Click here for more photos from the Elbe Cycling Path 2013
and here for photos from the Czech part of the Elbe cycling path and the section from Bad Schandau to Magdeburg (2012)
"Do you seriously want to sit here?" a blonde woman in her mid-sixties asks us with a touch of disbelief in her voice, but we do not care whether we are welcome or not. The last 40 km we have crawled westwards against North Sea winds and gales – and this is the first wind-protected shelter we have come across for hours. The blonde continues to pour sparkling wine into plastic cups for her pensioner friends and rearranges a package of cheese and some mixed pickles on paper plates. The elderly cyclists are apparently on a short day trip with the main aim of holding an outdoor feast. They have parked their bicycles all around the shelter and heaped bags on one of the three tables, and table cloths, sausages, cookies, salads and fruits on the two others. The whole group is clearly relieved when we are about to leave after a very brief break in the sheltered rest house behind the Elbe dyke, but not without assuring us: "No, no, YOU don't disturb us!!!"
For us, it is the last day of our seven-day cycling trip along the river Elbe. Against the advice of many forum contributions and several guidebooks we had decided to cycle downstream from Magdeburg towards Cuxhaven, against the prevailing north-westerly winds.
For 93.7 km, the Elbe river formed the border between East and West Germany. "The inhabitants of the village were allowed to walk on their village road, but not to stop or to look in a westwards direction. Later, a huge fence was built right in front of their windows," a panel in the village of Lütkenwisch describes life at the intra-German border. Relatives, even spouses were not allowed to move to the village, and by 1989, at the demise of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), only 16 villagers were left and more than 40 houses had been demolished by the government. Today the pretty thatched-roof houses behind the dyke appear idyllic and the population is rising.
In Hamburg we arrived just in time for the ship parade of the Harbour Festival. Behind Hamburg the river gets quite wide with big container ships making their way towards and from the open sea. Sheep are grazing on the slopes of the Elbe dyke, and due to heavy rain we cycle through a lot of muddy sheep shit.
With shifting winds, tent and camping equipment in the saddle bags and half a day off in Hamburg, we arrive in Cuxhaven after seven days of cycling. In retrospect, we agree that we liked the first part from Prague to Magdeburg better, because there were nicer towns and the Elbe cycling path often went directly along the river instead of behind the dyke.
See also Part One of the Elbe Cycling Route: