Day 20: Bad Blankenburg to Mittelhammer

Distance: 103 km

Elevation: 1.535 meters

The day started with a cup of coffee with Maggie and Tilman, both teachers for kids with special needs. I knew that this last day was going to be tough – potentially with the highest elevation of the entire tour – so I procrastinated a little.

At the beginning, I followed the river Saale for a while. Not long into the day, I had my first flat tire. That’s ok after 2,300 km given the conditions of many “roads” which I travelled on the last weeks.

What was absolutely not ok, was that during my repair at least 10 cyclist and also pedestrians passed by and not a single one of them asked if help was needed or made any other comment for that matter. That deeply disturbed and disappointed me. Why was nobody ready to help or show compassion?

The rest of the day was brutal as I was crossing the mountains of Thuringia. It was way over 30 degrees and in my memory, there was no single meter of flat horizontal road – I swear 😉

The small roads went either uphill with a gradient of 12% or more (partially on gravel) or it went downhill with similar slope. I suffered a lot, used swear words but kept on going.

While the roads and trails were rough, the landscape was absolutely gorgeous. The longer I cycled, the more rural and remote it got. Because of the steep elevation, I covered only little ground and it got later and later. I had no plans for the night yet which is pretty untypical for me.

Around 9 pm I finally arrived in Mittelhammer. Here the borders of Thuringia, Bavaria and the Czech Republic meet in one spot. This place is a symbol for the separation of Germany and Europe until 1989. It also marks the official end of my tour.

The spot where the borders meet is very hidden and far away from any roads. To my surprise a local woman kind of “awaited” me there. She greeted me and showed me around in this place. I asked if it would be ok to set up my tent there for the night and she kind of invited me to stay with her. She showed me a grave of a German soldier who was killed here in World War II (with his helmet still on top of the cross) and a sign to beware of poisonous snakes. “Do you really want to sleep HERE?” she repeatedly asked.

I confirmed since I did not consider staying at her place as an option. I had pondered sleeping outdoors in nature since the entire tour. It is illegal but in the case there was also no camping site around.

So eventually she showed me a place where I could set up my tent and where I could wash myself in the nearby river Regnitz. It was all pretty surreal.

After she was gone, I had my first official “shower” in a river. It was just awesome! I ate dinner and waited as long as I could with setting up my tent. The silence and the sounds of nature were breathtaking.

A sudden single gunshot, probably fired towards a deer, let my adrenaline level rise. After I went to bed, I laid stiff avoiding any possible sound for long. But eventually I relaxed and had a good sleep.

What a day! What a tour!

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