Today's' Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/748630853
After sleeping through breakfast and subsequently receiving forgiveness for the second time in 24-hours from Wolfgang, the patient BnB owner, my day settled-into its usual routine, albeit a bit late, though not nearly as late as yesterday. Breakfast with all the coffee I could drink, four cups this morning, maybe more. My companions for the morning meal, a lovely German couple touring the local and regional history, were patient listeners as I rambled on and on, from one topic to the next. A lone traveler does become a bit of a liability at times.
Caffeine withstanding, I started the fourteenth day of the tour, in the 2,016th year of a widely anticipated but nonetheless absent lord, with a casual, exploratory, spin through the historic town ot Torgau. Foremost on my brief rendezvous with Torgau was the time that I spent alongside the 16th century Hartenstein castle, a castle that was likely constructed on the foundation of a 10th century stone castle ordered built by the Holy Roman Empire and a suspected wooden castle built centuries before by the Slavs, presently the "the largest Indo-European ethno-linguistic group in Europe." After my brief tour, I concluded with a moment of reflection overlooking the Elbe with my back to the grand wall of Hartenstein castle, a wall that countless, no doubt, senselessly died whilst defending or attacking. Despite the gravity of those losses, a moment later, respectfully, I had returned to my own here and now, a migration along the Elbe River Cycle Route towards Hamburg's populous and their brethren elsewhere in Northern Germany.
As the photographs imply, cloudy with occasional rain, never heavy, and cool temps persisted well into the day. Late afternoon delivered moments of sunshine, seemingly "on cue" in historic Wittenberg, but otherwise here and there, apparently, at the whim of my Goddess, the ruler of the known Universe, Epona. My Epona is fickle but she is nevertheless a delight to worship, naughty but not overly so and always on the look-out for opportunities to exercise her Holy sense of humor.
Cobble stones and classic European architecture from ages gone-by but not forgotten, were served-up large along the Collegienstraße and Schloßstraße in Wittenberg, Germany. Wittenberg is another example of places I've arrived to on this Autumn tour without anticipation. Although planning would no doubt reveal much more even to a constantly on-the-go traveler, an unanticipated introduction offers it's own suite of benefits.
Famously, although it has been contested as being fiction rather than fact, Wittenberg is the place where "Martin Luther [supposedly] nailed his 95 themes to the door of the Schloss Kirche and [by doing] so heralded in the Protestant Reformation." I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend David Conlin for reminding me of this event in history; and for sharing the location of the blasphemous act, Wittenberg, a detail I never knew or copied-over somewhere amidst neurons allocated to my subconscious long ago.
After my brief rendezvous with Wittenberg, I was once again on a country tour, navigating as I was across an agricultural and horticultural landscape with occasional wee villages and forest patches between. During this time I arrived at and crossed another ferry, bringing the total up to about six crossings for the tour including those that I can easily recall across the Weser, Meuse, Rhine, and now the Elbe. Despite long periods of time spent pedaling in the open spaces between population centers, a time-lapse of my entire tour would be an enviable and fascinating treasure to look back on. Perhaps advances in digital video and photography will provide travelers in the future with this Orwellian luxury at an affordable cost, images from the latest NASA mission to Jupiter suggests they will.
I approached my next ici et maintenant after a fairly lengthy, perhaps an hour or more, tour of industrial mankind east of Magdeburg, on the bank opposite the main part of the city. But as with other less-than-satisfying moments from my life, persistence delivered in the form of another trip into Europe's middle ages. Of course, much of Magdeburg is modern, including tracks for hauling students, tourists, and locals (if you can find one) here and there. But nestled into the latest trends are obvious outliers from the past.
Here is a peppering of sorts, a dash from the shaker, a small sample of the story: Magdeburg "was one of the most important medieval cities of Europe." If you know anything about the former Hanseatic League, then you won't be surprised to know that, given it's historical importance, that Magdeburg was " a notable member of the Hanseatic League [in the 13th century]." Reaching back farther, well before the Hanseatic League came to fruition, to the man that reorganized Europe half a millennium after the dissolution of Rome, "Charlemagne [founded the city] in 805 as Magadoburg, probably from Old High German magado for big, mighty and burga for fortress, the town was fortified in 919 by King Henry I the Fowler against the Magyars and Slavs." Regarding "the fowler", a avid hunter, Henry the 1st "is generally considered to be the founder and first king of the medieval German state, known then as East Francia ... a successor state of Charlemagne's empire and [a] precursor of the Holy Roman Empire." A bicycle can really bring you to some fabulously historic places; and along the way, to many, more subdued but equally enviable, places less trodden.
Cycling aside, I'm once again impressed, as I have been at the conclusion of each blog entry, by the history that was revealed to me from even the superficial details provided by the open-source encyclopedia, wikipedia.org. As I did for OpenFietsMap, I made a donation to the Wikimedia Foundation when I returned to Hamburg. I've really enjoyed assembling a small part of the story of some of the places that I've visited on the tour.
Returning to the here and now, it's my impression that an evening at "the cottage", two nights ago, continues to exact a toll my critical body systems (most of them). For this reason, my trajectory towards the north and Hamburg today was certainly not at a fast pace even for a relatively heavy bike and tired legs. With all of that in mind, I really should get some rest!
I'll hope to finish much earlier tomorrow so that I can ramble on (perhaps while humming the popular Led Zeppelin song) with my usual ad Libitum modus operandi. Guten Nacht from Inge's AirBnB, clean, spacious, and friendly, and for just 49$ including breakfast. You'll arrive and depart smiling if you decide to visit Inge and her husband in Magdeburg, a city where "Matthias Flacius and his companions wrote their anti-Catholic pamphlets and the Magdeburg Centuries, in which they argued that the Roman Catholic Church had become the kingdom of the Antichrist." Strange, I thought Barack Obama (a non-Catholic) was the antichrist, perhaps the nit-wits that have popularized this claim in the United States would benefit by a history refresher. No doubt, along the way, they'll find many suspected antichrists, each one a scapegoat for a despised adversary.