Day 7: Staßfurt to Potsdam

  • Distance: 181km 🙂🙂
  • Average Speed: 21km/h 😐
  • Legs: 🙂
  • Undercarriage: 😐
  • Bike: 😄
I had a bad night waking up multiple times with bike crash nightmares.  Hmm.

However, since I was up early and I was the only person in the hotel, I could get the death-bean packed with my stuff, suit up, apply the prophylactic SudoCrem to the undercarriage and be ready to leave as soon as I had breakfast.  In the past, I have tended not to go down to breakfast in my cycle gear because the sight of a man in tight and somewhat damp Lycra is not what most people want to see first thing in the morning.

Ready to go, I got into the breakfast room and found a table set for one with cutlery and a cup.  There was also a pretty good buffet spread with six fresh rolls, a pile of ham slices and cheese slices and a couple of cut up tomatoes.  I wasn’t going to get through all of it but I would make a good try at it since my “giant breakfast, and make it through the rest of the day on a Twix” nutrition strategy was holding up well.   

I had managed three and a half rolls, all the tomatoes and most of the ham and cheese when the Swedish family of five who had arrived later the previous evening came down for their breakfast…which I had just eaten.  I would have eaten my own face off in embarrassment had I not already been incredibly full of illicit Swedish breakfast.

There was nothing I could do but own-up and grovel.  The three daughters — who were caricature of blond Swedish children — looked a quite upset at their breakfast, or lack of it, but the father and mother were pretty calm…considering.  I suggested the Restaurant Al Capone as an alternative — I’d noticed they did breakfast the previous evening — and I offered to take them there and pay for breakfast but the father wouldn’t hear of it.  He said (rather coolly) that he was capable of paying for his family’s breakfast himself.  The long-distance cyclist who has just devoured all the free food, hasn’t had a shave in 9 days and is, charitably, looking a little the worse for wear, probably isn’t somebody you’d trust to take you and your family to a restaurant and pay for the food.  The damp Lycra might have been a factor too. 

Luckily the bike was all ready to go so I could wave a cheery “goodbye and sorry” before pedalling off down the road feeling mortified — but also pleasantly stuffed with cheese and ham. 

The EwanVelo 2 route would take me north to Magdeburg and then I’d head east towards Potsdam.  It looked flat(ish) so I put a bit of effort into it for the first 40k ignoring the occasional stolen Swedish breakfast burp. I travelled through seemingly endless farmland and villages.  It was all a bit boring and even a man like myself who still finds amusingly named places funny, didn’t smile as much as I normally would have over this one.
Ho ho ho.

To be honest, there didn’t appear to be much to smile about in Lust and an old crone set her dog on me for taking a picture of the sign.
Lust was not a blessed place.

Everywhere I looked it was like this all the way to the horizon. 
Fields, sun, wind turbines.  Forever.

Getting through Magdeburg was a nightmare of complex junctions and tram tracks exactly the right width to trap my front bike wheel and make my dentist’s day.

Magdeburg is on the Elbe which was a large part of the inner German border although Magdeburg itself was well inside the GDR. 1,100 people were killed trying to escape to the West and this was only 30 years ago.  I often wonder why states such as the German Democratic Republic and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have the word Democratic in their name.  The cognitive dissonance required to call yourself a “Democratic” and shoot people who want to leave because they can’t vote for change seems…difficult to understand.  Most people who died were either shot as they crossed or captured and taken away to be shot.  I guess we should be grateful that Priti Patel isn’t shooting migrants in the head.  For what it’s worth, the death rate in the English Channel is about the same as the death rate on the old Iron Curtain.
The Elbe.  Historic in all the wrong ways.

Interestingly, most people who crossed the border were actually sold by the GDR to West Germany for approximately $25,000. The GDR was the showcase of the communist block but even the “best” of communism collapsed economically and selling dissidents for hard currency solved the dissident problem and also helped to prop up the state’s failing finances.

I recommend Stasiland by Anna Funder as a great book to read if you want to understand more about how crazy the GDR was.  Fully one fifth of the entire population were Stasi informers.  There were people who found out that their 15 year marriage was actually a sham once the wall came down.  Their husband or wife had been told to marry them to get intelligence on dissident activities. There were some meetings of dissident groups where everybody there was a Stasi informant and there were no actual dissidents.

It is an astonishing testament to the determination and resilience Germany that they took on the reunification task and (mostly) succeeded in converting a failed state into half of a new country.  I had noticed things getting more run down once I crossed the old border but, astonishingly, I don’t actually know when I did cross the border. Some time before Staßfurt I guess but the fact I didn’t and that in 30 years all trace of the line that could have triggered WW3 was gone…was tremendous. Well done Germany. 

Anyway, this is a cycling blog not a politics blog so…on with the cycling.  Or not.

Once again, the main bridge was out of service.  A little old lady explained that there was no way over the Elbe except going down to the next town.  Or…I could walk through the building site that was all that was left of the bridge…so I did that. 
Google translate helped with “Raus aus meiner Baustelle du Wichser”

There were some pretty strident shouts from the construction workers but I had my stock phrase ready “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” and just kept pushing the bike and hauling it over barriers.  It was a long and sweaty 10 minutes but I was happy to risk anger to save myself a pointless 10km cycle.  After the breakfast incident, I may be immune to social pressure and embarrassment for the rest of my life.

More long, hot and identical roads followed.
These pictures might be boring for you but think how boring it was for me.

I was making reasonable time although the “distance to go” indicator on the Garmin wasn’t going down very fast because it had started at a very big number after all.  As I swept through the fifth or sixth tiny village with no open shops where I could buy water I saw this decoration on the window outside an establishment which appeared to be open.
A man and his giant meat

I had to stop.  Here was a chance to see either a kebab skewer as big as a man or a man who was only as big as a kebab skewer.  Either way, this wasn’t something to pass up especially since he might sell water.  The man in the picture (who was reassuringly normally sized) overcharged me viciously for two bottles of water but I was (a) desperatlt thirsty and (b) still looking around to see where he was hiding the man-sized kebab skewer.

It’s time for a picture of Karl Marx Straße and a dog ornament made out of wellington boots.  Why?  Well, it was the only thing that amused me in about 100km of hot cycling.
Well, he still has a street named after him.

This is a dog.  I think.

I reached half way.  Occasionally the route threw up a couple of kilometres of ugly cobble stones which dented my average speed quite a bit and also dented my long-suffering undercarriage.  

Cobbles.  Cobbles.  Christ I hate cobbles.

Another bridge under repair resulted in a 10 minute walk, fording a small stream and then cycling on sand for while.  It was a fun packed afternoon but at least I wasn’t hungry.  My own breakfast plus two and a half Swedish breakfasts definitely kept the hunger at bay.
Clamber through this or cycle an extra 20k?  Easy choice.

There was more of this
If you assume my entire day was like this, you’re not far wrong.

I hit up some new playlists and remembered that disco-funk in the 70s was fantastic.  I, like many men of my generation, spent my formative musical years in the 70s trying to be cool listening to Bowie or Lou Reed or (god help me) prog-rock.  Meanwhile disco-funk was churning out some of the most amazing songs of the decade. It’s also very striking that Prince took almost all of his guitar tones, bass lines, beats, horn stabs and vocal tics from this music (which was fully acknowledged by the great man himself obviously). I loudly sang 🎶Hot hot hot…hot stuuuuuf🎶 to the trees which didn’t seem that impressed.

Other countries road “furniture” is always weird but I must have seen about 100 of these signs.  What is it saying?  Don’t hit a tree?  If you have the basic intellectual machinery to drive a car then you’ve probably worked this out.
Who knew?  Hitting a tree is a bad idea.

Excitingly, sometimes the cycle path headed into the trees so you could see trees and also stop for a pee behind them.
Lots of trees.  Good if you’ve been drinking a lot of water.

150km clicked up and then very soon afterwards less than 50k to go clicked up and — the thing I’d been waiting for all day — 1,000km on the trip.  I’d done 1,000km in seven days.  I felt pretty good about that. As you can see below, 3,000 calories also clicked up. 2,000 of them had a very definite Swedish origin. 
Meaningless goal?  Yes!!
This little indented bit of prose is a result of thinking about how arbitrary 1,000 is as a goal.  Feel free to ignore.  1,000 just a result of us counting in base 10.  If we counted in base 9 I would have gone through 1,000km about 271km ago (or 331km as it would be in base 9).  I thought about how if you use your fingers as bits, you can count up to 1,023.  But then I thought that it’s odd that we count in base 10.  We should actually count in base eleven because if you’re using your fingers then you have 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A (using the hexadecimal notation for 10).  I know nobody cares about this but it kept me going for at least an hour wondering if the reason we count in base 10 is because the concept of zero is not fundamental to counting — Greeks didn’t have it for example.

As is often the case, the last 25km went really well.  There’s something strange that happens when the end is in sight.  Your legs get stronger, your undercarriage stops complaining, the roads are smoother and the cycleways pleasant and shady.  Ghostly Sean Kelly mumbled “he’s been on good form for the last number of kilometres Carlton”

It was still trees, trees, trees until 2km from Potsdam and then it was a simple ride right to the door of my hotel.  The Hotel Mercure is a vast tower block chain hotel which, after the Hotal Burgas last night, is a welcome return to well-designed rooms, air conditioning and a convivial bar which unfortunately isn’t open on a Monday but on other days it stays open to the wee small hours — which in Germany is 9:30pm  

The receptionist looked a bit doubtful when I requested to take the BatBike to the room but I pointed out I’d reserved a double and he agreed I could take the bike to the room.  Because I’d arrived at 7pm and everything in Germany shuts at 8pm, I showered and headed out to eat fast.  This burger and chips was fantastic.  It was the first thing I’d eaten since five other people’s breakfast 12 hours ago.

Food that didn’t belong to somebody else.

I’ve decided I need a rest day.  I had thought to have a rest day in Berlin but Berlin is a fantastic city break place and I can go there any time.  I’m not going to be in Potsdam again — maybe ever — so maybe spending a day relaxing here will hopefully show me some unusual touristy sights.  It’s certainly going result in some new underwear and a new t-shirt.  I spilled half my burger down the only t-shirt I have.


Comments

  1. A friend shared your blog. I love your musings on numbers - but for the love of everything you hold dear - why sudocrem - its not the business! Vasoline, or chamios butter surely!

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    Replies
    1. I’ve never used chamois crème and SudoCrem worked wonders for my kids nappy rash so I’m sticking with it. On a long cycle, you stick with tried and trusted methods.

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