This river rises in a Czech mountain range, shares its name with a white and black European magpie, and is the river landscape of the year 2020/21 – the White Elster River.
At around 250 kilometres (155 miles) long, the Elster Cycle Route (Elster Radweg) follows the river’s course. In four stages, it takes you from its source near the Czech town of Aš to its mouth in Halle on the Saale. After a short visit to our Czech neighbours, you cross the federal states of Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany. As there are many large cities on the route, the Elster Cycle Route is ideal for a cultural city trip. Nature lovers and bridge enthusiasts will also be impressed by this adventure. The river landscapes along the White Elster are charming, characterised by rolling green hills, tranquil villages, historic bridges, and enchanting lakes.
There are some very hilly sections along the route from the river’s source to Gera, the third-largest city in Thuringia. After Gera, the Elster Cycle Route is suitable for novice cyclists and families with children. If you plan to cycle the entire route, I recommend a touring or gravel bike with relatively wide tyre tread due to the hilly sections at the beginning of the journey that can be bumpy. You can comfortably travel to the start in Bad Brambach with the Vogtlandbahn train. Along the route, you are never far from a train station meaning you can stay flexible and shorten the route by train.
By the way, the feathered European magpie, the Elster, has nothing to do with the trail’s name. The Slavic name ‘Alstrawa’ means ‘the hurrying one’, after which the Elster was later named. To distinguish the river from the Black Elster which flows from Lusatia into the Elbe, it was called the White Elster. Even if the meaning of its name means something else, it’s not worth hurrying here. Instead, enjoy the beautiful river landscapes of the White Elster with all your sense, true to the motto: don’t be a in hurry – stay!
From Bad Brambach, the first six kilometers uphill to the Elsterquelle. Shortly after Bärendorf, a sign that can hardly be overlooked indicates that you are about to cross the German-Czech border. In the middle of the Elster Mountains, at an altitude of around 720 meters, lies the Elster spring, which is called "Pramen Bílý Halštrov" in Czech.Here in the Czech Republic, where the White Elster is still a small trickle, you will come across the typical yellow cycle signs again and again. You are correct if you drive along cycle route 2062 to Bad Elster. Your visit to our Czech neighbors will be over quickly, because Germany is only a stone's throw away. The first place after the border is Bad Elster, where a free, very idyllic natural swimming pool is right on the route.We continue through the lush green hilly landscape of the Saxon Vogtland to Oelsnitz. Here the Elster Cycle Path occasionally runs along country roads. At the Pirk dam, it is worth making a detour to the dam before you cycle through the huge Elstertal bridge.You follow the well-developed Elster cycle path to your destination today in Plauen. Here you can either chill on the city beach directly on the White Elster or - if your energy reserves are not yet exhausted - stroll through the historic old town or visit the unique lace museum.
On today's stage, two Vogtland classics are on the program a little off the Elsterradweg. The first detour goes to the Pöhl dam, one of the most beautiful bathing lakes in Saxony. Then it continues on the Elsterradweg until you set off for the second detour shortly before Greiz. The six-kilometer detour takes you on a flat stretch to the imposing Göltzschtalbrücke, the largest brick bridge in the world.After you have marveled at the landmark of the Vogtland, it is now time to leave Saxony to pay a visit to the Thuringian residence city of Greiz. The Upper and Lower Castle and the Summer Palace with its park are particularly worth seeing here.In the further course, the White Elster meanders through the picturesque river valley. The entire section between Greiz and Gera is one of the most scenic parts of the Elster Cycle Path. Wooded mountain slopes, red rocks and lush green meadows line the path. The beautiful views of the wild and romantic river valley of the White Elster will stay in your memory for a long time and make up for the steep climbs of the first stage.The second stage ends in Gera. Here are some beer gardens with cool refreshments waiting for you. After relaxing, you can immerse yourself in the history of the city, admire the historic town hall and the beautiful architecture of the old industrial city. My favorite is the house where the famous painter Otto Dix was born, which is located directly on the White Elster.
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On today's third stage, all beer lovers will get their money's worth. Shortly after starting in Gera, you can take a brewery tour in Bad Köstritz to take a look behind the scenes of the local black beer brewery.Then it goes on over the state border to Saxony-Anhalt. You probably haven't heard much from Zeitz by now. Zeitz not only has a castle that is worth seeing, but also a kilometer-long system of tunnels that served as a beer warehouse in the 15th century.In the further course of the White Elster you leave Saxony-Anhalt again to get to know the beautiful Leipzig New Lake landscape. At Zwenkauer and Cospudener See you can recharge your batteries in nature before you cycle into the urban jungle of Leipzig.The Saxon metropolis, described by the New York Times as the “cool-kid town”, has a lot to offer. If you want to discover the dynamic art and culture scene, you can let off steam in the west of Leipzig and marvel at the many galleries and studios. For those who are on the trail of German history, it is worth visiting the Nikolaikirche, which in 1989 became a symbol of the Peaceful Revolution.And for all beer lovers among the Elster cyclists, two more local specialties await at the end of the third stage, which must definitely be tried. The Leipziger Gose with its typical coriander taste and the craft beer “Weisse Elster”, which is created here in Leipzig and lovingly brewed in Chemnitz.
On the fourth and last stage you quickly leave the urban flair. After just a few kilometers, you will find yourself at the Leipziger Auensee in the midst of beautiful nature. We continue on well-developed paths across the state border to Saxony-Anhalt to the Raßnitzer See.After the Schafbrücke you can admire the river and meadow landscape of the White Elster and the Saale from the high bank. The White Elster flows into the Saale in Halle-Silberhöhe. To get a good view of the estuary, you have to leave your bike and go down a few meters on foot. The Elsterradweg turns into the Saaleradweg, which takes you to the city center of Halle. On the impressive market square or at the cathedral there are many nice cafés that invite you to linger.The route ends at the main station in Halle (Saale). From here you can come back home relaxed or back to the starting point. With a couple of Halloren balls as food for the journey, you can sweeten the three-hour train ride to Bad Brambach - on which "the" hasty one "will rush past you again - a little.