living in East Germany and having travelled already to countries lying West, East, South and North of my home country, I figured: Before I look even further on the map, it’s time to get around Germany itself. And knowing how to travel by bike from my tour in 2017, it was an easy decision to start planning a trip through Northern Germany for 2018 and having a rough idea of doing a similiar thing through Southern Germany in 2019.
With friends and family in different parts of Germany, I began thinking about my route and decided to cycle from Weimar to Cologne first, continue towards the South of the Netherlands, then back to Germany and up North along the coast to Stralsund and then back South to Weimar. With this general route in mind I planned my trip, distances, change of alitude, looked for places to stay and thought about the best time to travel. In the end I started in last week of July 2018 which was supposed to be great but weather-wise it was quite hard actually – since it was the hottest week of the year!
Getting Started: From Weimar to The Netherlands
The first stretch from Weimar to Cologne was a good mix of beautiful landscape, small roads but unfortunately also including some rather big streets. The sun was very strong and heated them up pretty quickly. So I tried to start early in order to cycle the longest bit of the day before noon, took long breaks for lunch and always hoped for a temperature drop in the evening. Fountains and brooks were a welcoming place to stop, put my feet in the water and just relax for a moment. I remember having a great time with wonderful hosts during these days who told me very interesting stories. One lived in an old farm house in a little village and was still renovating the house – mostly on her own. Another couple came to Germany with the great group of refugees from Irak even though they had planned to come here otherwise, this was there only choice. They’ve been working as doctors in hospital and she was about to do another exam. And on my third day, just before I arrived at my host, there was a beautiful summer rain including thunder and lighting. I got soaking wet but after that incredible heat it was the best thing ever!
In the Rhineland I met some close friends and family and just enjoyed being home. After a few days of rest I continued my cycle to the Southern tip of the Netherlands where my parents already had set up their tent for the summer holidays. Via Maastricht and Antwerp I made my way first along through the Eifel and then along a long and after a while rather boring canal. Due to the sun and probably not enough calories on the second day, I wasn’t feeling very well on my last day to the Netherlands and could cycle half way. Luckily my father could get me by car. However during the morning of that day I went through the very huge and impressive harbour of Antwerp. I didn’t see as much water or ships but a lot of factories, upright standing bridges and most importantly no matter what road work they were running – there was always a well maintained and signposted cycle path 😀
The following days we celebrated my dad’s birthday and I recovered from the first cycling days as well from a quite stressful semester up until the moment I hit the road on my bike. Even after my first cycle, it had been the first time, that I started my travels in front of my door and I must say it’s a great feeling! At first, it seems unreal since I was only rolling on the familiar streets around Weimar. However the bike feels different with all the luggage and it didn’t take very long until I realised that I’m free to enjoy the nature around me and this beautiful summertime for the next four weeks…
From Friends and Family to Travelling Alone
After my full recovery on the campsite of my parents and a great time with them and all our Dutch friends there, the next stop should be my cousins wedding in Mühlheim an der Ruhr. I had planned five days of cycling to just start of slowly and get to see a bit of the area. In the end another thunderstorm made me change my plans and arrive at the wedding a day early. That way I joined the whole celebrations early than I thought and to make up for it, I took charge of the wedding photography. It became a lovely summer party at my cousins farm and the weather didn’t get as bad as the forecast had suggested.
Cycling (and taking a train for little bit) onwards I met up with Mona in Emden, right at the German coast of the North Sea. Emden is a cute little town with a colourful history and so much cultural activities to dive into. We walked through the city, met her family at the beach and visited an art museum as well as a food festival. After another friends visit for one night, it was finally time to be on my own for a while.. except all the hosts and people I met along the way of course. It was lovely being with so many friends and family over the summer – especially since I hadn’t seen many of them in quite a while. Still, this summer travel is also a good way to get our of every day routines and take some time to just think or even just be without so many thoughts and everyday problems. To me, it is very relaxing to reduce my belonging to a minimum, to not have a to-do-list and just focus on being outside.
From Emden I cycled Eastward bound to Hamburg – which is very exhausting to cycle through – Lübeck – they have good dentists there, I now know from experience – Wismar, Rostock and Stralsund. The German coast in general has many little villages where the businesses mainly rely on the tourists. This creates a somehow special feeling which is very different from other beaches I know in the Netherlands or in Southern Europe. Along the coast of the Baltic Sea there are some natural and very rural bays that you can only reach by feet. And on the island Rügen you find even more rural places as well as some old buildings and left-overs from the DDR.
Originally I had intended to cycle a few days more and continue along the German-Polish border and via Dresden back to Weimar. However after about half my trip, just before I arrived in Emden, I felt, that it would be better to get home a few days earlier to have some resting days before work would be starting back again. For that reason, I went down South from Stralsund via Neubrandenburg and Potsdam until Wittenberg. From where I took the train for the last bit home.
The first day cylcing through Mecklenburg Western Pomerania to Neubrandenburg and the second day on my way to Potsdam I had some of the strangest moments of the whole trip. The weather had changed step-by-step to much more feasible degrees and even some rainy days had been part of journey but I had never had the problem of finding places to get food or being too far off of a village to ask someone for help. However during those two days I cycled through some very lonely regions where even the villages seemed lonely and lifeless. Once when I stopped in a village to look at my map and find out where I could get some lunch, I could feel the curtains moving and eyes staring at me, even though I only saw a few cars passing by. It was really awkward and I was happy to just continue my trip.
On the last day, I met up with a fellow cyclist from Bonn, David, who was on vacation near Wittenberg. He joined me for part of my last cycling stretch and it was lovely to have some company on the bike and not just to talk to in the evening. 🙂
In the end, it took me 24 days of cycling within a month of total travel time to do this trip of 2470km and 9000m of elevation gain. Again I’ve met so many lovely people along the way – as hosts as well as on the bike and I can really recommend to use warmshowers.org or couchsurfing.com to get to explore bits and pieces of the world. Behind each door you can find a beautiful story and a stunning perspective on the world!
I hope you enjoy today’s story and I’m looking forward to take you along on this year’s tour very soon!