Bicycletour Saale-Radweg Magdeburg - Hof,
Vogtland and Erzgebirge to Zittau
Route Table


During this year there was no bike-tour until now and everyone who knows us will be surprised. But there were some problems concerning healthiness which can happen sometimes. In addition the summer was bad weather seven weeks long due to the St. Swithin's Day (Siebenschläfer, 27. June) and during September we have an ugly weather as well. So my wife Heidi is not eager to suffer of rain, headwinds and cold. But a flight to the Mediterranian Sea is not available. So we compromise: Heidi spends a week at somewhat like a beauty farm and I may start for a tour of freedom.

There is the Saale Radweg not far from our home and this shall be somewhat strenuous especially at it's upper part. In continuation one can ride from Hof/Bayern at a special hike path to Zittau, which is the last German town in the appendix between the Czech Republic and Poland. There are few informations about this hike path. But the Saale Radweg is well documented: "Vom Fichtelgebirge zur Elbe",  bikeline brochure. I will ride the path in the opposite direction, so the brochure is to be read from the back side.

Bridge near Magdeburg


Friday, Magdeburg – Halle, 130 km
8.30 - 18.30, 38,5 km/h max, 14,85 km/h avg

I could start at my front door and had to ride for half a day to reach the mouth of the river Saale to the Elbe at the village Barby. But this route is well known to me since I once in 1990 travelled to Berlin. So I better enter the train and start from Magdeburg. You reach the Elbe-Radweg from the main station in Magdeburg within 5 minutes and then leave the noisy world behind. The Elbe-Radweg is well paved and leads on top of the dike. The morning mist steams off the meadows, dewdrops pearl from the plants, no wind at all and the first heron in the reed. This is not the last, be sure!

Some signposts give informations about the Randauer Talsanddüne or the Schönefelder Kultur - those are local geological or historical peculiarities. Soon we are at the bridge over the Elbe at Schönebeck. You can choose a route close to the nature via Plötzky, Pretzien or Gödnitz from here, but I prefer the direct connection to Barby on the Bundesstrasse (National Road). But first a large bottle of lemonade fom the super market. Some individuals hang around, drink canned beer and watch me as I stow away the big Fanta lemonade. At the shore of the Elbe there is a curious work of art from a Dansk artist named Anders Nyborg and is called Salzblume (Flower of Salt). I shake my head, get a photo and then rush off on the Bundesstrasse.

Schönebeck and "Flower of Salt"

Marketplace in Barby

Ferryboat at Barby

Ferry not at work

Finally I reach Barby, obviously the famous Barbydoll does not stem from this site - people don't look like that. I head for the 2 km distant ferry station and have a rest. The ferryboat just comes in and looks picturesque. "Hey Ferryman" a wife shouts out and I consume my first sandwich. The mouth of the Saale is to be seen from here and I bounce on a rough path to get there. At first we have to master the crowds of schoolboys and -girls to find out, that the path ends at the mouth. And moreover nothing more is to be seen there. The sun shines warm from a cloudless sky and a usual human being would lie down on the grass and dream to the sky...

But I turn back to the path and watch the schoolboys just entering the ferryboat to conquer Eastern Germany. From Barby the Saale Radweg has it's begin and is signed out. On a gravel path dead ahead along a gravel pit. We come to Werkleitz, this is just now a large construction site. No motorized vehicle is able to come here now, but a cyclist has no problems. 2 km ahead there is a ferry to the village Rosenburg. May be I should have switched on my brain early enough, but I struggle along the cobbled road until I arrive at the ferry.

An idyllic place, a deep silence and - Ferry not at work written by hand on a paper at the pier. "We do not ferry now" someone shouts from the opposite side where the ferry swings at the shore. "Oh shit" I shout, look stupid and slowly start to turn back my loaden bike. "Wait a moment, we will ferry you for you are a cyclist!" - did you ever hear words so beautiful? I say "I would have had 10 km detour otherwise" and just then the ferryboat glides across the river and with a bright smile I push my bike on board. "Cost one Mark" they say but I pull out four of them with "Let it Be". Just a package of cigarettes (mostly Club hereabout...).

When I enter the other side I declare my thanks and say "So I have a wonderful story of this day - have a nice time" and continue with a high mood. The ferry will be out of work until November, someone behind me should camp there until this time.



Bernburger Schloss

On and on across the fields with crowds of herons or a shepherd with his flock, thoroughly holding contact to the big big world by his mobile phone (handy). Left of Calbe with a monastery church through villages like Wispitz and Wedlitz. Then the town Nienburg comes up and a walk around is a must. There is the Klosterkirche St. Marien and St. Cyprian and the inner hall is mainly built by stone columns if my memories are right. Soon I enter the bike path towards Bernburg again.

Bernburg must be inspected too. We have been here some years ago. Meanwhile they have rebuilt some of the rotten buildings. I keep to the signs and at last come to a picturesque view of the castle above the banks of the Saale. Then we pass wide swamp forests until the castle of Plötzkau comes in sight. It looks like from a fairy-tale. Then we come to Alsleben. Cannot remember what was to be seen there. The brochure says, that there was an old castle, but the location is unknown. So am I.

Schloss Plötzkau

Castle at Wettin

Let you tell that it is difficult to remember some hundred kilometers in detail afterwards. Moreover this time I miss the right path and find myself in the town of Könnern. On the road I return to Wettin back at the right route. And I remember this place due to a mighty castle above a high shore, therefore several bus areas are necessary. Moreover I complete my supplies at a super market and then rush towards the town of Halle, we have late afternoon meanwhile.

Lionel Feininger:
Marktkirche in Halle

Fortunately they have bike paths parallel to the roads with dense traffic. It takes some time until we reach the famous market place with the Roter Turm (Red Tower) and Marktkirche with the double towers connected by a bridge. A painting exists by  Lionel Feininger showing this church flooded by beams of light. We have past 6 pm now and there is not much to be seen of light beams. I look for the matter of relief: a HOTEL. So ask a local. His advice: Hotel am Stadtbad. I cross the market place once again up to the Steintor. "Booked up" is to be read at the hotel's entrance. Panic! I return to the market place and cross for a third time. At a phone box I look at my accommodation list and call for another hotel. "Kein Anschluss unter dieser Nummer" ("No connection with this number"). Panic!

But I have another list from the Internet. This seems to be more up to date and soon I am expected by the Hotel am Steintor. So I cross the market place for a fourth time, then cannot find the hotel but the taxi drivers are omniscient.

Now I enjoy some heavy legs, a shower bath, a Rump Steak and two beers and finally a bed - life is wonderful.

Saturday, Halle - Jena, 115 km
7.45 - 17.00, 57 km/h max, 15 km/h avg

Though the hotel is located at a cobbled road with dense traffic the night is bearable for the windows are isolated against noise. This morning I start with a fifth crossing of the familiar market place. Moreover Halle does not look so fine, there are lots of rotten houses as if the bombs just have come. So the first section through industry areas towards Merseburg is not so romantic.

Leuna Werke

What did we see at Merseburg? Sure, a super market and the individuals happy in the morning sun: "Come along with a beer!". And a castle and a cathedral - may be. But some time later the Leuna Werke, there must be produced a panorama photo to manage the scene. Then we pass a subway where the path is blocked by some construction vehicles and timber beams let you stumble along. So the bike clamped under the arm and the workers applaud.


The cheap ferry

Near Grßkorbetha

The first vineyard

Finally at Bad Dürrenberg something remarkable is to be seen: one of the greatest Gradierwerk (Evaporator, Gradient Work) of Europe. This is a huge wooden framework of brush and some salty waters trickle from above to give relief to the rised noses of the guests. But not now - everything is dry due to restauration activities. I would not have seen this if I had not climbed up a stair path or if the entrance had been occupied for a fee.

Later we find ourself back in the botany again. This time we turn our attention to the windfall fruits like apples and pears. I choose three pears, one of them is consumed at once, the other two will accompany the tour for some hundred kilometers to be garbage at last. But they did their psychological work as assets of the last resort.

Now the next ferry comes up. The fee is 3 DM. I can only pay 2 DM for the lady of the ferry cannot change a 50 DM banknote. But she is friendly and does not outcast me.

Now the next attractions appear: the first vineyards of the Saale-Unstrut-Area. I make a photgraphy of the first one and hope to stand vis à vis of the most northern vineyard of Germany (but this is not true, there are are various places claiming this fact for their region). We then come to Weissenfels. I remember some drinking fellows at a sausage stand and that I prefer to go on.


The landscape starts to become more and more beautiful. Above at the vineyards there are small romantic houses but some manor-houses like little castles as well. We come to the mouth of the river Unstrut to the Saale. Around there you will find touristic activities like hiker groups, boat renting, a camping site... At the camping bureau at last I can change my bulky banknote. Meanwhile I miss the famous town of Naumburg (there is a stone sculpture named Uta, and this is most famous by the cross-word-puzzles). I see the silhouette of the town from far away and those who got enough time should visit this place. Do I have not enough time? Sure, I have, but does anyone understand that is more fun to ride along through the landscape than to visit touristic attractions all the time?

Near Goseck

Bad Kösen


The signs of the bike path are not optimal and so we reach Bad Kösen on the road. There is a Volkslauf (Public Runners Event) today. Some are lead to the presentation ceremony already while the others are en route yet. So the strolling guests are shooed behind the concerning barriers and I find myself in front of such an evaporator installation once again. Back at the river I ride along the shore awaiting a last bridge. But than I turn back to avoid a greater detour. I cross the main bridge and then recognize, that the last bridge really exists. So I made really a 5 km detour to avoid a potential detour.

And now it's time for a well known romantic song, a student's song with the text: "Dort Saaleck, hier die Rudelsburg...". So we just pass the Rudelsburg up on the mountain and the castle of Saaleck down in the valley and the bus parking sites aside the road.

Kirchturm-Sponsoring in Jena

The official bike path now turns to become hilly so I prefer the main road towards Jena which is less attractive but less strenuous too. In Jena the town's landmark is a big round tower with a somewhat shocking nickname: "Jenaer Pimmel" (Jena's Willie) which refers to it's "phallic design". Sorry, this was not my idea. This monstrum is just under construction from the top to the bottom for restauration. New windows and a white facade prevent this building to be a black rotten reminiscence  of the socialistic architecture.

From yesterday I have learned to use the phone and this time I success at the Hotel Schwarzer Bär. Then a walk around; Jena is a surprising picturesque town, nice places surrounded by historic buildings. The evening is fairly warm, so I can sit outside and consume a Pizza Mare with octopusses, shrimps and shells.

Sunday, Jena - Lobenstein, 110 km
8.30 - 18.00, 49,2 km/h max, 13,7 km/h avg

With a nice morning mist the day begins. At first across the parks where a clumsy individual has left his sleeping bench and sets step by step into the new day. I soon pass the Karl-Zeiss-Jena-Werke where a well known former prime minister now leads the organization (Lothar Späth). The further path leads on unpaved routes so it is convenient to turn to the National Road B88 now and then. Once there is an adventurous railway bridge with the bike path besides the track.

At the village Kolkwitz we climb up a hill to meet a Reha-Klinik (hospital) first and then a castle. Finally we reach the town of Rudolstadt and ignore the sightseeing again to head for Saalfeld. I find the market place after some time, the townhall is worth to be seen. In the valley we pass a factory for chocolate with the newer signpost "Stollwerk Sprengel" and the older one from DDR-age: "Thürina". We now enter the Thüringer Wald and on the map we recognize the numerous arrows marking uphill sections. So let us stay to the main road and have a rest at the dam of the water reservoir Eichicht. There must be something with trouts for there are some boxes at the waterside similar to those salmon farms at Scotland or Norway. At the end of the lake there are now 50 m height difference to get up to the next lake Hohenwarte. There is a pump-power-station as well as you can see by the mighty pipes which come from above.

Rathaus in Saalfeld


We continue along the shore of the lake at about 300 m height. The upper land is at about 500 m height and we have not to wait long to be lead up there. By several hairpins we screw up to the village named "Reitzengeschwenda". They have a museum for rural culture. After some up an down on the upper area we rush down through a valley with meadows until we are at the low level as before. Of course this is compensated by the next uphill to Liebschütz. Now one can decide: to follow the further bike path which means all down again and up again and so on or to stay to the upper land. With a loaden bike it is not so enjoyable to go up and down all the time, may be we should dedicate this to the day-tourers.

I head for Lobenstein where I had an accommodation 9 years ago. The Hotel Oberland from that time is closed today due to "clean-up-activities". But there is a signpost of the Berghotel Alter Turm. I think I had my dinner there 9 years ago. So finally I climb up to the Hotel though the name Hotel seems to be overpraised. To get a room one is obliged to ring the bell. After the second ring a voice sounds from the door speaker and I get my room. Then the woman tells me the continuation of those former times. They had to close the restaurant and look for another work. The leasing of rooms is a side job. Lobenstein has not so many tourists as it would be desirable. "We never have a season" they say.

I end down at the marketplace at the tavern Gaststätte am Markt.

Monday, Lobenstein – Hof, 36 km
8.00-11.00, 50 km/h max, 14 km/h avg

There is a serious defect at my bike but easy to repair. One screw to fix the back rack and fender was broken and soon the other screws may break too if nothing is done. This time a plastic cable tie (Kabelbinder) does it's work and this for the next 1000 km.


We start for the last stage of the Saale-Radweg and use a shortcut via Harra. Behind a subway of a railway a steep uphill, but at Blankenstein we are on the level of the Saale again. There is a big papermill, by long assembly lines huge heaps of wooden cutlets are piled up. Then we cross the Saale and climb up to Blankenberg. A man shovels a platform at the slope of his estate. As I ask for the sense of this work he answers "I need this to mow the grass".

A next nice village is Sparnberg, and at Rudolphstein we come near the noisy Autobahn Berlin - Hof. A man comes up carrying a paperbag with bread rolls. We have a chat for I am just pushing my bike up a hill. But he cannot tell me anything about the hike trail Bayreuth – Hof – Zittau.

The rest section to Hof is rural road with few traffic. At a fairground at Hof the Zirkus Krone has it's lodging. I observe some camels after all. Then I stroll through the pedestrian area looking for a book store. They know nothing about my hike trail nor offer any literature about that. So I enter the tourist information. They don't know nothing as well. They suggest a circle tour named Eurotour but this was not my intention. Nearby we find another book shop named Kleinschmidt. Finally there I find the bike maps Nr. 18 and 13 where the desired hike path is marked as BT-ZI (Bayreuth - Zittau). So the tour can go on.

Chapter two: Hof - Görlitz
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