The first turn of the train wheels broke the stiction holding me to my home because in the past two years plus I have not ventured away. Although I have explored my new home in Göttingen with enthusiasm my last big journey was when I moved from London. The Covid pandemic being a strong reason for my reluctance to travel.
We cut the bonds holding us and set forth to Halle knowing that we would be in the generous and warm hands of Ines and David.
The train route took us north from Gö and we looped around the Harz Mountains with the Brocken Mountain being in plain sight until we ventured onto the flat North German Plains.
Halle is the 31st largest city in Germany with a population of 230,000 plus and is in the State of Saxony Anhalt. It was part of East Germany before unification in 1990. The city was built upon the mining of salt an industry now gone and which had ancient origins. Halle is a long established place of learning and was the birthplace of the Piety Movement which promoted Calvinism.
The city like so many in Central Europe has been affected widely by strife and it was swept up in the carnage of the Thirty Years War. In 1806 a month after the Battle of Jena and the defeat of the Prussian and Hanoverian Armies, the battle of Halle was fought seeing the same armies’ reserves shattered in the streets of the city. Napoleon occupied Halle and closed the university although he liked Göttingen´s which remained open.
During World War Two Halle was the only 200,000 plus city not to be area bombed. Aircraft and munitions sites were attacked leading to some damage and one thousand deaths. As was the case in villages, towns, and cities across Germany the civil authorities were able to agree a surrender to the United States 10th Infantry Division after they hit the city centre with artillery fire causing limited damage to landmarks such as the Red Tower situated in the Market Square.
The US Army subsequently left, and the Red Army took their place ushering in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik and Soviet dominance. In 1953 the people of Halle revolted against the government and the Red Army was forced to intervene.
Modern Halle is a vibrant city and no doubt its legacy of being the birthplace of Georg Friedrich Händel and hosting the Halloren-Werke chocolate factory the oldest in Germany, underpins the attraction for music and café lovers helping the city to shake off its East German baggage. Music and art are important aspects of life and I assume both make the city attractive to the many young people who are making it their home often leaving the more ´affluent´ West Germany. The Saale River is a hot spot for Halle residents to hang out and play.
The left leaning Die Linke and the CDU of Angela Merkel vie for power in Halle (and Saxony Anhalt), whilst the green impact has been minimal, and the centre left SPD have suffered decline badly. When you get into the countryside you will find greater numbers of ´brown voters´ those who support right wing parties such as the AFD and this was noticeable on our bike ride because in the city banners in support of the party were not so obvious but, in the countryside, they adorned certain villages.
In 2019 a right-wing gunman attacked the Halle Synagogue killing two people and injuring others. The murders thankfully shocked Halle and Germany. This atrocity underscored the threat of neo-Nazi violence and ideology despite Halle being a seemingly open and tolerant city.
The aim on our bike ride was the Petersberg the highest spot (250m) in what is a generally flat landscape. My heart lit up when we soon hit cobbles and later, we crossed the course of the Hell of the East (http://www.hoelle-des-ostens.de/). We rode the Halle-Petersberg-Fuhne cycle route which included gravel (often rough) and asphalt. We jumped off it to ride twisting single track before hitting the 19% climb up to the church atop the Petersberg.
Do not follow the same lines as a tandem! Our ride partners Ines and David rode their flame orange tandem and the combination of their skill, and the bikes long wheelbase saw them serenely power through the rough stuff on sections that made my solo bike feel like a Bucking Bronco. They also annoyed me by out sprinting me for a village sign and celebrating despite Ines giving me an expert hand sling. The feeling I got from attempting to follow a tandem at over forty KPH on a cobbled descent will live with me for some time. Ines and David did buy us cake when we reached the Saale River and so I´m not bitter!
From there David weaved us home toward and through Halle along the wonderful Saale River overlooked by the Giebichenstein Castle.
Garmin Connect: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/7481033066