Apologies for the long silence- I have been biking for five days now, and time for writing has been sparse. By the time I finish my 60 miles or so, there is a pyramid of needs: food, shower and coordinating my next stop. Thus, progress on analytical posts has been slow, but steady.
But worry not, I had fruitful discussions with experts in both Berlin and Dresden, and there will be two posts on the nuances of Germany’s approach to migration forthcoming – I promise
In the meantime, I wanted to give you an overview of the biking in Germany. Experienced as I am, this tour humbled me a little. Turns out, I don’t know the biking routes in Germany as well, and had a few bike fit mishaps, which caused pain and delay.
But all in all, it has been well worth it: once I reached the Elbe river, the closer to the Czech border I got, the more stunning the views became. The area is known as the Little Switzerland of Sachsen.
First, a little on the challenge of getting to the Elbe river. Once on the river, I knew I would be able to follow a well traversed and well demarcated bike path, which follows the river. So the challenge was how to get there. I chose to bike to Torgau, a beautiful medieval town that was the most direct path to the river.
Having biked from Amsterdam to Berlin two years ago, I was confident, I knew cycling in Germany: In the north, it’s cycling heaven: all streets are lined with bike paths, which are separated by a green strip, and every intersection has two directional signs, one for cars and one for bikes. The bike ones help cyclists find less traffic heavy, more scenic routes to the same destination. So, I presumed, one country, one biking standard. I had maps and a general sense that with the proper villages and cities lined up, I will find the bike paths with ease.
I happily left Berlin, snapping pictures of all the beautiful street art, and pedaling on towards the Mauerweg. The Mauerweg is the bike path that lines the path of the former wall- you can bike or walk the entire length of it. I make a point of biking part of it every time I am in Berlin. It never fails to move me. Along the way, there are memorials of those, who died, trying to cross East to West. I stop at each one and read their life story. From the Mauerweg, I quickly got to the crossing demarcating the former border of the East and West Germany.
:From then on, I happily pedaled through fields of corns and grains and into forests- just to have quite a surprise. Turns out, the south’s bike infrastructure is not quite as developed. There are still separated bike lanes along most routes, but they can also disappear. So it happened quite easily that I ended up on traffic heavy streets. In the attempt of getting off a narrow well traversed route with no shoulder, I turned to google cycling directions and ended up on a dirt path:
Turns out that google and I disagree on the standards of a bike path. Thus ensued one hour through roads that I swear only hunting folks use. Well, who says that you can’t ride a carbon road bike off-road? (Apart from any mechanic tending to my bike, and my unhappy seat bones, of course).
But those surprises aside, I finally did make it to Torgau. The ride there took me through beautiful corn fields, forests, and fields of sunflowers. Torgau itself is endearing: The charm of medieval towns never fails to move me, and I had the luck of staying in an ancient house too. Below some pictures of medieval buildings along the way.
Once on the Elbe river, it was a joy to make my way towards Dresden- the path is mostly well paved with occasional cobble stone around ancient towns. The ride would have been perfect, besides thunderstorms: At least half of my day was spend pedaling through the rain. Despite rain gear, my speed and my excitement markedly declined with the constant drizzle and spontaneous downpour. But at least there were sunflower fields to make me happy. And even that misery was temporary: after a long lunch break at a German Inn right at the river (the Matjes fillets, potatoes, and German strudel hit the spot), finally the sun! That made pedaling to Dresden past many beautiful sights and adorable animals.
Dresden was a welcome stop- I ended up staying longer than planned because of two reasons: an unfortunate stomach bug, and very sore seat bones. The latter was a cause of panic: experienced as I was, I never had that problem, and knew that the new saddle was to blame. But what to do? Buying a new saddle mid-tour is a risk, continuing was impossible. A conundrum.
So who to ask, when in need of expert opinion? Bike messengers! Luckily, I passed a bike messenger company, and they immediately send me to the right bike store in town. With much luck, I found Meissner Raeder. They listened to my touchy situation with care, and immediately brought out a plastic statue of the pelvic to show me exactly which pain can be caused by what saddle misfit. I would love to nerd out about what I learned through this lecture, but I presume bike design is not the interest of my readers. Suffice to say, for now, my tour and seat bones were temporarily saved by a new saddle designed by German doctors - German science and engineering combined.
The upside of an extra day resting meant, I got to see Dresden by night. It is truly the most beautiful town I visited at night. I ate dinner near the Frauenkirche, where two opera singing street artists brought tears to my eyes with the beauty of their voice. Everything happens for a reason, even the pains and delays.
The next day cycling brought me through gorgeous German little towns, like Pirna, and others, and the joy of taking little ferries across the river to see the towns and different views.
Approaching the Czech border was just breathtakingly beautiful. Mountains lining the river, ancient stone walls, dense forests and air smelling both crisp of the river and of pines. I highly recommend anyone to visit this area. Word of mouth is that it is hiking and rock climbing heaven. To date, this was the most picturesque part of the tour, and arriving to the Czech Republic only brought smiles.