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04.09.2021 Via Claudia Augusta Part 3: Vacations.

In Italy, our trip turned into a sunny and relaxing (and, we felt, well-deserved) holiday. Instead of following down the Adige river, the original course of VCA, we made another detour to Lago di Garda, very conveniently located just a parallel valley away. We were not far from our final destination anymore, which shortened our daily cycling stages. We were thus able to really take our time moving along the lake – and across, by ferry – which allowed us to get a good idea of the lake’s very diverse shore areas: windsurfers’ and climbers’ paradise in the north, the world’s northernmost lemon plantations in the west, and Mediterranean-like family vacation destinations in the south.
It was only a three-hour bike ride form the lake to Verona, from where a bus will take us back home tonight. We arrived here two days ago and, first thing, met up with a group of scouts from our home district. They are spending their holidays at the lake and went on a day trip to Verona, where we explored the city together.
And, being so close to it, we took a train to Venice yesterday! They say that in Northern Italy, tourist numbers are still 30 or 40 percent lower than usual due to the pandemic. So we had the opportunity to visit this unique place when it was not as crowded as it generally is. What a treat!

28.08.2021 Via Claudia Augusta Part 2: Across the Alps.

The endeavour of crossing the Alps started in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. When cycling up from there to Ehrwald in Austria, Addy realised he would not be able to go on the next day without replacing a vital part of his bike. Luckily, a bike shop team in Ehrwald was up early and ready to help him out with a brand new cog set. Subsequently, we successfully climbed to the pass called Fernpass, which is well known by German skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts as one of the main gateways to the Austrian mountains. However, this was the first time we crossed it off the main road and were able to discover the beauty of the alpine landscape surrounding the place.On our way down to and along the Inn valley we made two new cycling friends, Noemi and Urs from Ulm. They had chosen the same route through Martina in Switzerland, up some gentle serpentines allowing us to climb 400 metres in about 6 kilometres, and across the next pass: Reschenpass on the Austrian-Italian border. We spent the night near the lake of the same name, which is known for the church tower – a relict from a village that was flooded during the creation of the lake.The weather was a lot warmer and sunnier in South Tyrol than it had been further north, which unfortunately meant that finding free pitches at campsites suddenly became a real challenge. Besides, most Italian campsites do not seem to expect travellers to arrive with just a tent instead of a caravan. On the bright side, there were two massive rewards waiting for us: First, a pleasant downhill ride of about 100 kilometres, past Merano and down to Bolzano. Second, a wonderful dinner with Addy’s colleague Ute and her husband, who live in the picturesque town of Kaltern.

23.08.2021 Via Claudia Augusta Part 1: Staying with friends.

Yes, we are cycle touring again! This time, however, the time frame is a narrow one. Technically, Eva’s summer holidays last six weeks, but Addy has only taken three weeks off from work and so we are now off on a cycling adventure that is limited to about 18 days. The route we have chosen is an ancient Roman path across the Alps called Via Claudia Augusta. It will take us from Southern Germany to Austria, Switzerland and Italy. And yes, it will involve some mountain pass crossings on the way – exciting!
The first stage started in our rural hometown and took us down to the Austrian border in four cycling days and one rest day. We passed through Dinkelsbühl and Nördlingen and reached the starting point of Via Claudia Augusta in Donauwörth. We followed the route to Augsburg and stayed with Becca and Daniel’s lovely German-American family, who we had contacted through the Warmshowers network. Next we had to deviate from Via C. A. a little bit to visit Eva’s best friend Caro and her family in Munich. This alternative route most
conveniently took us to the places of Addy’s friends Benni and Aziza as well as Lisa and Daniel, so on the entire German stretch we had lots of fun staying with friends, playing with their children, seeing their new homes, sharing drinks and meals and making memories together.

18.12.2020 New Adventure.

We have just said ‘I do’, or as the German line goes, we have given our ‘yes’ words. After a journey of 13 years, we stopped for a moment to confirm that we want to cycle together for the rest of this tour, to express it in biking words.
Even when the current coronavirus restrictions only allowed for five people at the wedding ceremony and although we could not invite more than one other household to the party, we decided to do it anyway, despite these special times. On the bright side, all those limitations make us focus on the most important aspects only, and we are sure there will be other times and, one day, we will have a big church wedding with all our friends and family.
#scoutbound #wedding #schrozberg #adventure #rings

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12.08.2020 Cycling home. For the final almost-350-kilometers leg home we left the Iron Curtain Trail and went into the Fulda valley. We followed the river up to the city of Fulda, where we had already stayed for a night at the beginning of our journey. Unlike back then, Addy's friend from uni times Konrad and his girlfriend Tugce were in town and invited us to stay with them. They showed us their neighbourhood and the city centre, which was really nice because the first time we cycled through Fulda it was raining and we could not enjoy the visit. Next, for the first time and just for half a day, we took the same route as we had taken when leaving home in June, and we stayed in another place we had passed through more than two months before: Rieneck. That is the place where the scout-run castle is we had wanted to stay at back then. Now it was open and so it was possibe for us to spend time there, explore the castle and sleep on top of the highest tower. This was admittedly one of our very few contacts with scouting on this journey. Unfortunately, scouting was banned in the GDR and just a few groups have been founded or reactivated during the past 30 years. So while we coincidentally bumped into a few small groups of scouts in Erfurt, on top of Brocken and in between, we could not really arrange any meetings with local members of the movement. After two weeks of pure sunshine and temperatures of up to 30 degrees, which made sleeping under the open sky easy and pleasant but cycling quite challenging, especially around noon, we reached our hometown of Schrozberg today. #scoutbound #cycling #bikes #worldbycycling #fulda #rieneck #burgrieneck #würzburg #alterkranen #festungmarienberg #marienberg #fuldatal #dpsg #pfadfinder

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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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