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The Baltic Sea to Vogtland – 8 days along Germany’s green former border

Martin Donat | lifeCYCLE Magazine

The Baltic Sea to Vogtland – 8 days along Germany’s green former border

Road Cycling Collection by Martin Donat

7-15

days

3-6 h

/ day

621 mi

32,450 ft

30,800 ft

Germany was divided into two for more than 40 years. A 1,393-kilometre (865 mi) border ran through the middle of this beautiful country from the Baltic Sea to the Vogtland. The border had a 5-kilometre (3 mi) wide ‘no man’s land’ that was heavily guarded and known as the ‘death strip’. The eight stages of this bike Tour bring you close to German history as you ride from Travemünde, along the former border and past countless monuments to Hof in the Vogtland. The Tour reveals how the death strip has turned into a green belt. Where border fences, walls and minefields once formed an insurmountable border, nature is now able to grow.

For more than four decades, nature had a unique opportunity to grow relatively undisturbed and thrive, backdropped by fences and watchtowers. Today, you’ll ride through wonderfully green and tranquil landscapes and precious natural habitats where hundreds of endangered animal and plant species have found a home. Cycle, enjoy and remember… this Tour is more than a bike ride, it’s a unique historical experience. It’s a ride against forgetting.

I’ve not ridden this Tour exactly as it is in this Collection, but I have cycled through the border green belt countless times on numerous bike Tours. I’ve travelled along the Rennsteig, through the Rhön and in the very east of Germany. It was beautiful every time, hence the inspiration for this route. As I’ve not ridden every single path in this Collection, you can use it as a basis for planning your own Tour through the region. You should check in advance whether the paths and roads are suitable for you and your bike.
I’ve designed this adventure for sturdy road bikes and gravel bikes. The right bike will make it easier to master the 100 to 150 kilometre (62 to 93 mi) stages. You won’t ride along smooth asphalt the whole way. After all, large parts of this region have lain fallow for decades. However, the route is also not a MTB Tour. It’s a nice mix of bumpy surfaces and asphalt roads. The stage destinations offer food and accommodation options and also plenty of historical sights connected to the former border. Both Travemünde and Hof have tr

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Grenztour von der Ostsee ins Vogtland

611 mi

31,575 ft

29,950 ft

Last updated: May 19, 2022

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Travemünde to Lauenburg – green belt border Tour

    Intermediate
    04:56
    73.4 mi
    14.8 mph
    1,525 ft
    1,500 ft
    Ferry
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    My border tour begins almost symbolically with the crossing from 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 Priwall's nudist beach. Today an information board has remained, which

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  • Difficult
    05:18
    75.8 mi
    14.3 mph
    1,825 ft
    1,775 ft
    Ferry
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    This tour is characterized by the beautiful landscape of the Elbe floodplain. Today you mainly follow the Elberadweg, because there is no nicer route by bike along Germany's third longest river.

    

    After starting in Lauenburg, you warm up a bit before it actually gets hilly. You may not believe it, but even

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  • Difficult
    06:16
    92.5 mi
    14.8 mph
    1,650 ft
    1,250 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    From Wendland along the Elbe, we continue south-west 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 know how to interpret the signs along the way.

    

    There are no great elevations in your way today, but this stage is

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  • Difficult
    06:19
    83.9 mi
    13.3 mph
    4,625 ft
    4,075 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    This tour starts with a casual warm-up through the beautiful landscape of the Große Bruch conservation area, where, with a bit of luck, you might see one or two rare birds. The further you drive, the more you can already guess that today you will start sweating. Because the Harz is approaching.

    

    About

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  • Difficult
    05:21
    68.5 mi
    12.8 mph
    4,950 ft
    5,325 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    This tour along the former inner-German border is primarily characterized by two cultural landscapes. It starts in the quite hilly Eichsfeld, which joins the Harz Mountains and sends you towards the Werratal. Here you earn a few meters of altitude, but you will always be rewarded with great views.

    

    A long

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  • Difficult
    06:30
    78.9 mi
    12.1 mph
    6,200 ft
    5,875 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    Today, this wonderfully rural tour gives little indication that the death strip between the GDR and Germany ran here for decades. However, the "Green Belt" that runs here today is quite rightly named. It's enjoyable, but somehow it also makes me think at times when I think about what used to be going

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  • Difficult
    06:18
    82.0 mi
    13.0 mph
    5,425 ft
    4,775 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly well-paved surfaces and easy to ride.

    The tour starts from the Rhön in a southerly direction and touches on Upper Franconia before it goes into the Thuringian Forest. It mostly stays with a casual "up and down", only at the end you are really challenged, because it goes up to one of the highest places in Thuringia.

    

    Before that, you will learn

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  • Difficult
    05:41
    66.1 mi
    11.6 mph
    6,250 ft
    6,250 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The last stage of my border tour is also the most demanding. No wonder, since it leads right through the Thuringian-Franconian slate mountains into the hilly Vogtland. The grand finale, with more than 2,000 meters of altitude, is symbolic, so to speak, of the difficult time of German division and the

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    8
  • Distance
    621 mi
  • Duration
    46:40 h
  • Elevation
    32,450 ft30,800 ft

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