I had so many travel plans this year: I wanted to fly to Japan with my bike or cycle from Augsburg to Portugal. I was planning to take a really long break from everyday life. Then came the pandemic. So without further ado, I changed my plans, and decided to visit a dear friend in East Brandenburg instead.
I made the decision at the beginning of July, when I finally got my head around everything and realised two things: I won't be making a big trip this year, no matter where. Plus, there are currently no bikes available to buy which would be suitable for such a trip. Cycling is booming worldwide so almost all manufacturers have massive delivery problems. So, I took a look at my beloved everyday speedster which I also sometimes take on longer gravel tours and even the odd trail, and set about a super fast conversion to make it touring-ready. I wanted to set off by the end of July.
Meanwhile, in the evening, I sat at the computer with the multi-day planner from komoot open, planning my Tour. There were to be nine stages which wouldn’t completely test my limits but would still be a challenge. I had to weigh up whether I prefered covering more altitude or more distance in one day. In retrospect, I’m more than happy with my planning. The stage up the Rennsteig was a rather gruelling affair, but I knew that it would be before I set off. I was already familiar with the ascent to the inner-German border from previous rides – it's never fun.
On the way, I was once again able to see for myself how beautiful Germany is. The idyllic Donau-Ries district, the impressive limestone cliffs of Franconian Switzerland, the challenging but grandiose panoramas in the Thuringian Forest, the gentle meadows of the White Elster, the lake paradise between Leipzig and Wittenberg where the Ferropolis industrial museum was my personal highlight, the wild forests of Brandenburg and, of course, the metropolises of Nuremberg, Leipzig and Berlin which don’t allow for a second of boredom.
I did the Tour with camping equipment in my panniers and I also slept in accommodation or at friends' houses on the way. Camping is almost never a problem, except on the Rennsteig, where the Frankenwald trekking site was unfortunately fully booked (it's worth booking early). It is very important that you take enough snacks and water with you. Although I usually found an inn at mealtimes that kept my stomach full, I was often surprised by how far off-the-beaten-track you can be, even in densely-populated Germany. Time and again, fruit bars and crackers saved my life.
In the end, it took me ten days to ride from A(ugsburg) to B(rodowin). I miscounted by one day and took the opportunity to take even more breaks in a lake. The mixture of relaxation and sporty challenge was perfect and I was almost sad that it was over so quickly. When I got off my bike at the finish line, I was overwhelmed with joy to see a dear friend again and by the prospect of a well-deserved chill-out in the countryside idyll.
Sun, a mild breeze and no technical problems! For the last two weeks I felt like I was in the Bikekitchen Augsburg every other day to convert my old Bianchi everyday bike into a touring racer with the energetic support of my mechanic colleagues. Above all, this meant converting the entire drive to a mountain-friendly gear ratio and applying a few sensible brakes. As usual with my bikes, it has escalated completely. We even had to recut the threads in my frame for the new bottom bracket. But this wheel will now outlast the eons, I can feel it!I also thought that going on a solo bike tour was a lonely affair in which I had plenty of time for reflection and mindfulness. After I got to know two very nice long-distance cyclists about 15 kilometers behind Augsburg, who also cycle to Berlin (only on a different route, but what a coincidence please!) And was allowed to travel to Donauwörth in wonderful company, I have this thesis right away thrown overboard again. In the afternoon, a local commuter with a rosary on his handlebars gave me a map of the region's cycle paths and recommended the most beautiful route to Treuchtlingen, the Möhrenbach cycle path. Lo and behold, this is exactly what I had planned anyway. She was beautiful indeed.Now I am in Treuchtlingen, in a good mood, not at the end of my tether and already happy to have started this journey without thinking too much. Next stop: Nuremberg.
I hate the second day. You can really feel the first night in the tent and at the end of the stage you have serious doubts about your own mental health that you give yourself such violent tours over and over again. Why don't I just go to the Mediterranean?Well, now I'm here and after a nice breakfast coffee with two other cyclists again. Today I almost only meet pensioners who ride e-bikes or locals who are on their way to the lake. Good idea, I think to myself, and take an extended lunch break at Brombachsee.That takes revenge in the afternoon. Contrary to my rule of thumb in the long mornings, I didn't take a break after at least half of the distance, but after just 30 kilometers. That means, over 40 are still ahead of me in the brooding afternoon heat. As a bonus level, there is now a hot headwind, which sometimes lets me drive on the plane in first gear. Fortunately, Franconia is so beautiful.I am received by a dear friend in Nuremberg who immediately provides me with water, pasta and ice cream. I'm also allowed to shower and then we'll chatter on her balcony. I am reconciled again.
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Today I start with a bit of screwing because my (criminally assembled) luggage rack is sitting on my rear tire. What was actually a ten-minute affair turns into a gigantic act due to my underground multitool, which throws me back in my schedule by almost an hour. Despite the unsatisfactory end result, I drive off and stop at a bike shop on the way, where I can borrow a proper Allen key.First, I have to get out of this metropolitan area. Fortunately, I checked my route again in the morning and found that I almost drove along a main road to Erlangen. I don't feel like doing that at all and plan to reschedule the route a little. It's longer now, but I drive through urban nature. Nevertheless, for the first 30 kilometers there are always industrial buildings on the bike path. Only after Forchheim (and after another route change) it becomes idyllic again, I am now in Franconian Switzerland.At lunch I notice that I have made a mistake with the distance for today. Instead of 88 kilometers, there are now 96. I also realize that I have hardly made any vertical meters so far. Will the overkill come in the second half of the day? First, however, we continue on wonderful bike paths with rolling hills. My cell phone is playing Hold the Line by Toto and I sing along with all my heart.On the last 25 kilometers they come, the mountains. Lo and behold, my bike and I master it almost with ease. After the first big ascent, I do a proud summit selfie and continue cycling along the high path to my destination in a good mood. While eating there, I check my komoot statistics with two very nice Landshuters and almost fall apart from the belief: I should have done 96 kilometers and 800 meters in altitude today? I am a machine!
Today's section is the shortest of the tour, but I just can't imagine that it can get any more strenuous. I practically only drove 45 kilometers uphill. And before that there was a ramp over about four kilometers with a gradient of up to 12%.Since this stage doesn't look as grueling as it was in pure numerical form, in the morning I gave myself over to the illusion that I might drive another 90 kilometers today so that there won't be as many tomorrow. When I stand on the Rennsteig at 5:30 in the evening, there is nothing left of this zeal. I am through.The first, relaxed kilometers I curve through the foothills of Franconian Switzerland. Again and again I discover pretty towns like Burkunstadt and Kronach. I also keep stopping on the ascent, as the wild and romantic Tettau and Rodach valleys are particularly beautiful. The Haßlach valley doesn't knock me off my stool, but I've been pedaling uphill for a while and I'm hungry.In Tettau I get a juice at the supermarket and a resident approaches me. It turns out that he is also an avid long-distance cyclist. Without further ado, he decided to organize accommodation for me on a drop-out farm with a hay hotel. The fact that I have to bring my bike up a 16% incline for this is something he does with a hand movement. After nobody answers the phone, he packs me in his car (without a bike) and drives me there. There we find out that a wedding is being celebrated there and that there is no business. Well, at least he tried.Once back on the bike, I set off for the last few kilometers to a guesthouse with attractive portraits over the bed. After a stimulating chat with a couple of hikers, I go to my room very early. But at least: The Rennsteig ascent is done and I have officially left Bavaria!
The day begins with a small meltdown: After nine hours of death-like sleep, I wake up and just feel powerless. In addition, a look out of the window reveals that it is raining. How am I supposed to survive today's monster stage through the Thuringian Forest?At breakfast I complain to the two hikers of my suffering - and that alone helps. We all know the feeling of being at the end of our tether but having to keep going. I decide to cycle to the Saale Cycle Path and then decide whether I just get on a train to Leipzig and allow my battered body a break.I set off with a cloudy view. I prepare for a long descent on a country road, attach lights to the bike and ... after 200 meters, komoot guides me along a “path”. In the middle of the forest. I eye the entrance suspiciously, but then shrug my shoulders. I'll survive, I specified "bike" when planning the route.The forest path is overgrown, steep and uneven. When I'm supposed to go down a real single trail with a steep slope, I start to laugh. komoot knows my true nature - actually I've only been riding MTB for the last few years and love trails like this. With the heavy, tail-heavy touring luggage, however, I prefer to push.Then it goes on to the Saale on normal roads and dirt roads. The weather has cleared up in the meantime, it should only be thunderstorm in the afternoon. I'm in a good mood and regained my strength and decide against the train.During the second long ascent of the day, the thunderstorm caught me and forced me to take an hour of forced break in nothing. Never mind, my book is exciting.In the evening I reach Bad Klosterlausnitz. The hostel I prefer is closed, two nice locals recommend me to ask for accommodation near one of the mills on the Mühltalweg. The first one lets me camp in the garden for a donation and even gives me a snack!
After a quiet night by the gurgling Mühlbach, while having coffee, I notice that I have made a mistake in my travel planning: I firmly assumed that I would not arrive in Leipzig until Tuesday. But that's not true, it's tonight. That surprisingly gives me a whole day longer that I can need to get to Brodowin in time for my friend's birthday. I decide to accept this gift and cycle to Leipzig today, but split the remaining three stages into four relaxed stages. After all, I'm on vacation, not on the run.After a relaxed start of the day downhill through the idyllic Mühltal, the last foothills of the Thuringian Forest demand a lot from my calves before I finally stand on the ridge that marks the border with Saxony-Anhalt. From now on it will be flatter and flatter!For good things, I follow the pretty, albeit somewhat bland, White Elster Cycle Path to the Cospudener See at the gates of Leipzig, where I make use of the nudist culture, which is much more accepted in East Germany, and I basically get off my bike plunge into crystal clear water.In the evening I have an appointment with a Komoot colleague, dear Sebastian. He recommends that I try out the canoe club on the street for camping. He would often see tents of hiking canoeing on the green space, maybe they also take hiking cyclists. Lo and behold, they do it! I can even sleep in the house and save myself the annoying tent.I spend the evening first in a welcome urban atmosphere with the Vietnamese and then with a few beers and nice company from Sebastian and Martin from the Leipzig canoeing youth on their pier, where we philosophize about God and the world and listen to the raccoons quarreling over the water .
After what is probably the most idyllic breakfast of the tour at the jetty of the Kanujugend Leipzig, I pack up and go on the first stage of the section of the A-B tour that I have declared as a holiday part. That means fewer kilometers and more bathing lakes with an insignificant gradient.I curve through the pretty landscape and am a little annoyed by the strong headwind that is blowing today - but not too much. The worst part is definitely behind me. The first lake that comes into question for me is only after 44 kilometers near Bitterfeld, where I chill for lunch and in the afternoon before I make my way to one of my favorite places: the Ferropolis.There are usually several festivals that interest me here (e.g. the Melt). These have all been canceled this year, of course, so the site has opened for campers for the first time. How cool to pitch your tent under the post-apocalyptic weathered coal excavators, surrounded by hippie beaches and festival feeling! Others thought so too and so it echoes loudly from different directions from equipment brought along, while barbecues, funnels and celebrations take place under pavilions. However, there are also a few families, which is why it is generally very civil.In the evening I sit on the empty festival site, drink a bike and look at the moon that shines over the green illuminated excavator. I would like to perform here one day.
Milk is just useless. It's the second long-life milk that spoils me on this trip. For this reason, among other things, I only drink oat milk at home - it lasts much longer and tastes better to me (I'll save the sermon about animal welfare and the dying planet at this point). Unfortunately they are only available in a liter box and I don't want to lug it around.So this morning I drink my coffee black and don't eat anything. Anyway, I have the feeling that my body has now completely got used to the rigors of my vacation and can now cope with my normal food rations again even under stress.He proves this this morning by driving the route to Wittenberg without any problems despite the annoying headwind and only having breakfast at noon. And attach a lunch as well. Unfortunately, my tour map does not show me any restaurant highlights for the remaining distance and I therefore decide to make provisions.A wise decision. The tour on the Europaradweg 1 out of Saxony-Anhalt and into my penultimate federal state, Brandenburg, has an enchanting landscape and is very sparsely populated. Only in Raben, the village belonging to the impressive, but closed Rabenstein Castle, do I find an open tourist information office that sells me a water ice cream. Here I'm only 20 kilometers from my destination, the pretty Springbachmühle near Bad Belzig with an excellent restaurant.
After one last look at the impressive antlers of the fallow deer that lives on the Springbachmühle, I drive on, now finally heading for the capital. The headwind is getting on my nerves again today, but I quickly get into my rut and drive to Ferch am Schwielowsee, where I have a coffee and a sponge cake on the bank. You can feel the proximity to Potsdam and Berlin - there are a lot of cyclists on the road, especially some of my age. Most of the time I have greeted couples or single elderly men on my tour. Cycling needs significantly more women.I rush through Potsdam in the home straight mode, I can already feel it, the border to the last major milestone before the end of my journey: Berlin, place of longing, former temporary home, maybe also the future, as soon as this pandemic makes me no longer hesitate. The first few kilometers on the Wall Cycle Path I race through the forest with a wide beam on my face and send my family a voice message with euphoric howls. I actually cycled here from Augsburg on my own in nine days! Alone! Without electric drive!I spend the afternoon in the bathing area at Wannsee, where a friend picks me up in the evening and cycles with me to Neukölln. There Andrew and Eric greet us with beer raised - they too arrived in Berlin half an hour ago on their bikes (we remember: I met them shortly after Augsburg!). I also stay with them today and their apartment is conveniently located directly above a pub. We celebrate the beautiful evening and above all we tough cyclists!
I don't know if I should be happy or if I think it's a shame that my tour from A to B actually comes to an end today. On the one hand, I'm really looking forward to my girlfriend and the picture-perfect idyll of East Brandenburg, on the other hand, I have the feeling that I am only now slowly growing into this mode.After a long breakfast with Eric on the balcony, I first drive through Berlin in shooting mode. As always, the city gives me a boost of energy that I pass on directly to my legs and really let it rip on the city bike paths.I received the receipt for this shortly after my first break in Bernau: For the next 20 kilometers I only have lead in my legs and in the brooding midday heat I suffer every meter that does not go downhill. Me idiot, why do I have to shoot my grain far too early on the last stage of all things?In Finowfurt the tide turns again because the towing cycle path that begins there is so beautiful that all tiredness falls away and I cycle along the river with a pensive smile. In Eberswalde I take a longer break in the café of the local bouldering hall, during which I betray myself with two nice guys from the staff.And then it's off to the very last section of my journey, to Brodowin. After a further enchanting 15 kilometers over well-paved, slightly sloping cycle paths, my navigation system served me four kilometers of lush uphill at the very end over the cobblestones that I called “Brandenburg Parkett”, which were certainly from the Middle Ages, embedded in sandy subsoil, as you can see it is only found in East Germany.Finally I reach the lake where my girlfriend and her boyfriend are lying in the sun. 820 kilometers and 10 days later I'm at my destination without a breakdown or accident and I fall off my bike straight into the lake again.