A Beer Outside

Day 12: April 30th, Litoměřice to Mělník, Czech Republic

Sunny and (finally) sort-of warm! The path was busy and everybody seemed to be having fun. Including the kayakers we saw at a lock:

Home for the next two nights (finally a rest day) would be Pension Hana. A great place, especially because it had an elevator. We explored Mělník, and managed to have our first outdoor beer since we got to Europe. Don’t misunderstand me, we had seen people drinking plenty of beer outside, but it just didn’t appeal when it was grey and 11c.

Looking up at Melnik

Looking down at the Elbe

Distance: 50 km

$85

Pivovar

Day 11, April 29th: Děčín to Litoměřice, Czech Republic

Down, down the steep, busy streets of Děčín until we were on the River Elbe again. The weather was changeable, so we ended up stopping a couple of times to switch out (or into) different gear.

In Ústí nad Labem, we paused to admire the impressive Mariansky Bridge.

We stopped fairly early (just before the real rain hit) at a really nice place: Pension Dubina. I was immediately won over when I saw that the owner was a cartoonist who had covered the walls with his work.

The rain let up early enough for us to go out and explore. We wandered the cobbled streets and saw the town square before seeking out the the local brew pub: Biskupský Pivovar. They frowned when we said we didn’t have reservations, but unlike in Decin, they found us a table for two. Good thing, because I was so hungry I was close to fainting.

Distance: 50 km

$89

What Are the Odds?

Day 10, April 28th: Dresden to Děčín, Czech Republic

The cycle route from Dresden, across the border and on to Děčín, is spectacular, but Deb’s favourite part by far was when she spotted a hedgehog by the side of the path.

There isn’t much of a border anymore, but they kindly left some markers for tourists’ photos. They say Czechoslovakia  on them, a country which was dissolved in 1993.

Sadly, the price of scenic mountainous terrain was a long climb to our hotel at the end of the day. Plus, we were used to German cities and their wonderful bicycle infrastructure. In the Czech Republic cycling is popular – as a weekend recreational activity, not as a mode of transportation. While navigating the rather hazardous roads of Decin, I noted one other bicycle – ridden by a small child accompanied by a parent on a side street. I didn’t even see one parked anywhere. And we were only 65km from Dresden, which, despite a lot of cobbled streets, is full of bicycles.

When we finally reached the top of the “mountain”, we still couldn’t find the hotel, even with Google Maps. We knew we were close, but we had to ask a local who pointed out a dirt path through a woodsy green. The hotel U Kapel was  once a monastery and it is directly across from the neo-gothic, Thun’s Chapel (1872).

After checking in and cleaning up we headed out. Just outside the hotel we saw a couple pushing their bikes up that same dirt path. They looked familiar. It was the couple we had dubbed the “Bonns” – the cycle tourists we’d met at breakfast in Dömitz! It was the last night of their trip, and they said they had wondered if they might run into us on the trail again, but doubted it. They went to check in (ending up in the room next to ours) and we all agreed to meet up later.

Deb and I tried to go to a highly rated brew pub, but it was the Friday of a holiday weekend and we had no reservations. We ended up climbing back up and eating in the hotel restaurant, which turned out great because our friends from Bonn showed up just as we were finishing. More beer was ordered, we finally exchanged names, and we spent the evening talking in the dining room. Mathias and Kirsten hadn’t realized that the kitchen closed at 8. Lucky for them we had hit a grocery store in town. We set them up with bread, cheese and apples. They invited us to stay at their place in Bonn, if we decided to head that way. I warned them not to make the offer lightly – we might just take them up on it.

Distance: 65km

$93

 

Not too Old for Hostels

Day 9, April 27th: Meißen to Dresden, Germany

A short, and lovely ride to Dresden; too bad it was only about 11c and cloudy.

Dresden, being bigger and more “touristy” than the other places we’d visited presented a bit of an accommodation challenge. Deb managed to find us a good room in the “Kangaroo Stop” hostel. It meant using a shared washroom, and renting sheets, but it had a very good kitchen.

Dresden is so full of architectural wonders that it’s exhausting (all that Baroque stuff). We walked around the city until we could barely stand, then brought food at a grocery store to cook ourselves. (Also beer).

Distance: 27km

$99

That’s Not a Tardis

Day 8: April 26th, Döbern to Meißen, Germany

The ride part of the day started with a cat weaving around my legs as I loaded the bike. It followed me into the garage, then promptly puked on the floor.

At Torgau, we passed a monument surrounded by fresh wreaths of flowers. It turned out to be the point where Communist Ukrainian troops met U.S. Forces on the Elbe River during the invasion of Germany in 1945. April 25th is now remembered as “Elbe Day”.

Our ride ended at Meißen, at an amazing Airbnb room in the home of a German woman, Marion, and her Scottish husband, Iain. It turned out that they had only listed as hosts the day before – we were their first guests. They were warm and welcoming, introducing us to their dog, Jack, a sweet Burmese Mountain Dog. The house, which they had restored from near ruin after the East German exodus in the 90s, was directly below Meißen’s imposing cathedral.

I noticed a model of a London police box. Being a geek, I said, “Hey, a TARDIS!” Iain politely explained that his father had been a police officer and had actually used those boxes, so it had nothing to do with Doctor Who.

The big place with the friendly chimney smoke is where we stayed.

After settling in Deb and I climbed up to the Dom, explored the grounds and the Markt, then found our real goal: craft beer and pretzels. Meißen is best known for its porcelain.

In the evening, our hosts invited us into their living room. We talked a lot about the fascinating history of the area, about German, and world politics, etc.

Distance: 83km

$52!

The Man in Room 3A

Day 7: April 25th, Dessau to Döbern, Germany

Not the only old gate we encountered in the middle of a forest.

Lots woodsy trails this day. A fair amount of light rain.

It was after 7pm when we stopped in the tiny village of Döbern. Our first choice was a room in a house that had an ad in our guide. It looked good, but nobody answered their buzzer, or their phone. The other place in town was a proper Gasthaus with a small bar and restaurant. The proprietress spoke no English. We were muddling along, but her nephew(?), a kid of about 10 years, showed up and did some quick translation that made everything clear.

There was something odd about the guy in the room next to ours. Our host let herself into his room and got him out when we started putting our bikes in the garage. Deb’s theory is that he was her husband. But why was he flaked out in room 3a? We found out later, I think.

He talked very loudly on the phone, with his TV volume also cranked, late into the evening. Then he went out. At 1:30am he crashed back home, apparently having some troubles with his balance. Of course he immediately put the TV on again.

I’m happy to report that I slept through all of this.

Deb didn’t.

It was a rougher morning than usual, though we did get a good breakfast. Our hostess remained in the room and watched us the entire time. We were (again) the only guests. Perhaps she was worried that we would duck out without paying.

Distance: 94km

$83

Bauhaus!

Day 6: April 24th, Magdeburg to Dessau-Roßlau

The weather forecast was too good. We stretched our tired limbs, bought coffee in the grocery store next to the hotel, and got on the path.

It was our sunniest and warmest day yet; a complete turnaround from the day before. We crossed the Elbe by ferry twice, chatting with a local on the first crossing as best we could with our small overlap of languages.

 

The blue ‘e’ is the symbol for the Elberadweg. We’re constantly watching for it.

Like Mecca for Design people.

Distance: 92km

$120

City of Tiles

Day 5: April 23rd, to Magdeburg, Germany

Our coldest and rainiest day yet. Most of the rain is pretty light, but it was windy, and at one point we were beside a canal with a strong headwind and we had to shelter under a bridge. It hailed again a couple of times: tiny bits of ice that sometimes ring my bike’s bell (which I find amusing) and other times sting my face (which I don’t).

The Elbe cycle route signage is usually fine. But on this day, several times, I cursed it heartily. Frequently stopping to check the map on my phone is a pain at the best of times.

Even so, there were sunny breaks, and places where the path was very pretty.

 

These critters were in an enclosure at the side of the road.

In Magdeburg, which is a relatively large city for the route, we stayed at a much more modern hotel (It had an elevator and took credit cards!). We got to park the bikes in a locked room in the basement and it had a Chinese noodle joint next door, where we got a huge takeaway dish, and a couple of beers.

While we ate we discussed the possibility of taking our first rest day, as that ride had left us exhausted.

Distance: 75km

$87

Elbelick

Day 4: April 22nd, to Jerichow, Germany

Mixed bag of weather again, but still a great day of riding.

At one point we must have rode past some “cycle path closed” signs (in German), because we ended up riding on dirt paths that were clearly not meant to be used. We got a little lost. Fortunately nothing was gated, and the App “HereWeGo” (like an offline Google Maps (thanks Kara!)) got us through.

The Elbe cycle route often has an option on both sides of the river. Some larger towns have bridges, a few have various kinds of small ferries. On this day, we’d decided to stay on the “north” side (it actually became more of the east side after Havelberg, which we rode through in the morning) all the way to Tangermünde, where there is a bridge. Unfortunately, when we finally got to the end of the weirdly empty construction zone, we discovered that we’d completely missed our chance to cross. And it was getting a bit late.

Deb checked the guide and found only a couple of pensions/rooms for rent within a reasonable riding distance. In the small town of Jerichow we hunted around and found a grocery store (yay) after passing a small inn that looked open.

With some supplies we went back and (as usual) disturbed the people who lived there and ran the place, We checked in to a nice clean, but cold room (rads had been off awhile). We were likely the only guests. It was a little like the Shining, except not so swanky, and with no elevators full of blood. In fact, no elevators at all. Riding up hills loaded with gear is nothing compared to lugging said gear up to the third floor of a building.

It did have a little shared kitchen, and we were able to have a hot meal.

Distance: 76km (I’m not writing approx anymore, it’s a given)

$: 96

Finally, Wi-Fi

Rides Days 1 to 3, April 19th-21st (see below)

I’m sitting at a desk in a hotel room in Magdeburg, Germany. It’s a budget hotel with not much of a view, but it has some things going for it:

  • a private wc and very hot water
  • good, big radiators for drying our sink-washed clothes
  • a noodle house next door where we purchased hot food and cold beer
  • an elevator (first one we’ve seen)
  • close to the elbaradweg (the Elba river cycle path we’re following to Prague)

It’s been 5 full days of riding, but before I write about the tour, I want to mention the most awesome thing we saw in Hamburg: Miniatur Wunderland. It’s not just model trains, although there are plenty of those scooting around, there are trucks, cars, even jets taking off and landing. The place is massive.

There are rooms and rooms of this stuff! Night falls, and you can see scenes inside the windows. I was in tiny heaven.

Now, about that ride.

Ride Day One: to Horst, Germany

On April 19th, we took our time getting loaded up, and chatting with our host, Christiane. Her English was better than our German, and we were able to have fun, fumbly conversations.

Deb and Christiane, our Airbnb host in Hamburg. Deb is wearing all her layers – it was only 7c when we left.

That day we rode to Horst, which you might have trouble finding on a map. It’s about 7 km before Boizenburg on the Elba. The path varied from city streets in Hamburg (dodging tourists), to nicely paved trails, to a pretty hilly stretch through some woods.

When it was getting close to sunset, we used the official elbaradweg guide (in German) to find a cheap place to stay. Camping was out. It was going to go down to -2c that night, and we don’t have the gear for that kind of cold. I think we surprised the family in Horst. They spoke some English, so we got things figured out. It was a private home with an upstairs loft and attic converted into a kitchen/lounge and rooms. We were the only guests. In fact, after reading the Gästebuch we determined that we were the first visitors of 2017, and the first non-Germans they’d ever had.

They had horses, a friendly barn cat, and an awesome labrador.

Having a kitchen and a big lounge was a treat. We were very, very glad we didn’t try camping.

Distance: 67 km (approx.)

$89

Ride Day Two: to Dömitz, Germany

A sunnier and slightly warmer day. The path was great; mostly paved paths on top of dikes next to the river that wound through green pastures.

We stopped in a larger town called Dömitz, bought supplies at a grocery store and checked into another Zimmer. Again, it was a room in a private home, though this one had an historical plaque (which we couldn’t read). Like in Host our room was the former attic: sloping ceilings and exposed wood beams. This time one of the other 3 rooms was occupied. In the morning we met the other couple. They were from Bonn, also doing the radweg, but traveling lighter and so doing more kms per day. Their English was very good, and over breakfast we talked about the route and our plans.

Distance: 71 km (approx)

$88

Ride Day Three: to Hinzdorf, Germany

Mostly dike riding again.

For part of this day, and most of the previous day, we were riding on what was the East German side of border between East and West Germany. The river Elbe served as the border here, and the green fields were once killing fields. Some watchtowers still stand, dark and creepy. Our Bonn friends said they were told some of the older people here still had an “East German mindset” – distrustful of foreigners. We haven’t experienced that yet.

We went just a little past Wittenberg, to a village called Hinzdorf. We surprised another Zimmer owner. This man spoke zero English, and, we gathered with our smattering of German that his wife was out and that she was the one who handled the room. Using Google Translate (how I love it), we told him we’d come back after eating at the local Pfankuchenhaus (basically, “pancake house”). It wasn’t an IHOP, but the portions were American sized. Deb’s was wrapped around a whole wheel of camembert.

Distance: 61 km (approx.)

$108

It’s getting late. If I’m going to ride tomorrow, I’ve got to go to bed. Hopefully we’ll hit another wifi hotspot soon.