Thursday, August 21, 2008

Travel blog: Bicycling in Germany July 2008 (Day 4 and 5)

Bad Suderode-Artern

Bike route 63884 - powered by Bikemap 

Distance: 72 km
Average speed: 13,1 km/h
Max: 58,4 km/h
time on bike: 5 hours 23 min

As I woke in my hotel room on the fourth day of our trip I already had the imminent mountain climb on my mind. I went out on the balcony and looked at the mountain we had to conquer with a mixed feeling of anticipation and unpleasantness.

After we had eaten our breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we had to get to it. Not more than 1 or 2 kilometers into the day we started getting seriously acquainted with the Harz. Somehow the climb in all its sadistic steepness did not eat at my spirit the same way it had the day before because i was mentally prepared for the mountain and because i knew that one way or the other i would get to the top, and that this mountain to would come to an end.
Going down the southern slope we had a good road, no traffic and speeds on the fast side of 55 km/h hitting 58,4 km/h as the highest. The downhill ride took us to Magdesprung and then further on a scenic path to Alexisbad from were we rode Harzgerode. In Harzgerode the days first Red Bulls went into our systems and as usual our moods were lifted as we rode with the wind eastwards towards Wippra, where we ate lunch.

On the way out of the city we passed by a small theme park, and decided to have some fun by taking a slide down a hillside. By this time the sun was coming and exhibiting quite some strength - one of the few times we actually experienced a stretch of warm weather.
After spending perhaps half an hour on the slides we went uphill once more to the highest elevation of the day a good bit over 400 meter above sea-level.

From there followed a nice downhill ride to the city of Sangerhausen (31.500 inhabitants). After taking a wrong turn in the city and having to backtrack a bit we rode southwards towards Artern.

Not many kilometers out of Sangerhausen my tire went flat, and we had to make an involuntary break as I tried to fix the problem. As we were sitting in the sun and boiling while trying to fix the tire the result became a halfhearted job.
The last 10 km to Artern became a blood boiling odyssey with endless pumping of my front tire, and exponentially increasing levels of anger and hunger. In the end however we got to Artern (6.100 inhabitants) were we found the only kebab vendor in town and had a well deserved kebab-feast. The evening was progressing and we had to find a place to sleep, and we decided that somewhere along the river Unstrut.

We followed a regional bicycle path along the river but initially we found it filled with evil flying ants and ended running downsteam with ants all over shouting "get them off, get them off!".
A couple of kilometers down stream however we found a good patch of insect free patch of grass by a river lock, where we settled for the night.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Travel blog: Bicycling in Germany July 2008 (Day 3)

Calberlah-Bad Suderode

Distance : 114 km
Average : 17,7 km/h
Maximum : 55,1 km/h
Time on bike : 6h 25 min

As we woke on the third day of our journey the neigh-on magic feeling of the previous evening had vaporised together with our water, which we ha
d used most of the previous evening to make tea and coffee. As we gathered our things from the grass and drank the last half liter of water a cloudy and quiet morning was unfolding.

We had to backtrack approximately 1 km to get to a supermarket in Calberlah, where we could get breakfast and other supplies for the day.
As we were pretty hungry and thirsty we choose to eat our breakfast in the parking lot in front of the store, not exactly the most idyllic of places but we got our stomachs filled and spirits lifted.

As we wanted to avoid going through Braunschweig and Wolfsburg we headed in the direction of the old market town Königslutter am Elm (16,500 inhabitants).

Almost 20 km away from Königslutter we could already spot the Elm hills south of the city.

After a quick red bull in Königslutter we set out to get up our first 8 km climb up to the top of the Elm hills. The first 5 km were manageable but at that point I was starting to melt down. Mathias was strolling alongside nearly 40 kilos lighter than me and with no real effort. In the end however I got up to the summit.
Although the hill was covered with forest and we did not get a view it felt pretty good to get up there and still be able to go on (after a break or two).

On the way down from the hills we got our first misty view of the Harz mountains which were about 50 km further south.

After passing some lower rolling hills we got to the old BDR/DDR border at
the river Grosser Graben. After we had passed the border the villages we passed through changed character and became more closely knit.
The buildings were more worn out with a closed workshop or two in many of the villages.

Not more than some 7 km after crossing the old border we began the next climb up the Huy hills. We had 14 km on the way up, the first 10 relative
ly low degree and the last 3 km was a sick 10 degree and in places even 12+ degree steep climb were I had to give up for a minute or three. Dragging my bike up the hill trying to get some badly needed oxygen into my lungs.

Going down from the hilltop we turned more east which was perfect as the wind was coming in from the west. The next 12-15 km into Halberstadt (39,500 inhabitants) were a pure joy ride: downhill with the wind pushing us on 32-35 km/h all the way. After Halberstadt we turned south once more towards the next destination which was the historic town of Quedlinburg - a UNESCO World heritage site.

The Harz mountains, which had been periodically visible for us since we rode down the Elm hills, were now closing in on us, although we had bypassed the High Harz as we rode eastwards. From Quedlinburg we had some 8 km to Bad Suderode (1,900 inhabitants).

On the way the sun, mountains and clouds were creating a really nice scene as we rode the last stretch of the day.

In Bad Suderode we found a pretty cheap hotel (€30 pr. person incl. breakfast), and had a couple of hours to go around town and the watch the Tour de France on television. The city, a thermal spa resort, was a peculiar mix of abandoned hotels and buildings side by side with still running hotels and pensions that seemed to be doing OK.

The impression made by Bad Suderode fitted well with the descriptions of similar spa towns in "Lonely Planet - Germany". The book mentioning that these spa towns of the Harz had a rough start in 1990 as the unification opened the world to the inhabitants of the DDR who, given the choice, preferred the sunny beaches of Southern Europe.

However this development was in many places slowly turned, and growing numbers were apparently visiting the Harz once more, although the Eastern Harz (where we were) still was quiet and relatively undisturbed.

See the route on