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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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27.06.2020 Dresden, now and then. Both of us have been to Dresden before and we are excited to be here again. Dresden is one of Germany's most beautiful cities and it could be even more gorgeous if it had not been bombed and destroyed to a great extent at the end of World War II. We visited the 360 degrees exhibition 'Dresden 1945' in an old gasometer, which provides a lot of information and pictures of different eras: what Dresden looked like before and right after the war, how it changed during the GDR period, and what is there today. Strolling through the city and climbing up to the top of Frauenkirche cathedral we compared what we saw at the exhibition with the sight that meets the eye today. But it is not just the city of Dresden that is awesome, this is also true for its people: Tina and Matthias gave us the possibility to stay with them – to be precise, they let us choose between sleeping in their living room or on their balcony, above the rooftops of Dresden and beneath the stars. We went for the second option, although our hosts have the coolest and most interesting flat we have seen so far. They own a pet chameleon, they build their own bikes out of bamboo and they are bike enthusiasts too, so we always had something to talk and laugh about while enjoying the evenings in Dresden's beer gardens. One more discovery we made is that Chemnitz is not as ugly as a lot of people had told us before. On our way to Dresden we spent a day in the city formerly called Karl-Marx-Stadt and we liked it. The city has a beautiful centre and we enjoyed a ride on the park railway. #scoutbound #cycling #worldbycycling #dresden #frauenkirche #panometer #panometerdresden #zwergchamäleon #chamäleon #chameleon #viaduct #cherryeating #cherries #chemnitz #karlmarx #karlmarxstadt #nischel #parkeisenbahn

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23.06.2020 Spontaneous invitation. We did not spend a lot of time in Halle, but will remember it for its very affordable no-frills campsite. We discovered some amusing murals, saw the fault line running below a central square, and emptied a box of Halloren chocolates while listening to the church bells. Our next stop was Leipzig, where we camped in an area called Neuseenland, 'land of new lakes'. It truly is full of big artificial lakes that were created to renaturalise open pits when brown coal mining stopped not too long ago. On our first evening, we got to know a super lovely couple, Suse and Stefan. They are Neuseenland locals, love riding their road bikes around the lakes, and also have some cycle touring experience. We quickly found common ground, and in the end they spontaneously invited us to their place for a night. We were really thrilled by this degree of kindness and hospitality, which, quite frankly, we had not expected to experience in Germany, where people do not readily open their doors to strangers. We did not think twice and extended our stay, and our hosts treated us to a great evening at their cosy family home, where we had yummy food, got to know two of their kids, and totally recharged our batteries. They also helped us deal with an issue that had come up a day earlier: Eva and her bike got hit by a car. Luckily, the doctor that Suse advised us to see just confirmed that the injuries are only minor – and Elfi is fine, too. With the extra time, we could spend a full day at the lake and still visit the city centre of Leipzig. Upon Suse's recommendation, we went to Zeitgeschichtliches Forum, a fascinating museum covering German history after 1945. Leipzig and its people played an important role in the peaceful revolution of 1989/90, and it was great to learn about key events at the museum and then see some venues in real life, like the building that housed a branch office of the State Security of the GDR. Outside this place, people once gathered to stop the destruction of telltale documents that had started inside once the authorities realised their case was lost. #scoutbound #halle #leipzig #gdr #ddr #halloren #cycling #völkerschlachtdenkmal

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19.06.2020 Wine lovers' paradise. The region between Jena and Halle is a designated natural park dominated by two rivers, Saale and Unstrut, and famous for its wines. On our way through, we have passed vineyards and little wineries, inevitably had a couple of glasses, and even got to know a young wine expert. In Jena, we were hosted by Anna, a geography student and passionate traveller who knows a thing or two about edible herbs and plants, sustainable living and healthy mindfulness. She lives in a shared flat with three other people and we were treated to an awesome evening with the entire lot. Sharing a meal, many stories and some bottles of wine with these warm-hearted people really inspired and energised us. One of Anna's flatmates, Leonie, is well on the way to becoming a trained grower and maker of wines. She patiently answered all our questions about her job, and in the end even gifted us with a bottle of her first very own wine, which we vowed to keep for a very special occasion. Moving on the next day was a little challenging for two reasons – not only because we would not have minded staying a little longer with our new friends, but also because the rain came down in sheets pretty much all day. However, we bravely cycled on to Freyburg, home of what is probably the country's most famous sparkling wine, and in the evening reached a great campsite with wooden cabins shaped like wine barrels, hot showers and lots of sheltered space for our gear. The campsite is located on the shores of Germany's largest manmade lake. Geiseltalsee was created after a huge surface mine finally ran out of coal in 1993 and was abandoned. As the site was renaturalised, they created a really attractive recreational area with marinas, comfortable tracks for cyclists and walkers, and even a small vineyard. We stopped there for a second breakfast this morning, before carrying on towards our next destination, the city of Halle in Saxony-Anhalt. #scoutbound #jena #geiseltalsee #wine #wein #studentenleben #cycling #rotkäppchensekt #geiseltal #lake #see

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17.06.2020 City hopping. The second evening we camped near Hainich National Park, weather conditions changed drastically and we experienced serious thunderstorms. In the pouring rain, even our very reliable tent gave in a little, and we repeatedly had to mop up water that was coming in through the seams. We decided we needed to find ourselves some drier accommodation for the following nights. In the morning we set off to Erfurt, via partly washed-away gravel tracks and through temporary fords. Luckily, the owners of the campsite there let us dry our dripping tent in their garage, and we slept in a super cosy Hobbit-size wooden cabin that kept us well dry for two nights. The city also totally made up for the experienced hardships with its beauty and rich history, and during our sightseeing stroll we even bumped into a group of local scouts – as well as some stars of Erfurt-based children's TV channel KiKA. It is only a stone's throw from Erfurt to Weimar, and another one from there to Jena. They belong to what translates to 'Thuringia's (bead) chain of cities', the state's six largest cities, which happen to line up nicely within a stretch of 130 kilometres. They are linked by very flat cycle paths that often follow rivers, so it is very pleasant and easy to go from one place to another. However, we took a little detour on our way to Weimar yesterday in order to visit the memorial site of Buchenwald concentration camp. It was near there that we got to know Helmut, a recreational cyclist, Weimar local and former citizen of East Germany. He was full of stories, and so happy to share them with us that he joyfully honked when he spotted us again this morning, turning his car around and stopping for another chat. Having paid a short visit to the city of Goethe and Schiller where we especially loved climbing up the bell tower of St Jacob's church, we are now cycling on to Jena. #scoutbound #erfurt #weimar #buchenwald #kinderkanal #bernddasbrot #krämerbrücke #schillergoethe #thueringen #cycling #worldbycycling

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13.06.2020 Above Thuringia's forests. After more than one week of rather cloudy and rainy weather, the sun is out again and temperatures have gone up quite a bit. We have been making the most of this presumably brief period of fine weather by walking a little in Thuringia's rich green forests, which the region is well known for. However, it took quite a while for people to decide that, after various periods of intense deforestation, the remaining primeval broadleaf woodlands of Cental Germany are something worth protecting. 1997 saw the creation of Hainich National Park – apparently Germany's biggest deciduous forest, consisting mostly of beech trees, and now listed by UNESCO. There are countless hiking trails there, and a pretty cool canopy walkway, several metres above the ground, which we visited this morning. It was fascinating to be on eye level with the very tops of trees and see them sway in the wind. Yesterday, on our way to Hainich, we also took time to look down on treetops – this time from Wartburg castle, just outside the city of Eisenach. The castle is a very impressive, well-preserved structure that in parts dates back to the 12th century, and is mostly known as the place where reformer Martin Luther worked on his Bible translation from Latin to the language of the common people, some 500 years ago. We accessed the fortress via a gorge called Drachenschlucht, a magical place full of high, mossy rocks that create a nice path with some very narrow passages to squeeze through. It was shadowy and cool under the trees and down in the gorge, a welcome change from the blazing hot sunshine. #scoutbound #drachenschlucht #thueringerwald #wartburg #eisenach #nationalparkhainich #hainich #baumkronenpfad #wanderlust #dpsg #cycling

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11.06.2020 Four days, four states. Germany is made up of 16 federal states, six of which are often called the 'new' ones because they only became part of the Federal Republic when the two German states were united in 1990. As it is technically possible to drive through the entire country in a single day, travellers can visit different federal states within a very short time. By bike, we have managed to go from Baden-Wuerttemberg to Bavaria, Hesse and Thuringia in just the past four days, with Thuringia being the first one of the 'new' or formerly communist states which we want to visit in the upcoming weeks. Where Hesse adjoins Thuringia, we came across Point Alpha memorial site, where preserved watchtowers and other historical structures bear witness to the time when there was an inner German border. These days, state borders are merely marked by roadsigns, but you will notice that dialects and gastronomic specialities change when you enter a different state, and ALDI South becomes ALDI North at some point. Due to federalism, we have 16 different school systems, so sometimes people living in the same small country do not know what exactly a student from further north or south is talking about when they say what kind of school they attend. Public holidays also vary. This morning, we started the fourth day of our journey in Fulda in Hesse, and had anticipated that they would be celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi today. Knowing that all shops and supermarkets would be closed, we went for some groceries the night before – only to learn that in Berka/Werra in Thuringia, where we arrived this evening, it is not a holiday at all, and that we can well go to the shops here. Coronavirus regulations are also different in each state, so while we have been fine in most places, we had some trouble finding accommodation in Bavaria, where some campsites and, much to our regret, an interesting scout-run castle which is also a hostel were still closed when we passed through. #scoutbound #cycling #worldbycycling #dpsg #vcp #rieneck #montekali #kalimanjaro #fronleichnam #pointalpha #hausaufdergrenze #fulda #berkawerra

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19.04.2020 From lockdown to quarantine. We are back home, and it has been almost a week since we arrived. What felt rather surreal in the beginning is now the new normal: We can follow the development of the global pandemic from the shelter of our own home – and, by the way, from there only. Due to a policy introduced only recently in our federal state, we have to stay home 24/7 for two weeks after our arrival. It is very similar to what we did in New Zealand before leaving, minus the occasional trips to the supermarket or around the block that we could go on once in a while, because now we are supposed to isolate ourselves at home at all times. Thank God there are friends and family members nearby to leave groceries and puzzles on the stairs outside our flat. Or the occasional bunch of flowers and cake, for it was Addy's birthday only two days after our  return. We would have loved to celebrate it in New Zealand, somewhere on the road – but we made it an okay day anyway. We really miss Paul's garden, as the weather is upsettingly perfect right now but we can only enjoy the warm spring sun from our tiny balcony. There are many not-terribly-exciting things to do in the study, like paperwork and general decluttering, and we also fill our days with phone and video calls, some indoor yoga and, of course, cooking. We turned our bathroom into a hairdresser's for an afternoon, and there is of course our bike workshop in the basement. Elfi and Alter Falter have been reassembled, and are now dreaming of better times, or an exciting future trip to the supermarket maybe. #scoutbound #schrozberg #quarantine #cycling #covid_19 #corona #stayhome

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12.04.2020 Leaving on a jetplane. Even without the Covid-19 pandemic, we would have had to say goodbye to New Zealand at the end of April. However, leaving from Christchurch today, on a Lufthansa repatriation flight, feels totally odd. There are places we would have loved to visit towards the end of our stay, and invitations we could not take people up on. We are leaving all of this prematurely. A week ago, right after signing up for the German repatriation programme, we got our gear ready for the trip home. Through social media we found a local tour guide, Brian, who provided us with two cardboard bike boxes. We dismantled and packed up our bicycles, and then waited. We still had not heard back from our government when five days later the embassy announced online that the final flights would leave within the next three days. We waited for one more long day before we were eventually informed that we were on a waiting list, and about 24h later, this morning, we learned that we were stand-by passengers for a flight in the evening. Paul used his neighbour's two-seater ute to get Eva and the boxes and bags to the airport, while Addy went on his final NZ bike ride on one of Paul's three bikes to reach the airport. 17 days in lockdown, many shared meals and evening film sessions, heaps of walnuts as well as a short but clearly noticeable 4.3 earthquake later, our amazing host bid us farewell. After queueing for a couple of hours, we finally got admission to board the plane – being literally two of the final 20 stand-by passengers to be given a ticket. And the long wait is really paying off, as we are now comfortably seated in business class, ready for a 26h trip to Frankfurt via Bangkok. The presence of Lufthansa aircraft in New Zealand is a very rare thing, so both airport staff and flight crew radiate excitement, and we are to leave Christchurch with a lap of honour. Before takeoff, the German ambassador came aboard and via loudspeaker wished us Happy Easter and told us that we are part of a truly historic event. #scoutbound #nz #newzealand #christchurch #repatriation #lufthansa #auswaertigesamt #CHC #BKK #FRA #covid_19 #corona #boeing747 #airbridge #boeing

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