Our decision to
cycle Germany this year was based on a very pleasant experience last
summer in northern Germany on our way home from Denmark. The City Night
Line train proved very convenient with a direct connection from Zürich
to Seebad Binz, on the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea. This was our
starting point and the plan was to join a few major cities and cycle as
far south as we could in 3 weeks. Our route brought us through former
East Germany, quite close to the Polish and Czech Republic borders.
is Germany's largest island and one of its most visited holiday
destinations. It's most famous for its white chalk cliffs and beachside
resorts. What Darina was eager to see was the cute strand baskets that
can be rented for the day as a wind shelter and hold all while on the
Strand baskets, Seebad Binz
Prora holiday resort
Between 1936 and
1939 the Nazi Regime built a massive holiday resort inProra to provide
accommodation for 20,000 citizens, who could spend a 10-day supervised
holiday there. The 6-floor house extends for 5 km along the beach and
was so designed that all rooms have a sea view. The Third Reich's
version of modern-day Benidorm.
5 km long resort from the Nazi regime, Prora
of Gone Bike About will be acquainted with Kurt's ongoing luggage-rack
problems. This time, he took precautions and invested in a new rack
designed to hold up to 40kgs. However, he should have installed a new
frame instead! 5 km down the track from the train station... his
well-travelled blue frame decided it had had enough. Snap!
Kurt's new bike!
Of course it was
Saturday afternoon and everywhere was closed until Monday. MacGyver was
helpless, as this was more than a fast duct-tape job! The only viable
option was to buy a new mountain bike and transfer everything (wheels,
tyres, pedals, handlebar, rack, saddle etc) to the new frame.
We made use of the
waiting time by checking out the famous chalk cliffs, the quaint old
town of Sassnitz and the seaside resort of Sellin.
Seaside resort of Sellin
Old town, Sassnitz
The chalk cliffs, Sassnitz
One of the world's
biggest sail boats, the Russian
Kruzenshtern, happened to be in Sassnitz while we were there. It was
quite the experience to walk around such a noble vessel and imagine life
on board the high seas.
Lunch was in the
form of rollmop sandwiches sold directly on the pier from a boat. Herring was also smoked on the boat for those who prefer kippers.
A quick and tasty local speciality.
Kipper sandwiches sold from the boat
Strand baskets, Sellin
In addition, we
witnessed Germany's magnificent 4-0 victory over Argentina in the World Cup.
Once Kurt's little
machine was sorted, we headed round the north of the island and via
traffic-free Hiddensee Island down to Stralsund on the mainland.
Camping in the forest, Rügen Island
Thatched houses, Rügen Island
Bunker vents, Cape Arkona
There is still the
odd eerie remnant
of the Cold War. The bunker vents up on Cape Arkona gave a real
feeling of Big Brother watching you!
has a very pretty old town, but what sets it apart is its award-winning
museum in the harbour. With its spectacular architectural design and
informative display cases on the northern seas and waterways, it's no
wonder it was awarded the European Museum of the Year title, 2010.
The townhall, Stralsund
Ozeanum Museum, Stralsund
A perfect place for a dip
although it was
goodbye to the sea, the
Mecklenburgische Seenplatte provided us with much relief from
the heat. This region north of Berlin is a maze of lakes and waterways
formed during the last Ice Age. Cycling at 38 degrees Celcius is
manageable when you can go for a dip every 10km.
The beauty of it
all was that most lakes had a campground or two right on the shore,
allowing us a refreshing start to every day. Campgrounds were
reasonably priced at between 10 and 16€ per night for a tent and 2
Our new petroleum
stove was put to use for tasty risottos and pasta dishes. However, with
a reasonably priced restaurant at most campgrounds, we often took the
easy option after a long, tiring day on the bikes.
The bike trails
were of varying degrees of user friendliness. Surfaces included
ankle-deep sand, loose gravel, rough cement, haphazard concrete slabs,
slippery cobblestones, overgrown cowlanes, patchwork tarmac and
sometimes even beautiful sealed runways.
Cross-country bike trails
- take your pick!
Too steep to cycle!
warned us of the many perils ahead... and even ordered us to get off the
bikes when the descent reached 12% or the road surface was inferior!
But, can anyone explain how you could have a roof avalanche with
temperatures nearing 40 degrees Celsius?
Road signs - do you really want to
North of Berlin we
came across another stark reminder of past misguided politics.
Uckermark concentration camp was designed for young girls
between the ages of 16 and 22 from Germany, Austria and Slovenia. It is
thought that 5,000 were murdered there. The persistant cuckoo calls seem
to echo the death knell to this very day. Sardonically, the camp is
located just outside a village called Himmelspfort (Heaven's Gate),
called after a Cistercian monastery founded there in 1299.
The Uckermark concentration camp
Otters crossing the road!
cyclists) are warned of the otters crossing the road from 9pm to
6am. Needless to say, in Germany the jokes aren't about why the chicken crossed the
Camping in Germany
can be quite the adventure, when at first light you unzip the tent to
find yourself face to face with a hungry racoon! True! From the bike
you're likely to spot wildlife in the form of hedgehogs, wild
pigs, frogs, storks, cranes, kingfishers, deer and frisky hares.
Racoon ready for a feast
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
a city of 3.4 million, is Germany's capital and largest city. No visit
to Berlin is complete without a visit to the Checkpoint Charlie Berlin
Wall museum, the former border crossing point between the US and the
Soviet sectors. The numerous accounts of life on both sides give a
valuable insight into the recent history of this interesting city.
Shade was very
well received and artificial beaches were set up all over the city with
deck chairs and often sand by the tonne, for that real holiday feel.
A break from the heat
Marx and Engels &
International clock meeting point
Tapas, sushi, Chinese - Berlin has
Cycling along the Berlin wall
What impressed us most about Berlin was the number of cyclists using the
generous bicycle lanes in complete harmony with the city traffic.
Berlin Wall Murals - Slideshow
Mosquito village 1 km
Back on the road
heading south we came across a few place names that were
quite a turnoff. We hesitated a while at this junction when we saw
what lay ahead... Mosquito village!
We did manage to
whiz through bite free and enjoyed the logo employed by the local
Mosquito, the builder
We guess this was a joke!
On the subject of
signs, how about this for
a welcome sign on your gate?
-don't want to
-don't want to donate anything
-don't want to change our religion
-we are insured
-and our bills are paid.
earned its fame and glory from its
porcelain manufacture. This "white
gold" was developed in Europe in the early 18th century by an alchemist who failed
to turn straw into real gold for his master, Augustus the Strong.
The Zwinger, Dresden
totally rebuilt after one of the most devastating conventional bombings
of the second World War, is a masterpiece of what can be done to bring a
city back to mirror its former glory. If you'd like to read a literary
account of the bombing check out Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5".
The Procession of Princes mural is painted on Meissen porcelain
and is 101m long. It depicts generations of rulers as a mounted
The Procession of Princes
Land mine-free museum
It was comforting to know that this museum
all-clear as far as land mines are concerned!
River Elbe east we were soon in the
Sächsische Schweiz National Park.
This picturesque sandstone tableland was carved into spectacular
outcrops by rivers, streams and rivulets over thousands of years.
Sächsische Schweiz National Park
The Elbe bicycle path near Königstein
Sächsische Schweiz NP on the River Elbe
We were a tad disappointed with
a miserable trickle of water referred to as The Falls. That was until someone pointed to the sign on
the information centre: For 30 cents our waterfall roars with a great gush
30 cents worth!
One up, one down tandem
Interesting placenames out there!
is the second largest city in Bavaria after Munich. This walled medieval
city had great links to the Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the
German nation. The Emperor's castle was a meeting place for the hob nobs
every second year, after which the city's store rooms were empty of food
and drink, and the local's pockets full of silver and gold! Today it's a
thriving city with a population of a half a million, and very famous for
its Christmas markets.
Great fountains in Nürnberg
The equivalent of
Hadrian's Wall, the Limes was the northern boundary of the Roman
Empire in today's Germany. Here you can see Kurt manning the remains of
a watchtower outside Nürnberg.
Rain in Öttingen, Bavaria
The Mozart bicycle trail
was born in Augsburg and so little Wolfang had numerous concerts in the
area. The places have been ingeniously joined together to form none
other than the
Mozart bicycle trail. Now, there is evidence that he was able to
fill an auditorium with enthused listeners... but the question is: what
did he know about a bicycle?
was founded by the Romans, but is most famous for being the financial
centre of the world in the late 16th century. It was a success
because of its textile industry and a prominent merchant family, the
Fuggers, that branched out into mining and banking.
The Town Hall Square, Augsburg
Merkur fountain, Augsburg
Golden Room, Town Hall, Augsburg
The Fuggerei social housing development
Jakob Fugger was
responsible for setting up the first ever
social housing development in 1521. Today there are 140
apartments that can be rented for the nominal fee of 0.88 cents per
year. As long as you're from Augsburg, in need through no fault of your
own, you're Catholic and pray for the soul of Jakob Fugger 3 times a
day... you can add your name to the waiting list!
Many doors in
Germany have a series of numbers, letters and stars chalked on the
outside. They are connected with a neat Christmas tradition. On Jan. 6th
each year, kids dress up as the three wise men and go from door to door
with a star on a pole singing carols, in return for sweets and pocket
money. The year and the initials of the three wise men (Casper, Melcheor
and Balthasar) are chalked on the door, thus blessing the house.
The 3 wise men called to this house
Art on the roadside: Die Audabeis
On our last day we came across
quite a thought-provoking
installation south of Augsburg. It was a field filled with
earth-headed scarecrow-like figures representing the silent majority,
that never voices an opinion and is happy to be herded like sheep.
Although Germany can't brag about having coconut trees, it does offer a
wide array of sights to see and things to do. We really enjoyed having a
closer look at our northern neighbours and wouldn't mind returning to
check out another cross-section of this bicycle-friendly country.