Bicycle-Tour Dresden - Sächsische Schweiz- Spreeradweg

Monday, 17.8. Bad Schandau - Schirgiswalde, 65 km

Now how we can come to the fountains of the Spree? The original plan was to cross a part of the Czech Republic from the Elbe via Prebischtor , one of the greatest rock gate in Europe. But meanwhile we are wise, there would be many hills and the Prebischtor itself is only reachable for walkers. We find out another alternative to go by train from Schandau to Selbnitz and so to master some height without any sweat. At the reception of the hotel we get a time table, have our breakfast and then stroll to the railway station.

There we find out that the timetable of the hotel is wrong. But we are in luck the next train soon will depart. But some minutes later we had missed the train and had to wait two long hours for the next one. Vacancy-time is valuable! We put our bikes into the waiting train and then remember, that we have to stamp the tickets at a certain automate. So I hurry back to the hall and do my best. Another woman has difficulties too and finally we get everything done. I speed back to the train which is ready to start. Heidi has started a chat with the conductor to prevent him to go off without me.

As I come along gasping they just switch off the running engine of the choochoo train Schandau - Bautzen. So we have to wait 10 more minutes and our stress fades away. Meanwhile the conductor gives a lesson about the local tarif control of the Oberlausitz. We do hard to understand anything and learn, that we had to stamp the bike tickets too. OK, he is friendly and stamps the tickets himself, but what is his job either?

So totally stamped we can turn to watch the landscape. There are plenty of bends and tunnels along the picturesque Sebnitzbach. While the train stops at one of the remote hamlets the engine driver, the conductor and the workers of the railway station stick their heads together and have a chat. Sometimes they even sit down at the bench of the station. We enjoy this quiet manner in opposite to our usual hectic activities. Whistling the train starts again  and in spite of or due to the quiet manner we arrive Selbnitz in time.

Store at Sebnitz
The start of the bike tour: push all the gear uphill. But then we speed down to the border. We have our passports ready but no one is interested. A female officer instructs us to the pedestrian crossover - that's all.

So we enter the new country of the Czech Republic unstamped and push up a street. The level of prices concerning cigarettes, fuel  and drinks is lower here. So many cars come from Germany to buy at one of the numerous shops. And there are some secret night clubs as I underhand recognize by a side glance.

Unknown Flower
We let all this behind and ride through a forest. We find a curious flower here which has yellow and red blossoms. Meanwhile we have found out that its name is Wachtelweizen (Cow Wheat, Melampyrum).

The landscape is hilly and Heidi starts to grumble. And as I look at the map it is to consider that we have reached a height of about 500 m. But then we can rush down to the town Sluknov (Schluckenau). Don't ask me why there are former German names from periods before the war. In Schluckenau (translated something like swallow) we feel thirsty and buy a bottle of lemonade for DM 1.-. We walk around and watch a statue, the church and market place. We have a rest at a bench with our bottle of lemonade. At an opposite bench there sits a student reading music notes (Partitur). His left hand moves like as if he plays a plucking instrument. Another dark individuum comes along. Imagine he would pick up one of our bikes and ride away? But he does not.


Church atSchluckenau
The landscape at the following section is not so spectacular and we end at the twin town Rum and Buk, former Rumburg. We enter a tourist information to get some informations. We better had left this undone for the ladies nearly speak no German and moreover inform us, that the next border crossing is closed from today(!) until next May. The actual crossing would be at Varnsdorf and 15 km detour and hills. We feel helpless for a while but then decide to trie the closed crossing anyhow, may be by force.

Of course we have to climb again until we reach the crossing. On the road before the frontier there is a traffic jam caused by  lots of trucks. We pass along, no barrier, no control. And there are three border officers chatting. We want to know the background of the matter and ask. OK, this crossing is for trucks only, but cyclists and pedestrieans are allowed too. Moreover there are many other smaller crossings that are not signed at the map. We suppose that the ladies at the Rum Buk information didn't realize that we travel by bike.

We feel fine back in the Western hemisphere, cross some crossways with traffic lights and at the railway station of Neu-Gersdorf hit on the Spree-Bikepath. Now what's about the springs of the Spree? Well there are three of those: one is up on a mountain (Kottmarwald, 583 m) and therefor unreachable for us. The second was redirected to another location by pipes (Pfarrborn). The third well should be at Ebersbach - and we can proudly announce: we didn't see one of them. Instead of that we get lost at Güst or Haineberg for some signs are missing. Some locals help to find the route and we return to the frontier again which meanders through the landscape. At Neuspremberg we pass a modern swimming pool with cheering guests on the water slide tower.

We sweat and climb up the Hänscheberg (393 m) with new planted trees with the intention to be an alley twenty years later. After we roll down again we finally reach the entire Spree. Then there is a big shovel excavator but we are allowed to pass. But the waters of the Spree are yellow-brown from now on. At the water reservoir of Sohland we have a rest and then finish the last section for today to Schirgiswalde. There is a nice church and silhouette of the town and we think that we are right here.

Heidi detects the signpost of the tourist info and is responsible for climbing a hill. A man with a wheelbarrow comes up. "We are sure you rent rooms" we talk to him. Yes, but he is booked but may be at his sister or sister in law? But they are booked as well. His wife, he says, leads the tourist office, this will be closed in ten minutes. So we ride down again and then meet Mrs. Herold at the bureau. "Some greetings from your husband" we introduce ourselves. She looks curious until we explain the matter. We get our accomodation at the Marktstuben and have a nice chat. The locals try to turn the region as attractive as possible for an increasing tourism.

Schirgiswalde is called the Perle der Oberlausitz and we are curious to make a walkaround. At first up to the church on a hill ("Kath. Pfarrkirche, 1735 im böhmischen Landbarockstil erbaut" ). Unfortunately we cannot enter the inner rooms for there is just a mass and a group of elder women murmur their prayers. We argue what kind of sins elder ladies of this town commit.

We look for a telphone box and go to the railway station. Every two hours there will arrive a train: Bautzen - Zittau or Zittau - Bautzen. The doors and windows of the station are naild by planks. There is no restaurant and this spot seems not to be the center of the world. At the evening we sit on the market place in front of the Markstuben and listen to the rumour of the traffic which gradually fades. But some youngsters start their activities and proove their driver skills with squaking tires around the corners. At the table besides us an older couple checks the time table of various bus lines for tomorrow. They eagerly read and write down the possible connections. "No job for a car driver" the man says. After they have finished and sit silent for a while the woman asks "So what will we do tomorrow?". Finally they get off to inspect the bus stop.

Tuesday, 18.8. Schirgiswalde - Spremberg, 98 km

We are not quite sure about the continuation of the tour. From Bautzen until Spremberg there are few pensions or hotels for this is the brown-coal-area and there is less tourism. Let us see...


Path crossing a house
The route until Bautzen is very nice, along meadows and fields or dark forest dingles at the Spree. Sometimes we cross rotten industrial sites, former mills or factories. Once a guy lies on the ground across the path. We come near and fear to be involved in an accident. But as we come on the guy raises his head and looks curious. We do so too.

Market place at Bautzen

Bautzen must be visited though one has to climb a hill up a main street with dense traffic. We enter the Hauptmarkt. They have restaurated mainly all parts of the old town - it nearly looks too brand new. At the information bureau we get the phone number of a hotel at the route ahead. So outside we ask a female police officer for a telephone box. She must think about this for a moment but then remembers the location. But we are courageous and ask: "For you are a police lady we have another question: what's about the notorious political prison?" This is a memorial today at the building of justice. The other prison is called "Gelbes Elend" for it is built by yellow brick stones. She wants to explain the way but we refuse, we don't want to go there.

I must tell a story in between:

One week after our return at home the German writer Walter Kempowski introduces his new book "Heile Welt". At this occasion Heidi says to him: "Best greetings from Bautzen, it has turned to be fine there". The famous writer answers: "Bautzen? I don't want to be there once again". And you must know: he was imprisoned by the DDR there 8 years long. There is a book about this episode: "Ein Kapitel für sich".

We say farewell to the police lady with the hint, that she needs no telephone box with her handy. And the word "handy" obviously leads her to shake hands with us. Our telephone number turns to be useless so we will trust in any occasion on the route. Before we continue we have a look at the Ortelsburg , a mighty fortification on the top of steep rocky slopes. We detect a special plant there, the Hauswurz (Sempervivum) which is usually found at rockeries (gardens) but rarely in the botany.

We continue on a small road, to the right we see the water surface of the Bautzen reservoir. We see amazing high mountains behind us and wonder how we have managed to cross this region. Of course the Spree has channelled the passage. Another cyclist comes up: "How are you today?" "Fine, probably not too hot this day!" "Think you have a nice tour". This is cyclist's agreement.

Beneath the dam of the water reservoir we cross to a series of fish ponds where the bike path lies in the midth of those. In the village Malschwitz we find a nice grocer's shop. In Germany those are called "Tante Emma Laden". They do hard to survive against the shopping centers outside of the cities . At such a small shop you can have a chat and ask for local peciuliarities. But they cannot tell us a hint for an accommodation.

Pond with Pfeilkraut
With our supplies just bought we have a rest on a bench at a nice little pool. Dragonflies whir around and in the water there is Pfeilkraut( Sagittaria, Duck Potato). We will learn that this plant is common in the Spree region. Some time later we consider a record of storks. A farmer just cultivates his field and in consequence 16 storks have come up. A 17 th stands aside and we regard him to be the grandpa. We pass a paper mill "Pappen und Kartonagen" . The mill environment and an old wooden magazine are nice motifs for a photo.


Old Magazine
We come to the hamlet Uhyst, a possible end point for today. But we just have noon. We cannot find an accomodation and hope possibly to reach Spremberg today. We rest at the church which looks baroque on the first glance. But then we find out: the gypsum flowers and ornaments are only painted.

This region was formed by the big areas of surface mining for the brown coal. We follow the sign of a bike path but soon are forced to a wrong direction. At the right side there is such a big hole, warning signposts "Danger of Life" . Apparently the bike path surrounds this vast area and we await the distance of 5 km detour to the next village. Then we detect a sandy path crossing the swamp, the village Lohsau is in the background. We find out that there is a refuge hut for wanderers aside the path and so we deduce that this would be a legal route.

The Big Hole
So we really reach the other side of this hole, passing wet swamps and water surfaces which are really inaccessable. At Lohsa a rest at a pool covered with searoses (Nymphaea) is recommended. The next route is not so fine with headwind but interesting. At this area  a former coal mine has changed to a lake for bathing named Bernsteinsee (amber). We wonder if amber exists within brown coal (meanwhile someone mailed me: it is true).

Restplace at Lohsa

As the name promises we reach the Spree again at Spreewitz. We choose the main road because we want to come to Spremberg in time. At the horizon we see the famous power station site "Schwarze Pumpe". It is told, that in former times people had to switch their lights on during the day for the air was so polluted and foggy. We reach Spremberg short before 6 pm and find the tourist information open yet. The ladies are very friendly. "I have two tired cyclists who have done more than 100 km" the nice lady nearly sings into her phone. So we get a luxurious room (for our demands) at the Hotel "Zur Post". We have to learn the magnetic card lock, the faucet of the shower bath and the apparatus of the mirror changable in height. Everything is brand new in this house.

We get a mixed impression of Spremberg. The market place is surrounded by old buildings, new built shops and at one side a mighty front of Plattenbauten (DDR-architecture of the socialism). And a new shopping center is just under construction. One must know on the other hand that Spremberg during the war was destroyed to 65 %. During the DDR-era many of old building structures decayed as well.

At the hotel we have a talk with a guest and the senior and junior owner. He tells that the Schwarze Pumpe was rebuilt by 1 Mrd. DM and equipped by a high-tech anti-pollution environment. During the period of construction there were lots of workers and engineers as guests, now he doesn't know about future times. "And Mr. Biedenkopf digs off our waters" the senior mumbles (Biedenkopf is the prime minister of the neighbour county Saxony , we are at Brandenburg meanwhile). The brown-coal area is mainly part of Saxony, and now it will last for years until the mining areas are filled with water.

There is a slogan of the springs of the Spree in Saxonian dialect:

"Wull'n mer de Berliner fubb'm
brauch mer ock de Spree zustubb'n."

(If we want to harm the Berliner, we only need to block the Spree...)

And another speciality of this region are the Sorbs. It is remarkable that the names on all signposts are given in two languages here, one sounds like Polish, but is not, it is Sorbisch. The Sorbs stem from the slavic Wends and have preserved an own culture. There are some museums and at touristic sites rural events (folkdance etc.).

Chapter three: Spremberg - Spreewald
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