Diemel River Tour
The Diemel River Valley is a favorite of the German bicycle tourists
because it gets little notice from outside tourists. Warburg is one of the most
famous communities along the Diemel with its beautiful pastoral overlook onto the
river valley. The area is also historic (several battles were fought near Warburg
during the Seven Years War).
September 1999. This 3-day ride 115.6-mile (186 km) is mostly downhill.
It follows the Diemel River Valley from its source near Usseln to Bad Karlshafen
on the Weser River. Then we ride back to Kassel following the Weser and then the
Fulda rivers. There are only a few hills on this ride. With three minor exceptions,
they are gentle and short. This is the real Germany — picture postcard beautiful
and off the tourist path. Unlike Bavaria, most of the visitors here are from other
parts of Germany. Nevertheless, English is spoken often enough that non-German speakers
will not have a large problem getting the necessities of travel (Bier, food, hotel
rooms, directions, etc.) Train or bus connections can be made in many locations
for those who want to shorten the trip or just jump ahead.
Today is Monday and it is a beautiful day. This trip starts with a train ride
from Kassel to Usseln. We leave our home base only ten minutes earlier than necessary
to get to the Bahnhof and half a mile later I have a flat tire. I change
the tire in record time, without managing not to pinch the tube while reassembling
and arrive at the Bahnhof with only 4 minutes to spare. (Note to self:
Remember to properly inflate tires before the next tour. Underinflated tires cause "snakebite"
punctures when riding over curbs.)
We also make this tour in 2004 with Jerry and Anne, as well as in 2006 with Eckhard
and Vivi-Anne all four are friends of ours from Seattle. I only mention this to
assuage any ideas that the information is out of date.
We are on a Nahverkehr or “close-in traffic” train. That means we stop
for everything and everybody it also means we can take our bikes on the train with
us. For more on this, see our Trains page.
The trail symbol is a snail and in addition
to the trail signs, you can find stickers of a snail pasted on the most unlikely
spots along the trail.
As a choice, we like Zimmer
(advertised as Zimmer Frei) but there are also Gasthäuser (Guest
Houses), Pensionen (pensions or bed and breakfasts), Jugendherbergen
(Youth Hostels), and hotels. For a complete discussion of the different types of
accommodations and tips on reservations, see my
Overnight Accommodations page.
We used Diemel-Radweg published by BVA
Bielefelder Verlagsanstalt, scale 1:50,000. However, one can also use bikeline's
Diemel-Radweg von Quelle nach Weser, published Esterbauer
Back to the top
Day 1: Kassel to Usseln by train and then to Westheim
This day’s ride is 29 miles (46
km). It is a bit shorter than normal because we use up most of the morning with
the train ride to get to the start point. From Usseln, the ride starts out being
nicely downhill except for a few rolling hills on the other side of Diemelsee. The
only hill of any consequence is the one going into Padberg.
Maxa stays in Usseln savoring a Milchkaffee, this is the German
version of what folks from Seattle call a latté. I know from visits to Italy, that
a cafe latté simply means coffee and milk, which is the direct translation
for Milchkaffee too. Anyway, Maxa somehow knows that the trail to the source
of the river is bound to be uphill so she plays her “you go, I’ll check out the
town” card and waits for me while I ride up to the source and back. The source is
a spring or Quelle. It takes me about 30 minutes. The photograph on the
right is of Maxa, Anne and Jerry taken in 2004 at the Usseln Bahnhof.
It’s a bit of a climb but being a member of the Over Fifty with Bad Knees Club,
or the “OFBK Club,” I still do not have to push my bike. The elevation change between
the spring and beautiful downtown Usseln is less than 300 feet. At the spring, I
find a small park. By itself, it's not worth the ride up. But the sense of personal
satisfaction must be - because that's all I have. I head back down the hill
to find Maxa.
Found her. Her bike is chained
to the outside of a café. Hey, it is a small village and she cannot be too hard
to find. I join her inside for a Milchkaffee. After all, one cannot subsist
on bread alone; can one?
Just ten feet or so to the
left of the path is a Grenzstein or a stone boundary marker. These stones
were used in the late Middle Ages to mark the boundaries of the various kingdoms,
dukedoms and the holdings of the petty nobility. We always get a kick out of seeing
these reminders that Germany is an old land with much-known history. Since Usseln,
we have been riding down a long hill requiring almost no pedaling. Neat!
We ride past a Schutzhütte,
which translate literally to a “protection hut.” If you are riding or walking and
are caught in a rain squall, you are welcome to use these buildings to take shelter
from the storm. They should not be used for overnight camping but I do not think
anyone ever checks to enforce this, but to do so would be a social faux pas.
Riding along a secondary road (some traffic but not a lot)
we are at the top of the Diemelsee or the lake behind the Diemelsperre
or Diemel Dam. If you turn left here, one can take an alternate path if you want
a small amount of uphill riding to break up what has been a continuous downhill
ride. The alternate path follows other shore of the lake. But because that other
shore is much longer, the strong riders in your group will have a hard time beating
the powder puff riders to the dam. A worthwhile challenge perhaps since the dam
is just over two and a half miles from here. We both stay on the power puff side
because ... well, they say if the shoe fits we should wear it.
Padberg! Hint, berg means mountain in German. I
am not sure what “Pad” means but it might mean that you have to climb the darn thing.
Or it could be someone’s name. Anyway, after a long hill, a “pusher” for most of
us in the OFBK club you enter Padberg. Recall that that club is all of us who are
over 50 with bad knees. Padberg has a nice church and the map shows a palace ruin
but except for the fact that there is no other way around, there does not seem to
be a good reason to climb up to Padberg.
Aha, now I get it, the ride down the other side is fun. But just out of town,
we almost miss the sign with the snail on it directing the bikes onto the bike path
and off the main road. Interestingly, the folks who created this route simply put
snail stickers on pre-existing bike route signs linking together parts of several
other routes into a longer route down the Diemel. We have seen this trick before
but I chuckle at the creativity anyway. It’s something I would have thought of.
We take a break in the 1,200-year-old walled city of Marsberg.
Our goal is to check out the hotels but we are sidetracked by the Konditorei
or bakery and eat a pastry with a Kännchen Kaffee instead. Oh well, there
are lots of hotels here but we decide that we should put on a few more miles since
it’s still too early in the day to stop. Marsberg does have a cute downtown though
and it probably is a more interesting place to overnight than Westheim where we
eventually end our day. Even Wrexen, just 10 km down the road, might be a better
stopping place than Westheim.
Leaving Marsberg, we miss a turn at the top of a short steep rise in the path
leading to the primary road. The path takes off to the right just before the road
but I have my head down pumping the pedals intent of getting to the top of the rise
and I miss the sign. We realize (or rather Maxa does) our (or rather my) mistake
in a few hundred yards and we dive down a footpath to the river where we connect
back to the path marked with the Diemeltal snail.
After four hours of
easy, mostly downhill, and mostly paved riding we break for the day at Hotel
Kleck in Westheim. Hotel Kleck has 7 rooms and the owner’s daughter speaks
English. Unfortunately, they do not have a fax machine or e-mail yet. The people
at the hotel are nice and
it has good-sized and comfortable rooms. However, it is on the main road so traffic
noise will wake you with the chickens; actually at Oh-dark-thirty before the chickens.
Back to the top
Day 2: Westheim to Bad Karlshafen
Today’s ride is 41miles (66 km).
It is almost all flat and slightly downhill except for some rolling hills around
Wethen. When we planned the trip, we were to stay in Trendelburg, a charming little
town that we have visited before. However, it is a nice day and we push on Bad Karlshafen.
We are glad we did because of the wonderful evening meal at Hessischer Hof. Otherwise,
it might make more sense to stick to our original plan by staying in Trendelburg
and then stay the following night in Hann. Münden (Hannoversch Münden). There are
many great restaurants in Hann. Münden too.
We leave Hotel Kleck after enjoying their
wonderful breakfast to rejoin the Diemeltal bike path.
We ride through Wrexen and note that this may have made a better
stopping place for the night. A nice, quiet, small village but they have at least
four different overnight accommodation possibilities. Following the marked path
just out of town, we cross the river on a footbridge. Recall that one of my
tips is to carry a short length of rope?
Well, that rope comes in handy getting your bikes up these steep and narrow steps.
One of us pulls on the rope in front, the other pushes the bike from behind. Imagine
leading a reluctant donkey on the going-up side, and then slowing down a suddenly
rambunctious donkey on the going-down side. An odd mental picture perhaps but accurate
in this instance and much easier than carrying fully packed bikes up this challenging
obstacle. We get a lot of use out of that old rope.
Mile 9.2 (14.8 km): As we pass a farmhouse amongst the fields we see what appears
to be a community apple press being used to make apple juice or cider. We do not
stop but I am sure we would have been welcome to sample the crop and buy a liter
or so. This time of year, the apples are heavy on the limbs of the many trees in
the valley. But we are riding uphill and into the wind. Black threatening rain clouds
frequently obliterate the sun. We just want to get to a good sheltered lunch spot
and we let an opportunity to mingle with the natives and commune with nature’s bounty
escape. We hardly notice the castle-like ruin on the hillside across the valley.
It is undoubtedly the Heinturm. We see it marked on the map but although the map
indicates the Heinturm as a site worth seeing, I am unable to find any information
in the guidebooks and it is several miles out of the way. Oh, well. Wikipedia Commons
has a picture of the Heinturm
We ride triumphantly into
the quaint, walled city of Warburg. So far, we have not gotten wet and the weather
is improving. This city was formerly an important center of both government and
commerce. It was a Hansestadt or one of the cities that was controlled
by the Hanseatic League of commercial traders. This group of merchants existed between
the 13th Century and the 17th Century but flourished in the early seventeenth century
by using monopolistic powers to squash competition. They controlled much of the
commerce of the day in Northern Europe.
The Diemeltal guide map states that you can see 950 years of history in two hours
by walking on their suggested tour of sites. Here we break for lunch after checking
out the old church. If you decide to overnight here, you can try the Hotel Alt Warburger
that was built in the first half of the sixteenth-century. If you want older architecture,
you can see a house on the corner of the market square that was built in 1471. (I
didn’t know history went that far back.) You can also try the local Bier, Warburger
(what else?), but only if you do not plan on going further. It’s hard to stay upright
on a bicycle after more than one German beer.
We ride past Hofgut Stammen
a Heuhotel (translates to “hay hotel”). We rode by this once before on our
Fairytale Tour and now we stop to check it out. As
advertised, if you want to you can sleep in the hay here. The hotel seems to be
more for groups of youths who get a kick out of sleeping in anyplace different than
their own bedroom. My preference is a bed with clean sheets and a soft pillow. As
a kid on the farm, I slept in more hay than I was supposed to (my father had wanted
me to clean the barn) and now I just do not feel the urge to be all scratchy and
We ride through Trendelburg. When we planned this trip, we
told ourselves that we would overnight in Trendelburg. We stayed here several years
ago. It’s easy to fall in love with this quaint village. The castle in the center
of town is where the Princess Rapunzel, of fairytale fame, let down her hair and
allowed a charming prince to climb into her chambers. What he had in mind I am sure
I do not know. Why she would put up with so much pain and discomfort as to have
a grown man pulling on her hair with all his weight I am also at a loss to explain.
Perhaps being a member of the Club (you know, over 50, etc.) causes me to forget
what hormones can do to the younger generation.
It’s early and we are feeling strong so instead of stopping here, we keep on
going down the path toward Bad Karlshafen.
Wülmersen seems like barely a wide spot in the road but it
is at the intersection of a trail to the Sababurg, which is the Sleeping Beauty
Castle for those who want to know. Sababurg is also the location of a wonderful
wild park and zoo. It’s uphill from here and not just a little bit either. Wülmersen
also has a Wasserschloss or moated castle that we missed because we did
not read our guide map close well enough. We returned much later in 2006 and found
the guidebook correct, it is worth a stop.
Here in the forest is another of those Schutzhütte
or shelter huts if you happen to be coming this way in the rain. Today, however,
the sun is warm and the winds of earlier in the day are a rapidly fading memory.
to Bad Karlshafen, we spot a castle ruin atop a hill above Helmarshausen. We do
not go up to see it this trip because we are tired and looking forward to a shower
and a nice hot meal. However, in the years that have passed between 1999 and recent
times, we do visit it. It is the Krukenburg ruin and the pictures show the structure
and the view.
We enter Bad Karlshafen
after just over 7½ hours including the stops. We eat at the Hessischer Hof, a recommended
restaurant. I can see why this restaurant is so frequently recommended. Not only
do they have Hesse cuisine, but they have cuisine from nearly every other area in
Germany as well. It seems like there are over 100 different items on the menu, one
of the largest and most varied selections I have ever seen anywhere. And the prices
are reasonable too. This was a to-die-for combination. The food was good and on
my plate of Sauerbraten, I found pickled garlic cloves on the side. What
a wonderful surprise for garlic lovers like me.
Karlshafen is an interesting little city. During the almost 60 year reign of Landgrave
Charles I (Landgraf Karl I) between 1670 and 1730 Europe was still reeling from
religious issues. In Catholic France, a group of Protestants, The Huguenots, were
forcibly expelled from the country. The settled in many places but Charles invited
Huguenots to settle in North Hesse. The first few settled in a small village named
Carlsdorf northwest of Kassel. The Huguenots were an educated, industrious, and
multi-talented, people. Carl engaged some of them to redesign and build an addition
to the City of Kassel. He also gave the community
land to construct a new city, Karlshafen, at the confluence of the Diemel and the
Weser. The city was laid out symmetrically around a central harbor. The harbor used
water diverted from the Diemel and connected to the Weser with a lock. It became
one of two ports from which Hessian troops were shipped to America to help the British
during the Revolutionary War. Fat lot of good they did though - as history proved.
Today, the prefix "Bad" is added to the community's name to create
Bad Karlshafen. A "Bad" prefix connotes that the community is a spa town
where people can go, stay in tourist like facilities and receive medical recuperative
care. In this case, it is because Bad Karlshafen is a source of mineral springs,
which, when evaporated by water draining slowly through straw walls, smells like
salt water. This salty humid air is thought to be healthful when breathed. Though
I remain skeptical, an entire industry has been built upon that idea.
Back to the top
Day 3: Bad Karlshafen to Kassel
This is a 45.4-mile (73 km) ride.
It is mostly flat or slightly rolling hills except for one short hill between Reinhardshagen
and Hann. Münden and the gradual climb from the riverbank to the Bahnhof
at Kassel Wilhelmshöhe. You will take the west bank (left bank) of the Weser to
Reinhardshagen, and then cross over to the east bank until Hann. Münden. From Hann.
Münden to Kassel, you will be back on the east bank. While there are well-marked
bike paths on both sides of the river, we chose this route because the other side
is either boring (as from Reinhardshagen to Münden) or hilly (as between Bad Karlshafen
and Reinhardshagen and again between Münden and Kassel.) If you find this distance
too far, you have two wonderful choices: Stay overnight in Hann. Münden (Mile 27)
or take public transportation back to Kassel. You can catch the train in Hann. Münden
or catch the bus in Reinhardshagen and connect with the train.
After an adequate breakfast and a lively
conversation with other guests, we leave Pension Hoffmann. we mount our bikes and
depart. Our goal today is Kassel via Reinhardshagen and Hann. Münden. The forecast
is for showers turning to rain later in the day. If it gets too wet, we will catch
the train at any of several different opportunities and just be lazy. After all,
this is about enjoying yourself, not about being super macho. We start out full
of vigor and enthusiasm. Staying on the west side of the river (do not cross the
bridge here), we ride the main road toward Oberweser. The signs may say “Deutsche
Märchenstrasse” or “Radfernweg Weser (R-1).” The people who put
up the signs were confused by what side of the river was what bike path. Either
one will get you to the same place but the west side is less hilly while the east
side has less traffic. The opposite is true south of Reinhardshagen.
M After passing two ferries
to small communities on the other bank, we ride through Oberweser. The only down-side to the ride so far is the 4 miles or so of bike path next to the main road.
We will avoid some of this type of riding condition when we cross the river at Reinhardshagen.
Here is Reinhardshagen.
It’s another cute little village that was our overnight when we rode the
Fairytale Tour (Deutsche Märchenstrasse). Actually,
the name Reinhardshagen refers to two separate communities of Veckerhagen and Vaake.
I guess each village was too small to govern by itself so they combined the two.
If you want a break, we recommend the 500-year-old Historiches Brauhaus (“Historical
Brewery”) in Veckerhagen, Kirchplatz 9. This is also a hotel and is a great value.
For €1.00 each, we take the ferry across the Weser here in Reinhardshagen. On
the other side, we climb over a bit of a hill (not too steep but it will slow you
down) and ride into Gimte, a suburb of Hann. Münden. One does not have to cross,
staying on the left bank is an option but the bike route on the right bank has a
little less traffic.
Assuming you did cross,
after crossing the bridge on the main highway, we ride into Hann. Münden. A little
trivia here, the “Hann.” is an abbreviation for “Hannoversch” or literally the Hannover’s.
The natives just say, “Münden” but folks from the surrounding area, read North Hesse,
verbalize the abbreviation as well as the name Münden; much simpler. However, there
are more than one city named Münden and all the maps refer to “Hann. Münden.” Hannover
is over 60 miles away but Hannover was a center of governmental power and Münden
was a center for economic power. Established in 1183, it lies at the confluence
of the Fulda and the Werra. These two rivers join and become the Weser. There is
a stone monument down by the point where the rivers actually join you can go see.
Münden has been an important commercial settlement since at least the sixteenth century.
The buildings are extraordinarily well preserved and it’s regarded (by myself and
probably the local Chamber of Commerce too) as one of the quaintest towns in all
To get back on the bike path to Kassel, cross the bridge to the west bank of
the Fulda. the ride to Kassel from Hann. Münden is one we have made several times.
To us living in Kassel for part of the year this route is old hat. However, our
visitors from the States that we take on that short ride seem to thoroughly enjoy
the flat, mostly paved ride along the left bank of the Fulda.
We are well inside Kassel
now and we turn right leaving the Fulda and riding toward the city center. The main
arterial here has several names as it winds through the city but at the multi-theater
complex we ride west toward Wilhelmshöhe Allee.
Here is the end of the ride
at Bahnhof Wilhelmshöhe. As I mentioned at mile 0, if it rains we’ll hop a train
and cop out on the balance of the ride. In fact, it did rain so we took a train
here from Hann. Münden and now we are warm, dry, and happy instead of cold, wet,
and cranky. But, hey, as I said above, we have ridden the path between Hann. Münden
and Kassel several times before so we know it’s there just as I describe it above.
The next stop is our home base a short uphill ride from here where we will find
beer and supper. Writing this in 2011, I remark that in a couple years, we will
move to a condominium that is actually downhill from the Bahnhof.
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