The Berlin to Usedom bike route is 340km, and takes you from the German capital through Brandenburg and Uckermark, on to the Baltic coast and the old port town of Peenemunde. Depending on what type of biking you’re into, it can take anywhere from one, to four days. I made the route with a group of guys over Easter weekend in four days, averaging 100km per day, finishing off in Greifswald and taking the train back.
So it seems that more and more this blog is becoming more a guide on how to escape the city - preferably by bike. Leaving the city by bike is an amazingly rewarding experience. It takes you through districts and neighbourhoods that are otherwise unreachable by the u-bahn, and gives you an insight into the city’s locals that you tend not to see, or just plainly ignore, in your day-to-day life. It’s almost like moving through eras of time, as you pedal through the myriad of economically segmented communities, where tower blocks turn into houses, turn into cottages with extended gardens.
Berlin to Warnitz - 120km
This particular bike route is extremely well sign-posted. Just under each notification with distances and locations, was a little badge adorned with a seagull and a coastline the stated you were on the right road. We picked up the route on Bösebrucke on Bornholmer Strasse, where the Berlin wall first came down over two decades ago. Leading down from the bridge is a path, where on both sides are rows of cherry-blossom trees. These are found throughout Berlin in various locations where the wall used to stand, donated to the city by the Japanese, and if you go the right time of year — which we did — you can see these rich and colourful trees go into blossom-overdrive as the incredible hue of pink flowering starts to dominate everything in sight.
Apart from a few, rough off-roads, and forest tracks, the Berlin to Usedom bike route is pretty much all well paved bike roads, with very few ups and downs. Leaving Berlin the route goes through the amazing Schlosspark, and along a quaint, well-painted and totally-scenic bike route to Bernau. As you pass through Buch, and Panketal, the route passes along fields and farms full of the regular assortment of cows, and other erstwhile favoured farmyard animals.
Bernau — with its peculiar choice of having a statue of a naked guy holding a goat in the town centre — proved to one of the most challenging places to cycle through, mainly because it seems to be missing a few signs. While cycling along the old town walls (which is great by the way), we ended up cycling too far, and then getting totally lost on the ring road. If you end up reading this, and taking on board any of this stuff here, beware in Bernau - and don’t do what we did. Anyway, you should just end up taking the main road north out of the town towards Biesenthal, where the road turns into a forest, and turns into a legit bike path, with wind turbines littered in the grassy fields for as far as the eye can see.
At the end I’ll list my pick of my places to eat, and stay - but there were a couple of places on our first day that require a deserved mention. The first place was a little bar that seemed to cater specifically to cyclists (although that’s what we we thought at first). Der Schleusengraf in Marienwerder has a great beer garden, with what seemed like at least 20 bikes parked up outside. Sitting down to get some lunch, and maybe a cheeky beer, we experienced some textbook, East German hospitality within just a few hours of leaving the city. (That’s not to say people in Berlin aren’t as rude as this guy, but it just goes without saying). It was your standard sit-down for 15 minutes, and get ignored by all the staff type situation - and when we went inside to just ask what was going on, the owner / waiter / whatever just shouted at us and telling us he was too busy doing something else, and that we wouldn’t get any service today. So that was that, we biked on and found something better. It’s also worth noting we Googled the place afterwards, and it seems that most people had a similar experience. I guess the guy has a monopoly on selling beer to cyclists in the sun, otherwise I’m sure he’d be out of business already. Anyway, on to the next place, a random Czech restaurant called Zur Kleinen Moldau which was no more than 5 minutes away, served a mean strawberry-lemonade on tap, and a fine pikante-wurst with sweet honey mustard, and slices pickles. Maybe it was just that shit-service rebound feel, but Zur Kleinen Moldau stuck with me for the rest of the ride - and is easily one of my top tips on the ride.
OK, less sausage and more cycling. The route hugs the coast of Werbellinsee as it cuts its was through Joachimstall - Goering’s literal old hunting ground, so we learned. Gorgeous countryside, lots of pine trees, and fields full of not-quite-ready-to-eat vegetables. As we passed through Stegelitz, a local on a old-bicycle asked us if we had seen his cow. Yep, you’re really in the countryside when these kind of things happen. Not knowing if said cow was ever found, we pushed forward to Warnitz, and stopped off at a great little shack called Doritas Gartenbistro, where Dorita had turned a garden shed into a tiny little cafe and bar for bikers - it’s well worth the stop just to try her homemade boulette.
The first day was our biggest push, logging in around 120k in around nine-hours. On reflection that actually seems pretty slow, and I’m not sure why. Accounting for the odd getting-lost moments, and the time spent outside appreciating spicy-east-german wurst, it’s still quite a slow pace. Maybe we just didn’t warm up adequately. Regardless, we rocked up at the campsite on Oberuckersee just before 7, and pitched our tents just off the lake’s shoreline, in time to watch the sun slowly melt into the cold, dark blue waters. Campsites are vert basic affairs, but when they’re done well it makes all the difference. Camping at Oberuckersee, was anything but terrible - fresh bread rolls delivered in the morning, hot water, showers, Dyson hand-dryers, and sterling views. Incredible.
One of the other things to note about the east German countryside (well, probably the countryside in Germany as a whole) is that places tend to close really early. I couldn’t tell you why. Anyway, having arrived later than planned we searched for someone to eat. In Warntiz there are no cafes, supermarkets, shops - or anything at all. The first restaurant we visited wasn’t even open, the second closed their kitchen at 8. We were forced to cycle out of town and to the posh-hotel on the lake shore, where, after asking, we ate at the restaurant, and dined on the most expensive risotto I’ve ever eaten. Totally worth it though, not just due to our appetites, but also for the look on the faces of all the chic-y diners as four haggered, sweaty and dirty Berliners came down to join them for some swanky eating.
Warntiz to Uckermünde - 100km
Another great thing about this bike route, is that in just under two days time you can actually make it to the sea, which when living in Berlin, is a great thing. And yet another plus point is that the heart of the bike route takes you through the district of Uckermark, the so-called Tuscany of Germany. Predominately rural, with little old-timey villages, cottages with thatched-roofs, fields of gold, green, and grazing, national parks, lakes, rivers and streams and lines of houses offering their homemade honey, eggs, and vegetables. Having awoken to the sound of hundreds of birds trying to beat each other in a game of who can be the loudest earliest, we de-pitched and got back on the road. Breakfast was hard to come by, and wasn’t until we got to Prenzlau that we were able to top up on our daily omelette requirements. Apart from the great egg-feast, there’s not much else that can be said for Prenzlau, apart from that there were some very questionable campaign posters for right wing political parties dotted around the city.
Day two is very much similar to the first, with various forest paths and bike routes that take you through eerily empty villages. It’s strange, we probably saw less than five-people in the entire day (campsites and cafes excluded, obvs.) Just before Pasewalk, the bike route turns into a rough dirt track for around 5 kilometres. It’s probably one of the worst parts of the whole route, it’s a tough ride, gruelling, and generally unpleasant. The route then cuts through Pasewalk, where a certain Nazi Führer once spent some time at the local hospital after the first world war temporarily blinded from exposure to some disagreeable chemicals.
Through Eggesin, past miles of old army barracks, and yet more abandoned apartment blocks and desolately, empty town centres (seriously, where is everyone?), and the route arrives in Uckermünde on the German northerly coast. One thing that strikes you immediately once you get into the town centre, is the abundance of fish restaurants and cafes - and on that front, Uckermünde does not disappoint. After some of our party upgraded their sleeping bags in a local sports shop, we biked a bit further on to Grambin where we checked in to the Ostsee-Camping park, pitching literally within metres of the beach, once more watching the sun tease the trees and water and is gently skulked off into hiding.
At the end of the day, it was once more time to play the 'let’s find an open kitchen at 8pm' game. The first place we came to - Herzbäcker - turned us away, even through we were there at 7.45. Apparently they’d closed the kitchen early, and weren’t going to change their mind. A couple in the restaurant even gave us disgusted looks because we had the audacity to ask the owners to change their mind. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as found somewhere 100 times better around the corner - Zum Goldenen Löwen, where the kitchen stayed open till 9! It was herring season, and we all dined on lush, raw fish and fried potatoes. Another top-tip.
Uckermünde to Ückeritz - 110km
Biking over Easter turned out to be a great idea, as the highs were around 25 degrees. Any hotter than this, and it might have been unbearable. The trouble though was that the nights were really cold, such that I had to wear all my clothes while in my sleeping bag, and even then, when waking up, I couldn’t feel my feet. Pretty sure that’s not a good thing. Day Three was supposed to be our shortest, leaving us with a just a small journey to make on the last day, however, for reasons beyond our control, it turned out to be our longest. From Uckermünde you cycle straight through the national park of Anklamer Stadtbruch / Torfmoor, a boggy lagoon where a sea-surge flooded the local area, killing off the trees and fauna. Now it’s a protected wildlife sanctuary, with epic landscape scenery, with a Mad Max kind-of vibe.
The bike route cuts through Anklam, a town that’s big on it churches, and then circles back round through some farms, and over the sea to island of Usedom. Once you cross the bridge the scenery and atmosphere immediately change - the surroundings reflect that of an idyllic island, full of countryside, quaint villages and cows will long hair and big horns. It’s very reminiscent of the Danish outdoors, and even some of the village names sound quite Nordic. A lot of the roads seem half-finished, and there’s some serious bumpy riding, but the odd medieval church, or 100 year-old castle make up for it. There’s a lot more up-and-downs during this stretch, especially as your traverse from one side of the island to the other. As you ache your way up some dramatic inclines, you’re equally rewarded with some exclamation-mark-inducing down-hills. There are some real hair-raising, bike-rattling, downhill screamers that really get your brakes working during the latter half of this ride. Once through the forest paths, past the extravagant hotels and golf courses, you eventually end up on the northern coast, where the sea facing hotels are white, gallant, and slightly absurd. From Ahlbeck onwards, the coastline morphs into a middle-class entertainment park, full of old-people, markets selling whicker baskets, and glass jewellery, while the promenade is filled with overthetop restaurants, cafes, and the sort. Through Herringsdorf you have to weave your way past the families slow-biking, walk the bike through the new-world markets and beach-town fairs, and generally through all the tourist rabble that you’re actually trying to escape by going by bike.
Once off the promenade and into the forest again, we came across our intended campsite at Ückeritz. The stinger was however, that the reception was another 5km onwards. However, the extra distance required was amply made up for by the included amenities - free WIFI, hot showers (no Dyson though), lots of restaurants nearby (with kitchens that are open till late) - and the fact the site is just a few meters away from the sand-covered beach. As we pitched up for one last night, we watched the sun ruin the blue-skinned sky, by wiping it down with some indelicate reds, and oranges until the whole place went pitch black. Fish was once again on the menu, this time - pickled herring and a few drafts of beer.
Ückeritz to Peenemünde to Greifswald - 60km
Having gone way further than we intended to on Day Three, we literally only had 20 more kilometres to do before reaching the end of the route. If you were expecting something epic and worthy of note to conclude the bike route, then you’re in for some sorry disappointment. That’s not to say Peenemünde isn’t of interest, more anti-climatic (it’s bad enough that there isn’t even a sign to tell you that that bike route has finished!) Anyway, the area Peenemünde used to be used as a missile testing area during the war, and was where the V2 rockets were originally manufactured and launched from. As you approach, there are remnants from old bunkers, and testing areas that still surround the port town. After the war, the Russians and then the East Germans used the town as a naval dock. An old u-boat sits in the bay, while a disused factory dominates the background. Peenemünde feels like a very sad place, with so many relics of its sorry history still defining everyone’s daily lives. The buildings look like they haven’t been refurbished in over 100 years, with old steel fence posts — akin to those you would find at labour camps — still used to separate people’s gardens.
From here we took a boat across the bay to Freest where we joined the Ostsee radweg, and biked another 35k to Greifswald. This little bike route hugs the coast as much as possible, which makes the ride as equally picturesque as it does windy. From here you can look across the sea to the island of Rügen, along with the hundred-or-so kite surfers, who allow themselves to be dragged and crushed across the sea currents.
The route eventually takes you into Greifswald, which feels like a more apt place to finish your ride. For a start, there are more ice-cream options, and the train takes you to Berlin along most of the bike route you just zipped across. It’s an odd feeling as the train touches all the places you visited across the four days, in just a matter of hours. As it passes through Warnitz you can even see the campsite from the first night, which is in itself, quite surreal, yet a fitting end to a bonafide journey.