We do not speak. Silently, we pedal side by side, covering kilometer after kilometer, while reeds billow to the left and right at the edge of the path, small lakes emerge in the sunlight in a lightning blue, dragonflies tremble above the water in iridescent turquoise hues. To outsiders, it might seem as if we had nothing to say to each other, my daughter Franzi and me. The opposite is the case: once a year, when we set out on a long bike tour together, we enjoy being together so much that we understand each other perfectly, even without words. This time was no exception. We are on the 680 kilometer long Long-distance cycle route Berlin-Copenhagen on the road. We have planned seven days as relaxed pleasure cyclists for the German section of the route, which leads from the capital to Warnemünde on the Baltic Sea. But first we have to deal with waters of a completely different kind.
"Look," Franzi suddenly calls into the silence. "How about a swim?". She points to a narrow, grassy strip of shore. Behind it, a pond glistens. Döberstich is its name, I gather from my bike tour app. A stitch is a pit where clay was once mined and then filled with water. Here on the Brandenburg Havel River - we are currently cycling between the villages of Zehdenick and Mildenberg - there are quite a few such stitches. "Sure we'll go swimming," I reply. We lean our bikes against a bench, dig the swimming gear out of the saddlebags. And jump into the cool water.
Today is only day two of our tour. But we can already say one thing: This bike path is completely to our taste. It is considered "green-blue" because it usually leads far away from major roads through unspoiled landscapes. And it often runs along the water. That makes for a certain feeling of freshness - and for plenty of opportunities to cool off along the way.
Well, maybe not right at the starting point at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. When we got into the saddle there early in the morning, it was teeming with cyclists. From all sides they whizzed through the Berlin landmark - helmeted suits, capital city women in Birkenstocks, young fathers with cargo bikes. Fast and purposeful, while the Victory Column sparkled golden in the background. With our saddlebags and functional outfits, we were quite out of the ordinary. But we enjoyed this lively, urban start to our tour of the country.
And now Brandenburg. After a stop at Oranienburg Castle, we drive along quiet avenues, through idyllic villages dotted with ancient brick churches, past rape fields of such rich yellow that they look as if they've been painted. Not far behind the Döbertstich lies the Mildenberg Brickworks Park, now an industrial museum with an adventure park. We cycle around the disused ring kilns, which look like primeval dwellings, and picnic on the banks of the Havel. We wait until the afternoon for dessert. We pass through the small village of Himmelpfort, where there is a real chocolaterie - and lots of the finest chocolates, which fortunately can also be purchased by the piece. There's also a Christmas post office here, where Santa receives letters from thousands of children every year. "There's no one there," Franzi says, peering through the window, a little disappointed. We agree that Santa is probably on vacation right now. After all, it's only May.
Of course, my daughter hasn't believed in Santa Claus for a long time. She is 24 years old and has long lived her own life, far away from home. But our joint mother-daughter bike ride in the summer, she enters every year firmly in her calendar. Me, of course, anyway. We like to cycle together because it gives us a kind of flow that promotes quiet harmony. But we're not always silent, of course. Because you can talk about practically anything while pedaling side by side. Especially when, as on the 260-kilometer route through Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, it's a leisurely ride without any major inclines and we can concentrate on the conversation.
The roles and tasks for the road we have distributed according to skills. I take care of the bills, while Franzi operates the navigation system and apps on the road, distributes refreshments and, above all, doesn't get nervous when we get lost again. For example, in the pretty town of Waren an der Müritz, where we take a wrong turn and end up in a veritable Mecklenburg fairytale forest of towering pines. Later, we recover from the extra kilometers at Fischerhof Damerow. Here it is wonderful to sit and rest with a view of the Jabel lake. We enjoy delicious fish sandwiches, thickly topped with juicy, smoked char. Afterwards we take a look at the small in-house museum. Here you can learn a lot about fishing in the Mecklenburg Lake District. For example, the Müritz fishermen once pulled a two-meter-long catfish out of the water here. The predator with the fearsome jaws is exhibited stuffed in the museum. Then rather a smoked char!
We also refresh ourselves in Jabel Lake with a round of swimming. Then we cycle again for a bit through a landscape that feels increasingly Nordic. Fragrant coniferous forests alternate with rolling fields. And that Mecklenburg sky! Vast and blue, it arches over us. Almost as if the Baltic Sea were already reflected in it. We enjoy our last swim of the day at Krakow Lake with its wooded shores and thatched boathouses. It's so beautiful here that we sit for a long time afterwards, dreaming into the bluish evening light before we push our bikes into Krakow's idyllic old town. Over bumpy cobblestones we pass lovingly renovated town houses, the old synagogue and the city church to our hotel. By the way, staying overnight on this tour is child's play; there are plenty of hotels, guesthouses and inns along the way, although Franzi and I prefer to sleep in bed + bike accommodations. They have extra bicycle parking, drying rooms for our clothes, special tools for all cases and a rich cyclist breakfast.
And there is culture on the way. Like in Güstrow. There we make a detour to the Gothic Gertruden Chapel. Here, some of the most important sculptures by Güstrow's most famous son, the sculptor Ernst Barlach, are on display. Silently we immerse ourselves in the contemplation of the sculptures "Reading Monastery Student", "Doubter" and "Pietà", immersing ourselves in the human states of mind that Barlach carved out of wood and plaster. The expressionist lived for 30 years in Güstrow, where he is said to have been inspired by the local brick Gothic as well as by the Mecklenburg countryside.
We like the people here, too. "They're all so nice here!" Franzi enthused when we visited the "Manufaktur Löwenzahn" in the Nossentiner/Schwinzer Heide Nature Park. Anja Bayler not only sells homemade syrups, herbal teas and fruit vinegars there, but also served us freshly baked yeast plait in her romantic garden, which we spread with Anja's wonderfully tart-tasting wild plum jam. A few kilometers further on, we stop again, this time at the "Gutshaus Linstow," which Thorsten Dietzel and Franziska Hesse have transformed into a casually chic vacation paradise with lots of contemporary art that we would have loved to book ourselves into right away. And the cake buffet also has it all ...
With plenty of new blood sugar in our veins, we cover our final leg. First to Rostock, where towering harbor cranes already herald the Baltic Sea. Then the last few kilometers to Warnemünde. There we stand on the west pier, let a strong sea breeze blow around our noses, and gaze longingly at the ferry that has just rushed away in the direction of Denmark. Next year, we'll be on board, too. And cycle on to Copenhagen.
But now, with a view over the expanse of the sea, we remain silent together for a while.
Copyright cover photo: Lots of water, lots of green, lots of relaxation: break on the Berlin-Copenhagen cycle path © TMV / Tiemann
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