In grade eleven I spraint my ankle badly. I remember how upset I was because I couldn’t walk, run or practise karate for three long weeks. But riding my bike was relatively pain free. I had a silver road bike that my parents had bought for 100 German Marks at a Polish flea market. That summer, every day after school I quickly finished my homework and then grabbed my bike and rode the 20km to my grandparent’s place, stayed for dinner and rode home again, always taking the same road straight through a shut down open coal mine.
Smooth bitumen, very few cars and a moon-like landscape with young mixed forest (re-forestation) – my grandparents and I loved the ritual and were a little sad when my ankle eventually healed and my visits became less frequent.
Naturally, I was keen to ride along memory lane this time around, only no longer able to visit my grandparents. Instead I planned to take the turn just before my grandparent’s old town sign and continue to Lichterfeld to see a gigantic piece of old coal mining equipment that I had heard about.
The Förderbrücke F60 only had a trial run a few months before the wall fell. With the changes that followed, the coal mine was closed and the huge conveyer bridge, brand new and now useless was doomed to be blown up. Instead, a volunteer group formed and took on the project of preserving it and creating a tourist attraction, an open air display with guided tours and the lot.
I was told that I would be able to see the gigantic construction from kilometers away but I found a Road Closed sign only a few kilometer from my destination. I started following the signed detour but soon realised that it would take me a long distance away, through more open coal mining area. It got boring and I wanted to be back home for breakfast so I decided to turn around and leave the Förderbrücke for another ride.
The next morning, I took the other route, along the outer edge of the former coal mine, hopping from one village to village, one quieter and quainter than the next, separated by short stretches of birch and oak tree forests, old and ancient. This time I made it and was impressed by the pile of mining scrap metal at the edge of the former mine.
Apparently it’s the length of the Paris Eiffel Tower, just laying horizontally.
On my return trip there was still no soul to be seen on the streets but the sun came up over the horizon and I couldn’t get enough of the golden autumn colours. Another perfect morning ride… just short of 50km and Dad was about to put coffee on just as I opened the door to my parent’s apartment…