Chapter 1: Bike Path 1 (R1) from Weser to Elbe
Four years ago we have cycled to Heidi's roots at West Prussia, where she is born and grown up until the escape in 1945. In my case my father's ancestors since some hundred years are resided at Einbeck / Lower Saxony, where they practiced the profession of handicraft blue print. The 350 year old blue print workshop still exists and my cousin Gine is the chief.
My mother's ancestors are known as well, their primarily profession was the brazier or coppersmith. They lived at Pyritz / Hinterpommern, located in Poland today, 50 km east of the Oder stream. I am not born at Pyritz but at the near by Berlinchen, named Barlinek today, because the maternity ward was there. But I am christened, suckled and swaddled at Pyritz until the Stalin Organs played for us.
So a plan for a beautiful cycle tour arises: we can ride on the Bike Path 1 (R1) from the Weser stream via Einbeck to the Oder stream and then visit Pyritz and this would be a tour from root to root.
Wednesday, 7.8. Höxter - Bad Gandersheim, 82 km
The day has come, we sit in the train to Hoexter/Weser and arrive two hours later at 10 am. A short view to the city, today is the market day. But as usual the new built houses do not help to preserve the atmosphere of the medieval character of the half timbered houses.
We roll down from the Weser Bridge to the left shore of the Weser and enjoy the silence and the slight stream of the waters. Along an alley we reach the famous monastery Kloster Corvey. There is not only a park site for the busses but a large bicycle stand as well. A lot of packed bikes are there already. To enter the buildings we had to purchase DM 11.- per person and we decide, that we have not enough time today, finally we are on the way to Poland and until now we have performed half an hour yet. We continue and cross the Weser at the next bridge near Lüchtringen.
We pass the foothills of the Solling, the watershed between Weser and the river Leine. And then we leave the R1 to head for Dassel, where I have another root, because I went to school the first time there. Our former half timbered home house is now covered with asbest-cement (Eternit). But now, 50 years later, the name of the owners still exists at the entrance. My old school has vanished and was broken down. The characteristic hill - the chalk mountain "Bierberg" - is occupied by new built settlements meanwhile. The slow train Ilmebahn was shut down. The result of all this: times have changed. But once again at Dassel, I feel nice.
After Dassel we hit the R1 at Eilensen again. With some drops of rain we reach Einbeck. Besides of the famous brewery there is the prison and I remember the shivers when I watched the grilled windows as a small boy. We walk through the unique medieval city with rich framework streets. The inner part is traffic free and this makes the atmosphere much better. We pass the Marktkirche with it's high tower - "the Big Einbeck" - as my childish tongue used to signify. The town hall with it's three front towers and then we turn to our blue print shop. We are not announced.
My cousin Gine shall arrive at 3 pm. Meanwhile we watch a group of elder ladies who participate at a city guide. "You are here already?" one of the ladies shouts at us - she had seen us from the bus before. Finally my cousin steps off her car but at once disappears in a barber's shop. We look somewhat stupid in our bike shorts and lycra shirts. My cousin appears again but just as fast she is swallowed by a super market. But after some time she comes out again and we are welcome. But she is in a hurry, the guidance, the shop, why didn't we phone up before?
OK, we are in a hurry too, we are going to Poland. "Good bye, Einbeck, see you the other day!". The last enjoyable memory of Einbeck is the "Altendorfer Berg", a hill with a seldom "Mager- and Trockenrasen" vegetation (arid karst vegetation). We then ride on a road named L487 with much traffic. We reach Bad Gandersheim and decide to finish for today. This town is famous for the "Domfestspiele" so the view to the Dom and Town Hall is hidden by the viewers tribune. We get an accommodation at the Kurpark Hotel, the bikes get their place in the "Sesselzimmer" (armchair room).
After checking in we start for a walk. We think we are at the main park and pass one pool after another. After the third pool we find ourselves in front of a fenced Camping site and have to walk all the way back, one pool after the other, named Rosenseen. In the city we observe a sad thing. There is a burnt house and in front of it lie heaps of flowers and toys. We slightly remember a catastrophe some months ago. It is a difference to hear it in the news or to see it in reality.
We end at the Chinese restaurant "Jade".
Thursday, 8.8. Bad Gandersheim - Wernigerode, 82 km
At breakfast we are accompanied by a group of elder ladies, who are all styled in such a similar fashion that one completely looks like the other. Thereafter we enter the R1 just in front of the entrance. We have to climb up to Wolperode, but there are nice views as the sun fights against the haze and the dew drops are hanging in the nets of the spiders. At the horizon some pin wheels (Windrad) come out of the mist and finally the sun shines bright. We now enjoy the downhill down into the valley of the river Nette. At some distance we see the blue shades of the Harz mountains. We finally reach the main road B248 at Hahausen. We have passed this place countless times but never have sit on a bench there. But today we do!
We are well motivated. But the foothills of the Harz are waiting and the route of the R1 turns into the mountains with symbols of steep uphills at the road map. So we must share the road from Langelsheim to Goslar with the dense traffic and the roaring trucks. Some overtake with very narrow side distance - this is no fun for us. As usual I ride in front to break the wind. But then I detect, that Heidi's black and pink outfit is hard to be seen from behind. So once she must break the wind and I light to the back with the fire red panniers. Sometimes a bike path exits and then we can relax.
Eventually we reach Goslar. This town is occupied by tourists for everyone knows, that this is one of the most scenic places of northern Germany. We walk up to the Kaiserpfalz and feel well on a bench. Now let us look for the R1 again. As suspected this leads up the next hill to the youth hostel (in hilly areas YHs are always built on a hill). Then the path leads half up to the Rammelsberg (there is the oldest ore mine of the world, but it is shut down meanwhile). Heidi starts to get angry. But we cannot always stay to mainroads (Bundesstrassen). Instead there is a beautiful view to Goslar from above. At this place there is a meadow on a slope where the hang gliders usually try to break their bones.
As we reach the highest point and the lowest motivation a downhill follows. So Heidi asks, why we had to climb all the time only for to run it all down again? And moreover we must use the brakes all the time until we are down at the valley of the Oker. Now imagine the continuation - yes you are right, uphill again, but no you have forgotten to mention that it is a staircase this time...
So we stay to the main road again towards Harzburg. Let us remark, that to the left we pass a world famous geologic site. The Harz mountains have folded several geological layers into a vertical position and now the experts from all over the world come here to read in this mysterious book. We arrive Harzburg and have a memorable rest in front of the railway station. I am sour and some true words must be said: "If you enter the train you are at home in half an hour". "No". So I go to a shop for some cans of lemonade.
We continue in silence, up a long hill out of Harzburg. At the left there is a dialysis institute. I think for myself that there could happen worse things in the life than to walk up a hill. At the end of Harzburg we have to choose: continue at the B6 or go up into the forests. Guess what we did...
At Ecker we reach the former border to the DDR. We turn right and overtake a hikers group. As we silently approach from behind a funny sound comes out of one of those pants. From now on we have regained our laughter... We have a short rest at the former Todesstreifen (the naked band between the fences or walls where they were able to shoot on fugitives). We come to Ilsenburg. And stand in front of a problem again, up a steep hill or up a staircase? We turn to the city of Ilsenburg and then go our own way until eventually we hit the R1 sign again. For today we end at Wernigerode.
At the tourist information they only offer accommodations higher than DM 150.- As we claim to be on a bike tour all at once we get a room for DM 60.- a hundred m from here at the Tanne. And there we detect: Ruhetag (day of rest). And the bell is defect. But then we hear a key turning and some guests come out of the house and we come in. The room is small but nice.
Wernigerode is a remarkable town. At DDR-times it was an exhibition jewel already and since then they did even more. But first we stumble into the Restaurant Hotel Harz and have a Eisbein (pickled knuckle of pork) and a Fuhrmannsteller (waggoner's plate). And thereafter we admire all the half timbered houses and streets. Back at the hotel we phone our children and they laugh, that until now we are just 30 minutes by car away from home.
Friday, 9.8. Wernigerode - Staßfurt 90 km
We have an excellent breakfast and are very content with this hotel. Then the morning sport begins as we push up to the Burg behind the walls of the Lustgarten (a park). The Burg is well known from an advertising spot for the Hasselroeder Beer. Then we go up and down again through the forests, through a valley and a jogger shows us his backside. We decide to leave the nearly impassable R1 after some time, at first we must visit the monastery Kloster Michaelstein. There we meet a sweating cyclist from Stuttgart who completes the "Romanic Road" and is an expert in romanic arcs.
We continue to Blankenburg (uphill), Thale (downhill),
there we meet a couple with ordinary bikes and we ask them for the route.
"Just follow us - but you have a gear change, so we will follow you". And
as we roll down to Timmenrode they finally overtake us and shout
"You better should lubricate your bikes!".
We approach to Meisdorf and there are caterpillars on the fields which shuffle small hills and pools. Later on this will be a large golf course and the castle at Meisdorf has become a "Sport Hotel" in advance. We sit down at a snackbar at the road and relax. The Harz mountains remain behind, from now on we will go north and have a better wind.
The next village is Ermsleben, we ask some people who watch out of their windows with a pillow under their elbows. They start to talk all together and we get various informations how to get out to the fields. At the next greater spot named Hoym we phone up a sport park near Stassfurth for an accommodation. As I mention the price from the guide they say "This was once upon a time". Meanwhile the price is twice as high. But the lady at the phone at first must ask her computer. And this says: "Yes, there is a chamber available". Again we ask some locals for the way out. They look at me and say "Didn't you come along with some Dutch girls some time ago?". I look to my wife and then say "I would have enjoyed it!". And "See you the next time" as we part.
The rest of the paths for today are fine, along a river through the fields, no traffic. It is hot again and we appreciate a slight headwind. At a village store we buy some drinking stuff and meet two roofers, who just come down from a sticky tarboard roof. Let us not forget that we play the better part. In the late afternoon we reach the sport park Gänsefurth. This is a huge tennishall and a restaurant. At a meadow nearby they have built block houses, and there we have to go as the service girl states after she has asked her computer. Later we will see: we are the only guests... Behind his beer a individuum mumbles: "Angela, prepare a bungalow for us, I feel so strange".
At first we feel strange too. But then the blockhouse is very nice and comfortable, everything made of wood and there is a deep silence around. And at the restaurant we can have a fine meal and drink the one or another beer. And we enjoy to watch the coming and going tennis freaks, appearantly exerted to represent the high society.
Saturday 10.8. Stassfurt - Rosslau 75 km
At the breakfast we are the only guests and the service maid Angela must buy the rolls, boil the eggs and prepare the breakfast just for us alone. And finally we check out per Visa Card as the state of the art demands.
A short distance to Stassfurth where we loose the signs of the R1 again. A driver of a motorized wheelchair overtakes us and turns right. We continue straight on and reach a crossway with a road towards Magdeburg. This would be wrong. So we turn back and for random choose the next road to the left. We pass a dull industrial area and don't dare to think about where this will end. Suddenly the wheelchair driver comes up from a side road. And then we see the end of the street ahead. And a small square sign showing the letters R1. We are back in the botany.
The next place is Hohenerxleben with a Burg. To get there one shall master to pass some garbage piles or something like that so we better turn to the roughly paved road. At the side there is a stripe of sand and this is good to ride on. We come to Neugatersleben with the next castle. The gate to the courtyard is locked so we must climb on the wall of a bridge to throw a glance inside.
The R1 from now on will curve in twistled meanders so we decide to find our own route. The next town is Bernburg "rich of historic heritage". To get there we use a main road again, the E49 dead straight. So we arrive there after a short time but the ride on the main road is no pleasure. There are many rotten houses, but who can restore and pay this all at once. As we cross the bridge of the river Saale we notice lots of families in festive clothes. Some children have these paper bags like cones full of sweet and candies - we name it Schultüte. And so it is easy to find out the background, it is the first day at school for the beginners. And this is a celebration day for the concerned families.
We sit at the large market place in the shadow of some trees. The tourist bureau is closed today. We wonder how we can continue at the heat of today. But then there is a slight headwind and we reach the village Latdorf. A man mows a meadow with much noise but stops his motor as we come by. And this is a typical sign, if you ask someone people always are very friendly. And - sure - we sometimes only ask to come into conversation. The man explains the continuation and we learn, that they unfornutely have cut down all the poplars along the road. But there is some shadow from hedges and apple trees.
At Drosa one could visit a prehistoric grave 5000 years old. But this lies out of our direction so we head to the town of Aken. Now the next memorable moment of our tour has come: we will cross the Elbe by a ferry boat. As usual the ferry just has gone as we arrive, but so we have a nice rest and stare into the flow of the waters. Soon the ferry comes back and we go on board. We meet an elder gentleman with a motorized bike. "I suffer from asthmas, you know". He declares the next stretch of the road. "Always flat. At Steutz up the hill." So we are prepared.
After all the cars and the motorized cyclist have disappeared around the next bend we enjoy a beautiful silence as we ride through the lowland forest. And as predicted: at Steutz we push up the hill. Som cyclists come from ahead and shout "You must ride!", but there is no must from anyone. So some time later we overtake another group who are even slower than we. But all together turn right at the next village to enter the "Elbterrassen". There are a lot of people and cars with those sweety-bags at the back seats. The people look like guests of a wedding celebration. We have a Soljanka (a special soup) and two Spezi (cola and lemonade). At the stream a ship glides along and on a meadow the goats cry.
It would have been nice to stay here overnight but it is too early yet. And soon we reach Rosslau. We cross the city and rest at the castle. This is unoccupied and some window panes are broken. The building is hidden under thick ivy and looks like the castle of the Sleeping Beauty (Dornröschen). We ask someone for an accommodation and he recommends a hotel right at the paved main street. Too loud we think. There was a pension, but the owner was shot some time ago. We better enter the market place and ask at the "Bräu Stübl". But this is booked, so the landlady suggests a private address some houses from here. I go there and meet a woman, smoking on a couch. But then she rises and leads us to a somewhat unorderly apartment.
We soon go out for dinner and of course choose the "Bräu Stübl". We say Thankyou for the hint for the room, have a nice meal and tell, that we had a hard day with the headwind. "Sometimes we had flying carpets too" the landlady says. They had 60 persons at noon and 10 buffets are to be rolled out in the evening. And two more family parties are announced - this all for the first shool day celebration.
We start for a walk and this time we concentrate to observe the front doors of the houses.They are often thoroughly produced in times as the front door was the reputation of a house. We then hit on the estate of the fire brigade. There is a brand new building and at the garage there are numorous special purpose vehicles. We cannot reconstruct, why this town of middle size has such a modern and expensive equipment. We end at our pension and are heartily invited to drink a beer at the bar. In another room aside a group of youngsters is busy with the game of darts. As they realize, that there are some strange figures sitting around they soon one after the other come along. So we drink some more beers and have a longish discussion about the Eastern and Western peciularities in Germany.