Neustrelitz - Güstrow
We decided to head for Rostock by car, with stops in places we wanted to see in between. When we set out - it was now Wednesday - we again had a cool and grey morning. It wouldn't have been bad for cycling. Our first stop was in Plau, then Waren/Müritz. Both towns - with beautifully renovated historic centers - are situated on charming little lakes and are for obvious reasons very popular with vacationers. Tourisim helps these places thrive but it also determines their character. I would often prefer the less restored places that have a more authentic, down-to-earth feeling. If the buildings are not restored they will detiorate, and if they are restored, they lack patina. The style might be old but the condition is bran new - a dilemna.
We ended the day in Güstrow, a city that was a very pleasant surprise. Its many sights and historic buildings have been beautifully restored, and yet the city has managed to establish itself as more than a museum to the past. The streets are lively, the city has a life of its own aside from tourist trade. It is also the city where Ernst Barlach lived from 1910 until his death in 1938.
Ernst Barlach ( 1870 - 1938) was a German expressionist sculptor, printmaker and writer. Although he was a supporter of the war in the years leading to World War I, his participation in the war made him change his position, and he is mostly known for his sculptures protesting against the war. This created many conflicts during the rise of the Nazi Pary, when most of his works were confiscated as degenerate art.
Groß Quassow - Neustrelitz
Beautiful weather and a short ride to Neustrelitz. We saw immediately that Neustrelitz had once been an imposing town. Riding in we passed the pretty castle park and then headed for the city center, The cobble stones weren't a treat for us on bikes but they were in keeping with the nicely restored historic part of town.
I would have enjoyed it all more if I hadn't woken up with all the symptoms of a bladder infection. So instead of looking around and cycling further, we got a room and I went to bed. I was very tired and slept the whole day and then the next. To make a long story short, I saw a doctor as soon as possible and was given antibiotics.
By Tuesday I was back on my feet. We were ready to move on, but not by bike. I admit I was discouraged and had lost my incentive for the tour that we had planned. This was a great disappointment for both of us. Our solution was to get the car which we had left in Berlin and continue with our bikes on the bike rack.
Fürstenberg - Gross Quassow
Another day of good cycling in spite of a few more cobblestones than in the past days and bits of unpaved bike paths. Today again cooler and greyer, rain seemed imminent.
If only my bike were cooperating. Today it was less dependable than yesterday and I was becoming more worried what I would do if the e-support were to fail completely. With a regular bicycle we would go to the next bicycle shop, but for repair work on an e-bike with a Canadian system we would have to return to Berlin or Munich. Nevertheless, the bike saw me through to the end of the day.
We found a room in small inn in Gross Quassow, a very small and quiet village with brick farm houses, some thatch roofs, a brick church, a storks nest, splendid front-yard gardens and much open space. When we were in our room the rain finally came, a veritable downpour, and after the downpour the sun came out in time for us to take an evening walk and enjoy the sights the village had to offer.
Time to make a decision - continue with an undependable bike? And if not, what then?
Gransee - Fürstenberg
The third day on our bikes - the third day is often the day when your muscles are beginning to feel the strain of riding daily but you haven't yet built up new strength. So we slowed down a little and decided to give our bodies a chance to recoup.
It was again grey in the morning and looked like rain, and again we were lucky and stayed dry. The bicycle route took us through charming landscape of lakes and woods. Typical for the day was rolling countryside with occasional villages, half-timbered churches and two brick Cistercian monasteries, now ruins.
In the middle of a lovely wood of birches and beeches we discovered a memorial plaque for the victims of Ravensbrück, a concentration camp for women in WWII. The remains of the camp's buildings, which are partially visible from the bike path, now house a National Memorial site with two permanent exhibitions: "Women of Ravensbrück", which displays the biographies of 27 former prisoners, and "Ravensbrück: Topography and History of the Women's Concentration Camp", which provides information about the origins of the camp, describes daily life in the camp, and explains the principle of Vernichtung durch Arbeit (extermination through work). How gruesome this countryside of lakes and forests must have appeared to the prisoners of Ravensbrück.
With the help of the tourist information office we found a room in Fürstenberg. It was very simple but we had a view to the Havel. We hadn't seen anyone swimming yet, by the way, this summer has been much too cool. There wasn't much to the town, a main street, a few stores, a few restaurants, a few restored facades.
On one that was better restored than the rest we discovered a plaque telling us that Heinrich Schliemann had lived here for four years. It was for me an intriquing thought that Schliemann had once lived in this humble, run down town which still has a way to go before it is back on its feet economically. Schliemann, born in 1822, was a German archaeologist and excavator of Troy. He is sometimes considered to be the modern discoverer of prehistoric Greece and has become a symbol of the romance and excitement of archaeology.
My bike was acting up again, sometimes the battery was connected, sometimes not.
Oranienburg - Gransee
We were basically following the Berlin -Copenhagen bicycle route. From Oranienburg we followed the Havel and after a while our path led us through a lush forest of oak, birch, beech and pine trees. The path was smooth tarmac and there were only a few small towns along the way - Liebenwalde, Zehdenick. Although it's a popular bike route, there were few cyclists out.
We decided to leave the Berlin-Copenhagen bicycle route to visit the town of Gransee, a town with a medieval city wall, the remains of a Franciscan monastery and some nicely restored and some neglected buildings, buildings that had fallen into decay during the 40 years of socialism in East Germany.
Our route was a tiny bit hilly, we passed through farm country and again we had perfect cycling weather. Only in towns did we encounter the cobblestones and rough road surfaces which are notorious in this part of Germany and are excruciating when you're on a bicycle. So thankful.
Just one problem on the horizon. I was having technical problems with my bike. Both Janos and I ride e-bikes. You still have to pedal to get support, but they take the edge off climbs and headwinds. We love them. If they are working. However, they are quite heavy with the rather large battery and motor in the rear hub. For some reason - who understands electronics? - the battery went on and off several times during the day which left me pedaling a rather heavy load and always in the wrong gear. I was feeling apprehensive, but by the end of the day everything seemed to be functioning again. And tomorrow?