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Category: Europe Cycling 2017

Holiday cycling in Europe – Rome to Hamburg

19 June – hot and itchy

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

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

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

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

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.

15 June – Wind farms and wheat fields – into the Spreewald

15 June – Wind farms and wheat fields – into the Spreewald

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.

Nest with baby storks – on special pole

The canals are relatively narrow, good for kayaking and you can also take a ride on a gondola type tourist boat through.

Spreewald canal

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.

14 June – Elbe and Elster

14 June – Elbe and Elster

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.

Pretzsch castle

Large passenger boat on the Elbe

Elbe ferry

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).

13 June – well executed ride

13 June – well executed ride

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.

Country road alongside vegetable field

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.

Bad Duben Watermill

Bad Duben spa gardens

Bad Duben windmill

We had some slower forest paths just before and after Bad Duben.

Bike path through forest just before Bad Duben- the little pine cones are a pain to dodge while you are riding

We made our way through this forest to Sollichau, before finding Bad Schmiedeberg.

Which way to go? Kris navigating through unmarked forest paths

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.

Spa gardens Bad Schmiedeberg

Filling water bottles at Bad Schmiedeberg

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.

12 June – rest day in Leipzig

12 June – rest day in Leipzig

Today was a rest day and we headed out for the Leipzig Decathlon, after a slow start and a good hotel breakfast.
We received excellent service as usual – they replaced the rear gear cassette on Jenny’s bicycle free of charge, even though we were up front about the number of kilometers we had done on the bicycle. The mechanic was impressed that we had come over the Alps with the bikes and commented that he hadn’t realised that you could tour on these bikes.

We ate some pizza in the mall where the Decathlon is situated while waiting for the bike to be fixed.

We had another ride around the city center and then through some of the northern parts that we had not seen on our way in (46km in all). 
This is one of the largest stretches of lawn I have ever seen, in the park near the zoo – tt was being cut with tractors.

I liked this street-art, similar in style (same artist?), but at different sites.

On wall in inner city

 Near pub where we drank a Weisse beer on outskirts

11 June – to Leipzig

11 June – to Leipzig

Today was a fairly straight forward ride of 43km to Leipzig, but we had done 81km altogether once we explored the city and found our hotel.
Along the way we also traveled from the state of Thuringen into Saxony.

There was a evidence of recent heavy rain, with wash outs on parts of the bicycle path to avoid. At one point our route took us through a rough track that was completely flooded under a bridge. Kris determined that the only way through was to ride through the water, which was more than ankle deep and muddy.

Kris got through more or less intact, only a little damp, but Jenny stalled just before the end and got her feet soaking wet! She did the rest of her ride in sandals, with the wet shoes drying on the back of her bicycle. Luckily the weather was hot.

Soon after the wet feet incident, we stopped at a curious historical mining park, called the “Bergbau Technik Park” (

Old mining equipment at historical mining park

Two other cyclists, older men, struck up a conversation with Kris. They were brothers, one a local resident and the other visiting from West Germany. They explained that this park is a museum covering the coal mining that used to dominate this area before re-unification. The whole area is now a green parkland, but it used to be a industrial wasteland, black and polluted, before the 1990s. A huge effort and a lot of money has been put into restoring the area. They left with the enigmatic comment (in German) that you need to bring the past into the present so that you don’t forget it.

We hadn’t had breakfast at the hotel, so we stopped at the food kiosk outside the mining park for some bratwurst and coffee. Soon afterwards, a group of young men on a quad bike tour stopped for beer and bratwurst. Our observation is that Germans don’t hesitate to drink beer at 10am in the morning on Sundays or holidays – more people began to arrive and the atmosphere was quite festive.

On leaving the park, we began to ride past the lakes to the south of Leipzig that were formed out of the surface mining residual holes – the area is now called the “Leipziger Neuseenland” (new lake land). It was lovely, with many people out walking or riding along bike paths alongside the lakes and canals.

Bike path alongside canal – people in kayaks on canal

We were impressed with this artificial rapids for kayaks, alongside one of the big lakes.

Complex with artificial rapids for kayaks

There were also many people sitting on the beach alongside this lake, or swimming – some in designated spots for nude bathing.

Beach scene

We rode around this lake for a while, and then into the outskirts of the city. We rode through many parks – and noticed quite a bit of rubbish from the previous (Saturday) evening. There were many people sitting enjoying the sun in the parks.

Statue in park on city outskirts

We were curious about these large pipes snaking alongside some paths in the city, going up into the air and back down in some places. Kris asked the tourist information about them later but they were fairly clueless. The best information we got was from a barman later during our stay. Evidently they are water pipes, used to drain water out of the city when needed.

Water pipes

We explored the inner city, it was lively with many buskers around. The beer was very expensive at the outdoor cafes in the tourist areas (over 4 Euros), so we just had some snacks from a bakery.

The first church we saw on entering the city – the imposing Universitatskirche

Buskers – music students

Bach statue

Listening to buskers in pedestrian mall while enjoying a snack

We rode through and past a number of different “Kleingartens” – small cultivated garden plots, on the way to our accommodation. We are always amazed that people have the time and energy to cultivate a garden like this away from their own home. Maybe they live in apartments? Many of them are very beautifully maintained.

Typical “kleingarten” in Leipzig

It was very hot in the afternoon and we felt quite dehydrated by the time we reached our hotel a few kilometers outside of the city.
We had a beer at the hotel and chatted with the manager. There was no Weissbier, and the manager noted that it is not common to stock it in this part of Germany. The people drink mostly Pils, and sometimes a dark (dunkel) Weissbier. Jenny had the Pils and Kris the dunkel Weissbier.