Waren to Berlin Day 8 May 6th Waren to Fustenberg (Ravensbruck)

Day 8 May 6th Waren to Fustenberg (Ravensbruck)


We were very concerned last night because the weather forecast for today was bad, predicting strong winds and heavy rain all day. John had even worked out various get out routes for bad weather. As it turned out it was overcast all day but the rain only really set in after we arrived.


This hostel did not serve breakfast until 8am. Being an early riser, even after packing I had some time to kill so did a quick inspection of the Airnimal. It was fine but on turning it upside down I found some very minor sidewall tyre damage. To be on the safe side I changed the tyre.

This area of Germany is a cycle tourist's paradise. It is not at all hilly but neither is it flat. Winds are not a serious problem because of the frequent woodland areas. Cycle routes go all over the place and often have priority over motor vehicles. Whole days can be spent without the need to use a busy road.


We crossed the road outside the hostel and took the cycle track beside the lake. This was all fine until the GPS indicated a hard left off the tarmaced trail. Trusting the instrument we followed its directions. It took us into a field and we followed and onwards through light undergrowth. We finally emerged on a rough track but the GPS said we should go onwards through a house garden at which we drew the line. We followed our noses for a kilometre or so until we regained the route.


Back on lovely rural roads we had a few kms going east against the wind before finding a coffee stop in a tiny village. Here we turned south and had a superb cross country ride. Much of it was on road with two concrete wheel tracks. We rode fast on the right side and the very occasional motor vehicle swerved off the track as we approached.


We delayed lunch until 2pm and found a spot sheltered from the wind to eat our rolls, not staying long. It was too cold to hang around. We now did a quick 25km into the little town of Fustenberg.


Over this trip John has become addicted to cakes and we found a well stocked cake shop which also served coffee. John says the cake shops here are very slightly less good than those in Holland but I would still rate them as excellent. I am, of course, not an expert.


By the time we left the shop the promised rain had started and we quickly cycled the last bit to the hostel. We both had misgivings about a hostel at Ravensbruck. Something about the place stirred unpleasant memories for both of us but we could not put a finger on it.


We approached a complex of eight very large houses at the end of a military road. We did not at first find reception but came across a museum commemorating a women's concentration camp. The penny dropped.


We checked in and had a comfortable well equipped room in what was once the "matrons" accommodation block. More of this tomorrow but suffice to say that as we have both been to Auschwitz and Birkenau we felt uneasy staying in a Nazi death camp.


The hostel was unable to do an evening meal and John volunteered to cycle back into town, bringing back a takeaway and a bottle of wine. As the rain was now heavy he got very wet.


Day 9 May 7th Fustenberg (Ravensbruck) to Oranienburg (Sachsenhausen)


Having had breakfast we took on the grim task of going to the concentration camp museum. It is housed in the building next to ours and tells the horrific story of the camp through the "matrons".


The matrons were women employed by the SS to supervise the female inmates. They were instructed and encouraged to beat and humiliate them. Inmates died of dog bites when dogs were set on them by the matrons for fun. The matrons were not members of the SS or responsible for the security of the camp. Their brutal behaviour was recognized by the Nuremburg trials and some where rightly executed for their behaviour in this death camp.


Just like the other staff at the camp they lived in the very pleasant house we stayed in. They went boating on the lake and in contrast to the inmates enjoyed a life in what once was a pleasant place.


Before leaving we walked past the eight substantial houses which accommodated the matrons, to view the concentration camp itself. Inmates passed through a twisting passage to get in and out of the walled and fenced area. Some of the awful huts they lived in remained but most have been demolished. The site of the demolished huts has been cleared but the base of each hut has been labelled and the soil neatly racked.


We left the area feeling very sombre, I was close to tears, at least 3,600 women were executed at or near the camp in the closing days of the war and a huge number were almost certainly killed between 1939 and 1945. The camp area was used by the Russians until 1994. For what it is worth in my view the true horrors of what went on in these death camps is not either fully accepted or understood by many people. Even now it may not be fully accepted.


The first part of today's ride was beside the perimeter of the camp, marked by red posts. The posts just went on and on, it was vast. At the end of the red posts was an explication board say we had now reached the start of the "young women's" camp. It said that this area had not even been recognised as a concentration camp until 1970.


Our ride continued, mainly in silence, along beautifully wooded forest tracks on good tarmac. The scenery was exactly the same as in the camp area. However I was pleased when we gradually moved out of the wooded area into wider farmland. After this we did much of the ride on canal tow paths.

The day had started appropriately overcast but brightened as we went along. The ride was not without incident. First John had a puncture and while he changed the tube I mended the punctured one. A few miles on I got a puncture and we did the reverse.


Despite the punctures and a late start we were making good time and having another fine ride but we still had another setback. We had followed the route but without warning a large bridge over a canal had been removed. We diverted through a forest and encountered a good deal of undergrowth and false ways before getting out.


As we arrived at the hostel John said something like "Oh God, it's another one". He had recognized the name Sachsenhausen as another concentration camp. This time the hostel was in the palatial camp commandant's house. It was, on the face of it, an excellent self catering hostel. We had a nice comfortable spotlessly clean room with ensuite facilities.


I cycled off to the local supermarket for supplies for the next three meals and we had a pleasant home cooked dinner. We even met English cyclists from Manchester to chat to.


Day 10 May 8th Oranienburg (Sachsenhausen) to Berlin.


Before leaving I read the information about this death camp and the history of the house in which we were staying. At least 50,000 people were murdered in the camp and probably many more. The camp itself was some ten minutes away and I could not bring myself to go there.


The house in which we were staying had been designed and constructed by the forced labour of the inmates for Commandant Eicke and his family. This monster was one of the main perpetrators of the German concentration camp organization. The administrative centre for all the camps had been on this site and Eicke was responsible for all the camps.


Somehow the atmosphere here was not as nasty as at Ravensbruck for me and yet the extermination of millions was planned in the house where we slept. That monster Eicke was killed in an aircraft shot down or crashed over Russia. One can only hope that Rowan Atkins is still shoving hot rods up his backside or worse.


We made a late start on our short ride, glad at last to be finally shot of concentration camps. As we progressed into the centre the areas of countryside between population areas finally reduced to none. Our planned route took some lengthy diversions from the direct roads. As most of the main roads had rudimentary cycle routes we took these.


As we emerged into the central area of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag real human life stopped, and was replaced by tourist life. We crossed the Tiergarten, a fine cycle friendly green space. The youth hostel is huge and located in a modern concrete building just south of the Tiergarten.


Having unloaded the bikes and showered we went out in the sunshine to explore. We were able to walk to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag in ten minutes. It was a good opportunity to find our bearings and enjoy the afternoon sunshine.


It has been an easy ride into a capital centre and we are looking forward to find out more tomorrow.