Hi L and P,

You are my only biking buddies (more precisely, I am yours, as you are the fiends and I the hopalong) and the only ones in my extended readership possibly interested in whatever might turn out noteworthy on my velotrek. One of my other two readers told me that he does not care so much about what I had to say about Germany and only cared about the American stuff.

But Germany it is, for Berlin is situated there, and Berlin is where I started out this morning, bright and early. As usual, I packed too much, a substantial part of the cargo being the half dozen sandwiches, 6 big boskoop apples, pears and oranges and the remainder of an odorous Mont d’Or cheese Ms. B insisted on adding, lest I’d lose weight or appetite.

***

My first destination was Wittenberg on the Elbe River, about 98 km. All went pretty smoothly, but for a stupid detour in Grunewald Forest. I followed the direction of the Komoot app which is fairly reliable. It tells you where you are and gets you from A to B though not always on the most scenic route. I knew that I could have done better with a real map, but I didn’t take one with me. For long stretches, the path on the dial was either a bike lane right along a highway or on a busy street. It is okay, as German drivers are aware of bicycles and you won’t risk being overrun. Automotive driverdom comes, as the species at large, in two forms: a) the nice driver who passes at enough distance and b) the Schofsecku (a Swiss four-letter-word I have started to use more often, I spare you the translation) who scares you to death).

***

The good part was through Dübener Heide, a semi-populated natural reserve with huge swaths of forests and pastures and some moors. The whole day the landscape was wrapped in a thin veil of mist, backlit by sunlight which hardly ever made it through. A few times, you saw a farmer burning dead material from the field, leaves, trunks, and the like, thick white from the fire lazily rising. As a child, I saw this regularly, but now fire-making is banned by our environmental ayatollahs. Maybe the farmers in Dübener Heide were scoffing the law. At any rate they made for a magic, almost autumn-like day.

***

The problem of the day was that most restaurants are closed on Mondays in this part of the country (make a mental note for your Elbe trip). For lunch I had to make do with a coffee place which only served “Teilchen”, the German word for cakes and the like. I shared the place with a bunch of heavy-set motorbikers in leather pants, one middle-aged, the other close to retirement, all on a path to nowhere. They were debating retirement, pensions, recovery payments after accidents and illnesses, and the most advantageous jobs for it, if you can get them. They were debating retirement, pensions, recovery payments after accidents and illnesses, and the most advantageous jobs for it, if you can get them.

***

In Wittenberg, I had good hotel karma. I was looking for an affordable place smack in the middle and came up with the “Cranach Herberge” in the compound of the Cranach painters, father and son. They both were utterly renowned portraitists of the high and mighty of the renaissance era (one Cranach painted Henry VIII in all his glory, no warts at all) and apparently smart businessmen too. They ran a pharmacy and both of them became mayors. The hotel, on the main square, turned out to be “bike-friendly” (locked storage). Highly recommended for your Elbe biking trip.

***

Strolling through town, I noticed about a dozen policemen lingering about the square, with hardly anybody else in sight. When returning, I found out why. A group of people started assembling, some with German flags. A man unloaded a bullhorn and some audio gear from a Volkswagen bus, another one planted a rollup banner next to the statue of Philipp Melanchthon (another leader of Lutherism). It said “Reformation 2.0” and listed “10 Thesen” (as opposed to Luther’s 99) – ten demands from the immediate dismissal of the government over doing away with political parties to “abolition of all Corona-measures”. The were gathering here every Monday, a man said, “Montagsdemonstration” like the ones in Dresden a few years ago where the folks went by the thousands. The guy who unloaded the gear gave the microphone to a man who referred to the planned “Bundesgartenschau” (the nation-wide periodical landscaping exhibition, a German thing, we wouldn’t understand it all) in Wittenberg. It cost the town millions, he said, and the budgeted costs are already too tight. Would it not be great, if the people could vote on that, he said? Let the people decide. The man was right, of course, Let the people decide on such extravaganzas. Like the people of Sochi did when the global sports camarilla forced those winter Olympics down their throat, did they not? I choose the example because it is apt in our case. When the guy who unloaded the gear stepped up to the mic he was not only talking about the government, rotten as it were, but a lot about the confrontation with Russia (no mentioning Ukraine) and the German involvement and the German past and peace and never again. He called for the peace flag (there was one in the crowd) and particularly for the Russian flags. Let’s not forget the Russian flags he said. Two large flags of imperial Russia were waved. Then the crowd started to march, and I went for dinner. Actually, the whole town should march, given the scare of war, the guy who unloaded the gear said. They did not.

Best

J

PS: You probably did not learn the news in Kansas: The Swiss people, asked to vote, decided to increase the social security prestation. Social security will increase henceforth the annual payment by a 13th monthly payment. It is a rare success of the political left and a slap in the face of the combined forces of neo-liberal conventional wisdom (social security systems are not sustainable), reactionary spite (no tax money for the poor) and media parroting (the young generation v. the old generation). The long and the short is that social security, despite the promises in the law, does not assure a minimal subsistence, and people said enough is enough. (By the way, there was another proposal on the ballot, to increase retirement age from 65 to 66. I also voted for this one, but it sank like a stone).