Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Wompin Bike Ride to Poland

This bike riding adventure started near were I finished my last bike ride on the Czech border. For this ride, I had an almost singular goad: head across Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic and bike to Poland. I have got to go to Poland!
Since Dave and Lisa went on the ride, I picked up a rental bike the night before. A kind-of hybrid city/mountain bike that seems to do well on the kind of trails that we would encounter. A new bike, a sketchy route at best, and a bag of food. It was time to go.
We left Dresden for the Czech border around 9 in the morning. It was a cool day with partly cloudy skies. The forecast called for a mostly sunny day, but I still loaded my panniers with a parka. Ya just never know. We boarded the train at Neustadt and by the time we hit the main station, the train was packed with Dresdeners heading for the mountains.
The ride took about an hour with people getting off once we hit the mountains. On the second to the last stop we disembarked and headed up stream to the ferry crossing. We didn't really plan on getting off at the second to the last stop, but somehow we did. Oh well, only another couple of kilometers to add to the trip - a nice warm up.


The ferry crossing starts in Germany and deposits you into the Czech Republic at the town of Hřensko. Hřensko is a classic border town with tons of stalls selling all kinds of nick-knacks. The funny thing is that the vendors aren't even Czech. Heck, the merchandise isn't even Czech. We purchase some water and start the long climb up into České Švýcarsko National Park. This park shares a border with Germany and there are all kinds of trails criss-crossing both sides of the border. Route finding can be quite a chore as the trail marking aren't always what you expect. We had quite a few route finding issues and instead of taking the nice easy trail we end up doing a huge climb up to this small natural arch that looks out over the Czech country side. Poland is looking further away.

On Top of The Stone Arch

A Fall Here Would Really Suck

From the arch it was a major down hill to a muddy intersection somewhere in the park. After a long climb we topped a ridge and saw a small sign pointing to a pension or cabin or something. We didn't really know. It was right in the middle of the woods. So we had to check it out. I guess we could just bail on this whole Poland idea.

Lunch Stop

It turns out it was a little pension with music and food. So we stopped or lunch and ordered a sports drink and goulash.
It was time to figure out were to go next since we were so far off of our original trail. But after about half a sport drink a funny thing happened. We decided that we might be able to make it to Poland after all.
After eating our fill and with our mission firmly in mind, we started following one of the numbered bike trails that led us all over the Czech Republic. Like most bike trails it was a mixture of paved roads, dirt roads, single tracks and some hiking. The scenery was outstanding. It was amazing to glimpse into the back yards of the Bohemian houses in this small corner of the Czech Republic.


After the small town of Chřibská we started another big climb until we were high over the country side.

Pilgrimage Site near Jiřetín pod Jedlovou

After that we had a screaming, rocky down hill that deposited us at the base of one of the pilgrimage sites. A little exploring and then it was a fast downhill of cobblestone, single track and bike trails until we crossed back into Germany.
You immediately notice when you cross the border. Everything is neater and more organized. Ironically, the signage was worse, so our route finding became more difficult.
We continued to wind through different towns until we had about an hour to go before our 7:19pm train out of Zittau. We had to make this train, because the next train was almost two hours later. You don't want to hang out in Zittau until 9pm.
But still I had a goal, and that goal was to make it to Poland! So we pushed on and eventually found our way to the border where Germany, The Czech Republic and Poland all meet.

Almost in Poland

As I rode my bike up to the field, I could see flags for both Poland and The Czech Republic (the Germans flag was down for some reason). Almost there. Damn it! Just on the other side of the grass was a river. No playing twister on the border (unless I had a snorkel). So after a quick photo we were off, downstream to find a crossing. Luckily, we found one in a couple of km and crossed over into Poland. I made it.

Final tally: Distance - 68km; Climbed - 2100m; 3 Countries; No flats; 1 Beer.

Finally Made It!

Well, I made it to Poland, but we still had a train to catch in Zittau. It was time to head back to the train station and pick up the 7:19 pm train back to Dresden. We made the train, but one causality was dinner and another sports drink. We would have to make do with our snacks until we got back to Dresden.
Almost 7 hrs of riding (probably half of it was looking at maps) and 65 km and a ton of climbing left us tired out. Time for dinner and a big snooze.

Schona - Czech - Poland - Zittau

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Thursday, May 21, 2009



Holidays in Germany are always accompanied by beer - lot's of beer. And what better way to celebrate the Christian Ascension tradition than for all of the men in Germany to wander through the woods and drink lots of beer? Hence, the German holiday Männertag, or Men's Day.
In most parts of Germany this holiday is the equivalent of our Father's day (Vatertag) and has been since the middle ages. In the 19th century the custom switched gears in Berlin and became more of a man's day out or drinking day (sauftag). Today it seems that the holiday is becoming more family and festival oriented, but you still see groups of people pulling little carts through the woods loaded with all kinds of food and drink.

So with that imagery in mind we headed off to experience this strange custom. We started early with a steamboat ride down the Elba river. But then, as I was writing this article about Männertag, I decided that what happens on Männertag in German Saxony, stays in German Saxony. So if you want more details you will just have to show up next year.

Traditional Father's Day Bubble Maker

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Wompin Ride to the Czech Border


I had such a good time bike riding on Saturday, that I decided I needed to do it again. A while ago Dave did this ride that takes you almost to the Czech border while visiting all kinds of tiny little villages along the while. The route would involve all types of terrain, winding and twisting through the country side. Now Dave is a gadget guy. He has a lot of electronic toys, one of them being a GPS watch that he uses to keep track of his running or his bike rides. Since he had done this ride before, he thought he had the route programmed into the watch, so he loaded it up and headed off for work. This should make route finding a breeze.
After working a bit in the morning I saddled up Lisa's mountain bike. This is slightly small for me and has the added bonus of having almost no rear brakes. What better vehicle for exploring the darkest corners of East Germany? As an extra precaution I stopped by the bike shop and picked up an extra patch case since I had used up the patches from the previous day. Okay, map, patches, watch, food, water. I'm good to do. Dave suggested that I start out by taking one of the trails in the forest just North of Dresden. I thought that would be okay, since I had the watch and it basically told me where the suggested trail was.
So off I set, boldly going through the woods. Except, every now and then I would come to a big ravine that I would have to cross. Or, I would encounter a big log crossing the trail. Or, the damn trail would just disappear. I wasn't exactly lost, but I wasn't making much progress. But, I did have the watch and I was able to zig-zag my way towards the "real" trail.
After about an hour or so lost in the woods, I managed to find the route. Damn, I had only managed to make 1km on my route for an hour of work. Not a good start.
Quickly, I found the route and started heading up stream from Dresden. Now, I wasn't having a good deal of luck following the route. Often I would be hundreds of meters off course for no known reason. Luckily, I had a real map with me (Even though Dave said I didn't need a map!), and I managed to slowly make my way up the valley to the castle at Stolpen.

A Not Very Useful Sign Post Along the Way

At Durrosdorf I hit the edge of my map and had to guess my way towards Stolpen. I was a good 1km off the track at this point, but found a bike trail that went to Helmsdorf, which was the next town on the way to Stolpen.

Bird House Outside Helmsdorf

Finally, I saw. A majestic spire rising high above the country side. Uh-oh, castles are built on tall, knobby, hills. So, I put the bike in low gear and slogged up to the castle. After about twenty minutes of climbing, I made it. Time for a sports drink and lunch.

Lunch Break Next to the Castle


A Beer, Spargel Creme Soupe, The GPS Watch,
The Blackberry

After a refreshing lunch it was time to figure out how to get back down the river. This was supposed to be one of the better parts of the trail. I had a fairly descent map of the trail near the Elbe river and a basic idea of how to get there by kind-of following the GPS track. By this time I had come to understand that the track was just a suggestion. It was really telling me that, "Hey, why don't you go this way for a while?" So I would, and then it would say, "Forget i t, I really mean go this way."

After Lunch View of Stolpen
Only 1k Off "Route"

After many false turns, I managed to find the National Park trail that would lead me back down to the Elbe. This was probably the best part of the trail. A nice forested downhill ride through a nice gorge with a babbling brook nearby.

The Final Part of the Trail

This trail took me to Bad Schandau which is one of the last towns before you get to the Czech Republic. From there it was just a quick and easy train ride back to Dresden and another hot meal. Well it wasn't that easy, in order to get a ticket, you have to use these automated machines. The machines are electronic and have a large British flag so that you can get instructions in English. Except that it doesn't do anything. I could figure out how to get back, but you also have to get a ticket for your bike. Now I figure that that ditching Lisa's bike would probably be good for her, but it might make her a bit pissed off at me. So I asked a train conductor how to use the machine. She couldn't barely get it to work. After five tries she was able to spit out a ticket for me and my bike.
The finally tally: 7 hrs of riding, one lunch break, one train ride, 65.7 km of trails, stairs, roads, and gullys.

Dresden to Stolpen to Bad Schandau

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Out and about in Dresden

I had to work this morning but I finally was able to get out for a bit. I had a nice lunch in front of the church in the main plaza and wandered around a bit. Mostly a mellow day.

Local Art in Dresden

Near the Train Station

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Much Mellower Ride Along the Elbe


Today's ride was much more mellow than Saturday's ride. Today we took the path upstream along the Elbe river. Nice and flat and sunny. Mostly Just Pictures Today.

Almost like Holland

Along The Elbe

A Quick Stop for Lunch and a Sports Drink


The Beach

A Wompin Bike Ride Through Former East Gemany

The day started out grey and rainy with the promise of better things to come. The decision was made to delay the start from 9:00 to around 10:30. With a slight mist in the air (your basic Bellingham day), we headed off on a bicycle tour of the surrounding country side.
We started off crossing the Elbe and heading out through an old industrial part of town.

Ingo & Dave

The paths that we took were a combination of bike paths, roads, single track, stairs, rocky ledges, and everything in between. The first 100m climb was to an overlook of the Weiseritz river outside of Dresden.

Old Factory

After wandering around some more small towns we ended up in Rabenau. From there we took a dirt path that followed an old narrow gauge steam line that followed the river. Sometime the trail would get really steep and we would have to do a bit of hiking.

The grade continued for quite a while and deposited us high over Dresden in these gorgeous hills.

Soon after this we had a couple of big hill climbs and then a big rocky downhill that resulted in a big old flat tire for me. Luckily, we had all of the goodies required to fix the flat and soon we were bumping along down the road. This was especially challenging since I really didn't have brakes. It made the downhills really interesting. After a couple of more hill climbs (about 3000' total by now) we ended up at a little Biergarten for lunch. From here it was all down hill to the next stop. After a quick 5k downhill run on the road we ended up at the Weesenstein castle.

It had a nice little beer cellar that had been renovated to look like it dig back in 1860. This, of course, required another stop for a sports drink. Biking is hard work.

Feeling refreshed we headed out for the final 25k back to Dresden. It was late and we were nourished so we were moving fast. But the adventure wasn't over. We had to cross the river on a local ferry.

Then it was only another 15km or so back to the flat. A quick shower and then a quick dinner at a nice little Italian place.
It was a gorgeous, so we walked to Neustadt to grab a late night beer at a Munich styled beer hall. We were able to sit outside and watch all of the people wander by.

More Photos

Dresden to Rabanau to Maxen

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Arriving in Dresden


I arrived in Frankfurt a little ahead of schedule and a little spacey. My internal clock was hovering around 2am while locally it was about 11am. The flight was nice and uneventful and I even managed to sleep a bit. The route takes you way north, almost to the arctic circle, so the sky glowed orange for most of the evening.
After a three hour layover in Frankfurt we boarded the bus that drove us to the plane. This bus ride takes forever. I think it might have been shorter just to drive to Dresden. After boarding the plane, I zonked out. Next thing I knew we were in Dresden, I had my bags and Dave was there to pick me up.
We drove back to their pad and I took about an hour nap. Then, in order to really cure the jet lag, we took off for a mountain bike ride in a local park. Dave gave me the "death bike without brakes" to ride. Some of the downhill runs got particularly interesting. Especially the one through the sandy trail which ended up with me taking a bit of a spill. Like all bike rides in Germany, we eventually ended up at a local Biergarten to rehydrate. This garden was on the Elbe river and had a Dixie land band playing. The sun was out. It was warm. I had a beer. Very nice indeed.

After the beer, we headed back to town along the river to another Biergarten to meet Lisa. Today was the start of the Dixieland jazz festival and all of the riverboats (about 15 or so) were decorated and had Dixieland bands playing on them. While we drank our beer, all of the boats passed by on their way upstream.
After a quick change of clothes at their apartment, we headed back across the river to a Tapas place. While we were there all of the jazz boats returned and then they started a fireworks show. Not a bad first night.

Dresden w/ Jazz Steamboats at Dock

I slept pretty well considering the timezone difference. Dave and Lisa headed off to work and I decided to work for a bit.
During lunch, Dave came back and we tried to pick up a bike to rent. All of the bikes had already been rented out. Crazy. I guess we should have made reservations. This was not a complete disaster since Dave had a couple of bikes that mostly fit. Next stop a lunch at a local Thai place. It is interesting to eat ethnic food in different counties. The food is always modified to reflect the local taste. So the same dish in the US or Germany or France has a distinctive local flavor. I ended up eating a curry dish that I often get in Bellingham. A little waterier, saltier, and not as spicy. But, overall very good.
I had this great plan to head out for a bike ride after lunch, but the whole jet lag thing got to me and I had to seriously snooze. No worries though, the snooze was only about an hour or so. I hitched up the pony (actually a late model Specialized mountain bike), and headed down the river to Meisen. Okay, I didn't actually ride to Meisen, but I did meander down the bike path, checking out the local sites. One of the most interesting features are all of the "Beach" bars along the river. The concept is simple: take several tons of sand, some umbrellas, a couple of volleyball nets; mix with sun, coconut oil, and tropical drinks; and voila you have an recipe for a great place to hang out on a sunny day. I think I will have to try it out later in the week. I wonder if they have WiFi?
That night we went to a 40th Birthday for a friend of Dave and Lisa's. It was situated in an old church not far from their flat. In Germany the birthday boy or girl throws their own party. This party was quite large. They had sekt for the guests when they arrived and plenty of wine and food. One wall had a large projection of a feather on it (that matched the invitation) that didn't change the entire time. I kind of expected a slideshow or something. On the alter there was a piano and a bunch of blankets for all of the kids.
The party started with the host giving some speach (in German) and then playing the piano for two hours. Some of the compositions were his and some where covers. He never even paused between the songs, so I'm not sure what we were listening to. We were able to chat with some of Dave and Lisa's friend that went to Octoberfest with last year.
About 10pm I was getting pretty hungry, so we walked down the street to a Czech place. I had this interesting pork steak with a lemon-cream sauce and cranberries. Sounds like a strange combination, but it was really pretty darn good.
After that, snooze time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On the road again to Dresden

It is always amazing how little time it takes to transport ones self halfway around the world. I just boarded the bus that will take me to SEATAC Then to Frankfurt and then to Dresden. So quick, yet somehow it seems like it takes forever.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Banished to Blain ... Again!

I think I write this post every couple of months. Today we are taking our boat to Blaine again. "Blain?" you ask, " Why would you move your boat there?" Yeah, good question. It turns our that our permanent moorage is in Blaine and our transfer request to Bellingham will take years. Bottom line is that there is a shortage of 40' moorages in Bellingham, and those that they have are amongst the cheapest in the state. Supply and demand. There you go, econ 101. However, I'm not sure that anyone that works at the port had that class.
There could be alternative theory. The port creates an artificial demand to justify the creation of a new marina. "Look voters," they say. "We have a waiting list of ten years. We need a new Marina." I agree. But why can't they manage the resources that they have now? Well I is one of the two theories.
Did I mention that we are going to Blaine?
The trip was actually pretty darn nice. We started around 11am to catch the flood tide. The wind was out of the west and we had a nice sail the whole way. Sunny, fair breezes and awesome scenery. It doesn't get better than that.