Fulda River Bike Path
The Fulda Valley bicycle tour is 3 to 4-day ride 132-mile (213 km) ride
through pastoral and historical Germany. The mostly downhill ride follows the Fulda
River Valley from Gersfeld, close to its source, to Hann. Münden.
This is June, 2000. The tour starts in the Rhön, a mountainous
region just north of the Bavarian border and ends in the beautiful city of Hann.
Münden at the end of the Fulda where it and the Werra flow together to form the
Weser River. If you would like to make this tour a longer tour, simply combine the
Fulda and the Weser River together. These two tours overlap from Kassel to Hann.
Gersfeld is in the region called the Rhön. The Fulda flows from there, between
the regions Rhön and Vogelsberg; then into Waldhessen and then into Kurhessisches
Bergland. There are only four hills to climb on this ride. The steepest of which
is a 170-foot hill at mile 40 on the third day. Actually, that hill can be avoided
if you so choose. With these minor exceptions, the ride has only gentle, rolling
hills that are easy on the knees. Although few Americans have heard of this area
or this ride, it is popular with German vacationers and the bike path gets a lot
of use. The elevation difference is minor so as many people ride up-river as ride
The most interesting stops for sightseeing
and history are Fulda, Schlitz, Bad Hersfeld, Rotenburg an der Fulda, Melsungen,
Kassel and Hann. Münden.
The route is well signed. You will find eight-inch square signs like this all along
on this tour can be a bit scarce but we had no trouble because of our use of the
guidebook and map mentioned below. 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.
In the case of Kassel, use http://www.kassel.de
and click on “Unterkünfte,” then “Auflistung aller Hotelbetriebe in
Kassel” for a list of accommodations in the city itself. You can even book
on line if you are adept at the German language.
It is possible to book accommodations in advance for Hann. Münden by using this
link: http://www.hann.muenden.de and then
click on "English" if your German is a little rusty like mine.
Fulda-Radweg R-1, published by BVA Bielefelder Verlagsanstalt,
scale 1:50,000. There are other maps such as BDR’s Deutsche Rad-Tourenkarte, scale
1:100,000, numbers 21 and 28. The BDR maps are good but the scale is too small for
me and they do not give as much information about the towns that your particular
bike route is traversing. They do give useful information about the area in general
and some of the towns on the map. The BDR maps also include helpful information
about biking in general. Through the city of Kassel, we use Fahrradroutenkarte Region
Kassel, scale 1:30,000 published by Stadt Kassel Vermessungsamt. One can find a
copy of this map at most bike shops in the region. Additionally, bikeline Radtourenbuch
Fulda Radweg von Gersfeld nach Hann. Münden is also a good choice.
Back to the top
Day 1: Gersfeld to Fulda
This day’s ride is 20 miles (32
km). It is a bit shorter than normal because we take all morning taking the train
to Gersfeld. The bicycle ride is slightly down hill but today the path is mostly
gravel with few stretches of asphalt. There are no hills over 40 feet high to climb.
That means your knees can get used to the exercise they will get over the next few
days. It rained during our train ride but as we depart the train in Gersfeld, it’s
just cloudy and cool. Good biking weather. The train from Fulda to Gersfeld is a
brand new diesel model with a smooth and quiet ride. We are joined by a group of
about 10 children ranging in age from 5 to 12 with several of their parents in tow
(probably to pay for the snacks and take care of the bikes). They are biking from
Gersfeld to Fulda today too. They are a noisy lot; full of excitement for the adventure
ahead. Given the young age of some of the children, one can appreciate the ease
and relative safety of the upcoming terrain.
Gersfeld Bahnhof. Ride east, you will see the R-1 sign in about
100 yards. Take the bike path and you are on your way.
Fish Hatchery. We stop at
the Imbiss kiosk here for lunch. They have bathrooms too, a blessing because there
were none on the train from Fulda.
Enter Löschenrode. There
is a hard to see right turn as you come up into the village just in front of the
Alte Brauerei (Old Brewery). Just down the street is a bicycle repair and rental
Cross the River Fulda and enter the City of Fulda. The city,
like many others, formed around a monastery founded originally in 744 by a monk
named Sturmius, a contemporary of another monk named St. Bonifatius (St. Boniface)
who is buried (encrypted) in the Dom (Cathedral) here. As an aside, St.
Boniface was famous and influential in Germany. He traveled over much of central
Germany and Holland establishing churches and monasteries in many places. He was
martyred in 752 and later sainted by the Catholic Church. As another aside, Catholics
used to like to chop their saints up and move the bits and pieces around to different
churches. For example, parts of poor old St. Boniface can be found in Louvain, Mechlin,
Prague, Bruges, and Erfurt. A considerable portion of an arm is at Eichfeld. But
the rest of his body is here at Fulda.
To understand why Fulda is historically important one must appreciate the importance
of religion in both trade and government. St. Boniface had the power of the Roman
pope behind him. He became an Archbishop. The pope also gave him the military support
of King Charles Martel (a.k.a., Charlemagne – the first Holy Roman Emperor), whose
kingdom then extended from Friesland in Holland and the NW corner of Germany to
the current French-Spanish border. Since Fulda was St. Boniface's seat of power
for a time - as was Mainz, Fulda was the equivalent of any modern capital city,
such as Berlin, Tokyo, New York; get the picture?
Fulda is a cultural center and a crossing point for business traffic and bicycle
traffic alike. As you pass through, be sure to check out the Dom and particularly
the garden around the Stadtschloss. There are two other churches and a
museum that may be worth your while. If you like fire-fighting equipment, you ride
past the German Fire Fighting Museum or Deutsches Feuerwehr
The Dom is an outstanding example of Baroque architecture. Built in
the ninth-century it was the center of religious influence for centuries.
We end the short half-day
at Gasthof Drei Linden. To get here, turn left off the path just past Hotel Brauhaus
Wiesenmühle (or just past the second “Barockviertel” sign) and ride the half-mile
back over the river and under main road into Neuenberg.
How we got to Gasthof Drie Linden is interesting. After checking out the sights
to be seen in Fulda and having our afternoon coffee, we found our way back to R-1
and continued out of town. Our preference is to stay in the smaller villages rather
than downtown in the hotel district. We find the prices cheaper and the experience
richer. This time, we rode two miles to Gaststätte Fuldatal only to find that it
is only a restaurant and has no rooms. We should have known that by the name “Gaststätte,”
because these places are normally just restaurants. The owner sent us back to Gasthof
Martin, which we had passed on the way. As we neared Gasthof Martin, we were checking
our map and a motorist stopped to help us (as frequently happens in Germany). The
Good Samaritan recommended we continue back toward the center of Fulda and stay
at Gasthof Drei Linden. The owners of Drei Linden are pleasant and accommodating.
They speak English and enjoy the opportunity to practice their language skills.
The food is reasonably priced and well prepared. The restaurant itself is stereotypically
German, complete with the mandatory display of Biersteine and Krüge
(pots) as well as a few antique plates and a few deer horns to prove the hunting
skills of some of the current owners ancestors or customers. The owner, Stefan Henning,
runs the Gasthof and the butcher shop next door. Herr Henning, his wife,
and sons work day and night to make their customers happy. It seems to be working.
Their website is http://www.dreilinden-fulda.de
and you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to the top
Day 2: Fulda to Bebra
Today’s ride will cover 46 miles
(72 km) and is flat except for one 90-foot hill at mile 21 (34 km). There are three
stretches of gravel totaling about 8 miles. The most interesting places are Fulda,
where you start, Schlitz, and Bad Hersfeld.
Gasthof Drei Linden.
Radweg (Bike Route)
R-1. Turn left, or North. It is raining hard today and we take shelter under the
first little bridge until the bulk of the storm passes.
The crossroad to Schlitz.
We ride into this village because the guidebook speaks highly of it. We are not
disappointed. On the short path into Schlitz, it started raining again. I don’t
mind the rain – a day biking in the rain beats two weeks working in an air-conditioned
office. As we stop to don our raincoats, an octogenarian rides up on a bike of similar
age and commences to tell us that we should take all our clothes off and let the
blessed rain soak into our skin. (In my case, it would not be a pretty sight due
to too much skin.) I take his advise with a grain of salt – I smell alcohol on his
breath. No doubt, he has been at the Schnapps before lunch already, maybe
even a few too many. In any event, he is wearing clothes so he isn’t taking his
own advice. Thankfully! We bid him a good day and hurriedly ride off with our raincoats
Schlitz, perhaps the source of the name of the American Beer
(or at least the source of Joseph Schlitz’s name), is a pretty little town with
a Middle Age town with a wall and four towers. One of the towers resembles a candle
when it is lit up for Christmas. The Guinness Book of Records calls this tower the
largest candle in the world. (I was less than impressed with this fact.)
The city was first established 1,200 years ago (812CE) when St. Boniface consecrated
a massive stone basilica here. Schlitz was named after the short river that flows
through it, which in some early form of early German meant sliding water. The 1,200-year-old
church in Schlitz was Catholic until 1546 when the Reformation reached the town.
As you may know, much of South Germany is Catholic today and much of North Germany
is Protestant. The territories of the two faction’s overlap Central Germany. Here
one village may be Catholic and the next, half a mile away may be Protestant. Can
you imagine the bad feelings that must have been present for hundreds of years between
the villages over their respective religions? During the Thirty-Years War (1618
to 1648), these bad feelings led to much bloodshed and carnage.
Ride past Unter Schwartz
where you will find at least one Fremdenzimmer or overnight accommodation.
From Unter Schwartz, climb a 90-foot hill to Richthof. As we climb this hill, we
meet a family group of bikers whom we have seen earlier on the trail coming down
the hill towards us. As the first one flies past me, she yells, “This is the wrong
way.” But by the time I check the map and communicate to the group that it is too
the right way, only the last one gets the word. She stops to confirm that I know
what I am saying but by the time I convince her, the rest of the family, including
three children, are back at the bottom. Now they will have to climb it all over
again. Poor kids, they are probably already tired.
There is a Tierpark or a kind of a zoo at the top of the hill but we
do not stop because it doesn’t look like much from the road.
After riding under Autobahn
A7 and into Solms you will find another overnight accommodation, this one is called
a Gaststätte. Remembering our experience last night one would think that
normally Gaststätten are restaurants only; but this one has an icon of
a bed on the sign indicating a guest room. Go figure.
Wasserschloss Eichhof is
here but it is now an agricultural research and teaching facility and not something
you can visit. Wasserschloss translates to “water palace” but they are
seldom used as palaces nowadays.
We enter Bad Hersfeld in search of a good Konditorei
for a coffee break. Wonder of wonders, we have success. Bad Hersfeld is well known
for its annual theater festival in the Stiftsruine. A Stiftsruine is
a ruin of an old church hospital and the most extensive Romanesque church ruins
north of the Alps, according to the
Back on the trail at Bad
Hersfeld, we head in the direction of Bebra. This is a bike path next to a heavily
traveled Landstrasse or primary road. With all the exhaust and noise, it
is not pleasant but still better than actually sharing the road.
In Friedlos we turn right
and cross the Landstrasse. This may seem like a mistake because we are
following R-15 signs instead of R-1 but riding into the fields is pleasant change
and the real R-1 ends up joining us in about a mile. There are overnight accommodations
here but we push on because Friedlos does not look a like nice quite little town,
more like a noisy, industrial, spread out along the Landstrasse type of
After fixing a flat tire
(due to a broken beer bottle on the path) we enter Mecklar and enjoy a nice dinner
at Gaststätte Zum Weissen Rössl. These nice people are completely booked or we would
have stayed the night. They did help me with my bike (my old pump cannot put much
pressure in the tire so they allow me to use their compressor) and they call ahead
to the next Gasthaus and reserve a room for us there.
Enter Breitenbach and turn
left off the trail for a block into Gasthof Breitenbacher Hof. We spend the night
here and owner Harald Döttger proudly shows us his team of horses and other farm
animals. The rooms are comfortable and quite; just what we search for.
Back to the top
Day 3: Bebra to Kassel and on to Hann. Münden
Today’s ride is 66.4 miles (106
km). Admittedly, this is a long ride. We have our home base in Kassel, so we will
stop there for the night. However, if that were not the case, as it probably isn’t
in your case, you may be well advised to find lodging in Guxhagen, Kassel or plan
to overnight in Hann. Münden. Unfortunately, there are few overnight accommodations
between Guxhagen and Kassel the hotels are likely to be more expensive than in the
outlying villages. If you go the distance, Hann. Münden is quaint, picturesque and
has many accommodations.
There are a couple of hills at about mile 17 and 40. Most of the path is paved
but much of it is on lightly traveled roads.
We start the day on the trail
in front of Breitenbacher Hof and head toward the Fulda River, turning left, on
the R-1 bike path just as we get to the river.
We are riding into Rotenburg an der Fulda, a picturesque Middle
Age half-timbered city. The Altstadt (on the left bank) is a perfect stopping
place for something to eat or drink. The Pfarrkirche (parish church) St.
Jacob here was first mentioned on historical documents in 1248. The main part of
the church is from the thirteenth-century but the altar is actually from the sixteenth-century.
The Glockenspiel (church bell mechanical display) plays four times daily
at 9:21, 11:31, 15:31, and 18:31. The building across from the church has been there
Follow R-1 through a Feuchtwiese
or a wetland area. For less than half a mile, the path is first rough gravel then
deteriorates into a single dirt footpath. You can easily skirt this part of the
path by staying on the automobile road to the north out Rotenburg and then cutting
over to the riverbank in a mile or so. (You know this, but we don’t so we ride it
the hard way.)
Jog right then left between
the two towns of Niederellenbach (Alheim) and Heinebach (Alheim). There is no sign
for the first part of the jog but there is one for the last part of the jog.
This is Altmorschen, the
site of an ancient monastery. In the sixteenth-century the monastery was converted
into a palace for members of Landgrave Karl’s family. Landgrave Karl is famous for
Karlshafen and encouraging the Baroque architectural style in this part of Germany.
Enter Binsförth after climbing
a small hill. Then drop back down to river level before climbing another small hill
into Bieseförth at mile 18.3 (29.5 km).
Here the signs differ from
the map (ours is older than yours). The map shows the trail on the left bank but
the signs take us over to the right bank. Once over the bridge, turn left and follow
the signed path.
[ The bridge is no longer there, now
there is a sort of a cable car across the river. One can operate it from the bank
with a hand crank or from within the car (the car is more like a basket of people
and bikes). This is also one of the places where R-5 diverges from R-1. R-5 would
take you over the hill to Homberg-Efel]
Ride along paved path that
soon runs along side the Landstrasse.
Enter Melsungen. Living
in Kassel for several months a year, we visit Melsungen often. Melsungen and Hann.
Münden are two of the best preserved half-timbered villages in the area. Worth a
stop to smell the roses.
Here is postcard-pretty Lobenhausen. The short four sided
onion shaped church steeple here is typical of many we have seen along the Fulda
Enter Wagenfurth. As you
ride toward Grabenau the path takes you up a 90-foot hill. If you like downhill
drops as I do, go ahead and climb up. However, if you hate hills as much as Maxa,
you can take a dirt path to the left just after the incline begins. that path takes
you along the river and at the end of it you have a 10-foot pusher back to the street
in Grabenau. Your choice.
Because we do not know about
the path, we coast down a short steep hill into Grabenau. At the bottom, we have
a decision. Take the shortcut where you ride on a major Landstrasse L3221
for a ½ mile with almost no shoulder, climb a 60-foot hill, and then cross the
Landstrasse with minimal visibility of on-coming BMWs. Or, spend about
20 minutes longer and follow the river around the Schlinge (oxbow, or where
the river bends back on itself). The choice is easy, turn left and follow the river.
Do not ask me how I know about the other choice.
Here you enter Guxhagen.
After you cross under the Landstrasse bridge, turn left at the T in the
Ride straight ahead along
the right bank of the Fulda. With the bridge on your left, cross Bruckenstresse
onto Zum Ehrenhain, it is a paved bicycle path that is used by an occasional
automobile. Regardless of which path is open when you get here, both are quite acceptable.
We prefer the one along the river because of the lack of traffic and the scenery
– but there is an 80-foot hill (up and down in ½ mile) just after you cross under
the Autobahn on the riverbank route.
Cross under the Autobahn
on the bike path and follow it uphill just past the underpass. This path will take
you over another bridge into Guntershausen. As you leave Guntershausen, you will
be back on the riverbank until you get to the bridge into the Fuldabrück community
Cross the bridge into Dittershausen
and the right bank of the Fulda.
After passing a cool little restaurant kind of development
in a former garden called the Wiesenwirt Fulda Knee at mile 41.1, you will cross
back to the left bank at mile 42.1, climb a short small hill, and then drop back
down the river.
This is another footbridge
that you will cross to the right bank. At about mile 44 you will pass a one of our
favorite restaurants where we ride to from our home in Kassel, it is called Restaurant
Fährmann, they serve a great local dark beer we like.
At the Damaskebrücke you
can cross to the right bank again or stay on the left bank and ride down a street
named Auedamm. Be careful at this intersection, it is tricky because the arterial
from the south turns and crosses the bridge so the cars and bikes from the north
on Auedamm must yield right-of-way. The R-1 signs will lead you past a formal garden
(Karls Aue) and the Orangerie. The Orangerie is worth
a stop and "look-see." Historically an Orangerie was a place
to keep orange trees over winter. The suspension footbridge just past the Orangerie
is named the Drahtbrücke, a Draht is a wire. There you cross again
to the right bank of the Fulda. If you opt to stay in Kassel, go into the downtown
area west of the Orangerie. It is a little uphill and left off the R-1.
You can find a fairly inexpensive hotel right downtown, next to the town hall, or
Back at the Damaskebrücke, If it is a warm and day, you will notice
riding through a nude beach area called an FKK Gelände. FKK stands
for Freie Körper Kultur or Free Body Culture. If you do cross to the right
bank, you will ride through a large park and bypass downtown Kassel. There are very
few R-1 signs on the right bank through the park. The path is mostly well packed
gravel. Exiting the park and back on city streets you will pass to the right of
the Drahtbrücke and rejoin the other R-1 path that crosses on that bridge.
Continue following the R-1 to the Hafenbrücke.
Crossing back to the left
bank at the Hafenbrücke turn right on the bike path just over the bridge.
Continue to follow the R-1 signs through the fields toward Hann. Münden.
Here is a restaurant/hotel called
the Graue Katze, a great place for a break and to view the small village
of Spiekershausen on the other side of the Fulda.
Continuing, we cross a cute covered bridge over one of the many streams that
flow into the Fulda. We note a sign indicating that a bike friendly Gasthaus is
to the left in Simmershausen. The river bends back on itself here making an oxbow
(in German a Schlinge) and we are on the outside of the oxbow. Across the
river, inside the bend is Gut Kragenhof. A Gut is a set of buildings for
a large farm. A Hof is also building for a large farm but the building
for a Hof is of the kind that includes dwelling for people and the barn
all in the same structure. A Hof typically forms an L or a U shape with
the barnyard in the middle.
Simmershausen is part of the community of Fuldatal – the town where the Grimm
brothers’ 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 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.
Just past Gut Kragenhof at about mile 65.6 is a bridge over a small creek, we
see a Grenzstein on the right of the path. These tombstone-like markers
were used on the boundary of properties such as kingdoms and fiefdoms in the past.
In this case, only the date 1838 is readable.
Turn left at the
Altstadt and Werratal sign following them into the Old Town area of Hann. Münden,
abbreviated as Hann. Münden. It is possible to book accommodations in advance for
Hann. Münden by using this link: http://www.hann.muenden.de
and click on "English" if your German is a little rusty like mine.
This is the end of the ride, the city of Hann. Münden. The
natives refer to their city as simply Münden but the maps refer to it as Hann. Münden.
As Shakespeare said, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. This city is
said by some to be the best example of Middle Age architecture in this part of Germany.
It certainly is one of the best-preserved Fachwerk Stadt or half-timbered
town in Germany and that says a lot because there are many.
The town was established before 1247. 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 in 1727. Doctor Eisenbart was thought to be a quack. Many thought
his methods were ill advised and some of his patients died. However, later some
of his methods were held to be correct but 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 plays this tune at Noon, 3:00 PM and
5:00 PM daily. Inside the Rathaus has a tourist information office too.
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I found a bit more on the good doctor Eisenbart on the Internet. The following
is attributed to http://www.hann.muenden.de/. "Johann
Andreas Eisenbart was born in Oberviechtach on 27th March 1663 as the son of an
eye doctor who also carried out hernia- and groin operations. After a 10-year apprenticeship
with his brother-in-law Alexander Biller in Bamberg, he began working on his own
in Altenburg/Thuringia, where his family lived from 1685 - 1703. He toured the markets
throughout Germany. "There is evidence of Doctor Eisenbart actively working
in over 83 places. Ten German Princes granted him privileges within their principalities. "He
treated people mainly for eye complaints (cataracts), inguinal and scrotal hernias,
bladder stones, harelips and cancer. He invented a needle for performing cataract
operations and an instrument for the removal of adenoids. Furthermore, he prepared
many medicines himself and manufactured hernia trusses, false teeth and artificial
eyes, to mention but a few. With the help of his wife, who later was to bear him
seven children, he also treated women's diseases.
"On 1st September 1727, suffering from gout in the feet and the after-effects
of a stroke, he made his will in Göttingen at the Inn "Zum Schwarzen Bären".
He is believed to have then spent some time in Hann. Münden, where he died in the
building on Lange Strasse 34, (then the Inn "Zum Wilden Mann", owned by
the baker Berthold Schepeler) on 11th November 1727. Doctor Eisenbart was buried
in a crypt in the choir room in front of the altar in the Church of St. Aegidius.
In 1837, a tombstone was erected on the northern wall of the church in his memory.
"He was better than his reputation ... "He was not a quack or a
charlatan, but an extremely successful doctor with a great sense of responsibility.
His somewhat distorted image in many literal publications and plays and in the Doctor
Eisenbart song is simply due to the fact that he was misjudged, and his talents
as a skilled physician in the Baroque era were not sufficiently recognized during
the 19th and 20th century. "People then failed to realize that this itinerant
physician was the only surgeon ever to exist between the 13th and the 18th century.
At that time, academically trained doctors were only treating internal illnesses. "Among
his contemporaries, Doktor Eisenbart was admired has a gifted surgeon who
knew how to cleverly attract his patients with the help of a large stage of travelling
comedians, artists and musicians. When he was carrying out his operations, the entertainer´s
performance and loud music had to drown the patient´s bloodcurdling screams, because
in those days anesthetics were not yet available. For this reason, many of his envious
contemporaries called him a barker, a swindler and a charlatan. Numerous attestations
of gratitude on record, however, bear witness to his medical skills and his successful
cures. Nevertheless, historically Doctor Eisenbart is still regarded as an ostentatious
charlatan and none too gentle physician using questionable methods.
A research institute dedicated to Doctor Eisenbart has been in existence
in Oberviechtach in the Oberpfälzer Wald since 1963. A museum was established by
the local chemist Karl Foißner and an archive was set up by Dr. Erich Mathieu. These
institutions all aim to restore the professional reputation of this skillful doctor
who has been so greatly misjudged and yet was the most famous among his countless
colleagues of his time."
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