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06.08.2020 Miniature wonderland. Following the Green Belt south, we cycled through an area called Wendland, which impressed us with its stately farm houses built with pretty timber framing or red bricks or both. We tried the platform 1nitetent for the first time and camped on a farmstead with the main building dating back to the 1600s, surrounded by horses and friendly dogs. Then we finally had to say goodbye to the times of easy cycling across the flats of northern Germany because we found ourselves at the foot of a considerable highland area called Harz. Wanting to seize the occasion and go up all the way to the highest peak, which is Brocken with an elevation of 1,141 metres, we strategically chose a campsite where we could leave our bikes for a day in order to go on a hike and then spend another night there before moving on. On our way to the campsite as well as on the day of the actual hike, it felt a lot like we were moving around in a miniature railway setting. The Harz mountain range and national park are stunningly beautiful, with thick forests, colourful flower fields, idyllic streamlets, picturesque little villages full of pretty wooden houses, neat footpaths covered in fir needles and – to top it all – a steam railway network. We also found Harz to smell very good, which was mostly due to cones opening up in the sunshine and lots of freshly cut wood – some of which needs to be cut down in order to contain pests and diseases, unfortunately. Our excursion to the top of Brocken, a supposedly mystical place where the witches meet for Walpurgis Night, was good for the hiking part – which also gave our bums a rest day – but actually reaching the summit was slightly disappointing because it was really crowded up there and that spoiled the fun a bit – if not the great view. #scoutbound #cycling #worldbycycling #grünesband #harz #nationalparkharz #brocken #brockenbahn #hsb #schierke #schierkerfeuerstein #teufelssteig #camping

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03.08.2020 Iron Curtain Trail. There is a cycle trail along the historic line between capitalist countries and those supporting socialism during the Cold War era, from 1945 to 1989/90. It starts in northern Scandinavia, crosses twenty countries and ends almost 8000 kilometres later at the Black Sea. In Germany the trail follows down the former border between East and West Germany, which has been turned into the biosphere reserve 'Grünes Band Deutschland' (German Green Belt). We have learned about the methods of the GDR surveillance state and the time when Germany was separated on our tour through the area of former East Germany, and of course in history classes at school. In order to extend our knowledge about this chapter we decided to now follow the Iron Curtain Trail, which turns inland near Lübeck and heads south – just about where we wanted to go. In some parts it took us along the original border patrol roads, and all along the way there where watchtowers, some more and others less preserved. Some parts have been taken back by nature and others have been transformed into memorial sites to make the original border installations accessible to the public. The most impressive ones we passed were the enormous border checkpoint of Marienborn, where in past times the majority of travellers and goods crossed the border between the two German countries, and the original death strip installation in Hötensleben. We had heard about those structures before, but seeing them in full size left us speechless and showed us again how crazy the government must have been to lock up their own people and use rifles, spring guns and contact mines against anyone trying to escape. #scoutbound #dpsg #falterbikes #cube #cycling #bikes #worldbycycling #ict #ironcurtaintrail #eurovelo #grünesband #marienborn #hötensleben #wechselstube #grenze #border #memorial #checkpoint #gdr #ddr #coldwar

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29.07.2020 Final sprint on the coast. While our homeland cycling adventure is far from being over, our days near the coast are drawing to an end and we are going to turn inland soon. And maybe the area has some sort of secret plan to leave a very good and long-lasting final impression on us – by all means, these past few days have been full of special experiences. After leaving Rostock, we pedalled through the pretty seaside resorts of Heiligendamm, Kühlungsborn and Rerik, catching glimpses of the narrow-gauge steam train 'Molly' that takes tourists from the station in Bad Doberan to the coast. We spontaneously stopped to visit the old windmill of Stove, which was fully operational until a small accident occurred in 2019. However, the volunteers running the mill and giving highly informative guided tours of it are confident that they will have the funds to have the problem fixed in the near future. We paid a brief visit to the city of Wismar and cycled on to Travemünde, where we took a ferry and then hurried on to Bad Schwartau to meet Meike and Sammy, who had literally just come back from a midsummer regatta to the northernmost point of the Baltic Sea. It took their little sailing yacht Kostbar almost two weeks to take them all the way up there, but they made it just in time, as the last crew to finish, and won a special prize for the smallest boat. What a cool experience to meet them and to spend one night on board the award-winning boat, if only in the marina. From Bad Schwartau, home of a jam brand known all over the country, it is only a few kilometres to Lübeck, where we embraced the opportunity to visit a big museum dedicated to the history of the Hanseatic League. Having been to Stralsund, Rostock and Wismar before, we had seen how their old city centres, impressive red brick storage buildings and splendid merchants' houses testify to former power and prosperity, but we did not have any detailed information on the nature and history of the League. The museum, however, definitely did fill us in! #scoutbound #cycling #worldbycycling #bikes #windmill #windmühle #stove #molli #wismar #lübeck #schwartau #badschwartau #hansemuseum #midsummersail #holstentor

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26.07.2020 Ports and boats. Instead of taking another ferry, we left the island of Rügen via the bridge that connects the island to the city of Stralsund. We strolled through the pretty harbour area and spontaneously decided to visit Gorch Fock, a three-mast ship no longer fit to sail the seas, but anchored right there as a museum vessel. While 'Gorch Fock' is a household name in Germany, some people might ignore that it is actually shared by two large sailing training ships, and that the older one has a really intriguing history and is said to have been 'reborn' twice in its course. Built in 1933, she was deliberately sunk by the German Navy in 1945, but retrieved from the bottom of the sea two years later to be given to the Soviet Union in the context of war reparations. What a special experience to walk the decks and interior of this old lady! Our next destination was Rostock, another hanseatic port city, where we stayed in a shared flat located in a spacious urban villa. We were hosted by Willy, who is an expert in nautical science but now commits himself to political activism and creative projects. He is an extremely sociable and helpful person, so thanks to him we did not only get to know his lovely partner and various cohabitants, but also four more cyclists passing through the city. Willy says that within a single year, he is easily contacted by about 100 travelling strangers in need of a place to sleep, and that he is dedicated to finding a solution for everyone, even when he is not home or his place is already fully 'booked'. The best place for boat spotters is Warnemünde, Rostock's seaside district, a picturesque little place that we visited yesterday afternoon. We were there when we learned that Meike, the friend we made during our New Zealand sailing adventure, would soon arrive in Lübeck, yet another port city, by boat. And coincidentally, this is where we are going next! #scoutbound #stralsund #gorchfock #ozeaneum #warnemünde #lighthouse #leuchtturm #igapark #warmshowers #traditionsschiffdresden #rostocker #rostock #pornobrunnen #bier #mecklenburgvorpommern #mv #germany

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21.07.2020 Sand in our shoes. We have just come back 'home' from a visit to the third island of our journey. We are staying on the island of Rügen for four nights, and this morning we set off on a one-day expedition to Hiddensee, Rügen's 'little sister', leaving our tent and camping gear behind. So now we have walked the beaches of three islands, have had as many sea buckthorn delicacies as we could get hold of, and have collected quite some sand in our shoes. Hiddensee is definitely the most cyclist-friendly island of the lot, as there is no private and thus almost no motorised traffic there, and apart from that it offers incredibly beautiful natural spaces and – in our opinion – the highest density of thatched roofs. Rügen is, quite incontestably, the star of them all, with the most and poshest beach resorts. Places like Binz and Sellin were already popular when Germany was still an empire, and fortunately their splendour survived even when the GDR regime clearly failed to invest in the upkeep of their most iconic buildings, like Sellin Pier. The history of another place starts in the Nazi era and shows what madness can bring about: In Prora, we visited the impressive remains of what was once meant to become a seaside resort for 20,000 people, accommodated in a single, monstrous building complex with a total length of 4.5 kilometres. Apart from fantastic white sand to walk on, the islands and the northern mainland also offer quite a variety of surfaces that make for interesting cycle paths: There are old GDR military roads made of concrete slabs and panels that are now in different states of decay, dirt roads that can be quite muddy or quite sandy, and cobblestone roads – a phenomenon we used to associate with historic inner-city quarters only, but which is ubiquitous up here. We are curious to see what is in store for us when we hit the road again and leave Rügen tomorrow. #scoutbound #rügen #hiddensee #prora #mecklenburgvorpommern #mv #germany #kdfseebad #sellin #seebrücke #leuchtturm #lighthouse #sunset #cycling #worldbycycling #kreidefelsen #dünenheide

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16.07.2020 The sea, finally. It was quite a long way from our place in southern Germany to the coast – mostly because there was so much to see and do on the way, and due to the fact that we most definitely chose the scenic route over the short one. And then, when we finally arrived on the country's most eastern island the day before yesterday, we did not really feel the maritime vibes right away. Reason one was that Usedom is only a stone's throw from the mainland and separated from it by what is basically a big lake and some streams, and reason two was that the cycling paths here barely run along the coastline, and the roads, towns, fields and forests of the central island look very much like any other in Germany. However, once we had crossed the island and reached its Baltic Sea coast, we can see why people praise Usedom's pretty seaside resorts and fantastic white beaches. Unfortunately, it was rather cold and rainy during our stay, so we did not have the option to just spend the day in one of the comfy roofed wicker chairs for two that are so typical of German beaches. But we gave it a try as soon as the sky opened up a bit yesterday, and whiled away the rest of the day in Usedom's cosy cafés. The rain also kept us from cycling over to Poland again, which is only a couple of kilometres to the east, as the border runs right across the island. Today we are leaving the island via a bridge in Wolgast and cycling on to the city of Greifswald and beyond, but we are planning to be back at the coast tonight and start a new island adventure tomorrow. #scoutbound #usedom #heringsdorf #strand #strandkorb #ostsee #trabant #trabi #ddrmuseum

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14.07.2020 To the sea. No tour of East Germany would be complete without a visit to the coast of the Baltic Sea, and after spending so much time in Berlin, conquering the great outdoors again sounded just fine. For people living in Berlin and feeling like a quick trip to the seaside, the go-to option is a three-hour drive to the island of Usedom, which is separated from the mainland by large bodies of brackish freshwater while the Baltic Sea touches only its northern shores. Usedom and the capital are linked by a popular cycle path, but we decided to take the long way and follow the river Oder, which quite precisely marks the German-Polish border. Starting in Berlin, we went east until we reached Lower Oder Valley National Park and then followed the Oder-Neiße cycle path, another scenic and comfortable route to the coast. It was pretty much only when Addy's bike ripped a shift cable that we decided we should take a little detour to the closest bigger city, which is Szczecin in Poland. So oops, we cycled out of the country again! Having successfully shopped for and repaired Alter Falter, we had some utterly delicious Polish food in this bustling place. In the evening, we camped on a tiny pony farm in the most remote corner of our country. Today, we have reached the town of Ueckermünde, where we are now waiting for the little ferry to take us and about 30 other cyclists across the waters of Stettiner Haff to Usedom. Ship ahoy! #scoutbound #cycling #worldbycycling #polen #poland #szczecin #stettin #stettinerhaff #ueckermünde #oder #oderneisseradweg #odra #unteresodertal #ferry

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10.07.2020 The capital. The biggest milestone on our way through the east of Germany was a stop in Berlin. Addy had never been to his own capital before and Eva had visited once as a kid and again in 2018, with two American friends, but just for a very short time. That is why both of us were eager to spend a couple of days exploring this historically significant and culturally diverse city. It bears marks left by the imperial period, the Nazi regime, WW II, the division of the country during the Cold War era – when the Wall ran right through the city – as well as modern city planning, politics and lifestyle. We visited lots of sights, but former border checkpoint Tränenpalast, abandoned airport Tempelhof and GDR State Security prison Hohenschönhausen were the places most fascinating to us. The first few days in Berlin, we stayed with Anna and André. They accepted to host us even though Anna's cousin and partner from France were also there for an evening. True to the motto 'the more the merrier', we spent a great German-French evening together, with traditional East German food. Yummy! With a tent that needed (and got) some repair and two old friends from school we wanted to meet up with, there were a lot more things to do than just sightseeing, and we ended up spending an entire week in the capital. We are going to continue our journey tomorrow morning, but we still have a list of ideas and things to do for the next visit to Berlin. #scoutbound #tempelhoferfeld #berlintempelhof #berlin #germany #alexanderplatz #fernsehturm #fernsehturmberlin #tränenpalast #bahnhoffriedrichstrasse #hausderdeutschengeschichte #hohenschönhausen #brandenburgertor #ampelmann #cycling #worldbycycling #sonycenter #potsdamerplatz #rejka #camp4berlin #camping

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03.07.2020 The Spreewald experience. The easiest way to get from the Elbe valley to Berlin was, in our opinion, to cycle to the city of Bautzen and then follow the river Spree to the capital. The morning we set off, we got to know two like-minded travellers: Lena and Hendrik from Kempten in Bavaria, who are also cycle touring the East for a couple of weeks. We promised to meet again at the Bautzen campsite in the evening, having no idea that we would actually spend quite some time together in the days to come. On our way to Bautzen, the two of us actually left Germany for about half an hour, as there was a shorter and flatter route on Czech soil. The next day, we explored Bautzen in a group of four, and we found that with its numerous historical towers, a unique cemetery in and around a church ruin, and – with Bautz'ner Senf mustard being the city's most famous product – the inevitable mustard shop, it is a place really worth visiting. From Bautzen to Cottbus, road signs are bilingual: Due to the presence of a Sorbian minority, most places have a German and a Sorbian name. North of Cottbus, in an area called Spreewald or 'Spree forest', the river shows some weird behaviour: It splits into several small branches which, together with a bunch of artificially built channels, form a dense grid of waterways. This area is well known for its pickled cucumbers, incredibly cute little villages and endless opportunity for leisure paddling. So yesterday we rented a paddle boat for a day and toured the area, stopping when we felt like it for drinks or a picnic. It was so much fun, and exercising our arms instead of our legs made for a nice change. And although we had gone for different campsites, we bumped into Lena and Hendrik again, and did so once more today, when cycling on towards Berlin – a good occasion to share a jar of Spreewald pickles with them. #scoutbound #spreewald #bautzen #cottbus #sachsen #saxony #lichtenhainerwasserfall #storkowersee #spremberg #spreeradweg #gurkenradweg #cycling #worldbycycling #kajak #kanu #paddleboat #sunset #lake #see

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28.06.2020 Micro adventure. Our Dresden hosts Tina and Matthias have different classifications for their bike rides, depending on how long they are. Yesterday all four of us started out on a 'micro adventure' into the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, where we wanted to stay for one night. We cycled along the river Elbe and then up into the highlands to a bivouac shelter Tina had found for us, close to the Czech border. Some hikers had chosen the same destination, so we were quite a few people to spend the evening together at the campfire, baking bread on sticks, frying sausages and singing along with Tina, who played the ukulele she had brought on her bike. On our way back down into the valley we hiked up to the top of Großer Zschirnstein, the highest hill in the Saxon Sandstone Mountains, and enjoyed the stunning view across endless forests. Back down at the river we had lunch and some beers before finally parting company. We had a terrific time with our two fellow adventurers and we wish them all the best for their future rides. Having visited a lot of cities in the past few weeks, we were very happy to be in the great outdoors again, and we are now looking forward to spending some more days in the countryside before reaching Berlin. #scoutbound #cycling #worldbycycling #dresden #microadventure #elbsandsteingebirge #elbe #elbesandstonemountains #sachsenforst #biwak #bivouac #forest #zschirnstein #großerzschirnstein

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