Oder-Neisse-Bicycle Trail

15.7. - 20.7.2001

Copyright Spreeradweg 2001
Going to Promiseland

Last year when I finished my biketour with the section Zittau - Goerlitz I promised to myself to come back and take a picture of the Kloster Marienthal (it was raining that day). To my wife Heidi I promised a tour without hills. And to Terje, my internet fellow from Norway I promised... but let me tell more about it.

To Terje Melheim I am combined by an E-mail connection lasting from some years ago. We like to compare our adventures and experiences of bike-tours and -reports. Some weeks ago Terje has sent a message of the induction of the North-Sea-Cycle-Route, the longest signed bike path in the world (5000 km). This was at the island of Stord, where Terje and his family lives. Now they (Terje and his wife Turid) start to plan a bike tour in Eastern Germany. May be I wrote that at some time we nearly would meet at some place.

And the response of Terje:
...many thanks for the enjoyable message, that we will meet at the Oder-Neisse-Bikepath....We will ride at the 15. July along the Neisse towards Zittau...

So we can do nothing than to arrange the period of our holidays to this fixed date. It would be possible to buy a cheap ticket for DM 40.- as a weekend bargain, but then you can use only smaller trains and will have to change more than three times to get from Braunschweig to Zittau. I think it is better to roll a carpet in front of my wife and so buy a more expensive ticket and we have to change only once at Dresden.

So let us start and soon get part of the first adventure, this time not due to the Deutsche Bahn. A group of some vivid gentlemen who are up to do the Elbe-Bikepath enters the wrong (our) wagon number four, while the conductress outside cries "Wagon Number Two is here!!" The gentlemen don't bother and soon we have a nice tohuwabohu of wheels, handle bars and pieces of baggage in our compartment. As the train departs gradually the gentlemen recognize their lapse as they check their reservation tickets. But - not lazy - one after the other forces his load across two long wagons and when they have finished their work we nearly have arrived at Magdeburg.

We change at Dresden. The final rail route for some parts leads along the Spree and we have memories of our bike tour in the summer of 1998. We pass a village with the funny name Putzkau and just there we see the fist stork at a meadow. Be sure this will not be the last. Early in the afternoon we arrive at Zittau. Down from the railway station we roll to the Hotel Dreilaendereck where I had my accomodation last year and we have booked for one night this time. This hotel has a high standard and comfort and we are highly satisfied.

We soon go out for a walk around, mainly to look for a restaurant for the evening meal. But as well we have a look at the cassette ceiling of the Johanniskirche designed by the famous architect Schinkel during the 19th century. But around 5 pm we must rush back to the hotel to observe the end of the today's stage of the Tour de France. We see Jan Ulrich working hard behind Lance Armstrong.

For the evening meal we choose the Klosterstübl and enjoy Spanferkel (suckling pig) and Sachsenbräu. My mobile telephone (Handy) is placed on a chair aside. For usually my handy is switched off it is now nearly a shock as it suddenly starts to squeak. Which button is to push now? Ah, that with the phone symbol and now - yes put the stuff near the ear of course: "Hallo!"
"Hello this is Terje Melheim. We are at Marienthal already and spend the night here."
"And we are at Zittau."

Meanwhile I recognize Heidi laughing about my handy-confusion. Terje had sent a message before but I have no "mailbox" and do not know what that should be. But finally we arrange to meet each other anywhere within Marienthal and Zittau the next day.

At some time we have finished our dinner and do hard to overcome with the second beer. But let us say: the vacation time has begun. Another walk around is a must now and we observe the huge buildings of the Realgymnasium Johanneum. We wonder where the many pupils may come from. Nearby is an old Bath House of 1873 and this would be interesting inside as we suppose. Then we look for some scary spots where the atmosphere is not quite sterilized yet - and you can find a lot of those.

The Internet Rendezvous

We start the tour and are curious about what will follow. In front of the hotel we meet some Suisse hikers who want to walk to Dresden during the beginning week. We think to be somewhat more mobile if we go by bicycle. We run down to the river Mandau and soon hit the Neisse. We pass the border crossing to Poland and behind a sport park must ride on the side path of the Bundesstraße (National Road) B 96. In front there are the huge smokestacks of the power station at the town Trzcieniec (try to pronounce). At Hirschfelde we see the first Umgebindehäuser (typical half timbered houses of this area).

And just then a single biker with panniers comes by. "Hi, are you Terje?" we ask him. "Nu, I am from Görlitz" he answers in Saxonian dialect. He wants to go to Bavaria he says.

We can leave the Bundesstrasse and roll on a narrow path in the woods of the shore of the Neisse. Each biker from ahead is inspected thoroughly but none is the desired person especially if without baggage. And now we are quite near to the Kloster Marienthal already and begin to prepare ourselves for a possible meeting at the Kloster-tavern. But then behind a bend we hit on a bench, which is covered by odds and ends of a couple consuming its open-air-breakfast. "You are the Melheims!" we say "And you are the Martin Wittrams" they say and we heartily say welcome. "There is no beer around" Terje says, but this seems not to be a problem at this sunny morning. "This place was strategically advantageous" Turid says. Then we make some photos (they finally do not look so good due to the sun and shade). And then there is so much to talk about that after some time a full hour has gone. It seems that we have been known to each other since a long time (which is really true per E-mail).

Terje speaks a nearly native German for he has studied in Germany and now is a German teacher. He has written some nice tour reports in German. Turid speaks very good too and so we have no problems. We then say Good Bye and embrace each other - then we disappear around a corner. Heidi and I look at each other: "What a nice meeting!!" You can read about the tour of Turid and Terje at this url.

We now inspect the monastery and take a photography against the sun. We then sit down in the beer-garden, but no one comes up to get an order. So we stroll on to the town of Ostritz. We come to the market place with its green painted townhall. Some time later we end at the border crossing to Poland though we had not planned to go there. Soon we find the right path again and then come along a pool with some naked bathers. At a nearby gravel-pit I remember the old wooden stump which is said to stem from the ice age. It is still there among some building material. It feels lik a usual rotten piece of wood however.

The next section leads upon this peculiar construction to separate the waters of the river Neisse from the waters of the surface mining of the lignite. Therefore they have built a sealing wall 15 to 25 m deep. And the bike path is just above this all. When we reach a big park and various pools we are near Görlitz already. There is the great former railway bridge with its arcs from the 19th century. Just at the shore of the river there is a nice place worth to produce a panorama-photo.

And again we hit to the next border crossing. Many Germans come back with heavily loaden cars, on the other side many Polish people come from German shops vice versa. Some of them try to explain the right direction to us though we did not declare to them where we want to go. We want to go to the Obermarkt and the Tourist-Information. But this just has closed on the early Sunday afternoon. We go to the Hotel Goldener Engel which is booked in advance already.

You know our program of the afternoon? Sure: a walk around, watch the today's stage of the Tour, then go for dinner. At first we climb up to the Stadtkirche St. Peter und Paul. They are proud to have had enough sponsors to rebuild the pneumatic "Sonnenorgel" (Sun-Organ). We discuss if all this money should have been used for more reasonable intentions as restauration of rotten buildings etc. But especially in Görlitz they have done a lot for this purpose. At a corner near the church there is a demonstration of various techniques of half timber and roof constructions. At the opposite side of the Neisse there is the Polish part of Görlitz and this is named by an alert tongue Zgorzelec. To demonstrate a virtual bridge there is a work of art at each side of the river looking like oversized fish-weirs made of wooden sticks. I did not write something from the information sign then but found it in the internet: the work of art is named "Abwägender Beobachter" (perhaps: Hesitating Viewer) and is produced by the Italian artist Giuliano Mauri.

The next sensation is the "Flüsterbogen" (Whisper Arch) at the Untermarkt. Some are whispering already and another takes a photo. Unfortunately I cannot convince my wife for an experiment for she hesitates to play the fool.

You must know, that Görlitz is declared to be a "World Culture Heritage" and therefor it is impossible to describe all the historical houses and places. We have a look at the Karstadt Department Store which was built in 1912-13 and is completely preserved in it's Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) mode. Unfortunately it is closed today on Sunday so we must be content with impressions of some  postcards. The shopping mall lines up to the railway station. Some shopping centers are brand new and look like American (Mc Donald is everywhere...). On the other side however there is a rotten Hotel and if you meditate about its history you may get goose bumps. The curtains look as if they are from before the war. Another such arrangement is Hotel Monopol of which I have a photo. We like these scary relicts however as mentioned before.

The evening-dinner is wonderful with Eibauer- and Landskron-Beer, fried sausage and "firemeat" in the open air of the Obermarkt in front of the "Schwibbogen". Unfortunately it does not stay to be a nice summer evening as the winds push an empty tin noisily across the total Obermarkt. As the innkeepers are forced to save their sunshades we resign too.

Day of Drizzle

From this day we will learn once again, that during a bike tour high and low moments are near together. This morning we start with a steady drizzle and we are somewhat out of humour. We are stupid enough not to put on the rain gear so we soon recognize, that drizzling makes wet too. We stay to the main road, for the signed Neisse path runs up a hill and then will lead back to our road anyway. And for a rest the bus cabins along the road are very useful today.

We come to the village Rotenburg with a locked road for there is a building site. May be it would have been better to try a break thru, for the detour leads to hamlets named: Dunkelhäuser, Neusorge, Spreeaufwurf or Ungünst. The road is tarmac first, then gravel, then sand and then sand and occasional pools. Always along the military training area Muskauer Heide. "No admit, danger to life, possible land mines". A cheer to the peace of the world! Gradually we have lost the orientation on the map. After some muddy riding we reach the road again at Steinbach. And the signs of the Neisse path reappear. And this time these signs lead deep into the woods as if one would go out for mushrooms. We turn back to the road.

Suddenly Heidi jubilates: "Black storks out there!" Nearly 20. But they are not black but grey and not storks but possibly cranes. This is likely for they have little bonnets on their head. Moreover we have passed an ostrich farm just before. So we have a good temper for some time, but not for long.

We ride on the main road with few traffic but the car drivers seem to be in a hurry. Heidi shouts "Do not ride so far from the side" though this is often discussed by bikers concerning the emanzipation against the motorized road users. And then we hear a squeaking noise from behind, someone performs a full break application. Apparently with success for we are still alife. But suddenly the same noise from the opposite direction. This time someone was too slow for the following racers. You need some time to get these things out of your mind.

At the village Pechern we can leave the road and ride traffic-free again. The half timbered church of Pechern is the first worth of a photo this day. The next is a veteran railway bridge which is thorougly barricaded against illegal immigrants. The rest of this section to Bad Muskau leads on the top of the dike and offers nice views to the fields and meadows.

At Badd Muskau there is a border crossing again and a dense traffic. Moreover a construction site gives rise to a complete confusion. We ask a gentleman for the tourist information and he rides with his bike in front of us until we are nearly there. After some discussions with the lady at the tourist bureau we agree to prefer an accomodation where it is silent and no roaring traffic beneath the windows. And there is one: the former manor house of the Fürst Pückler Park, today named Moorbad. And this is not the cheapest accomodation, but after such a nasty day this should be convenient. But despite the high price you must await that the floor planks will crunch.

The Moorbad seems to be a mixture of a sanatorium, hotel and senior's home. It is located amidst the Fürst Pückler Park with very old trees, the Old and the New Castle. They hammer and carpenter all around and during the night we will hear a small rockslide coming down from the Old Castle.

For dinner we choose the Chinese "Hau Hau", there are no other proper restaurant at this town. With Chop-Suey, Szechuan and Patzenhofer some of our animal spirits regenerate.

The Big Rain

Together with some older ladies a table apart we have our breakfast buffet. The ladies are eagerly involved into a discussion of home made meals. As the ladies change to another room to begin their patience games we start our today's stage. First a honorary round in the park to see the Orangery and the Tropical House. But as we climb up a steep ramp out of the park it starts to rain. This time immediately we disguise into our rain coats. We meet another biker couple, they look like some aliens as well.

Curious that we feel fine. May be there is an idea to think about: better to be as healthy to ride through some landscape in the rain than to sit in such a senior's home and to play patience games. Nevertheless it is a pity that it rains for the landscape is wonderful. We pass forests and meadows, have optimal tarmac paths and all is traffic free. Now and then we find a hiker's shelter to let run the waterdrops down from us. We pass some hamlets with funny names: Klein and Groß Bademeusel but there is nothing to be seen.

We come to the town of Forst, there is  a Ostdeutscher Rosengarten, but may be the roses also are not so happy today. The path on top of the dike of the Neisse leads straight on but misses the center of Forst. So we realize that the occasion for a warm up has come that we had to return. So we soon leave the bike path and in the next village Naundorf we find the Bauernstuben. Something to eat and to drink, change some clothes and a look out of the window as the raindrops batter in the big puddles on the road. The innkeeper tells us this and that about tourism and cycling. May be you are interested in the Schlaubetal? This is said to be an Eldorado for hikers and bikers.

As we enter the outer world again the rain has stopped. And now we can really enjoy the nice path, the landscape and soon I can shoot a nice picture of the river. At the west side of us there are vast areas of lignite mines again. A village on a hill named Horno is nibbled from all around. We roll on the trail of a former railway and soon pass the power station Griessen. Then we see something like a church in front. But as we approach it turns to be the setups of a silo. We have a rest at Schlagsdorf. There are the remainings of a former bridge again. At a table leg of a resttable we observe crowds of red beetles.

Finally we end at Guben for today. As we just stand in front of the border crossing we decide to go for a shopping expedition. And 20 minutes later we are back again after four times passport check and face control (cigarettes are 4 times cheaper in Poland).

No problems to find an accomodation at the Pension zur Neisse. This is in the Alte Poststrasse and there you find the relics of the former textile industry. These are mighty factory buildings and beneath those some rotten mansions of the old early owners. It must be impossible today to spend all the money for restauration, and the other problem is how to utilize these villas. No one would live amidst of unused factory buildings. During the time of prosperity the factory owner properly entered his balcony and said: "This is all of my own!".

That you know what was produced in Guben there is a saying in German:

"Gubener Tuche, Gubener Hüte - weltbekannt für ihre Güte".

And translated (Alta Vista):

Cloth from Guben, hats from Guben  -
world well-known for their quality.

The owner of our pension tells, that past the "Wende" dubious intrigues had taken place and lots of subventions flowed into dark channels until the industry was ruined. In spite of that a lot of Art Nouveau houses in Guben are restaurated properly.

We have dinner at the Restaurant Stadt-Cafe (bei Karin) and we are very content with the service.

From Neisse to Oder

Not far from Guben at Ratzdorf the Neisse flows into the Oder. Ratzdorf is well known during high water periods. There is a nice rest place at the shore. We meet another biker couple, they have installed a radio on one of the handlebars and Polish news are just announced. But not to disturb the silence of this place they immediately switch off the mobile radio.

The following section leads along the dike. If you want to have a view to the river you must climb the dike. On the left side you see the Kloster Neuzell, which may be worth a detour. Then we reach Eisenhüttenstadt. The name of this town sounds like concentrated steel industry. This may be true, but as we cross the bridge of the Oder-Spree-Kanal there is a picturesque view to the church and surrounding houses. Moreover this scene is choosen for the title of our bikeline brochure.

We now find out, that the consequences of the flood 1997 were to renew the dikes. With this work they have created an asphalt path on the top of the dike. In earlier times there was probably a concrete path aside the dike. On the landside there are lowland forests, but dry now. May be that there are mechanisms to flood these forests during highwater periods.

We pass a former power station and then have a rest at an idyllic place at Aurith. At the opposite shore you can watch a Polish angler. This nice section of the bikepath ends at Brieskow-Finkenherd. There is a big building site and the next 3 km are a struggle with the dense traffic on the B 112. At Lossow we can leave the Bundesstr. again. At a rotten church we have a rest, the ruins remind to the famous ruin of Eldena at Greifswald. Finally follows the only downhill of this tour, as is the step of the Lossower Berge until we reach Frankfurt/Oder.

The tourist information is at the Karl-Marx-Strasse and we are immediately booked at the Hotel Gallus. We have to walk uphill for a while but at some distance behind the railway station we find a properly restaurated Art Nouveau villa, marble floors and gypsum moulded ceilings (Stuck). The windows are isolated against the noise from the street. The clerk is very helpful and interested in our tour. He suggests to choose a path through the swamp meadows of the Oder for the next day.

Another tip: instead of the city of Frankfurt we should go to the district named Altberesinchen which would be more oldfashioned and original. After we are fresh again we start to enter this Altberesinchen. May be we have no phantasy or are blind or run along at the wrong streets - we don't feel that romantic flavour and moreover find no proper restaurant for the dinner. So we turn downtown, buy a cheap map of the Oderbruch for tomorrow and end at the Greek restaurant Olympia in front of the Marienkirche beneath a sun shelter.

Chapter two: Frankfurt/Od. - Ueckermuende
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