Saturday, May 26, 2018

Brexit Tour - May 2018

Pic by RLT, click to enlarge.
For our Brexit bicycle tour we chose to ride from Prague to Hamburg on the British Brompton bicycle, broadly following the Elbe river.
Cobblestones plagued our route, more suitable for tanks! We enjoyed numerous sightings of Skoda, Tatra, Trabant, Wartburg, Barkas, Ape and Simson. The two-stroke culture of the old DDR continues to fascinate.
A tale of spokes, sporks and spargel, it was a case of "Auf Wiedersehen Pet!"
553 miles plus in total.
Tues 1st May
Rail: Lewes to Koln. Lewes - St Pancras - Brussels - Koln. Ticket PBZHBW 1st class. Depart Lewes early doors for the smoke.
08.54 St Pancras to Brussels-Midi 12.02. Breakfast on the train. Train quiet after Lille.
Change at Brussels-Midi, the station in a shambles amid remodelling chaos, befitting the capital of Europe.
12.25 Brussels-Midi to Koln Hbf 14.15. Interesting station at Liege.
IBIS hotel, Koln Am Dom, Bahnhofsvorplatz Altstadt-Nord, 50667 Koln (actually part of the station) +49 221 9128580. 1 night, 3 rooms. €249. Top digs.
Walk across the Hohenzollern bridge and down the Rhine river. Welcome meal at Curios Bistro & Cafe, Theodor-Heuss-Ring 62, 50668 Köln. Doleful beagle begging at tables. Beers at Le Bar Perron, Wyndham Köln Hotel, Breslauer Platz 2, 50668 Köln and also back at the hotel. Warnings everywhere about scofflaws and pickpockets. Good plan to finish the night safely indoors. (Richard visited the cathedral, next to our hotel.)
Wed 2nd May
Koln to Prague Rail: Koln - Berlin - Prague Ticket 37D3GD 1st class.
08.48 Koln Hbf to Berlin Hbf 13.06.
Train via Wuppertal (suspension railway) and Wolfsburg (VW factory, home of the diesel software scandal).
The train ran late and we missed our connection for Prague at 13.19. We went into the DB First Class lounge at Berlin, (view of the Reichstag), for complementary beers and snacks.
15.19 Berlin Hbf to Praha hl.n arr 19.35.
Happy hour starts at the Czech border in a restored vintage dining car. Gambrinus bottled beer. We detrain in good order at Prague.
Bicycle to apartment. I arrive at the digs long before my companions and obtain keys. Satnav takes them to another apartment, 200 yards away, with very similar name.
Prague Royal Apartment Serikova, Serikova 7, Prague 11800, Czech Republic. Tel: +420 739 544 128. 2 nights: 2 bedroom apartment €401. Generally good but collapsing beds.
Late evening at nearby bars: Kamparium cellar bar, Říční 540/9, 118 00 Malá Strana, very cheap beer. Then Klub Ujezd - Hieronymous Bosch-like bar furniture.
Thurs 3rd May
In Prague. Gargantuan three-course breakfast at Café Slavia, Smetanovo nábř. 1012/2, 110 00 Staré Město, a spacious elegant dining room, est 1884. Tram spotting through large windows. Kyla Brox poster. Wenceslas Square with McDonald's and Starbucks. To Cafe Arco, Masarykovo railway station. Tobruk Cafe: asked for English breakfast tea, received English breakfast. €5 tip soothes the situation. Discussed route out of Prague - agreed to take the tram to avoid traffic and cobbles. Beers in Kamparium, then Pizzeria Capretto, Újezd 590/8, Malá Strana, 150 00 Praha 5-Malá Strana-Smíchov.
Fri 4th May
Stage 1, 36 miles: Prague to Roudnice nad Labem.
I have had little training for the tour, limited to about 40 miles, due to the severe winter in Canada. Jetlagged and road weary, I can only ride myself back to fitness.
Start the day at Artic Bakehouse, Újezd 11, 150 00 Malá Strana, Prague, for breakfast outdoors, then cross the river on our bikes to catch #17 tram to the Zoo (24 Kč each). The official tour commences westbound by the Vltava river, adjacent to a canoe school. The early going is deceptive on smooth tarmac, but deteriorates rapidly. This is rough stuff for Bromptons, meandering close to the river. We take tea at Restaurace Aramark, in a college at Řež.
Just when we conclude that no sensible Brompton rider would be going this way we encounter Karl-Heinz Genther on his custom Brompton with Schlumpf mountain drive. We compare notes. Should we have crossed the river and tried the paths on the other side? Coffee stop at Máslovice at a "No Name" cafe: three Turkish coffees, two hot dogs and a bowl of lentil soup with bread, €1.50.
We had intended to go on via Melnik but we notice a short cut on a map away from the river by way of Ledčice. Lunch stop at Nová Ves, in parkette next to roadside foodstore. Sporks deployed. A large hill looms ahead which we succeed in bypassing.
Arrive Ubytovani v rodinnem dome, Zizkova 706, Roudnice nad Labem, 413 01, Czech Republic. Phone +420 777 292 261. 3 rooms reserved. B&B with very good breakfast included, €80 for three, outstanding value.
A bike race is in progress with all the attendant hoopla - the Course de la Paix Juniors.
Beers and supper at Restaurace U Faustů, Pracnerova 701, 413 01 Roudnice nad Labem. The barman is anxious that we take dinner - the Czech menu being decoded by google translate - full marks for initiative.
We repair to a bar in town - cafe bar Giraffe - where a local 'builder' is displaying his bum at the bar. They claim to have no beer so we move on to Caffe & Grill Ztracená No 2, Špindlerova tř. 798, Roudnice nad Labem, altogether more convivial.
Sat 5th May

Pic by RLT
Stage 2: Roudnice nad Labem to Decin, 47 miles via Elberadweg.
To Litomerice (Czechoslovak Legions railway display), Masarykovo lock (met Swiss cycling couple on six-month trip to Baku via Kaliningrad) then lunch at Usti nad Labem (nearby a tatty administrative building is flying the EU flag, a sad reminder of this failed experiment). Last stop at roadside shack.
Hotel Ceska Koruna, Masarykovo nám. 60 , Děčín, 40502, Czech Republic, +420 412 516 104. 3 rooms reserved, Breakfast inc, €164. Good value.
A Tatra T613 is parked in the square outside our hotel. To China Restaurant Peking, in the square, where a hard-working guy is both barman and cook. Watching Giro d’Italia on TV, while twitchy patrons wait for the soccer to start.
Sun 6th May
Stage 3: Decin to Dresden, Germany (44 miles).
Enter Germany via Elberadweg. Stop at Schöna (Germany), ferry across river to Hřensko (Czechia). Hotel Labe for coffee outdoors.
Richard and Jack cross the bridge at Bad Schandau. Königstein Fortress on left, high above the river, a prison in WW2. On the east bank I am cliffed out and traverse the hillside, mostly on foot, for about 3-miles in mountain bike territory.
Ferry Stadt Wehlen to Potschau. Regrouped at Pirna bridge. Elberadweg closed, bridge under construction. Richard and Rupe cross precarious metal channel with bikes. Jack balks at excessive vibration. Regroup near Pillnitz. We arrive in Dresden via the Thomas Klewe Brücke, the Blue Wonder bridge.

Pic by RLT
Motel One Dresden, Am Zwinger, Postplatz 5, 01067 Dresden. Phone +49 351 438380. 3 rooms reserved. 2 nights €414.
I take a short cut on final approach and am there in time to order Radeburg beers for the boys on arrival in the modern foyer bar. To quirky Hans im Gluck for supper. Dessert in traditional Paulaner's.
Mon 7th May
In Dresden Motel One, Dresden Am Zwinger - as above.
Bergbahn x 2. All day tickets, tageskarte, on trams, buses, etc purchased from helpful lady near our hotel. Jack posts excess clothing home.
Ascend via Standseilbahn (funicular), drinks at Luisenhof with spectacular views of the city. Long walk and bus ride to descent via Schwebebahn (suspension railway, as in Wuppertal). Interesting chat with cafe owner at top of the suspension railway. Evening pizza in Enotria da Miri, Kleine Brüdergasse 1, 01067 Dresden.
Tues 8th May
Stage 4: Dresden to Gohlis (48 miles) via Elberadweg.

Pic by RLT
We back track to Radebeul-Ost on the east bank to see the steam railway and Dresdner Backhaus, Sidonienstr, Radebeul, a stop on a previous tour. Then to Meissen for picnic by the river (Lidl €.9.95). An unhelpful kid upbraids me for parking my bike outside his cafe, so I decide to move on from this tourist trap.
Ferry at Niederlommatzsch. The boys are about half an hour behind. Somewhere en route I notice a broken spoke.
Jack punctures at Grodel, unaided by unwelcoming householder, suspicious workshop owner.
Back together for drinks at Hotel Moritz, Dorfstraße 2, 01619 Moritz / Zeithain bei Riesa. A welcoming oasis.
Broken spoke removed at Gohlis.
Pension Remenar & Lorenz, Lindenstraße 20, Gohlis, 01619 Zeithain, phone+49 174 3336956
Apartment, in Gohlis nr Zeithain, reserved €60. (No breakfast).
Walk to supper at soccer club: SV Königsblau Sportkantine Gohlis, Waldstraße 14, 01619 Zeithain. Table knocking.
Weds 9th May
Stage 5: Gohlis to Leipzig (63 miles) by road, via Riesa.
Pitstop for coffee at Ferienhof Reichert, then breakfast in the square at Hofmann's Hutte, Oschatz. Wrong turn out of Liptitz, Jack and Richard double back, Rupe goes own way. Very few places open, very hot day.
Apartment in Leipzig reserved €84: WELCOME appt, 25 Volksgartenstraße, Nordost, 04347 Leipzig Phone +49 1522 3162914.
We split up as I head for a bike shop in Leipzig: Bike Department Ost GmbH, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 31, 04107 Leipzig. After circling the town I reach the store circa 17:30. They are initially reluctant to help but after some wheedling two new spokes are fitted by about 18:40. €33.50 for repairs and they refuse a tip!
My tour is saved. I am so elated that I set off in the wrong direction. Despite phone contact I cannot find my companions so check into Pentahotel, Großer Brockhaus 3, 04103 Leipzig - a bike-friendly hotel very welcome in the circumstances. Club sandwich and Beck’s beer at the bar. €157.50 for the night incl bar tab.
Thurs 10th May
Stage 6: Leipzig to Dessau (48 miles) by road:
Not wishing to waste time we arrange to meet on the road, which happens by chance at Delitzsch. Everything otherwise closed - Ascension and Fathers' Day. Flowers and balloons on local bikes. Burger at roadside Thuringer Rostbratwurstgrill. Ice-creams at Raguhn.
We separate on final approach and I head for the station for necessary pitstop. I can't find the digs so I settle outside the Bauhaus where the boys finally appear. I am so tired I can hardly stand - carrying the bike up three floors at the hotel finishes me off. Richard, having shed weight all along, buys a heavy book at the Bauhaus.
Dessau 3 rooms reserved: Hotel 7 Saulen, €180, breakfast inc, near the Bauhaus. Ebertallee 66, 06846 Dessau, Phone +49 340 619620. Good hotel but no lift.
Later beers at hotel and dinner at Greek restaurant nearby: Athos, Kornhausstraße 1, 06846 Dessau-Roßlau.
Fri 11th May
Stage 7: Dessau to Magdeburg (approx 54 miles).

Pic by RB
Visit to Kornhaus by the Elbe river before leaving town. Early separation so I am back on the blackstuff and unusually for me heading the party as far as Schönebeck. Coffee at Groß Rosenburg. Ferry non-existent at Werkleitz on River Saale, so via Calbe, then stop at ice cream shop: Jannys Eis, 60, Friedrichstraße 54, 39218 Schönebeck, where the boys catch up, after various re-routings. Lidl lunch, then L51 to Magdeburg. Final approach along top of dykes. Drink in garden at Restaurant "Die Kirche", Alt Prester 86, 39114 Magdeburg. Derelict bridge on left, subject of rescue mission.
B&B Hotel Magdeburg (in Altstadt), Otto-von-Guericke-Straße 34, 39104 Magdeburg, Phone +49 391 59768280. 3 rooms reserved €402 for 2 nights. Rude receptionist, dealt with.
Shopping for shorts at C&A (€25.20), toothpaste, drugs etc. Supper at Magado, Ulrichpl. 10, 39104 Madgeburg.
Sat 12th May
In Magdeburg B&B Hotel, as above.

Pic by RB
Buy tageskarte at transit shop in town. To Green Citadel - modern "Green" building, painted pink – including courtyard coffee shop. To IKEA by tram, past Woolworth's - no sporks. Then bike shop. S-Bahn from wrecked station, in search of tower. Day trippers on vintage tram.
Evening nibbles and beers in Rupe's room, watching Giro d'Italia. Too tired for dinner.
Sun 13th May
Stage 8: Magdeburg to Stendal (53 miles).

Pic by RLT.
Breakfast a zoo at the hotel, poor value and a mistake. Magdeburg by road north to Stendal. Climb up to inspect Elbe Havel Kanal. Drinks at Angern. Then via Wolmirstedt, Loitsche, Rogatz, Angern. Sandbeiendorf, Tangerhutte, Gohre, Dahlen, Demker, Heeren.
Everywhere Sunday closing: supermarkets, cafes, shops. Ice cream at petrol station. Barkas van.
Altstadt-Hotel, Breite Straße 60, 39576 Stendal. Phone +49 3931 69890. €186. 3 rooms reserved. Good digs.
Stendal altogether pleasant. Beers at Cafe Muller, opposite the hotel, then indoors at Italian restaurant: Ristorante Gelateria Italia, Breite Str. 5, 39576 Stendal (€80.20).
Mon 14th May
Stage 9: Stendal to Domitz by road (73.4 miles).
The Queen stage, no supermarkets, cafes, shops - this is rural country. Rupe no water.
Stop at helpful bike store at Binde: Radkultur Starck.
Divert to Wolfshotel am Arendsee, then backtrack. Landlady making song and dance about serving lemonade and ice cream. How hard can it be?
On arrival cross to north of Elbe over bridge on B191 to Domitz.
Domitzer Hafen Hotel, Hafenplatz 3, 19303 Dömitz. Phone+49 38758 364290, 3 Rooms reserved, €212.
A bike-friendly hotel hugely welcome at the end of a long day. An old converted warehouse in a harbour with maritime-industrial vibe. Baffled by master-switch in bedroom. Restaurant on site - litre steins of beer with supper. Panorama Cafe on 4th floor for breakfast, great views. Recommended.

Pic by RB
Tues 15th May
Stage 10: Domitz to Luneburg (51 miles). Cross to south side of Elbe, then Damnatz (time-wasting wrong slot which kicks the stuffing out of me). Now in lockdown just hoping to survive the day, walking on the flat! Main road all the way. Stop at roadside trödelmarkt, a bust. Rendezvous at Di-Ma cafe, Dannenburg, for ice-cream.
Town centre, apartment reserved, €135. Wohnung in Luneburg, 19 Sülztorstraße, Altstadt, 21335 Lüneburg. Phone +49 176 82139462.
I lose the boys on final approach to Luneburg and am too mentally tired to go looking. After a pitstop at FRIEDAs am Wasserturm, Am Wasserturm 15, 21335 Lüneburg, I continued about 10 miles to Hotel sur Linde, Bundesstraße 8, 21423 Winsen (Rottorf). A German knight-of-the-road paced me on his electric bike and sorted out the arrangements at the hotel. The landlady arrives by smart car. €49 incl breakfast. Supper at Taverna Bei Kosta, Bundesstraße 34, 21423 Winsen (Rottorf), salad and spaghetti, a short walk from the hotel. Suitable. Bicycle racing on TV at hotel.
Weds 16th May
Stage 11: Luneburg to Hamburg (36 miles – less for me).
Set off in good order next morning to a tea stop at Soetebiers Dorfbäckerei, Harburger Straße 8, 21435 Stelle. Puzzled by "H-H" signs, which meant "Hamburg-Harburg." Not much use when in either. Finally I climb a tall dyke which gives a view of Hamburg mitte - I can see the distinctive Elbphilharmonie building in the distance. While working my way through the docks another Brompton comes up alongside and we stop with a bunch of hipsters at Odo's Kaffeeklappe, a trinkhalle in an old container, complete with grafitti, for coffee and lemonade. A Citroën DS décapotable pulls up outside with top down.

Pic by RLT
I come upon the historic Elbetunnel-St Pauli and emerge into a part of the city known to me. Made my way via the Hbf to meet the boys at a cafe table in the Hansaplatz. Lunch at Turkish restaurant: LauRes, Kreuzweg 12, 20099 Hamburg. No alcohol served.
Boutique 020 Hotel Hamburg City, Ellmenreichstr. 20, St. Georg 20099 Hamburg. Phone: +49 40 244440. Reserved 2 nights 3 rooms €564. No breakfast. Close to central station.
Thurs 17th May
In Hamburg. Accounts evening up. Breakfast at Stadt Backerei, Mohlenhofstrasse. Visit Chilehaus. Guitar shop. WW2 Anti-Aircraft tower, now music shops and school. Truncated Beatles tour at Grosse Freiheit. Rinder Market Halle, veggie Jalfresi, happy hour at Vino Fino.
'S' Bahn to Hbf (€1.60 each). Walked away from seedy St Georg district to supper at Prego Restaurant Pizzeria, Lilienstraße 36, 20095 Hamburg.
Fri 18th May
Return to UK - arcane argument at Hamburg Hbf DB lounge as to our eligibility in the first class lounge. DB up to all their usual tricks and displaying their poor judgment. How many classes of first class can there be? Baffle your customers with BS.
Rail: Hamburg to Blighty
08.46 Hamburg Hbf - Köln Hbf 12.50
13.43 Koln Hbf - Bruxelles-Midi 15.35
16.56 Bruxelles-Midi - London St Pancras 18.06
Ticket: 18DC73 1st class £427.
Overall: Not the longest but probably the toughest tour to date, due to cobbles and uneven surfaces. Comments below echo previous tours:
Plus Points: We were better prepared than before. Minimal luggage but could be cut further (excess posted home); weather mostly good (no rain but two days very hot); health benefits (the gift that keeps on giving). Bromptons generally reliable. Mobile phone mitigated separations but not infallible. Painkillers (Ibuprofen).
Downsides: One puncture, two broken spokes. Michelin GPS navigation/direction finding a mixed bag - can lead you up the garden path. Getting separated particularly late in the day when fatigued; too much bushwhacking.
Learning points: The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyre a must for touring, particularly beneficial on rear wheel. Fit later-type stronger Brompton front wheel to earlier models. Investigate lighter bag and luggage. We had some energy gels on tour but not enough.
Overall: Toughest tour yet, but still felt good to be alive.

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