Home > Uncategorized > Through Harz and High Water

Through Harz and High Water

Written 24.6.2010

If I stopped moving, even for a minute to check the map fruitlessly, black flies would swarm around my head and bite my legs. I was in the middle of a trackless forest, following signs nailed haphazardly to trees, pushing fifty pounds of bike and gear through Harz and high water, in an attempt to get to Sorge.

Everything started out wonderfully this morning. American pump-up music played over the radio as I ate breakfast. The sky was blue, and I was promised good weather by the MorningMagazin TV program. I left Ilsenburg, and with minor difficulties, found the ascending path to Plessenburg. This hill redefined all hills for me. Two kilometers, maybe more, of steeper-than-Bell-hill, my-ears-are-popping-because-of-the-elevation, lowest-gear-and-I-wish-it-went-lower, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-around-every-corner, and the most exciting and challenging climb I’ve ever faced on a bike. I made it to the top and rested, bent over my handlebars. A flat(ish) road never looked so rewarding. I continued to Drei Annen Hohne, even taking all the right turns and feeling very appreciative of the wooden signposts along the way. Here, my guidebook promised waffle-booths on a meadow, which I was really excited about. I found a few stands, and while one of them did sell waffles, I settled for ice cream in a waffle cone.

I continued on to Elend, home of Germany’s smallest Wooden Church, on an easy road. I cycled past the famous church, not quite understanding the appeal, and took a small path into the forest to the left. Here I went wrong…

I had been playing bike-leap-frog all day with a middle-aged guy, obviously equipped for touring. Earlier, I thought I’d spied him with the same guidebook I’m using, so I felt like we had a small connection. I finally got a chance to talk with him on this forested path. We briefly shared our trip plans, and some frustrations with our mutual guidebook. He was obviously eager to keep going, so he waved goodbye and sped ahead. Naturally, I thought I was on the right path. Signs, the consensus of a fellow traveler, directions that seemed to match my surroundings.


I biked over pine roots, rocks, grass (all of which have reached new lows in my Hierarchy of Roads), I crossed a gravel road, I followed signs that pointed to Sorge, and eventually, I found myself in the predicament described above. The road had gotten increasingly worse until I was forced to push my bike over and between huge ruts (probably from a bulldozer) filled with standing water. The “road” became increasingly confusing, branching off in different ways until I wondered if I was even on a path. I realized I was lost. I realized that even if I wasn’t lost, I was at least six kilometers from Sorge, which would take at least two hours at my current rate.

And so I screamed at the forest through tears of frustration. I cursed every miserable root and rut in the road. And I yelled at my bike for stabbing me with a grip on the pedal, but I apologized after a minute. I remembered the advice my Dad had given me before I left: “Don’t panic.” Simple, easy to follow, and easy to forget. But I remembered. I decided to go back to Elend. There, I could catch the Harz train to Sorge and settle down for the night.

So I went to the train station. The train would not come for an hour. I sat in the shade and pored over my guidebook. I was disappointed that the way to Sorge was not passable. I thought I’d had to bike to Braunlage and then head south. The train was late, which was highly irregular for German trains, but this wasn’t DB Bahn, so I waited some more. I was now in the front of the station, sitting on a narrow windowsill to avoid the full heat of the afternoon sun. The more I looked at my map, the more I began to wonder if I’d simply taken a wrong turn three hours earlier. And the train didn’t come.


I’d had enough of sitting around. I decided to look for a room at a place I’d passed earlier and stay in Elend. In what seemed like a bold move, I left the train station. The woman at the pension wouldn’t rent a room for just one night and gave me the name of a hotel. I was so close to the road I’d gotten lost on. I decided to see what was around the corner on the main road. Sure enough, there was a real road to Sorge. The town was 6 kilometers away and the road downhill. It was 4:30 in the afternoon. I felt foolish. I decided to go for it. I made it in fifteen minutes, pushing my tired legs up the few inclines, and nearly beating the train, which had apparently decided to show up in Elend.

I found a beautiful (but slightly expensive) hotel near the train station, and enjoyed a wonderful view over dinner al fresco. The moustached man who owns the hotel was kind, bringing me a free appetizer when my food was slow in coming, and a complimentary drink after dinner. I have enjoyed a fine evening after a rough day. The World Cup is on. I’m (as usual) already looking forward to breakfast, and hope to make it to Duderstadt tomorrow.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Mark Massaro
    June 30, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Hi Kate:
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your narratives so far. The photos are fantastic . . . I knew they would be nothing less . . . but your writing and reporting is exceptional. Be safe and enjoy the trip of a lifetime.
    Best Wishes,
    Mark Massaro

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