ON YOUR BIKES - GET SET - GO!
or: "I can't stand the rain..."
July 7th – July 31st 2007 || from Norderstedt to the Czech border
07/07/07: With the exception of the two of us everybody else seemed to marry or was about to get his final doping shots for the start of the Tour de France on that day.
We also thought this to be a good day to start with a new chapter of life, and with lots of chocolate doping and delicious food from the parents of Silke's friend Anja we also wanted to set off.
The first day on the road: Norderstedt to Bad Oldesloe (36 km)
In time for the start there was a heavy downpour which didn't prevent us from loading the bikes. We wanted to get on the road – no matter what the weather was like. One more look at the map – and suddenly we had again the finest sunshine. But after only a few kilometers the clouds caught up with us and in the middle of a marshland it started to pour down on us so heavily that the water ran right through our underwear and poured out of our trousers. Well, at least there was something good about it: Rain-wise we felt that it couldn't become any worse on those thosands of kilometers ahead of us, and these synthetic trousers truly were drying fast on our skin.
At a crossing in a village we asked a gentleman by the roadside if we were on the right road to Bad Oldesloe, our destination of that day (which is NORTH of Norderstedt - for those of you not so perfect in the geographie of Germany). "You are right." he replied, but kindly – and a bit irritated - pointed out that Africa was exactly in the opposite direction...
No, we were NOT going via the north pole or Siberia, we just wanted to make a little farewell tour and see family and friends of Silke for the last time. That's why we seemed to be lost.
July 8th – July 9th: Bad Oldesloe
At the home of Anja, Frank and Claas, Michael cleaned the bikes from the muddy mess and fed the chains with a good amount of oil. Silke separated out some stuff because this was the last chance to put it in the storing place in a village nearby where she had already stored most of her household.
July 10th – July 12th: Bad Oldesloe – Luebeck (28 km)
One should think that if you are equipped with a map made for bicycle touring it should be possible to get from Bad Oldesloe to Luebeck without any major problems. Well, maybe next time... ;-) Of course there was the obligatory downpour - only this time accompanied by a thunderstorm right over our heads - when we were about to start, but by now we considered such things to be natural... After only 1 hour spent under Anja's and Frank's carport we could hop on our saddles.
Soon the map lead us into a forest, however there were actually more crossings and forks than on the map. The result? After 10 kilometers of cycling we finally left the forest just 2 kilometers away from the point where we entered it (if by now you wonder if these guys ever make it to Cape Town, well, we are already learning Russian and Chinese – just in case...). So we thought it to be a good idea to use a regular road for a while because – as our map showed – it would bring us to some nice field roads where we could cycle along peacefully all by ourselves. Hm, good idea, only these roads in the fields had been cut by a newly build autobahn in the meantime! Trying to get around this we soon found ourselves at a dead end in the middle of a corn field. Ok – now it was definitely time for lunch. Luebeck MUST have been somewhere there behind the trees, so we were not too desperate. And finally, we made it to the house of Silke's parents where we stayed for a few days, met her grandma, some friends and fed on the famous Luebeck marzipan.
July 13th – July 18th: Luebeck – Krummesse (14 km)
With a considerable amount of that marzipan added to our load we followed the Elbe-Luebeck-Canal (FINALLY southwards!) to the small town of Krummesse where we spent a few last days with Birgit and Roland and their daughters before we REALLY started our trip.
July 19th: Krummesse – Gehrum (56 km)
It didn't take long before we opened Birgit's lunchpacks. Again we followed the Elbe-Luebeck-Canal and – believe it or not – had a day without rain! At first we were a bit suspicious, but then we simply enjoyed it. This was to be our first night out camping and after some time looking for a nice spot we found a field near the village of Gehrum where the hay was freshly cut and we could put up our tent behind a row of bushes.
July 20th - July 28th: Gehrum – Strehla (472 km)
During the next days we more or less followed the river Elbe, cycled through meadows, passed old GDR-border installations and lots of storks' nests. There was always a lot to look at and thanks to the head wind it never got boring – even if the cycling path was behind the dike, on the "wrong" side, for kilometers. But apart from this, there were many other things which kept the journey interesting, e.g. this:
When Silke had to pay a visit to the loo on the edge of a wood, she heard loud voices shouting through the forest. She thought that there might be a hunt going on and quickly made her way back to the road where Michael was waiting with the bicycles. Suddenly two men and their dogs appeared and asked us if we had a spare minute for them. Our job was this: Michael received a signal flag and had to stop the traffic while the two shepherds guided their sheep to the opposite side of the road. What at first looked like a few sheep, soon emerged as a quite big herd. Well, as you can see, Michael managed this job without difficulties – the perfect sheep crossing guard :-) which gives us new perspectives when looking for jobs...
The good deed for today was done and so we moved on through little villages and historical towns like Tangermuende, where we met Silkes family again. We stayed close to a car-park for caravans and had so many chats with other campers in the morning that we were hardly able to leave. After saying good-bye to them, we only continued our journey for a few kilometres. It was raining again, and the head wind was really stressing us. We headed to a camp site close to Bittkau where we made ourselves some tasty fried potatoes. While we enjoyed our meal, the washing machine was taking care of our laundry, and in the evening we had all our clothes clean and dry, what aclass="reisebericht-bild-right" good feeling!!
In the morning, we watched some young martins in their nest who had their breakfast, too and then we went on to have a look at Europes largest crossing of waterways close to Magdeburg. We crossed the impressive double watergate Hohenwarthe and camped close to it on a soccer field as we did so often. Soccer fclass="reisebericht-bild-right"ields combine a lot of advantages: they are mostly situated away from the city-center and because of this relatively quiet, the grass is freshly cut and everyone knows where to find them. It was the same in Hohenwarthe, where a friendly guy told us where to go.
We woke up refreshed and travelled on to Magdeburg where we checked our emails and looked for an accommodation in Dresden. We will write about www.warmshowers.org, etc. another time but what you should know for the moment, is that there are lots of registered people who want to show other cyclists around their town, host them for one or more nights or simply meet travelling people for a tea or coffee to have a chat with them. Luckily, we found Ruth who agreed to host us and our bicycles for 2 nights. Additionally, we were able to do our laundry, take a shower, have a good chat and enjoy her delicious food.
But before we cycled into the city of Dresden, there was still a lot to explore. We developed a special liking for rides across the river with ferries of a special type called "Gierseilfaehren" (sorry, we couldn't find a translation). Ferry trips always imply a short break, but these ferries in particular are special because they don't use engine power to cross the water but a special system to make use of the natural current of the river.
There was no shortage of historically interesting sites either: among others the Lutherstadt Wittenberg where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the castle church.
Maybe one day you'll find our theses on some door, too:
Head wind is bad.
Wittenberg also has a lovely old-town which is worth a visit. That's the same for Torgau where Russian and American troops first met in April 1945. Shortly after leaving Torgau, we cycled into a thunderstorm in the open field and rushed to reach some shelter. We were dripping wet once again and asked ourselves how we should ever dry our tent again – needless to say that we started our ride in the rain that morning. After a while, the sky cleared off and it seemed to become a sunny evening. But this only lasted for an hour or so, and then it rained cats and dogs. There was no shelter before we cycled through the city of Strehla and we stopped at a fuel station, but there we were already soaked again. We were a bit frustrated, because it was quite cool and Michaels bag that is positioned on the handle bars got wet, too.
So we decided to head for a small guest house which was quite a dosshouse, but the owner was so helpful and friendly, that the rest didn't really matter. It was 9.30 p.m. when we checked in and it took about 2 hours to dry all our stuff with the borrowed hair-dryer of the owner. We fell into our beds and asleep soon as we had ordered breakfast for 5.30 a.m. already because we wanted to reach Dresden quite early in the afternoon.
July 29th: Strehla - Dresden (69 km)
After a good breakfast we hopped onto our bicycles at 7.00 a.m. and cycled through the vineyards around Meissen in sunshine and rain. We were again seeking shelter under a bridge across the river Elbe at Meissen and had some biscuits before continuing to Dresden. Shortly before we reached the city, we met Uta and Markus who asked us if we were carrying inflatable canoes with us. We explained, that the big sacks on our carriers were containing our isolation mats, sleeping bags, the tent and other equipment.
The two came from Cologne and we cycled the last kilometers to the end of their roundtrip along the river Weser and the river Elbe together. While Uta and Markus were looking for an affordable accommodation, we were trying to find our way to Ruth, our warmshowers-host. That was easier said than done, because there was a huge construction site so that we could not use the road we had chosen before. When we got around this, there was another obstacle: the name of one of the roads we had to follow had been changed, so that we were confused again.
and having a look onto the map was always a mission because it was
raining again and we didn't want to have a totally soaked map. But
finally we reached Ruth's flat. We were dripping wet, but she welcomed
us with the words "No need to worry, just come in, my floor is easy to
dry.". We felt like in bikers' heaven, because we could not only store
away our bags safely in the cellar and dry our tent, have a shower, do
our laundry but Ruth even cooked for us.
Since we both knew Dresden from former visits, we only stayed for two nights and used the day in between to visit Michaels former colleagues in Bischofswerda, a small town close to Dresden and went to the place where Michael stored his furniture and personal belongings away. This was necessary because we accidentally stored away one cardboard box which was meant to be taken with us :-). After eating some Kamenzer sausages, a special dish in this region and having a look at the newly restored old-town of Bischofswerda, we went back to Dresden where we bumped into Uta and Markus again. We celebrated this by sharing a big chocolate bar and strolled through the city for a while. Then it was time to go "home", where we had a good chat with Ruth while our stuff was drying on the clothesline.
is worth mentioning because it was not only our laundry but also our
travellers cheques, cash money, maps, phrase books and other equipment
which we dried there. Obviously, one of our bags had not been closed
properly and so everything in it was damp or even wet. But that was all
settled again on the next morning and so we were ready to cycle towards
the Czech border.
July 31st – August 1st: Dresden – Czech border (35 km)
hard to believe, but when we left Dresden, it was not raining, and so
we happily proceeded. Only of course, until the rain started again...
Nevertheless, we reached Bad Schandau, where the river Elbe meanders
through the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. We found one of our preferred
soccer fields directly on the river and set up our tent behind the goal
for the night. After the flood disasters of the last years, most of the
houses are freshly restored now. The illuminated houses on the other
bank of the river Elbe looked as if they were belonging to a miniature
toy-train landscape. We enjoyed the idyllic scenery and paid a visit to
the town of Krippen in the morning. There
no signs of the
floods except for the marks on some houses which told of the flood
levels in the different years. These were sometimes about 4 meters
high, and it's hard to imagine which power the river can develop,
especially when you read in your travel book that you should make sure
that the ferries are really going because the river Elbe is quite often
too low to travel on by boat.
But you can read about this next time :-).
Krippen, we found this saying on a house wall: "God created time - but
not hurry." So please don't get impatient if our next report will take
some time again...
Hier steht mal wieder ein völlig unsinniger Satz, der nur dazu da ist, den Content-Bereich künstlich zu vergrößern, damit die Tabellen alles schön in die Mitte rücken können - so, ich denke, das sollte reichen.