Weißenfels – Weimar : 80 km
I finished up leaving at 10:45 because of the rain. The weather was overcast, cool and humid. Quite a welcome change compared to the first three days. I directly found my Saale bike trail just a few minutes from the hotel and everything went fine for the first 15 minutes. Then I was biking down this trail that suddenly ended! I had to backtrack on this muddy, sandy road only to discover I should have turned left under the railway bridge. The problem was the was NO SIGN!
However, the trail from there was fine and the clouds did there best to keep the moisture from falling. The countryside had not changed much with wide vistas of the river and the occasional waterfall. I was happily making good time along a very empty road with a great downhill gradient where I was cautiously reaching 35 km/hr. Then to my surprise, I found out why the road was completely empty as you can see from the photo here – the road was completely closed. I had visions of pushing my bike and all it’s cargo back up that hill for 5 km. I asked one of the contractors on site if I could pass through and his very polite reply was, “Yes, but at your own risk”. Well, they had really closed this bridge and I had to remove all of my luggage and then carry my bike across the four hurdles (and then my luggage separately). This whole exercise costed me a good 15 minutes and my luggage got pretty dirty.
Then pretty much plain sailing to Naumburg where I had lunch. Getting out of Naumburg was pretty tricky but with the help of the locals I was back on my trail. Stopped for lunch in the marketplace in Naumburg, which was great planning as it started raining hard but I sat outside under the umbrellas.
Had some ininitial trouble getting out of the town and back on the trail but, again, with the help of the friendly locals managed to get back on track. Made great progress on the asphalt surfaced path and got to Bad Kösen when I came to a crossroad with signs pointing in all directions. Another group of senior long-distance riders obviously had the same problem so we started talking and they were also on their way to Weimar. But they were taking another route than me and after some discussion I decide to change my route at this point.
What I realized was this path was the Ilmtal Bike Route which I had planned to follow on day 5 from Weimar. This appeared to shorten my journey by about 10 km but I did not have a map for this part of the route. This turned out to be a problem at some point when I took a wrong turn and finished up in Apolda, about 5 km out of my way. After climbing a monstrous hill (on foot) I asked for the way at a gas station and found route to to Weimar again.
Then it started raining. This was the first time I had experienced riding in the rain, which was not unpleasant but a bit chilly and I had to slow down as many of the surfaces were slippery. I finally got to Weimar around 18:30 and was pleased to take of my damp clothes and get under a hot shower.