In May we set off for Germany to cycle the Elbe Radweg, to visit the great cities of Dresden and Berlin, and to visit some Weissler family history sites. While planning the trip, Robert said, “you want to go to Norway, right?” 🙂 Yes! the Bergen Railway from Oslo to Bergen is something he did back in 1976, but was definitely on my own bucket list (routinely ranked as one of the “great railroad journeys of the world”). And finally, we were able to fly with IcelandAir and get the “free” layover on Reykjavik. So off we went! This is the first of three posts.
The plan was to cycle along the Elbe starting in Dresden. We arrived a couple days early so that we could visit Dresden, often called the “Florence on the Elbe”. Dresden is a beautiful city, remarkable when you see photographs of what was left after the firebombing in February 1945. Top sights in Dresden include the rebuilt (and only reopened in 2005) Frauenkirche, the Parade of Nobles, and the Zwinger museums.
We also spent a day out in the Sächsische Schweiz National Park, where we hit upon the fun “Grosses Winnetou Fest” in Kurort Rathen, a festival celebrating characters from Karl May‘s books about the American southwest. The park was gorgeous, and it was fun to see the kids at the festival earnestly making their Native American headbands complete with feathers.
We then met up with friends Tom and Diane Mosher from Oregon, and set off on the cycling tour. We once again engaged Mecklenburger Radtour, who provided us with bikes (clunky and too big, but functional), gave us a map, and said “see you later”. They transported our luggage each day between hotels – great not to have to carry everything. We cycled from Dresden to Magdeburg (all what was “East Germany” until 1989), ~208 miles over 7 days. We didn’t stray off the fine Elbe bike path too much, only for a few special target destinations such as the Karl May Museum in Radebeul, and Schloss Moritzburg. We also visited some WWII sites (the US and Soviet Armies met in 1945 on the Elbe in Strehla and Torgau), explored the Hugo Junkers Technical Museum in Dessau, and learned much about Martin Luther in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Lastly when we rolled in to Magdeburg, we found the street named for Robert’s great-uncle Friedrich Weissler (more on him later), as well as the courthouse named for him.
From Magdeburg the four of us took the train up to Berlin and spent nearly a week there…and it still wasn’t enough. We visited the glass-domed Reichstag, art and history museums, took a day trip out to Potsdam to visit Schloss Sanssouci (summer home of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia) and also the Glienicke Bridge (aka “bridge of spies”). We also walked the Berlin Wall Memorial, passed through a “ghost station” (walled off when Berlin was divided) and went out to the East Side Gallery, a series of murals painted directly on a 1.3km remnant of the Berlin Wall.
For family history, Robert and Liza went out to Charlottenburg to see the Stolpersteine for his great-uncle Friedrich and great-grandmother Auguste Weissler, as well as visited Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, where Friedrich was murdered in February 1937. (Auguste died in Theresienstadt in 1943.)
Our time in Berlin came to an end much too quickly, as we moved on to Norway. More on that in our next post!