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Mulde River Bicyle Tour

This page describes the bicycle path along the Mulde River. The Mulde is a river system that flows from Saxony into Saxony-Anhalt, states in the former East Germany south and west of Berlin and north of Dresden. The Mulde has two main branches known as the Zwickauer Mulde and the Freiburger Mulde. The two branches come together near the village of Sermuth about half way to Dessau and the end of the tour.

Tour Overview: Map of MuldeJune 18, 2012. This is a 186-mile, 300-kilometer tour. We chose the Zwickauer Mulde as it seemed a little less hilly than the Freiburger Mulde. The source of this eastern branch of the river is near Schöneck in the German state of Saxony. Lacking an exact measurement, I estimate that 30% to 40% of the time the cycle path is on roads with traffic, sometimes medium-heavy traffic. The balance of the route is on bike paths or field ways (Feldwege). I would also guess that 75% or more of the path is paved, if not with asphalt then with cement (Plattenwege), cobble, or pavers. In the rural areas you can frequently see wildlife. On this tour we saw deer, fox, many different birds including herons and storks. Of course, wildlife does not include the domestic farm animals which are also interesting to an ex-farm boy like me.

We rented e-bikes for this ride. Sure we have our own bicycles that are great for most of the rides around Germany but this ride was advertised as being hilly, especially for the first two or three days. That many hills can sap your strength, your enjoyment, and your sense of humor. We are both glad we did. Maxa said that without the e-bikes, she would have hopped a train for Zwickaue the first day.

What is an e-bike? I have added an explanitory page about e-bikes here.

Signage: The signage sucks. The signage between Schöneck and Hartenstein at mile 35 (56 km), is almost nonexistent. We do not recommend the top of this tour for anyone but those who read German fluently. For the first 56 km there is one lonely sign. However thereafter, the signage was excellent. If you want good signage, start at Zwickau. Or, if you can manage only 6 km without signs, start in Aue. Both Zwickau and Aue have rail connections. If you are fluent in reading Deutsch, you can simply follow the text in the guidebook from Schöneck to Burg Stein near Hartenstein. Path signs below are typical of the ones that do exist. Note the graphic of the circular castle, it is the official Mulde Cycle Path.

Local cycle route around SchoeneckSign showing map of Mulde RadwegThe bottom flag shows the Mulde pathTypical PathsignAnother typical pathsign

Accommodations: There is no shortage of good accommodations along the way. We have ridden in the former East Germany many times over the last 13 years and every year we find more and more overnight accommodations. Today, there is little if any difference between the qualities of the accommodations in the former East than in the West.

Stops: We stopped the first time in Rautenkranz because of a late start. Nevertheless, this village is worth a peek. It has space museum (Deutsche-Raumfahrtausstellung) because Germany’s first astronaut came from this village. Other stops include Zwickau, Colditz, and Dessau.

Maps and Guidebooks: Bikeline guidebook for Mulde RadwegWe used the bikeline guide Mulde-Radweg Vom Erzgebirge nach Dessau Radtourenbuch, 1:75,000 by Verlag Esterbauer GmbH. While the text is in Deutsch, a map is a map in any language.

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Day 1: Schöneck to Rautenkranz

Day Overview: The good news is the path is all paved today on medium to low traffic roads. The bad news is the path is hilly but overall the drop is almost 500 feet. Also, the day is short because of our late start time; for consummate bikers that could also be bad news.The top of the Mulde River

Mile 0 (0 km): The little train from Zwickau arrives in Schöneck, which is about 100 kilometers south of Chemnitz, at 4:30PM. (Schöneck translated means beautiful corner – sort of). Since the first third of the cycle route is not well signed so we do not bother looking for signs but rather look for traffic signs in the direction of Hammerbrücke. We know we have to share the road with traffic but fortunately the traffic is light.

Mile 7.6 (12.3 km): Beutiful corn flowers near HammerbrueckeAfter a couple of hills we drop into Hammerbrücke. We are loosing altitude fast even if we do have to climb some hills. Hammerbrücke is 400 feet lower than where we started. We did find our first path sign in Hammerbrücke but we were not sure it was right so we simply read the guidebook text (in German, of course) and took Neuenstrasse north toward Jägersgrün. Jägersgrün is the name for one village, which is a part of the larger community of Tannenbergsthal. In Germany, many small villages are grouped together under a central town management that may have different names than shown on maps.

Mile 11.1 (17.9 km): Our room in the Pension FrischhuetteWe stop in Rautenkranz for a very enjoyable evening and night at Landgasthof and Pension Frischhütte, Schönheider Str 5; 08262 Muldenhammer Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz; telephone 037465-2515. Their email address is service@Frischhütte.de and the website is www.frischhuette.de. The cost is €50 for one night for two people. There are 7 double rooms and 3 single rooms each with TV, etc. The business is owned by family Gieger. They serve good German food with a full menu and we ate outside in the fresh air on one of the longest days of the year. Picture of our room before we messed it up with our junk.

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Day 2: Rautenkranz to Zwickau

Day Overview: We climb and descend a lot of hills today. By day’s end, we will have dropped 1,500 feet from the start of the tour in Schöneck. We also find some errors in the distances described in our bikeline guidebook. The drop into the village of Eichert (a part of Aue) is very steep but fun.

Mile 6.2 (10.0 km): Hay bale sculptureAs we ride past Schönheide, we giggle at the large round hay bales stacked to resemble a ma and pa with domestic duties. Ma and Pa Bale are shown with some domestic tools.

Mile 8.6 (13.8 km): Sharing the road and riding uphill into Eibenstock, we appreciate the assist that our rented e-bikes are giving us. This technology simply flattens hills that would otherwise sap our strength and perhaps our sense of humor as well. Even in the village, we keep climbing to gain a total of 166 feet from the hay bale sculpture. We both think that Eibenstock is a cute town even if it is inconveniently placed (for bicycle riders) at the top of a hill.

Eibenstock churchEibenstockAntique mile marker in Eibenstock

Mile 10.2 (16.4 km): Quary near BockayAfter a sharp left turn off the paved road onto a forest path outside of Eibenstock, we make our way down a steep hill on a dirt, two-track forest path. At the end (11.7mile and 18.8 km) we are back on pavement and next to an active quarry where they are digging into a hillside of solid rock. I think this is the granite that is used for road paving cobblestone among other things.

Mile 15.8 (25.5 km): This is Bockau, the homes and other buildings are stacked against a hill that we must climb. We are again thankful for our e-bikes. At the top there are three options, two paved and one gravel road. Confused, we ask a local who tells us the paved path is the correct one. It seems to gently follow a contour line through the forest climbing ever so gently until it comes to an intersection about 4 km through the forest. From there, we coast down a steep hill into Eichert a part of Aue.

Mile 20.1 (32.7 km): Roten Kirche in Aue or Red ChurchIn Aue, we continue to follow the text in the guidebook due to the lack of any path signs. One of the landmarks is a “Roten Kirche” or red church that I show in the margin.

Mile 24.1 (38.8 km): At a roadside picnic table we eat our sack lunch; some fruit from the grocery store and a Brötchen left over from breakfast. This is the place where the alternative path shown in the guidebook makes it way up a steep hill to the town of Wildbach and then back down steeply to Burg Stein. We pass on the alternative because of the hill and share a medium heavy traffic road. Along that road we find an information sign with several posters showing mining activity where Russian German firms mined for uranium, manganese, arsenic, and other rare elements during the cold war. The mining is all over now and the mines are flooded but the clean-up seems to be taking longer than the mining did.

Mile 26.6 (42.8km): Burg Stein or Rock CastleThis is Burg Stein ("Rock Castle?") where an alternative path rejoins the main path. Yea! Here is the first path sign that looks official. From here on to Dessau, the path is signed though we do not see another for about 6 kilometers. I do not know why they do not sign the first 60 kilometers of this cycle tour path. Perhaps by the time you read this, they will have better signage.

Mile 37.0 (59.5 km): Dropping down and climbing up hills we finally come to a small Bahnhof for the suburb of Cainsdorf. Interestingly, we have to ride through the train station (not the building itself, just the platforms) to follow the path so we do.

We ride through a covered bridge before approaching Zwickau. Occasionally, we find these along the cycle path but I always think they are special so I photographed it and stitched four individual pictures together to show you a panorama. Some of these bridges date from the late Middle Ages as does this one. (Realizing the thumbnail is a little fuzzy please click on it to enlarge it.)

Old bridge after Reinholdshain

Mile 39.8 (64.1 km): At the Tourist Information Office we booked a room at Pension am Dom (a Dom is a Cathedral so this is the "B&B by the Cathedral"). It is right in the center of the Altstadt or the historic center of the town. Even though centrally located, the Pension is on a quiet pedestrian street so there is no traffic noises or church bells to keep us awake. Peggy Simon is the owner and is very friendly and helpful. This is a small Pension with perhaps 5 or 6 rooms but they are nice, clean, and roomy. In the room, the floors, ceilings, walls, and furnished in knotty pine that gives it a rustic appearance. However, the rooms are modern and comfortable. The bathroom has a shower - or rather the shower has a bathroom. What I mean is there is no separation, not even a shower curtain, between the shower and the toilet and sink. We have seen this before and we find in most instances the roll of toilet paper gets wet but fortunately, this room is better planned. The shower sprays into a corner and the room is large enough so the toilet area stays dry.

The address for Pension am Dom is Marionstrasse 7 08056 Zwickau 0177/7967848. Their website is www.pension-zwickau.de and you can contact them through the website or at the email address info@pension-zwickau.de. There is no breakfast included but there are several nice bakeries near by and the Pension has a common kitchen if you want to fix your own breakfast. After dinner at the Bauhaus Zwickau, we met Birgit Lehmann and Emilia Graczyk for drinks. Birgit owns and operates, with Emilia’s help, the firm German Cycling Tours. Their website is GermanCyclingTours.com which organizes self-guided cycle tours (in English) on several of the popular mapped cycle routes in Germany. However, even though based in Zwickau, the Mulde is not one of the tours they offer.

Below are some photographs of Zwickau including the TI office, the Rathaus and a theater, the main pedestrian street, and an altar in one of the old churches in the city. Do click on the altar, it is amazing.

TI office ZwickauZwicau Rathaus and TheaterPedistrian street ZwickauAlter of Zwickau Church

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Day 3: Zwickau to Colditz

Day Overview: The hills begin to flatten out but that does not mean there are no hills to climb or to coast down. Like yesterday, most of the way is paved, partially because we are sharing the road with cars. Most of the time the roads are of the low traffic variety but for several kilometers, there was a lot of traffic. I know it will not seem like it because of the uphill climbs but you will drop almost 400 feet on this stage of the ride. Colditz is the site of a former POW jail during World War II. A documentary was done about the various escapes and attempted escapes from this “escape proof” castle on a hill overlooking the town of Colditz.

Mile 0 (0 km): Our start today was delayed a bit due to rain. It had rained during the night so we are expecting wet path conditions. That happens in a country that is as green as Germany.

Mile 6.3 (10.1 km): In Kassel, we live near a large factory that manufactures replacement parts for Volks Wagen and here just outside of Zwickau is another massive building painted in the blue and white VW colors. I now have seen three VW “Werke” or factories, Kassel, Zwickau, and Wolfsburg. OK, OK, you say that that is such a big deal but I try to bring you all the news fit to print, don’tchaknow.

Mile 12.7 (20.5 km): We stop for coffee at Bauernstübl, just south of Reinholdshain. A cute place right on the cycle path. They serve Sternquell beer from Plauen, a town nearby; it is tasty, tasty. Zwickau itself has two local beers; Priesterhell, and Mauritius. I have to taste the local beers as we pedal around Germany. Many are good, some are not my taste but I do so only out of a sense of duty to you, our readers. Maxa thinks, incorrectly, that I have other motivations but I assure you it is for only for your benefit.

Mile 17.2 (27.6 km): Sculpture in farmer's feildWe negotiate about a kilometer of mud puddles on a gravel path that would be fine if it were dry. I snap a photograph of a “sculpture” in the middle of a farmer’s hay field. On the farm where I grew up, if someone had put a pile of sticks in our hayfield, we would have run over it with our tractor. We are near Niederwinkle (translation is lower recess) but I do not understand what is lower about this village if we have to climb a hill to get to it.

Mile 20.8 (33.5 km): It starts to rain as we ride through Wolkenburg so we stop at a roadside restaurant and have a coffee and a beer.

Mile 31.2 (50.2 km): In Lunzenau we take several pictures of the Rathaus (city Hall), the Post Amt (post office), and some of the buildings around the square. Most buildings have been painted since 1989 (when the wall came down) but some like the brown building in the middle of the last picture and the Post Amt still look like the DDR times. In Germany, DDR times (Deutsche Demokratische Republik Zeit) means before the wall came down or before unification. We both got a chuckle from the cross in front of the church. It is a directional sign not a real cross. The small characters atop the two arms show the city park is to the left (three song birds on top) and the cemetery is to the right (a headstone). The vertical part is carved with the words, Stadt Zeit 1333 or city since 1333AD.

Lunzenau Post OfficeLunzenau directional crossLunzenau churchLunzenau unkept building

Mile 32.7 (52.7 km): The photograph below is of a “Bahnviadukt” or a railroad bridge built in the Romantic style. Shortly after taking this photo I almost got squeezed off the road. We have been sharing the road for several kilometers and as we rounded a bend in the road I could see in my mirror that a small truck was rapidly approaching from behind (the speed limit is 70 km/h) and unseen by the truck but I could see a redBahnviadukt Train viaduct automobile coming from the other direction. I correctly guessed the two would meet about where I would be in three seconds. I was right. As the truck crossed the centerline to pass me, the driver saw the red car. The car swerved into the ditch to avoid the truck and the truck tried to give it as much room as possible without hitting me. I was scared but untouched. I had enough room to pedal but just barely. Both the car and the truck stopped to see if any damage was done but we kept on because we did not think there would be damage. We did not hear any sound of collision. The truck simply passed us when its driver did not have a clear view of oncoming traffic. Another couple on a tandem following us thought that something bad would happen when they saw the circumstances. They did not stop either because there appeared not to be any damage to either vehicle.

Mile 46.5 (74.8 km): Colditz Castle and former POW prisonWe spent the night in Colditz at the Pension Alte Stadtmauer. The address is Am Graben 5 04680 Colditz; telephone 034381/53363. Breakfast is included in the €50 price of two people for one night. The rooms and the breakfast were OK but not what we have become used to. 2 or 3 Photos of Colditz The owners speak English because many of their guests are former Prisoners of War that were held in the Colditz Castle during World War II. The Castle was supposed to be a fortress towering on a cliff overlooks the village of Colditz from which escape was supposed to be impossible. Here they held allied officers who had previously escaped or attempted to escape from other prisons. The owners loaned out copies of the book, “Colditz: The Full Story” written by Pat Reid, one of the many prisoners who did escape. Of course, with my slow reading skills, I could only get through two chapters but I was still impressed.

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Day 4: Colditz to Bad Düben

Day Overview: OK, so it rained but the path was mostly level and paved with a few minor hills (except for the 100 foot hill leaving Colditz). Also, a long stretch was cycle path so we could avoid traffic – unusual for this tour.

Mile 0 (0 km): After climbing a 100-foot hill just after leaving Colditz, we touch the edge of Sermuth where the Freiburger Mulde merges with the Zwickauer Mulde. Photo of confluence

Mile 6.4 (10.3 km): Nimbeschen former CloisterWe pull up at a cloister ruin between Kleinbothen and Grimma. We learn that Katharina von Bora, (1499-1552) was was installed in a convent at the age of five.  At age 24 Katharina, with the help of Martin Luther, shee and 11 other nuns who had all heard Martin Luther’s preaching escaped from Nimbeschen Convent by hiding in a vendor's empty fish barrels. Two years later, she married Luther and subsequently bore him 6 children. Martin Luther is quoted as being so pleased with “Katie” that he would not trade the wealth of Croesus for the companionship of Katie. (I wonder if Katie called Martin “Marty.”)

Mile 11.1 (17.8 km): Having heard that the cycle path on the left bank from Grimma to Dehnitz is level and paved, we crossed the river just as we leave Grimma and took advantage of that knowledge. The guidebook shows both cycle paths.

Mile 11.8 ( km): Stopping for a coffee break in Nerchau at a pub, we learn the ten commandments of beer as follows:

    Die Zehn Bier Gebote The Ten Beer Laws (translated)
  1. Du sollst kein alkoholfrei trinken You shall not drink non-alcoholic beer
  2. Du sollst Hopfen und Maltz ehren You shall honor hops and malt
  3. Du sollst kein Bier wegschütten You shall not pour any beer away
  4. Du sollst täglich in eine Kneipe gehen You shall go to the pub daily
  5. Du sollst die Bedienung nicht belügen You shall not lie to the waitress
  6. Du sollst Deinen Wirt nicht bescheissen You shall not cheat the pub owner
  7. Du sollst am Sonntag zum Frühschoppen kommen You shall come in for an early beer on Sunday
  8. Du sollst nicht über Deine Brauerei lästern You shall not disparage the brewery
  9. Du sollst nicht unter 10 bier nach hause gehen You shall not take fewer than 10 beers home with you
  10. Du sollst wasser nur zum waschen benutzen You should use water only to wash with

And now you know the ten commandments of beer drinking.ThallwitzThallwitz

Mile 32.7 (52.6 km): Thallwitz has a very nice church and a palace or Schloss.

Mile 44.2 (71.2 km): We cross the Mulde again using a small passenger ferry outside the town of Gruna.Passenger Ferry near Gruna

Mile 48.2 (77.6 km): Looking for our overnight lodging we ask in Glaucha but all they have is hay beds. Hay beds in the barn are fun for kids on school trips or scouting outings maybe but not for Maxa and me. We hoped for a real Zimmer or Pension because in Bad Düben we expect to pay higher prices. Why? Because the “Bad” part of the name normally means a spa town with a clinic or so. The rooms are typically more expensive. In this case, we do not have a choice; Bad Düben has a lot of accommodations and there is nothing behind us.

Mile 51.6 (83.1 km): As we ride into Bad Düben in the rain, we pass the National Hotel and inquire about vacancies. They have one left so we take it. Hotels are not our normal choice for an accommodation but we are wet and tired and do not feel like shopping for lodgings at the Tourist Information Office. It turns out that we are quite pleasantly surprised. They have everything a cyclist would want, including secure bicycle storage. The cost is €69 for a double room for one night for two people including a full buffet breakfast with everything imaginable to choose from. The address is Ritterstraße 16, 04849 Bad Düben; Website: www.hotelnational.net; e-mail: info@hotelnational.net.

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Day 5: Bad Dübin to Dessau

 Day Overview: The path today has some gravel but is mostly paved . If it is wet, expect rain puddles in the gravel path. No hills today for a change.

Mile 0 (0 km): We have choices on paths leaving Bad Düben. We choose the one towards Pouch and Bitterfeld. From the guidebook, it looks as though the path along the river is paved and away from traffic. Paved – Smaved! It is gravel for 10 kilometers but we are used to gravel paths these past 13 years of cycling in Germany so we are not disappointed.Tiny black beetles on Maxa's vest

Mile 12.5 (20.1 km): Bitterfeld churchWe stop for a coffee/beer break in Bitterfeld. Maxa is wearing a yellow windbreaker vest and she is instantly set upon by hundreds of tiny black beetles. They are attracted to the color. We have encountered these little bugs before but not in such numbers. At times it seems like they form a cloud. After eating enough of them (accidently) we feel we do not need to stop for lunch.Dead end path but signed as though it isn't

Mile 24.9 (40.0 km): We faithfully follow the path signs leaving Retzau and note that the guidebook has us turning left off the highway onto a paved cycle path that eventually reconnects with the highway. Well guess what, slightly before we are to reconnect with the highway, the path becomes a grassy way and drops into a brushy wood where no self-respecting cyclist would go. And judging from the tracks, few if any did go. Although we are standing next to a path sign, it is not a pretty sight. Stinging nettles drape onto the single track dirt path. What to do? Well we turn around and ride back to the highway, about 2 kilometers, and then take the highway that we were to join anyway. This highway is called a Landstrasse so it is not as busy as some but today it is busy enough to make us want to get off it as soon as possible. We note that a gas pipeline has been buried next to the highway and perhaps they will put a bicycle path atop the gas line. Reaching the turnoff to Kleutsch we finally turn left off the highway.

Mile 35.4 (57.0 km): We stop at the Tourist Information Office in Dessau and find that the town is pretty full with tourists and business people who have taken up many of the available rooms. We agree to a booking at the NH Hotel a block or two away and after dropping off our panniers, we tour Dessau taking a few photographs. The NH Hotel Dessau charges €82 for two people for one night including breakfast. The breakfast is wonderful in its breadth and depth. In the center of the old town, the NH Hotel Dessau address is: Zerbster Strasse 29, 06844 Dessau, Germany. Telephone +49 (0340) 25140: Website NH Hotel Dessau and the email is reservation.nhdessau@nh-hotels.com.

DessauDessauDessauTim and Maxa entering DessauDessauDessauDessau

Mile 37.0 (59.6 km): The end of this Mulde Tour is at the Bahnhof in Dessau.

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