Eisenach and Erfurt
A couple of days are spent winding along the river Sieg and through the surrounding forests. Sunday is blisteringly hot again and a heat haze rises off the tarmac. I even start seeing mirages. They look like puddles on the road at first but are actually brilliant reflections of the sky and surrounding trees that vanish and reappear when I lift my head up and down like the image on a holographic postcard.
One morning I bump into a German couple following the same route on loaded bikes and together we cross from the bundesland (state) of Hessen to Thuringia, the old border between West and East Germany. The change in architecture is immediately apparent – concrete houses with small windows – though many are freshly painted in peach or pastel shades and look rather charming. The three of us cycle up to Wartburg castle overlooking Eisenach, German’s central-most city and home of the Trabant, the loveably hopeless DDR car.
That evening, while roaming around some open grassland outside Gotha for a campsite, I reached the top of a hillock to be confronted by a stony-faced man wearing full camo and holding a rifle. This was quite startling so I gave a lame “hallo” and ran away. He did not shoot me.
Swarmed by mosquitos that night I gave up at 5am, packed up and cycled 80 miles through Erfurt (nothing much to report) and on towards Leipzig. A few beers and an exceptional Snitzel were enjoyed at a riverside restaurant that evening as a reward for the gruelling day.