PM August 18, 2005
I guess I am getting one last note from Germany. I made it to Frankfurt
and will be flying out tomorrow morning at 11:30 barring any interference
from the Pope...
It was a little disappointing--I couldn't squeeze in one last bike ride
this morning. I had another flat tire on the way towards Weimar while I
was still in town and I simply didn't have the tools that I need to fix a
flat. The flat I had in Wittenberg was really fortunate since I was with
someone who did.
It was probably good because it gave me the morning to walk around the Old
City and really have a good look at what remains of the Old University,
the old St. Michael's Church, and to sit for a while in the beautiful
garden-like setting below the Kramer Rucker (the old Cramer Bridge with
it's many shops and homes) which was definitely a part of the scene and
quite close by when Luther was a University student. It is also
interesting that the towers of the Augustinian Cloister are also in plain
view. I'm attaching a picture of a simple building that was used for
student housing during the time of Luther that is partially built over the
It's funny--biking slowed me down to really see parts of the German
countryside--I think I ate more Thuringer Sausage and Bratwurst at
roadside stands than I would have ever imagined. I have spoken and
misspoken more German. And I certainly saw the Luther sites in a way that
we simply couldn't on a "bus tour", but I can also see how even on a bike
I simply zoomed by historic sites without knowing what they were. There
was an old stone house that held the first Gutenburg Printing Press in
Erfurt--that was on a street that I biked by on the way to the Internet
Café without even a thought. As I think back, that was probably true in
Jerusalem as well.
As I sit here in the Holiday Inn in Frankfurt typing these entry, I'm also
watching the disengagement from Kfar Darom in Gaza. It's striking that
none of the actual settlers from Gaza are involved--all of the protestors
are from the West Bank and Israel. I guess that it is also possible to
focus too much on a single synagogue. The real question there, of course
is whether the Israelis will use the trauma to avoid disengagement from
the West Bank and the 180 illegal settlements and 250,000 settlers there.
And of course, there is Jerusalem itself--will the Israelis let the
Palestinians have East Jerusalem? There won't be any answers to those
the really big news here is the Pope visiting the Jungentag Celebration in
Cologne. Although you can get the news about Gaza on CNN and CNBC, all of
the German TV is about the Pope. It's been building up since the
beginning of the week. And the train connection from the Frankfurt Banhof
to the Airport was rather crowded with young people because it was going
on to Cologne. It's nice to know that there can be good news on TV some
times, at least in some places.
It was very refreshing to bike those 350 miles in the last two weeks--a
very nice way to "decompress" after the two challenging months in
Jerusalem. And I have picked up a number of maps and brochures and guides
to the area so I definitely plan on coming back to explore the Radwegs
which follow the river ways and also the mountain ridges.
On the train ride from Erfurt to Frankfurt, the forests and hills
continued well into Hesse, the Land or "State" immediately west of
Thuringia. And from the maps that I have, I can see that the biking
trails go in most every direction. I certainly hope to have some
conversations with some of you about coming back to Germany to do some
biking in the future.
Well, I guess I'd better take a shot at trying to e-mail this note, or to
put it on a disk and take it down to the internet stations downstairs.
--Bob Jones, in front of the TV in Frankfurt
PM August 17, 2005
This may be my last e-mail from Germany. I'm back at the Cloister in
Erfurt and tomorrow I return to Frankfurt with my return flight to Tucson
on Friday arriving around 9:30 PM. It really is hard to believe that my
time here is already nearly over. But then again it was not what I was
expecting to do either.
I'm attaching that picture of the young pastor from Wittenberg as I
promised and also a picture of a rose in front of one of the windows at
the Augustinian Cloister here in Erfurt. The weather really has turned
nice and sunny--after nearly a solid week of cool rainy weather. On the
other hand, I noticed on the climbs biking from Schmalkalden to
Zella-Mehlis that when the sun is really out and it warms up, it is also
really quite humid. So the cooler wetter weather is not entirely a bad
They were having a big town festival in Schmalkalden with all sorts of
street vendors and flags flying and quite a few crowds, in rather dramatic
contrast to so many of the other towns that I've visited in the past
week. I picked up a free map of Bike Routes in Thuringia which includes
Erfurt, Weimar, Gotha, Eisenach, and Schmalkalden: All of the towns south
and west of Erfurt. I also got a larger map of Germany and Europe for
only 5 Euro. Given how incredibly cheap and easy it is to get around here
in Germany, and with some new biking friends here, I have no doubts that I
will be coming back for more visits.
Although I haven't done a complete tally, I believe that my costs for
housing, food and ground transportation (including a bike rental) for the
13 days should come in around $1200--and that includes a very expensive
Eurail Select Pass, which I really didn't need. A German Rail Select Pass
would have cost about $100 less. It's hard to say whether that would be
cheaper or individual tickets: The cost today for a 2nd Class Ticket on
the Erfurt Express (you have to go second class with a bike) would be less
than 8 Euro or about $10, the trip from Erfurt to Eisenach, and from
Torgau to Erfurt would all be proportional--I doubt that any of them would
have been over about $40. On the other hand, the ICE train from Frankfurt
to Erfurt would have been closer to $90.
guess that I really should look at my Credit Card Bills before I come to
any definite conclusions, but I can say that it seems a lot cheaper than I
expected. I could have stayed at less expensive Pensions here in Erfurt
than here at the Cloister, though frankly, it's nice to have a
more-or-less familiar and spiritual & home away from home as a base of
operations. The same is true for the Cyber-Café that I've been using over
by the Ratskeller in Old Town. The guy that runs it keeps asking me if I
want to bring over my lap top instead of fighting with their Computers
with their German Keyboards. It only costs me 2 or 3 Euro every couple of
days and I get an excellent & free cup of coffee to boot, so I really
Well, I do want to get these e-mails sent this evening before it gets
dark. The bike may have a generator and a light on it, but I still don't
like biking after dark. I also need to get my reservations in at the
Holiday Inn in Frankfurt for tomorrow night.
--Bob Jones, winding things down in Erfurt
7:30 AM August 17, 2005
The ride to Schmalkalden was beautiful but challenging. I took the train
from Erfurt to Eisenach, where I had biked a week ago. There is something
a bit disheartening about covering the same territory in less than an hour
that took a full day of biking. I had had a similar experience taking the
train back from Torgau to Erfurt yesterday.
And then there was the bike ride over the mountains. It starts the same
as heading to Wartburg Castle, but then you stay on Highway 19, a narrow
busy highway with lots of curves and no shoulders. When I got to the top,
I found that there is a bike path that goes exactly where I wanted to
go--the famous Rennsteig. I had talked with the guys at the bike shop and
they were a bit vague about it when I extended the rental yesterday
In any case, I took the path along the ridge for a while, but decided not
to follow it all of the way--some 20 kilometers (12 miles) along the ridge
of a mountain. The paths are really quite smooth--better than our forest
service roads, but looking at all of the selective log cutting along the
way, I suspect that they are the German equivalent.
I rejoined Highway 19 and took a break at Castle Frankenstein--yes, it's a
partially redeveloped ruin that goes back over 1000 years. There is a bed
and breakfast right next to it, but I decided to bike on to Schmalkalden,
which is smaller town than the other Lutherstatten.
Unfortunately, I got into town just after 6:00 PM, which meant that the
Information Office that I had been using to line up a Pension was already
closed. So I was on my own on finding a place to stay.
I biked up a steep road by the Castle Gardens and found a place called
“Quest”, but they were not really a Pension or Hotel even
though Gasthof was in their name. The proprietress showed me a Hotel
Guide and sent me back into town. I found a very nice hotel on the edge
of town for only 44 Euro ($55) with a Breakfast Buffet. The room is
really remarkable--it's a dormer with a large skylight onto the roof that
has clear glass and looks up the hill to an orchard.
I really should have taken it easier yesterday--I now have a sore throat.
But I really didn't have a choice--they had no room at the Cloister in
Erfurt for last night, and I guess I could have found another (probably
cheaper) Pension, but it seemed a waste. So I'll be back there tonight.
From here, I plan to see some of the sights--the Rathaus where all the
princes met to form the Schmalkald Alliance against the Holy Roman Empire
and the Lutherhaus, where Luther wrote the Schmalkald Articles--one of his
last confessional statements of faith. I'm attaching a picture of the
view of the church right next to the Rathaus as views through the entrance
to the Wilhelm Castle. And then I plan to bike on to Armstadt, if I feel
up to it--or I take the train either to Eisenach or more directly to
As I said, biking through the forests of Thuringia is absolutely
beautiful, but the hills are quite a challenge.
--Bob Jones, biking the hills and forest of Thuringia
9:00 PM August 15, 2005
I'm back safe and sound at the Augustinian Cloister in Erfurt. I decided
to bike on over to Torgau, where Katy Luther died some 8 years after
Martin Luther died in Eisleben. Torgau was one of the "royal
headquarters" of the Reformation and with the Electors of Saxony and the
first successful alliance against the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman
Catholic Church. I'm attaching a picture of the castle on the Elbe River
which is really quite pretty for a fortress of the Reformation.
I didn't really have a lot of time there, since I also wanted to take the
train back to Erfurt and get here in time to get into the Cloister before
the Reception Desk closes at 6:00 PM. Connections were close with about 5
minutes between trains, but also rather easy since I only had to change
trains twice and both times it was moving from one side of the platform to
the other. There were also quite a few cyclists using the trains to avoid
the longer and more boring parts of bike tours. Some folks here also seem
to use a combination of bikes and trains for their working commutes.
It turns out that I didn't need to worry as they are having to large
groups here and the desk remained open well after that. At the same time,
it feels very good to be back again after a three day jaunt of about 180
I'm figuring on a final trip over to Smalkalden before I head back to
Frankfurt for my flight on Friday, but I haven't decided whether I want to
bike over and use the Eurail Pass on the way back or vice-versa. I know
that there will be some real climbing in the Thuringian Forest--I ran into
a little of that on the ride back from Eisenach, but I'm not sure exactly
how tough it's going to be. The one thing that is certain, is that most
of the real climbing will be there.
Smalkalden is the last of the Reformation sites that is really in
reasonable biking distance for one or two day bike rides from Erfurt. I
should also include Augsburg and Worms, but they really are too far away.
I'll have to consider them another time. And given how easy it is to bike
and vacation here in Germany, I definitely expect there to be another
I also want to really take some time and look at the Luther sites here in
Erfurt--the churches where Luther preached here and what is left of the
University. To be honest, I haven't really taken a tour of the grounds or
even seen the reconstructed cell where Luther lived as a monk here. Most
of what I've done, is to sleep and eat breakfast here, join them in
morning and evening prayer in the big church when I'm here, and used the
facilities as a "home base" for storing my excess luggage that I don't
want to carry on the bike trips.
The original monastery was destroyed during World War II except for a few
doorways and outer walls and parts of the basement of the library where
over 200 were killed in a bombing raid at the end of the war. They have
me really inside the Cloister this time--not just in the Guest House Rooms
over the Reception Desk. I think that they like to put people who are
less familiar up in the front where they can easily find their way
I have to admit that I could really get comfortable here in Germany--much
more so than in Jerusalem. The 10% unemployment and the political turmoil
here are really minor compared with the horrendous things that are
happening every day in Israel and Palestine. The pro- and anti-NAZI signs
around Weimar and the Marxist signs over in Gotha are a little unnerving,
since I have know way of knowing exactly how large a following the extreme
political groups really have.
The physical climate is a bit of a challenge--even in the Summer (it does
make me wonder what the Winter is like). But the culture is very
congenial, the food is absolutely fantastic (if it weren't for the biking,
I'd get very fat here) and the people seemed quite impressed with my
efforts at German, though I mangle the grammatical gender right and left.
I am stunned at how much vocabulary is coming back and how much I
understand. I find that most everyone is quite self-deprecating about
their own knowledge of English, And it's probably because I take people
at their word about their poor knowledge of English that I struggle on in
I figure that the real sign that I'm fitting in, is when I forget whether
the last road sign or advertisement I read was in German or in English.
They do use a frightfully large amount of English in the Mass Media and
the German in advertising and on road directions is also very, very
clear. It's also nice being able to find my way around Erfurt without
needing a tourist map.
Well, it is getting late. I know one thing is certain--I couldn't find an
internet café in either Eisleben or Wittenberg, so I'll be sending this
e-mail along with the last couple of days and attaching pictures while I'm
--Bob Jones, finding my way around Erfurt again, without a map!
5:00 PM August 14, 2005
Stefan was much more comfortable working with his repair kit, so I let him
fix my flat. I exchanged mailing and e-mail addresses with both of them
and Andreas is going to be sending me digital pictures that he was taking
along the way with a much nicer digital camera than the one that I've been
working with. As they headed off for Berlin, I headed to church which was
I had not realized how many German hymns are common in Lutheran Churches
in the US. Virtually all of the tunes were familiar and I could make
sense of most of the words, though they went at a fairly good clip. I
recognized one lesson from the Book of Acts about the Conversion of St.
Paul, but I really couldn't follow the Gospel and they had no specific
references in the bulletin. The sermon was much too complicated.
Frankly, I'm surprised at how young the pastor is.
After church I went over to the Information Center and picked up an
English Language Digital Guide to the city for 6 Euro ($7.40) but I didn't
realize that I would also have to pay an entrance fee (an extra 5 Euro) to
get into the Luther House which was also a part of the "City Tour".
Still, it was definitely worthwhile. They have the actual pulpit from
which Luther preached in Wittenberg and about 2000 of his sermons. The
house was completely redone as a museum, but they left quite a bit of the
original masonry exposed so that you could get a sense of the actual
dimensions of the original house. Still, it was pretty good sized as
Martin and Katy Luther would often have up to 60 guests at their table for
supper and his famous "table talks".
They had a pretty good video production on the many movies about Luther
that have been made over the last 80 years, though they missed the newest
one in English. Apparently, it has been rather controversial here in
Germany, with a lot of Catholics objecting to the presentation--or so
Andreas and Stefan tell me.
It started raining in earnest as I walked over to the Oak Tree that marks
the spot where Luther burned the Papal Bull which excommunicated him from
the Roman Catholic Church. The original tree was chopped down, but they
planted another at the same spot about 150 years ago.
I decided not to stay at the Youthherberger another night--I don't mind
staying at a place like that if I know someone there, but I don't like the
forced intimacy with strangers. The Information Center that provided me
with the digital tour guide also contacted a very nice Pension for 36
Euro--right around $45 including breakfast. Frankly, it's a lot nicer
than the one in Eisleben, though I ran into my first flies here (most
places do not have screens on their windows, but they seem to have very
few flies or bugs). Still, I would say that the Information Centers
really do know what they're doing when it comes to matching up tourists
with Pensions--nice private homes that are happy and well equipped to have
guests for about half of what it costs to stay at a motel. Given how wet
my clothes are with the rain, the comfort and privacy of a nice Pension is
just what I need.
I attached two pictures to my last note--one was of the Luther Museum and
the other was of the young pastor who preached at the Schlosskirche in
Wittenberg. Sorry about the mix up. I'm afraid that when I do multiple
e-mailings like these, the photos can very easily get mixed up.
--Bob Jones, drying off after an interesting but wet day in Wittenberg
10:30 PM August 13, 2005
Eisleben was a little lonely and the trip was tiring. There was some
significant climbing on the last 20 miles and I could tell that the
weather was changing. I think what makes Erfurt so comfortable, even
though I'm really vacationing alone for these 12 days is the fact that the
Augustinian Cloister is really a worshipping and friendly community. Both
the staff and some of the folks who come regularly to morning and evening
prayer are getting to know me.
There's one woman who sings tenor with me so I'm not the only tenor voice
in a cloister that is made up of women with a few male guests. In my
case, I don't have problems with the chanting, which is Benedictine, but I
do have some problems keeping up with the language. Though people are
always amazed that I'm actually an American who is biking in Germany and
speaking some German.
I met a couple of cyclists in front of the house where Luther died in
Eisleben--Stefan, from Erlangen and Andreas, from Marktobendorf. They
were also biking from Eisleben to Wittenberg. Yes, Luther was born and
died in the same town of Eisleben. He returned to his home town to settle
a dispute, got sick and died while he was there.
Andreas and Stefan were great about finding bike paths along the Elbe
River that I would not have known about--there was a beautiful stretch
just after Dessau that went on top of the levies along the river and
through some forests for quite a distance. On the other hand, they have
the same strategy that I have of seeking secondary "farm roads" instead of
the major highways in order to avoid heavy traffic. The bike culture in
Germany is incredibly strong and diverse. They actually have
restaurants--both in the "old towns" and out in the country that cater to
cyclists. Some are actually along the "Radwegs" that would be frequented
by hikers and cyclists exclusively.
We stopped at Dessau at a warehouse that Andreas had learned about while
he was in Iran that was completely filled with bicycles. The doors were
closed, but we looked in the windows and it was true--it was completely
filled with bikes. Both Stefan and Andreas are mechanical engineers who
like to bike together on their holidays. They travel around the world in
connection with their work, but have decided that they want to vacation in
Germany--both because it's cheaper and they feel that they don't really
know their own home. Last year they biked from the Black Sea and the
Balkans to St. Petersburg, Russia: A trip of over 1000 miles. This year
is much shorter--from Erfurt to Berlin--220 miles.
Wittenberg is a popular destination for both cyclists and people traveling
along the Elbe on River Cruises and also canoeing or kayaking. We are
staying at a Youthherberger--not exactly the same as a Youth Hostel, but
very similar with dorm rooms with ten beds, shared showers and restrooms,
and a large common kitchen for everyone. It is actually inside the Castle
that is attached to the Church where Luther nailed the 95 Theses that
started the Reformation. I have no excuse for missing church tomorrow
since it's literally around the corner.
Neither Andreas nor Stefan are very religious, but they are surprising
knowledgeable and interested in discussing matters of religion--especially
concerning the new Pope. They seem almost excited that he's German and
that he's holding an International Youth Day in Cologne this month. They
are nominally "Protestant", but they see the differences between Lutherans
and Catholics in purely practical terms.
The Youthherberger is really oriented to cyclists--both young people and
families with children, but so are a lot of the Hotels and Pensions. It
only cost 18.50 Euro, or just over $20--I nearly spent as much on supper
at an "old fashioned restaurant" called Tante Emmai's, for an onion steak
that reminded me of some of my Grandmother's cooking (on the German side,
One not so good, but amazing note--I had a flat just as we came into
Wittenberg. It's great that it didn't happen anywhere else along the road
or we would not have made it before dark. Fortunately, Stefan has a
complete repair kit. He said that I could use it before they leave for
Berlin in the morning.
--Bob Jones, finding out about Bike Culture in Germany
8:30 PM August 12, 2005
It was every bit of 70 miles and then some--I know that Map Quest puts the
distance between Erfurt and Eisleben at 64.11 miles, but then again I
didn't exactly follow their route. I did take advantage of some bike
paths--sometimes they led no-where. One led to a surprising shortcut.
It started with a policeman asking me if I couldn't find another route--he
had just pulled over a farm tractor on the truck route out of Erfurt. It
was slowing traffic. I guess I was one more slow moving vehicle to him.
I explained that I really didn't know the area and he waved me on through.
I stopped outside of Stotterheim at the Lutherstein--a stone monument on
the spot where Luther was nearly struck by lightning which prompted him to
go to the monastery in the first place--the same monastery where I have
been staying in Erfurt. It turns out that I nearly followed a traditional
pilgrimage route from Erfurt to Mansfeldt, where Luther's parents were
living at the time that he decided to become a monk. Mansfeldt and
Eisleben are actually very close to each other.
To be honest, I was shocked how quiet it is here in Eisleben. Eisenach
was very quiet--Eisleben is nearly dead. I picked up a nice brochure on
all of the "Luther towns"--it highlights all of the historical places all
over Eastern Germany. It seems that an awful lot of places are nearly
closed for the month of August. Everyone is on vacation.
It held off from raining until I found a Pension--a private room in a
private home for 25 Euro--just over $30 with breakfast included. It was a
referral from the Information Center down the Street from the Train
Station. Frankly, it was quite a bit cheaper than the cloister in Erfurt.
It's cute in a decrepit sort of way--they have a skeleton key for the
room, but the door knob keeps falling off. They did have a fairly secure
place for my bike--inside and not on the street and they did have TV and a
shower. Though the bed was surprisingly narrow.
I ate supper at a sidewalk café in Old Town just below the main church in
town, near the Luther Statue. And it started pouring rain just as I
finished. I'm definitely glad that I bought that tiny collapsible
umbrella fir 2.50 Euro my first day in Erfurt. It was probably the best
$3.00 I ever spent.
I am beat, so I think I'll call it a night.
--Bob Jones, calling it an early night in the town where Luther was born
5:00 PM August 11, 2005
Well, I'm back safe and sound at the Augustinian Cloister in Erfurt. The
ride back was very easy--I had the wind at my back practically the whole
way. Since I had gotten into Eisenach so late yesterday afternoon and was
beat from fighting with the wind, I didn't really do much "sight seeing".
I definitely made up for it today--I biked back up to Wartburg Castle and
found out that it costs anywhere from 135 to 320 Euro to stay at the five
star hotel right next to it. It's cheaper to stay in Eisenach for half
of that and to bike up there for breakfast.
I took the footpath through the woods back into town, which was much
gentler than the road and fine for bikes. Still, it is much easier to
bike up to the Wartburg than up to Jerome from Cottonwood--except for the
last stretch past the bus parking lot. With the cobblestone roadway, I
found myself having to walk the bike up that last stretch. I'm attaching
a picture of myself at the Wartburg Entrance. I'm also attaching a
picture of a view of Eisenach just as you leave that footpath.
Since I had the time and I figured that the wind was pretty strong from
the west, I headed south into the Thuringian Forest. It is absolutely
beautiful. Even on an overcast day, it was wonderful. Karl Gutknecht
from Cycle Ventures International was absolutely right: Even if you have
no religious interests at all, the scenery and the riding down there is
I ran into a couple of serious "roadies" on the way back--one in the
forest and the other on the last stretch from Gotha back into Erfurt. I
didn't try to keep up with the first guy, since I didn't know the terrain,
but I was able to catch up and draft off of the second guy, since it was
the stretch that I had done the day before in the opposite direction. He
ran a red light and got ahead of me and then he turned off just before I
caught up with him in Erfurt so I didn't get to ask him who he was. I
guess we Americans aren't the only stupid cyclists out there.
The rest of the week looks like it's going to fall together rather
nicely--with these strong west winds, I think I'm going to start heading
north and west on the bike tomorrow: First to Eisleben, the birthplace of
Luther and then on to Wittenberg where the Reformation actually started.
My thinking is that I can reserve a room here on Sunday or Monday. The
weekend here is booked full. At 45 Euro including breakfast, and a very
good breakfast at that, this is definitely the cheapest place in Erfurt
and the sisters and the rest of the staff here are very kind.
Well, I'd better get moving. I'd like to send this and the other two
entries before they close down the Cyber Café down by the Ratthaus.
--Bob Jones, back in Erfurt, safe and sound (more-or-less)
9:15 PM August 10, 2005
I figure I'd better jot down a few notes here since I didn't bring along
the computer. It was an incredible pain strapping the backpack to the
rack on the rental bike--it kept falling off on one side or the other,
even after I bought a bungy cord to secure it. Still given the wind, and
the rough cobble stone roads and the unevenness of the bike paths which
appeared and disappeared from town to town, I'd say it was better than
lugging it on my back the whole way.
There were detours on both side of Gotha, which served as a half-way point
between Erfurt and Eisenach. The one on the first half wasn't bad and
actually took me by the family home of J. S. Bach --where his ancestors
were from--the little town of Wenchner, about 5 kilometers south of Gotha.
The whole town was practically closed up on Summer vacation. I'm
attaching a picture of Bach's House from there.
The wind was a real pain especially on the first half where I was climbing
uphill in the full face of it with few wind breaks. I wound up buying a
light sweater to wear under my windbreaker which turns out to be
waterproof, even though it breathes pretty well. It made me think about
the fact that I had packed my biking vest, but left it in Erfurt. Still
I'm glad that they let me leave my stuff at the Cloister.
The route from Gotha to Eisenach had a much bigger detour that took me up
to Hainich National Park--a forested region that I'm sure is also
connected with the forests south of town. I'm staying in a 4-Star Hotel
in Eisenach on the way to Wartburg Castle. It only cost 65 Euro and that
includes breakfast. I picked up a brochure about a castle near Erfurt
where you can stay for just 30 Euro. Depending on what condition it is
in, I may just do it.
The hotel I'm in is fairly new, very clean, and surprisingly quiet given
that there is a beergarten right on the grounds. I'm sure that the cold,
wet, windy weather has put a damper on things outside. Since I fought the
wind just about all of the way here, I hope that I have a decent tailwind
tomorrow heading back.
--Bob Jones, calling it an early night in Eisenach
6:00 PM August 9, 2005
Biking is such a breeze here in Germany! Well, not always--especially as
I was biking into the wind on my way back to Erfurt. I rented a "Trekking
Bike" from a fairly sizable Bike Shop on the Domplatz on the advice of a
young man at the Information Center across from the Rathaus. It was a
little expensive--more expensive than the rentals at the Parking Garage,
but at least its from someone who actually specializes in bikes. He did
give me a slight break on the rate since I'm renting for the entire week.
I biked a 36 mile loop heading north of town. Actually, I had gotten
turned around--I was aiming for Weimar, which is east, but with the clouds
and the unfamiliar countryside, I wound up nearly halfway to Eisleben (the
birth place of Luther) before I realized it. Now, I could have managed
Eisenach, Luther's boyhood home, which is only about 40 miles away, but
Eisleben was a little far for this late in the day.
On the other hand, the bike does have a generator and halogen lights in
front and in back--a feature that is a very mixed blessing, since the
mounting is a little loose and the roller that engages the front wheel
slips into contact or near contact very easily on the cobblestone roads
around here. All of that disappears when you get out of the city--but
every single little town has the same cobblestone roads. And there are a
lot of them. In those 36 miles, I went through six towns that were on the
map, and a bunch more that were not.
Given that kind of density of towns and villages, I don't think I need to
worry about food or places to stay along the way around here. There seem
to be "pensions"--rooms or apartments for rent by the day all over the
place. And there are more Beer Gartens and sidewalk cafes. In fact, they
almost present a riding hazard in the city.
I'm attaching a couple of pictures that I took from being out riding. One
is of a bike decorated with moss and flowers that I spotted at a flower
shop in Erfurt. Well, I'd better get going. I didn't think that they
were having Evening Prayer this evening--they call Tuesday their "Quiet
Day", but I hear the church bells ringing, so I'll go and see.
I do find the phone system a bit frustrating--I tried calling my contact
here in Erfurt and the pay phone that they have here kept cutting out on
me. The first time I could keep it going by putting more money in. This
last time, I ran out of the right size coins--it will only take the Euro
equivalent of dimes--no twenty cent pieces which are a lot handier. Local
calls cost 30 Euro Cents--equivalent to just short of 40 cents, American.
Yes, the Euro is stronger than the dollar by about 23% and it is terribly
easy to think you're spending dollars since so much of it is denominated
the same way--especially the smaller coins.
I may be "kicked out" of my room tomorrow--the receptionist was confident
that I could stay a second night, but she was much less sure about a
third. A group arrived last night after the reception desk was closed and
they were not able to get in. They did get in today. It is a cloister,
not a hotel. My guess is that they have a good sized group coming in
tomorrow and that is why I may not be able to stay.
Actually, what I'd like to do, would be to bike over to Eisleben or
Eisenach tomorrow and spend the night there and come back the following
day, or maybe even stay two days at one or the other. The problem is
finding a place to store my luggage here. I certainly don't want to carry
it on the bike--no more than a change of clothes and my tooth brush. If
they are willing to store my stuff here, then I would just take off in the
morning. If I have to get a locker at the Train Station, then I might as
well take the train up to Wittenberg and spend the night up there and bike
back in a day or two. With Leipzig and Halle in between Erfurt and
Wittenberg, there are all sorts of options for places to stay.
I did pick up a "VCH" (Verband Christlicher Hoteliers) Hotel Listing Book
down in the Reception area--it amounts to a "Christian Hotel Association"
connected with Cloisters and other religious sites in Germany and parts of
Switzerland, Italy, Finland, Denmark, and Holland. It's interesting--they
have associated hotels in Eisleben, Weimar, and Leipzig, but not in
Eisenach, Wittenberg, or Halle. The rates don't look too bad, but my
German is not good enough to know exactly what the different rates are
Well, I'm going to call it a night. It's not that late, but the fresh air
and the wind took a lot out of me.
--Bob Jones, biking about in Germany
8:45 PM August 8, 2005
I don't know whether to say that I'm disappointed or not--there was quite
a bit of rain as I rode the train from Frankfurt to Erfurt, but it eased
back to little more than a mist by the time I got here. I'm definitely
missing my wind breaker--I picked one up for 25 Euro--about $30, at the
Karlstadt's Mall at the far end of Johannes Strasse about five blocks from
the Cloister. I also picked up a black umbrella for 2.50 Euro, which
seemed very reasonable.
Bikes could be a bit of a problem--I checked at one place and they wanted
6 Euro a day--twice as much as they asked to rent them in Frankfurt. By
the time I got over to the other bike shop, they were already closed, and
they won't be open until tomorrow at 10:00 AM.
By then I will have to make a decision about whether I want to stay here
another night or not. I don't know if the original Cloister was destroyed
during WW II or whether it was earlier than that. The current facilities
are the product of years of hard work from the Lutheran Churches of
Saxony. I'm attaching a picture of some of the standing ruins of the
The windows and the ceiling of my cell are slanted to accommodate a
severely pitched roof. I'm on the second floor, but the roof is already
cutting into the ceiling. It reminds me of the second floor bedrooms on
the old two story parsonages that I lived in up in South Dakota.
They don't have internet access here, but I was surprised to find that
they do have beer in the pop machines. You just put 2 Euro in change in
and push the right button and you get a bottle of Bitburger Beer.
I attended Evening Prayer at the Chapel here. It was classic evening
prayer with even the same Psalmodies and Chants that we have in our hymnal
at home, except they are in German, of course. Worship was led by the
women--most of the staff here are women. They do have a male pabst--the
equivalent of a rector or provost, but he wasn't available.
Well, I think I'm going to call it a night. I think the weariness of the
past few days--good-byes and travel are catching up with me. And the
--Bob Jones, hanging out where Luther scrubbed floors and searched for a
7.30 AM Aug. 8, 2005
Well, I made it to Frankfurt, but I am having to work with a German text
keyboard and I have limited time on the internet so I will have to keep
this short. The flight from Tel Aviv was relatively uneventful. I sat
next to a very interesting young man named Roni who has an interesting
vision for building a bike path along the "Green Line" between Israel and
Palestine. It would actually go all of the way from the far northern
border to the Red Sea, but would run along the border between Israel and
Palestine for many miles.
Obviously it would be impossible under the current government, but he was
talking about putting together a proposal that could be implemented in
segments within Israel proper first, and then engaging the Green Line when
it becomes possible. He wants to send me a powerpoint presentation on it
when he gets it more fullz developed. It is a remarkable dream, and one
that I hope he can realize. Though I have to admit that it seems
On the other hand, it is wonderful that there are people like him--Israeli
citizens who really want to see a different future than the one that they
are building now with walls and checkpoints.
Well, I had better get going. I am starting to run out of time. I don´t
know the internet situation at the Augustinian Kloister in Erfurt, but
that is my next destination.
Thanks for your prayers,
Bob Jones, back in German hopefully to do some biking