Tandem Tour 2013: Magdeburg to Wittenberge

Route_mag nach WittenbergeIn the early summer, much of Germany suffered from floods. The Elbe region was one of those severely affected. Magdeburg in particular. Up to this point we had not really noticed, but much of the Elberadweg to the North of the city was no longer passable. The detour – Umleitung – was not well signposted, intuitive or attractive.

We were trying to get to the market town of Tangemünde having left Magdeburg at 1500. We fell 18km short and opted for the Family Camp Kellerwiehl just north the small town of Bittkau.

The campsite is idyllic. There is a large lake, lots of trees, and a rudimentary restaurant; and to top it all, a labour-saving washing machine for our cycling gear. We ate in the evening (2030 on arrival) some salad, omelette and chips. We also cheated on the camping by hiring a wooden hut for a very reasonable fee. Luxury (below right).

Breakfast in the sunshine and then off (with the key to the hut in my pocket). It DSCF0300was only when I stopped to shake an apple tree to harvest some of the abundant free fruit along the way that we noticed. Fortunately, community functions sometimes. Although the post office was closed in Tangemünde (Saturday, late morning), a quick call to the campsite secured the return of the key. Moments later the owner retrieved it from the jewellers (a strangely complementary business for a post office) whilst we had coffee in the impressive town square with the

DSCF0301imposing town hall (below left) hosting a wedding. The town is an architectural delight with many wooden beamed ‘Fachwerk’ houses and buildings.

We set ourselves the target of reaching Wittenberge by the end of the day (100 or so kilometres), and picking up some fuel in one of the region’s ‘Hanse’ Stadts, in our case, Havelberg. En route, most of the villages and small towns were totally deserted. Arneburg, for example, with its impressive array of fachwerk, public art and an open Tourist Information Office, was reminiscent of southern European town in the middle of a siesta. But even then to use the toilet, one needed a key. Very clean though.

Crossing the river by ferry at Sandau, it is clear on arrival in Hansestatdt Havelberg that it was once a strategically important town. It is situated on the River Havel connected to the Elbe initially by a canal (upstream it voluntarily flows into its bigger neighbour). The rivers have served the town for trade, water and protection – indeed the safest place today would seem to be the campsite occupying an island accessed by a small bridge. From the middle ages, the economy was based on fishing, ship building, agriculture and cattle breading, apparently.

Again as the sun began to set, we approached our stopping place, Wittenberge. It was nothing like its southern Namesake. We sensed that we had entered a town that was not wealthy. It clearly lacked commercial heritage, and as we discovered later, young people. But in the midst of all of this is the hotel to match no other.

DSCF0303The Tollhouse Pension is what it says on the can. On arrival, check-in involves playing a couple of games, one resulting in the award of a sweet, the other the prospect of a glass of schnapps. Once in – perhaps 45 minutes after arrival – one encounters a room of some individual character. The owners, aware that Wittenberge is not the prettiest, provide a view (right). The bed was supremely comfortable, too.

As for the place, the old town and river front are pleasant and compact. The Mexican restaurant in the high street is ‘preiswert’ and brimming with choice. Wittenberge, then, is one of those places that one rarely chooses to visit but should.

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