rod mclaughlin

Back in the GDR (21 jun 18...22 jun 18)

Germany - or at least this part of Germany - is the least connected country I've ever been - whereas you can't ride a bike for 24 hours in Laos without coming across wifi. Not only that, but it's difficult to find a shop with a SIM card. The only phone shop I saw was closed - in Dresden on a Saturday afternoon. Most places I went to in the Czech Republic had wifi, often password-free. But after I crossed the border into Germany, I was offline for at least a day. The first place I stopped had two huge campsites. One had no wifi, and the other had it, but the modem always refused to issue an IP address, even after rebooting, and even though noone else was using it. The local bars and restaurants had no wifi, but the cafe did - but it was closed, and I needed their password.

Anyway, before all that, I was lucky to stumble on the Elbe bike path. I stopped at Cyklo Kemp, and they gave me a map of the entire bike path down to Hamburg, with campsites, in Czech. 

Before that, I spent several days in Brno at Camping Hana at the north end of the lake. I'd got lost, met some Italian cyclists who have an English friend who's lived in Brno for 25 years, and showed me the bike route. However, I lost it going round the lake, and had to ride what seemed like forever to an unknown destination. Fortunately, I found Camping Hana. From then on, I could get the boat to Brno. Except once they told me the 18:30 boat would take me back to Veverská Bítýška, where the camping is, but it only went to Rokle. I was annoyed, but they took me there free, and the ride round the lake was nowhere near as far as it had seemed when I first did it, past a beautiful castle, and I found the bike path by the lake.

I also stayed in Prague, at a hotel for two days, and got stuck by rain in Slaný in a dubious but cheap hotel, on my way to find Lidice, the village wiped out by the Nazis in response to the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt. If you think that's difficult to pronounce, try Czech.

This has been 'war crimes year'. I visited the My Lai museum and the Saigon War Remnants museum in March and April. This month, it's Lidice, Terezin and Dresden. This is two German war crimes and a British one. You can see what's left of Dresden, and imagine what it was like.

I also went to the Terezin concentration camp. I didn't go right in, but learned enough about it. It is the scene of the first attempt at holocaust denial, where the Gestapo made the inhabitants pretend it was a holiday camp, which fooled the Red Cross. It has a Jewish and a Czech cemetery - but not one for the Sudeten Germans who were murdered there after the war.

In the Czech Republic, Google Maps doesn't show bike routes, and car routes lead you onto motorways, so you have to use walking routes. These are interesting, but lead along farm tracks, and one led me over a steep hill with hundreds of steps, just south of Litomerice. I could see what they mean about the defensive features of the Sudetenland, and why 1938 was such a betrayal of Czech nationalism. Talking of which, the World Cup is on.

I missed the first Englad game against Tunisia because I was at a gorgeous Saxon hotel which allows you to camp in their extensive grounds for €8. It's called Auf der Tenne. It has a bar, but no TV. Normally, that would be a blessing. It has a kitchen and a fridge for campers, and the brand-new shower room even has a hairdryer.

I camped at various other places, mostly good except for the intermittent internet. From Dessau-Roßlau, home of Bauhaus architecture (well worth a visit) to Magdeburg was over 100 km. I missed the Elbe bike path several times, and tried to cross the Saale at Groß Rosenburg, as directed by the Czech bike map, but though the boat was there, and there were several sailors upon it, it wasn't running. I had to ride back to Breitenhagen, cross the Elbe on a boat, ride to Barby, and cross the Elbe again. Then I continued to Magdeburg, which is where I am now. In the Motel One. Very nice. Also, it rained yesterday, so my timing was right. I could buy shoes, use the internet for over 24 hours non-stop, and watch some football. Later today, I'm continuing north. I have to average over 50 kpd to get to the ferry to Kristiansand, as I've booked a ticket for July 7.

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