Friday July 28, 2017 Hitzaker to Wittenberge
What a fabulous sunny morning to ride. After crossing back across the river by foot ferry, we rode along the dikes and small roads and through some old and interesting villages
before having our lunch around 2 pm sitting on a bench watching the river traffic go by. Again there were many thatched roofs and half timbered buildings and farms on the route.
We spotted our first and then many storks this trip. They are considered “good luck” so the villagers and the villages erect tall posts and platforms for them to make their nests. They stay in this area until the weather changes and then return to Africa. They are huge and majestic and make a clicking sound when they chat.
All was great until about 4 pm when quite quickly the heavens opened up with a very strong downpour.. We hid under a tree for 15 min. along with another couple till it let up a bit, but then decided to double time it the last 7 km to our destination for the night in Wittenberge. We arrived dripping wet at a bakery for coffee in the middle of the old city. Our home is an apt. in what looks like an old boarding house which had obviously been renovated. It was very cute and comfortable inside and the owners were duly proud.
Dinner was Thai food which was an affordable at 10 Euro total. Wittenberge was behind the Iron Curtain and much of the city is in poor condition although it is obvious that it is making a concerted effort to rehabilitate and come back from what must have been a devastating 30+ years and then the 25 or so years after the iron curtain fell in 1989. Some of the streets have buildings that have been newly worked on and others that have not. The difference is striking.
Saturday July 29 Wittenberge to Stendal
Today we left the Elbe to ride off course about 50 km as we couldn’t find a room for tonight in any of the villages along the river. Not a problem. We took the bike route that was about a mile long to the west side of the river. After that, our ride was on very quite small roads and bike paths to the town of Stendal which sits about 20 kms. from the Elbe.
In medieval times the town was a walled city and has parts of the fortress towers still standing. They have been modernized and spiffed up a bit but retain the old charm and some really fine brickwork.
We checked into the hotel in the old part of the city at about 3 pm which gave us time to walk around looking at the towers,
and Dom St. Nicholai
, church with exquisite stained glass windows saved from the church’s destruction during WW II by removal and storage in the more rural areas
and very old buildings.
The old pulpit area has 2 columns still standing from the 13th century.
We cut our trip around the old city short – to be continued tomorrow – as we leave this city and get back to the Elbe River route.
Sunday July 30 Stendal to Bertingen (Hotel La Porta is not actually in Bertingen, but nearby.)
We had the mandatory rain shower while having our breakfast then continued our circumnavigation of the “wall” around Stendal, and saw the gate that we had missed yesterday, before we headed south toward the Elbe. We stopped in Tangermunde for our morning coffee and a look around. By this time it was sunny and hot. This walled town is very beautiful, full of 400 year old buildings. We met a couple from Aachen, Germany at the café and stuck up a conversation. They had cycled the other direction on the Elbe going north from Prague heading to Hamburg. We all agreed that it was the hottest day of the summer so far.
We rode into a strong headwind on very rural dike roads and narrow roads, through small villages with nothing open until around 1:45 when out of nowhere there appeared an Eis (ice cream) store. By this time we were very hot, thirsty, and hungry. The young women who appeared to be the owner was very accommodating and let us eat our PB&Js in the shade on her patio. We gulped down 3 cokes with our lunch then went back in to get a piece of rhubarb cake. She talked us out of that however, and encouraged us to get the plum cake which was just out of the oven. It was still warm and so yummy. You can’t get much better than that out here on this deserted route.
About 15km more down the path was our cabin at a resort/restaurant along the river 2km outside of the tiny village of Bertingen. It’s really out of place here but we’re happy to have a cabin in the woods to ourselves and a restaurant to boot. We enjoyed a cappuccino in the beer garden before Ed got to work rotating the tires, tightening all the rack/fender screws, and washing the bikes. They’ve really taken a beating over the past 2 months and 1200 miles. All we had to do for dinner was walk down the path back to the hotel. After filling up on salad and gorgonzola pasta, we “Face Timed” with Sam and Max in New Jersey then called it a night.
Monday, July 31, 2017 Bertingen (Hotel La Porta)–Burg
Burg had come into our radar as the result of a recommendation from some people we met. The guide book of the Elbe that we are using had several things worth seeing. The city is first mentioned in some document in the 900’s. The buildings themselves were supposed not to be missed, so we got an early start from the La Porte Hotel and caught the ferry across the Elbe after a lovely, quiet, windless ride of about 7 kms through farmland. Our ride continued another 7 kms. to Burg. What little research into Burg that we did included 3 or 4 medieval city towers, an old church and a tannery that was, according to our map guide, open daily from 9-2 p.m. Our first impression was that the walking street was quite long and the buildings mostly renovated. However, this was not true of the rest of the city. We rode to the old tannery only to find that it was closed, although the sign on the door disagreed. There was a telephone number for Visitor Information and through that we arranged for a tour in English (?) for 3 pm.
We rode to the 4 towers and the church. All were locked. Two of the three towers had makeshift fences around them which enclosed long scraggly grass and refuse. The biggest and newest was inaccessible and far enough back that we could not see its base area. We also tried the church, which was nearby. Ditto. All very strange.
We had lunch, checked into our hotel and returned to the tannery where we were met by a “guide” who spoke some English and guided as a hobby. She took us around the tannery and explained how various hides were tanned. There was also a shoe making exhibit since this city also had a complimentary shoe making industry to go along with its many tanneries..
Our guide was a very nice lady whose English was good enough for us to understand most of what she was telling us. Both the tanning industry and the shoe making industry closed down in the early 1990’s with devastating effect on the thousands of workers here. The city has never really recovered, although there is some improvement as evidenced by the very long walking street and the buildings whose facades have been renovated. The reason the towers and the church were not open was the lack of funds. Although there are factories on the outskirts of town, the town façades have not caught up, except in the very center
After our tour, we had coffee and returned to our hotel which is about 1.5 kms from the town center, ordered Asian in and relaxed for the evening.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017 Burg-Schoenbek Our 24th Anniversary
It rained overnight, but was not raining when we got up. The day proved hot and humid with a headwind in the morning, but no more rain. The landscape continues flat and the buildings in the towns and villages are a mix of renovated, colorful or dull, drab and in poor repair. We stopped for coffee at a hotel in a very large park on the outskirts of Magedeburg. . An older German woman stopped and commented to us that the hotel was not expensive. We doubt that it would have fit in our budget. Judge for yourselves.
A short ride later we detoured into the center of Magdeburg and happened on our first street market in Germany in Markt Platz in front of the old market building which has been renovated, but looks empty. We wandered through the street market, but we didn’t not see anything we needed. We did get a few provisions in a couple of shops nearby but that was all. The balance of our ride to Schoenbek was through villages that haven’t recovered from being behind the Iron Curtin. It is so unfortunate and depressing that people living here have had to endure so much and have so little to show for it. It has been a long time, and it will be a long time to come before prosperity visits these areas and they become bright and colorful again.
We pulled into Schonebek about 3:45 and discovered that our hotel was about 3 kms. from the center of town since it was advertised as only .6 kms to the center of town. Unfortunately it is in a different town. The proprietor treated us to a cappaccino and arranged for us to eat dinner in the hotel with his wife doing the cooking. Not surprising that there were no dishes on the menu without meat. We had eggs instead. Dinner was decent although we guess that ham is not a meat in this part of the world.
George and Chris from Australia came down, and we chatted for about a half hour. We stayed in the same hotel in Burg last night and met them there briefly there.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017 Schonebek-Dessau
The entire day was warm, sunny, and filled with new friends. We shared breakfast at our hotel with Chris and George from Sydney, Australia, a cup of coffee mid-morning with Yutta and Urllich from Berlin, then lunch with Mattias and Janika from Holland. We hop scotched each of them throughout the day’s ride, and found all of them interesting. We met George and Chris again in Dessau while eating our ice cream treat in celebration of our anniversary. The most interesting aspect of the day before we got to Dessau was the two ferries we took. Neither of them had motors. The ferry is attached to the cable which is anchored about 250 yards upstream. Near the ferry, the cable splits with one end attached to the ferry on the side near the front and the other end attached on the side of the ferry near the back. The cable is supported by floating barrels or small buoys. The current does all the work. They are called “reaction ferries” and were invented by a Dutchman in 1864. The river was fairly narrow at both crossings, although we have been on similar ferrys where the crossings have been much greater. It’s a quiet and quick crossing.
We arrived in Dessau about 3:30 p.m. and checked in. Our room is quite large and in an old renovated apartment building. We did some errands (believe it or not, we needed more sunscreen) and rode to the famous 1920’s Mecca of modern architecture, the Bauhaus. Form follows function. For a concept, that are almost a century old, it is quite impressive and made more impressive by the fact that it ushered in a new form of architecture that is still a model for today’s architects.
Thursday, August 3, 2017 Dessau to Listerferada
Another lovely hot summer day riding crossing the river and very pretty terrain We visited a very lovely church in the village of Worlitz. While sitting in a bakery in the old village of Worlitz. Before getting back on the road we stopped for coffee and in strolls Utta and Urllich from Berlin. We chatted for a while and then took off.
Down the route about 7km was the ferry crossing to Coswig. It also was a reaction ferry. Once on the other side, we rode another 18km to Lutherstatte-Wittenberg, the birthplace of the reformation. It’s the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses (questions for debate about the church giving “indulgances”) to the door of the church here in Lutherstatte-Wittenberg. A really big deal as it was the start of the protestant religion. The town was all a flutter with celebration. We visited the church with his burial place, and walked around admiring the buildings and flowers. While in town, we ran into Chris & George, and also Janika & Mattias. These random relationships and recurrent meetings are a big part of what we love about touring.
Our hotel/restaurant for tonight is some 18km further along the Elbe in a really small village, so left L-W around 3pm on the bike path which was a combination of wonderful smooth asphalt and very rough large cobble. All of the villages in this part of Germany have the original uneven cobbled streets because East Germany did not have the money to pave over them which was common in the West. We feel that we’re developing “shaken baby” syndrome from riding on them so often.