Thursday, May 29, 2014

Day 8--Himmelfahrt Im Weimar

Today is a day off the bikes. It's a good thing because es ist regen und kalte (raining and cold). We slept until 8:00!

Before I go on, here are a couple of photos from last night's dinner.
My dinner. A kind of casserole of Schweine und Käse (pork and cheese)

Bernt, Christian, und Uta

Okay, on with the show. What is Himmelfahrt? It is a holiday that is like Father's Day, but it is more religious in nature. However, there are some interesting customs such as the men wearing strange hats, and a lot of drinking and general revelry. We experienced this while walking around the town. Because of the rain, there were not many people. We saw the statues of Goethe and Schiller. Weimar is, in part, famous because of these two men.

We saw their houses too. Bernt is very passionate about both Goethe and Schiller. I learned a lot. Here are a few more photos of our walk around the old town.
The parliament building
Part of the Schloß 

The restaurant we ate at last night.

The oldest building in Weimar.

The famous painting by Cranach in the church of St. Peter and Paul.

My new friend.

Going through a rock tunnel stairway back to the upper part of the park.

The remains of a church in the park.

We met some friends of Christian's, Matthias and Ulreke, for lunch at an Asian restaurant (yes, I come to Germany and have Asian food). It was interesting to read the menu in German. I had pork in fried rice. It was good. An observation of restaurants in Germany: not everyone at the table gets their food at the same time. Some get their food well before others, and can be almost finished before the others get their food. But, it doesn't matter, because there is no rush, like in American restaurants, to finish your food and leave. Just like at the restaurant last night, I asked Uta if it is okay that people come to the restaurant and stay for several hours. The restaurant last night was full (albeit small to start with) with the same people most of the evening. You would not want to come and wait, expecting to get a table. Anyway, I digress...After lunch, Christian asked if I was bored listening to 5 people speaking German. I said, "Nein, es ist lernen für mich." I can only understand a word here and there, but it's not boring. After lunch we went for Eis (ice cream). I saw one flavor that was called "Schwarzwald". I said to Christian, "Black wood?" Then I remembered that Wald is also Forest. So, "Black Forest". Ah, ja! Black Forest! Like the cake! Okay, I'm a little langsam sometimes!

We said goodbye to Ulreke and Matthias, and continued our walk around the town, this time to the park (see photos above). Uta had a little fall and her ankle was hurting. We walked back to the car (it was still a good distance). 


From the town, Bernt drove us to Buchenwald. I wanted to see it, even though I know it is such a place of sadness and anger. The weather was still quite dreary--a fitting weather for visiting a former concentration camp. It is about 15 minutes from Weimar.

First we went to the information building. Inside there was a map of the camp and what is still standing, and what is not. Since Uta's ankle was hurting, her and Christian stayed in the car while Bernt and I went into the camp. I don't know if I had a prior concept of the size of this, or any of the other camps, but it was very large. The barracks where the people were kept are gone. The gate, barbed wire fence and towers, and crematorium are still standing as a reminder of that horrific time. The impact is hard to put into words. I will let the photos speak.

After leaving the camp, we drove to the Memorial erected by the Soviets. It is immense.

Above and below, these are graves--many many graves.

It was good to have this experience--to see it firsthand. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed our stay with Bernt in Thimmendorf, and Bernt and Uta in Weimar. It's great to have some time to really experience German life, and learn some German history (from the German point of view). Viele Danke Bernt and Uta!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 7--A Bit of a Gravel Grinder

Today's ride reminded me of some of the gravel rides I did last winter. We didn't spend the entire day off road, but a good portion of our 61 miles were definately not on pavement! 

We left Beppo's after packing up our, now dry, tents in the barn. Here are some of the barn photos.
These are the stairs up to the loft of the barn.

You can just see my tent to the right. Notice the antenna near the top of the photo. The reason it is inside instead of outside is because back when this area was East Germany (but near the border), the police would not let people have antennas that could get programs from West Germany. So, they hid them inside.

Here is my nice, dry tent! At first I wondered how the car got up there, but there is a ramp.

One of the Kühe.

This is the part of the barn that Beppo turned into a house.

It was misty raining when we left. We didn't have to carry our panniers. Beppo would meet us in Weimar at Uta's apartment. This was a good thing, in light of the amount of gravel/dirt (mud) riding we would do.

 After leaving the village proper, I could see that the views would have been great...if there wasn't so many clouds. Oh well, can't have sunshine everyday, or we would take it for granted!

We had a fair amount of ups and downs. We are in the Wald of the Thüringia Region. Interestingly, the villages are all down at the bottom of the hills. It's like rivers on a map. If you see a river, you know you are going to have to go back up after you cross it. Same with these villages. Down into the village we would go, then back up to leave. In the first little village we came to after Thimmendorf, I saw this water pump. It had a sign next to it that said "Urban Knitting".
Actually, I would say "Urban Crochetting".

After climbing out of the valley, we got to the top, and started another descent down to this lake. 
We had a pretty long descent. We ended up riding along another lake. There are three lakes--one upper lake and two lower lakes. Water is pumped from the upper lake to the lower lakes through a hydroelectric plant.

Of course, since we had come down, we had to go back up. There was a bike route sign that took us onto a gravel and dirt road. It was pretty steep. I said to Christian, this must be the Berg Radweg (mountain bikeway).

When we got to the top, there was a sign that said 9% grade going down. We would go sehr langsam (very slow). We didn't want any crashes today. Fortunately, the road was paved after a short distance. At the bottom there was, of course, another village. It was very small, but still had this church.

We came into Saalfeld. It's a bigger stadt, so, of course, we couldn't find our way. We had gone across the bridge below. Christian asked this gentleman the way. First he tried to give Christian directions, but then he just told us to follow him. We went back over the bridge. This gentleman was probably in his 70s. He had his basket of groceries on the back. He was not slow by any means. He got us headed in the right direction.

As we were riding on an unpaved trail, we could see this Schloß. Don't know the name of it. We didn't end up any closer.

We found a good bikeway, but Christian wasn't sure it would take us where we needed to go. We saw this "road". We took it. It came out to a village, but we didn't know where we were. Time to fire up the Garmin. I put in the next village we needed to go to. It worked just fine. We also found out we could have stayed on the path we were on (the paved one). Ah, but it was an adventure!

We went through the next village in the hopes of finding something to eat. Since we didn't have all our bags, we didn't have our food. I had 3 Snickers in my handlebar bag. There were no places to eat, so we stopped at an empty building that had a covered porch (it was still raining). I ate two Snickers for lunch. Christian had one, and a cookie thing.

Since we were in a village, to leave we had to climb. We were following various bike way signs, but then there wouldn't be a sign. In another village, Christian stopped to ask a couple of gentlemen. In the meantime, I fired up the Garmin and plugged in Weimar. It calculated the route. We started, and turned right. The Garmin said to go left, but I didn't say anything. We climbed and climbed to the top of this hill. There we saw a tower. We went to have a look, and the guy came over and said we could go in it up to the top. Of course, we did.

Betsy at the base of the tower. It was built by the owner of the land as a lookout for his wife.

From the top.

A Colleen-Christian selfie from the top of the tower.

The spiral staircase.

After we came down from the tower, Christian asked the guy for the way to the next village we needed to go through on our way to Weimar. The Garmin was still running and had recalculated the route. The guy said to stay on the paved road. Of course, we didn't do that because the Garmin told us not to. Nope, instead we came down a long gravel/dirt road into another village. Garmin was still telling us which way to go. After some map consultation, we decided the Garmin might know what it's doing. We were back to the paved road, and went through the next village. When we came to the following village, Garmin told us to "turn left onto unpaved road" (oh goody, more dirt and gravel). We had some discussion as to whether we should take the mud road, or stay on the paved road. Because the day just wouldn't be complete without another section of muddy double track, we took to the dirt. Fortunately it didn't last long. The descent on the other side was paved. What a nice long ride down that was (Christian is still being ultra-cautious on the downhills)!

From there, we found another bike way, where we saw the gal and her donkey.
Finally, we rolled into Weimar. Christian gave me Uta's address and I plugged it into the Garmin. 

Now we have had dinner at a German restaurant, come back, and chatted (Uta and I, and Christian and Beppo). It's late, and I must go to sleep. Tomorrow is our first day off. We will spend it touring around Weimar. Buchenwald Concentration Camp is nearby. I want to see it.

Miles today: 61

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day 6--Part 2--The Coolest Place!

Previously...we made it to Thimmendorf, and Beppo. 

We pulled up to the gate, and Christian went around to tell Beppo we were here. He came and opened the gate. 

We rolled the bikes into the courtyard. This place is where Beppo grew up. It has been in his family for many many years. It's still a small working farm (2 cows, a horse, and some chickens). First we unloaded the bikes and brought the bags inside. After some cookies (and coffee for the guys, including Johannis, Beppo's son), Beppo took us on a tour of the barn (also to set up our tents for drying in the upstairs part of the barn).
Straight ahead is the barn. Attached to the right is the old house. You can just see the edge of the "new" house (actually renovated by Beppo--it used to also be part of the barn) on the left. Where we set up our tents is very cool. I'll take some photos tomorrow of inside the barn.

After showers and dinner, Beppo took me on a tour of the village. It's very small (200 people or so). Years ago, he was the Burgermeister (mayor) of the village. He showed me some of the things he did. One was to build this bus shelter.

Then we went to the cemetery and the church. All the graves are very well taken care of with plants and flowers. Everyone from the village who dies is allowed to be buried there for free...for 25 years (then the headstone and remains must be removed). Beppo's parents are buried there. The families who tend the graves try to outdo each other getting the first flowers in after the last frost.
Notice the flowers. 

It was a nice tour of the village with a good history lesson from Beppo. This has been the coolest night so far. Getting to stay in a very special German house is not something every bike tourist gets to do!

Day 6--Part 1--Using All Our Smarts At Once

Today started out great, even though it rained most of the night. It had stopped by morning. We packed up and went over to the Küche to fix our breakfast. I looked to the cook top paying thingy from last night. There was still .1 kW left. As Christian was getting out .20€, I said, "No, we can use the rest from last night!" Then he looked at the others. There was one with .2 left. We felt so smart! We outsmarted the Campingplatz people! Apparently, that was all the smarts we would get for the day because, the rest of the day we were not so smart. First, I put my hot chocolate in my bowl instead of my cup (not too bad, I just poured it into the cup). Then, Christian left his coffee at the campsite (that boy does not go without coffee). That was okay too as he found he had two packets of instant. 

Ja, so we finished our Frühstück, and finished packing. The tents were not going to dry, so there was no use waiting. We got on the road at 8:00. First we went back to the main street (up a steep hill), then realized we should have turned the bottom of the hill (of course). Back down we went, made the correct turn, and were back on the route to Kronach. We turned from the street onto the path. We were going down a steep hill back to the river. Christian was going pretty fast. I was a ways behind him, going slower (the path was kind of rough, and very wet). All of a sudden, Christian's bike starts to fishtail in such a way that I knew he was not going to stay upright. I'm yelling, "OH OH OH!!!", then BAM, down he goes! Panniers come off, and the bike and Christian are in a pile on the path.
I'm thinking, "HOLY CRAP!!!" I stop and park Betsy so I can see how Christian is. He gets up, and says he is okay. His knee and elbow are scraped. Before I can get out my 1st Aid Kit, he tells me to take a picture! Okaaaaayyyy (take care of the important things first, I guess)...I take the picture, then dig out my 1st Aid Kit. I bandage his knee and elbow. He has some pretty good road rash on his hip, but it's not bleeding too much. He tore a hole in the shoulder and elbow of his rain jacket. After patching him up (and giving him Ibuprofen and Tylenol--"Yes, Christian, you need to take that much!"), he got the bike back up. Except that the quick release for folding came open (halfway folding the bike), the bike was okay. I tightened the QR, and he put the panniers back on. His fingers were cut a little bit too, but he did not need my help to put the stuff back on.

As we continued on the trail, Christian said maybe we would stop in Kronach so he could get a new rain jacket. He seemed to be riding okay. Maybe it was just before Kronach, we came to a Sporthaus. Turns out it was a very good shop. They carried Endura clothing, and Christian was able to get a nice new rain jacket. His handlebar bag was also torn, but he can fix it with duct tape for now. Of course, after he bought the rain jacket, it didn't rain again the rest of the day!

We continued on. We went past this covered bridge that had a picture frame hanging in it.

Maybe to give an idea for a photo?

As we came into the next village, we saw an Apotheke (pharmacy). Christian asked me if I thought there was anything he needed. I suggested Arnica Gel. We were able to get some. Back outside (and around the corner off the main thoroughfare), I had him put the Arnica on the soon to be bruised areas. I also changed the bandage on his knee, and added some antibiotic ointment. When he went to put the arnica on his hip, I noticed he had a nasty gash on his waist on the left side. I asked him if it hurt (it really looked like it hurt to me!). He said not really. Yikes! So, I put some ointment and a bandage on that one too. He said it was good to travel with a nurse!

On we went. We had left the river awhile back. Now we were headed for the mountains. We were on our way to Christian's friend, Beppo, in Thimmendorf. Two days ago, Christian had tried to get me to agree to take a train to Beppo's instead of riding. He said the elevation would be about 800 meters higher. That didn't seem all that bad to me, so I squashed his idea of a train (and teased him mercilessly)! However, if he had asked again to take a train, after his crash, I would have probably said yes, of course. He didn't ask.
Now we are going into the forested area, off the Main Radweg, but still on a dedicated bike path.

We stopped for lunch before beginning the climbing. It was just a small place. I had my last bread thing, and Christian had a Brot on a roll...and a coffee (of course). After lunch the riding was still pretty flat with just a slight incline. Nothing too terrible. We came to an intersection, and the bike route sign for the next village in the direction we were headed pointed to a steep (13% grade), long climb. Fortunately, Christian figured we could go another way. Eventually, we still had to do a long steep climb, but not 13%! For the first time on this tour, I spent an extended time in super granny gear. This was turn-on-the-music climbing--which I did.
Going up through one of the many little villages (you can see Christian ahead of me).

Here's some of the scenery.
Getting higher!
Seems like there should be cows or something.

At the top (of one of the longer climbs) we came to the old border between West Germany and East Germany.

Betsy thought it was important to prove she was here.

We still had more climbing to do, but also some downhill (Christian being very cautious on the downs).

In the last, but very steep, 2 kilometers, I dropped my chain. It was like in Texas last year where the chain got stuck between the bolt for the folding and the small chainring. Once again, I had to take the chain apart at the master link, pull it out and reattach it. This time, however, I was smart and put some rubber gloves on from the first aid kit (maybe the "smarts bank" has been replenished).

Finally we made it to Thimmendorf, and Beppo. It started to rain not long after we arrived.

Today's miles: 51--shortest day, but most climbing.

To be continued...