Cycling the Elbe – Germany, Europe

It is never a good omen when you awake to raindrops and children crying. No one could sleep. The steady oo-cha of ABBA to the theme music from Dirty Dancing to La Bamba turned techno did not die away until the sun was coming up. Even then, the sounds of drunken revelry continued until we gave up and got up at six. The day was grey and wet. The children were miserable. Hannah, who has my temperament, was teary from exhaustion and not too patient with the perpetrators; some of whom were lying half in, half out of their tents where they passed out. Elisha was holding his ear, crocodile tears running down his face. The fluid building in his ear over the past few days had developed into an infection. Happy morning!

We had to get up and get out. Staying another night would have been a re-run of the previous night’s misery. We packed, the sullen skies reflecting our moods and we rolled out of camp. A world record for us. We’re NEVER out before ten; eleven is our average.

The next campground was 73 kilometers, almost 46 miles. No way we’ll make that today, I said to myself. Who would have thought, with such a beginning, we’d have one of our best days! The roads were flat, Netherlands flat and no wind. We flew through the cool grey air and found ourselves on the banks of the Elbe shortly after lunch.

Elbe Radweg
Elbe Radweg

The Elbe Radweg (bike way) is 860 kilometers long and runs all the way across Germany and clear down past Prague. We were only riding a portion of it. We first found it at Wittenberg, a few weeks earlier and pointed up stream to the kids: “We’ll ride the length of this river clear to Prague!” They couldn’t believe it. As soon as we crested the little hill and looked down over the river, Gabe announced to his brothers with manly authority, “There it is! The famous Elbe! We’ll ride it all the way to Prague!”

The Elbe snakes its way through beautiful valleys walled with tall bronze cliffs and steeply terraced vineyards. The boys shouted with glee and nearly rode off the path when the tourist steam boat came puffing along and docked gracefully right next to the radweg. Hannah and I enjoyed the various plant life, both wild and cultivated. It continued to rain lightly, off and on. As if on cue, the sun broke over the castle and cathedral complex in Meissen as we rounded the bend in the river and it came into view. It was the first castle built to house royalty in Germany in the late 1400s and is the center of Saxony.


The campground is in Scharfenberg, a little further up the river. We got the tent set up just in time to hunker down and hide from another shower. We were dirty, wet, bandanas hung like Tibetan prayer flags from every support string of our tent, praying to the God who created the sun to please share it with us once again and dry out our lives.

Dresden is a mere 25 kilometers south. If all goes well, we’ll roll into the Czech Republic in a couple of days. Tomorrow, being the Sabbath, we are going to rest and play the day away in this forest valley. We hope to pick blackberries and explore the castle and eat ice cream, not ride our bikes too much.

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