Gone Bike About

Berlinwall

Rügen – Stralsund – Berlin – Dresden – Nürnburg – Augsburg

 

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.

Rügen 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 beach.

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Strand baskets, Seebad Binz
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Prora holiday resort

Between 1936 and 

1939 the Nazi Regime built a massive holiday resort in

Prora 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.

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5 km long resort from the Nazi regime, Prora

Frequent readers 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!

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Oops!
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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

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Seaside resort of Sellin
Old town, Sassnitz
The chalk cliffs, Sassnitz
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The Kruzenshtern

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.

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Kipper sandwiches sold from the boat
Strand baskets, Sellin
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Nail-biting moment…

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.

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Camping in the forest, Rügen Island
Hiddensee Island
Thatched houses, Rügen Island
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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!

Stralsund has a very pretty old town, but what sets it apart is its award-winning Ozeanum 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.

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The townhall, Stralsund
The Ozeanum Museum, Stralsund
European museum of the year, 2010
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A perfect place for a dip

From there, 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 every day. Campgrounds were reasonably priced at between 10 and 16€ per night for a tent and 2 adults.

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Idyllic campgrounds
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Grub up!

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.

Maybe not!

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 cow lanes, patchwork tarmac and sometimes even beautiful sealed runways.

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Cross-country bike trails
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Too steep to cycle!

Road signs 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?

North of Berlin we came across another stark reminder of past misguided politics. The 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.

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The Uckermark concentration camp
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Otters crossing the road!

Motorists (and cyclists) are warned of the otterscrossing the road from 9pm to 6am. Needless to say, in Germany the jokes aren’t about why the chicken crossed the road…

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.

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Racoon ready for a feast
Wild piglet
Storks
Neu-Brandenburg gate
Neu-Brandenburg gate
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Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

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.

Checkpoint Charlie
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Checkpoint Charlie
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.
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A break from the heat
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Marx and Engels & Berlin tower
Mobile grill
International clock meeting point
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Tapas, sushi, Chinese - Berlin has it all!
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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 slideshow

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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 building company.
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Mosquito, the builder
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On the subject of signs, how about this for a welcome sign on your gate?

Here we:

– don’t want to buy anything

– don’t want to donate anything-

– don’t want to change our religion

– we are insured

– and our bills are paid.

So: Goodbye!

Meissen, 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.
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Meissen
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The Zwinger, Dresden
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 procession.
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The Procession of Princes
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Land mine-free museum
It was comforting to know that this museum got the all-clear as far as land mines are concerned!
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Following the 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.
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Sächsische Schweiz National Park
The Elbe bicycle path near Königstein
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Sächsische Schweiz NP on the River Elbe
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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!

Free view
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30 cents worth!
One up, one down tandem
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Interesting placenames out there!

Nürnberg 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.

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Nürnberg castle

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
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Roofscape, 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.
The Limes
Morning break
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Rain in Öttingen, Bavaria
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The Mozart bicycle trail
Mozart’s father 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?

Augsburg 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.

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The Town Hall Square, Augsburg
Merkur fountain, Augsburg
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Golden Room, Town Hall, Augsburg
Jakob Fugger was responsible for setting up the first ever social housing development in 1521.
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The Fuggerei social housing development
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.
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The 3 wise men called to this house
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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.
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The German flag