A pause in riding for a week or more, before the last burst. Were the three days to come a footnote to the summer? Or were they an anticipation of next year? I had been studying the D11 Radweg, a ride – from Rostock on the Baltic coast to the Austrian border – that covers some 1600 kilometres. Much of it goes through the eastern parts of Germany, so it has a natural attraction for me.
We were in Halle, on the Saale River. The D11 ran right through the town, so it was too good an opportunity to miss. We were staying in the Neustadt part of town, in a hotel that had originally been built during the DDR era and had recently been refurbished. A grand building it was, retaining the feel of the effort to create a new sense of space under socialism. Indeed, nearly all the buildings around about had also been constructed at the same time.
Much of the town had been destroyed towards the end of the Second World War, as the Red Army came through and was routing the last of the Wehrmacht. Soon after and under Stalin’s leadership and inspiration, the Red Army would defeat Hitler and bring an end to the war.
In places like Halle, they had to start almost from scratch, building modern apartments for workers in the new society. Streetscapes, open spaces, vistas from the nearby farmlands – all of these indicated a distinct effort to produce space anew. Since 1989, they had been ignored and became dilapidated, but in the last few years people had realised how well-built they really were. So some renovation is underway, albeit too little in light of the grim economic situation in the east.
More recently still, the German government has been housing the millions of refugees from Africa and the Middle East in such places. The risk of ghettoes is great, even though the people hereabouts do their best to make a home and create work.
I would see many other parts in my rides out of Halle and back again. On this day, I rode north after negotiating traffic work. Along the Saale I rode, longing to be out of the built-up areas. Eventually I was out in the fields, riding past a mother with a baby in a trailer, and an older woman who seemed to be the grandmother. Slowly they rode, until it was time to feed the baby. I wondered at the story behind these three generations, clearly touring some distance with a small baby.
Too soon did I have to turn back, at the ferry crossing to Brachwitz. Back along the same route, but with a last detour through one of the campuses of the university – also built during DDR times.