Dear L an P,

My intention was to follow the Saale river, then veer off and ride to Weimar or even Erfurt. Fat chance. The Komoot app leads me in the wrong direction (my bad,  I trusted the robot more than my  instinct). Good thing was that I got to pass the immense chemical compound by Leuna. This was the heart of the chemical industry in East Germany and times before,  and one of the few industrial clusters the masters of the new universe after unification decided to upgrade instead of leaving it to the vultures (the German word was “Abwicklung”). Today, the “Chemiepark Leuna” is among Europe’s largest production sites and growing. Dow’s, where I rode by, has one of the larger parts. Komoot then led me on another trek through dead villages, some apparently not too much touched by the magic of the marketplace. I saw signs of disapproval, some hand-made, mostly expressing a strong wish to bid farewell to the social-liberal-green coalition ruling in Berlin (the particular ire of country folks is against the attempt to do away with Diesel subsidies for farmers), some directed against Robert Habeck, the green poster boy facing the impossible task  to simultaneously find a replacement of Russian oil and gas deliveries, turning the economy from carbon-based to whatever-the-alternative-based and coping with a huge hole in the federal budget (the supreme court deemed the Habeck’s government’s alternative appropriation of unused  anti-covid-funding for green purposes a tad too creative). In one or two places I encountered the old German cobblestone country-road pavement, which is a biker’s bane and a romantic’s pleasure (oncoming cars make an inimitable sound, you hear it from a mile away). It took more than an hour to finally meet the Saale river, luckily enough only an hour after lunchtime. There was a nice restaurant at a crossing, the “Henne” (hen” serving a plentiful meal of goose with red cabbage and potato dumplings, to be washed down with an eminently drinkable local Riesling. The shores of Saale – and Unstrut a few miles upstream – are the wine-growing area of East Germany.

***

I finally was on the route I was the whole day looking for, and it proved everything the advertising promised and then some. The path follows the meandering river pretty closely, past vineyards, small dwellings and wineries. There were even some resting places. All of this in spring weather, first bloom out, birds doing what birds are supposed to do in spring. I could have made it to Weimar maybe before dusk, but after about four o’clock it grew too cold for comfort. I took the train for the remainder of the route. After all, I had a “Deutschland-Ticket” (for 49 bucks you ride every train, bus and tram in the whole country for a month except the fast ICE trains). And after all, I just turned officially old enough to be out of reach of the make’em-work-longer wonks. Some European countries have set the retirement age to 72.

***

On the train, a funny thing happened. There were two other people in the biker’s compartment and another bike, a fancy sporty-looking one. My companions were a Polish man who incessantly talked and a nun, she in full habit, skirt, sensible shoes and the headgear. When the Polish man left, it was clear that the bike belonged to the nun. “Do you ride this thing?: I asked her. “Normally yes”, she said, “but today I just bring it from one place to the other. I did not want to bother to pack these clothes”. She told me that she does a lot of hiking and biking trips and that she loves Komoot for providing reassurance about her whereabouts. “You know, I tend to just leave and go, without detailed planning”.

Best

J

PS: Yesterday was Super Tuesday, right? I don’t even have to buy a newspaper to find out what happened. A while ago I noted that the sorry American election process is actually very boring right now and only will become a bit more relevant after the conventions. Don’t think I have to stand to be corrected.