It can be tricky keeping your mind occupied on a long distance ride.
We are in Dresden, a beautiful city which is part of the old East Germany and we have only a couple more days before we cross the border into Poland.
We entered Germany on the Mosel which we were really looking forward to because Graham had great memories of it from a holiday as a young teenager. It was a disappointment. Most of the wine production is now mass production, although you do get the occassional glimpse of older methods. Some of the scenery is dramatic, but the main features are the roads, a railway and an endless stream of caravan parks. You almost can’t see where one stops and the next one starts.
We crossed the Rhine at Koblenz and cycled up the much smaller Lahn River which was absolutely beautiful and almost without mention in the guidebook. It is quiet and very rural, save for the sudden appearance of Bad Ems, a small but fabulously grand spa town. Built in the mid to late 19th century, it still attracts lots of German tourists to its healing waters.
We have had ongoing difficulties with Graham’s front wheel. We fixed it several times but it finally became unridable when the hub burst just west of Thüringen County, which marks the border with the old East Germany. So, instead of cycling into the former DDR, we limped in on a train to Eisenach and the nearest bike shop where we bought a new wheel.
The 20-odd mile train ride meant we saw Eisenach Station. Built around 1890, at a time when the town was rich, it still retains a few original Art Nouveau stained glass windows. But the main attraction was some amazing modern stained glass celebrating the city’s industrial heritage. It could be from the end of the Soviet era, but may be more recent.
Thüringen Countywas hilly and the map reading complicated, but a highlight of Germany is that you cannot open a map without someone offering to help – and once we have used our 20 words of German in every possible combination, it usually turned out they can speak perfect English.
Recently on the same day, we were invited in for morning coffee, which we refused, and later afternoon tea, which we accepted. Hilda who invited us had spent as term at Lancaster University and thought we would be missing our afternoon tea. She was right. We spent a delightful hour with her and her husband Peter, drinking tea ontheir balcony while they told us about Jena, the town we were in.
Jena is a university town with some industry, which makes it economically more successful than most ex-DDR towns. The Soviets planned it as a showcase city and in the 1970s knocked down part of the old town to build the first of what should have been two towers as a tribute to Carl Zeiss the lens maker. They were supposed to represent binoculars. However, local outrage at the destruction of the old town and the further destruction that would be required to build the second tower meant that only one was built. The solitary tower still stands as the city’s landmark and was, for a long time, the tallest office building in East Germany.
We arespending a couple of days in Dresden and we have chosen the right weekend. This is a holiday weekend and Dresden is hosting a month long festival with music and performance. Much of it is free and we should get to see some music this afternoon.
The weather is incredibly hot – as it has been since we left London. We’ve completed our first thousand miles and we move on tomorrow.
So: There was an old lady who swallowed a spider that wriggled and tickled…etc. Any ideas for useful occupation of the brain while cycling, gladly accepted.
PS: annoyingly, the computer I am on won’t let me see any pictures, so once again I can’t put any on the blog. Humph!