed this bridge, which was on the previous border between East and West Germany.

We were entertained by information boards alongside the cycleway about river ecosystems and frogs. We found this frog on the road and helped it back into the grass.

It was very hot in the afternoon.  Hitzaker was recommended by our friends Andreas and Silvia, who also arranged the accommodation. We can see why as it is a stunningly beautiful old town on an island surrounded by dikes. These dikes can be closed when the river floods. There are also huge pumps to pump the water away from the town.

Hitzacker house with pole for stork nest

Hitzacker dike that can be closed if the river floods

View of river from Hitzacker dike

Hitzacker

Hitzacker river view inside dike

The town is full of quaint timber framed houses – with sayings written on them in old Frisian German that is difficult to decipher

We were surprised to find the whole town decorated and tents and carousels set up for a “Schützenfest” – a traditional marksman’s festival. The festivities started with a parade and activities for the children at around 4pm.

children’s parade

We had plenty of time to look around the town and rest before Andreas and Silvia arrived by train from Hamburg. We had a good time together in the evening – drinking beer and eating from the stalls around the festival.

6 July – Premitz to Wittenberge

On leaving Premitz, we headed straight back to the river Havel and crossed over onto the Havel-Radweg again. We cruised along this bike path for a large part of the day.

Havel bike path in early morning

Fishermen alongside Havel bike path

The path took us past the site of an old Slavic castle from the 12th century before Rathenow. It was made of wood and earth, so nothing remains to be seen today.

Site of old Slavic castle – nothing remains today

We passed through Rathenow, and then the smaller towns of Gottlin and Grutz. The bike path was easy and there were a fair number of other cycle tourists on it.

We lost a spoke again at about 10am. Kris fixed it really quickly in 20 minutes and we were on our way again.

The spot where we fixed the spoke – notice the beautiful wide tarred cycle path

We temporarily lost the path and toured through this little town unnecessarily – but did enjoy seeing these storks nesting on a church.

Storks on a church
We asked for directions and got back onto the route, which took us through wheat and corn fields.

Finally we reached Havelberg – which was interesting and scenic because part of the town is built on an island in the middle of the Havel river. We had planned to eat something here, but the supermarket was up a hill, so we continued on.

Crossing bridge to Havelberg

The river Havel joins with the river Elbe just after Havelberg. We had a choice of three different bike paths, one on either side of the river and one in the middle. We took the middle one and rode along tracks and stop banks with a river on each side. This was the scenic highlight of the route.

We were getting very hungry and running out of energy by the time we reached Rühstädt, so we stopped to eat some bratwurst with mustard at a Gasthaus. This was a really cute and neat little village with lots of references to storks around the village (including the name of the Gasthaus) and some live storks nesting on roofs. Evidently the town is a “European Stork Village” with an unusually high stork population and storks are honorary citizens.

Stopping in Rühstädt, the stork village for some bratwurst

From here it was not far to Wittenberg and our accommodation. However we had a longish bike road detour (on a dirt track) as they were doing earthworks on the stop bank.

There was no one at our accommodation when we arrived at around 4pm – we were hot and tired and a little grumpy about it. This was the longest ride of our trip – at 110km.
We tracked back to the tourist info and they phoned the accommodation – the people had arrived back so we returned. In the end it was fine and we were able to drink a beer with the proprietor to cool down before showering and washing our clothes.

We walked around Wittenberge in the evening as it began to cool down. There was not much activity in a couple of beer gardens near the river. Wittenberge used to be in East Germany. Today there are a lot of retired people living there, the main tourists are cyclist tourists like ourselves. We ended up just eating a pizza at the local pizzeria.

Sculpture alongside the Elbe – Wittenberge

Rowers on the Elbe at dusk, sculpture in foreground – Wittenberge

 

5 July – We ride again – Potsdam to Premnitz

Today we set out again for the last section of our bicycle tour – from Berlin to Hamburg.

This morning we took the S-bahn train out to Potsdam, which is as far as the line goes, and cycled from there.
There was a light rain for the first hour, but luckily it never got any worse and we didn’t need to take out our rain gear.
We rode past the Neu Palace in Potsdam, seeing it for the second time. We had walked around it with Elsbeth a week ago.

Neu Palace – photo from sight seeing with Elsbeth (24 June)

Our next big town was Werder and then Phoben. There we got onto the Havel bike route and that took us almost all the way to Brandenburg. It was a beautiful route, alongside the river and wetlands.

There were also a lot of insects again – all our itchy bites had healed up during our Berlin stay and now we were stung again – after we stopped for a mid morning snack and break at this lovely spot.

The mis-hap of the day was Kris breaking a spoke just about a kilometer from Brandenburg. This is only the second incidence of broken spokes on this trip. To our dismay, we couldn’t find our socket to remove the rear cassette – a vital tool without which we could not replace this spoke. We rode into the town and found the nearest bicycle workshop. They wouldn’t sell us a tool and they were too busy to replace the spoke for us. However they were quite friendly and did lend us their socket, so Kris replaced the spoke in the parking lot. We then went to Tourist info to get the addresses of other bicycle shops. The first one we went to did sell us a socket – we hope there will be no more broken spokes this trip, but you never know. We ate some ice cream and pastries in Brandenburg, and then continued on the journey.

The ride after Brandenburg was less scenic, on a mixture of bike paths and small country roads.

I don’t know what this crop is, but it sure is pretty

We got back onto the Havel river cycle route and rode through Briest and Teickaw. From here we departed from the official route to ride on the north side of the river to our destination for the day – Premnitz (a shorter route). In all, the day’s ride was 94km long.

We stayed at the Hotel Super Bowl in Premnitz. It is a small hotel alongside a bowling alley, where we drank beer and watched the locals bowling.

21 June – 4 July – Break in Berlin

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.

Old East-West border

Bridge of Spies – Glienicker Brücke

 Fähre Caputh-Geltow (Ferry)

Caputh (Ferry)

Köpenick

Brandenburg Gate

 

Reichstagsgebäude

Remaining piece of Berlin wall

Wannsee river cruise (tour of 7 lakes)

Wannsee river cruise

East Side Gallery

East Side Gallery

Neues Museum – Xantener Knabe

Bergmannstrassefest – Jazz festival

Our apartment in Lichterfelde

20 June – to Berlin

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.


We then spent some time riding through forested areas.

Some of the forest roads were slow tracks

Amazing wood carving alongside forest road

Once we got out of the forests, we began to make good time.

Wind farm undergoing maintenance

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.

Neptune fountain near Alexanderplatz

Marx and Lenin statue

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.

Berliner Mauerweg

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.

19 June – hot and itchy

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.

Stop bank bicycle path

Otters crossing!

Oder 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.

Bells hanging in frame next to church – Sophienthal

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.

Poppy field alongside country road

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.

18 June – short ride to ruined town

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.

Leaving Frankfurt with the Oder river in the background

I had to take a photo of this novel approach to bicycle parking in the city – safe and dry – in Frankfurt alongside the river

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.

River Oder and floodplain, from stop bank cycle path

River Oder

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.

The storks nest is to the left of the church tower – Lebus

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.

Fortress gate

Fortress ruins

River view from fortress ramparts

River and fortress ramparts

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.

Street in ruined town

Street in ruined town

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.

17 June – alongside the river Oder

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.

German border post and cycleway information on Oder-Neisse-Radweg

Cycleway on stopbank

We were impressed with the mobile high-water dike at Ratsdorf – Locals just need to slot in the barrier when the river floods.

Mobile high-water dike information board at Ratsdorf

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.

Crossing canal at Eisenhuttenstadt

We stopped again at Aurith, as we couldn’t resist a cute cafe/bar set right alongside the cycleway – to share a Weizenbier.

More cycleway on stopbank

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!

What a shame – nature allowed to take over and the building ruined beyond repair

Beautifully maintained properties next door

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.


We had a good deal at a three star hotel – near the center of town.

Supermarket salad

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.

Meatballs and noodles

Chicken and potato

Kidney beans and beef

16 June – we reach Poland

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.

Spreewald canal

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.

Wetland nature reserve

Tiny bridge to get out of reserve

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.

Sheltering from the thunderstorm

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.

Crossing border into Poland at Guben

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.

Ruined parish church with town hall in background

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.