We start our multi-day bike ride in Schmilka, just across the Czech border. Awarded as Saxony’s most beautiful village, about 70 inhabitants live here in 30 houses. An entire village for guests. People have been holidaying here on the Elbe for over 200 years, but today’s national park and bio-refuge has only been accessible by car since 1908. Until then, the beer had to be carried on foot in barrels to Schmilka as people on a sedan chair, because there was a sales permit, but no brewery rights.
Fortunately, this limitation no longer exists. The natural beer, which has a limited shelf life, is made in a brewery and matures in a copper kettle that was installed in 2015. During Corona hibernation, it sometimes did not empty, now it flows again. For 3.90 euros per liter you can even take the amber beer home with you. The painter Caspar David Friedrich is once said to have sat in the large bottling room, at least he captured many landscape motifs here in the area, which you can also walk on a path named after him.
Seven stages along the Elbe’s cycle path to experience
On these seven stages, our reporter Hans-Jürgen Emmerich rode on the Elbe cycle path from Schmilka to the Bauhaus town of Dessau:
Cycle to the right or left of the Elbe, this question arises again at each stage. In the Schmilka-Hirschmühle, an old ferry connects both banks, making it easy to travel by train. To the right of the river, the steep cliff sides from former quarries lead to Bad Schandau. Although the bike path has been around for almost 30 years, there are sometimes holes and missing signs. Updated traffic information on your own website is all the more useful. Because once you land on the wrong side, the detour to the right route can quickly become kilometers long. Several providers, such as AugustusTours, take care of light luggage by transporting suitcases and bags from hotel to hotel.
Idyll at the gates of Dresden
If you want to visit the legendary Königstein fortress, you should allow at least three hours. And if you cycle to the left of the Elbe in the direction of Dresden, you can only get to Pillnitz Castle and the garden by ferry – provided it runs. If not, tempt a delicious dinner at the Fährhaus Kleinzschachwitz, located in a district of Dresden overlooking the river and the castle over the water, instead.
Zwinger, the state parliament, Semperoper, market and arts and crafts from the Ore Mountains: The state capital Dresden is not easy to explore as you pass through. You have to come back here at some point. But now it’s time to step on the pedals, because the goal of the second stage is Meissen. On the right bank of the Elbe it goes through the Saxon vineyards, on the left bank of the Elbe the trip goes more relaxed, as it passes the cultural monument Gohliser windmill, built in 1832 and in operation as a mill until 1914. Roughly dilapidated in the GDR era, it reconstructed in 2006 and now houses a museum and a restaurant. A little later, a magnificently painted building appears in the middle of the green, a technical building with an oversized depiction of a meal scene with vines and a wine cellar.
Finally, Meissen awaits with the cathedral and Albrechtsburg. For the popular photo motif with reflection in the Elbe, go to the other side, then continue to the left of the Elbe, past an old Cistercian monastery, which is now maintained and used by a non-profit association. After 50 kilometers on the bike, Elbklause directly on the river offers not only a relaxing stay, but also a delicious regional dinner: Two Niederlommatzscher Elbkahne (potato buns with meat bread filling) plus a Bennoschoppen from Meissen winegrowers’ cooperative.
Noodles in the museum
Exactly the right refreshment for the next day, where you not only have to cycle towards the speedometer, but also in pouring rain. When traveling in Mannheim’s friendly town Riesa, a visit to the pasta museum is a must, not only because of the delicious spaghetti Bolognese in the restaurant “Makkaroni”, but also because of the insight into the history of pasta and its production. In Strehla, it is supposed to cross the Elbe again, but there is no trace of the ferryman far and wide. An attentive young man has the crucial tip: “You must knock on the window.” The mermaid’s captain has taken a nap in the ferry house, but he makes it possible to continue to the historic town of Mühlberg, where Emperor Charles V died in April 1547 defeated Protestant troops. A theme in the museum.
The next stopover is in Torgau, the site of the State Garden Show in 2022. “After Wittenberg, this is the most important Saxon Luther place,” emphasizes Anja Bauermeister from Torgau Information Center: “Wittenberg is the mother of the Reformation, Torgau is the wet nurse.” There are many reminders, especially of Luther’s wife Katharina. Of course, there is no road around Wittenberg, but the crown of the trip is the Bauhaus town of Dessau. If you want to understand how his school shaped the city, the best thing to do after visiting the museum and the houses of the masters is to go to the Törten settlement. Here are the houses with access balconies, which are still rented out by the housing association, and the 314 terraced houses that Walter Gropius has planned around the consumer building (today a museum).
Tips for the Elbe bike path
Tips on the go
Location: The part of the Elbe cycle path described here, which is about 250 kilometers long, starts in the village of Schmilka (Bad Schandau) and ends in the Bauhaus town of Dessau.
On the way: Schmilka can be reached by train from Mannheim with two shifts of almost seven hours. It is important to reserve bicycle spaces.
Use at night: There are plenty of hotels and accommodations along the Elbe’s cycle path that only receive guests for one night (bed and bike). The barrel-like pods in the park in Kleindröben are particularly original (but without their own shower).
Dwell: A longer stay is recommended in Torgau (Landesgartenschau 2022) and in Lutherstadt Wittenberg (360-degree panorama Luther 1517) as well as in the Bauhaus town of Dessau.
Luggage service: Providers such as AugustusTours (www.augustustours.de) offer complete travel with pre-booked accommodation, but also transport luggage from hotel to hotel on request.
Information: There is comprehensive, updated information and an interactive map on a separate page, as well as the option to order a free manual (www.elberadweg.de). Hi