Oder-Neisse-Bicycle Trail
15.7. - 20.7.2001

"Königsetappe" Oderbruch

After a good breakfast in the honorable dining hall of the hotel we start early with "Kaiserwetter" (deep blue sky). We are very curious on the next section through the swamp meadows. Otherwise we had to ride 8 km on the National Road. We stay to the shore of the Oder until the dike ends. This is because a hill on the left side builds a natural dam. The meadows in between are the swamp meadows where no one can stay during high water periods. So the path fades away more and more. Once we have to pass a narrow bridge through the reed and a fence and immediately are part of a flock of sheep. Heidi can just bear this, if there would have been cows we would have had a problem...

We are lost now between old creeks or bayous mostly named "Alte Oder". But to the left there is a ford where one can ballance over to secure regions. This is a white sand dune where one climbs up the hill. And then we end at the National Road. But some time later one can turn right again. We run down to the bottom but to enter the village Lebus we have to climb the hill for another time. But to come to the banks of the Oder we run down for a last time. At the parking site there is a vehicle of the Border Police and a female officer with a collegue watch over the frontier (this must be enjoyable at this sunny day).

Heidi discovers a bench nearby and immediately starts to go there the direct route just across some grassland while I turn to the paved path. And there it is: A cry in the air and a somewhat of brown legs, pink panniers and the bicycle inbetween roll on the floor (- not laughing). "Did you hurt yourself ?" the female officer shouts and jumps out of their vehicle. Meanwhile I myself have reached the site of the scene. Things are OK. Heidi has overseen a nearly invisible electric fence which apruptly stopped her pace. "They should have marked this fence more thoroughly" she says. And I: "But they could not expect that someone will cycle here".

So there is something to laugh about for some while. We continue on the dike. To the left some wooded hills, which are not yet the notorious Seelower Höhen (the last senseless big battle in World War II). The hills behind bright yellow fields of sunflowers are called Reitweiner Sporn. And as we are stopped to continue on the dike due to a building site we soon find ourselves at the village Reitwein. There is just now the shopping hour. This means that there are three vans representing a baker, a butcher and a greengrocer. So we can recruit our supplies and have a chat with the local ladies of the village. We hear various suggestions concerning the further route so we are glad to be owner of a proper road map which we have bought yesterday. The booklet of the Oder-Bike-Path is not so practical to find side steps.

We ride through the center of the Oderbruch up to Kienitz at the banks of the Oder again. We are early in the afternoon and will try to reach Hohenwutzen this day. But soon we have some trouble with the building workers again. "Can't you read?" and so on while we scramble around heavy excavators and caterpillars. At the top of the dike one can continue on a grass path to the village named Güstebieser Loose. If you ask the workers for the situation ahead you get various answers or none, for the workers are no locals, live in their containers and are familiar to the landscape just as far as they can view.

We must trust to our map again until we meet the signs for the replacement route. Now we are zigzagging around and in consequence reach hamlets like Zäckericker Loose or Neuküstrinchen. We have made nearly 100 kms now and Heidi has some pains with her leg, perhaps caused by the downfall this morning. But soon we spot the houses of Alt- and Neuglietzen ahead, slide along a sandy path, ask some locals for the hotel and at last reach the Hotel Zur Fährbühne at Hohenwutzen. And this is enough for today.

Another couple is just checking in and we get the second chamber. Later we are informed, that if a bus comes along it can be difficult to get an accomodation if not booked in advance. If someone has more energy than we today he can cross over a bridge to Poland and visit a picturesque market. At the shore of the Oder you can read a signpost concerning the big "century-flood" in 1997. The probability that the dikes will hold was only 10% at those days. But they succeeded.

(While I write about this the next "century-flood" has come up at the Weichsel and parts of it at the Oder. We are happy not to be at the swamp meadows at Frankfurt/Od. just now.)

Our energies range to a Vratislavo (a beer from the Czech Republic), a steak and fried trout. The other couple at the next table meanwhile eagerly inspects some plants by magnifying glass and tweezers. I am obliged to avoid to look at my wife for she is threatened to get an attack of laughter again.

From Brandenburg to Mecklenburg

We have got the information that there are no further building activities from now on. The next town is Hohensaaten and we meet the Hohensaater Friedrichsthaler Wasserstrasse - a canal. We ride along pinewoods in the lowlands at the top of the dike - cycling at its best. We watch for an eagle but must be content with stork, heron and cormorant. Sometimes we observe a sleepy village at the Polish banks. One is named Bielinek which is funny for me for I was born at Barlinek (Berlinchen).

At Stolzenhagen we have a rest at a bridge. Another biker couple comes along, sweating. They start their trips from their camping van and are quite enthusiastic about the landscape. They have watched a black stork some days ago, as they tell. We pay back with the cranes. Some time later at Stolpe there is an old tower of a former fortification with walls of 5 m thickness. We gradually approach Schwedt. We know this town already so we directly head to the tourist information with the attempt to book an accomodation in advance.

The employe just phones with someone discussing some things concerning a "rent a car"-problem. But then he says "I must earn my money now" and then we can get his attention. We buy the Freizeitkarte Ückermark (activity map). The accomodation for this day is planned to be at Penkuhn, a village amidst of some lakes. "But that is at Mecklenburg already, they speak another language there and the people wonder at the streets when a stranger comes along". This is somewhat new for us. Anyhow he calls to the tourist bureau at Penkuhn and a lady says that there will be no problems to get a room.

We continue and I will tell another story. At the dike there are numerous holes and small ditches marked by tapes in red and white. From our garden we know there may be a problem with the voles or muskrats. May be the people investigate the damage that those animals cause to the dike. Some time later we meet a van signed as "Kampfmittel Beseitigungsdienst" (explosive weapons removal service). "If this would be made by animals you could forget about the dike" the men say. They are looking for old iron relicts from the war. But why? We won't ask as not to appear too curious. The matter gets its pepper as our daughter calls us this very evening and tells that the appletree in our garden has fallen down caused by the voles.

We are still at the Oder, correctly the Schwedter Querfahrt as it is named here. Then we cross the Teerofenbrücke and pass the Gartzer Bürgerheide to end at the dike of the western Oder again. At a nice place we have rest and twinkle to the surface of the water. We then reach Gartz and wonder about the lots of busses. But soon we find out: there are toll-free tours to Poland, for this is not a member of the European Market yet. The German term for these trips is Butterfahrt.

There is not much to be seen at Gartz, a church, where parts of the nave are missing. Some time later the path is closed by a tape: building site. This time we don't bother and dare to continue into a damp forrest. They rebuild the bike path which is brand new paved. Finally we hit on the workers. But these are very friendly and help us to pass by. We have a chat. "Hundreds of cyclists come along each day" they say. As we continue we realize lots of midges.

The last village at the Oder is Mescherin. Many people rush around due to the toll free Butterfahrten. One can go by ship to Stettin or only cross the Oder to Gryfino (Greifenhagen). Everything is controlled by the custom officers. One of those is just checking the leaves that outgrow the fence of the custom's pier. Thereafter he returns on his boat and watches over the Oder.

We say farewell to the Oder and this means it will be somewhat more hilly from now on. This is due to the ice age which had not generated streamways only but up to 50m high moraines and sediments as well. We first use the B 113 to detour a building site (at Staffelde, once again...). But then we can turn to a promising alley. The path is sand and gravel however, but in spite of that Heidi increases the pace. This is caused by lots of flies and gnats (midges). In consequence the chain of her bike jumps off the chain ring. We are happy to reach a ordinary road again at Tantow. But there we have a rough cobbled pavement - so we cannot enjoy the last section of today's stage.

Finally we find a brand new paved side road and along some gravel pits reach our destination Penkuhn. We look around and find out that the tourist bureau is closed meanwhile. We enter the market place and ask an old lady who sits on a chair in the sun in front of her house. "Is there any Hotel or Pension to get an accomodation?" "Ham wa nich" (we have none - slang). We look curious and now try to surround the church. This is impossible because the half of the village streets are torn open. Besides a heap of clay we discover: Gasthaus zur Linde and  Zimmer frei.

The walk around leads as usual into the church. There is nothing to be seen except some photographies of the churches of the neighbour villages. Then there is a castle where they try to perform some restauration works. And many parts of the village are under construction, so some months later one may stroll more convenient here. The attraction of our dinner (game dish) is, that we can observe a stork which stands around somewhat messily in his as well messy nest. The landlord explains: "There is a colony of crows nearby and the crows always get the sticks from the stork's nest in early spring". We may philosophize if there is peace anywhere on earth?

To the Oderhaff

We start to the last stage but are somewhat insecure about the quality of pavement of the further path. On the other hand the path winds its way zizagging. We look at the map and find some roads nearly bee-line. This means we ride aside the Randow-Bruch (a former streamway) and hit hamlets like Krackow, Glasow and Retzin. Some hills again as explained before. At the horizon a battery of wind wheel generators appears. Usually you start to count then, there may be 30 to 50 this time.

The next town is Löcknitz and we turn off to a lonesome forest road towards Rothenklempenow (sorry for the many names, but most of them sound funny...). The road is brand new and we meditate that it would have been difficult to cycle on the former gravel and cobblestone roads. On the other side we detect a sign of memory for two sisters who lost their life at the roadside. Moreover some time later there is a tree decorated by flowers and teddy bears. We cannot say what tragedy has happened here. This is near Grünhof or Glashütte.

Meanwhile we have met the official bike path again which leads on the road to Hintersee. At the map you can exactly recognize that this area was a lake but now is dry and land though the area is named Seegrund and the cows are grazing there. Just a small pool is the rest of the lake. The village Hintersee is spead out along the street. There are remarkable lanterns, the folks here may have taken a deep gulp of the Soli (Solidaritaetsbeitrag = Solidarity Tax to rebuild the former DDR). Moreover they have placed the lanterns just amidst the sidewalk while the road is cobbled. So the cyclist must have a good eye... We find a grocer's shop at a backyard. This kind of shops gets rare meanwhile though the people are so friendly there. We ask for the further path and get the best of all informations: the path turns to a former railroad track.

This is the embankment of the earlier Randower Kleinbahn from Randow to Altwarp. This is cycling at its best again, especially as we ride among the trunks of pine trees. Here and then they have placed some old railway signs or signals of the former track. We end at Rieth at the Neuwarper See. There is a vast grass covered place and a rest is a must. You can admire a former open-air bowling alley. And of course there is a museum concerning the railway. We head on and have a view to the "lake" for the first time. The Neuwarper See in fact is a part of the Stettiner Haff. Then we ride on a gravel path through a forest to Warsin. This is officially the end of the bike path.

At the road we head to Bellin. The "beach" here is not so invitory. We inspect a bay where a rough wind blows from the seaside. An older gentleman struggles with a surf bord and sail but never succeeds to stand upright. We prefer to go on to Ueckermuende and look for an accomodation. At a cross-way we read: Industriehafen, Zollabfertigung, Vollzugsanstalt (harbour, customs, prison). Does not sound so picturesque. The tourist information is closed because we have Saturday. At the museum in the castle nearby one can get an accomodation list. The rest is to be done by one's own and we have our handy. But past the first few calls we realize: everywhere is booked. We ask at the Hotel
Pommernyacht at the harbour. A friendly gentleman regrets, he had to deny many persons today, there have arrived too many busses for Butterfahrten.

But then we finally success to get a room at Zur Grünen Heide. And this is near the "picturesque area" mentioned above. The bungalow is somewhat clammy but better than a bus cabin or roadside ditch. From there we start to an investigation ride and at first inspect the beach and this looks fine. Nearby there is the Pension Cafe Peters where we can get an apartment from tomorrow.

Finally we enjoy the evening meal with fresh Zander-fillet.

Days at the Beach

We have our breakfast under a sun shelter and so the day starts with joy. We call at Cafe Peters and book the apartment, 30 minutes later we arrive there. We get a wonderful room, kitchen, and balcony below the roof. And we have to pay less than at any hotel until now, incl. breakfast.

We then start for the day and first ride to Ueckermuende. There is a fine bike path straight ahead parallel to the mouth of the river Uecker. Sometimes one can watch a ship gliding on the meadows - it looks like that. We arrive at the harbour and view at some ships for the Butterfahrten, look at the busses and get some brochures of the ship agencies. But as the sun gets stronger we rush to the beach.

The beach is very beautiful here, they say the best of the Stettiner Haff. We buy some cheap mats of bast and then stroll to the dog's beach area. Aside this area there one can shoot a photo of the beach scene and the lighthouse only clothed by the camera. Nearby there is a small picturesque fisher's harbour where one can take nice photos too - but suited by at least pants or so.

The waters of the Stettiner Haff are somewhat brown and dull from the sediments. At a signpost they have announced the results of measurement of pollutants, and - naturally - everything is OK. Others say, that these waters are better than those of the open sea. Anyway we resign to be an enthusiatic water rat and turn to the crossword puzzles of Heidis boulevard papers (dictionary: tabloids). So we have obtained what we have planned before: cycle first and then have holidays. And such a fine weather, this is the merit of all the efforts.

In the evening we stay at Cafe Peters. We can sit under a sun umbrellar, have our dinner and wonder how fast the beerglasses get empty. We listen to the discussion between the owner and some guests concerning the traffic noise around. The road to the beach is just in front of the house and many drivers are not so disciplined. You ever heard the Raver's sound "Wamm Wamm Wamm..." from inside a car? In addition the motor's sound is stimulation too. This is not the case for the poor tourists. So they have to abandon the hotel at the beach because it is too noisy at night. "Now this is democracy" some people say. When we are back at our balcony I count 25 cars within 5 minutes, all youngsters rushing to the beach and back. After we have closed the door of the balcony we have silence.

On Monday the sky is cloudy and we decide to start for a Butterfahrt. May be to Kamminke at the Island of Usedom? We are at the harbour before 9 am, the ship is ready. At first we must pass the custom control and this is performed seriously, because the Polish frontier is a sieve for illegal immigrants. On board we better ask for details of the tour. The ship will go to Kamminke and then continue to Swinemünde. So one would have to wait several hours until he can return. "And what can we do at Kamminke?" we ask. Shrug of the shoulders, "Don't know". We immediately escape from the ship and back through the custom control again. We are known already. "You can go to Neuwarp at 10 o' clock" is the advice of the officers. OK, then let's do this.

So near 10 am to the customs another time. We are well known now. There are lots of guests on board already. We have to pay DM 4.- for a ticket, but this is valid for the rest of the year. Soon we glide through the mouth channel along the meadows. We pass the lighthouse and reach the Oderhaff. The course is east along the coast. Past two hours we pass the village Altwarp which is German. There are numerous ships in the harbour and a parking area for busses exists. Across the Neuwarper See we meet cormorants, seagulls and fish-weirs until we reach Neuwarp which is Polish. If you consider the scene the names should be exchanged for Altwarp looks new and Neuwarp looks old. Neuwarp looks sleepy, some fishermen disentangle their nets withour hectic, it seems that time goes by slower here.

Not for us. We have just half an hour to enter the market, we buy some cherries and cucumbers and then rush back to the ship, passing the customs for the third and fourth time now. And if one will buy more cheap stuff he can enter the Onboard Supermarket and dedicate to the "Grosse Zollfreie Transitration".

If you calculate the volume on sales on board five hours long you will find out, that you scarcely will find a usual restaurant with such a popularity. People eat and drink all the time and in consequence have a nice bill afterwards. This is the reason why those ships run very profitable. All this will work only until Poland gets a member of the EU, but no one knows when this will be.

As we return we have a nice sun so soon you will find us at the beach again.

The remainig days are spent at the beach, and if you spend such real holidays you will find out, that there will not happen so much exciting as if you ride around in the wide wide world.

Back at home at first I had to to shredder the apple tree. Then a neighbour helped me and we caught two of the voles...

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