From the Baltic Sea to the Vogtland: Border ride through the Green Belt

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For more than 40 years, Germany was divided in two. The 1,393-kilometre (865-miles) border ran through the country from the Baltic Sea to the Vogtland, and despite the natural beauty, it contained a five-kilometre (3-mile) wide exclusion zone that was not called the "Death Strip" for nothing. On this bike ride, you will experience the full length of German's separated history as you cycle in eight stages from Travemünde to Hof in the Vogtland. Above all, however, this ride leads through the most positive legacy of all this: The once notorious Death Strip, which is now known as the Green Belt.

Here, on this once-terrifying patch of ground, nature has been given a unique opportunity. For decades, void of human traffic, plants were able to grow undisturbed amongst the shadows of the East/West border. Today, you can cycle through a wonderful green and quiet landscape and experience this unique strip of nature where hundreds of endangered animal and plant species have found a home. Cycling, enjoying and remembering - this border ride is not like other bike rides: it is a unique experience, delivering a touchable insight into the history of this region.

This ride is designed for road bikes so that you can master the 100 to 150 kilometer (60 - 90 mile) long stages fairly easily, meaning that you don't need to be especially fit to conquer each ride. Just be ready for rough patches as you won't spend the entire route on smooth asphalt. After all, large parts of this area lay fallow for decades. The stage towns offer great places to re-energize and accomodation aplenty, as well as numerous points of interest that showcase the unique history of this bike path. Both Travemünde and Hof are well connected to the railway network, making arrival and departure very easy.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Intermediate
    73.4 mi
    14.8 mph
    1,525 ft
    1,500 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride. The tour includes crossing by ferry.

    Our border tour begins almost symbolically with the crossing of Travemünde over to the small peninsula, the Priwall, on which the inner German border ran at that time. From the watchtower the GDR border guards had a clear view of the nudist beach of Priwall. Today an information board has remained, reminiscent of the time of the Cold War. Up here, right on the Baltic Sea, it's really nice. Take some time, drive over to the beach and enjoy the short drive from Travemünde by ferry before you really get going.On the way you have the opportunity to inform yourself about the history of this area. A particularly vivid option is the "Grenzhus Schlagsdorf", on which an old border fortification was reconstructed and gives a very vivid impression of what it used to look like here.The flip side of the medal will be available a little later when you reach the Schaalsee Biosphere Reserve. For almost 40 years, nature has had more or less free hand in the border strip between East and West - today you will find here a wonderfully versatile biotope worthy of protection that you can simply enjoy.After passing through one or the other small village with typical Nordic charm, you will slowly approach the daily destination Lauenburg via Boizenburg. The idyllic old town is located directly on the Elbe. Here you can end the day by discovering the beautiful and interesting city for a while - tomorrow the Elbe Cycle Route is waiting for you.

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  • Difficult
    75.8 mi
    14.6 mph
    1,825 ft
    1,775 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride. The tour includes crossing by ferry.

    This tour is characterized by the beautiful landscape of the Elbaue. Today you essentially follow the Elbe Cycle Route, because there is no better route by bike along Germany's third longest river.After the start in Lauenburg you roll yourself a bit warm, before it actually gets hilly. You can hardly believe it, but even in the far north it can be exhausting. In the section in front of Hitzacker three crisp stitches await you. You can put one of them on top by climbing the lookout tower, which is located on the "summit". We would highly recommend that to you, because from there the view on the Elbe is just breathtaking (assuming it is clear).This stage of the border tour along the former German-German border follows exactly the part of the Elbe, which represented the boundary line between East and West in the period from 1945 to 1989. The approximately 94-kilometer section between Boizenburg and Lütgenwitsch was increasingly sealed off on the GDR side. In 1952, a five-kilometer-wide restricted zone was set up here and people were resettled. Dozens of people died in this section trying to escape to the West. Relics on the wayside (for example, an old border tower) are reminiscent of this time.

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  • Difficult
    92.8 mi
    14.7 mph
    1,675 ft
    1,275 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    From the Wendland along the Elbe it continues today in a south-west direction through the Altmark. This beautiful cultural landscape in the north of Saxony-Anhalt has a lot to tell - if you keep your eyes open and the signs on the roadside to interpret know.Great elevations do not stand in your way today, but this stage is a bit longer with almost 150 kilometers. Enough time to enjoy the beautiful landscape, which today presents a change of agriculture, small forests and beautiful heathland. To cool off the Arendsee is good and there is even a cool bike shop on the route. It is not only good if you need a spare part, but is powered by a genuine "original" and is just as worth a stop.Shortly before the end of the tour it will be a bit hilly again: At least 160 meters up. Responsible for this is the Lappwald, a small "ridge" at the gates of Helmstedt, today's stage destination.

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  • Difficult
    79.2 mi
    13.2 mph
    4,175 ft
    3,625 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to carry your bike.

    This tour starts with a leisurely warmup through the beautiful landscape of the protected area Große Bruch, where, with a bit of luck, one or two rare birds might come across your path. The further you drive, the more you can already guess that you're still working up a sweat today. Because the resin is approaching.About halfway there it is clear: In front of you is North Germany's highest mountain range. Still 20 kilometers grace period - in Wernigerode you can strengthen yourself in the picturesque old town again, before a beautiful rise in the Harz waiting for you. But do not worry - it will not be that bad. The highest point of the tour is "Drei Annen Hohne" at 630 meters. The chunks are almost twice as high, you can leave them on the right today. If you still want to take it with you, maybe taking a ride on the Brocken Railway is an option. She starts in Drei Annen Hohne and she takes bicycles with her.The serving of borderline history can be found today in a particularly interesting museum. You do not even need to shuffle bored through some stuffy walls: Everything you see at the Border Museum is original and open-air. On an exciting tour, you'll see old bunkers, fences and watchtowers - everything that used to be built along the border.After this somewhat heavy meal follows the enjoyable part of the day: a beautiful, long descent down to the stage destination Bad Sachsa.

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  • Difficult
    67.8 mi
    12.9 mph
    4,900 ft
    5,275 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to carry your bike.

    This tour along the former inner German border is dominated by two cultural landscapes. It starts in the quite hilly Eichsfeld, which joins the Harz and sends you in direction Werratal. Here you earn yourself a few meters in altitude, but you will be rewarded again and again with great views.A long descent from Wachsedt spits you out for the first time in the Werratal, where you follow a small piece of the Werratal cycle path to Wanfried. In the beautiful old harbor of Wanfried you can strengthen yourself again for the last "mountain stage" of the day. The "Wall of Rambach" is waiting for you with a 15 percent gradient but also with a beautifully situated, quiet country road.Once at the top you will be rewarded with the last long descent of the day, which leads you to the stage destination Creuzburg and thus back to the beautiful Werratal. Idyllic, a stage can hardly end.

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  • Difficult
    78.4 mi
    12.4 mph
    5,975 ft
    5,650 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    This wonderfully rural tour makes it hard to imagine today that for decades the death strip between the GDR and Germany was here. However, the "Green Ribbon" that runs today bears his name completely. It is to enjoy, but somehow it is also thoughtful in the meantime, if you imagine what was going on here earlier.Today you pass a point where you can learn a lot about the history of this area - it's worth it, a stop at the "Point Alpha" we would like to recommend to you very much. At the former US observation base in the middle of the Rhön you can get a really good impression of what it looked like before. In addition to the exhibition in the "House on the Border", here is the reconstruction of a border section and the "Path of Hope" with many sculptures is thought-provoking. A short detour from the actual route, which is really worthwhile.Continue through the Rhön and you can not say much more, except that it is really beautiful here! The quite demanding drive over the wide hills of the low mountain range will make you sweat but also astonish. The great foresight on the hills of the Rhön are simply breathtaking.

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  • Difficult
    82.2 mi
    12.9 mph
    5,375 ft
    4,725 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    From the Rhön, the tour starts today, initially heading south and touches Upper Franconia before it then goes into the Thuringian Forest. It usually stays with a casual "up and down", only at the end you are really challenged once, because it goes up to one of the highest places of Thuringia.Before that, you'll learn firsthand why the Green Belt is so named. The highlight of the day is the Alstergrund nature reserve, which today provides shelter for such rare animal species that it has been declared a "flora-fauna-habitat area". And right in the middle leads the old Kolonnenweg, a kind of concrete roadway, on which the GDR border patrols once patrolled. Today you can ride a wonderful bike here. Admittedly, these ways really rattle. Therefore, the actual route also leads across the parallel highway. Nevertheless, we would highly recommend that you do not miss the adventure "Kolonnenweg". At highlight number four ("branch colonnade") you can turn left onto the colonnade and follow it until it automatically crosses the regular route again. Sure, this road is just a bit more demanding than the road, but it's worth it!The destination of today's stage is the idyllic Thuringian town of Steinach, which not only offers interesting sights (for example the German Slate Museum or the Steinacher toy box), but also offers a lot of sportive offers: In Steinach, for example, there is a high ropes course and a mountain bike Park. It certainly will not be boring here!

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  • Difficult
    69.5 mi
    11.4 mph
    6,800 ft
    6,800 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The last leg of our border tour is also the most demanding. No wonder, as it leads right through the Thuringian-Franconian Slate Mountains into the hilly Vogtland. The grand finale, with more than 2,000 vertical meters, is symbolic of the difficult period of the German division and the great efforts that were necessary to bring about reunification. The big difference is that you can sit on the bike and enjoy this beautiful area in freedom.On the way, silent witnesses remind us again and again of the decades of separation. It was especially bizarre in the small village of Mödlareuth, a community of 50 souls through which the border ran right through the middle. While people were initially able to cross the border relatively easily there, it was suddenly closed in 1952 - with dramatic consequences. A student should not have received his certificate because he did not come to school anymore. Farmers could no longer order their fields because they were on the other side. At the end, a 700 meter long concrete wall was pulled across the place, which is why the Americans called Mödlereuth henceforth "Little Berlin". In the border museum you can among other things examine the original wall.After 991 kilometers, the tour ends along the former inner-German border in the Upper Franconian court. A tour of the Green Band, which is so much nicer than the death strip that once was. By bike, you can experience this piece of history in a wonderful way and at the same time enjoy a wonderful landscape that you rarely find in such a coherent way.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    619 mi
  • Duration
    46:30 h
  • Elevation
    32,250 ft
    30,600 ft

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