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Mecklenburg Lakes District Cycle Path

Mecklenburg Lake District or Mecklenburgische Seenplatte or Mecklenburger Seen-Radweg is one of the more beautiful bicycle rides in Northern Germany. The route takes you through green countryside that is punctuated with lakes large and small as well as cities and villages.

PoppiesMap of RouteTour Overview: June 2008. This is a 7-day ride from Lüneburg on the Elbe to Neustrelitz. The tour guidebook will take you to Wolgast on the island of Usedom on the Baltic Sea but we cut the tour short with the hope of finishing it later. Our shortened distance is 217 miles (356 km). The entire distance is 660 km according to the bikeline guidebook. The Lüneburg Heath (Lüneburger Heide) and the Mecklenburg Lake District (Mecklenburgische Seenplatte) are part of the low lands of Germany. In theory, there should not be any hills. However, the trouble with theories is that someone always proves them wrong. I will say that the ride is mostly flat though and certainly flat enough for kids on kids bikes or babies in trailers.

It is interesting to compare this tour to the Lake Constance tour. The German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) is in the north and it was formerly part of East Germany. The overnight accommodations are less expensive than other parts of Northern Germany.

Gravel pathExcept for the hills noted, the terrain is mostly flat. Additionally, you will find more gravel path in Mecklenburg than most other areas in Germany. Each year, they pave a little bit more of the path.

Guntram, Ulla, and MaxaThe weather can be somewhat more blustery in the north but the week we ride this tour, we have wonderful weather as we make this ride but southern Germany is being flooded with thunderstorms. We are certainly lucky.

Maxa’s brother Guntram and his partner Ulla accompany us on this tour. They have been joining us for a tour once per year and we always have more fun than we should have when they are along.

Path sign 1Path sign 2Path sign 3Path sign 4Signage: Signage is excellent. If there is any complaint it is that there are several long-distance trails that cross the path we are following. For example, day two and three we ride along the Elbe river and the signs for that long distance path are more numerous than that of the Mechlenburgischer Seen Radweg. In addition, we cross the Berlin to Denmark Radweg midway through our tour. If you are as easily confused as I am, you could find yourself in Berlin – or in Denmark. Wife Maxa keeps me on the right path, on this tour and in the rest of life as well.

Accommodations: This is a favorite area for vacationing Europeans and there are sufficient overnight accommodations. There enough hotels, Pensionen and Privat Zimmer with their “Zimmer Frei” signs displayed. The word Zimmer is both singular and plural for the English word room. The word “Frei” simply means vacant. The only possible confusion for non-German speaking bicyclists is when the sign Zimmer Frei has a sign next to it saying Besetzt. That means the room is now rented or otherwise unavailable. One may also notice the word Ferienwohnung or its abbreviation FeWo. The word Ferienwohnung translates to vacation apartment. Typically, Ferienwohnung owners will decline short stays but you never know unless you ask.

Stops: Lüneburg, Bleckede, Ludwigslust, and Waren.

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bikeline guidebook of Mecklenburgisher SeenMaps and Guidebooks: We used the 1:75,000 bikeline Radtourenbuch und Karte, Mecklenburgischer Seen-Radweg, von Lüneburg nach Usedom. However, as you will discover, we stopped well short of the island of Usedom. With any luck, one day we will be able to complete the mapped route and when we do, we will complete the travelogue.

Day 1: Lüneburg to Scharnebeck (13.6 km)

Old Crain in LuneburgLuneburgLuneburg 2Street Sculpture of herring in LuneburgWater Tower from MiddleAges LuneburgLuneburg 6Luneburg 7 ChurchLuneburg 8Luneburg 9Luneburg Town Hall

Day Overview: If Lüneburg were not the starting place but just a stop along the way, I would definitely list it as a worthwhile stopping place. The city is wonderful with its step-gable buildings, a side canal of the Elbe River flowing gently through the Old Town, the medieval crane, and ancient water tower, the street front restaurants. Lüneburg is a bicycle-friendly city.

Mile 0 (0.0 km): We start this tour at Lüneburg Bahnhof. We arrive here by train in the late afternoon and the first order of business is to stop for coffee and/or a beer. Once refreshed, we make a short 5-kilometer tour around this beautiful city with its many sights, then we push on to Scharnebeck.

Elbe Side CanalCanal Interpretive CenterMile 7.5 (12.1 km): Downtown Scharnebeck. We stop for the night at Ferienwohnung Hansmann since it is nearing 6:00PM. The address is Adendorfer Str. 19, Scharnebeck 21379. The telephone is 04136/244. The cost is €76 for two people per night. As a note, they do not serve breakfast because, in reality, this is a vacation apartment with a kitchen so users normally fix their own breakfast. The owners much prefer several nights’ rental rather than the one night that we are enjoying.

After we unloaded our panniers, we ride to the Elbe Seitenkanal (Elbe Side Canal) to photograph the locks. It is a few blocks away. The lock is extraordinarily impressive in how they handle such a big change in elevation, a modern marvel. For those of you who are engineers, there is a visitor’s interpretive room (Ausstellungshalle) but I do not know the hours.

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Day 2: Scharnebeck to Hitzacker

Day Overview: We encounter some 20 to 30-foot rolling hills east of Rullstorf but nothing that requires dismounting and pushing. The locals call these hills the Lüneburger Alps, but it is said tongue in cheek as it is an over exaggeration. Maxa and I always enjoy riding ferries. Perhaps it is the experience of going somewhere without pedaling. But in any event, there are two ferries today. Even with the hills at the beginning of the day’s ride, most of the way is flat and most of it is paved.

Mile 0.0 (0.0 km): Starting from our Ferienwohnung, we happily discover that the first hill marked on the map is not much of a hill at all. At most, it is a gentle rise and that gives way to a euphoric hope among the four of us that the entire tour will be without hills. Confucius should have said, “One who makes assumptions with limited information is usually wrong.”

Sign for bronze age graveyardGraveyard Mile 8.5 (8.9 km): We almost miss the sign pointing the way to the Buckelgräberfeld Boltersen. This is a historic graveyard for people of the Langebard tribe who buried their dead in urns under small hills. While that activity dates from 300 BCE, other graves in this area date from as early as 3000 BCE. One has to be an archeologist or paleontologist to appreciate all of this. To me, it looks like just another clearing full of sagebrush. However, it is fun to try and imagine what it would be like to participate in a funeral when the graves were dug 5,000 years ago.

Mile 6.3 (10.2 km): In Neetze, watch for signs to Bleckede then turn left. Schloss BleckendeSchloss Bleckede

Tim, Maxa, and Guntram on Bleckede FerryMile 15.0 (24.1 km): We take the ferry across the Elbe at the town of Bleckede after a quick visit to Schloss Bleckede.

Former Border guardtown between East and WestAnother GuardtowerMile 33.9 (54.6 km): Once across, we notice a guard tower left over from the DDR days (East Germany’s Deutsche Demokratische Republik). We stay on the dike or next to the dike all the way to the ferry near Bitter, across from Hitzacker. A bit of a boring 30 km stretch but it is dead flat and newly paved. We had passed this way a couple years ago shortly after the flooding of the Elbe in 2005. The flood wiped out the dikes but they have been rebuilt in the meantime. We had to take an alternate route in 2006 that was very primitive. The ferry does not show on the bikeline guidebook. Perhaps that is because it is only a passenger ferry but they do take bicycles; as do most passenger ferries. The cost is about €4.00 per bike and rider. We stopped for the night in Hitzacker. This walled city was originally built on an island in a swamp near the Elbe River. That swamp has long ago been filled in and is now a residential area. Hitzacker was first mentioned in print in 1203. The city is beautiful and the Stone Age Park on the outskirts is worthy of a visit. The guidebook route does not cross the river but stays on the right bank of the Elbe. We know about this little town from our Elbe tour in 2006. Stone Age Village Museum, Hitzacker.Stone Age Park HitsackerStone Age Park HitsackerStone Age Park Hitsacker

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Day 3: Hitzacker to Ludwigslust

Day Overview: We start the day by visiting a reconstruction of a Stone Age village just on the outskirts of Hitzacker. The cost is €7 per person. It is interesting to note how advanced the engineering (and I am not an engineer) skills were back in those days. I am reminded that our species, Homo sapiens sapiens (not a typo), was then every bit as intellectually advanced as the rocket scientists of NASA today. The path today is flat and all paved.Crossing the Elbe near Domnitz

Mile 23.7 (38.2 km): Here at the railroad tracks outside of Malk Göhren, we decide to take a shortcut because the sky is threatening to rain. The map shows a low traffic road through Steinberg and rejoining the guidebook path at Karenz. The shortcut saves us about 5 km and the only downside is we have to climb over a 40-foot hill. By the way, it does not rain; we were faked out.

Schloss in LudwigslustMile 39.2 (63.1 km): We ride through the grounds of Schloss Ludwigslust. In 1772 Ludwig, the prince of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, decided to move his capital to this beautiful little city and he commissioned the Schloss near his hunting lodge. Today, it is a museum and the surrounding garden a city park. The canal through town was used for commerce but today its use is purely aesthetic. Prior to Ludwig, the town was a village of unremarkable origin. That shows you how valuable being a capital can be. The name "Ludwigslust" translates to Ludwig’s joy. On the dark side, Ludwigslust is four miles south of the location of the Wöbbelin Concentration Camp where during the 3 weeks prior to liberation in the spring of 1945, as many as 1,000 prisoners died of starvation.

Mile 40.0 (64.3 km): We spend the night at Pension Schwarzenberg, Am Seminargarten 4, 19288 Ludwigslust, telephone and fax is 03874/22438, cell phone (Handy) 0174/9887135. The cost is €43 for two people per night. Our stay here was very pleasant. The rooms were large, the beds were nice, and the breakfast was very nice. Our host even gave us packaged lunches to take with us as a parting gift.

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Day 4: Ludwigslust to Lübz

Day Overview: Today we experience mostly flat terrain and only a little bit of graveled or sandy path. The weather is sunny and the landscape is pretty. I must be on the right medication; I am in a good mood.

Mile 23.7 (38.2 km): Leaving Ludwigslust with our picnic lunches packed away, the first obstacle comes as a surprise. Guidebook maps are flat and they do not fully explain that we have to ride up and over the railroad track. The hill is a pusher for all but the strongest cyclists.

Cute horse drawn wagonMile 9.4 (15.1 km): We are crossing the Elde Canal and notice the locks ahead. A bit further on, one has to pay attention to the map because vandals, which is an ancient German tribe that apparently still has a few members around, removed the path signs. In any event, when the path joins the road, turn right, then right again across the Elde River.

Soft gravel path near Garwitz-MatzlowMile 18.5 (29.8 km): We stop for coffee and sparkling mineral water in Garwitz-Matzlow. From here, we ride through the forest alongside the canal Müritz Elde Wasserstrasse; the direct translation is “water street.” The path is soft gravel and packed sand through the forest but improves after a couple of kilometers. When you get to a paved road, take it to the left; those darn vandals have been out and about again removing signs.light traffic road

Mile 25.4 (40.8 km): This is Parchim, one of the Brick Gothic (Backsteingotik) cities on the European Autoroute of Backsteingotik cities. Such cities in Northern Germany include Münster, Stralsund, Lübeck, and others. One of the Brick Gothic buildings here is St. Georges Church, built in 1220 but destroyed by fire in 1289 and rebuilt in 1307. After a quick lunch, we make our way along the north coast of the Wockersee towards Lübz, the home of Lübzer Bier – Yaa!

Mile 38.0 (61.1 km): We stop for the evening at Lindeneck, Eisenbeissstr. 29 19386 Lübz. They charge €45 per night for two people. This Pension is right on the bike path just as you enter Lübz from the west. It is a new building with small but clean rooms and a wonderful breakfast.

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Day 5: Lübz to Röbel

Day Overview: We start the day with a gentle grade that gains about 50 feet in elevation as we leave Lübz. The weather forecast is for thunderstorms but as in the US, German weather forecasts can be wrong. We ride on cobblestone in the morning until we pass Kritzow. Cobblestone is good if you have any loose filling you want to vibrate out; otherwise, it is not my favorite path condition. Until you get to Plau, the path is paved even if some of it is cobblestone. After Plau, there are about 10 kilometers of gravel path, at one point the path is bumpy from roots and loose gravel. The terrain has rolling hills but nothing too steep until you get about 35 kilometers into the ride. At that point, there are two short but steep pitches to push up. One of the neat things today is we ride down two long sun-dappled ‘Allee” or roads between two rows of old deciduous trees. It is picturesque and so European.

PlauPlau drawbridgeMile 13.8 (22.2 km): After about 15 kilometers of cobblestone, we finally reach Plau. We break for a Milchkaffe (think coffee latté) on the banks of the canal. I am impressed by the little drawbridge and there are pictures on the left. Leaving Plau, we ride south along the west side of Plauer See over some primitive and gravel path that finally ends at Bad Stuer. As we leave Bad Stuer we climb gradually over a 100-foot hill.

Mile 25.4 (40.9 km): In Rogeez, we stop at a sign for a Hügelgrab, or a grave mound in English. The grave here dates back 3,500 years to the Bronze Age. From here, we climb up another 80 feet on sandy, gravelly path.Checking the local map

Mile 27.8 (44.7 km): This is Käselin. A wide spot on the road with two streets, Short Street and Long Street.

Mile 40.6 (65.4 km): After riding down another quaint Allee (road between rows of trees) we enter Röbel. Our intention is to catch a tour boat here and float on the Müritz See to Papenberg near Waren.

Boat on the Mueritz LakeThe Müritz See is the largest lake in Germany and the center for tourism in this region. We are disappointed to learn that the boat left just before we arrive at the dock. That has happened to us twice this year, on this tour and on the Ems Tour. So, fresh out of alternatives, we ask the nearby tourist information office to find a place for us to stay here in Röbel and a rather interesting place it turns out to be. The “Hostel” is called the Alter Synagogue, Engelscherhof Kl. Staven Str. 11, 17207 Röbel/Müritz, telephone 49039331/53344. As you might guess from the name, the Hostel is in a former Jewish Synagogue turned into a conference center and arts school. Our guidebook says the building is under the protection of the historic landmark designation. It commemorates the 200-year history of the Jewish community in Röbel, which ended with “deportation” in 1943. There are several rooms, I would guess about ten or so, that are primarily used for attendees to the various events but open to tourists like us when not otherwise occupied. We are the only guests tonight. This evening, a group of college-age women who are studying music treat us to a choral concert. The concert is one of those special things that happen to travelers when they least expect it.

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Day 6: Röbel to Mirow

Day Overview: We start the day in a bakery around the corner from the hostel because the hostel does not do breakfast. Like most bakeries, you can purchase a continental breakfast off the menu and eat it there. Unlike most bakeries, this one has booths instead of the typical stand-up tables. Our day starts with glorious weather and we are headed for the ferryboat dock.

View from ferry on lakeView from boat againMile 0 (0 km): After riding 1.4 km to the boat dock, we pay €10.50 each for the ferry/tour boat ticket and depart for Waren. Taking the boat shortens our ride by 29 kilometers. I reset my odometer on the boat so our mileage will start in Waren. The map in the guidebook shows the path around the lake is mostly gravel. If you ride around instead of boating, just add 29 or 30 kilometers to my mileage for comparison. Waren is quaint. We check out the public market in the square and purchase some supplies for our picnic lunch later on. We also make a quick visit to a bicycle repair shop to replace my brake pads. I spring for the expensive kind that means the next time I need pads, all I have to purchase is the rubber instead of the whole assembly.

Mile 14.7 (23.7 km): We stop for an afternoon break in Boeker Mühle.

Alter from Larz ChurchMile 23.0 (37.0 km): Just before Lärz, we cross the Müritz-Havel Wasserstrasse. There is that word again. The picture of the altar is from the church in Lärz.

Mile 27.5 (44.3 km): We stop for the evening in Mirow. Again, we check with the tourist information office to find our accommodation. They recommend we stay with Frau Ewert, Strelitzer Strasse 21. She charges €45 per night for two people.

Mirow was first mentioned in 1226 as a settlement of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, Die Johanniter, a Protestant order. Back then, they were part of - or descended from - the Knights Hospitaller, which was founded in 1080 to care for the sick and injured people returning from the crusades. (Hmmm … “Sort of like the US Veterans Administration.” he said with a smirk on his face.) The word Mirow stems from the Slavic word for peace or place of peace.

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Day 7: Mirow to Neustrelitz

Mirow SchlossLove Island MirowGrounds of Mirow SchlossDay Overview: In Mirow, we investigate the Schloss and the adjacent Liebesinsel (Love Island). The town originally was a mere settlement on this island but later come to encompass much of the land surrounding the present townsite. The Schloss is the birthplace of Sophie Charlotte who became Queen of England after marriage to King George III. We find a tomb here of Adolph Friedrich VI. He committed suicide in 1918 after being accused of treason and espionage. I zero my odometer at the tourist information office in Mirow. The path goes through a rolling landscape but the hills are less than 40 feet in elevation gain and loss; just enough to keep life interesting.

Mile 10.5 (16.9 km): After leaving Neu Canow, we experience some sandy path conditions and even have to climb a steep pitch while enduring the sand. Shortly thereafter, the path turns to Plattenweg. A Plattenweg is something that seems only to occur in the former East Germany. The communists seemed to enjoy making prefabricated concrete panels that they would use to build not only roads but also buildings, retaining walls, and just about anything else they could think of. For bicycles, these roads are tooth-jarring and darned uncomfortable.

Rocks from all over ScandinaviaMile 15.9 (25.6 km): In Wesenberg, we stop at a display of rocks. Sound interesting? Well if you answered no, you would be wrong. The rocks here are all found locally but they were carried here by glaciers and they are mostly from Scandinavia. Rocks of all types and origins are plainly labeled and one can envision how this part of Europe came to have such a diversity of stones. Also in Wesenberg, we discover that the route has been altered a little, directing bicyclists through more of the town. Just follow the signs and you will end up on the correct path through a residential section.

Mile 19.9 (32.0 km): We break for lunch on the shores of a lake. The sun is warm and apparently so is the water. Three adult bicyclists were skinny dipping in the lake as we ate our picnic lunch. I mention this only because skinny dipping in public is not such a rare occurrence in Europe and one should not be surprised or shocked. I do not have a picture, sadly. Picture taking of naked people is impolite - not to mention disappointing, and downright scary.

SlavindorfMile 27.4 (44.1 km): While still on a gravel path, we ride past a sign that says Slavindorf. It is a tourist trap but supposedly represents a Slavic village at the beginning of the Iron Age. This area was occupied mostly by Slavic peoples. I am unimpressed but our party nevertheless gathers a few souvenirs from the vendors here.

Mile 28.4 (45.7 km): This is the center of Neustrelitz and the end of the tour for now. We hope to return someday and finish this tour to Wolgast; but now it is time to find a room for the night and then take the train home to Kassel. We choose the Öko-Hotel Fabrik at Sandberg 3a, 17235 Neustrelitz; telephone 03981/203145. They charge us €50 for two people per night but the posted rates are €65. I am not sure why we got such a deal because it is rare in Germany to cut rates (or any prices for that matter).Neustrelitz Neustrelitz Neustrelitz

The hotel is a former Kachelofenfabrik or tile oven factory that closed several years ago. As a historical aside, it used to be common for houses and apartments to be heated with a large tile stove almost reaching the ceiling. It was used as an oven at times and it burned wood or coal (frequently brown coal). These ovens could be plain Jane or works of charming and beautiful craftsmanship. It is interesting to look into the museum and see pictures of the factory in operation.

The hotel is about 1.5 kilometers west of the tourist information office and is across from a grocery store. We drop our luggage off at the room and pedal back to the Bahnhof to purchase train tickets for tomorrow morning. We also score a couple of bottles of wine at the store to celebrate completing the tour, at least the part that we planned to complete this year.

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