Day 6, Aug 25: Marielyst to Gedser, Denmark, & Rostock ferry to Schwann, Germany, 45 km

We woke early in order to get to the 9:00 ferry in Gedser, packing quickly and eating a little before heading out. We followed the road south of the campground, as it first turned to gravel, then to poorly-maintained gravel, and finally to a sandy/grassy path through woods. We were off the main bike route, but supposedly on the Danish Regional Bike Route 40, although there were no signs.

The road did finally turn into the town of Gedesby, and a jogger pointed us to the bike path along the main road that brought us directly into Gedser. The ferry dock was easy to find, with two ships looming above the small town. Tickets were purchased and we rode up to the edge of the massive ferry; soon we were waved onboard. We secured our bikes near a motorcycle and hemmed in by huge tour buses, then made our way up several decks to watch Denmark drift away behind us.

       

The day was overcast again and the sea mostly flat. When we arrived at the Rostock docks we biked into intense German industrialism, but quickly found bike signs for the route into Rostock. It is just over 10 km from the ferry dock to the center of Rostock, a city of about 250,000. When we reached Rostock, we head towards the main square and hear a loudspeaker as we climb the small hill before it. Somehow we have arrived in Germany right at the place and time of an anti-racism rally. Twenty years ago a neo-nazi group burned down a building in which refugees were living, and this rally is a statement against on-going racism. We watch for a few minutes but then head on our way, as the speeches are all in German.

The bike path is well marked here, with signs not only for our route, but also for other bike paths and with distances to nearby towns at larger intersections. Our path goes through suburban streets and then quickly into farmland and small villages. At times we are on a bike-only path and in other sections on small country lanes. We bike for 20 kilometers further, into the town of Schwann, camping just south of town along the river. The nights are getting darker earlier and I am beginning to wonder what kind of weather we’ll be experiencing as summer turns to fall on the continent. However, my concern today is more about the increasing hills we will face as we head further and further inland and away from the steady coast.

   

Day 7, Aug. 26: Schwann to Krakow Am See, 45.8 km

Following a discussion with the woman that ran the campground and consulting a local bike map, we decided to take a detour to skip Bützow and go right to Güstrow. We followed bike signs for the majority of the way, past fields of corn and wheat, and with directional assistance at one intersection from a guy in his 20s/30s dressed in a plaid shirt and suspenders, bicycling without shoes, on a bike that had a wicker child seat on the front.

The path we took to Güstrow cut maybe 10-12 kilometers from our day’s distance. We rode into Güstrow right as a storm arrived, so we sheltered under trees near the river and then moved to a car throughway until the rain subsided. We rode a few blocks further into the center of the city to have lunch and espresso at a café under the post office building from the 1800s. The sun came out briefly, but as soon as we rode over to the square the rain returned and we ducked into the doorway of the closed apothecary. The rain bouts are quick today, and shortly we rode back down the path – again on the formal route – and past the Schloss Güstrow, the castle at the edge of downtown.

From the city we followed the main cycle route into the countryside and then through many kilometers of dense forest. A few massive tractors hauling loads of hay bales roared past us on the tiny lane, shaking us as well as the trees along the road. This area has many more hills, and we spent much of the day first climbing and then soaring down them. We’ve not encountered anything very steep so far, but some hills have been quite long. In the little town of Bellin we again left the main route, following a regional cycle route noted on a cycle map we had purchased at a gas station outside of Güstrow. The path led us back into forests, up a long hill and then through a long downhill, cutting several kilometers from the route and also bringing us directly to the campsite. More rain arrived as we began to set up our tent, this time truly pouring down. We quickly threw the tent together and tightened our waterproof bags before dashing up to the campsite’s café/store to have hot chocolate, beer, and fries while we waited out the rain.

There are a just a handful of folks here cycle touring, and we’ve had a few other folks each night where we camp. Although we’ve spoken with a number of them, there isn’t a natural camaraderie amongst cyclists in the campgrounds in the same way that I experienced with pilgrims along the Camino, or even backpackers in a hostel. Mostly cyclists stick to themselves, although we have spoken with a few others to say hello or ask questions about the path ahead, as many folks seem to be heading north.           

 

Day 8, Aug. 27: Krakow Am See to Waren/Müritz, 54 km.

In the middle of the night we were woken up by the rustling of plastic at the edge of the tent. Shachaf turned on the lamp, and saw that a little hedgehog had crawled under the rain fly and was eating a box of chocolate cookies that we’d left out by accident. The hedgehog didn’t seem perturbed by the light or by our presence, but slowly ambled away after the cookies were taken.

In the morning we woke to cool weather but no rain, breaking down camp and riding into the town of Krakow Am See. We sat at a café in the small town square to have a bigger breakfast to make up for our sparse dinner last night. Here we also spoke with an older German guy who approached us and was excited to talk about cycling and tell us about his own adventures. He fits into a specific genre of people we’ve met on our tour – mostly older men who approach us to ask about our tour and to tell us about the bicycle adventures of their own lives. Two men have told us about cycling in Norway up to the Arctic Circle, and others have adventures elsewhere to relay.

As we were about to leave the Krakow Am See town square we met a German woman cycle touring alone who asked about the way to Waren, which was also our direction for the day. We later found out that her name is Frederika, and we cycled through half the day with her, although she always went much faster than we did and so we would find her waiting at the next intersection or town map, checking her map (a fairly terrible one) against the other renderings of the local geography. She spoke a fair bit of English, and we had a nice time traveling, in a way, with someone else.

In the morning we took a shortcut away from the Berlin-Copenhagen Radwag, going between fields and the lake to shave a few kilometers. We met back with the main path before too long, and spent the rest of the day making our way through gorgeous fields and forests. Today’s paths were probably among the calmest that we’ve had, many of the roads cycle-only paths or smaller roads in the forest. Much of the day was on gravel, sand, or compacted dirt, which made for slower going at times, but – to me at least – is preferable to cobblestones, which make for painful, clattering biking. Yesterday we met some perfectly horrible cobblestone ways in one small town, and it made me wonder how bicycling ever caught on if all of the roads were once cobbles.

We stopped for lunch in a small town called Jabel, at the end of a long forested way and where we met our German companion, Frederika, for the last time. We sat outside of a small grocery, eating our lunches and sharing the table with an older German couple on electric bikes. This area is replete with cyclists, many more than we’ve seen along the way so far, and most which appear to be on short cycling holidays – no large panniers, but maps and some cycling gear.

The town of Waren is itself a larger place, and seems to be a popular holiday site. The city is adorable, with narrow cobblestone streets and brightly colored buildings opening to a wide square filled with cafés and small shops. We stopped here to get additional maps and have some juice before heading to the campsite a few kilometers around the top of the lake. This is the largest campsite we’ve stayed at so far, absolutely buzzing with people at all hours, quite unlike other camping areas that all seem asleep by 10:00 at the latest.

        

Day 9, Aug. 28: Waren/Müritz to Zwenzow, 57.7 km

The path from town was lovely for the first 15 km or so, through the national park and along cycle-only lanes. We passed dozens of cyclists as well as a horse-drawn cart also with tourists on-board. The way opened into fields and small villages, and the sky also opened on us a few times, raining lightly and at times becoming a shower. Through one short stretch there were a massive number of large trucks that thundered down the single-lane roads past us: logging trucks, dump trucks, semi-trucks. Sometimes two would come up behind us and another from in front, leaving us standing along the side of the road in the grass for safety.

Fortunately the road changed again, leaving the trucks behind and moving into other country roads. We stopped for coffee and cheesecake (quarktorte!) in Ankershagen, and then went a couple of kilometers down the road to eat our bread and veggies for lunch while sitting in the shell of an old building that had been turned into a sort of roadside park area. This building had clearly been altered for safe use, but we passed many other old buildings that were in various states of disrepair – from the slightly broken down to those that were completely abandoned, fallen-in, and overgrown. Some abandoned buildings were huge, either old stone barns or maybe even hotels or large houses. Outside of Waren, not far from our camping site, there were a few old houses that sat in prominent corner lots but had been completely abandoned and overgrown with the forest. They sat forlorn but intriguing in the midst of tidy new construction sites and sanitary holiday homes.

After our late lunch, we continued through fields, forests, and small towns, with many other cyclists along the lanes again, and more villages with cafés and “zimmer frei” – room available – signs. In one stretch of lovely road that ran along a swamp we stopped and spoke with an older German couple that had rented a motorhome and were traveling in the area with their fluffy gray dog. They pointed out a fish eagle on a far tree, letting us spy it through their binoculars, and talked with us about cycling.

The last section of the path turned into a bike lane along a busy road, which allowed my weary legs to go slowly and wend through the forest without worrying about the cars. We rolled into Zwenzow at 6:30, finding the camping site along the lake and arriving just after another cyclist. We were the only people in the tenting/bike area, and after setting up camp we sat with him along some benches at the lake to eat dinner. Ricardo is from an area somewhere near Dresden, and he told us a little about his 15 day trip from there to Sweden, around southern Sweden, and then back this direction. He also told us more about the bike path along the Elbe River that we are considering taking into Dresden and then to Prague.

    

Day 10, Aug. 29: Zwenzow to Ziegeleipark, 67.9 km.

Woke up a little later and had a slow morning getting ready, then biked into the nearest town to have coffee and pastries. We cycled through the morning at the edges of fields, mostly on bike-only lanes or country roads, but for a few kilometers along a busier road in order to save distance. We saw our friend Ricardo again in the middle of the morning, after he had already taken the time to bike to Nestrelitz, which we had skipped. After a long morning we stopped in the main plaza of Furstenberg to eat lunch under the church. After lunch we biked from town, along a lane with several war memorials and then a row of abandoned buildings. The abandoned building slowly became larger, and then were long buildings behind fences. Only afterwards did we see signs that told us that we’d been looking at Ravensbrüke, a women’s concentration and extermination camp where thousands of women were worked to death or killed during WWII. It was so shocking to just come across a concentration camp, without signs of any type warning you of what you are approaching. It was shocking to emerge a few minutes later from the forest into a town, where life happened now without pause for the horrors committed so nearby. After seeing this site for the first time it seemed like nothing normal should happen within hundreds of miles.

We biked our longest today, ending in a strange small camping area at a site that used to be a brickyard and is now a holiday destination with a fancy restaurant, canals with boaters, and tours of the brick-making facilities. Treated ourselves to dinner at the restaurant after the long and strange day, hoping that tomorrow will bring us to Berlin and beds.

        

Day 11, Aug 30: Ziegeleipark to Berlin, 101 km.

Yes, we really biked 101 kilometers today. Through exhaustion, rain, belated lunches, and the happiness of seeing our biking friend Ricardo again, we finally made it into Berlin in the dark. We finished the Copenhagen-Berlin route at the Brandenberger Tor and then at the “official” ending at Schlosspark. We found our friend Kai’s wonderful apartment, and then after delicious pizza fell gratefully to sleep.