Aller River Valley
The Aller River Valley, sometimes advertised as the Aller-Leine Tal,
takes one on a meander along a flat river drainage to either the town of Helmstedt
or Magdeburg. We ride up the river, knowing it is flat most of the way and end our
tour in Helmstedt.
June, 2010. Our tour of the Aller is 154 mile (284 km) from Verden
near the Weser River to Helmstedt. The ride takes us five leisurely days due to
train rides taking us to Verden on day 1; and then from Helmstedt on day 5.
Our bikeline guidebook map starts in Bremen, 48 kilometers north of
Verden and ends in Magdeburg, about 10 kilometers farther than Helmstedt. We have
visited both Bremen and Magdeburg over the last few years but we have not yet been
We did not encounter any hills until we got to Wolfsburg. From Wolfsburg on there
were a few hills but they were not memorable. The exception is the one just before
our lodging outside of Weferlingen on Day 4. Most of the route is on paved bicycle
paths or low-traffic roads. However there are many short portions of hard-packed
Signage is adequate to our needs along
the Aller but it never hurts to keep the names of the next few towns in your head
as you ride. There may be times when you see the name of a town that is not on your
list of places ahead of you and it is smart to check the guidebook or map at that
There are plenty of overnight
accommodations along the way. We try to stay in Zimmer on these tours.
Zimmer, actually a room for rent in a private home that usually includes
breakfast, are the least expensive forms of lodging. However, we are unsuccessful
in finding that type of lodging on this tour and end up in hotels of various types.
For a discussion on all types of overnight
accommodations, click the link.
We liked the cities of Verden, Celle,
and Gifhorn but we did not take the time to explore perhaps the largest two cities
on the tour, Wolfsburg and Helmstedt.
We used the bikeline
Aller-Radweg, Von Bremen nach Magdeburg; published by Verlag Esterbauer GmbH,
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Day 1: Verden to Frankenfeld / Bosse
We the start in Verden but today
is a short ride of only 23 miles (37 km) because of a morning train ride and time
spent in Verden. There are no hills and not much gravel either.
We start our cyclometers at
the Verden Bahnhof.
Verden first mentioned in the chronicles in 810. But it is known that Charlemagne
(742 814) slaughtered about 4,500 pagan Saxons near here in 782. Until 1667, Verden
was actually two villages; a north village and a south village. The villages combined
when the Thirty Years War ended in 1648. The northern community had been a fishing
village but the people in the southern community engaged in agriculture. During
WWII, Verden had a slave labor furniture factory. Afterwards the city became the
headquarters for a British Army unit whose buildings now house some regional governmental
The Verden Dom, or Cathedral was first built in 850 and then rebuilt
in 950. In 1028, they built the building in stone as a ‘Gothic hall-style church,’
an unusual style in which it remains. It may be the oldest hall church in Germany.
It was finally finished in 1150 and remodeled again in 1185. This Cathedral is not
as elaborately decorated as many Catholic churches because it is a Protestant church.
Westen. They have a nice
maypole in the center of the town. These maypoles advertise the guilds of the area.
Between Westen and Hülsen, one could stay on the mapped bike path or take a shortcut
on the bike path alongside the main road. Both are acceptable but we prefer the
more scenic path following the river.
This is Rethem and it has
been a city since 1353. While we have been riding on a gravel path for the last
5 kilometers, it is packed and not a bad surface regardless of its primitive appearance.
As we ride through the Rethem park, we remark how interesting the sculptures are.
We also find an example of a Bockwindmühle, or an old style windmill popular
during the Middle Ages. They were replaced by more efficient Dutch type windmills
in the 19th Century. This windmill was built in 1594 and moved here from a nearby
This is the center of Frankenfeld.
We stop for the night just
outside of Bosse, at Hotel-Restaurant Allerhof, a “Bett
and Bike” establishment. It is owned by Kerstin and Heinrich Rodewald,
Lindenallee 4, 27336 Frankenfeld / Bosse, Telephone 05165-567. You can email them
at firstname.lastname@example.org and
their website is http://www.hotel-allerhof.de.
They charge €65 for two people for one night.
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Day 2: Frankenfeld / Bosse to Celle
We begin today with one of the
better breakfasts we have had in 11 years of cycling in Germany. Our visit at Hotel-Restaurant
Allerhof was very enjoyable. The path today is still flat but there are several
short parts that are gravel. Once, we tried to take a shortcut only to find deep
sand and we had to backtrack to the mapped route. A total of about 25 km of the
75 km we ride today is not paved. Nevertheless, it is easy riding.
The weather forecast is good and the sky is an azure blue punctuated with widely
scattered, fluffy white clouds.
Language wise, today we seem to be on the border between the Gutten Morgen
part of Germany and the Moin part. In English, both greetings mean good
morning. Farther northwest of here is a region called East Friesland and the lowlands
of Germany where Low German developed as a language or at least a dialect before
the time of Charlemagne. The more northeast you go, claims Maxa, the more ‘Moins’
one hears. Along the North Sea Coast, Moin-Moin is used for the 'good
morning' greeting. I offer this in case you are interested, knowing that probably
you are not.
I start my cyclometer at the hotel
since it is right on the bike path.
We ride by a Schloss in Ahlden.
A Schloss is a palace. Construction of the Schloss started in
1344 but was not finished until 1613. The story is that Princess Sophie-Dorothea
von Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1666-1726) fell in love with a Swede. She was married
at the time, unfortunately. She asked for a divorce and then she invited her Swedish
boyfriend to meet her here in Ahlden. Upon arrival, Sophie’s husband had the Swede
killed and then imprisoned Sophie in this Schloss for the rest of her life.
From Ahlden we follow the Small Leine River for a ways before reconnecting with
the Aller River. In 2006, we rode the Leine River Tour
with Neil and Judith of http://www.bergstrassebikebooks.com
fame. I fondly remember that ride. We ended the Leine tour in Hogenhagen, just a
couple kilometers north of here.
In Büchten I photograph a
slightly different kind of windmill. This is
built in the 19th Century. There has been a mill here since the 12th Century. I
also notice a cutely decorated roadside stand selling homemade products and homegrown
agricultural goods. Just put your money in the box and take your purchase home;
the honor system is at work here.
In Schwarmstedt, we note
that we are on the southern end of the Lüneburger Heide (Lunenburg Heath
in English) an area famous as a vacation destination in Europe. Interestingly, they
discovered oil here and there is an old oil well on display. Apparently, the field
has been abandoned several years ago. These days, Schwarmstedt is a spa town where
people go to take a cure from anything that ails them from too much stress to liver
problems from too much Bier.
This is Hambühren. We learn
that in the language of old that a Bühren means a settlement. There have
been settlements here since the Stone Age. The path to here has been pavement and
gravel on and off since Schwarmstedt.
We pass the Bahnhof in
Celle. We stop here just
past the Bahnhof at a tourist information office and gather an address for an overnight
Celle is full of workers
who are taking many of the lodgings but we are settled for the night at Hotel Garni
Thüringer Hof, Planck Strasse 17, 2922 Celle. The cost is €66 per night for two
persons (2010) and the telephone is 05141-974433 and/or 05141-92880. They have 19
beds and serve a nice breakfast. Our hosts are friendly, extraverted people both
of whom are professional architects. They speak a handful of languages including
English and Spanish. This hotel is in a quiet neighborhood and only 2 km from downtown
where “one of every three buildings is a restaurant” according to our host; he is
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Day 3: Celle to Gifhorn
We start late today but the weather
is sunny and perfect for bicycling. The path seems flat again today but we know
that riding upriver must be uphill, though we do not notice a climb. Like yesterday,
there are frequent short stretches of hard packed gravel.
As we cross a “Bundestrasse”
or a major road, my rear bicycle brake falls apart. Fortunately, I carry spare brake
pads so within 15 minutes, we are on our way again with the brake repaired.
This picture is of the Cloister
in Weinhausen. The west wing and chapel are from the 14th Century. We take a break
here just outside the walls surrounding the cloister.
In Langlingen, we stop for
lunch and snap a picture of a house and barn typical for the region. Note that the
house has four round wooden signs on the outside. The signs are really shooting
trophies or Schieβscheibe. They announce to the public that the owner is
a superb sharpshooter but perhaps the signs may be intended as a message for the
high school boys in town, “Do not even think of messing around with my daughters.”
While in Langlingen we checked out the local historical church. It was built
in 1340 then added to over the centuries. Next to the church is a Schloss.
Leaving Langlingen but before Müden, we encounter a sandy road with a hard packed
gravel path for bicycles alongside. The path is very easy riding, the road is impossible
to ride because your wheels sink into the sand and you fall over. Ask me how I know
Gifhorn. Schloss Gifhorn
built as moated castle in 1525 and the nearby cloister is from is from 1346.
We spend the evening at Hotel Alte Münze owned by Jane Kornhass, the address
is Fallerslebener Strasse 7, 38518 . You can make reservation via their website
The email address is email@example.com.
The telephone is 05371-52771. They charge €65 for two people for one night. They
have only 8 rooms.
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Day 4: Gifhorn to Weferlingen
Today, we encounter some gravel
as soon as we leave Gifhorn. However, overall, the path is mostly paved. There are
only a few hills but two or three of them are real hills. The first real hill is
in a park on the edge of Wolfsburg. It is a pusher. If I were to do it over, I would
simply take city streets around this hill. The only thing worth seeing is an observation
point that I show you in the picture. Of course, you do get a good view of the VW
factory but who cares about a view of industrial buildings? There are also a couple
of smaller hills past Wolfsburg including a long boring, wet, slightly steep hill
in the forest just before we stop for the night. You will also encounter short stretches
of gravel path.
The breakfast at Hotel Alte Münze
is fine. It is the normal type of breakfast we have come to expect on our bicycle tours.
Typically breakfasts on the road include hard rolls, a selection of Wurst
and cheeses, some jam or marmalade, coffee or tea, and a hardboiled egg.
We start the day on pavement
but quickly switch to gravel once outside Gifhorn.
After crossing the Mittelland
Kanal (a 400 kilometer waterway from Berlin to the Rhine and out to the North
Sea) we ride toward Wolfsburg.
Wolfsburg. We just rode over two hills, one was not even
marked on the map in the guidebook. I presume that the local chapter of war veterans
changed the path to go up and over the second hill in the park overlooking the VW
plant in Wolfsburg. That is a dirty trick as far as I am concerned. I took a picture
of the only reason to be up here, a one man bunker that was an observation post
during WWII. One can easily miss it if you fail to read the historical sign.
This is a formerly double-moat
castle near the downtown Wolfsburg pedestrian area.
Grafhorst is a sleepy little
village with a village church typical of those in the region. Between Grafhorst
and Oebisfelde-Weferlingen we cross the border between Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt
(Niedersachsen und Sachsen-Anhalt). On the busy road that we must ride on, we see
the sign in the picture. Translated it means, “Here Germany and Europe were separated
until December 23, 1989 at 6:00 o’clock.”
A few more miles down the road, we cross back and forth between the former eastern
state of Sachsen-Anhalt and Neidersachsen.
Oebisfelde-Weferlingen. This morning we thought we would
stay here but the weather is nice and we are not tired so on we go. We ride south
following the border between the two states towards Lockstedt and Weferlingen –
where the fun begins.
We pass a large solar array
that converts sunlight into electricity. I have a photograph but my lens is not
wide enough to capture more than about 20% of the whole installation.
Lockstedt. In a kilometer
or so we cross back into Lower Saxony. There is another sign about the border here
but the sign painter may be confused about the date the wall came down; this sign
reads 1990, almost a year after it came down.
We climbed a small hill
getting to this village of Weferlingen. But now we are climbing a long hill in the
woods following a bicycle path not shown on our map. We are advised by a local man
to take this way to the crossroads where there is a hotel between Weferlingen and
Walbeck. On dry days, the path is OK but if it is raining, do not come this way,
take the medium traffic road. In the rain, this path would be a muddy disaster.
The road is paved but would not be much fun either.
The woods are lovely dark and deep but we have a rendezvous with Bier
to keep; but this darn hill is slowing us down, bleep, bleep, bleep. Ok, ok, so
I am not much of a poet.
We stop for the evening
at 5:00 PM. That is way too late by our own standard rule to find accommodations
around 4:00 PM but the weather is nice and except for that darn hill, the ride was
At the crossroads of L42 and Schlagbaum Strasse, we stop at Waldgaststätte
Barriere Rehm. It has four double bedrooms and four single bedrooms. We pay €60
(2010) for two people for one night in a room with two single beds.
This Gaststätte is a clean and recently remodeled establishment however the building
has been here for over 100 years. The Gaststätte is within the former 5-kilometer
Exclusion Zone of the wall between the former East and West Germany. Even so, it
remained open, operated by the community of Weferlingen for the pleasure of ranking
members of the Communist Party of East Germany, and their few friends who could
be trusted not to bolt to the West.
The name Waldgaststätte Barriere Rehm is translated as forest guesthouse Rehm
(the owners' name). The name Barriere actually comes from a time long
before the wall, even before the First World War when there was a police station
nearby that guarded the border between the two German states. The police operated
a barrier or “Barriere with a Schlagbaum” a wooden arm that can
be raised and lowered. The hosts, Herr and Frau Rehm, are friendly and helpful when
I try to make a small repair on my bicycle.
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Day 5: Weferlingen to Helmstedt
Today it is bright and sunny. Outside
of Walbeck we encounter a little loose gravel and many potholes to dodge.
Coming into Walbeck we climb a small gradual hill but enjoy
steep drop of over 100 feet into the center of the village. I am thankful that we
did not try to find lodging in Walbeck last night because they have none. We would
have had to climb back up that same drop to pedal 1 km back to Waldgaststätte Barriere
The edge of Beendorf is
near the top of a gradual 80-foot hill but the path then drops into the center of
town. Historically, Beendorf is famous because of the salt mines around here. During
WWII the salt mines were used as munition dumps and for munitions manufacturing.
I take a picture of a roadside, … ahh… chunk of equipment that has to do with salt
mining (perhaps a ventilator?). Anyway it is a memorial to miners who died in the
mines between 1897 and 1898. The plaque is a little unclear, at least to me who
cannot read German well.
After climbing a long gentle
hill, we arrive at the Helmstedt Bahnhof. From there we depart for home.
ride this tour in 2010 during the Soccer World Cup held in South Africa. Both Germany
and Holland did well with Germany making the semifinals and Holland played Spain
the championship. Germany beat Uruguay for third place. Soccer (football, Fussball,
Voetbal, fútbol are all European words that sound alike) is the
national sport in many European countries including Germany. People here decorate
their homes, their public places, themselves, and as shown here, their pets. Note
the black marks under the dog’s eyes and the, uhh … wrist band?, on its front leg.
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