This was the longest 'riding' day I've had on any tour. It started in Poland at 9 AM and ended in Hamburg, Germany at about 1:40 AM. I rode my bicycle in Poland - 19 km to the Czech border. I rode in the Czech republic - about 80 km from the border with Poland (on a main road) to the border with Germany (on a bike path). Then I rode perhaps 10 km in Germany, to Zittau's centrum - to get Euros - and to its train station - to get a train to Hamburg. That part of the day ended at at about 6 PM. Then there were the train rides, and waits between trains that lasted till about 1:40 AM. It was a very long day...
When I got up, I wasn't sure that I could ride. The weather was marginal and my tummy was upset. I felt much worse than I had the day before. However, I knew this was the last day to ride to Germany if I was to get to Hamburg by the 25th. I had breafast, packed my bike, paid my bill - right at 75 Euro for the three days, with meals - said goodbye, and headed towards the Czech border.
My body got tested immediately: almost 18 of the 19 km to the border was climbing. the first six km, was climbing to Szklarksa Poreba, the next three km was climbing through Szklarksa Poreba, and then there was another 8 km before the road reached its crest, flattened out for half a km, and descended for half a km to the border. This was a good way to see how well my body functioned on the bicycle.
Most of this climbing was moderate grades, but I was down in my lowest gear - 17" - for part of it. I shifted into my small ring in the front within a few hundred meters of the start and didn't shift out again till the top of the climb. I went through some muscle pain a few km into the climb and my legs were feeling tired and sore at the top of that climb, but that was normal. I was pleased and now felt pretty confident I could make it to Germany unless there were some worse hills to come. Sortly before the border, I stopped at a service station and bought a liter of Coke and two Snickers candy bars. One advantage of the cold weather was that I could carry chocolate covered candy bars with me. I never d that in 'normal' touring weather because they melt and make a big mess. The border itself was easy, although I had to wait for half a dozen cars. I said hello to a couple coming the other way on their mountain bikes. It looked like they were headed for the bike routes in the mountains in Poland.
Riding down into the Czech republic was cold - I wore my parka with the hood under my helmet to keep the cold wind out of my ears - but it was warmer and there was more sunshine than there had been on the Polish side of the border. I took the parka off, but still wore a silk undershirt, a long sleeved nylon shirt and a wind vest for the rest of the ride.
Riding in the northeastern part of Czech Republic was very nice. there was a lot of climbing and descending, but, away from the border, the climbs and descents were not steep and the roads were almost perfect for bicycling. I saw lots of recreational cyclists all dressed up, riding fancy road bikes - it was Sunday ;-)! This was a fine place for Sunday bike rides.
When it got down from the border, the road immediately climbed another ridge. I stopped part way up that ridge and had a candy bar and some coke. My stomach didn't protest. While stopped, I saw half a dozen recreational bike riders including a man and a woman with a 10 or 12 year old child and several older men. I was seeing so many riders I began to wonder if there was some kind of organized ride, but I decided it was just normal bicycling in the Czech republic. This was very different from Poland where recreational bicyclists are quite unusual. The roads were also quite different from Poland. Most Polish roads are too rough to ride comfortably on a road bike, but these Czech roads are smooth.
There is a lot of industry between Jablonec and Liberec, the big city in these parts, much of it connected with the automotive industry. Because of that, the riding wasn't pretty, but it was nice. Once north of Liberec, there was very little industry and the riding was very good.
I road into Liberec on 14, and left it to ride into the centrum of Liberec, looking for a restaurant that would take Visa. It was Sunday, and the town was closed. That meant no lunch for me, but given the uncertain state of my digestive system, that was OK. I rode of Liberec heading north on 13, which goes to Frydant. I wanted to go to Zittau, but it was easier, and as it turned out, much better, to ride 13 north. I stopped out side of town to eat my second candy bar and drink a bit of Coke, then rode on north, looking for 592, a short road from 13 over to Chrasatva.
When I turned west off of 13 onto 592, a rider coming the othe other way waved and smiled broadly. I figured that meant he really liked that road! It is part of Czech bikeroute 22, and was the start of my exposure to some really nice bike routes.
When I got to Chrasatva, I planned to get on 14, but it turned out that I could only get on it going back to Liberec, not going to Zittau. I asked a local bicyclist for help and she tould me I should ride the bike path to Haradek and follow the signs to Liberec, but go under the expressway and keep going.
I followed her instructions, and with a little more help from other local cyclists, found bikeroute 14 - I don't think the name is a coincidence - which enabled me to get to Germany without going through Poland. Highway 14 goes into Poland, then into Germany, but bikeroute 14, which roughly parallels it, goes directly to Germany, saving some border crossing fuss since that is now an internal EU border. It is also a very nice, and very popular, bike path.
Most of the riders on bikeroute 14 appeared to be local, but one young couple, whose speed was about the same as mine, passed me perhaps 10 km from Germany, and rode ahead of me all the way to Germany. I was a bit a loss what to do after the border, so I asked them how to get to the Zittau train station. They were Czech from Liberec. They both spoke German and Czech and she had some English. Intead of just telling me, they led me, quite a ways, down a German bike path and over lots of city streets - most of then cobblestone - to the station. We stopped an ATM on the way so I could get Euros. They were riding to Zittau, but they went a long way out of their way to be nice to me.
At the train station, I asked for a ticket to Harburg and then realized that it was the wrong Harburg. The last stop before that Harburg was Danau-something and Hamburg is not near the Danube! The agent did not speak English, but another fellow who was behind me, stepped in to translate and I got a ticket to Hamburg-Harburg for 84 Euro. The train left in 8 minutes. My helper was also going on that train - to Dresden - so he helped me with the bike then and at Dresden.
When I was on the train, I looked more closely at my ticket. I was supposed to arrive in Harburg at 1:15 AM! Ooops! I asked my new friend - he is a student in Communications at a tech school in Dresden - if he had a mobile (phone) so could call and tell my friends. He did, and, after several calls, we managed to get my friend Dirk who said, happily - that is what friendship is about, that he would meet me at 1:15.
I still hadn't eaten anything except the candybars, so, in Dresden, I bought two cookies from a machine with the 1 Euro coin I got when I bought my ticket. Then, about 8:30, I was able to buy a slice of Pizza at Leipzig. I had only short waits for those two train changes. At Uelzen, I waited for over an hour at the closed station for the last train, which was late.
I was the only one getting on or off there and they didn't have bike car, but they did have one 2nd class car at at the end of a along train of empty fancier cars. I had to go to that car. They didn't even bother to come all that way back to check my ticket ;-(, but they did get me to Harburg and my friend Dirk about 1:40 in the morning.