Mud? Sand? Slopes? Not at the Frog Cycle Route in lusatia in the east of germany.
After we had a lot of challenges on our last tours at River Saale Cycle Route and in Poland we decided to change one gear down and make a relaxed tour at Easter 2014. Therefore the Frog Cycle Route is perfect. It is very easy to cycle the 274 km through Upper Lusatia. A lot of the route consists of feel-good asphalt. Only a few short trails lead through the woods and over meadows and make the frog bike path an ideal destination for families with a trailer or already self-drivers of the next generation.
Hoyerswerda – Neustadt (Spree) – Schleife – Bad Muskau – Rothenburg (Oberlausitz) – Niesky – Neschwitz – Wittichenau – Lauta
For some years the frog cycle route in Upper Lusatia is on our list. We heard it is an insider tip. So far we have not been able to visit Upper Lusatia. In the spring of 2014 we finally did it.
We decide to start in Hoyerswerda. The town is located directly at the frog cycle route, and it can be reached very simple from our hometown Halle (Saale) by taking the railway via Leipzig.
So it was actually
Driving time: some pages in an exciting book or a radio play and lunch on the train – so almost exactly three hours – for those who own watches. Fortunately, in the new Leipzig underground station the rails are at the same platform when moving from one S-Bahn to the other. Small changes of track, no running around, no non-functioning elevators or escalators. A cyclists dream.
Once in Hoyerswerda, we buy some vegetables on the little-visited market and dive into the adventure. After we left the stink of the city, there are lying five days before us in which we want to cycle 200 km of the slightly abbreviated Frog Cycle Route. The first kilometers we pass heath-like landscape and rest for vespers on lake Scheibe-See DE where we enjoy the sun. Via the peaceful places Burg, Burghammer and Burgneudorf we reach the river Spree, where we set up our camp for the first night at a lovely quiet spot right in the floodplain. No person in sight. We only find deep marks in the meadow, if we get night visit of feral pigs today? After the nightly pasta we crawl into our sleeping bags. Waking up in the night Claudia is asking herself what about the comfort zone of her 400 € sleeping bag. About -5 to 0 degrees? Why is she cold then? Despite super down and pocket heater, which she clasped his feet? Impossible that it is that cold this night – according to weather forecast. In the morning Jannis fetches the stainless steel water bottle, and it strums in it vigorously, everything is clear: strong frost.
Heiko makes a breakfast warm fire and we fortify ourselves with porridge and bread for the day. The sun comes out and it is a beautiful day. In Neustadt we leave the river Spree and drive on small country roads to Schleife to Sorbian cultural center DE. There we admire the exhibition of the Sorbian eggs, Jannis buys a funny children's book about a dog named RIFKO we henceforth read at night in the tent and Claudia bought for our potato loving daughter a potato cookbook. We could not take a picture book of 100 old sorbian people with the title "Before you go". In addition to the Sorbian eggs there are many books in the Sorbian Scripture and of course quills to buy for painting the eggs. A museum, however, this is not, but you can have a look to some dolls that are dressed in Schleife costumes, and there are some information boards. The staff is very friendly and ready to give information. Jannis and Naja receive some chocolate eggs because of Easter.
In Schleife there are living the Schleife Sorbs, who speak their own dialect and have their own costume live. The Schleife costumes are famous for their embroidery. In the former "Wetlands" of Lusatia, the Sorbs taken place before the 9th century to protect themselves from enemies. Today, the tradition is lived: There are festivities accompanying the course of the year, Sorbian songs and fairy tales. We are particularly amused about the green space in the center, which is watered by a sprinkler system. For the smart cyclists a great possibility to clean the bags or take a small shower in the summer.
Friedrich Hermann Rötschke has been established since 1860 in almost ten years of construction a semi-circular arch of basalt and granite boulders over the 35 m wide Rakotzsee (Rakotz = Sorbian for cancer). This is reflected in the water to form a complete circle. The lake is located in the Azalea and Rhododendron Park near Kromlau.
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We leave Schleife and do small time by going ahead through the villages, we visit the Rakotzbrücke near Kromlau and arrive in the afternoon in Bad Muskau. There we buy something and then drive – yes, that's allowed – we drive through the enchanting idyllic Muskau Park, where you can hang around an entire afternoon without any problems. In the park we meet the river Neiße, admire the Muskau Castle DE and then continue on the Frog Cycle Route that runs here on the Neiße Cycle Route. After a few kilometers we arrive to the canoe place in Sagar. There is a fire pit, a dry toilet and so we settle down here for the night.
The canoe pier in Sagar is located in front of the dyke, and it is therefore not visible very much. There is a fireplace and a dry toilet. Why not put up a tent here?
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On Good Friday morning we wake up with a slight bit of rain on the tent roof. Heiko starts the Kelly Kettle and boils some tea and hot breakfast porridge. We linger around in the tent a little bit longer than usual, but that does not leave enough room for the urge of the children to move. But they also do not want to play in the rain. Funny. To protect the nerves of everyone, we decide that's enough at 10 o' clock. Departure. Just stupid that no one thought to pack the rain pants of the adults. Hmm. There are briefly long faces, but the weather is better now. Claudia rejects her cancelation plan and simply entails a total unstylish but super warm 200-g-weight fleece pants over the upbeat naughty outdoor skirt. Keep going.
We cycle through Neiße valley heading towards Skerbersdorf and Pechern with our favourite destination Poland within earshot. The landscape is shaped by forests and meadows, small farms and probably a thousand raised hides. Never did we see a huntsmen on one of them. Probably because we never travel in the twilight. Unfortunately you don't find "Pizzeria" in the listing of our daytime activities here. On rainy days we usually visit a Pizzeria to have a good Pizza and to warm ourselves. The only restaurant we found that day in Skerbersdorf had been closed two months earlier. But we did not mind and found a dry shelter with a beautiful view upon river Neiße. There we had some bread, fruit and some chocolate for keeping up the spirit and warmed our clammy hands on hut cups of tea. On we went through a quaint forest that puts you right into a fairy tale. Pinewood all around us. "You cannot see the wood for the trees" Heiko declares precisely. In Pechern we gaze upon the timbered church. "If you wish to see the inside of the church just ring the neigbour's doorbell." a sign at the church says. Since it's Good Friday we don't want to bother anyone ant content ourselves with the outside view and continue cycling through the forest. After a racy downhill there is red deer standing right beside the path. Of course they escape from all the noise we´re making with the kids yelling and the wheels swiring. Unfortunately it is not as quiet to cycle around as we wished it was. However we're happy.
At Lodenau we finally get our cycle stop. In a small bar we have some french fries and some eggs sunny side up. We´re not sure whether our host enjoys our stay at her place. Outdoors the kids have a good time playing with a cat. Finally we go on passing Steinbach, a place with an old estate, and decide for the shortcut to Rothenburg which leads us on ten kilometers to a campsite with a hot shower. These last ten kilmeters turn out to be 15 since the villages drag on and on and on. But at the end of a very we cycling day we finally reach the Neiße Tours campsite DE at the southern city limits of Rothenburg. The place is about 300 meters away from river Neiße and mainly consists of a fenced meadow. There are small bushes around the place and about ten visitors – all in mobile homes or caravans. We are a little upset about the price of 24 Euro because there is no heating in the shower room, no lounge and no equipment in the camper's kitchen – not even a single pot or a water boiler. That's a bit much. To give us a little comfort we buy a beer from the friendly owner of the place an get our charged by our neighbour. An in spite of everything it's a quite place. Aside from the clappy doors of the cars and caravans. (Always a lovely sound.)
The weather forecast for the next day says sun but as we pop our heads out of the tent we can hardly see it through the fog. A fire keeps us warm and dries our shoes. Note: Remember to take along rain gear and now Gore Tex Shoes or rubber boots. The kids don't mind the fog or the missing sun. They are playing with the friendly dogs and enjoy the small playground. While packing we ask ourselves what's keeping the caravan kids inside for so long. Or is our kid's desire to be outside abnormal? Other campers get their tables, chairs, big-size cookers and all their stuff outside. I am happy about us having "so little" gear to pack. I mean that's what you're doing at home all the time – cleaning up – aren´t you?
We leave the campsite directing towards the local supemarket to get our food for the next three days. Besides we buy some easter chocolate to cure our sensitive daughter's fear that Easter Bunny will not find us outdoors. Therefore Claudia just stays in the supermarket a little longer and buys – shame on her – pre-cooked and coloured eggs from unhappy hens, some chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies. Doesn't feel good, but sometimes Mom's gotta do what Mom's gotta do. In front of the supermarket we also buy some apples from a friendly polish couple whom we greet to their surprise in their mother tongue. We stay for a little chat with them and the kids get polish chocolate eggs which are eaten straight away. Memories of the last three magical polish summer adventures come up. Despite all nostalgia we need to go back to Hoyerswerda and first head towards Niesky. The sun's slowly coming out and we put off some layers of clothes and cycle on lonely paths. Naja is riding more and more kilometers each day although the underground is quite difficult sometimes.
In Niesky we dive into the local atmosphere at the shopping mall where we have some ice cream. In Niesky there is a local company named Christoph & Unmack DE which built prefabricates houses until the end of the World War II. Not only did they build normal houses but also churches or hangars.
We leave the place and follow small roads leading us through small villages. That night we camp between Dieksa and Groß Radisch on the edge of the forest. And of course Easter Bunny finds us. Guess who's happy in the morning?
The kids worry about that the Easter Bunny would not find us on our cycle tour in upper lusatia. As you can see the opposite is the case.
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It's a sunny warm morning as we ride on passing Monumentberg DE. From there on it's only downhill. We have to pasue sometimes to enjoy the view and the beautiful spring atmosphere. It is a very quiet and peaceful day as we pass several lakes. In the afternoon we pause at a small "holiday village" where the kids play with goats and sheep, eat ice cream and play inside a boat while we let the sun warm our faces. Later on we pass a blue and green lake in the forest whih is completely surrounded by cabins and fences. But visitors are allowed to take a bath here. We put up our tent near Neschwitz at a gravel quarry. As we eat our dinner in front of the tent we are gazed at by five deers from behind the fence of the gravel quarry.
On Easter Monday we have a great breakfast in the sun. Afterwards we head up to Neschwitz where we visit the Old Palace, the Palace Garden and the exhibition of the Ornithological Institute Neschwitz. It's a small but very nice and informative exhibition. The kids enjoy the bird voices and the flight simulator which has giant wings to fly over the simulated landscape. You can get lots of information material, handcraft stuff and small books for free and the entrance is low priced: adults pay 2 €, kids over 6 years pay 1 €, kids under 6 get free entry. At the Old Palace there are aviaries of the Society for Bird Protection where they foster sick or old birds. The baroque Old Palace today stands on the foundation walls of an ancient water castle. It was used as summer residence and also as a kindergarten after Worldwar II. Nowadays the community uses it for exhibitions or weddings. The Old Palace, the Palace Garden and the exhibition are all very lovely and one's allowed to cycle on the main paths of the palace Garden.
We pull ourselves together and cycle through the countyside, pass forests, meadows and fields, see storks. Almost all place name signs show German an Sorbian names of the villages. The white-yellow flag of Lower Silesia is omnipresent and stands for the people's love and pride for their land. In Ralbitz (Ralbicy) DE we visit the historic catholic German-Sorbian cemetery. All graves have the same shape and on each grave you find a white wooden cross with golden inscription. On this cemetery people are buried in the order of their death, so you don't know wher your grave will be one day. There are no family graves. In a brochure the church refers to the equality of men before God and the relieving effect of the white crosses.
Cemetery in Ralbitz DE with more than 300 similar white wooden crosses. All people are unhumed at the next free place, husbands as well. This points out the equality in front of god.
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Next to the church we find a sign that says "ecologically grown food". Since we forgot to buy enough vegetables for our dinner we wish to buy something. Heiko rings the bell and asks. "Not until 4 'o clock" the lady of the house answered. What a pity, we think. In other countries we always enjoy sidewalk sale but that's probably no chic enough for Germany. We go on and have our last ice cream of this holiday in a small village named Wittichenau.
In Neudorf-Klösterlich we ask for some water at a small restaurant. The lady actually does not want to give us some but finally she fills two bottles. But when we ask her to fill our two four liter waterbags that's too much for her. She explains to us that water is actually not for free, and she asks if we can't get water from a "public spring" or somewhere. Claudia is standing few meters aside holding her cheekey mouth in order not to bubble out one of the 100 sarcastic comments in her mind. Heiko keeps calm and receives two filled waterbags.
After flipping out about this unbelievable encounter we spend our last night inside the tent. In the evening we lie outside and gaze at the bats flying around. We hear a lot of croaking and splashing and we see a huge sea eagle flying by just a few meters away.
Very early in the morning we leave the place and decide to make a detour to the Krabat Cycle Route that will finally lead us to our train. We arrive in Halle in the afternoon and are happily looking back on a trip without any flat tires, on a trip with tail wind an high quality roads, well signposted. We are proud of our daughter who cycled a lot of hours by herself and last but not least our wonderful sun who made it all the way by himself – as usual.
We recommend this tour to all families with kids, trailers, Follow-Me's and young cyclers. If you take the whole route and do the excoursion that Esterbauer recommends you can easily fill two or even three weeks with this tour – depending on your daily kilometers.
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