Munster to Berlin 13 – 22 May 2012

Hailstorms, heatwaves, broken spokes and one cool capital.

Old bike transformed into a cycle-path sign

One of the quirkier pieces of signage on Europa Radweg R1

We left Munster on the Europa Radweg R1.  This cycle route runs 3,500 km through 9 countries, from Boulogne-Sur-Mer in France to Saint Petersburg in Russia.  We’re using the Bikeline Cycle Touring Book, which is the same series we used to follow the Danube last year.  They have good maps showing which sections of the route are paved, unpaved, traffic-free or otherwise, and where the campsites are.  They also have loads of information about tourist attractions en-route, but unfortunately the one we have this year is in German so we can only understand about 1 in 40 words.

German village seen across field of rapeseed

The sunny yellow fields didn’t make us feel any warmer in the bitingly cold wind. Nice to look at though.

The R1 cycle route does meander somewhat, avoiding busy roads and taking in as many tourist attractions as possible, so we’ve adapted it to our own needs.  We’ll often cut corners by taking busier roads, or set out ‘off the page’, relying on the compass to pick up the map a few pages further along having missed out a lengthy meander.

Apart from a couple of hilly days skirting around the edge of the Harz mountains, the route has been predominantly flat – perfect for getting us back to fitness without destroying ourselves in the process.  We’ve passed through picturesque villages and towns, across rolling farmland, through dappled forests and leafy glades, and bumped our way over more ‘ye olde cobbled streets’ than our wheels would really appreciate.  Apart from the indifferent weather it’s been a really relaxing and enjoyable start to the tour.

Quedlinburg Rathaus

In front of the Rathaus in beautiful Quedlinburg

We haven’t done a huge amount of sight-seeing en-route, deciding to save it for Berlin.  We’re concentrating for the most part on getting some distance covered as we’re very conscious of the lateness of the season if we want to get to warmer climes by the winter, but most days we seem to arrive in a picturesque town at lunchtime and spend some time admiring the old buildings.

Places of note have been Dessau (home of the Bauhaus movement), Wittenberg (where Martin Luther did some reforming), Einbeck and Quedlinburg (both of which have lots of beautifully painted old half-timbered buildings) and Park Sanssouci in Potsdamer (palatial gardens).

Date on old house of 1545

‘Ye Olde Painted Woodworke’ in Einbeck

It’s been quite a challenge to spot the difference between former west and east Germany….there’s no obvious border, but just a gradual realisation that there’s perhaps a higher proportion of utilitarian buildings in amongst the pretty ones, and that more and more roads, particularly the lower-category roads, are cobbled instead of tarmac, and that there’s far fewer solar panels (which seem to be in abundance on barns and farms in particular in the west of the country).

To be honest though, the most significant differences don’t seem to relate to former east/west divides, but are rather more to do with current area administrative boundaries.  Some areas have invested heavily in silky-smooth tarmac on their cycle-paths, and others have not.  In fact, in Brandenburg, the cycle-path surfaces are so superior to the road surfaces that Keith has actually been using the cycle-paths without demur!

Bauhaus architecture in Dessau

One of the ‘Meisterhausers’. Bauhaus architecture in Dessau

The only downside to the trip so far (rubbish weather notwithstanding) has been the mysterious breakage of three spokes in two days.  Last year we broke just one spoke in 11,500km, so this year we weren’t too pleased to have our brand new ones start to go after just 1000km.  Usually spokes break at the elbow (the bend where they insert into the hub)….but ours have all broken inside the nipple (where they insert into the rim)…and all are on the non-drive side.  Any idea what’s going on….anyone?

The weather (as mentioned) has been pretty cr*p:  very cold and windy, and until a few days ago, very wet, with the odd torrential hailstorm thrown in for good measure.  But at last the summer seems to be arriving and the last 3 days have been a bit of a heat wave, which has made a nice change.  Prior to that Tamar had been so cold at night that she’d not taken her clothes off for the eight days straight that we’d been wild camping.  A big thumbs-up for merino wool!

Despite being bundled up in winter clothes a tick still managed to attach itself to a momentarily bared leg, but we now have some fine-tipped tick-removing tweezers that worked a treat (unlike our efforts last year).

The terraced vineyards at Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam

Terraced vineyards at Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam

The route has taken us through lots of forested areas so finding wild campsites has been pretty easy. A variety of wildlife has taken a keen interest in the tent.  One site was awash with caterpillars….from tiny threadlike ones, to pale green inchworms, to sturdy black undulating b*ggers…all intent on attaching themselves to the tent.  The following night it wasn’t caterpillars, but spiders who were determined to take up residence.  Small black shiny ones, spear-head-shaped stalking ones, long-legged fragile ones and some interesting radioactive-looking bright green ones.

The Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate….a symbol of both division and unity

On arriving in Berlin, the sun finally decided to make an appearance.  We found a nice campsite about 15km out of the centre, but with great bike-route leading in to the main tourist attractions.  We then spent a day looking at the few remaining bits of the wall and sating our curiosity at the DDR Museum: a small but fabulous, privately-run museum that’s set out in an innovative hands-on way. Several happy hours were spent poking around inside a mocked up ‘concrete slab apartment’, opening cupboard doors, looking at clothes, books, magazines and foods, watching movie clips and listening to music.  We read about state-run communal potty-training, sat in a Trabant and then in a somewhat more luxurious Volvo used by party leaders.

Artwork from the East Side Gallery - on the remains of the Berlin Wall

An image from the East Side Gallery….1.3km of artwork on what’s left of the Berlin Wall.

We’ve been impressed with Berlin.  It’s a great city to cycle in. Flat, with wide roads and sensible, workable cycle provision.  Not too much traffic either.  It’s a nice mix of old, new and ‘still-under-construction’, all set around a web of waterways.  Add it to your list of places to visit if you haven’t already.

The Reichstag, Berlin

Berlin’s impressive Reichstag…but you have to apply 3 days in advance to go inside. 🙁 The dome looks great…full of enticing spiral walkways.

We’re about to head off again this afternoon (22 May) and should reach Poland in a couple of days time.

8 responses to “Munster to Berlin 13 – 22 May 2012

  1. You in Poland yet?
    And no, I’ve no idea why another spoke off your wheel has gone…….
    Anyone else come up with an answer??!!
    It’s been loverly ‘ere today and hope by now you are finally heading into warmer, brighter weather luveys.
    Keep me posted.
    Tons love,
    Edith xxxxxxxxxx

  2. Just read your beautiful – in so many ways – blogs at half past three in the morning – can’t sleep and had a burst of technical proficiency and found your site. For some strange reason I thought you were still trying to piece a bike together on these shores. What a range of delights your blog brings – fine,flowing, concise, descriptive prose, pen pictures – and photos – of the little, fascinating finds, a sense of sharing the journey with you, plus the still-present amazement at your feats. Now I’ve caught you up, I;’ll be looking forward to forthcoming blogs. Oh, and make sure they are done on time, Tamar, unlike your homeworks, Hope Poland is proving good, and I think I mentioned to you that we really liked Krakow, if you haven’t been and if it’s on your route. Thanks for making part of my long sleepless night pass very pleasantly. Lovely seeing you thrice in Derbyshire. Guten Faht! Love Rob / Ex Sir / What you will

    Now, how do it post this when pressing enter doesn’t work?

    OK, scroll down eh, and there’s the answer 🙂

  3. Come on Tamar! Now that I’ve found your blog, my life centres around it. I thought I’d be smelling and seeing Poland through your eyes as I lie here in bed with exhaustion and depression, and instead I am stuck in Berlin. It’s your GCSE coursework all over again – never on time, but brilliant when it comes. Hope you are both having a cracking time and that all is going well. Rob

    • Give me a chance Mr B! I’m currently sitting x-legged on the none-too-clean pavement in the forecourt of a Polish petrol station next to a cafe that has free wifi…it’s not that easy you know. Plus the dog ate my homework. Favourite Polish smell so far was sniffed walking into a supermarket, ravenously hungry, and being almost ovwrwhelmed by the heady scent of smoked dead pig permeating from the sausage counter. Carnivore heaven.

      I’ll have to leave you salivating with that for now.

      Hope to post again when we take a break from pedalling for a couple of days in Gdansk, which we hope to reach tomorrow night (29th) or perhaps early on 30th depending on how my knees hold out. Had a couple of longish days recently and my feeble old lady knees are grumbling. So…perhaps a new blog post a sometime on 31 May/1 June. No promises though.

      Take care

  4. Sizzling sunshine here after near arctic conditions in Barcelona last weekend. No idea why spokes break…….. too many cobble stones ? x x x x

  5. Hi T & K, Amazing co-incidence that you went through Dessau. I had to go to London on my birthday for a meeting at the Guildhall, which was due to finish after lunch. I arranged to meet friends I was at University with, who took me to the Bauhaus Exhibition, which is on at the Barbican. An amazingly creative group of people across all sorts of disciplines from painting and textiles to the sort of clean and functional archtecture in your photo.

  6. Hi T & K,
    I’m from Brazil and me and my wife are planning a travel to Germany and a 4 days bike tour in the Euroroute R1, from Münster to Berlin. We are not a very good bike riders (we are planing ride 50, 60 km day), and we will not be able to make all the tour. We will make part of it by train. So, I want to know your opinion about the better region to ride in that tour (the most beautiful, delightful, etc.). I know it’s not easy and I am just asking for a little help 🙂
    Thanks for the wonderful report and good rides!

    • Hi Leo

      I’ve just sent you an email with an excerpt from Keith’s personal diary of the Munster – Berlin ride and a summary of some of the places that have stuck in our memories. We didn’t always follow the R1 route as it meanders a lot, so to try to save time we cut bits…which was sometimes good, and sometimes saw us on terrible cobbles. Hopefully using the diary in conjunction with your maps and our Daily Stats section will be a good start for your route planning.

      Have a fantastic trip.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *