Today we went back to basics. Once out of the city of Halle an der Saale, we put way electronic navigation devices and got out the map. We swung along the asphalt roads and rattled over the cobbles (locally, Kopfstein) with such alacrity that we arrived quite early at our hotel and have had time for additional beer to the normal ration.
Initially the countryside was flat and the villages quiet. there was one point when it seems that threefold be nothing of note to photograph or mention at all. Fortunately, things improved. Deciding to stop and take a photo when rocking along at a handy eighteen mph is quite a difficult choice to make, so it may have been a good thing.
The countryside began to change after Eilenburg. This small town appeared to be prospering and the villages beyond were a definite step up on some of the depressed little communities we ha passed through on the Saale north of the Halle - such as Rothenburg. Tourism seems to be the key. As the hills became more pronounced and the woodland increased and the villages became more attractive and the village ponds had more and more waterlilies and the houses were more kempt.
Cycling becomes a big player in rejuvenation when long riverside cycle routes encourage so many people to tour by bicycle. Note to UK government required here. Meeting a pair of cycle tourists from Berlin, we had a good chat and they suggested that as we proceed south to Dresden and the Czech border we will see many picturesque villages and lovely riverside towns. The Elbe Radweg is the most popular cycle route in Germany amongst Germans. It brings money into former East Germany, yet, they said, go twenty kilometres from the village and things do not look so rosy.
Yet the people are friendly and there is beer and food and much of interest.
Having already moaned about the cobbles on previous occasions, it isn’t the time for repetition. they joy of the day - avoiding the Garmin’s tendency to go the long way round the houses, the signed cycle routes ability to rapidly descend from tarmac to rubble track in the turn or two of a pedal - was running over, generally, very good roads and following clear road signs. there was none of the multiple method checking when the deterioration of a surface or the apparently odd direction caused multiple stops and gasps of “you must bloody well be joking.”
We did a bit of nature watching today. A colony of garishly coloured beetles basking in the sunshine on a tree trunk; across the road a stork nesting on a redundant chimney of the type Fred Dibnah used to demolish and further on another stork sitting on a hat bale by the side the Elbe.
Strehla, where we are staying in a pleasant and modern hotel, seems to be a bot of a centre for cyclists, standing as it does a few kilometres form the junction of the Elbe Radweg and the Elbe-Leipzig Radweg. The houses are colourful, the restaurants good and the market place surrounded by shops and offices. It seems that here, prosperity and cycling go cleat in pedal.
By the way, seventy-four miles.