East Germany

For the last six days we have been cycling through the former East Germany, and will stay in the East for the remainder of our time on the Elbe Radweg. It’s been interesting. Twenty five years post reunification, the differences are easy to spot … and as non German speaking tourists, we’re only catching the most obvious of them. The East is noticeably less affluent, particularly in rural areas. Dilapidated and abandoned buildings are a common sight. Most of the post-war architecture is plain and utilitarian, often cement block.

On a ferry.  This area has very cool ferries, powered solely by the river current.
On a ferry. This area has very cool ferries, powered solely by the river current.

And then there are the bike route surfaces. When you’re on a bike, things like grade and road surface become very important. In fact, those are our two most important route planning criteria. We like ‘em smooth and flat. For complicated reasons that I won’t bore you with, our tires are narrower than they should be for this type of touring, making for dicey cycling on uneven, bumpy or loose surfaces … which we found plenty of on this route. It’s okay; it’s all part of the experience, but has caused us to reconsider continuing on the Elbe to Prague. From what we hear, some of the surfaces are in very rough shape over the Czech border. Cycling has its strengths and limitations.

A not so fun surface.  The strips were about a foot wide, with a lip.
A not so fun surface. The strips were about a foot wide, with a lip.
An even less fun surface; this one was shared with light car traffic.
An even less fun surface; this one was shared with light car traffic.
With Wilhelm, whom we rode with for awhile.
With Wilhelm, whom we rode with for awhile.

Most people we run into do not speak any English. Prior to 1990, East Germans were taught Russian in school. Surprisingly, many of the young people don’t seem to have learned much English either. We have not heard any native English speakers for at least 5 days. I’m sure that will change as we get closer to Dresden.

Since 1990, Germany has had a dedicated reunification tax that has channeled billions of dollars into East Germany to upgrade the infrastructure. From what I have heard, the allocation has favored large cities. It would appear that it will take longer to truly reunify Germany than the forty five years it was actually divided.

A covered bench, with an e-bike charging station.  E-bikes are big here.
A covered bench, with an e-bike charging station. E-bikes are big here.

The riding itself has been lovely. We’ve been mostly in rural or agricultural areas, with little or no traffic. The terrain is flat, open and expansive. The towns are further apart than has been the case for much of this trip … and strangely devoid of people. Sometimes we’ll ride through a small town, and not see a soul; it’s surreal. We are both feeling very peaceful and relaxed. The weather has been kind to us, despite some threatening skies, and discouraging forecasts. For a few days, we rode with grey skies and rain all around us, yet never got nailed. We were amazed. We gave in to our fears and took a rain day earlier in the week … only to have it not rain! I know there’s a lesson in there.

Good cloud meets bad cloud.
Good cloud meets bad cloud.
Ya think it's windy?
Ya think it’s windy?
A wild flower field
A wild flower field

We celebrated our 31st anniversary in Tangermünde, a beautiful, well preserved little town with three pairs of nesting storks!  Very cool.  They have enormous nests, perched on the top of tall, old, historic buildings.  We somehow wound up staying in a medieval themed hotel and eating in a similarly themed restaurant.  The hotel had a toilet that was supposed to look like a throne, but was actually more reminiscent of an outhouse.  And the restaurant gave us daggers to cut our veggies with!

A stork and her hungry little one.
A stork and her hungry little one.
The king and his throne.
The king and his throne.

5 thoughts on “East Germany”

  1. Lissa, you write beautifully! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this blog. Love the history you include, and the pictures. Jeff makes quite a handsome king! Did you dress also? Stay safe – Happy belated anniversary!

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  2. Another interesting and enjoyable travelog – thanks, Lissi. The bike paths look really awful. It’s no fun driving on surfaces like that in a car, but on a bike? Ouch!

    Like

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