Cycling in Germany #5 – Bad Schandau to Pirna along the Elbe

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We wake up in our lime green and yellow pension in Bad Schandau (bad means bath and hence spa) and the first thing we do is check the weather and the temperature. Yesterday we were in transit between our spacious comfortable flat in Kobern-Gondorf and Saxon Switzerland on the Elbe River. Theoretically the 550 km should have taken about 5 ½ hours plus rest stops but we were held up for 1 ½ hours in a traffic jam due to roadwork on the motorway.

pension

A little word about the German motorways. Unlike French motorways, they are free, and form a vast network that crisscrosses the country. The only problem is the way the people drive on them. The speed limit is 130 kph unless indicated otherwise (by which I mean less than 130 of course). If there are three lanes, the trucks and drivers who respect the speed limit use the right hand lane, the vast majority who drive at 130 to 140 kph (including us) mostly stay in the middle lane while the left hand lane is reserved for those who whizz past at a speed I wouldn’t even dare to calculate. I’ll leave it up to you to imagine what happens when there are only two lanes. I let Jean Michel drive in Germany.

germany_us

So it was about 5 pm when we reached our destination and went straight to the tourist office to find ourselves a flat, passing a German soccer flag seller on the way! All that was proposed was a very decrepit looking building on a very busy road so we went back again to the tourist office to ask for a hotel room with wifi instead. Perhaps it was because the weekend was coming up but the only place available was our pension. By then it was raining lightly. The room is nothing much but it’s very quiet, quite large, has a stunning view out of all three windows and wifi that connects to my laptop provided I sit fairly close to the door. The bed is OK and the flimsy curtains don’t encourage us to sleep late. Maybe that’s a good thing …

window_view

So back to the weather. It’s about 14°C and sunny, with 23°C expected in the afternoon. By the end of an uninteresting breakfast, we’ve gained a degree. I decide to be German and wear socks with my sandals rather than be hot in walking shoes when things warm up. I can take them off later. It turns out to be an excellent solution. Jean Michel assures me that I don’t look too terrible.

sandals

Today we’re going to Pirna, about 25 K along the Elbe towards Dresden. The bike path is the sort we like – close to the river and free of traffic most of the way. We have wide sweeping views of the Elbe.

bike_path

Our first stop is Konigstein, with its famous castle which we will visit by car another day. It’s a long way up the hill on a bike. We cross the Elbe on a small ferry with a large number of other cyclists. The cycling population has changed – a little younger and a little fitter. We don’t see many electric bikes either. Also, everyone seems to be German.

ferry_konigstein

We cycle round an S-bend to Kurort Rathan and take another, much bigger ferry, pulled by a cable, and cheaper. Up above us soar the famous Bastei Rocks, with their incredible formations, that we will also visit by car another day.

bastei

The next village is Stadt Welhen with an attractive central platz completely taken up by restaurants except for the Rathaus (rat means council and not a little rodent as you would imagine) with an unusual sundial that is adapted to summer time.

sundial

The cycle path takes us past riverside homes with beautiful gardens and alarge number of ferienwohnung (holiday flats), many of which are frei (vacant). We wonder why there was so little available in Bad Schandau.

restaurant

By the time we reach the centre of Pirna, it’s about 1.15 pm so our first priority is to find somewhere to eat.  We ignore all the fast food places and turn down a side street with an inviting-looking restaurant at unbeatable prices. As usual, there is a bike stand at the front. We choose pork medallions and mushrooms which turn out to be quite tasty and are not deep fried. A change from schnitzel.

marktplatz

The pretty main square – Marktplatz – turns out to be just at the end of the street. We get a few brochures from the tourist office for our travel log and visit St. Marien Kirche with its stunning vaulting that reminds us of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Maybe it was a source of inspiration.

vaulting

Fortunately our transit day seems to have improved my saddle soreness and the remaining 25 K aren’t nearly as bad as I feared. It starts spitting after a while but we’re not too worried because we have our capes. It turns out we don’t need them.

sundaes

On the way back, we decide not to take the ferry at Kurort Rathan, and treat ourselves to an ice-cream Sunday. The young waitress speaks good English which is a reilef. There are so few foreign tourists here that everyone naturally talks to us in German. The lady who runs the pension doesn’t speak any English at all.

second_ferry

Our ice-creams stand us in good stead because the bike path from Kurort to Konigstein is like a roller coaster. Then we have to sprint down to the landing stage to catch the ferry. This time, there are only a few bikes and cyclists. I wonder where everyone has disappeared to?

bad_schangau

We arrive back at the unusually early hour of 6 pm and have a glass of trocken riesling and pistachios in our room followed by cheese and salad and some delicious cherries we bought on the way home.

Tomorrow, we’re off in the other direction – to Czech Republic – but our bike map stops at the German border so we’ll see how we manage!

OTHER POSTS ABOUT CYCLING IN GERMANY

Cycling in Germany – Tips & Tricks
Cycling in Germany #1 – Kobern-Gondorf on the Moselle
Cycling in Germany #2 – Rhine from Saint Goar to Lorch
Cycling in Germany #3 – Cochem to Zell on the Moselle
Cycling in Germany #4 – Koblenz where the Moselle meets the Rhine
Cycling in Germany #5 – Bad Schaugen to Pirna along the Elbe
Cycling in Germany #6 – Bastei Rocks, Honigen and over the border to Czech Republic 
Cycling in Germany #7 – Dresden: accommodation & car trouble and Baroque Treasure  
Cycling in Germany #8 – Dresden Neustadt: Kunsthof Passage, Pfund’s Molkerei, a broom shop & trompe l’oeil
Cycling in Germany #9 – Country roads around Niderlommatzsch on the Elbe
Cycling in Germany #10 – Meissen on the Elbe
Cycling in Germany #11 – Martin Luther Country: Torgau on the Elbe
Cycling in Germany #12 – Martin Luther Country: Wittenberg on the Elbe
Cycling in Germany #13 – Wörlitz Gardens and the beginning of neo-classicism in Germany
Cycling in Germany #14 – Shades of Gaudi on the Elbe: Hundertwasser
Cycling in Germany – Turgermünde, the prettiest village on the Elbe
Cycling in Germany #16 – Celle & Bremen
Cycling in Germany #17 – Windmills & Dykes
Cycling in Germany #18 – Painted façades from Hann. Münden to Höxter
Cycling in Germany #19 – Bernkastel on the Moselle: a hidden treasure
Cycling in Germany #20 – Trier & the Binoculars Scare
 
Cycling along the Danube – A Renaissance festival in Neuburg, Bavaria
Cycling along the Danube – Watch out for trains!
Cycling along the Danube – Regensburg & Altmuhle
Cycling along the Danube –  The Weltenburg Narrows
Cycling along the Danube – from its source to Ehingen
Cycling along the Danube – Ehingen to Ulm
Cycling along the Danube – Singmarigen to Beuron
Cycling along the Danube – Binzwangen to Mengen including  Zwiefalten
Eurovelo 6 – Cycling around Lake Constance
Eurovelo 6 – Moos to Stein am Rhein and Steckborn on Lake Constance
Heading home to France after a month’s cycling holiday
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41 Responses to Cycling in Germany #5 – Bad Schandau to Pirna along the Elbe

  1. The architecture’s beautiful, particularly in that church and square.

    And that dessert is too tempting.

  2. Helen says:

    So pleased that there is enough wifi. The sock and sandal look is very becoming!
    I am so enjoying the views, architecture and food.

  3. Pingback: Cycling in Germany #6 – Bastei Rocks, Honigstein and over the border to Czech Republic | Aussie in France

  4. Lorri says:

    I have a photo almost exactly like your last one in this post. I sort of drove through that area but don’t think I was supposed to, while looking for a place to park. I have been all over Germany, except the very northeast, and found, like you, very few non-German tourists. Thankfully, I speak a bit of German and was able to make myself understood in the various places. We stayed at a very nice ferienwohnung in Konigstein. I was surprised at how very few cafes there were in some of the small town. Very surprising. Glad I visited this area but don’t think I need to go back.

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  30. Chitra Sundaram says:

    Hi: really enjoyed your report on the elbe bike ride since we are planning to bike Pirna-Bad Schandau with our kids this summer. Had one question about stage 5: why did you decide to take the ferry at Kurort Rathan? As far as i can see the bike ride is on both sides of the river elbe, but on the south side it seems to run along the railway track. Was it to avoid riding along this that you decided to cross over by the larger ferry at Kurort Rathan? Thx so much for your help!

    Best Chitra

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      Hi, I answered Vijay by email giving details, but I’ll repeat them here. We love taking the ferry so we do so whenever we can. There is no bike path on the N of the river between Rathan and Konigstein so you would have to cross over at least twice if you want to go on the south side. Also, since we always do loops, we try and take a different paths there and back.

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