Cycling in Germany #20 – Trier and the Binoculars Scare


It’s the last day of our cycling holiday in Germany and we’re going to visit Germany’s oldest town – Trier – then cycle from Thörnich to Neumagen-Dhron. We’re not cycling around Trier itself because the bike paths in and out of the city look as though they go through industrial areas. On the way, we drive up a winding road near Piesport to have a view of the Moselle below.

piesport_view

We’ve been to Trier before, during a wonderful holiday in Luxembourg over 15 years ago but it was just for dinner one night and the only thing we remember, apart from an excellent entrecôte, is the Porta Nigra which today is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps.

roman_baths

As we approach the centre, we see the ruins of three Roman baths. It really is astonishing that Jean Michel has no recollection of them at all, not so surprising for me though because I have such a terrible memory for places.

palais_garden

We park in an almost empty parking place not far from the baths and within easy walking distance from the centre through a lovely garden, the Palastgarten. From what I can work out, the parkschein (parking metre – see all this useful vocab I’ve learnt) is only for tourist buses. As there are other cars parked there, I assume it’s free if you’re not a bus.

palais

After a welcome drink at the Zeitspuring Café which would have a perfect view of the almost obscenely baroque 17th century Kurfürstliches Palais, if it wasn’t being refurbished, we head for the Neolithic-looking Constantine Basilica behind it.

basilica

A basilica in the Roman sense, it was actually the 67 m long throne hall of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Today, it is used as a Protestant Church.

gothic_cathedral

Next on the list are two churches, sort of interwoven. The 13th century Gothic Liebfrauenkirche is one of the most important early Gothic cathedrals in Germany but doesn’t look anything like a French Gothic cathedral with its little towers and no flying buttresses.

painted_vaults

Inside it certainly looks Gothic though, except for the painted vaulting.

dom

When we enter the 4th century Romanesque Cathedral next door, we’re pleased we saw the other one first because it would have paled in comparison otherwise!

organ

It has several very eclectic features including a most unusual organ. Even with our binoculars, we can’t work out exactly what it’s made of. It looks like mother-of-pearl to me.

markt_platz

After leaving the church, we turn left towards marktplatz which is very crowded and lined with colourful façades.

porta_nigra_2

 

From the square, you can see the Porta Nigra, built of grey sandstone in 200 AD. It acquired its name (black gate) in the Middle Ages because of its colour. It originally consisted of two four-storied towers and was one of four. I have a vague memory of it …

weinstube

By then we are hot – it’s 33°C – and hungry so go back to a shady outdoor restaurant I noticed on the way. There is a card on the table explaining in English and German that you go inside and buy your drinks and order your food. You are given a flag with a number that you put in the flowerpot on your table and the waitress brings your order. Just like an Australian pub, says Jean Michel.

two_churches

He comes back with two different glasses of Riesling and I go and order the pork steaks and summersalat. The restaurant also has a great view of the two churches – provided you know about the second terrace, which we only discover after we finish.

monument_weinstube

Just next to the Kesselstadt Weinstube is an unusual stone monument of a Neumanger weinschiff, or wine boat.

markt_platz_2

After lunch, we decide we’ve seen enough of Trier so return to the parking lot where we have a 10 euro parking ticket. I obviously misinterpreted the information!

cycling_vines

We drive to Thörnich wondering why on earth we’re going to cycle in the heat. “Where are my binoculars?”, I suddenly cry. I look everywhere but have no recollection of when I last saw them. I phone the weinstube, having checked how to say binoculars in German (fernglas) but no one has found them. Ah, you were luckier with your sunglasses, I say, just in case Jean Michel is tempted to mention how often I lose things.

barge

It’s very hot going, mainly through vineyards, with some occasional shade along the edge of the Moselle. Also, I’m feelilng very depressed about the binoculars.They were a present from my children and Jean Michel and are very good Leica binoculars. I try to put them out of my mind.

ice_cafe

We arrive at Neumagen-Dhron which we didn’t even enter yesterday because it looked most unpromising and discover it’s actually a pretty little village with lots of places to eat, in particular an eis café.

monument_neumagen

Just in front, what do we see, but another weinschiff monument with an explanation in approximate English. It’s a winegrower’s tombstone, with 4 wooden wine kegs. I have to wait until a French cyclist finishes his mobile phone conversation before I can take the photo.

kneipp_bad

On the way back, I stop to take a photo of what looks like a children’s paddling pool. I later learn it’s a kneippbad after Dr Sebastian Kneipp, who may be one of my ancestors. It’s a therapeutic pool that you are supposed to wade through like a stork. What a pity I don’t know!

moselle

We’re hotter than ever when we get back to the car. I check the car for my binoculars again but still no sign of them.

supermarket_coffee_shop

After shopping in a little supermarket we found earlier that has the most surprising coffee shop at the entrance we go back to our flat.

landhaus_view

We’re sitting out on the balcony experiencing end-of-holiday blues while drinking the wine we bought in Bernkastel the day before. It hasn’t been a real holiday, says Jean Michel. We haven’t had any time for relaxation. I can’t agree more.  We talk about why.  I think that we were expecting the same magic as our Danube trip last year but Jean Michel doesn’t agree.

However, we both agree that when everything is planned ahead of time, it’s less stressful. But we wanted to follow the good weather, which we accomplished pretty well.

kues_restaurant

Let’s not stay in for dinner, says Jean Michel. Let’s go and find something in Bernkastel. On the way we find a  hotel with a garden restaurant. We have rumpsteak (not schwein!) and the waitress speaks real English which is somewhat of a relief.

bernkastel_evening

After dinner we walk over the bridge to the old city and discover that there is another long street with lots of beautiful houses (and restaurants) we missed the day before. By now our end-of-holiday blues have disappeared.

bernkastel_evening_2

It’s next morning and we set out early on our 6 ½ hour drive to Blois. As we’re packing up the car, I have another look for my binoculars. And there they are! They’ve half fallen into the top zippered part of my bike bag that I only use when we have a picnic. When we got back to the car after Trier I must have put them on the back seat on top of the bike bag and because both the binoculars and the bag are black, I didn’t see them.

Now I’m ready for home!

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Cycling in Germany #19 – Bernkastel on the Moselle – a hidden treasure


We arrive in Bernkastel at about 1.30 pm after a 4-hour drive from Hann Münden with only a couple of rough patches on the motorway. I wouldn’t have liked to be going in the other direction around Hanover though. The line-up seemed to go on forever. One thing I will not regret are the German motorways.

hospital

The sun is out although the temperature is not that high. We have a light lunch at the Weinkulturel centre which is next to the 15th century Saint Nicolas hospital where they only ever have 33 patients because it was the  age at which Christ died. In any case, it’s a very lovely spot.

landhaus_view

We have to check in at our ferienwohnung (holiday flat) between 2 and 3 pm. The owner is very friendly and speaks good English. The flat is fairly rudimentary but has a little balcony with an excellent view of the vine-covered hillside and the ruins of the Burg Landshut castle on the other side of the Moselle if you ignore the school in the foreground. The big problem is the internet connection which only works if I sit on the step between the entrance and the living room. I try moving the small sofa but one of the legs falls off … not our best accommodation.

first_platz

After a short shopping excursion, we set out on our bikes directly from the flat 15-K downstream to Lösnich. On the way , we discover a small platz in Bernkastel which we find attractive and get some brochures from the tourist office next door.

downstream_view

We’re a little disappointed with the countryside which corresponds to what we initially saw around Kondorf. Jean Michel is a little worried that it’s not going to bet any better. Also, we are often parallel to the road.

sundial

We see some interesting sundials, though, in the middle of the vineyards. They were built in the 19th century so that the workers knew when to knock off for lunch or go home for the day!

landhaus_night

On our return to Bernkastel, we can’t find a restaurant to our liking so end up going home, which is actually much more relaxing and we’re really not that hungry. We watch the sun set over Burg Landshut on our little balcony.

The bed turns out to be a disaster – hard and creaky. The pillow gives me a sore neck so I don’t have a very good night despite the good shutters. I’m really starting to long for my own bed.

return_view_2

Today, we’re heading 25 km upstream to Neumagen-Dhron. The scenery is much prettier and the bike path is closer to the river and we go through a lot of little villages.

neogothic

In Lieser, we see a very unusual 19th century Neo-gothic building that is obviously being refurbished. It has some amazing details on the façade including mosaics and fish-shaped gutters.

weingut

We come across any number of weinguts or wineries but no cafés, not even for radlers (cyclists). We finally get some coffee at Peter’s bäckerei in where I have to bring out the coffee myself.

steep_path

Our bike path includes some nearly vertical sections which I’m flat out wheeling my bike up but Jean Michel, who’s been riding a bike since primary school, cycles up with great aplomb.

vertical_vineyards

Most of the vineyards which encircle us on every side are also nearly vertical! In one place, there is obviously no other way to get to one lot of vines except by boat.

chapel

I spy a little roadside chapel whose legend is explained in English for once. Probably in the 17th century, a wooden cross swirled around in the same place when the river was in spate, pointing in the direction of the village of Ferres. This was taken as a sign to build a chapel. Today, the locals call it Ferres Cathedral because of its great importance to them.

private_museum

Further down the road, there is a house that looks like it has a second-hand shop on its wall!

lunch_hotel

As we cycle past Piesport, I see a couple of likely lunch spots just in case Neumagen-Dhron doesn’t have anything better to offer. I’m right and by the time we get back to Piesport along the other side of the river, we are well and truly ready for our trocken weiss wein! It must be about 28°C.

lunch_view

We choose the Karthäuserhof with its inviting parasols, and only the bike path between us and the river. We manage to communicate with the very jovial waitress and enjoy our wiener art schnitzels and pommes frites.

return_view

It’s a bit difficult to get back on our bikes after such high calorie food (not to mention the wine) and we seem to go up and down a lot among the vineyards but we finally reach Bernkastel ready for an ice-cream.

market_platz

I suggest we go further than the platz we’ve already visited and to our immense surprise, the little streets are very pretty (and full of tourists). Then we come out into Marktplatz and look at each other in bemusement. Why isn’t this mentioned in our guidebooks and the local brochures? The 16th and 17th century façades are really beautiful.

weingut_bernkastel

After wandering around we finally end up at a shady table at the Ratskeller with a glass of wine and our binoculars studying all the wonderful architectural features. I see that the façades are not just painted but carved as well. They also have some lovely wind vanes.

town_gate

Before we go and visit the only remaining town gate, we enter the nearby weingut, Robert Schmitz-Herges, which looks as though it might keel over any moment, and buy an excellent 2010 Spitzhäusen riesling classic at 4.90 euro a bottle! All the vineyards are around Bernkastel.

What a perfect way to end the day!

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Cycling in Germany #18 – Painted façades from Hann Münden to Höxter


After our three days of wonderful weather in Friesland, we are homeward bound. We have 5 nights left in Germany and are spending the last three on the Moselle, near Trier, which is an 8-hour drive, so we are looking for somewhere in the middle where it’s not going to pour with rain. I would like to go to Hamelin (of Pied Piper fame) but it’s a bit out of the way and drizzly. We opt for Hann Münden for which light showers are forecast.

20140715-222450.jpg

As there is nothing interesting on the way and it’s an intermittent fast day, we have a picnic lunch and arrive at the Werratal Hotel in the rain at 3 pm. We flake out and finally emerge at 6.30 pm. It’s no longer raining so we ask the girl at the desk if she has a map of the bike path to Hann Münden as it’s 6 K from the hotel. She looks so sceptic – after the rain, it will be very muddy – that we change our minds and drive there.

hann_munden_bridge

We find a stone picnic table and bench overlooking the town which is at at the confluence of the Fulda and Weser Rivers on which Bremen is located.

rathaus_hann_munden

It has another claim to fame. Denis Papin, Blois’ most important historical figure, Denis Papin, inventor of the steam engine and pressure cooker, built a steam-pump powered paddlewheel boat, probably pedal-driven in 1704, and as a demonstration, used his steam paddlewheeler to navigate down the Fulda River from Kassel to Hann. Münden in 1707.

hann_munden_facades

We wander over the covered wooden bridge, typical of those we saw on the Danube last year, and into the town, which has more than 700 historical houses, some of them more than 600 years old, in the Weser Renaissance style.

hann_munden_door_2

It is not as attractive as Celle, but it is still very charming and there are some stunning painted doors.

hann_munden_door_1

It’s next morning and we’ve had an excellent breakfast (good bread for once!). The forecast is scattered showers so we’re taking a chance. We’ve studied the cycling map on the web and decided to start at Bad Karlshafe, which has an interesting history.

harbour_bad_karlshafen

It was founded in 1699 by French Huguenots fleeing persecution in France. Though initially named Sieburg, the town was later named after Charles I, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, who granted them refuge. We find this particularly interesting as the original owners of our house in Blois, Closerie Falaiseau, were Huguenots.

bad_karlsbad_first_house

The town was built to an ideal plan in classical Baroque with a harbour in the centre which is currently undergoing restoration, which unfortunately somewhat detracts from the overall aesthetics.

weser_bend

After a false start we find ourselves on a very pleasant bike path along the Weser River. We lament the lack of sun because the scenery is very calm and peaceful, with rolling hills on both sides.

farmhouse

It’s nearly midday. I’m feeling sluggish and needing a coffee fix so when we arrive at Lauenförde which has some lovely old houses with more painted doorways, we stop at the first outdoor café we see, the Dolce Vita Theatre Café.  The cappuccino is almost real and the excellent Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte will keep us going until lunch in Höxter which is still another 20 K.

theatre_cafe_inside

I go in to use the ladies and discover the inside is like an antique library. It’s beautiful. Downstairs in the basement, there is a small theatre, hence the name. I follow the Ausgang sign and find myself in a small courtyard with a well – we could have sat there instead of facing the street!

rathaus_hoxter

The path to Höxter is very pleasant and the sun finally comes out. Höxter proves to have more beautiful painted façades, with a different sort of motif. We cycle through the pedestrian centre until we find a restaurant to our liking. By then it’s 2 pm and we are the only people there.

restaurant_hoxter

Using my dictionary app, we order roast suckling pig with saukerkraut and dumplings – klein for me and gross for Jean Michel. We are brought a little cup of cold cream and cucumber soup while we’re waiting. The food is delicious. The bill, including a glass of trocken weiss wein each is 34 euros! I can definitely recommend the Paulaner Wirtshaus on Stummreger Strasse.

house_next_restaurant

We call in at the tourist office to get a town map and check we’ve seen all the sights. Ah, we’ve missed Adam & Eve’s house. It turns out to be just down the road from our restaurant and is worth the detour.

adam_eves_house

We take the path back on the other side the river and it is just as pretty – and just as hilly.

coke_view

At Wehrden, we visit the grounds of a schloss, a bit worried when we see a privat sign then have a very cold (and rare) Coke sitting in comfortable chairs with a view of the Weser.

book_tower

At Beverunge, there are more painted façades and an old winch which was no doubt used for a cable ferry. There is also another book tower but not nearly as cute as the red one in Friesland.

ferry_way_there

By the time we get to Herstelle, it’s 6.05 pm and we can see the ferry across the river. The sign says the ferry stops at 6 pm but the ferryman waves to us and comes over. Another couple of cyclists are waiting. We’ve never seen a ferry like this one. I’m even wondering how I’ll get my bike on.

ferry_man

But the ferryman shows us how the turn the bike and back it into the body of the ferry. With four bikes and 5 people, we’re almost full. When he sees us taking photos of him, he spontaneously offers to take photos of us. He’s obviously done this before. The ferry costs 1 euro for two people and two bikes.

brass_band

On the other side, a brass band is obviously about the start practising but after waiting around for a while we move on. It’s getting late and we haven’t bought our tomatoes, lettuce and fruit yet for dinner.

hotel_garden

At 7.30 we’re on our balcony with a glass of Riesling and a packet of pistachio, having cycled 54 K and had the sort of day we love – soaking up the scenery, discovering new types of architecture, visiting unusual places – and it didn’t rain! Tomorrow, we’re off to the Moselle and the weather forecast is hot and sunny.

Posted in Architecture, Blois, Cycling, Germany, History | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Cycling in Germany #17 – Windmills and Dykes


Windmills and dykes, I can hear you saying. Aren’t they Dutch? Well, we are in the north-east of Germany, near the North Sea, in East Friesland in Lower Saxony which is only separated from the Netherlands by a small stretch of water. From what I gather, the Dutch province of Friesland and the German province were both occupied by the Frisians until the 15th century.

The Waage und Börse in Leer

The Waage und Börse in Leer

Bremen to Norden takes about 2 hours so we’ve scheduled lunch at  Leer. There’s a photo on the cycling map of a restaurant called Zur Waage und Börse in front of the town’s most historical building, the Waage, which my dictionary says means “scales” so I guess it’s a weighing station. We have an excellent dish of plaice which I learn is Scholle, which is going to be a useful word because it is the local dish.

Lunch in Leer

Lunch view in Leer

When we arrive in Norden, the first thing we see are two windmills, on either side of a shopping centre. We buy supplies for our evening picnic.

Gnurre-Mühle Frisia 1700

Gnurre-Mühle Frisia 1700

Deichmühle

Deichmühle built in 1900

Hotel Stadt Norden, although well-located, turns out to be a disappointment. It’s the most expensive so far at 110 euro/night, rather run-down with frayed towels, despite being a 4-star hotel! The young boy on reception seemed outraged that we didn’t guess the entrance to the parking lot was in a back street. Later when I ask for help with my wifi connection, he also seems to take it as a personal affront.

Westgaster Mühle in Norden built in 1863

Westgaster Mühle in Norden built in 1863

But we pack our picnic and by 6.45 pm are on our bikes. The weather is beautiful so we head for the coast (well, for the end of the polder on the other side of the dyke), passing another windmill on the way out of Norden. After reaching Nord-deich (deich means dyke), we ride parallel to the dyke rather then on top because of the sheep and we know how I attract sheep! We also see an amazing number of wind turbines.

A field of wind turbines

A field of wind turbines

Jean Michel has a great time watching the tractors and other farming equipment which he says are performing tasks he’s never seen in France and thinks may contribute to the biomass process.

Tractors involved in the biomass process

Tractors involved in the biomass process

Three hours and 32 Km later, we are back at our hotel, ready to sink into bed!

The blackout curtains are effective in keeping out the light so we reach the breakfast room around 9 am after the rush. The selection is quite good with scrambled, fried and boiled eggs and smoked salmon in addition to the usual cheese and pork cuts. There is even champagne but I don’t see anyone drinking it …

Marienkirche built in

Marienkirche built in 1230

This is to be a big day, with a 57-km circuit. We set out from Norden to Marienkirche in Marienhafe. Hafe means port which is interesting because we’re inland but the church was built in 1230 before the dykes and polders added large stretches of farming land.

First floor of the Marienkirche tower

First floor of the Marienkirche tower

The church doesn’t appear to be open but there is a sign indicating a museum. We climb up to the first floor and see a winding staircase going up to the tower. I rashly suggest we buy tickets and we start walking up. By the time we get to the first floor, I’m feeling weak at the knees. There’s still another couple of floors to go. “I’ll just wait here”, I announce.

View from the Marienkirche tower

View from the Marienkirche tower

I decide I may as well continue now that I’ve got this far. Now, that’s a bad move. The steps are narrower and steeper. I stay glued to Jean Michel’s patient back until we finally reach the top. The view is magnificient but I’m not really sure it’s worth it. Coming down is even worse. I have to follow Jean Michel, once step at a time. The last flight is a breeze compared with the other two. We learn the tower as so dilapidated in the 19th century that the top two floors were removed. What a relief!

Tjücher windmill in Marienhafe with its thatched roof

Tjücher windmill in Marienhafe with its thatched roof

There seem to be no cafés around so we get back on our bikes to visit two more windmills. I’m still not feeling all that confident. Just as we reach the second windmill, I hear a car behind me and realise that I’m on the street and not on the bike path. I panic and don’t mount the footpath at the right angle. Next moment I’m crashing into the hedge.

Windmühle Sterrenberg in Marienhafe

Windmühle Sterrenberg in Marienhafe

The boy driving the car stops and gets out but I can’t even explain it’s not his fault! I get up and pull my bike up to show I’m not hurt and limp round the corner to a handy bench. I’ve grazed one knee badly and given myself a terrific bruise on the other leg. My pride is also severely wounded. Jean Michel is very reassuring and helps me clean the wound with our first-aid kit. I haven’t fallen off my bike since Jean Michel tried to kiss me cycling along the Marne.

Three windvanes on the same property

Three windvanes on the same property

After a few photos of the windmill, we mount our bikes again. My knee is quite painful for a while but it doesn’t actually stop me cycling.

Fishing boats in

Fishing boats in

Next stop is the very pretty little port of Greetsiel with its traditional fishing boats.

Captains Dinner in Greetsiel

Captains Dinner in Greetsiel

We have scholle at the Captains Dinner but Jean Michel is convinced it’s not the same fish as the one we ate in Leer the day before, but it’s the same word in German. The waitress speaks English which is a relief. We are buffeted about by the wind but it’s still warm and sunny. I hate to imagine what it must be like in winter.

Canal on one side, dyke on the other

Canal on one side, dyke on the other

After exploring the little town, we start the return journey to Norden, past more dykes and wind turbines, both of which are synonymous with wind. Fortunately, it’s about 26 or 27°C so at least it isn’t a cold wind. At one stage, we have a canal on the other side as well.

By the time we get back at 6.30 pm, we’ve clocked up 57 km and all I want to do is  have a cold drink and stretch out on the bed! I’m thankful that I didn’t do myself any greater harm.

Thatched-roof brick cottage

Thatched-roof brick cottage

It’s our last day in Norden and we’ve exhausted the immediate surroundings so drive to Marienhafe to take the 37-km thatched roof circuit. The thatched roofs are all  in an outdoor peat bog museum. We’ve seen some from time to time but the thatch doesn’t go to the end of the roof so Jean Michel is not convinced of their authenticity.

Early wooden bike built in the early 19th century

Early wooden bike built in the early 19th century

On the way, we see another windmill in Münkeboe, whose adjacent house contains various objects, including a couple of wooden bicycles. I hate to think how many falls I could have on those!

Small reed-thatched clay house in Moormuseum

Small reed-thatched clay house in Moormuseum

The Moormuseum in Moordorf proves to very interesting. The lady at the ticket counter obligingly finds us document in English and in French and although it is in German, the little video is quite understandable.

It’s hard to imagine living in such terrible poverty. The houses are tiny, damp and isolated.

Large reed-thatched clay hut in the Moormuseum

Large reed-thatched clay hut in the Moormuseum – you can see how small the people must have been

Demonstrations of various crafts such as spinning, knitting and ironwork are held on Saturday afternoons. Jean Michel finds himself invited to share a pot of pork and split pea stew by some of the demonstrators and calls me to join him.

That is the last food we see until 4.30 pm. There is a teestube but there are a lot of people and apart from matjees (herring), we can’t work out what else there is to eat. There is only beer and brannwein (which I later discover is a sort of vodka) so we decide to push on.

A book tower in the middle of nowhere

A book tower in the middle of nowhere

It is not until we have made several wrong turnings and encountering this strange “book tower” that we arrive back in Marienhafe (we’re now up to 44 km) and console ourselves with a triple ice-cream because everything else is closed.

We have a third type of scholle at the hotel restaurant which also serves complementary pea soup and a moka cream affair with our decaffeinated coffee.

A typical shady seat at Hotel Stadt Norden

A typical shady seat at Hotel Stadt Norden – these comfy covered basket chairs can also be found on the beach.

Three great days of sun and cycling but tomorrow we’re expecting rain clouds so are off to another destination.

Posted in Accommodation, Cycling, Germany | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Cycling in Germany #16 – Celle and Bremen


Bad weather has struck so we’ve studied the weather report and after a day of R&R at Kunsthof Pension in Dahrenstedt we’re off to Bremen via Celle which has over 400 timber-framed houses.

Church and farm building in Dahrenstedt

Church and farm building in the little village of Dahrenstedt

We are going back into the former West Germany today and wonder whether it will be noticeable. Nothing could be more flagrant! The houses are different, there are more gardens and trees, more shops in the towns and village. Everything is neat and tidy again, there are no more ruins. However, there is also a small forest with prostitutes’ vans from one end to the other, which is a little worrying.

Painted faces and hair in Bremen

Painted faces and hair in Bremen

The first thing we see when we arrive in Celle are teenagers with colourful hair and faces. The lady in the tourist office tells me they are celebrating the end of high school. She doesn’t speak enough English to tell me whether it is only a custom in Celle or something that happens throughout Germany.

The Rathaus in Celle

The Rathaus in Celle

Miraculously the grey clouds have made way for the sun so we take lots of photos just in case before lunch just in case it doesn’t last.

Painted façades in Celle

Painted façades in Celle

From 1378 to 1705, Celle was the official residence of the Lüneburg branch of the dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg. In 1534, the Reformation was introduced into Celle. From 1655 to 1705 Celle experienced a cultural boom under Duke George William mainly due to his French wife Eléonore d’Olbreuse who brought fellow Hugenot Christians and Italian architects to Celle.

House built in 1622

House built in 1622

 

The result is a wonderful collection of colourful timber-framed houses with learned German inscription on them. They are often dated so we set out to find the oldest – 1526 – but it was nowhere to be seen.

House in Celle built in 1622

House in Celle built in 1622

We look for a place to eat and finally settle on the Schweine-Schulze which has a terrace in a shady street and is serving kotelett und pfifferlings. Our trocken weiss wein has just arrived when there is a sudden downpour. Everyone is swept inside and we finish our excellent meal at a rough wooden table. We discover we’re not the only famous people to eat here – Helmut Khol and Gerhard Schröder are also patrons.

Schweine restaurant in Celle

Schweine restaurant in Celle

By the time we finish, the sun has come out again so we finish our visit, ending with the French gardens attributed to Eléonore d’Olbreuse. We don’t have time to visit the castle.

The French garden in Celle with the castle in the background

The French garden in Celle with the castle in the background

Bremen is only about an hour away but unbeknown to us, it has been the victim of a violent storm and trees are now covering some of the roads into the city causing an immense traffic jam.

The Rathaus and Cathedral in Bremen, in the Weser Renaissance style

The Rathaus and Cathedral in Bremen, in the Weser Renaissance style

We finally reach the Prizehotel, recommended by Andrea from Rearview Mirror in her post on Bremen, at about 6 pm. It’s an ultra-modern budget hotel, but has everything we need, including friendly, helpful staff, soundproof rooms, excellent wifi, light-blocking curtains and a comfortable bed. It even has decent pillows, which we had stopped expecting in East Germany.

Guild house in Bremen

My favourite buildng in Bremen – Schütting, an elegant home built in 1535-37 for the merchants’ guild

We set out to explore the city, which is a short walk away. We reach the tourist office in the train station just as it’s about to close and learn the existence of a Radstation (bike shop) nearby where we’ll be able to buy maps for the next part of our trip in Friesland, the only part of the Germany where it’s going to be fine for the next three days!

The Ratskeller restaurant in Bremen

The Ratskeller restaurant in Bremen

It starts raining but we take photos anyway despite the fact that the main square is full of white tents, and look for somewhere to have a drink. I see a sign saying Ratskeller. A ratskeller (meaning council’s cellar) is a bar or restaurant in the basement of the city hall in Germany and you see them everywhere.

One of the beautiful vats in the Ratskeller in Bremen

One of the beautiful vats in the Ratskeller in Bremen

It turns out to be one of the places in our tourist brochure and we can see why. Built in 1405, it is one of the oldest wine cellars in Germany with huge wooden vats, each with a different decor. I love the private booths and can imagine the town councillors hatching their plots behind closed doors.

Renaissance façade in Bremen

Another Weser Renaissance façade in Bremen

We have a glass of wine each with bruschetta and a dip because we’re not really hungry after our schwein kotelett lunch. That’s one of the great things about Germany – you can order as little or as much as you want.

Böttcherstrasse in Bremen with its art nouveau architecture

Böttcherstrasse in Bremen with its art nouveau architecture

When we emerge from our cellar, the sky has cleared up completely so we take our photos all over again and go looking for the places we haven’t seen yet, in particular, Böttcherstrasse and the Schnoorvietel.

Typical street in the Schnoor district

Typical street in the Schnoor district

I love Schnoorvietel which is full of tiny little streets with quaint houses built in the 15th to 17th century for sailors and fishermen. Since it has been raining, there is practically no one around so we have it to ourselves.

The little blue door

The little blue door

Just as we finish our visit, it starts raining again. We think we’ve done pretty well with the weather today all things considered.

Windmill in Bremen on the way home to our hotel

Windmill in Bremen on the way home to our hotel

 

Tomorrow we’re off to Friesland near the North Sea, land of windmills and dykes, which is the only part of Germany where it’s going to be sunny for the next three days and we can do some more cycling.

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Cyclng in Germany #15 – Turgermünde, the prettiest village on the Elbe


After Magdeburg and the Green Citadel, we continue on to our next location in the little village of Dahlenstedt near Stendal, where we are to spend 3 nights, including a rest day. We first heard of this little town from guests who came to stay at Closerie Falaiseau last year. Henri Beyle, the author of Le Rouge et le Noir took the pseudonym of Stendhal, in hommage of his great passion for Wilhelmina de Grisheim in 1807 and 1808.

Pension Kunsthof with our door on the far right

Pension Kunsthof with our door on the far right

When we arrive, it is blazing hot and Kunsthof Pension with its shady trees is very inviting. Several old restored red brick farmhouse buildings form a grass-covered inner courtyard. Our large room has a kitchen corner, with a sink and electric jug. My heart sinks when I see that only the windows on one side have proper curtains. On the other side, there is a flimsy white curtain on the glass door and a window with no curtains at all. As it turns out, the ivy-covered wall opposite keeps out the 4 am sunlight.

St Jacob''s Gothic cathedral in Stendal with the rathaus in front

St Jacob”s Gothic cathedral in Stendal with the rathaus in front

It’s too hot to even think about cycling, it’s Sunday and we’ve forgotten to buy something to eat so we drive into Stendal for dinner. We’re relieved we didn’t choose a hotel there! The only landmarks are a large church with roadworks in front and the Uengling Gate, a red-brick tower regarded as one of the most splendid late medieval town gates in northern Germany.

The Uengling Gate, reputedly built by masterbuilder Steffen Boxtehude ca. 1450 to 1460 is regarded as one of the most splendid late medieval town gates in northern Germany.

The Uengling Gate, reputedly built by masterbuilder Steffen Boxtehude ca. 1450 to 1460

We can choose between Asian, Italian and a steakhouse. Surprisingly, the waitress speaks English and we order a glass of rosé and an entrecôte and chips with side salad. The entrecôte is very thick and served in a red-hot pan.

The breakfast room at Kunsthof Pension

The breakfast room at Kunsthof Pension

We sleep well, despite the paving stones outside our window that make the passing trucks and cars sound like a thundering train and have a good breakfast in a very pleasant room with large windows overlooking the courtyard. We are the only guests.

The view from the breakfast room

The view from the breakfast room

It’s very overcast and the weather report says it will rain in the afternoon so we drive to Turgermünde and park near the bike path, leaving our visit of the town until our return.

Bird observatory along the bike path

Bird observatory along the bike path

At this part of its course, the Elbe divides into several branches, making it perfect for wildlife. We stop at a bird observatory and take our binoculars up.

The view from the bird observatory

The view from the bird observatory

We also see stork nests along the way which reminds us of the Danube last year.

The ferry crossing

The ferry crossing

At Grieben, we find a biergarten full of other cyclists sitting down to lunch at 11.30 am which is a little early for us. We have a not-very-good (and expensive) cappuccino instead. After crossing on the ferry near Ferchland, we go north to Jerichow, a very dull little town.

Kaffee Behrens in Jerichow

Kaffee Behrens in Jerichow

By then, we’re hungry so we choose not to eat at the imbiss (Turkish snack bar) but, encouraged by the number of bikes outside, at Kaffee Behrens, built in 1763. It turns out they belong to the local soaks!

The lunch menu cards at Kaffee Behrens

The lunch menu cards at Kaffee Behrens

The owner comes over with a set of menu cards which he flicks open and places in a hemisphere on the table. Our schweinfilet and pfifferlings (pork fillet and chanterelle mushrooms) are a good choice.

Höllanderwindmühle in Jerichow

Höllanderwindmühle in Jerichow

Afterwards we visit the local windmill (there are so few places to see that we follow up every lead).

Kloster Jerichow, a Romanesque abbey

Kloster Jerichow, a Romanesque abbey

We also check out the red-brick Romanesque kloster which is on the Compostela route. Unfortunately, it’s closed.

 

First view of Tangermünde

First view of Tangermünde

After cycling a total of forty-five kilometers we arrive back at Tungermünde and I’m very saddle sore!

Shop façade in Tangermünde

Shop façade in Tangermünde

And here, to our immense surprise, we discover that Tangermünde is the prettiest village we have seen on the Elbe! This charming little mediaeval Hanseatic town is hardly mentionedin our guidebooks and there is hardly a tourist in sight.

Church and restaurant

St Stephan’s Church and Exempel Gastuben

We have kaffee and kuchen at the first café we come to. Jean Michel insists on having the only two desserts on the menu (I later see they have large cakes inside). The Petit Feodora is fine – a rather rich fudge-like cake but the Süsser Klump, a regional speciality, does not appeal to me at all.

Klump, the local speciality

Süsser Klump, the local speciality 

It has some sort of thick dumplings floating in thin rhubarb soup. Jean Michel valiantly eats half of it along with half the Feodora.

Scboolroom inside the Exempel Gastuben

Scboolroom inside the Exempel Gastuben

The café-restaurant turns out to be an old school with the original classroom set-up (or so I understand).

Painted gallery in St Stephan's

Painted gallery in St Stephan’s

We visit the red-brick church of St Stephan’s with its painted gallery. The church was completely rebuilt after being destroyed by fire in 1617.

Typical painted arch

Typical painted arched doorway

But what we really like are the beautiful arched doorways on the half-timbered houses.

The Rathaus with its complex gothic architecture

The Rathaus with its complex gothic architecture

The rathaus, built in the 1430s, with its gothic and Romanesque structural elements, is also very striking. The façade has three staggered gables each with a miniature spire. reminiscent of the gothic architecture on cathedral exteriors.

The town gate

The town gate

The impressive entrance to the town, with its round tower, has the same type of features, including the off-white contrast on red brick.

View of the Elb from Tangermünde

View of the Elb from Tangermünde

The Schloss Hotel in the ramparts has a little garden behind it with a view of the Elb so we cycle back along the river to the car, having managed to escape the rain altogether. What a wonderful day!

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Cycling in Germany #14 – Shades of Gaudi on the Elbe: Hundertwasser


“I mustn’t forget to show you something before we leave Wittenberg tomorrow”, says Jean Michel, “a modern building, the Martin Luther Gymnasium” (which means high school).

Entrance to the Martin Luther Gymnasium

Entrance to the Martin Luther Gymnasium

Wow, I am bowled over when I see it, tucked away behind the vegatation in a side street. It’s Sunday so there is no one about. What an inspiring place to go to school.

Close-up of the Martin Luther Gymnasium from inside the gate

Close-up of the Martin Luther Gymnasium from inside the gate

According to the official website, the architect, Hundertwasser, a visionary and reponsible creator, mobilizes the power of his art in order to spread his message for a life in harmony with nature and individual creativity.

The façade taken from the right corner

The façade taken from the right corner

He is a symbolic figure for a non-conformist way of life, a forerunner of environmental protection and an ambassador for a self-determined alternative existence.

The gymnasium showing the second buildling behind

The gymnasium showing the second buildling behind. We didn’t like to venture  too far into the school.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser Regentag Dunkelbunt LiebeFrau was born in Vienna on 15th December 1928 and died on board the Queen Elizabeth 2 on 19th February 2000 on his way back to his home in New Zealand.

Close-up of the right side of the gymnasium

Close-up of the right side of the gymnasium

He was an artist, thinker and architect or, as he claimed in his manifesto of 24th January 1990, a doctor of architecture with a passion for water and colours. His deeply environmentalist message was expressed early on in everything he created: paintings, posters, postage stamps, houses, buildings, books.

The street façade of the Green Citadel.

The street façade of the Green Citadel.

Our next stop is Magdeburg, It’s already 31°C. We park just in front of the Green Citadel, in the middle of the city, another work by Hundertwasser, and said to be his architectural masterpiece.

The right façade, showing a second modern building  and the Neogothic law courts and post office buildlng

The right façade, showing a second modern building and the Neogothic law courts and post office buildlng

For me, it’s love at first sight: golden globes on top of towers, “tree tenants” looking out of “dancing windows”, meadows of wildflowers on the roofs, “foot melodies” taking strollers through the inner courtyard.

Die Gemälde Stube in the courtyard of the Green Citadel

Die Gemälde Stube in the courtyard of the Green Citadel

We go round the other side and discover there is a restaurant inside, along with a hotel, shops and private apartments. The courtyard is cool and shady.

Fountain and shops in the main courtyard

Fountain and shops in the main courtyard

For a total of twenty euros, we have a glass of Riesling and the dish of the day brought by a friendly waitress speaking excellent English. We take our time to soak in the atmosphere of the courtyard with its little fountain.

Pay-for public toilets, free if you eat at the restaurant

Pay-for public toilets, free if you eat at the restaurant

Even the pay-for public toilets are part of the decor. The waitress gives me a token.

A rear view of the Green Citadel

A rear view of the Green Citadel

Reminiscent of the colourful works of the Gaudi in Barcelona, Hunterwasser’s buildings are quite unique. My photos do not do them justice.

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 Cycling in Germany #13: Wörlitz Gardens and the beginning of German Neo-classicism


After a standard breakfast, we set out on our bikes at about 10 am for Wörlitz, 25 k away. I’m feeling rather sluggish and the somewhat dull countryside doesn’t help. We’re finding it a little hard to adapt to the difference between the Elbe and the Danube where nearly every bend brings a change of scenary. We like the red brick buildings with their intricate details though.

Red-brick factory converted into flats

Red-brick factory converted into flats in Wittenberg

We eventually come to a pretty little village with a watermill and an excellent cappuccino at the top of a steep climb restores my energy.

Griebo waterwheel built in about 1845

Griebo waterwheel built in about 1845

We arrive at Coswig and take the cable ferry. Jean Michel explains how the current and the length of cable are used to cross the river.

Cable and winch system on the car ferry

Cable and winch system on the car ferry

Worlitz is another 5 km along the river. By then it’s lunchtime so we follow the advice of Le Routard and eat at Grüner Baum. Jean Michel chooses fish and I go for the schweiner schnitzel which is excellent.

Wörlitz artificial lake

Wörlitz artificial lake

We leave our bikes in a courtyard next to the tourist office which is locked at night and set off for the castle on foot. We are delighted at what we see. The 277-acre Wörlitz Garden was mainly developed between 1764 and 1800 and is one of the largest and earliest landscape parks in Europe. It was masterminded by Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau and his architect friend Friedrich Wilhelm von Ermannsdorf.

Cable ferries surrounded by waterlillies

Cable ferries surrounded by waterlillies

The two of them went on a grand tour of Europe which included England, France, Italy, Switzerland and Holland over a period of sixteen years and put their innovative ideas and ideals into practice in a series of buildings and naturalistic landscapes containing several lakes, around which there is no enclosure whatsoever. Small cable ferries take you across the water in the middle of waterlilies or you can take a so-called gondola like the German group below.

A gondola with a table in the middle for drinks!

A gondola with a table in the middle for drinks!

We choose to visit the palace (landhaus), the Gothic House and Hamilton Villa, all of which have guided tours in German with, we are told, documentation in French and English.

Cable ferries surrounded by waterlillies

Cable ferries surrounded by waterlillies

We love the gardens, which are very peaceful and bucolic and we love taking the little ferries.

The landhaus

The landhaus, the first Neoclassical building in Germany

It turns out we are the only people on the tour of the landhaus and the guide only speaks German. She gives us documentation in French and tries her very hardest to share her enthusiasm about the house by articulating clearly and repeating the words we seem to recognise. At the end of the ¾ hour visit, I’m exhausted!

A most unusual fireplace inside the landhaus

A most unusual fireplace inside the landhaus

Another room in the landhaus

Another room in the landhaus

A Wedgwood plaque

A Wedgwood plaque

The landhaus, finished in 1773, was the first Neoclassical building in Germany. It contains a large collection of Wedgwood porcelain and many innovative features such as pull-out beds.

The Gothic House

The Gothic House, one of the first Neogothic structures on the European continent

Since it’s already 4 pm we only visit the Gothic House from the outside. Started by Erdmannsdorff in 1774 and modelled on Horace Walpole’s villa on Strawberry Hill, it was one of the first Neogothic structures on the continent.

Cornflowers in a field of wheat, rye and barley

Cornflowers in a field of wheat, rye and barley

We start walking towards Hamilton Villa and the path takes us around a never-ending field of rye, wheat and barley.  An hour later we arrive at the Villa which is overrun by a wedding party we saw when we first arrived. We are told by a helpful man in English that there is another compulsory guided tour in German so decide not to enter after all. However, as we walk away, the man comes after us and gives us a brief rundown on the what there is to see and says we can explore on our own.

Looking out from under Vesuvius

Looking out from under Vesuvius

When Leopold III was off on his grand tour of Europe in 1760, he was capitivated by Mount Vesuvius and the newly discovered of Pompei so 22 years later he built his own little volcano on an island of local rock. A hollow cone at the top contained a chamber with three fireplaces and a roof with an artificial crater that could be filled with water.

Villa Hamilton next to Vesuvius

Villa Hamilton next to Vesuvius

He then built a lake around the volcano and invited his friends over to watch the eruption. Ah, the advantages of being a rich prince! There is also an amphitheatre, Roman baths and various chambers underneath the volcano.

The Roman amphitheatre where the Prince held concerts

The Roman amphitheatre where the Prince held concerts

The little Neo-classical villa at the foot of the volcano symbolises the friendship between the prince and the British diplomat, Sir William Hamilton, who was also a geologist and collector of antiquities. It, too, was designed by Erdmannsdorff. We pay an extra 3 euro to take photos which I think is a little exaggerated given that the entrance is 4 euro per person.

The fireplace inside Villa Hamilton

The fireplace inside Villa Hamilton

We walk back along the artificial lake to the tourist office, suddenly worried that it might close before we get there. What will happen if our bikes are locked up for the night ? Fortunately, we make it with ten minutes to spare.  It’s 6 pm and we’ve still got a 2 hour ride home! It’s been a long day …

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Cycling in Germany #12 – Luther Country : Wittenberg


We arrive at our Black Bear Hotel (Schwarzer Baer) about 2 pm in stifling heat and appreciate the coolness of the rooms. We don’t have a terrace but we have a little closed-in verandah afffair with a leadlight window which is very neat. Even neater is the fact that the curtains are of the total blackout sort. The room will not be flooded with light from 4.30 am onwards as it was at the Radhaus!

The leadlight in our alcove at Stathotel Wittenberg Schwarzer Baer

The leadlight in our alcove at Stathotel Wittenberg Schwarzer Baer

After a long siesta, we explore the town. It is very attractive with its renovated Marktplatz appropriately adorned with statues of Luther and fellow reformer Melanchthon. Like most town centres, Wittenberg is pedestrian (and bike) only.

Rathaus with statues of Luther and Melanthon

Rathaus with statues of Luther and Melanthon

Unlike Dresden, Wittenberg was mostly spared in the Second World War, but it doesn’t have many historical buildiings because it was bombarded by the Austrians in 1760 during the Seven Years War during the Prussian occupation. It was later occupied by the French in 1806 and stormed by the Prussian Army the next year.

Other side of Marktplatz

Other side of Marktplatz

As we walk through the streets, we nevertheless discover several 16th century entries some of which have been restored, others not.

Renaissance doorway

Renaissance doorway

In front of one building, we see a before and after photo of the house where the painter Cranach once lived. The difference is stunning.

Restored courtyard before and after

Restored courtyard before and after

We also see a lot of leafy courtyards often containing biergartens. In one, there is a scene painted on a wooden panel representing life-sized figures of Katharina and Martin Luther and two of their children, with holes instead of faces so Jean Michel and I take turns to stick our heads through. A man seated at a nearby table comes over and offers to take our photo!

Katharina and Martine Luther

Katharina and Martine Luther

Unfortunately both of the town’s churches are being renovated in preparation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation which will take place in 2017.

The roof of the ?

The roof of the Schlosskirche, the only part not being restored, taken from the little memorial garden next to the Tourist Information office.

In 1517, Luther nailed his 95 theses on the doors of the Schlosskirche which was badly damaged by fire in 1760 as a result of the Austrian bombardment. It was rebuilt and later restored at the end of the 19th century. The orignal wooden doors were replaced in 1858 by bronze doors with the Latin text of the theses. Inside are the tombs of Luther and Melanchthon, but we are not able to go inside.

The Parish Church of Saint Mary's, also undergoing renovation

The Parish Church of Saint Mary’s, also undergoing renovation

The parish Church of Saint Mary is also being renovated so we aren’t able to see Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Last Supper, Baptism and Confession. There’s a slide show though so we are able to get an idea of what we are missing.

Marshland around the Elbe

Marshland around the Elbe

As the heat has died down somewhat, we pack a picnic dinner (it’s an intermitttent fast day) and cycle 15 kilometers to Elster. The countryside is rather marshy, quite different from what we have seen along the Elbe so far.

Bockwindmühle built in 1895 and restored in 1995

Bockwindmühle built in 1895 and restored in 1995

As we get closer to Elster, we see a restored windmill with a picnic table next to it but without a drop of shade!

Ferry at Elster

Ferry at Elster

We end up having our picnic on a bench in the centre of Elster, watching the ferryman closing up for the night with the France-Germany soccer match in the background. When its over, there is no reaction from the adults but the children clap. Hmm.

Sheep on the levee

Sheep on the levee

On the way home, I stop to take a photo of the sheep scattered along the levee. Within one minute, they’re all clustered together, baaing at me! By the time we get back to the Black Bear, we are exhausted which explains why yesterday’s post only talked about Torgau.

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Cycling in Germany #11 – Martin Luther Country: Torgau


Today, we’re off to Wittenberg Lutherstadt as it now seems to be called everywhere. It’s 100 km away and there is only one point of interest in-between – Torgau. We had thought of passing via Leipzig but the photos on google images aren’t very encouraging. We get off to a false start because our Radhaus in Niederlommatzsch doesn’t take Visa card and we had to drive about 10 km to get some cash.

Tolenfels Castle was built in 1534.

Hartenfels Castle was built in 1534.

The first thing we see when we approach Torgau is Hartenfels Castle overlooking the Elbe. We park in the shade and put on our straw hats because it is already 28°C at 11 am!  As soon as we walk into the walled town, we see preparations going on. A Renaissance festival like the one we accidentally went to last year in Neuburg on the Danube is obviously in the making.

The unexpected bear pit

The unexpected bear pit

Unfortunately, the castle is undergoing renovation but we walk towards the courtyard which is open to the public. We go across a moat and I look down. What do I see? A brown bear! Poor thing, it looks very hot, even in its pool. It reminds me of Bern in Switzerland which also has a bear pit. We later see there is a second bear who is also completely flake out.

Marienkirche - you can see some of the Renaissance festival preparations

Marienkirche – you can see some of the Renaissance festival preparations

We visit Marienkirche in which there is a mural tombstone of Katharina Luther who died in Torgau. Now that’s an interesting story. Katharina’s parents were of noble birth but had fallen on hard times, so they put her in a convent at the age of 5. When she was 24, she and 11 other nuns escaped from the convent to Wittenberg, encouraged by Martin Luther’s denunication of convents and monasteries. There she met her future husband, 16 year older than her. They had six children and lived happily ever after. Five hundred years later, there is a Katharina’s Day celebration just for her.

Mural tombstone of Katharina Luther

Mural tombstone of Katharina Luther

Torgau is a pretty little town with a large market square. A white rathaus taken up most of one side and is flanked by well-retored buildings around the other three sides. There is a lot of renovation going on and it’s obviously trying to capitalise on nearby Wittenberg and the Martin Luther connection.

Torgau Rathaus

Torgau Rathaus

After a cold Diet Coke (Coca-Cola Light in German), we continue our route to Wittenburg. Stay tuned.

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