Day 13: Meerane to Augustusburg, 66 km (850 km so far)
Serious mountain climbing today, the most significant so far. Add dirt tracks and the almost complete absence of bicycle signs and the day was a challenge. To be sure, there were signs for horses and walkers, but the only bicycle sign had been thrown down in frustration by some previous cyclist. The last 2 km up to Augustusburg went up and up and up. Perhaps it was the adrenalin, or the prospect of a beer at the end of it, but I rode the whole climb. Hotel Morgensonne and its lively septuagenarian owner were simply unique.
Day 12: Bad Köstritz to Meerane, 56 km
On the road again, on a relatively short ride as I crossed into the province of Saxony. I was now in countryside with a deep and somewhat radical religious history. In these parts, the ‘theologian of the revolution’, Thomas Müntzer, was active in the early 16th century, leading the Peasants Revolution. Of less interest to me, but far more to the German authorities, is the fact that Martin Luther spent much time in these parts in the 1500s. At every turn, it seemed as though he was following me – but then I realised that this year is the 500th anniversary from when he nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg and sparked the German Reformation (the Bohemian one, further to the east and under the inspiration of Jan Hus, had begun 100 years earlier). I stayed at another great (and cheap) place, Pension zum Bauernstübel, in Meerane.
Rest day in Bad Köstritz.
Two questions: what do you eat on a long bicycle tour through Germany? Massive country breakfasts, amazing German salads and solid dinners, anything you can get your hands on at lunch, and – at that crucial point in the afternoon when energy is waning – German küche. One is a meal normally, but at these times I could eat three or four. Oh yes, endless bananas.
And what do you do on a rest day … apart from rest? For me, a sublime pleasure is to clean the bicycle carefully, check it over and do any maintenance required. For this, the Brompton tool is magic.
Day 11: Kipperquelle to Bad Köstritz, 77 km
A day of long forest paths along streams, paved bicycle paths, fascinating communist era architecture, and cobbles, cobbles, cobbles … which the small wheels on the Brompton do not like so much. The day rolled by relatively quietly, with clouds billowing but the rain only coming in a late downpour. I stopped in the village of Bad Köstritz, which is also – I found out on a late evening walk – the home of Köstritzer beer. Pension Egerer was my home tonight, a quiet corner in which to have a rest day as well (see next post).
Day 10: Schwabhausen to Kipperquelle (Weimar), 67 km
A fascinating day’s ride, passing through one place of interest after another. Early on I realised I was in a village that claimed to be Bach’s stamping ground (although he was officially born in Eisenach, through which I had passed a day or two earlier). Of more interest was the village of Neudietendorf, established by the Moravian Brethren in the 1700s (my final destination was to be the spiritual home of the Moravians, where their refounder, Zinzendorf, did his thing). Not to be missed here was the prevalence of communist-era street names, still very much present today.
A gentler ride today, passing at the end through the intriguing town of Weimar and its celebration of the 100 years since the Russian Revolution. I stayed at the quiet Hotel Kipperquelle, devoted to all cyclists.
Day 9: Dankmarshausen to Schwabhausen (near Gotha), 84 km
This was a hard day’s ride, with much climbing, plenty of dirt tracks … and apples. Rain threatened all day, but stayed away. About half-way, I encountered what is now called the ‘Iron Curtain Trail’, which runs all the way from the top of Norway down to the Mediterranean. Some 6000 km in total, although I was touching on only a small part between West and East Germany, before the former colonised the latter. In these parts too you begin to encounter street names like Karl-Marx Strasse and Friedrich-Engels Strasse. And I passed through two significant towns: Erfurt was where the famous Erfurt Program was established by the powerful German-Democratic Party in 1891. Karl Kautsky’s commentary on the program formed the strategic basis for the Russian Revolution. And then there was Gotha, made famous by Marx’s late piece, ‘Critique of the Gotha Program’. I stayed in the Landgasthaus Schwabhausen, bright. airy and quiet.
Day 8: Oberaula to Dankmarshausen, 75 km
An early start today, with a relatively trouble-free ride. I passed into the fascinating province of Thuringia and so into the former DDR (East Germany). This is a much more interesting part of Europe. No wonder Thuringia has a long history of radical politics, since the parts through which I rode are old (and present) mining areas. And yes, the Germans even advertise beer gardens on bicycle routes. I stayed at the fabulous Hotel Waldschlösschen, arriving at 3pm.