Section 3: Klötze - Salzwedel, 3.8.97, 83 km

Since our last tour at the Altmark some months have gone. But once there is a day suitable for a continuation. Heidi will come with me and I prepare the tour by looking at the timetables again, a railcar runs every two hours from Salzwedel to Kloetze. At this Sunday we start early and arrive at Kloetze around 9 am. We park the car near the church so we are sure to find it in the evening. Five minutes later we are on our bikes.

The cycle trail winds its way through the southern forests of Kloetze. Once again a 100 m giant - the Loofberg - is to be surpassed. Moreover the path changes from smooth gravel to rough cobblestones. So we have to walk for a while and I fear to loose my face caused by this unqualified start. "I have expected this" Heidi says. I can only state that the earlier experiences have been better. But soon we get better conditions, we roll downhill and from time to time study a sign about the forest die-back (Waldsterben) and what to do against it. A bunch of jaybirds (Eichelhäher) high above cries out a protest clamour against us invaders. So they seem to feel fine in this forest and so do we. At the end of the forest we reach the rural village Quarnebeck.

We now roll on a brand new asphalt road, we are the only users this morning. Aside the road they hav planted small trees, may be to add this road to the Deutsche Alleenstrasse - system. Unfortunately the most of the little trees have been dried out during the summer. We have a nice view over a wide field of sunflowers. We pass the small village Koeckte, we detect some old DDR-inscriptions at the houses.

And then we reach the Droemling, a swamp and wet area, the land of the 1000 ditches. In between a lot of pasture land. At first we absolve the stork obligation and count to 4 as we look at the sky. Then we cycle along a nice ditch, then straight ahead, the canal is called Kunrauer Vorflut. Behind a hedge we see two herons, they seem to have a happy life for the waters foam of jumping fishes.

At our first rest at Kunrau we have absolved 25 km already. We suppose to be amidst of a large park, and this is correct, there are very old trees. We choose a bench under an old oak-tree with knobbed knurls. The bench is not quite complete however, some planks are missing and it feels like sitting on a "Donnerbalken" (Thunderbeam, a toilette). In return there is a nice little castle, built about 1860 in Italian renaissance style. The facade is restaurated already, so this little castle will not end in decay. We consume our sandwiches and moreover observe a grandma, while she instructs her grandson how to climb up a tree.

We return to the fields and forests. We meet some cyclists with plastic bags, and as usual we fall into the "Pilzblick" (gaze for mushrooms). But then a steep descent from the forest to the village Mellin follows. We cross the B248 and then climb up a steep path again, paved by field stones (like the driveway of my garage at home). We stop at a bench for a rest. Down in the grass we see lots of white-brown pieces and as we look more carefully we detect those to be rests of boletus (Steinpilz). Moreover we find the stumps where the former mushrooms have been cut off. Afterwards Heidi says that there were 40 stumps, but us usual let us divide this number by two. But in reality we find two forgotten boletus. And now another statement (don't divide this time): "Since 30 years I never found such a showpiece". I once saw a man in the Weserbergland (Weser mountains) who had found a boletus which had to be carried with both arms. This time the mushrooms vanish in a undershirt and in the rainhat to prevent too much destruction during the further rumbling.

Of course we now even more suffer from the mushroom-glance which is not as bad as long we have to push the bikes up the path. But there is no more "showpiece" at the banks. Back in the forest we have to be cautious to curve between potholes and puddles. Too much attention for the forest ground will implicate a sudden jerk and eventually wet feet. So we don't oversee some dung beetles (already known from the last section).

The forest is very nice, there are some romantic meadows, a paradise for the deer an its hunters. We pass some remote houses, this settlement is called Neuenstall. When the path forks we choose the better pavement but obviously leave the bike path and end at the road. We look at the sun and head north. Let us talk about the strange orientation of the maps of the brochure. On these maps the north arrow respectively shows to a different direction, because the maps are printed with the main direction at the top. In the moment we have an arrow to the lower left. So let us mix up left and right, top and bottom, west and east, north and south. Eventually we end at the church of the next village and hit the bike path again.

From now on this is less complicated along the road. The reason is the open-air museum between Molmke and Diesdorf. It is to be read that his was created since 1911and so is one of the oldest in Germany. Across the fence we observe a brand new windmill. But we resign to visit the place for I have to do some calculations in my brain.

We have to ride about 80 km today, if we succeed to master this distance. At Driesdorf we will have absolved half of the stretch. We have spent 3 hours and have 12 am. The train at Salzwedel will leave at 5.26 pm. So we have more than 5 hours yet and this should be sufficient. The only alternative would be to return 30 km to Klötze, this will be impossible furtheron due to the lack of proper roads.

We decide to continue and stop for a coffee at Diesdorf. There is a monastery, a Romanic church, a new paved market place, a construction site and a difficult traffic diversion. It is possible to push the bikes through and then we roll on the brand new asphalt and are unfaithful to our bike trail. At the village Dähre we return. We pass the church of field stones and a free standing bell tower from the 12 th century. Let us change the brochure-map, the north arrow now points to the lower right, let us say ESE. On the map we head SSW which is ENE in reality. Easy to understand. Heidi wonders about the changing and sometimes even increasing km-ranges at the traffic signs.

Very pleasant is the tail wind so we make good progress. At the village Tylsen we stop for a moment. There is an old castle which we see at some distance. We have a photo of an old house, the only inhabitant seems to be a cat. But alltogether is under inheritage protection. As we approach Salzwedel I have another problem in my mind. We have Sunday today and I cannot remember if I had taken weekend conditions into acccount when I looked for the timetables. So I make alternative plans if the train will not go. I could ride back to Klötze (35 km) and get the car - 3 hours are to be calculated for this action. What should my wife do during this time at Salzwedel? Or we could take a taxi, costs about DM 50.-, then we would have to return to Salzwedel and get the bikes, we would have been at home at 10 pm. I get headache of all those calculations.

Nevertheless this last stretch of today's section is very nice. Eventually the skyline of Salzwedel comes up. We have 4 pm, much time yet if the train will really go. We just hit on a rail track at the outskirts of the town, then along an alley to the back regions of the castell and finally amidst pretty half timbered houses. We have done it.

Let us look for the railway station first to verify our further fate. We ask the clerk of a Turk restaurant and he suggests various directions. So we end at a former station, the rails are covered by grass and young birch trees - there will go nothing. At the other side of the river Jeetzel we observe some white-ret gates, and as we get there the railway station Salzwedel Altstadt is just aside. It is 100 m afar from our arrival point. A glance at the timetable, and -- a sigh of relief: the train goes daily.

So we have one hour to stroll around. We enter the Mönchskirche. As we are still at the entrance a friendly gentleman asks us to share a guided group. He just tells the usual story: during restauration activities they have detected ancient frescoes under the newer paintings and plasters. "May be he awaits a fee" my wife whispers into my ear, so we stroll along for our own and soon return to our bikes. We consume the last sandwich - one half everyone, and then gradually approach to the railway station.

Five minutes before departure the ticket office is opened and the employee has to perform a telephone call first. Then the bureaucratic performance begins. The tickets are quickly purchased but the bikes must be registered twice, a sticker is to be filled out, signed and stamped. We resign to purchase a transport insurance this time. The lady after us books a journey to Oebisfelde (50 km from here). The employee has just finished her responsible work, then she is obliged to handle the signal, to operate the barriers, to whistle at the platform and then to await the double railcar. We enter the compartment and are the only passengers.

We finally swing back and watch some storks and deers from the railway seat. We find our car and are back at home at about 8 pm. Heidi states, that she will be part of the team at future activities. This is nice to be heard.

Chapter 4
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