E11 hiking trail
The E11 is one of three European long distance paths running East from the Benelux to Eastern Poland. In the North, following the German and Polish coasts of North Sea and Baltic Sea, the E9 offers a variety of polders, sandy beaches, dunes and commercial ports. More to the South, the E3 crosses through the long range of medium-sized mountains that links the mainly Belgian Ardennes to the Carpathian Mountains. The E11 takes an intermediate course through the rolling lowlands of Northern Germany and Poland. Nowhere does it touch a sea (not even the North Sea as E11 starts in Scheveningen behind the first rows of buildings!), but a single medium-sized mountain range is passed-by, notably the Harz Mountains in the center of Germany. The highest point of E11 is 514 meters on the slopes of the Harz Mountains, whereas the lowest point is slightly under sea level in one of the polders in the West of The Netherlands.
Large parts of the E11 cross through forests, for which sometimes considerable detours are made. Open scenery is found in small parts of The Netherlands as well as in Eastern Germany and around the Polish city of Poznań. Nevertheless, the E11 links some interesting cities, such as The Hague, Amersfoort, Deventer, Osnabruck, Goslar, Luther`s Wittenberg, Berlin, Frankfurt (Oder), Poznań and Toruń. Water along the E11 takes the form of a sea only at the starting point, but lakes and rivers are not rare along the trail. Walking the trail is easy for those who can make enough kilometers a day and are versed in reading maps. It can be done in any season, but the Polish winter is long, and rich in snow. European long distance footpaths are strictly developed as hiking trails, but almost all of E11 can be done on a saddle - be it on a horse or a bicycle.
Apart from getting lost in the vast Polish forests, there seem to be no hazards other than the occasional boar or wolf in Poland. It is only at the end of a severe winter season, when the animals are hungry, that extra care must be taken. Bears are only roaming about in the Polish mountains, where E11 does not come.
In a sense, E11 is the oldest European footpath among the ERA network. There is archeological evidence that messengers and traders already followed the range of low hills in what is now Northern Germany, thousands of years ago. Especially after the Middle Ages, the route rose to great popularity and became a backbone of East-West trade. Travelers preferred the dry and sandy ridge over the swamps to the North and South of it. At present, ramblers feel the same for a different reason: The forested hilltops are more pleasant to walk in than the lower areas.
Since 1970, a regional hiking trail in Germany was gradually extended into The Netherlands until, in 1980, the twin cities Haarlem and Osnabruck could present an on-going international long distance path from West of Amsterdam to the then existing German-German border in the Harz Mountains (see Christian Roeder: "Fernwanderweg Harz-Niederlande; von Bad Harzburg nach Haarlem", ed. Kompass (1980), ISBN 3-8134-0099-9). After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the unification of both Germanies in 1990, the need was felt to extend the trail to the East on a partially new course, partially making use of existing trails in the former German Democratic Republic.
Parallel to the extension of the European Union to the East, E11 was prolonged over the existing network of Polish local and regional hiking trails. Dreams to make E11 reach Moscow through Lithuania and Latvia could up to now not be realized, due to a lack of rambling organizations in the three countries involved.
E11 in The Netherlands (355 km)
In The Netherlands, E11 is identical to the Marskramerpad (Dutch for "Hawkers Way"), which links Scheveningen over 368 kilometers to the German township of Bad Bentheim. The last 13 km are on German territory, which leaves 355 km for the Dutch territory. Like most Dutch long distance trails, the Marskramerpad is managed by Wandelnet (see http://www.Wandelnet.nl, a quango and umbrella organisation of Dutch rambling clubs), where a detailed guide of the trail can be bought (Wandelnet: "Marskramerpad", ed. by Wandelnet, Amersfoort, 2009, ISBN 978-90-71068-78-2, a guide in Dutch with very useful detailed maps). This booklet must be used in the reverse order, i.e. the map showing Scheveningen is the last map in the guide. This may explain why the cover text of the guide erroneously states that the Dutch part of E11 begins in the German town of Bad Bentheim.
Dutch hiking trails, including the Marskramerpad, are usually perfectly marked. However, ramblers must be warned that trails are often changed, sometimes in a major way, and these changes are only described in Dutch. It is therefore advisable to order the guide "Marskramerpad" and also check the website of the Marskramerpad for recent changes (http://Wandelnet.nl/Marskramerpad-law-3-0/meldingen). At the moment of writing these lines (26 August 2012), the figure reads 56 ... Not all changes are small. One of them (between Achterveld and Terschuur) amounts to an extra 8 kilometers (about 5 miles), on top of the 360 kilometers mentioned on the cover of the guide. A map showing the complete trail can be downloaded from the website, http://Wandelnet.nl/Marskramerpad-law-3/kaart.
It is possible to download a GPS trail of a recent version of the Marskramerpad from http://GPStracks.nl/wandelroutes-law.php?id=2209. This is a private publication, and is not checked by Wandelnet. It probably does not cover all changes in the routing either.
EUREGIO exploits the eastern part of the Marskramerpad and its continuation in Germany (together forming the stretch Deventer - Bad Bentheim - Osnabrück) under the name of Handelsweg (see http://www.Handelsweg.com. This website offers downloads of topomaps and bookings of lodgings and luggage transport).
E11 in Germany (996 km)
The first 13 kilometers in Germany are still part of the Dutch Marskramerpad and may be found on maps 1 and 2 of the Dutch guide. In the rest of Germany, E11 follows some old regional trails, a remnant of the Wanderweg Harz - Niederlande (Hiking Trail Harz - Netherlands) and a newly created routing in the former GDR. It crosses former West-Germany on a chain of ridges running from West to East, then passes the Harz Mountains without going high, and finally gives an impression of the large-scale agrarian enterprises that were founded by the Brandenburg-Prussian nobility in the 17th century, and continued to exist in the form of People's Owned Companies during the GDR.
E11 is normally marked in various regional ways and only rarely is one reminded that one follows a European trail. It is therefore absolutely necessary to know the names of these trails and their symbols, as given below. Since they appear both as marks on trees and walls, and on detailed maps in which the trails are indicated, no further knowledge of the German language is needed to reach the Polish border.
The rambler may use one of the splendid detailed German maps, which are normally found in local bookshops only. Hikers who pass through Deventer in The Netherlands before walking into Germany, may profit from a visit to the Wandelwinkel, a bookshop specialized in publications about hiking and related outdoor sports, where all German detailed maps are in stock. The shop is found opposite the Bergkerk (Mountain Church; it is built on a little hill) in the most picturesque part of the town, or in internet (http://www.deWandelwinkel.nl) Both Falk and ADAC publish a road atlas on a scale of 1:200,000 on which E11 is remarkably well indicated. These are sold throughout Europe.
Töddenweg and Wittekindsweg (205 km)
After Bad Bentheim. E11 follows the border between the German federal states (Länder) of Lower Saxony and Northrhine-Westphalia over about 200 kilometers, which means that one crosses their border at least every day. This is true for both the Töddenweg and the Wittekindsweg, which form the respective continuations of the Marskramerpad.
The Töddenweg (a regional name also to be translated as "Hawkers Way") used to begin in Oldenzaal in The Netherlands, but has its start now in Bad Bentheim, an old siege of German nobility with a medieval castle (partly museum) and a functioning spa. The Töddenweg passes Schüttorf, Rheine, Dreierwalde, Ostenwalde, Hopsten, Recke, Mettingen and Westerkappeln to end at the central station of Osnabrück. A set of three maps can be downloaded or ordered from EUREGIO at www.Handelsweg.com. A different map can be obtained from the German website http://www.Spazieren.de/Downloads/D/T_Toeddenweg.zip. In its present form, from Bad Bentheim to Osnabrück, the Töddenweg measures 110 kilometers. It is marked by stickers with a white capital T on a black square, or by a simple T painted on trees and walls. It cruises on a row of low hills slightly elevated above the surrounding agrarian land.
The continuation after Osnabrück's monumental railway station is called Wittekindsweg (Widukind's Way), named after Widukind, an 8th-Century war leader who long upheld the conquest of Saxony by Charlemagne. Remarkable is that his long and brave resistance resulted in his appointment as the first Duke of Saxony under Charlemagne. The Wittekindsweg, 95 km long, follows the crest of the Wiehengebirge, passing Rulle, Mühlenort near Engter, Vehrte, Ostercappeln, Wehrendorf, Barkhausen, Oberbauerschaft and Bergkirchen to Porta Westfalica. Just before the sensational descent to Porta Westfalica, the trail passes the giant monument to the honor of Wilhelm I, German Emperor from 1871 till his death in 1888. The building is placed in such a way, that even today, all who pass in a train or on the motorway, see it high on the slope that ends the Wiehengebirge.
The Wittekindsweg is marked with a skewed white cross on a black background (or on trees and walls) from Osnabrück to Mühlenort, but afterward with the white and red stripes that remind of France and the BeNeLux countries. The stretch from Osnabrück to the Wittekindsberg, South of the city of Minden, is also found on Kompass map 750 (available in any good bookshop throughout Europe). Both the Töddenweg and the Wittekindsweg are under the management of the Wiehengebirgsverband Weser-Ems, a quango promoting tourism and other commercial interests of the region. They publish and sell detailed maps displaying the trail, which can be ordered from their website, http://www.wgv-Weser-Ems.de. For those who read German, their booklet with detailed description of the itinerary may be useful. A different map of the trail may be downloaded from http://www.Spazieren.de/Downloads/D/Wittekindsweg.zip. Some detailed information about the trail is given in German by Wanderbares-Deutschland.de (http://www.Wanderbares-Deutschland.de; click on Wittekindsweg in the list of trails in the left column of the page).
Eastern Lower Saxony and Harz Mountains (186 km)
After Porta Westfalica E11 remains in Lower Saxony for almost 200 kilometers. It follows the 50 kilometers of a regional hiking trail, the Wesergebirgsweg, cruising over de crest of the next ridge, the Weser Uplands to the medieval town of Hameln. E11 reaches a height of 440 meters on Mount Hohe Egge, amidst of breath-taking rocks and ancient forests. It then crosses the open downs around Hameln (junctions with E1) and Coppenbrügge, near the rivers Hamel and Weser. The latter township offers the last possibility for shopping before E11 climbs the next ridge, the Ith and remains on its crest over its full length.
Passing Eschershausen, medieval Alfeld (Leine), the Helleberg ("Mount Hell") and Bad Gandersheim, E11 reaches the Harz Mountains at the township of Seesen. Although the mountain range offers summits of 1000 meters and more (the famous Brocken is over 1400 meters high), E11 does not climb higher than 500 meters and keeps mostly to the lower parts of the northern slopes. It crosses through a few townships well-known from early German history: Goslar (junctions with E6) and Bad Harzburg. The little River Ecker used to be the German-German border and now separates the federal states of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.
Detailed information about this part of the trail may be found in a publication in German, "Der E11 durch das Norddeutsche Mittelgebirge"; Fernwege.de (2010); ISBN 978-3-937304-80-9 (340 km). This guide describes E11 from Porta Westfalica to the city of Halle an der Saale in Saxony-Anhalt. It may be ordered on a German website, http://www.Fernwege.de. This section of E11 is also shown on several detailed topographical maps like Kompass 450. E11 is marked on trees and walls with a white skewed cross (X), occasionally on a black square and/or with the letter N to avoid confusion with other trails which are also marked with a cross. The N refers to the old name of the trail, Netherlands - Harz Mountains. Note however that markings "X11", also with a white cross, refer to a different trail that runs more or less parallel to E11.
Harz Mountains and Saxony-Anhalt (244 km)
In the years after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the German reunification, the Harz Club put much effort in restoring the network of rambling trails in the Eastern part oif the Harz Mountains. This resulted a.o. in a completely new extension of E11 through the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. It passes Ilsenburg, Wernigerode, Thale, Gernrode and Ballenstedt, breaks finally through the crest of the Harz Mountains (which are hills rather than mountains here) via Pansfelde and Wippra, and reaches Lutherstadt Eisleben. The latter city is known as the town of birth of Martin Luther, the church reformer, and bears his name in its official name.
A further extension, long planned, but realized only in 2007, leads E11 through mining and large-scale agricultural area to the village of Höhnstedt and the Natural Park of the Lower Saale (Naturpark Unteres Saaletal) (see http://www.Unteres-Saaletal.de for information in German). E11 proceeds by Schochwitz and Dölau to the large city of Halle. This remarkable town survived the Second World War almost undamaged and retains a great number of buildings reflecting Bauhaus and other architectural styles. The section until Halle is marked in the same manner as the previous parts, i.e. a white cross (X), possibly on a black square.
After Halle, E11 climbs the lonely hill of Petersberg and continues through flat, open land. The scenery reflects both the large scale of agrarian enterprises in the GDR as well as that of Brandenburg-Prussian nobility in the 18th and 19th centuries. E11 passes Görzig and Quellendorf to reach the city of Dessau, the cradle of Bauhaus. The E11 then plunges into the thrilling nature of the Biosphere Reserve of the Middle Elbe. It passes Vockerode, Wörlitz and Coswig and enters the forest around Senst. Shortly after this village, E11 reaches the border with the federal state of Brandenburg. After Halle, E11 is marked according to the traditional system in former communist Europe: three horizontal stripes, white, blue and white, which may also be interpreted as a blue stripe on a white square.
In Saxony-Anhalt, E11 is found on the maps published by Kompass, notably 450 or 452 and 453 (Harz Mountains until Eisleben), 457 (Eisleben to Halle), 458 (Halle to Dessau) and 456 or 747 (after Dessau). Alternatively, topographical maps may be acquired locally. Useful information in the German language can be found on the website of Fernwege.de, by clicking on "PDF Touren download", "Wander-Shop" and "Fernwanderwege in Deutschland" (the section between Halle and Coswig is still missing).
Brandenburg and Berlin (348 km)
E11 enters Brandenburg near Groß-Marzehns and crosses treeless large-scale agrarian land until the pittoresque town of Belzig. The trail continues through vast hunting forests, which were the property of the Brandenburg-Prussian nobility in the 19th Century and served as a green zone around Berlin and Potsdam in the 20th Century. About 20 kilometers before Potsdam, E11 reaches the first of a score of lakes zoomed by many former GDR holiday resorts, some of which still manage to linger on.
Crossing Potsdam near the Central Railway Station takes little time as E11 avoids the interesting historical town center and the luxurious palaces of the former dukes of Brandenburg, who became kings of Prussia and emperors of Germany. E11 sneaks through one of the hottest spots on the former border of West-Berlin, Klein Glienicke. This little settlement enclosed by water and divided by a dented border, was packed full of spies by both superpowers during the Cold War. The Glienicke Bridge witnessed the opening and subsequent fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.
The routing through former West-Berlin surprises with a vast area of forest before the Olympic Stadium in Charlottenburg is reached. This part of Berlin is rich in historical castles, including the winter residence of the Prussian kings, who also founded a few museums here. Most of the famous museums of Berlin are, however, found in Mitte (the historical center of Berlin and also the center of East-Berlin in GDR times. E11 does not pass here, but follows an old trail of West-Berlin along the River Spree and the Landwehr Canal, thus missing the most interesting parts of former East-Berlin and present-day Berlin.
The borough of Köpenick is where E11 enters former East-Berlin territory. E11 lingers leisurely between the River Spree and a few recreational parks and then crosses the river by ferry into a vast area of town houses and bungalows to Friedrichshagen. Here, E11 leaves the urbanization behind to venture to the North into one of the most beautiful parts of the trail, the valley of the little river Erpe or Neuenhagener Mühlenfließ. Turning East, the trail now passes through Neuenhagen and the Märkische Schweiz Nature Park to Gusow near the town of Seelow. From here, the rambler may choose a more western trail over the hills of Lebus to Jacobsdorf or, more to the East, the trail that, after the village of Reitwein, follows the River Oder to the South. Both variants meet each other in Frankfurt (Oder), where the German part of E11 ends on the bridge over the Oder to Poland.
In Brandenburg and Berlin, E11 is marked in various way. The white-blue-white stripes coming from Coswig in Saxony-Anhalt continue till Luisium. White-red-white markings take over toward the little village of Wörlitz (i.e. Wörlitz, Brandenburg; not the bigger township of the same name in Saxony-Anhalt) and white-blue-white stripes bring the rambler to Potsdam. In front of Potsdam's monumental central railway station (Potsdam Hauptbahnhof) E11 meets E10, running North-South and also marked white-blue-white. A yellow X takes the rambler through former West-Berlin to the begin of Köpenick, from where white-yellow-white stripes lead through this borough and that of Friedrichshagen. White-red-white stripes follow and bring the hiker to Neuhardenberg. while white-blue-white stripes accompany the journey to Frankfurt (Oder).
This part of E11 is described in the German language, "Wanderungen durch Brandenburg, Unterwegs auf den Europäischen Fernwanderwegen E10 und E11", Trescher Verlag (2003), ISBN 978-3-89794-033-8, a description of E10 and E11 in the federal state of Brandenburg. A list of 150 addresses which offer lodgings for the night en-route, also in German, is found in specialized bookshops in Germany ("Übernachtungsverzeichnis zum europäischen Fernwanderweg E11 in Brandenburg", ISBN 978-3-937304-41-0). Some useful information is found at the website of Fernwege.de, but as such not enough to follow the trail. It is strongly advised to carry a city plan of Berlin when walking from Potsdam to Neuenhagen. Locally bought topographical maps will do for the rest of the trail in Brandenburg.
E11 in Poland (1177 km)
In Poland, E11 continues to the East, then to the Northeast, to pass the cities of Międzychód, Poznań, Gniezno, Toruń, Brodnica, Iława, Olsztyn and Gołdap to the township of Ogrodniki, Sejny County on the Lithuanian border. According to http://www.Waldwissen.net/lernen/Weltforstwirtschaft/wsl_Polen/wsl_Polen_Originalartikel.pdf (a website in German about forestry), some 30% of Poland is covered with forest, and it will not be surprising to find that most of E11 crosses through vast areas with trees (mostly planted and exploited in a commercial way), and various forms of wild nature, such as lakes and dunes. Near Poznań, however, the rambler walks for days through agrarian and semi-industrial land, made pleasant by some ancient towns and buildings.
As Poland is rather scarcely populated, the more so when going East, ramblers without tents must be prepared for daily distances between 25 and 35 kilometers. Where the routing is shown in detail below, the distance from the beginning of the section is added to the name of a township to indicate that the town offers some form of accommodation. For example, "Wronki (88 km)" in the section "Międzyrzecz - Poznań-Kiekrz" means that there is a hostel, hotel or other accommodation in the town of Wronki, 88 kilometers after Międzyrzecz.
No Polish regional trail is, as a whole, part of E11. The trail rather jumps from one existing trail to another, generally after following such a trail over a short distance only. Moreover, E11 is not indicated in the field as such, with a few exceptions which may add up to one sign every 100 km. The regional trails are marked, however, although not always well enough to enable the rambler to find E11 without a map. The marking system is always the common Central European, i.e. white-colored-white, but due to the many changes from one trail to another, the color varies a lot. This is why, in the details of the routing of each section below, the color of the markings is indicated. For example, "Drzecin (yellow)" means that in Drzecin, E11 begins to follow a trail marked with yellow stripes on a white square.
Some topographical maps show sections of E11, but others may only show the trails that form the basis for it. It is therefore necessary to fall back on documents describing which sections of which trails form E11 together. Unfortunately, these are hardly accessible or incomplete:
1. A German book, now out of sale, and summarizing the routing of all eleven European long distance paths, Hans Jürgen Gorges: "Auf Tour in Europa", ed. Kompass & European Ramblers Association (1999/2000 and 2002). This is an (even second-hand) completely sold-out summary of the E-trails, getting obsolete due to changes in the routings.
2. A series of Polish topographical maps (with legend in English) showing hiking trails, but not always indicating which of these belong to E11: Oddział Topograficny Sztabu Gen. WP: Mapa Topograficzna Polski §, where § stands for the number of the map, i.e. "N-33-125/126" for the first map after Frankfurt (Oder). These and some more detailed maps may be ordered from abroad at the specialized map shop Grupa.18 in Poznań (http://www.Grupa18.pl.
3. Please note that it is not possible to find your way with the help of German maps, however detailed they are. These maps tend to show the German names of townships as they were in use until 1945, but these names are nowhere to be found in the area. The German inhabitants of old were forcibly resettled in Germany and are no longer there, whereas the present Polish inhabitants are mostly the children of those who were equally forcefully resettled from areas that once belonged to Poland, but are now parts of Byelorussia and the Ukraine, some thousand kilometers to the East. Thus none of the locals is able to trace an old German name to a modern Polish settlement.
4. Later changes in the Polish routing can be found (in Polish) in the regional offices of PTTK, the Polish tourist organization (http://english.PTTK.pl, a website with some basic information in English) and at the secretariat of the European Ramblers Association (ERA) in Prague.
Oder bridge - Międzyrzecz (141 km)
Once the bridge across the River Oder (and the now open border between Germany and Poland) has been passed, E11 (here unmarked) goes straight through the town center of Słubice, until 1945 a suburban part of Frankfurt (Oder) under the name of Dammvorstadt, but a separate township in a different country since then. Going straight all the time for two kilometers, the rambler reaches a small parcel of forest. Here E11 curbs left toward the little village of Drzecin, where the first white-yellow-white markings are found. These lead in a few days to Lubniewice, where the markings change to white-blue-white. Up to here, map N-33-125/126 suffices, although it does not mention E11. The detailed routing is: Oder bridge between Frankfurt (Oder) and Słubice - town centerof Słubice (no marking) - Drzecin (yellow) - Stare Biskupice - Sułów - Drzeńsko - Lubiechnia Wielka - Lubiechnia Mała - Ośno Lubuskie (34 km) - Trzebów - Jarnatów - Lubniewice (67 km).
The blue trail passes Kursko and leads to Kęszyca Leśna, a former army base of the Soviet Red Army that now tries to build up a second life as an industrial and tourist settlement. The former staff quarters now function as a hotel, where the hiker may rest as a Soviet general. A little further lies Kęszyca, where a German system of underground corridors and strongholds can be visited. This dates back to the 1920s, when democratic Germany (the Weimar Republic) felt the need to defend itself against a possible attack from the East. In the 1930s already, this defense system started to deteriorate as dictator Adolf Hitler was more interested in attacking himself to the East and saw no need for a defense system that, from his point of view, lay somewhere inland in his dreamed Great Germany. The spot offers now the unique possibility of following E11 underground. Map N-33-127/128 has a new edition that shows the precise course of E11 from Trzebów: Trzebów (yellow) - Jarnatów - Lubniewice (67 km)(blue) - Osiecko - Bledzew (78 km) - Chycina - Gorzyca - Kursko (93 km) - Kęszyca Leśna (100 km) - Kęszyca - Rez. Nietoperek - between Kaława and Wysoka - Gościkowo, with Paradyż abbey (112 km) (green) - Szumiąca - Bobowicko (141 km). The blue trail carries E11 until the township of Gościkowo, where the Paradyż Abbey sometimes hosts tired ramblers overnight, provided they accept the sober rules of monk life. After Gościkowo, white-green-white marks lead through some 30 km of forest to Bobowicko.
Between Kursko and Bobowicko, E11 follows a large bow around the city of Międzyrzecz. The city has bus and train connections with various townships on E11 and may be used as a pleasant station for two or three days of walking without much luggage. Bodowice is at walking distance (2 km) from the train and bus stations of Międzyrzecz. Due to its train connections to Poznań and Germany, Międzyrzecz is also a good place to end or start a tour of one or more weeks along E11. The city has an interesting regional museum and a lively score of restaurants and bars.
Międzyrzecz - Poznań-Kiekrz (133 km)
From Bobowicko, the green trail continues till after Stołuń, where E11 begins to follow white-blue-white to Villa Toscana, a lonely hotel between the villages of Nowe Gorzycko and Stare Gorzycko. The blue trail and E11 continue to the twin cities of Międzychód and Bielsko, which offer many opportunities for shopping (fashion, antiquities, arts) and staying overnight. E11 now enters the area that, for a long time, was No Man's Land and War Front Zone between Prussia (later the German Empire) and Poland. Many monuments remind of this tragedy, but unfortunately the explanatory texts are in Polish only. In Bukowar the markings change to white-red-white and in Obrzycko to white-green-white. Słopanowo marks the end of the forests; E11 now enters the agrarian open space of the province of Greater Poland around the city of Poznań. There are no marks after Szamotuły. The village of Kiekrz is where E11 reaches Poznań.
Maps N-33-127/128, N-33-129/130 and N-33-117/118 do not mention E11, but show the underlined trails in the right color until Szamotuły. The precise routing of E11 is: Bobowicko (green) - Żółwin - Kuligowo - Stołuń - 1 km before Rybakówko (blue) - Villa Toscania (27 km) - Stare Gorzycko - Słodewy Młyn - Międzychód (33 km) - Bielsko (36 km) - Ławicá - Góra - Sieraków (53 km) - Piaski - Bucharzewo - Bukowar (red) - Pustelnia - Chojno - Chojno Błota - Mokrz - Wronki (88 km) - Obrzycko (99 km) (green) - Słopanowo - Kobylniki - Twardowo - Szczuczyn - Szamotuły (113 km) (no marking) - Kępa - Baborówko - Pamiątkowo - Krzyszkowo - Rokietnica - Starzyny - Poznań-Kiekrz (133 km).
E11 through Poznań (33 km)
From behind the railway station of Kiekrz, a white-green-white marked trail leads through a vast city park to Golęcin, from where a few black or blue marks guide the rambler to the tramway stop of Sołacz and Nad Wierzbakiem. After this point, E11 is not defined, but the obvious choice of a rambler interested in one of the oldest, biggest and most beautiful town centers along E11 is to turn right (South) toward Rynek Jezycki. Here begins The Royal-Imperial Route in Poznań which, in a more or less straight West-East line, passes all touristical highlights of Poznań. This tourist trail ends at the medieval little Church of St. John of Jerusalem Outside the Walls near Lake Malta. The quiet Northern shore of this Jezioro Maltańskie offers interesting views of the many sports accommodations on and around the lake and guides the E11 rambler to the zoo and the start of the well-marked but curving Cistercian bicycle track (black monks on a white field or simple black stripes). Lodgings and buses back to town are found just across the border of the city in Gruszczyn. The last residential area of Poznań is Zieliniec.
For this part of the track, a detailed plan of the city is recommendable. Free street maps of the center of Poznań and leaflets with information about the Royal-Imperial Route are found in many hotel lobbies and in the tourist information centers. The details of the route are: Poznań-Kiekrz (green) - Golęcin (black/blue) - Sołacz, Nad Wierzbakiem (no marking) - Rynek Jezycki - The Royal-Imperial Route in Poznań via the central square of Poznań, Rynek, to Rondo Środka - Krańcowa/Nowe Zoo (bicycle track marked with a black Cistercian on a white square) - Poznań-Antoninek - Poznań-Zieliniec (33 km).
Poznań-Zieliniec - Gniezno (55 km)
Crossing the main road in Gruszczyn, E11 goes straight, now following a different bicycle trail, which is marked with a black stripe on a white square. The Cistercian route, by the way, turns left here and ends after two kilometers at the railway station of Kobylnica, although Map N-33-131/132 suggests that it continues straight to Pobiedziska. E11 passes over a tar road through a nondescript area of small businesses and workshops related to agriculture until, just before the little village of Pomo (not shown on map N-33-131/132), it turns left and immediately right again into a sandy forest road. The spot is marked by a stone pillar indicating various hiking and biking trails.
Having ventured into the forest for 2 or 3 kilometers, the E11 rambler reaches a crossing of sandy roads where a hiking trail marked white-green-white comes from the left. E11 and the black bicycle trail turn right to follow the green trail over several kilometers and across a paved road, until finally all black or green markings disappear. Here one should follow white-blue-white markings which, after another kilometer, turn out to mark the same trail as the green hiking and black biking routes. The scale of the topo-map, 1:100,000, does not allow to display all these details, so that a good sense of direction (assisted by a compass and sunny weather) is required.
The combined blue, green and black routes reach a second tar road, which they follow to the left (North) over a few hundred meters. The green and black signs are nowhere to be seen, but the blue trail turns right into a sandy forest path and the map indicates that this is E11. After about a kilometer, the markings leave the path and invite the rambler to find his steps among the trees. The blue stripes are now corroborated by green stripes (both on a white square) and are convincingly frequent, so that it is quite frustrating to learn that both routes, after splitting up, die somewhere in the forest and the dunes. Romantic ramblers may be reminded of Hansel and Gretel and start searching for the edible house of the bad witch, but in earnest, there seems to be no other solution than to go back to the tar road and follow it to the right (North) to the township of Pobiedziska, where E11 is found back.
The stretch between Pobiedziska and Gniezno is poorly documented. The only known source is a big map of the area, placed on the central square near the main church of Trzemeszno, a township further down E11. In Pobiedziska itself, a clearly marked trail guides hikers and bikers to the local railway station, but E11 and two bicycle trails follow, unmarked, a different street. This is the Ulica Gnieźnieńska at the left of the church on the central square of Pobiedziska. After a kilometer the road and the routes cross the railway. In Glówna, bicycle trail #12 turns left, but E11 proceeds along an unnumbered bicycle trail, also marked black, to the village of Węglewo. E11 and the unnumbered bicycle route make two right turns in Węglewo and a left turn just outside, to continue on a stony dirt road.
Five hundred meters before the dangerously busy main road #5 is reached (don't put your hopes on the signs indicating that meals or drinks might be served; the bar is shut down), in the long-stretched village of Moraczewo, E11 and the bicycle route curve left toward Lednogóra where white-red-white markings join the trail. This is from now on the colour of E11 over more than 100 kilometers. From the church in the little village with scattered houses, it is about 2 kilometers to the main road #5, which is followed to the left over a newly paved footpath along a swampy lake. After another kilometer on this path, a crossing in the main road is reached. A huge red neon sign draws attention to a motel ahead on the main road; a humble signpost points to the youth hostel of Dziekanowice to the left; but E11 turns right to cross the main road and follow a tar road to the South. At the crossing a road sign says that it is now 22.2 kilometers to Gniezno.
The tar road and E11 reach the railway track and follow it to the left, but where the tar road crosses the rails, E11 goes straight on a stony dirt road parallel to the railway. There are no markings here; the first white-red-white stripes are found just before the station of Fałkowo, where E11 turns right across the tracks into the township. Fałkowo is crossed at full length until where a last red marker points desperately into the depth of a construction zone (this was at least the case in September 2011); here E11 has been forced to make place for a motorway to come. After Leśniewo scarce white-red-white signs can be found again, leading the aware and persistent rambler to Gniezno.
Gniezno was the first capital of Poland, way back in the Middle Ages, but it is now dreaming away as a provincial town. Old and beautiful houses and other buildings around the central square testify of an interesting past, whilst decaying factories refer to the recent communist past. The university offers the most lively corner of the town. The white-red-white marks of E11 lead along the most interesting churches, museums and other sites, and finally to the railway station.
The routing of E11 in this section can be summarized as: Poznań-Zieliniec (bicycle track marked with a black Cistercian on a white square) - Gruszczyn (1 km) (bicycle track marked white-black-white) - Uzarzewo - Biskupice - Rez. Jezinowo Dębiniec (green) - Rez. Drazynek (blue) - forest near Kapalice (no markings) - Pobiedziska (22 km) (bicycle track marked white-black-white) - Glówna - Węglewo - Moraczewo - Lednogóra (red) - crossing near Dziekanowice (33 km) - Fałkowo - Leśniewo - Pierzyska - Wożniki - Gniezno (55 km).
Gniezno - Toruń (136 km)
A few signs in front of the railway station of Gniezno indicate distances along the red-marked trail that is E11. The 40 km to Mogilno are correct, but the distance to Kruszwica is severely exaggerated. The trail follows the road parallel to the tracks to the Northeast and turns then right into a tunnel under the railway. After another right turn, it passes through a modern industrial area, older residential quarters and a surprisingly wild patch of forest. The red markings lead through open agrarian land to the long-stretched industrial village of Trzemeszno. The trail passes in front of the railway station, crosses the tracks a little further, and reaches Mogilno via the village of Wydartowo.
The maps needed for this section are N-33-131/132, N-34-121/122, N-34-109/110 and N-34-97/98. E11 is not mentioned on these maps, but the marked trails are partially covered, namely from Gniezno to Trzemeszno. From Trzemeszno to Strzelno, the E11 is shown on a locally published topographical map, "Mogilno na Szlaku Piastowskim", ed. Artem, Witkowo, 1:50 000, ISBN 83-913969-6-7.
The white-red-white stripes die out in Mogilno. E11, now invisible, turns right in the little park around the lake, not far from the railway station, and immediately right again, to follow the waterside toward the medieval Benedictine monastery. E11 turns left (East) along a busy narrow road to Bystrzyca, where it turns into a backstreet to Olsza. The lengthy village street of Podgaj and Kawka delivers the rambler at the lonely motel of Goryszewo Kwieciszewo, where the first white-red-white stripes since Mogilno are found. These fail to mark where E11 leaves the main road and hops to a dirt road running parallel to the main road, a few hundred meters to the South. The dirt road itself is scarcely marked until the entrance of a forest; ramblers who go straight through the wood, find red markings at the other side. E11 passes through Jeziorki and follows a sandy dirt road to Strzelno (the hotel indicated on maps in this town has shut its doors many years ago).
After Strzelno, a Polish Way of St. James follows more or less the same route as the E11, so that the yellow and blue shells yield an alternative marking. E11 and the Way of St. James pass the attractive baroque church of Strzelno and the nearby village of Starczewo and, via Ksiaż, reach Polanowice. In this soviet-industrial village two rusty signs with white-red-white stripes are found, which still clearly indicate E11 (200 km after the previous E11 sign!).
A rustic tree lane brings the rambler to Kruszwica, a provincial town with some interesting churches, but no clue where E11 and the Way of St. James continue. Gorges' "Auf Tour in Europa" invites to look for a trail marked blue, but the only blue trail to be found makes a short circuit through a suburb of Kruszwica. A better bet is to follow the busy main road to the North, which is marked with the shells of St.James. After 7 km, near Łojewo, one may take a quiet asphalt road, soon unpaved and marked blue. The blue signs lead finally through long-stretched suburbs to the city center of Inowrocław.
Near the railway station of Inowrocław a torn map of the city is found, which indicates where the red-marked E11 leaves the town. At a few points in town one still finds the white-red-white stripes. No markings whatsoever have survived in the villages up to Kolonie Szadłowice, but one may follow a green-marked bicycle trail. Somewhere among its scattered farmhouses, E11 turns right into a skewed dirt road that enters a forest, passes a military site (not on the map), curves to the North and turns right after about one kilometer into a sandy road that curves to the Northeast. All the time passing through the forests of Błoto Ostrowskie, E11 follows this sandy road without curves over almost three kilometers, until it reaches a T-junction and a wooded bank. The main road turns sharp right; a minor path goes left; E11 however breaks through the wooded bank into a large piece of grassland. If one enters the field and keeps to the left, one finds the next white-red-white stripes on a lonely tree in the grassland. It is an arrow this time, pointing back to Inowrocław, but if one follows the signs in the opposite direction, one comes to the village of Wierzbiczany.
After a right turn outside this village, both the red markings and the blue shells of St.James lead through agrarian land to Gniewkowo. At the crossing of the railway, the red signs turn left to the railway station, but E11, now marked blue, and the Way of St. James go straight into the center of the township. They follow a right curve and leave the town on the asphalt road towards Cierpice to the North. The trails now enter a large forest, leave the tar road after some kilometers and make a wide curve of 16 km to the village of Cierpice, the first of a chain of suburbs of Toruń. In spite of Gorges' "Auf Tour in Europa", E11 no longer passes through Suchatówka. The blue signs bring the E11 rambler without problems from Cierpice to and through Mała Nieszawka, but after this village, shortly before the railway station, the trail turns left without notice, into a road plastered with concrete. The trail climbs over a dyke and reaches the river Wisla. Here it turns right into an unpaved track, to pass a few ruins and reaches the bridge to Toruń. The blue trail ends at the PTTK office in the town centre.
The precise course of E11 in this section is: Gniezno (red) - Pławnik - Kędzierzyn - Nowa Wieś Niechanowska - Krzyżówka - Miaty - Trzemeszno (23 km) - Niewolno - Folusz - Wydartowo-Duszno - Izdby - Gozdawa - Wyrobki - Mogilno (41 km) - Bystrzyca - Olsza - Goruszewo - Kwieciszewo (51 km) - Jeziorki - Strzelno (both red and Way of St. James) - Starczewo - Ksiaż - Polanowice - Lagiewniki - Kruszwica (72 km) (Way of St. James) - Szarlej - Łojewo (blue) - Szymborze - Inowrocław (87 km) (red) - Jacewo - Balin - Slońsko - Pieklo - Kolonie Szadłowice - Błoto Ostrowskie - Wierzbiczany - Gniewkowo (106 km) (blue) - Cierpice (122 km) - Mała Nieszawka (130 km) - Toruń (136 km).
Toruń - Brodnica (87 km)
From the PTTK office in Toruń, E11 is identical to a trail marked white-yellow-white, which leads all the way to Samborowo, 200 km to the Northeast. Maps: N-34-97/98, N-34-109/110 and N-34-99/100 do not mention E11, but the yellow trail that is used by E11, is shown in violet between Toruń and Golub-Dobrzyń, as well as from Pólka Duża to Brodnica. Map N-34-99/100 displays an erroneous course for the yellow trail until Pólka Duża (this village is not mentioned in the map). The correct routing is: Toruń (yellow) - Kaszczobek - Złotoria - Brzozówka (20 km) - Szembekowo - Lelitowo - Ciechocin (32 km) - Dulnik - Antoniewo - Golub-Dobrzyń (44 km) - Białkowo - Szafarnia (53 km) - Płonne - Rodzone - Tomkowo - Kierz Radzikowski - Radziki Duże - Kupno - Pólka Duża - Słoszewy - Mszano - Szabda - Brodnica (87 km). E11 and St. James Way avoid the historical town center of Toruń and pass between city walls and river Wisla, but it is far more interesting to cross the city center from the PTTK office by Różana, Szeroka and Wielkie Garbary Streets to the train station of Toruń-Miasto.
Out of town, the trails follows a main road till Fort Sobieskiego, then turns right into the forest near the river Wisla, but is forced to enter a (badly marked) suburban residential area after only two km. It is only after Kaszczorek and Złotoria that the trails pass through forest for a couple of hours. After crossing the busy motorway A10 near Brzozówka, E11 turns left into an overgrown footpath and later reaches Mierzynek over a sandy road (Map N34-97/98 shows an older routing by Szembekowo). From Lelitowo to Ciechocin and again to Golub-Dobrzyń, E11 continues through a variey of natural and commercial forests along the river Drweca.
E11 leaves the twin cities without markings near the Post Office and the cemetery on National Road # 534 to Rypin. The trail turns left, to follow the river Drewca to the North-East, and the first yellow signs are found in the forest. The trail then alternates between river side woods and agrarian settlements. Some of these remind of the composer Chopin who lived in this area and now has a museum in Szafarnia.
In Radziki Duże E11 turns left over a paved road with heavy lorries carrying loads from a sand quarry. It takes about an hour to reach a bridge over the Drewca and escape from the road into the forest on the other side of the river. This sandy forest road continues till Mszano, but in a new suburb under Szabda it turns into a paved road and subsequently a boring main road leading to Brodnica.
Brodnica - Olstyn (226 km)
E11 and St. James Way leave Brodnica well-marked, but avoiding the nice but neglected old city centre. The trails follow Motorway A15 and an abandoned railway track into forest, and meets the A15 again near the bridges of Tama Brodzka. Maps N-34-99/100, N-34-87/88, N-34-89/90 and N-34-77/78 do not mention E11, but show the underlying regional trails in the correct color (yellow being replaced by violet), with one exception: no trail is shown between Marianowo and Ostrowite. Right after the bridge, the trails turn left into a small paved forest lane leading to Bachotek, where they split. The St. James Way offers a 24 km shorter option by Nowe Miasto Lubawskie to Radomno. E11 makes a few curves near Jezioro Zbiczno and meets a trail marked green. Here the yellow signs are missing, but the green signs must be followed to the North until a paved road. The asphalt is followed to the East over about one kilometer between two lakes. Here the green trail and the yellow-marked E11 split up. The green trail offers another short alternative for E11. Whereas the latter makes a circle through rather dull woods and open land, the green trail enters some of the most gratifying and adventurous pieces of wild nature in the area, reducing the distance by about 20 km. E11 passes twice near the tourist resort of Ciche and turns West to Gorále, then North to the railway station of Ostrowite, and finally East.
The correct routing along the trails in various colors is: Brodnica (yellow) - Tama Brodzka (7 km) - Bachotek (13 km) - Jezioro Zbiczno - Leśniczówka Rytebłota (23 km) (lodgings may be found near Ciche on 2 km) - Górale - Wonka (39 km) - Ostrowite - railway station of Ostrowite - Łakorek (50 km, lodgings may be found again in Ciche, by following the paved road to the South over 4 km) - crossing with the green trail - Sluzka - Skarlin - Lekarty - Gryźliny - Radomno (73 km) - Katarzynki - Iława (85 km) - Szałkowo (91 km) - Tynwałd (99 km) - Frednowy - Wiewiórka - Samborowo (112 km) (blue) - Turznica - Gruda - Naprom - Pietrzwałd (129 km) - Wysoka Wieś (132 km) - Dylewo - Marcinkowo - Samin - Grunwald (156 km) - Ulnowo - Lubianek - Sitno - Waplewo (179 km) - railway station of Waplewo (black) - Żelazno (yellow) - Łynski Mlyn (green) - Orłowo - Likusy - Łyńskie - Kurki (200 km) - Las Warminski - Ruś - Bartążek - Jaroty - Olsztyn (226 km).
The yellow-marked E11 continues to the East until Radomno, where it unites with St. James Way and turns North to Iława. They pass the modern center of the city, which was heavily destroyed in the Second World War, and continue North by Szalkowo to Tynwald, then East to Samborowo. From here a blue-marked section of E11 leads to Waplewo, passing the historical site of Grunwald.
Olstyn - Gołdap (222 km)
Maps N-34-77/78, N-34-65/66, N-34-67/68 and N-34-69/70 do not mention E11, but display the underlying regional trails in the colors with which they are marked (yellow showing as violet). Exception: the stretch from Lidzbark Warmiński to Kętrzyn is not shown in the maps. The complete routing is: Olsztyn (red) - Os Wojska - Braswald - Barkweda (13 km) (lodgings may be found in Bukwald, 2 km) - Cerkiewnik - Kolonie Cerkiewnik - L. Chmury - Swobodna - Głotowo - Dobre Miasto (34 km) - Kunik - Kolonie Smolajny - Kazimierowo - Wróblik - Nowosady - Pilnik - Lidzbark Warmiński (57 km) (blue) - Stoczek Klasztorny - Bisztynek - Nowe Wieś Reszelska - Sątopy-Samulewo (88 km) (no lodgings, but a railway station offers transport to various nearby towns) - Reszel (99 km) - Kętrzyn (116 km) - Kruszewiec - Karolewo - Czerniki - Szaniec - Parcz (black) - Jankowo - Skrzypy (red) - Pilwa - Radzieje (134 km) - Łabapa - Sztynort (black) - Sklodowo - Kolonie Harsz - Harsz (148 km) - Okowizna - Ogonki (155 km) (blue) - Pozezdrze (161 km) - Sapieniec - Przytuły - Wilkus - Jasieńczyk - Jasieniec (172 km) (lodgings will be found in Jeziorowski, 2 km) (green) - Żabinka - L. Diabla Gora - Rogonie - L. Leśny Zakątek (189 km) - Czerwony Dwór - L. Olszanka - Jabłonowo - Golubie Wężewskie - Wilkasy - Kamionki - Pietrasze - Suczki - Osiedłe - Gołdap (222 km).
Gołdap - Lithuanian border (144 km)
In Gołdap, E11 offers a choice between a trail marked white-green-white that comes very close to the Russian border, or a white-red-white trail along the main road to the East. Both trails meet again after 31 km in Stanczyki. The green trail passes through uninhabited woodland and should not be recommended to ramblers with a weak sense of orientation, or those who fear Russian red tape when crossing the border unintentionally and without visa. That one reaches the Russian border before Lithuania, may be surprising to those who are not aware that Russia has an exclave around Kaliningrad, formerly German Königsberg.
For this section, the rambler will need maps N-34-69/70 and N-34-71/7. Map N-34-57/58 is only needed (badly!) for the green trail along the Russian border, Gołdap (green) - Botkuny - Jurkiszky - Hajnówek - Blędziski - Stanczyki (31 km). The red alternative is Gołdap (red) - L. Kumiacie - Botkuny - Jurkiszki - Galwiecje (12 km) - Pluszkiejmy - Budwiecie - Stańczyki (31 km).
From Stańczyki the routing is: Stańczyki (red) - Maciejowieta (32 km from Gołdap) - Pobłędzie - Rakówek (yellow) - Kłajpedka - Kłajpeda - Dziadówek (red) - Dzierwany (blue) - Smolniki (50 km) (green) - Łopuchowon - Udziejek - Czajewszczyzna (58 km) - Kazimierówka - Jeleniewo (62 km) - Krzemianka (64 km) - crossing with main road #8 (=E67) in Swajcaria (black) - Stare Folwark (88 km) (green) - Magdalenowo - Czerwony Folwark - Rosochaty Rog - Węgzał (blue) - Maćkowa Ruda - Wysoki Most (bridge) - Jeziorki - Karolin - Wiersnie - Giby (116 km) (lodgings in Sejny at 7 km) (red) - Zelwa - Berżniki - Dworczysko - J.Szłabinki (136 km) (lodgings in Sejny, 5 km further on the red trail) (black) - Ogrodniki border station (144 km).
E11 ends at the Polish-Lithuanian border post at 3 km from Ogrodniki. Here is no possibility to spend the night, the nearest lodgings are found in Sejny, 11 km along the main road, or 13 km by following the black trail back and then the red trail to the right. Those who venture into Lithuania may find a guesthouse in Lazdijaj. Both towns have no train connections; to take a train home or to an airport, one may follow the red trail from Sejny over 25 km to the railway station of Trakiszki near Puńsk. There are also railway stations in the Polish city of Suwałki and the Lithuanian city of Sestokai. Be prepared to wait long; there seems to be only one train in either direction from these places except Suwałki that offers three trains daily to Białystok (see http://www.Bahn.com).