Berlin-Usedom bike trail

270 km, September 25 – October 1 2021

Step 1: Berlin-Bernau

Just getting out of Berlin takes two hours… The hustle and bustle soon turns into Mauerpark coolness then down Schönhauserallee to suburban bleak in Pankow, then to oh sweet I’m in the forest after Berlin-Buch. It’s just forest road until the sandy banks of the little lake Gorinsee, which I had elected as a potential nice place to set up a tent and yes indeed it is. Afraid of being fined for my illegal camp, I wake up at 6, pack up, and cycle into the heathland Schönower Heide to watch the sunrise. This is where the beauty of the Schorfheide region begins.

Schönower Heide sunrise

Step 2: Bernau-Joachimsthal

The loveliest part of the journey. Just paths through the forest, with no cars and barely any people for the matter, then along a canal leading right to Werbellinsee, where one can take a stop at the Askanierturm, a tower built in honor of the House of the Ascanians, the ruling house of Brandenburg for a large section of its medieval and early modern history.

Askanierburg Werbellin

From there, just follow the Werbellinsee to the sweet little town of Joachimsthal. The town itself is actually kind of grim, but as I was cycling down the picturesque Grimnitzerstrasse, which contains the ruins of an Ascanian castle as well as the foundry of a glass-making guild, I came across a green courtyard that simply looked… inviting. A sign read “Kommunität” (Community), and another “christliche Gemeinschaft” (Christian community). I wondered, could I stay here? After 2 minutes of gawking in front of the place, my question was answered, as a little German came up to me to ask was tun Sie hier? She took me to her mother, who said, yes, we do rent rooms, 20 euros a night, 15 if you have a sleeping bag (the standard for a hotel outside of a major city is 80, you usually pay 15 in Europe for a camping spot, so this was a bargain).

Ascanian remains of Grimnitz, in Joachimsthal

I started the day reading in the lovely garden from the German-English edition of the Gospels the kind caretaker of the guesthouse gave me (I enjoy the Bible, but was wary of the conversion talk when she told me her life story and the inevitable “so that’s why I decided to dedicate my life to Jesus”). I also cycled around the Grimnitzsee, stopping to take a dip in the water and then at the bird observation tower, from which I saw a few deer (Hirsche) grazing on the grassy banks of the lake.

Peacock butterflies delighting themselves on butterfly stonecrop (Hylotelephium spectabile) in the wonderful Kommunität garden

Step 3: Joachimsthal-Prenzlau

Raaain! Lots of it! On and off. You go through farmland, tiny villages, and forests by the lake. I sped past everything to reach somewhere dry. Luckily enough, the campsite in Prenzlau (Campingplatz Sonnenkap) had very dry very comfortable huts. And a sauna! So time to heat the body up to then jump into the Unteruckersee!

Sunflower fields in autumn

In the afternoon, a little exploration of the medieval walls and towers of Prenzlau (aaah, so that’s where Prenzlauer Berg comes from). Nice architectural features, nice lake, but same grimness that all the Brandenburg towns seem to emit.

Soaked!
North Markish dialect, one of the Lower Saxon dialects (which are on the continuum between the Franconian dialects -such as Dutch and Flemish- and High German ). Dutch: thuis is het beste / German: zu hause ist am besten.

Prenzlau, medieval tower and church

Step 4: Prenzlau-Eggesin (almost Ueckermünde)

We are no longer in the Schörfheide biosphere reserve. Heck, we’re not even in Brandenburg anymore: it’s Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (historical Pomerania), and if the Brandenburg towns gave off a grim vibe, now it’s the same grim vibe but more farmland less forest. Signs show that the border to Poland is close. I stop in Pasewalk, there is some nice architecture but less than in Prenzlau, and have the most stereotypically German of lunches: noodles with döner. Never again.

Fields of Pomerania
German imbiss food

The road to Eggesin is boring and long. I spend the night at a bike hostel in Eggesin, which also happens to be run by the Church. They are technically closed because it’s the end of the season, but thankfully they let me stay. Thank God for Christians.

Step 5: Eggesin-Kamp

First stop, Ueckermünde. The sun magically appeared in this more cheerful, touristic, port town (apparently founded in the 10th century by a West Slavic tribe called the “Ukrani”). Though there’s not much of a Slavic feel, it is on the banks of the Szczecin Lagoon (German Stettiner Haff), which had passed from the hands of Poland to the Duchy of Pomerania to Sweden to the Kingdom of Prussia, then Germany, and after World War II divided between Germany and Poland. There’s no road along the lagoon, so you have to cycle on an inland highway until Bugewitz, with a stop at Mönkebude for a dip into the water and some fish and chips (I later discovered that the water quality of the lagoon is pretty poor depending on the spot…).

Szczecin Lagoon, in Mönkebude

From Bugewitz, it should have been simple to either go to Anklam and take the bridge to Usedom (an extra 80 km) or to Kamp and take the ferry. I thought the ferry would be quainter, but the bike path wasn’t actually ready, and going through the cobble-stone road on a city bike with 10 kg of pack was torturously slow. I missed the last ferry and had to camp in Kamp, which seemed appropriate. But for the mosquitoes.

Camping in Kamp

Step 6: Usedom island!

My overpriced ferry to Usedom!

Took the 8 am Kamp-Karmin ferry then sped across the island (a 30 km stretch) to reach the sea, with the obligatory stop too dip in the Wolgastsee at Korswandt. Then I got to see to sandy sandy shores of Ahlbeck and Heringsdorf, which are too posh to handle (it’s called Kaiserbäder afterall). Some freezing cold water and some sun to finish up the trip! [1]


[1] In hindsight, I’m kicking myself for not having stayed longer to explore the whole coast of the island and maybe gone to Poland or Denmark. Silly of me, I took the train back to Berlin in the afternoon to pick up my key to my latest sublet, which I should have rescheduled. I also wanted to be social and watch Dune in the theatres with my new housemate and landlord. So I gave up real dunes for Dune. Ugh. And I ended up in the cinema alone (they realised they had bought the tickets for the next day). Living and learning. One day I will ride all across northern Europe and see all the dunes.

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