July 1999 and May 2011. This 7-day
ride will take you over part of the Märchen Route or Fairytale Route in
the Hessisches Bergland. The total distance of the ride is 276 miles or
444 kilometers. For part of this ride, we are joined by our nephew and his wife
from Seattle, Rick and Susan Burleigh.
The terrain is rolling hills
but in three places, you will make major climbs with wonderful downhill drops. Otherwise,
the hills are gentle and rolling. Only a few of the hills are steep enough to make
us dismount and push.
In 1999 we used Deutsche Radtourenkarte No. 21,
1:100,000, published by Haupka Verlag, and available in most German bookstores.
In 2011, we used two different maps, Habicthwald Reinhardswald 1:50,000
and Kurhessische Bergland, 1:50,000 both published by Hessisches Landesamt
und Geoinformation in 2008. Another suggestion is the guidebook Märchen
Route Im Nordhessischen Bergland published by
Lotterberg-Verlag but we
think that this book is out of print so you will have to purchase a used version
on Amazon.de (German version of Amazon.com). The guidebook suggestion is the
source of much of the information below however paraphrased for ease in consumption
by non-German speakers. We have taken some liberty with the route described
in the reference however; we think we have improved upon it by finding less
hilly routes and we have shortened the tour too.
There are adequate accommodations
along the route. However northern Germany is not as touristy as southern Germany
and the opportunities are fewer. As a choice, we prefer 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 our
Overnight Accommodations page.
Back to the top
Day 1: Kassel to Bad Karlshafen
Today’s ride takes you from
Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof (the most used train station in Kassel
and served by high speed ICE trains) to the banks of the Fulda. Then you follow
the river to Hann. Münden. From there, follow the Weser River North past Reinhardshagen
to Bad Karlshafen. While mostly paved, there is a 10 kilometer portion along
the Fulda that is hard packed gravel. Beyond that, only a tiny bit of gravel
between Hann. Münden and Bad Karlshafen.
Starting at the Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof, ride north one block
(200 meters) and take the first possible left. Then take the first right on
Göethe Strasse and ride north, downhill towards the city center and the Fulda
River. You will notice several Herkules-Wartburg signs along the way.
After you cross Fünffensterstrasse
and are riding west on Neue Strasse, turn right on Opernstrasse and ride down
and across Friedrichs Platz and across Frankfurter Strasse. Follow the Herkules-Wartburg
signs past the Staats Theater and turn down the side street to the Orangerie.
Ride behind the Orangerie
to Aue Damm and turn left to the Drahtbrücke (about 300 meters). You are now
on R-1. R-1 begins just north of the Bavarian border and ends in Bad Karlshafen.
On some maps this route is alternately marked HR-1, which stands for Hessischer
Radfernweg or Fernradweg (Hessen's long distance bike route) or Fuldaradweg.
We follow these R-1 signs all the way to Bad Karlshafen.
Graue Katze Restaurant. We just passed a two-horse carriage
that was carrying celebrants to a wedding or a reception. It was loaded with
flowers and the horses were all decked out in their Sunday finest harnesses
(do horses attend Sunday Meetings?). The road was narrow and the carriage driver
pulls as far to the right as he can – inviting us to pass. We do so but we are
nervous about how the horses, who have blinders on, might react when bicycles
suddenly pass them. These horses are well behaved and apparently they are used
to cyclists. The party is headed for the restaurant, a popular spot for day-trips
out of Kassel for a bite to eat and to enjoy the Fulda and the view across the
river of Spiekershausen.
If you like, you can overnight here at Graue Katze/Roter Kater. The rooms
vary around €70 per night for two people in one room.
We meet several of sixty-plus cyclist who are just beginning a bicycle tour
of the Weser River to their hometown of Bremen (see our Weser Tour). They think
the ride will take 7 days. They are stopping for lunch and ordering beer. We
usually abstain from beer during the day, biking can present sudden challenges
for which one needs their senses as sharp as they can be. Oh well, they were
from strong local stock that may have developed a tolerance to beer.
Continuing, we cross
a cute covered bridge over one of the many streams that flow into the Fulda.
The river bends back on itself here creating an oxbow and we are on the outside
of the bend. Across the river, inside the bend is Gut Kragenhof. A Gut is a
set of buildings for a large farm. A Hof by contrast is also a farm building
but a Hof includes a dwelling for people and the barn all in the same structure.
A of typically forms an L or a U shape with the barnyard in the middle. And
Kragen is – or was – the owner’s name.
On the right and uphill is Simmershausen a portion of the town of Fuldatal
the town where the fairytale Hans in Luck is based. In this fairytale, Hans,
who had just completed his 7-year vocational apprenticeship, was paid a lump
of gold. As he made his way through Fuldatal, he traded his hard earned lump
of gold first for a horse, and then he traded the horse for a cow, then the
cow for a pig, then the pig for a goose and finally the goose for a grindstone.
Obviously, one would question the business acumen of someone who traded away
7-years work for a grindstone, right? Well, it gets worse. Upon losing the grindstone
down a well, Hans proclaimed, “I am the luckiest man on Earth.” And with a light
heart and no weight of wealth upon his shoulders, he walked home to his mother.
The message? Perhaps people unburdened with wealth have a happier life.
There is an informational
sign on the lock at Wilhelmshausen that shows the elevations of the Fulda at
Kassel and at the confluence with the Werra at Hann. Münden. At Kassel the elevation
is 135.82 meters and at the confluence the elevation is 119.65 meters. Converting
the difference to feet, it becomes a total drop of only 53 feet. By the way,
there are four locks between Kassel and Hann. Münden and they all generate electricity.
Bridge into Hann. Münden. This will take you into the
old town part of Hann. Münden. You can learn more at the city's website,
http://www.hann.muenden.de. This is
one of the best-preserved Fachwerk Stadt or half-timbered town in Germany. The
town was established before 1247. That website will also connect you to the
possibility of making an overnight reservation.
There is a small Schloss or palace here and on the hill overlooking the town
is a defensive structure called the Tilly Schanze
In the Rathaus, (town hall) there are murals that tell of floods, being conquered
by the Swede Tilly in the 17th Century and a doctor Eisenbart who died here
Doctor Eisenbart was thought to be a quack. Many thought his methods were
ill advised and some of his patients died. Later however, some of his methods
were held to be correct and ahead of their time. Not soon enough though to prevent
a catchy tune about his quackery becoming popular among school-age children.
The Rathaus glockenspiel [see photograph on left] plays this tune at Noon, 3:00
PM and 5:00 PM daily.
Bridge to the right bank. Today we are going to ride
on the left bank following the R-1 signs. The path is next to a busy road for
several kilometers but at least we are separated from the automobiles.
However, we sometimes recommend crossing the Weser at the bridge just north
of the city. The signs on the right bank will be for the Wesertal Radfernweg
(Weser Valley Long Distance Bike Route). There is less traffic on this side
of the river making the ride more enjoyable. On the upside, using this path
will give you the opportunity to use one of the small ferries that cross the
Weser at Reinhardshagen. On the downside, there is a hill on that side. Hey,
nothing is perfect, ask Hans or Gretel.
We are riding between two of the largest forests in Germany. On the left
is Bramwald and to the right, across the river is Reinhardswald. Reinhardswald
is the setting of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. There in the forest, poor
Hansel and Grete got lost after the birds ate their trail of crumbs. There the
hapless children stumbled upon a gingerbread house in the forest, the home of
a witch. The wicked witch would have cooked and eaten them had not they used
their wits and escaped her nefarious plan.
Back to the top
We stop at Hotel Peter
in Reinhardshagen for coffee but this is also the ferry landing if you are crossing
from the other side. The ferry cost is €1.00 (1999 price) each. Reinhardshagen
is a town that combines two older towns of Vaake and Veckerhagen. There is an
information booth in the center of Veckerhagen on Müllerstrasse. It is about
two blocks east and two blocks south of the ferry. If you opt to overnight in
Reinhardshagen, consider the 500-year-old Historiches Brauhaus (“Historical
Brewery”) in Veckerhagen, Kirchplatz 9. Our experience here in Reinhardshagen
in 1999 proves once again that staying in the smaller villages is less expensive
than staying in the larger towns and cities.
As we ride through the rolling hills slightly above the
river we notice two wooden Hochstände in the field below us. Hochstände
are a common sight in this part of Germany, especially in areas where deer abound.
Local hunters erect them and sit in them for hours during hunting season. I
understand that hunting deer by walking around is not done here.
are across from Bursfelde. What appears to be a double spired church in Bursfelde
is actually two churches the western church was originally built sometime before
1104 as a Benedictine cloister. The eastern most church was built between 1130
and 1140. Both churches have frescos according to our Baedeker guide. We decide
not to stop because we do not have a bridge at this point.
We take a picture of a caution sign with the words Radfahrer
absteigen. This is a short but very steep drop to a hard left turn at the bottom.
They want you to get off and walk your bicycle downhill. We never do but we
do ride slowly downhill.
We stop for the night
in Bad Karlshafen. This town has an interesting history but it is most notable
to Americans as one of the ports from which German mercenary soldiers departed
for the United States during our American Revolution. The mercenaries were called
Hessians because of the 30,000 or so mercenaries employed by the British crown
to put down the revolting colonists in America, 13,000 were from the German
state of Hessia or Hesse (German Hessen). The rank and file of these
men were conscripts pressed into military duty because they owed loyalty to
a landgrave or because they were in debt or in debtors prison. Some were criminal
prisoners guilty of violent crimes. Of the 13,000 Hessian troops shipped to
America, about 7,000 did not return to Germany but settled in the new United
States of America. Why? Well, some were criminals who simply were not welcome
back in the old country but many others were bribed to stay by an act of congress
who sought new citizens to settle the west, which at that time was Pennsylvania
and Ohio. Others were bribed, again by an act of congress, to desert and they
were given land in Pennsylvania as a reward.
We have an opportunity to visit the Huguenot Museum and we learn a lot about
this religious group. Huguenots were followers of John Calvin who himself was
a follower of Martin Luther. During the 16th to the 18th Century the Huguenots
flourished. Their settlements were mostly in France but some were in what is
current day Switzerland and northern Italy. They were a minority who were persecuted
by the Catholic majority for generations. Interestingly, a French king who converted
from being a Huguenot back to Catholicism is seen as responsible for the Massacre
of St. Bartholomew Feast and event that was the impetus of their diaspora.
The Huguenot diaspora was mostly into northern Europe and the British Isles
even into Russia. Additionally, some moved to the Americas. They were invited
by fellow Protestant Landgrave (Count) Carl from Hesse to resettle in northern
Hesse. The Huguenots were known to be expert artisans, farmers, and builders.
The count wanted them to design and build the town of Bad Karlshafen as a showplace
of his wealth and power.
We stay at Komfort-Pension Fuhrhop; owned by B. Janke-Fuhrhop; Friedrichstr.
15; telephone 05672/404; email firstname.lastname@example.org; website www.pension-fuhrhop-karlshafen.de,
price is €76 per night for two people. The list double bed rooms at €38-€40
per person per night. However, in most places with the name “Bad” which means
bath in English, there is a city tax on tourist and those who stay here for
a cure. In this case, the tax is €2.00 per person so the total cost for the
night is €40 per person.
There is also a bicycle rental firm in the city named Tourenräder and Kinderräder;
Mündererstr. 33; telephone 05672/2014.
Back to the top
Day 2: Bad Karlshafen to Zierenberg
Today any fit and aggressive
cyclists may opt to ride an alternate route up to the Sababurg the castle where
the princess in the fairytale Sleeping Beauty awoke after her 100-year sleep
to the kiss of her handsome prince. This alternate would be a hilly ride and
add 10 miles (16 km) but since we are card-carrying members of the “Over 50
with Bad Knees Club,” we choose the flat river valleys. Riding conditions are
pleasant if it were not for the rain. We also detested sharing the road for
10 miles between Niedermeiser and Zierenberg. Otherwise, we were happy campers.
Leave Bad Karlshafen following
both R-4, which is our route, and R-8, the Diemel route that we have done several
times in the past. We are riding on an abandoned railroad grade. Although most
of it is gravel, it is easy riding. The railroad was called Friedrich-Welhelm-Nord-Bahn
that was first laid in 1848 (100 years before I was born). The railroad was
to connect Bad Karlshafen to Hümme and then over a pass and connect to the Fulda
Valley. They removed the tracks in 1966. Today, Bad Karlshafen and Hümme are
small communities with tourism and agriculture among the major industries but
it was not always so. Bad Karlshafen was a trade center, more important commercially
than Kassel; although Kassel was the seat of government for much of the time.
At Helmarshausen we see the Krukenburg, a thirteenth-century
castle and monastery ruin overlooking the Diemel river valley. We visit it in
1999. There are two ways up to the ruin and we choose the path rather than the
street because it seems shorter. One can ride almost to the castle but the path
gets steep, too steep for safe riding. The monks took this path to the village
below. From the valley floor, it’s 220 feet to the Krukenburg and then 125 stone
steps up the tower to enjoy the panoramic vista from the top of the tower. There
is a Museum Krukenburg in Helmarshausen below that has a display titled
Burg und Kunst or Castle and Art. They are open daily except for the midday
pause. We don’t stop at the museum but the guidebook says it is worth a look.
Wülmersen. From here, if you want to, you can turn left
and ride to the Sababurg where Sleeping Beauty over-centuried, to coin a word.
You will rejoin the R-4 just past Hofgeismar. In Wülmersen there is a ruin of
a Wasserschloss, or a moated castle. There is not much to see but if you like
castles, this is one you do not have to climb up a hill to visit.
We stop to photograph
an abandoned tunnel on the railroad grade. Apparently, the tunnel is no longer
safe because there is a short, steep, 70-foot hill that the path takes to go
over the hill that the tunnel cut through.
Trendelburg. The photo on the right shows the Burg (castle)
atop the hill from our approach to the little city. This castle is where the
beautiful Princess Rapunzel, of fairytale fame, let down her hair from the tower
in which she was locked 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
In the village of Stammen I photographed the Schloss,
which is now senior housing. In contrast to the well maintained Schloss, the
photograph on the left is the building across the street that is, well, uh,
not so well maintained. It does show how the space between the half-timbered
timbers is filled though. Other places on this decrepit building, the spaces
are filled with straw and mud, a construction technique that is more common
and older than using bricks.
We pass though Schöneberg, another of the several Huguenot
villages in the area. Neither the map nor the guidebook indicated that we would
pass through this village but we are following the path signs and here we are.
I take a picture of the church here. It is locally famous as one of the older
churches in the surrounding area.
Schöneberg, we enter Hofgeismar through the community of Gesundbrunnen (healthy
well) and I photograph their church too.
1999, we arrived at Hofgeismar just in time to be drenched by a rainsquall.
We are tired and wet but we need a place to stay. We choose the Hans im Glück
Hotel, slightly more than we usually pay but it is clean and just on the edge
of the down town area. Recall I told you the fairytale about Hans in Luck? Luck
is Glück in German.
Hofgeismar is a really old community. It was first settled over 7,000 years
ago. It was a seat of power as early as 1082. Today however, one finds only
the half-timbered buildings from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. For
me, that is enough. The city is larger than we expected and the newer part is,
As we leave Hofgeismar,
we know that we have one of the longest hills on the tour to master. Maxa has
rented an e-bike for this ride so she passes me and scoots up to the top without
breaking a sweat. But I sweat profusely climbing the 350-foot grade. Not only
am I sweating but I am wearing raingear against the cold rain we find ourselves
in. So under the raingear, I am probably wetter than if I had no raingear.
After topping another
smaller and gentler hill we drop 415 feet down into Zwergen. We stop here for
our picnic lunch under an umbrella left there for other purposes but today,
we use it. Zwergen is on the Warme River but it is a very small river. We will
ride up this river valley to Zierenberg. Shortly after we leave Zwergen, we
join a Landstrasse or a road used by local traffic. It is not the highest traffic
road but it is much busier than we like and certainly not what we are used to
in Germany. Plus it is pouring rain and every time a car or truck passes us,
we are sprayed with road grit.
In the rain and after
10 miles of hilly, busy road riding, I am completely exhausted. We stop here
in Zierenberg at Kassler Hof, next to the Zierenberg Rathaus. They charge €58
for a double room for one night. We enjoy a wonderful meal and a good conversation
with chef and owner’s husband Klaus Zaun and he speaks English. He tells us
the history of the building which includes being a meeting place for the local
NSDP (read that as Nazis) in the mid to late 1930’s. Juxtaposed to that use,
the same room was used by the occupation forces as a court to try people for
crimes and other misdeeds. Kassler Hof is owned by Martina Zaun; Marktplatz
2, 34289 Zierenberg; telephone 05606/3281; website www.kassler-hof.de; email
Back to the top
Day 3: Zierenberg to Fritzlar
Today you have two hills to
climb, one first thing in the morning leaving Hofgeismar and one later in the
day between Ehlen and Altenhasungen. The first hill is 370 feet and the second
is 310. There are two redeeming features; first, is that the hills are gradual
and second, each has a great downhill. (Every cloud has a silver lining, right?)
While the path will be paved all day, you will be riding on the shoulder of
lightly traveled roads over half of the time.
: Zierenberg Rathaus (Town Hall). We
pick up R-4 at the bottom of the hill and follow the signs out of town to the
Turn right following signs
toward Wolfhagen. Here you will begin to climb a series of hills that total
one long hill. It rises over 300 feet in 3 kilometers. At the top, you will
have to choose between riding up another hill for another half mile to see a
ruin of a cloister at Burghasungen. Since we have the choice of going uphill
or downhill, we choose downhill and bypass the cloister. I am a better bike
rider than a seer of sights, at least downhill.
The downhill side is
much steeper than the hill we climbed. I love to let the bike build speed on
steep drops like this.
In 1999 I had so much fun; I missed the sign at Wenigenhasungen about halfway
down directing us off to the left. Instead, I finally apply the breaks at the
bottom in a small village of Altenhasungen. Our choice is once again, ride uphill
and pick up the trail again or stay down on the valley floor. Guess what we
do. Because of our sloth, we found a flatter (therefore better in my book) route
into Wolfhagen than the R-4.
This time (2011) we do turn at the R-4 sign and continue downhill to Wenigenhasungen.
The total drop is 380 feet to here.
This is Philippinenburg
and we ride uphill through the village only to drop into Wolfhagen from the
top of the hill in Philippinenburg.
Wolfhagen has a lot to brag about. It has over 300 restored half-timbered
or Fachwerk homes and buildings. The town square is so photogenic with
the small restaurant and Konditorei in the foreground and the fourteenth century
church in the background. As we snap photographs, an artist is painting the
scene in watercolors – painting quickly intent on capturing the colors of the
setting sun before they disappear for the night.
Wolfhagen has had a violent and tumultuous history. It has been built up
and torn down, occupied, burned, and plagued throughout their long history.
The citizens must have developed a sense of humor or they wouldn’t have survived.
The Saxons conquered the area in a bloody rampage. Then the village was burned
down (by accident or more than likely by some enemy). Then came the plague,
not once but several times between the late 1500's to the late 1600's.
Once they even burned their own village to rid themselves of the plague carrying
rats. Then came the 30-year war when the landgrave’s army occupied the village.
The population of the village dropped from 370 to 81 during 1637; presumably
caused by both the plague and the war.
The Huguenots from France came next starting in 1695. Wolfhagen folks must
have thought it was another plague because the Huguenots moved in all over this
region. (Remember, Landgrave Carl from Hesse had invited them.) I understand
the native Wolfhagen folks did not give the Huguenots a polite welcome. But
the Huguenots stayed anyway. Many of them settled first in Carlsdorf, close
Then there was the 7-year war between France to the south and England and
Prussia (1756 - 1763). Both sides occupied (were quartered in) Wolfhagen but
not at the same time, of course. Once Napoleon got his comeuppances at Waterloo,
more Huguenots moved in. For the native citizens of Wolfhagen, troubles just
did not seem to end. And you know about World Wars I and II.
There is a castle worth seeing here, not only because of the small museum
but also because it is easy to imagine fighting off the Catholics and the French
from the walls of this classic structure. The church is nice too. Construction
on it began in 1250 and completed in 1350 but the tower was not completed until
1561. It is built in German special gothic style – which must be a sub-school
Wolfhagen is the bottom
of another hill that we need to climb over to drop into the Eder River drainage.
Leaving Wolfhagen, we climb toward Ippinghausen but turn just before the village.
As you climb you will see the Weidelsberg Castle above Ippinghausen on the
far hill to the left and if you look back toward Wolfhagen, you will find a
photo opportunity of a neat little walled, red tiled German town with a castle
and a steepled church. Beautiful. Scenes like this make me come back to this
Crossing the Landstrasse
near Ippinghausen we follow a gravel path downhill through the forest. Some
people will consider detouring to the Weidelsberg Ruin on the hilltop to your
right. We don’t because the castle is intermittently hidden in the clouds today
so we assume that the advertised spectacular view is not so spectacular at the
moment. Built on a basalt outcropping, this is an excellent example of North
Hesse’s castle ruins. You will find gates, towers with steps, and expertly crafted
basalt stonemasonry. You will probably have to leave your bikes at the end of
the road and walk up to the ruin. (We came back later by car to explore the
area. We discovered that there is no good road to the ruin.) If you keep on
this path, you’ll have another mile of corncob-rough path to negotiate. In spite
of the rough road, the forest is beautiful and quiet.
We have reached more
paved path finally because the gravel was newly put down and was very rough.
Naumburg. This is one end of the track of an antique
train called the Hessencourier. You can buy tickets for €25 each at the Kassel-Wilhelmshöher
Bahnhof for this train for a ride from Kassel to Naumburg and back but advance
reservations are needed. It runs once or once a day on Saturday, Sunday and
Elbenberg is named after
the Elbe, a stream that is a tributary to the Eder River. There is a major river
also called the Elbe in eastern Germany flowing into the North Sea.
Züschen and photographs of two of its towers and its
Rathaus. There is a Schloss here that has been converted into a nice restaurant
if you are hungry and want to have an experience.
In Geismar I note that
the symbol of the town is an axe, presumably the one that St. Boniface used
to chop down the oak tree here. Interestingly, it seems that both Geismar and
Fritzlar think that the tree that St. Boniface chopped down was in their town.
This is the Altstadt
(old town) of Fritzlar through the town wall and turn right following the wall
into the town center. Fritzlar is an old historic center of power. The bombs
of WWII did not damage Fritzlar much so the town square is still picturesque
full of half-timbered buildings mixed with gothic and Baroque architecture.
In downtown Fritzlar, I photographed the Tourist Office and the house next
door. Both are unique half-timbered buildings. The gray Tourist Office was built
in 1415 and the brown house was built in 1360.
Almost 1,300 years ago, St. Boniface (Bonifatius), the Apostle of the Germans,
felled an oak tree that was a holy shrine of the local Chatti tribe (der Chatten)
and used the lumber therefrom to build a church. (Now, editorially speaking,
I would like to know what the Chatti thought of this blasphemous treatment of
their holy shrine. History - as written by the Christians, fails to inform.)
That was 723 and he must have been successful in convincing the Chatti that
Christianity was a good thing because they didn't kill him. He was killed
(martyred) in 754 in what is now Holland. I wonder if he was in the process
of chopping down another holy shrine. But I digress.
A settlement developed around the church. It was situated at an important
crossroads of trade routes so it soon became a thriving community. The Holy
Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, (Karl, der Grossen) endowed Fritzlar with a royal
palace. From there until just recently, (measured in centuries, not months)
Fritzlar was in its heyday. The home of kings, Kaisers and important clerics,
Fritzlar was both a religious and a political power center until well after
the thirty-years war (1618 - 1648). That war was terribly damaging to this part
of Germany, causing the ruin and rebuilding and ruin again of almost every city
and town in the surrounding area. You remember, the thirty-years war was over
who gets the "hearts and minds" of the people - Catholics from Rome
or Lutherans from Germany. Believe me, it was a big thing it this part of the
We stay the evening in Restaurant Hotel Domgarten owned by Bernhard Aue,
Neustädter Str. 9, 34560 Fritzlar; telephone 05622/91760; email email@example.com;
website www.hotel-domgarten.de. The hotel is on the bike path just south of
the central square. The room is large and there is a very good restaurant in
Back to the top
Day 4: Frtizlar to Neukirchen
Interestingly, we start today
by being confused by signage. Shortly after leaving Fritzlar, we are dutifully
following the R-4 signs and realized that the signs seemed to be leading us
the wrong way – to Wabern. The route described in the guidebook took us due
south, over hill and dale to Kleinenglis but the map took us first to Wabern.
After three kilometers in the direction of Wabern, we reverse our steps and
do pick our way south to Kleinenglis along the route described in our 13-year
old guidebook. By the time we reconnect with the currently signed R-4 past Kleinenglis,
we are convinced that although a slight bit longer, following the currently
signed R-4 through Wabern would be the preferable route for all those in the
OFBK Club (Over Fifty with Bad Knees Club). Either way, the path is in good
condition but we do encounter a total of 7 kilometers of gravel path in 3 or
4 different sections.
Since our hotel is on the bike
path and close to town center Fritzlar, we start our cyclometers at the hotel.
We cross over an old bridge that according to the sign
is from the 14th Century. The sign also goes on to say that artists have been
painting pictures from this point for hundreds of years. I understand why; because
in the background of the bridge are the twin towers of the Dom (Cathedral) and
a couple of the town wall towers as well. It is very picturesque.
We first follow the R-4
signs to the east toward Wabern then we get to thinking, that is not the way
the guidebook suggests we take go and the guidebook is using R-4. After we ride
back to the bridge and reason it out, we realize that R-4 has been recently
(within the last 5 years) changed. It now goes to Wabern, then follows a railroad
grade to Kleinenglis. We decide to follow the guidebook but after climbing over
hill and dale, decide that the Wabern way, or the way R-4 is currently signed
makes a lot of sense. It is a little longer but it is also less hilly.
Just after riding down
a steep drop through Kleinenglis, we meet up again with the signed R-4 route.
We probably saved ourselves a few kilometers getting here but paid the price
in elevation gain and loss along the way.
Riding through Kerstenhausen
I notice some familiar buildings. Maxa tells me that is because we drive through
here every time we visit her aunt in Marburg.
We stop for a break at an Italian ice cream restaurant
in Bad Zwesten. We order our Kännchen Koffee and then struck by an
irresistible desire, we also order ice cream.
Just past Neuental-Buschausen,
we experience another change to R-4. Our 2-year old map indicates that the route
should go to Zimmersrode but the path signs direct us south along a railroad
before we get to Zimmersrode. That is good because I can tell form the topographical
lines on the map that this is a flatter and more direct route.
We cheat riding into
Allendorf. R-4 would have taken us over a small hill but the lightly traveled
road goes along the river so we take the road and see two other cyclists and
This morning we planned to stay in Zeigenhain but now
that we are here and the sun is shining and we are not that tired, we just duck
into town, take a couple of pictures, have a coffee and a beer and continue
on our way to Neukirchen. We choose the wonderful half-timbered restaurant named
Hotel-Restaurant Rosegarten. The building was built in 1620 and has been a hotel
since 1876. The people were very friendly, making our decision to continue that
much more difficult. Zeigenhain was a fortress in years past. Today, it appears
that the fortress is the current day jail. The center of town seems to be under
construction at the moment so we are glad for our decision to continue. Photo
285 pattern and 286 is Hotel Landgraf in Zeigenhain Leaving Zeigenhain we leave
R-4 behind and follow R-17 to Neukirchen. From there, the map indicates that
we should follow R-11 into Neideraula on the Fulda but as you will see, we do
not do so.
In Neukirchen, we stop for the night at Hotel Restaurant
Zur Stadt Cassel. Kurhessenstr. 56; 34626 Neukirchen ;telephone 06694/216 €65
for two people for one night including breakfast buffet. The rooms are modern
but the building is “Asbach” (German slang for “very old.”) We see on the map
that we must climb over a watershed divide between here and Neideraula. We wanted
to rest up for that climb and tackle it in the morning. You have undoubtedly
heard the tales of Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White. They lived, if at
all because they are the subject of fairytales, you know, in the Schalm River
area. Snow White lived around the small village of Bergfreiheit in the Kellerwald
where she cavorted with Dopey and his friends. We did not ride to Bergfreiheit
since it was a few kilometers off the path.
Back to the top
Day 5: Neukirchen to Bebra and a side trip to Rotenburg
an der Fulda
Today we ride to Bebra and
then take a side trip to Rotenburg a.d. Fulda. We start the day on the
currently unsigned paved railroad grade path that we began yesterday. Our hostess
from the hotel last evening told us that the paved grade went at least most
of the way to Olberode. We are happy to report that the paved even grade goes
beyond the top of the hill to Oberaula, and even a bit beyond. I say ‘currently
unsigned’ because we are supposed to follow R-11 but that route climbs the hill
more directly and more steeply than the railroad grade we use. R-11 also uses
roads that we must share with automobiles. In contrast, the cycle and pedestrian
only railroad grade makes a longer looping route to Oberaula – as is the manner
of railroad grades.
Leaving our hotel in the
center of Neukirchen, we find our way back to the paved railroad grade.
We pass Olberode, the
top of the watershed divide between the Schwalm-Eder and the Fulda drainages.
After climbing over
500 feet, we drop into the top of the Aula Valley and find the end of path that
we have enjoyed immensely. At the end of the path, we are directed to the R-11
path, which continues downhill to Neideraula and the Fulda River.
In Kirscheim, we seek a place for a coffee break and
a grocery store to acquire our picnic lunch. We pass a cute Konditorei, on the
way to the grocery store but once we have our lunch we just press on down the
valley without going back to the Konditorei.
In Neideraula we stop
for a coffee break (finally) before crossing the bridge over the Fulda and joining
the R-1 path.
We cross the Fulda to
the left bank at Kohlhausen.
This is Bebra. The
Märchen Route bicycle path, goes from here into Sontra climbing the
hill over the watershed divide. However, we opt to ride first to Rotenburg a.d.
Fulda for our overnight stay. Tomorrow, we will ride back to Lispenhausen refreshed
and climb over the hill into Sontra and on to Eschwege. Rotenburg is a particularly
beautiful city and if you can, we recommend a visit.
We overnight in beautiful
Rotenburg an der Fulda. OK, it is not on the Fairytale path but we are travelling
with Rick and Susan and we wanted to show them one of the prettier towns in
North Hesse. The photographs are from Rotenburg.
Day 6: Rotenburg / Fulda to Eschwege
Today is mostly paved but very
hilly. Eat a big breakfast, you will burn many calories today so do not worry
about weight gain.
So refreshed by our overnight
in Rotenburg / Fulda, we ride back to Lispenhausen and begin the climb on the
low traffic Landstrasse toward Sontra. The cycle path signs are R-5.
In Schwartzenhasel, the
R-5 signs take you to the right to a path that eventually turns to gravel as
it climbs over the hill. We opt to stay on the road but what we are doing is
less safe but more paved than where the R-5 will take one.
This is the top of the
watershed divide and a good thing too. We are glad the hill is now behind us.
In the pretty town of
Sontra, we take a break from the heat of the day at an ice cream café. From
here we will follow the Sontra Creek downhill to Witchmanshausen. Today is hot
and we are going through water like it is coming out of a fire hydrant.
Witchmanshausen is in
a valley that the alternative route traverses on the Herkules-Wartburg Radweg,
so we will see these signs often for the rest of the day and most of the day
tomorrow. We have been climbing slowly but surely since Reichensachsen too.
Shortly after Witchmanshausen, our order-of-march (a military term) is: Susan,
Rick, Tim, and Maxa. Susan turned following the path sign but Rick, looking
around, missed seeing her turn. When he did see her, she was on the path ahead
but he had gone past the corner. I (Tim) saw the sign and turned but Rick did
not see me do so as he was busy making a tight 180 turn so he could follow Susan.
By the time Rick got around the corner, we were side by side but Rick was still
turning and suddenly, he seemed to want to be on the same piece of pavement
that I occupied. We fell over. I rolled down a short but steep hill a few feet
and stopped just shy of the creek. Rick was tangled in the two bicycles. Maxa
helped Rick untangle himself while I climbed back up the hill, which is full
of stinging nettles. Rick had a few scrapes but neither of us was badly hurt.
He had lost his camera but noticed it missing only 500 meters down the path.
While waiting for him to return my front tire blew and went flat. Fortunately,
I had a spare tube and a few minutes later, we were on our way again.
Reichensachsen is at
the bottom of a 400-foot hill that we must ride over to get to Eschwege. While
the hill does raise your heart rate, it is gentle enough that you probably will
not have to push up it.
In Eschwege, we stop
for the night at Hotel Deutsches Haus at Schloss Platz 7, telephone 05651/31180
or 05651/13780 €60 per room per night for 2 people. They have 11 rooms and a
good breakfast is included. Rooms are small but clean. We have had enough hills
for one day, though tomorrow we will not find any hills until after Witzenhausen.
Day 7: Eschewege to Kassel
Again today, the path is mostly
paved and it is flat along the Werra River. We turn away from the river at Witzenhausen.
Then we cross another watershed divide into the Lossetal or Losse Creek
Valley. It is a longer day than we normally ride but the last 16 miles (25.3
kilometers) is all down hill. (He said with a twinkle in his eye.)
The village of Jestead.
We see Burg Rotenstein
above us on the hill. this is just one of several castles we see along the way.
After a 100-foot hill,
we enter Allendorf, or since two smaller cities are combined into one, Bad Sooden-Allendorf.
In Germany, any town with the word Bad in the name is a spa town where citizens
can go for an insurance paid-for cure of whatever ails them. It is a wonderful
system unless you have to pay taxes to support it. Bad Sooden is one such a
town. They have a Gradiernwerk here but since that word does not translate
to English, I call it a “salt wall”. A Gradiernwerk is a wall built
several feet thick and about 20 feet high filled in the middle with twigs. Pipes
dribble saltwater or mineral water over the twigs and it evaporates, leaving
the salty residue behind. The air close to the wall is moist and cool from the
evaporation. People say that spending time, like hours, in that air is healthy.
I do not know about that either.
We break for lunch in
Lindenwerra. The bridge shown here was built after the wall came down but this
part of the Werra River was the border between East and West Germany. The sign
depicts where the Iron Curtain, as it was called divided Germany for over 40
Middle of Wareleshausen.
On our way to Witzenhausen, we see Burg Ludwigstein on the hill. Burg Ludwigstein
is the subject of a short fable in the area. It seems that the Burg,
or castle in English, was built by a Landgraf, or prince, to protect
the surrounding area from the “robber knights” who occupied Burg Hanstein close
by. In those days, there were many knights who had resorted to robbing peasants
and merchants to make a living. There were times during the Middle Ages when
there was little in the way of warfare where knightly services could be paid
for by the belligerents. The story goes that the castle,
was built so quickly as to create a belief that the Landgraf was in
league with the devil. The proof of the fable is in the likeness of the
Landgraf's head, which appears in a stone wall of the castle. I am
just reporting here, I do not claim to believe this fable.
In Witzenhausen we pause
to take some photographs. For a small town, they have a huge church.
The mapped route takes you through town on a busy road but we avoid the busy
road by first taking a short tour of the altstadt then riding on the
sidewalk until we get to the intersection with a Landstrasse named
Am Stieg. We turn left on Am Stieg and one block later we
turn right and ride along Im Kleinen Felde until we see the first underpass
under the old railroad tracks (the tracks no longer in use). On the other side
of the tracks is the path.
Two signs are marking
the path on the other side of the tracks, a Herkules-Wartburg path sign and
another marked with an “M.”
In Hundelshausen the
various half-timbered buildings impressed me as well as the church.
the path parallels the Bundesstrasse until an intersection with a
Landstrasse from the west. There we cross that Landstrasse.
After crossing the
Bundesstrasse, we climb an 80-foot pitch for 500 meters.
As we approach the city
of Grossalmerode we rejoin the Bundesstrasse and ride on the sidewalk
through town. In the middle of the Kaufunger Wald, the town is famous
for the quality of sand and clay that can be found nearby. The two raw materials
are the basis for high quality glass and pottery. The motto of the town is “Stadt
der gutten Tons” or The City of Good Clay.
the sidewalk ends and we have to share the road, a Bundesstrasse with
lots of commercial (read that as trucks) traffic and no shoulder at all. We
are climbing a fairly steep hill so our speed is, ... well, slow. Still, we
have to climb to the top, another 300 feet.
We finally can turn
left off the Bundesstrasse at the top of the hill. There are no cycle
path signs here but there is a small road leading to the left with a sign for
Reiterhof Hirschberg. The map shows that if you keep to the right on
that road, it will take you through Wickenrode, which is where we want to be.
Totally, we climb about 400 feet from just before Grossalmerode; and over 1,000
feet since leaving Witzenhausen. But, hey! It is all downhill from here.
After a section of gravel
path, we come into Helsa. They have a huge church as well for the size of the
community today. In Helsa, we rejoin the Herkules-Wartburg cycle path for the
rest of the way into Kassel. There are other path signs here but only an occasional
sticker of the Märchen Route.
Kaufungen, I photographed the sculpture in front of their Rathaus.
Even if it is a recently sculptured piece of art, I love it for the scene it
depicts. A fat momma who is watching out for her daughter who is oblivious of
the family and engrossed in her cassette tape Walkman, a skinny husband who
is watching his skinny son skateboarding. Except for not using walkmans any
more, it is a contemporary scene.
We are in early July
but the photograph shows the farmers combining barley; hopefully to be used
in this year’s beer production. I notice this because on the ranch where I grew
up, one did not harvest grain until late August at the earliest. That just shows
you what more rain and longer days can do for a harvest.
We are still following
the Herkules-Wartburg signs through a large park right into Kassel over the
bridge near the swimming pool (Fribad Auebad).
This is the Orangerie
and the end of the ride. As the Märchen Route Guidebook says, you can
relax here in Karlsaue park, or climb the short hill into downtown Kassel to
shop, or catch a train either at the Kassel Hauptbahnhof near downtown
or ride the 2.9 miles (4.6 kilometers) to the ICE train station Bahnhof
Wilhelmshöhe east of downtown.
|Hans im Glück
||Hans in Luck or
|Hänsel und Grethel
||Hansel and Gretel
||Little Red Riding
||Zwesten and Bergfreiheit