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Herkules to Wartburg Bicycle Path

The Herkules to Wartburg ride is a short bicycle ride in picturesque farmland with many half-timbered, red-tiled roofed villages and towns to enjoy.

Tour Overview: Herkules Wartburg MapJuly 2008. When in Germany, we live in Kassel (Central Germany) so this tour about a two-day ride to the Wartburg Castle near Eisenach. It is a good way for me to explore the area around the city of Kassel. The distance is 71 miles (113 km).

Signage: Path signSignage is a bit sketchy but except for one missing sign they appear when one really needs them.

Accommodations: In the city of Kassel, there is an abundance of hotels, Pensionen, and private rooms for rent. Out in the villages there are not many overnight accommodations because this area is not as popular a tourist area as other parts of Germany. Besides, this is only a two day ride (some will make it in one day) and I only need one overnight stay. I found it in Creuzburg where there are several possibilities. For a complete discussion of lodgings go to my Overnight Accommodations page.

Stops: Other than the overnight stop in Creuzburg, there are no must see stops along the way. However, the villages are quaint, the architecture is picturesque, and the countryside is verdant and beautiful.BVA Herkules-Wartburg

Maps and Guidebooks: I used the 1:50,000 Bielefelder Rad Spiralo Herkules-Wartburg Radwanderkarte.

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Day 1: Kassel to Creuzburg

Day Overview: Kassel OrangerieKarls Aue Reflecting PondKassel Karls Aue Reflecting PondKassel Orangerie Close-upI do not ride to the top of the Herkules monument to begin the ride as prescribed in the guidebook, rather I start from the Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof, then join the path two blocks north of Wilhelmshöhe Allee on Goethestrasse. The Herkules Monument (Hercules in English) is the crowning monument on the large, formerly royal palace grounds called the Wilhelmshöhe Bergpark. You can take a streetcar to Schloss Wilhelmshöhe or you can take a bus to the monument at the top but neither option is as easy as starting at the train station (Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof). Judging strictly from the distance signs, you shorten your ride by only 6 kilometers but you save the streetcar fare and a long hill, which is especially steep from the Schloss to the Herkules monument. I know this because I have ridden it more than once.

Mile 0 (0.0 km): Starting at the Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof, I ride one block east along Wilhelmshöhe Allee to the first traffic light, then jog left then right on Goethestrasse. From there I follow the signs of the Herkules-Wartburg Radwanderweg (biking and hiking path) through Kassel past the Orangerie and then through Karlsaue and the Fulda-Aue Park.

Mile 6.5 (10.5 km): At Leipziger Strasse, cross the street and look for a small street to the left called Fishausweg. It may not be signed because it is not as I ride past. That short street will take you down to the Losse Cycle Path. The Losse is really not much more than a small stream but there is a bike route called the Lossetal Radweg and I am following it for several kilometers.Kaufungen

Kaufungen

Mile 10 (21.1 km): After riding through some fields on a paved bike path, I enter , actually Niederkaufungen. Both Niederkaufungen and Oberkaufungen have many half-timbered buildings.

Mile 14.4 (28.2 km): After climbing a gradual hill on a bike path along the busy highway, I enter the village of HelsaHelsa. Helsa is yet another pretty little half-timbered village. The streetcar from Kassel comes through here on its way to Hessisch Lichtenau.

Mile 21 (33.8 km): In Hessisch Lichtenau, I break for my picnic lunch near the last stop on the streetcar line from Kassel. So, if you want to, you can take a streetcar with your bicycle to this point. You will miss a few villages but also the long gentle hill to this point.

Mile 23.0 (37.0 km): This is the top of the hill on the outskirts of Hessisch Lichtenau. From here to Hasselbach is one of the best drops I have had the pleasure of coasting down. It is paved, smooth, without blind corners or stop lights (well maybe one near the bottom in Walburg). The drop is 500 feet. Whee!Waldkappel

Mile 30.9 (49.8 km): This is the church in Waldkappel.

Mile ( km): In Hoheneiche, I miss a left turn sign but I knew I have to turn left somewhere. I do so one block past where I should have turned. The result? I am glad you asked. First, I pass the sewage treatment facility, which normally tells me I am on the right path. Next, I climb up a long steep hill. The path turns from pavement to gravel, then to double track dirt path, then to a grassy single cow path type of thing before it becomes no path at all. At one point, I pass a few cows in a pasture. They stop eating and stare at me. I think I know why; unlike flatland cows, these cows have never seen a person on a bicycle before. They think I am nuts; they are right.

Mile 38.1 (61.3 km): I see a road about 100 meters uphill and push my bike to it. This is the top of the hill on my overland mountain adventure. I have climbed over 500 feet in 3 km. By using my Boy Scout training, I triangulate my position using the highest point on the hills surrounding me (Steinberg 383 meters) and guessing at my position. I guess that I am at a road that will take me down into Wichmannshausen. I meet some hikers and they confirm my guess. The rutted and washed-out gravel and dirt road is a steep downhill. I have to be very careful to avoid falling. Finally, I reach the bottom and find another paved bike path into Wichmannshausen.

Mile 43.5 (70.0 km): In Wichmannshausen, I find a sign telling me that Hoheneiche is only 1.8 km away and I can promise you, there is no steep hill on the correct path. I traveled over 5 km over what seemed like the Matterhorn. OK, I exaggerate – but only a little. On the bright side, this side trip just means that when I stop for the night, I will enjoy my beer more.

Mile 48.5 (78.0 km): Netra SchlossAfter a long gentle climb of about 400 feet into Netra, I photograph the Schloss on the edge of the village.

Mile 50.0 (80.5 km): This is a high point where I cross into the Werra River drainage. I am about 480 feet above the Bahnhof in Kassel. From here, I try to coast all the way into Creuzburg and I almost make it.

Monument Just Past Lüderbach

Mile 51.1 (82.3 km): Just past Lüderbach, I noticed an interesting pyramid shaped monument on a nearby hill. I find out later that it is a grave marker from 1776 but I know little else about this monument.Creuzburg Zimmervermietung

Mile 80.0 (80 km): In Creuzburg, I spend the night at a small Pension signed Zimmervermietung (translates to room rental). It is owned by the family Ebenau and the address is Bahnhof Strasse 34, 99831 Creuzburg. The telephone number is 036926/90969 and the Handy (cell phone) is 0175/8786897. The cost is €25 per night for a single room but €44 for a double room per night including breakfast.

Creuzburg CastleCreuzburg CastleCreuzburg Castle Massive Linden TreeCreuzburg CastleCreuzburg Creuzburg

Creuzburg was established before 775 CE. However, even before that Saint Boniface (672-754), dedicated a church in Creuzburg. Throughout much of the Middle Ages, Creuzburg has been closely associated with the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. Martin Luther is also connected with the Wartburg, as are many who were active in the religious reformation.

Creuzburg was also the refuge of Elizabeth, the fourteen year old bride of Ludwig IV. She is known today as St. Elizabeth of Hungary or St. Elizabeth of Thuringia. Her body is entombed in Marburg where there is a church named after her. When young Ludwig died en route to oust the “infidels” from the Holy Land as a part of the Sixth Crusade Elizabeth was carrying their third child. She was only twenty one years old. She chose to exile herself from the Wartburg Castle and moved into the Creuzburg Castle. She had already established a reputation of being kind to the poor and the sick. She continued her charitable work until her death in 1231. She was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1235 (extremely fast action for the Church in those days).

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Day 2: Creuzburg to Eisenach

Day Overview: First things first, I visit the castle which is just about 100 meters from the Pension up a short steep pitch. The castle was built in 1200 CE but it was heavily damaged near the end of WW II. The damage was because the Werra River was one of the last strategic strongholds of the retreating Wehrmacht, the German army.

Mile 0 (0 km): At the church in the center of Creuzburg, I reset my odometer.Creuzburg ChurchCreuzburg Bridge

Mile .06 (1.0 km): Built in 1223, the old bridge over the Werra just outside Creuzburg impresses me. The style is Romanesque.

Mile 4.2 (6.8 km): Cross under the Autobahn at Hörschel. Hörschel is at one end of the Rennsteig, a well known mountain bike and hiking trail. The other end is in Blankenstein near the Saale River. The Rennsteig path crosses the peaks of the Thuringia Forest. The 195 kilometer path is historic. The Rennsteig has been a major commercial path since the Middle Ages. The picture of the church with the brown and gray steeple is from Hörschel.Way too many path signs

Mile 5.3 (8.6 km): I miss seeing the sign indicating that Eisenach is 9.9 kilometers to the left so I took an unplanned, unwanted, and needless tour of Hörschel. Once I get back on the correct path, I climb a 55 foot hill on a gravel path. Other than being mostly unpaved, the rest of the way into Eisenach is uneventful.

Mile 12.8 (20.6 km): The end of the ride at the Wartburg. From the town to the castle, one can ride up a steep windy road that gains over 600 feet in elevation. But in lieu of that hill, I recommend leaving your bike in town and taking a shuttle bus to the castle. I just wish I had the foresight to do that but here I am with my bike and dripping in sweat. Actually, I did not even ride up on the road; I ended up taking an unpaved footpath through the forest and pushing a good share of the way. I would have to wait almost two hours for an English language tour of the castle. However, since I visited the castle several years ago, and we took the German language tour on that occasion I just hang out.

EisenachEisenachWartburg Near EisenachWartburg Near EisenachWartburg Near EisenachWartburg Near EisenachWartburg Near Eisenach

The ride down on that windy road is a real rush. I know I have to slow down for the curves but nevertheless, it is exhilarating. Upon reaching the bottom, I explore my chances of taking a bus back to Hessisch Lichtenau. My plan is to ride home to Kassel from there. For riders who don’t mind a few hills, this is a good two day adventure.

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