Lost In Brandenburg - Five days around the Märkisch-Oderland.

Day One

So with a very narrow window of time available in which to complete a bike tour this year, my plans were further thrown into disarray by the tragic arrival of a large storm which caused so much destruction further west. So I managed to book some last minute tickets on an ICE train running East to Berlin. There are precious few bike spaces available on the long distance trains here, so I had to take what I could get, luckily it was on an ICE, the fastest, most direct trains.

On the day, the train journey went really smoothly and I arrived into central Berlin with my loaded bike. The Central station is an amazing building, the intercity trains arrive two stories underground, then five flights of stairs lead up to two stories above street level to the S-Bahn tracks, were my train was waiting to take me around to the Eastern edge of the inner city. Alighting into Treptower park, on the banks of River Spree, at 1:30, my adventure was to begin.

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The first kilometres follow tracks through the urban parks of this large city, occasional alighting onto the streets in order to connect to the next urban park. In the eastern suburbs, there are several lakes and the route meanders under the trees and first follows the banks of the Großer Muggelsee, a large natural freshwater lake on the eastern edge of the city.

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On the shores of the Kliener Muggelsee, there are people paddling and enjoying the warm weather, on the lake several pleasure boats are pottering around, it's a tranquil scene on the edges of this large city.

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Several large drops of rain are a precursor to a large clap of thunder followed by a torrential downpour that has everyone around scurrying for shelter. 15 minutes later it's all over and everything is gently steaming in the sun as I continue on. Over several bridges and around the shore of the Dämeritzsee before finally riding over the edge of the city limits at 20km.

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The route immediately plunges into a forest and the ground is compacted and easy under the wheels. I'm making good time as I fly along for the next 10 kilometres or so.

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Then it's on to the infamous Brandenburg sand, as the forest opens out and a massive fire break leaves me riding out in the open under the merciless sun. The trees here are ugly and unnatural looking, the sand under my wheels is making progress a slog and the kilometres are feeling hard won.

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Then the forest closes in again and the route plunges down to the shores of the Maxsee lake. One little known fact is that unlike the rest of Germany, wild camping is allowed in Brandenburg and here on the shore of the lake at 6 O'Clock in the evening, is the perfect time to make use of that fact. I find a small patch of grass next to the water and pitch up before taking a well deserved cooling dip in the crystal clear waters.

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51 kilometres today with 147 metres of height gain.
 
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chriswoody

chriswoody

Guru
Location
Northern Germany
Day Two

Waking early, I brew up a nice coffee as I watch the sun rise over the lake. The lake water is thriving with life and impossible to filter, so I use the last of my fresh water from the day before and then it's time to pack up and ride up into the forest.

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Not far away is a small village with a cemetery and they have a fresh water tap which I use to fill up my water bottles. Then it's back into the forest, traveling this way and that on lovely compacted trails. I left the city in an easterly direction, but since leaving the city limits, I have swung around to the North and will continue to head that way all day today.

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After several kilometres comes a big reminder that all of this landscape is a working one, despite appearances, as my way is blocked by a large Quarry.

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Luckily there is a way around and I'm soon on the other side. This spring has been really wet and sunny in equal measure and as such, the vegetation has really grown this year. Some of the paths I travel are not so well used and as such today will prove quite challenging. The first indication comes as I'm trying to circumvent a particularly deep puddle and a vicious looking stinging nettle rakes itself down the back of my naked calf. The first of many today. The route is slowly meandering up to the town of Buckow and just before it reaches it, it turns West and starts to circumnavigate the lake of Schermützelsee. The lake is stunning and the single track path even more so as it rises and dips around the contours of the shore.

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As I arrive at the town, I then take a diversion to the east and ride a small track around the nature reserve there. It is a stunning place, really wild and the air is alive with the sounds of insects and birdsong.

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Back in Buckow, I travel through the deserted cobbled streets heading to the village square where I find a small bakery and sit on the chairs outside supping an ice cold Erdinger beer and eat a big slab of cake. This is what I love about this country, cold beer from a bakery on a hot summers day whilst watching life amble by.

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Moving on, as I hit the edge of town, I see this honey vending machine and can't resist stopping. Sadly the machine wouldn't take my money and the one small jar of honey that would fit in my bag had to stay behind.

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After Buckow the route climbs steadily up through the forest and it was here I made a discovery. The average mosquito can fly at a speed of 10.5 kilometres per hour. Every time my speed dropped below this magic number, they attacked and boy were there lots of them. The way was steep and rough and there was no way I could go fast enough to outpace them. I briefly stopped to apply my anti mosquito spray, but that just made them more cunning and they found other ways to get me. Many of them decided to just bite through my clothes and the tops of my shoulders where my t-shirt was tightest, was a prime target.

The next kilometres were a hard slog, the forest trails were smooth enough, but often I was onto lanes and connecting trails which were badly overgrown and I wished I had a machette to help me through. Even where it was not so overgrown, it was slow riding and the stinging nettles were numerous and vicious.

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After twenty kilometres or so of this hard slog, I was back onto the roads. Just as I heard the ominous rumble of thunder and the rains arrived. The next few kilometres were head down and just riding along in the rain, I was just glad to be on a smooth surface for a few kilometres. I then arrived at the Niederfinow ship lift and was blown away. There used to be a serious of locks to raise the many ships that pass this way, then in the 1920's it was decided that a better solution was needed, so they built the lift. Over 60 metres tall, this impressive steel structure takes just over 5 minutes to lift boats up the 36m elevation difference.

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I linger here for a while, then it was off up the road. The last kilometres of the day lay ahead and it was cool and wet. Not far ahead the route turns away from the asphalt and onto an old cobbled road through the forest. For the next 15 odd kilometres I would follow these old cobbles mostly up and occasionally down through the forest, being rattled and jostled and chased all the way by the mosquitos, waiting for my speed to drop below the magic number.

Finally, the day ended, plastered in mud, wet and tired on the shores of Parsteiner see, where I gladly booked into the campsite there and indulged in the luxury of a hot shower.

92 kilometres today with an elevation of 573m gained.
 
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chriswoody

chriswoody

Guru
Location
Northern Germany
Day Three

A wake up this morning on the edge of a dilemma. I'm following a route created by someone else as a 3 day loop that I thought I would follow in a more mellow 4 days, however due to the last minute booking of the trains and not being able to find space on an earlier train, I've an extra day to play with. My original thought was to ride an extra 100km loop to the north of where I'm at and return to the same lake I'm at now and wild camp on the other side. I'm sat here supping coffee and pondering why? I'm sore and stiff from yesterdays ride as well as being a little bit chaffed from where my shorts got wet yesterday. I also need to make sure I re stock on food, because tomorrow is Sunday and no shops will be open. The sun is shining, it's hot as hell and I'm meant to be relaxing, mmm, bollards to that, I'm going to relax today.

So I unloaded the bike completely and went for a small ride in the local area and over to an Organic farm that had a farm shop. It was a great little place and I stocked up on some homemade cheese, lots of fruit and other bits. Back at the campsite I spent the afternoon relaxing and swimming. Just what the doctor ordered.

In total 20km today. That's it, no more! There was a little bit up and down as well and no, I don't know how much!

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Day Four

So with the relaxing out of the way, it was time to get back into purgatory mode. After a leisurely breakfast we packed up and left. I wasn't far down the road before I saw a sign for a loop into the local nature reserve, whilst it was all footpaths, signs indicated that bikes were allowed as well. I didn't need asking twice and turned off. The path meandered through the fields, gently rising and falling, overhead starlings were darting this way and that and a red kite was lazily gliding on the breeze. Some of the fields had been given over to wild flowers and the air was alive with the buzz of insects and the flash of butterfly wings.

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After a short while the route ends in the quiet village that was to be my starting point for the day. Typically for the villages around here there is a large tower in the centre with a platform on it for the resident village stork. The barn next to it is home to a large number of House Martins and whilst the stork serenely surveys all around it, the air is filled with House Martins coming and going.

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Turning South I head out of town and straight back onto the cobbles. Cobbles are a major feature of the tracks and roads around here and they extend for kilometres into the forests. Sometimes I'm lucky and I can ride on the dirt to the side of the them, mostly though there is no other option but to ride over them. The fat tires on my bike absorb some of the punishment, but it's still heavy going.

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The sun is really making itself felt now and it's nice to be riding under the shade of the trees. After 10 kilometres, I emerge from the forest into the village of Chorin where there are the restored ruins of an old Cistercian Abby founded in 1258. I wander around the perimeter and take a break overlooking the nearby lake.

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I'm soon back into the forest and onto the cobbles, kilometre after kilometre I ride under the canopy until I emerge again into the large town of Eberswalde. It's Sunday today, so all is shut, I was contemplating looking for a cafe but I decide against it and continue on through the town and out the other side. The larger towns are tricky to navigate, the route tries to keep off road as much as possible, so I'm twisting and turning this way and that, getting completely disorientated as well as momentarily lost on a few occasions.

I'm soon back into the forest though and onwards. I stop under the shade of some trees to eat the last of my cheese from the farm shop along with some fresh bread rolls. As I'm eating my lunch some older folk trundle by on their e-bikes, the first cyclists I've seen in the forests during my entire trip.

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The last kilometres of the day see me plunging down into a valley, I ride slow and courteous because coming past are people walking along with inflatable air beds and all other manner of swimming paraphernalia. The bottom of the valley is long and narrow and home to three lakes. I'm heading down to the first of them. My route takes me away from the popular swimming beach and along a precipitous woodland path. Down to my left I can see the lake through the trees, not far away, but no real access. After a kilometre my progress is barred by a large earth embankment, I'm at the end of the first lake, but there is no sign of the other lakes or even any clue as to how to progress. I scramble up the embankment to discover railway tracks running across the top, hopping across them I see a path plunging down the other side to meet the other lake. In short order I'd heaved and pushed my bike up and over and soon I was riding a similar path down the side of the second lake and towards my campsite for the night.

Overall 62 km today and 291metres of height gain.
 
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chriswoody

chriswoody

Guru
Location
Northern Germany
Day Five - Back to Berlin.

I get up early and pack away in short order. Today I need to be back in Berlin for lunch time, my train is leaving mid afternoon and I don't want to miss it. My route starts off traversing the side of the third lake in much the same way as it had finished yesterday.

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A short final steep path brings me out onto a road which I cross and plunge back into the woods on the other side. For several kilometres i'm following a really nice trail through a beautiful valley, like something out of lost world. As with the majority of this trip I'm completely alone out here, away from the tourist spots there's not a human to be seen.

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The trails here are mostly compacted dirt and then I hit a fast gravel section that rises and then plunges down between the trees. I'm unsure what lies ahead so I'm making the most of the fast trails while I can. A quick road crossing and then at the corner of a small lake the Garmin beeps at me to turn aside onto an overgrown trail.

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A short push brings me through and at first the going is O.K. as it rises and falls along the lake shore. Then a fallen tree bars the way and I'm off and pushing around. This then becomes the pattern over the next kilometre, just as soon as I'm riding, another tree is down and it's lift over or bunny hop time. Not for the first time am I grateful to be riding a lightly loaded bikepacking bike.

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Then the inevitable happens, in a dense patch of woodland the trail ends abruptly at a massive tree fall. Quite a number of them are down and the vegetation has grown wild all around. I start to push the bike through, heading in the general direction of where I think I might pick up the other side. Ducking under large trunks or pushing the bike in front of me to clear a way through the dense briars. My legs are stung and scratched to hell and the mosquitos are having a field day, progress is painfully slow. Finally though we break on through and there is the path on the other side.

At last the touring gods take pity and the trails are generally clear and ridable now.

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Lovely gravel roads lay ahead for a few kilometres now and progress is picking up.

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Just fifteen kilometres, but several hours from my start point I roll out of the woods and into the first of the satellite towns from Berlin. A few twists and turns and before I know it I'm out the other side and plunged back into another overgrown lane. Further on though it clears and lovely woodland trails lead me on. Stopping at a small shelter for a break, two ladies passing by stop for a chat, bemused by my bike. I'm off to Berlin I cheerily tell them, pointing further into the woods, puzzled glances ensue, but it's much quicker by road they say! I'm sure it is, but I'm going the direct way through the woods. We part with a cheery goodbye and I'm soon into a small area of marshland, the way forward is over a rickety duckboard snaking this way and that.

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I'm heartened today that despite being close to Berlin, there are so many nature reserves around, along with large natural corridors. My Garmin is telling me I'm getting close, but my surroundings are still so wild. Finally though we are making progress and the forests change ever so subtly, from wild to urban forests. Despite being the edge of the capital city, there is precious little rubbish around. The forests bring me in quite close to my final goal, then we're out into an industrial area. The contrast is jarring, the large factory to my right is all large pipework and scaffolding, rusting and decayed it's quite stark and ugly. My route dives between some units and suddenly I'm on the banks of the Spree.

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The boats bobbing at anchor are shabby and rundown, it's like a shanty town out there. A few kilometres are left as we cycle along the banks, there is all manner of life here, from smart flats to climbing halls and path side cafes. Then the last section hoves into view, I can see the TV tower on the horizon and the last metres back to the start are visible across the basin.

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I roll back into Treptower park and sit down outside a small cafe drinking a coffee and reflecting on a fantastic trip. Before long I'm back at the main train station and on the high speed train heading home after a great five days in Brandenburg.

The Last day has been a shade over 50km today and only 120m of climbing.

In total I travelled 255 kilometres with a shade over 1200 metres of climbing. The vast majority was off-road in the forests.
 
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IaninSheffield

Veteran
Location
Sheffield, UK
Cracking account Chris - thank you!
The sun is shining, it's hot as hell and I'm meant to be relaxing, mmm, bollards to that, I'm going to relax today.
So I unloaded the bike completely and went for a small ride in the local area
Damn right! Good call.

Love the dragonfly photo. That must have took some patience.

Those cobbles look horrendous! And as for the mosquitos and nettles ... you sir are a hero! :notworthy:
 
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chriswoody

chriswoody

Guru
Location
Northern Germany
A honey vending machine! Amazing.

I love your attitude - diving off to look at nature reserves as you go along.

Thanks for the write ups and amazing pictures.
Random vending machines, seem to be a funny German thing. We have a fresh milk vending machine on a farm here in town and I know of an Ice Cream Vending machine as well. I was a little miffed that this honey machine refused to take my money though.

As for the nature reserves, it's one of the reasons I love to ride off-road in the way I do, reconnecting with the wild spaces and immersing myself in nature.

Thanks @IaninSheffield. The dragon fly was actually very amenable to having it's photo taken, there were an awful lot of them flying around the area and unlike the Mosquitos, a very welcome and lovely sight!
 
Great write up Chris! Really enjoyed that, thanks.
Great photos too!
 
Random vending machines, seem to be a funny German thing.
There's a lot in NL too! Great for eggs, milk and cheese. Belgium and France have bread ones.

I'm curious (sorry😊). Do you know who planned the route? Was the condition of some of it a surprise?

I think it's great that you can be so close to such a big city and still be in the "wild". I love Germany for that.

Was anyone else camping in Brandenburg? Did you go stealth mode or more open?
I've noted that camping info for the future. Of all the big German cities Berlin is the one I'm missing.

Finally......
You mentioned this may be your only chance for a tour this year?
Some of us are waiting patiently for a kids one! 😊

Thanks again. Great write up.
 
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chriswoody

chriswoody

Guru
Location
Northern Germany
There's a lot in NL too! Great for eggs, milk and cheese. Belgium and France have bread ones.

I'm curious (sorry😊). Do you know who planned the route? Was the condition of some of it a surprise?

I think it's great that you can be so close to such a big city and still be in the "wild". I love Germany for that.

Was anyone else camping in Brandenburg? Did you go stealth mode or more open?
I've noted that camping info for the future. Of all the big German cities Berlin is the one I'm missing.

Finally......
You mentioned this may be your only chance for a tour this year?
Some of us are waiting patiently for a kids one! 😊

Thanks again. Great write up.
Now you mention it, I'd forgotten the egg vending machines, we have those as well here.

The route was created by Joshua Meissner who lives in Berlin, which is why I was comfortable to follow his route through the big city. Ordinarily I avoid cities like the plague, but this route was fantastic. Berlin, like Hannover, is an amazing green and verdant city, lots of parks and water ways for folks to relax in. Central Berlin actually has quite a wildlife problem, wild boar amongst others, regularly interact with the human inhabitants of the city, there was a video on the news last year of a sun bathing chasing a wild boar after it inadvertently stole his bag!

The overgrown nature of the trails was half expected, Several years preceding 2021, have seen very hot and dry springs and Germany has been living under drought conditions. This spring in contrast, saw low temperatures and record rainfall levels. The result has been a very green landscape, just looking at my photos of some of the local daily forest rides I do, the contrast this year is stark. So with this route having been created in the preceding years, I suspected that it would be overgrown in places, it's just difficult to gauge from a map, how many trails are minor trails and hence more susceptible to being overgrown. Also, I was warned about tree fall issues as well, the forests are managed here, but only to an extent. Fallen trees are actually a valuable wildlife habitat and these days the current thinking is to leave them to rot down where they fell.

When I was traversing the side of the lake on the first night, there was actually a cluster of tents pitched up by a group of anglers around the path. So I realised, that I probably didn't need to be too stealthy, though I never saw a living soul at any of my camp spots aside from these folk. I was also careful to leave no trace of my passing as I normally do. I never saw any one, either bike touring or camping, during the whole trip.

Rest assured, I will still be doing the odd overnighter and hopefully soon with my daughter, this was just my one chance of an extended trip alone. I am lucky to have a very supportive wife who will hold the fort alone whilst I go gallivanting off on my bike, I can't take advantage of that though.
 
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