Kocher, Jagst, and Tauber Bike Tour
The bicycle tour along the Kocher, Jagst, and Tauber rivers is a somewhat
hilly 5-day, 244-mile (392 km), ride from Aalen to Bad Friedrichshall then back
This tour covers three rivers in Central Germany. The Kocher and Jagst are almost
parallel rivers that flow into the Neckar River at nearly the same point, Bad Friedrichshall.
We rode down the Kocher to Bad Friedrichshall on the Neckar, then up the Jagst back
almost to the start at Aalen. However, we stopped at Crailsheim and took a train
to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. From there we rode down the Tauber to Wertheim, which
is on the Main River. We read in some brochure that the Jagst valley was the prettiest
valley in the world. It is pretty so that could be correct but I have seen too many
pretty valleys to be sure.
This 5-day ride starting in Unterkocher-Aalen
following the Kocher upriver along the Jagst supposedly back to Aalen but we cheat
a little and hop a train in Crailsheim instead. We train to the famous Rothenburg
ob der Tauber and then ride down the Tauber downriver to Wertheim. We read in some
brochure that the Jagst valley was the prettiest valley in the world. It is pretty
so that could be correct but I have seen too many pretty valleys to be sure.
Generally, the signage along the Kocher
is good. However, keep the name of the
couple of towns in mind because it can be confusing too. The typical sign is about
one foot square with a graphic of a bicycle with a red front tire and the word,
“Fernweg.” However, the signs may change a little in shape and size as
As we frequently find, there
are plenty of overnight accommodations such as hotels, Pensionen and Private Zimmer.
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
Ingelfingen, Möckmühl, Schöntal, a cloister
just past Berlichingen, Bad Mergentheim.
had to use two different guidebooks on this trip. First was the 1:50,000
bikeline Radtourenbuch und Karte, Kocher-Jagst-Radweg
and second was the bikeline Liebliches Taubertal.
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Day 1: Aalen-Unterkocken to Enslingen
We arrive in Unterkochen, a suburb of Aalen, late in the afternoon.
First, we secure our room, which we had reserved in advance from a listing in the
bikeline guidebook. Next, after obtaining a recommendation from our hostess, we
pedaled a kilometer or so to a great restaurant for dinner. After dinner, we pedaled
another kilometer or two to see the spring of the Kocher just east of Unterkochen.
The map to the spring is in the back of the guidebook. There are actually two springs;
the second spring is 5.5 km south through Oberkochen but if you have seen one …
as they say.
The ride from Unterkochen to Enslingen is mostly paved but with two short gravel
stretches. And, it is mostly flat in the morning except for one small hill near
Hohenstadt. In the afternoon, you will encounter a few more hills but since you
are riding downriver, there is – mathematically – more downhill than uphill. We
had a wonderful meal at Landgasthof Läuterhäusle, www.laeuterhaeusle.de, Waldhäuser
Strasse 109, Aalen-Unterkochen, 07361, Telephone 73432-98890. They have a great
restaurant and presumably nice rooms too at €69-€78 per couple per night.
However, we stayed at Gästehaus Stütz, a Hotel Garni (‘Garni” usually means no
restaurant). The couple who own the hotel were wonderful and they speak English.
Their address is Heidenheimer Strasse 3, 73432 Aalen-Unterkochen, Telephone 07361/98600,
fax 07361/986020, www.gaestehaus-stuetz.de,
email at email@example.com.
The rooms cost €50-€75 per couple per night and they have ten of them. They serve
a good breakfast too.
Starting at Unterkocken, which
is one train station south of Aalen, we ride north toward Aalen’s Altstadt.
This is downtown Aalen. Aalen
is on the Deutsche Limes Strasse, or the street of the Roman fortifications. The
Deutsche Limes Strasse is a 700 km long bike and driving route from Rheinbrohl,
near Cologne to Regensburg on the Danube. It follows the Roman frontier around the
time of Christ demarking the lands occupied by Romans from the lands occupied by
Germanic tribes considered unfriendly to the empire. There are several museums along
the way but one of the better ones is here in Aalen and it is in the guidebook.
In Reichertshofen, we take
the alternative route shown in the guidebook up to Hohenstadt. Sure it is a little
bit of a hill but we have not had any hills yet today and we decide that we want
to keep in practice. The guidebook describes the Schloss Hohenstadt
as stemming from the late 13th Century. Admittance to the Schloss is not
free. However, presumably free, is the Heckengarten or hedge garden. For the 5.5
km from here to Untergröningen, we ride on a sidewalk alongside the heavy trafficked
B-19. The path could be nicer but it is better than sharing the road.
In Gaildorf, a city since
1404, there are many half-timbered buildings. This village is definitely travel-poster
quality in appearance. The old Schloss or castle was built in the late 12th Century
and remodeled in 1382. It is a
Wasserschloss, or a castle or palace protected by a water-filled moat.
Many of the moats around these Wasserschlösser are just grassy ditches
today. Leaving Gaildorf, we climb a hill of about 45 feet. Also, just before we
get to Westheim, we climb another steep hill of more than 100 feet.
We ride into Tullau after
a nice long drop back to the level of the river.
We find a one-way tunnel next to the river with a button for bicycles to push when
they want to ride through. It is sort of like a stoplight push-button-to-cross kind
of a deal. I strongly advise using it because drivers of oncoming cars cannot see
bicycles in the dark of the tunnel. Drivers cannot see bugs either and you know
what happens to them.
This is Schwäbish-Hall. Schwäbish means salt fountain. The
Celts produced Salt here by drying the salty water found naturally nearby well before
the time of Christ. The Romans, the Alemannen and the Franken (two Germanic tribes)
all made use of this resource. This town became rich during the Middle Ages by selling
salt. Talk about photo opportunities, this town has it all. It is raining hard today
and the sky looks angry but we take several photographs anyway. There are several
notable features of Schwäbish-Hall but one is the Freilichtspiele or open-air stage
for plays in front of the Rathaus. Actually, the plays are performed on the steps
from the street level to the Rathaus front entry; challenging for the actors, I
We unsuccessfully try to find an inexpensive place to stay for the night here,
if only to get out of the rain. They are all booked, so we call ahead to Enslingen
and reserve a room at Gästehaus Krone, Kirschstrasse 2, 74547 Untermünkheim-Enslingen,
telephone 07906/372. The cost, including breakfast is €62 per night per couple.
The website is www.krone-enslingen.de and email is
Mile 50.8 (81.7 km): After a quick ride through heavy rain, we stop for the night
at 6:45PM at Hotel Krone in Enslingen.
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Day 2: Enslingen to Bad Friedrichshall (Jagstfeld)
Today there are a few hills, maybe
even more than a few. But, I never met a hill I could not push up. You will find
about 8.5 km of gravel between Sindringen and Hardthausen but most of the rest of
the path is paved.
We pass under the Kochertalbrücke (literally Kocher Valley
Bridge), which is Germany’s tallest steel and concrete autobahn bridge, and then
climb up and over a 60-foot hill.
We cross the river at Braunsbach
and a short distance further on we stop briefly at a small chapel beside the bike
path. The sign declares that this is a waypoint along the Caminos de Santiago
de Compostela or the road to the Cathedral of Saint James of Compostela. On
the Internet, I found several maps showing all connecting roads, some of which are
hundreds of years old, leading to the famous pilgrimage to the relics of Saint James
in northern Spain for example,
I am surprised to find this road in Germany because I thought that famous path was
only in Spain. However, a little research explains that the faithful came from all
over Europe as a sort of pilgrimage/adventure travel kind of experience and of course,
there were, and are,
routes. In German, these routes are called Jakobswege or Jakobs Pilgerwege. (The
English name of James comes from the Latin Lacobus that is spelled Jakob in German.
I don’t know why folks do this kind of thing in different languages, it is confusing
for the easily confused, like me.) Between Braunsbach and Kocherstetten the path
goes over some rolling hills as high as 30 feet.
We cross the bridge at Ingelfingen and take a picture of
Götzenhaus. As a young boy, Götz von Berlichingen lived here. He later became the
famous knight of the iron hand and assisted the German peasants during their uprising
of 1524 and 1525. He is credited with uttering for the first time a phrase the now
often repeated, namely “Er kann mich im Arsche lecken” or translated roughly
into English, “he can kiss my a**.” And that to a cleric, the Bishop of Bamberg.
How cool is it to be associated with such a common phrase? We walk around quaint
Ingelfingen taking a few photographs, then hop on our bikes and continue downriver
but it starts to rain immediately. Just a couple large drops at first but by the
time we turn around and pedal back to Ingelfingen, it is raining buckets. We take
shelter in a small café and enjoy some coffee and a snack as we watch the gutters
overflow. In 15 minutes, the storm passes and the sun returns to a blue sky; we
are on our way again.
After almost 5 km of gravel
beginning just outside of Sindringen, we arrive in Ohrnberg. If you have narrow
tires, stick to the highway between Sindringen and Hardthausen. We both have 38mm-wide
tires so we stay on the bike path and have no difficulty.
At the bottom of the hill
marked in the guidebook in Gochsen, we notice an abandoned railroad grade that seems
navigable by bicycle. Given that Maxa abhors hills, we decide to explore the flatter
path. It works great. However, as it rejoins the main road near the Gochsen Bridge,
we get two different sets of instructions from two different locals. One says to
stay on the bike path shown in the guidebook, the other says to cross the bridge
and take another bike path to the right. Weighing the credibility of the two (one
looks like he is on death's door, the other a robust elderly woman) we decide upon
the woman’s advice. Wrong! We have to push up a 100 plus foot hill, only to come
back down to the river in Neuenstadt, cross the bridge into Bürg, climb back up
a hill just as high to get back on the marked bike path. My conclusion is that the
two locals were an estranged married couple who enjoy disagreeing with one another
and enjoy playing tricks on unsuspecting bicycle riders.
At the Schloss in Kochertürn,
we search for a café or somewhere to take a break. Usually, we find restaurants
and cafés close to large historic buildings like a Schloss but not today. So, onward
we pedal, dodging passing thunderstorms and looking forward to an evening stop.
we take a shortcut across to Jagstfeld. There is no sign indicating where to turn
to take the alternate bike path. You simply take the third right turn after entering
In Jagstfeld/Bad Friedrichshall we find a small hotel with
a great view of the Neckar River. Hotel Schöne Aussicht, Deutschordenstr. 2, 74177
Bad Friedrichshall, Telephone 07136/95320, fax is 07136/9529, €70/per night for
double occupancy, www.schoene-aussicht-jagstfeld.de, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like most hotels, they have a restaurant and we enjoy a great dinner overlooking
a sunny Necker River and its barge traffic. Breakfast is good too but there is a
sign that one should not take breakfast leftovers with you as you leave. By contrast,
we have experienced hosts who voluntarily offer to fix us a free lunch or ask us
to take whatever we want with us - please. Which type of host would you like better?
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Day 3: Bad Friedrichshall (Jagstfeld) to Hohebach
Today there are several hills.
After all, we are now riding upriver. That said, we do not get off and push any
so they cannot be that bad. There are also several short stretches of gravel but
nothing to fear, even for those with narrow tires. A must stop is Schöntal, a cloister
just past Berlichingen. Generally, this is an area of old villages and cities. The
last war did not wipe out all the buildings as it did in some of Germany’s bigger
cities so the charm and character are immediately noticeable. Most of the villages
have a plethora of half-timbered buildings.
Since the Hotel Schöne Aussicht
is right on the bicycle path, we simply turn left toward Untergriesheim. Today is
sunny and gorgeous but the weather forecast is for hot temperatures this afternoon.
We take a picture of St. Gangolfskapelle in Neudenau. This
is one of the many Pilgrim Churches in Germany. St. Gangolf (St. Gengulphus) was
a French knight, property owner, and preacher who returned home from a war to learn
that his wife had cuckolded him with another priest. He moved out and traveled through
Europe preaching the gospel. The other man eventually attacked and fatally wounded
poor St. Gangolf. Although the chapel is locked today, the plaque outside says that
there are murals inside from the 1500’s.
Schloss Assumstadt has a small herd of deer – or more accurately
– a herd of small deer. Syntax does make a difference don’t you know.
We take a break in the walled city of Möckmühl. The city
has interesting windy, cobbled streets and pathways and the center is overstuffed
with half-timbered buildings, some centuries old. Today they are having a street
fest including a foot race. We watch as the little kids compete in their running
clothes and with numbers pinned on their t-shirts. Cute. Möckmühl is mentioned in
historical accounts of the German Peasant uprising (1525 - 1526) during which over
100,000 peasants (and a few noblemen) were killed by the establishment in putting
down the revolt. Additionally, Götz von Berlichingen (see above) was jailed here
in 1519 before being moved to Heilbronn.
Across the river from Widdern
we notice the rows of rocks that seem to separate the surrounding south-facing hillsides.
It looks almost natural but we learn from the proprietor of the little snack wagon
here that they are man-made piles of stones, removed from the surrounding ground
and stacked there to absorb sunlight during the day and radiate heat into the vineyards
at night. The vineyards are long gone – probably uneconomical – but the rows of
rock piles remain. I am sure that a couple hundred years from now the piles will
still be there.
In Jagsthausen I took a picture of a fountain honoring Götz
von Berlichingen. There is a castle in Jagsthausen that has been converted into
a hotel. There is a sign here pointing out that the Roman Limes, a 500
km long defensive fence built by the Romans 2,000 years ago was built through this
Just outside of Berlichingen
is Schöntal, a cloister of the Cistercian order of nuns. This was built in 1157
and was where Götz von Berlichingen, having fallen from grace, spent the last few
years of his life
house arrest. The chapel and church here are ornately decorated and beautiful. The
ice cream at the restaurant hits the spot on this hot day of bicycling.
On the path between Schöntal
and Westernhausen, we ride along an abandon narrow gauge railroad. I know it is
abandoned because just before Westernhausen, we ride past a whole train rotting
on the tracks in a small wood. If I were more of a railroad buff, I would have spend
more time prowling through the abandoned engine, tender, freight, passenger cars,
and the caboose.
Before Dörzbach, we stop
and read an informational sign about the viticulture of the area. Do you recall
that I mentioned the rows of rocks on the hillsides outside Widdern? The sign tells
us that in 1900, this area had over 100 hectares (about 250 acres) of vines under
cultivation; in 1980, they had only 20 hectares and today, they are down to 14 hectares.
However, today they are replanting vines in widely spaced rows perpendicular to
the slope, which improves the amount of sun the vines receive, they retain water
better, and the practice cuts down on erosion and loss of soil due to runoff. With
the new orientation, the vines can be harvested by machine where before harvesting
was all hand work. Additionally, the new scheme is a boon to birds and wildlife.
As we top the second of
two pretty good hills, we find a sign pointing the way to a short walking path down
to the 500-year-old St. Wendel zum Stein chapel. We did not walk down. Getting down
would be easy but it is about 50 feet coming back up and it is hot and I need a
beer. However, here is a trick – turn your browser to
You can see some pictures, read a bit, and save yourself the hike. I know that is
cheating! Who was St. Wendel? Look here:
Did I mention I needed a
beer? Well, we found one at an inviting Gästehaus with outside seating
and cold local beer. So, we stop for the night at Verborgener Winkel on the bike
path as you leave Hohebach. It is just a short stretch of gravel and a nice downhill
from the chapel. The contact information is Renate Stier, Hinterbach Str. 3, 74677
Hohebach, Telephone 07937/803637, fax 07937/803639, and the web address is
email at email@example.com.
The cost was €90.00 per night for two people.
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Day 4: Hohebach to Crailsheim then to Rothenburg ob der
Tauber by Train
Today we start out with a steep
60-foot hill and that is just the first of many hills today. The good news is the
weather is wonderful and the route is paved, except for two or three short gravel
The St. Anna Chapel is the location of a well whose water cures
people of a variety of diseases and conditions including eczema and paralysis. Amazing!
Doctors all over the world are seeking effective cures for such problems but you
can get cured here, if you are so afflicted, with just a drink of water.
After Elpershofen, we round
a curve and see the steepest hill in the valley (about 300 feet). It is a pusher
for all but the strongest riders (I made it but I did have to stop and blow a couple
of times). At what seems
the top is the Ruin Leofels but wait, there is more hill. By the time we reach Kirchberg,
we are tired, thirsty, and feeling picked on. A Konditori, pastry store,
in Kirchberg provides us with Wurst und Bier and a place
to catch our second wind. We got here by following the bike path signs but they
differ somewhat from our guidebook in that we turned left as we left Dörrmenz through
the fields and then right again before the down hill into Lendsiedel. Between Kirchberg
and Crailsheim, we have to climb up and coast down several more hills.
We pull up in Crailsheim
and decide that neither of us want to finish riding the Jagst to Aalen today. Our
legs are rubber, we are hot and stinky, and if we ride further, we will just have
to take a train back to Crailsheim tomorrow morning. So, “Why,” we ask ourselves,
“shouldn’t we just catch the train to Rothenburg ob der Tauber here in Crailsheim.”
There we can have a nice dinner and look around the Rothenburg a bit before bedtime.
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Day 5: Crailsheim to Königshofen
First, we ride around the walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
to photograph all of the gates. In our homes in both Kassel and Seattle, we have
several lithographs of various gates of the city and we want to see if we can identify
them – we cannot. The ride today is a little hilly but at least we are riding downriver,
unlike the last two days. There is more gravel today than yesterday but fewer hills.
We spent last night at Kreuzerhof
Pension Maltz, Millergasse 226, 91541 Rothenburg o d T, telephone 09861/3424, fax
This establishment is wonderfully quiet because the street in front is off the beaten
path and paved with asphalt instead of cobblestone. It has a nice Hof, or
garden that guests can use in the evening and the breakfast is good. What a find.
We found it by turning left just inside the Rödertor – the gate we used coming from
the Bahnhof – then left again on Millergasse.
After exiting Rothenburg through
the Kobolzellertor (‘Tor
means gate), we coast down to the river and stop at the St. Peter und Paul Church.
This church has an altar carved by a famous woodcarver Tilman Riemenschneider.
After a couple small hills,
we are across from Tauberzell. The next building down the path is called Holdermühle,
a Gästehaus that actually straddles the boarder of the German states Bavaria
and Baden-Württemberg. I understand the tablecloths on the east side of the restaurant
are yellow and black like the Baden-Württemberg flag but the west side has tablecloths
of white and light blue diamonds like the Bavarian flag.
Creglingen is worth a stop if only to see another example
of an altar done by Tilman Riemenschneider in the Herrgottskirche. There is also
a thimble (‘Fingerhut’) museum and many half-timbered buildings and homes.
In Weikersheim, we filled
up our water bottles. It is a hot
day and the water seems to evaporate from our bottles.
Bad Mergentheim is first
mentioned in the chronicles in the year 1058. For over 300 years before 1806 when
Napoleon Bonaparte had the order disbanded, the Grand Master of the Deutsche
Orden (German Order) held court in Bad Mergentheim. The Deutsche Orden also
known as Teutonic Knights and Orden der Brüder vom Deutschen Haus St. Mariens
in Jerusalem it was started during the Crusades as care givers to German speaking
crusaders in the Middle East. Later, they became a military order of knights who
held sway in eastern and north central Europe. They survive today as a charity organization
like several other orders. Ludwig van Beethoven lived and worked in Bad Mergentheim
for a while beginning in 1791. Today, however, Bad Mergentheim is a Kurord, or spa
city that touts the curative powers of the natural mineral-salt springs near the.
We stopped for the night
at Zimmer Boger, Amalienstr. 7, 09343/8660. We had a great breakfast and
found the owners accommodating and helpful. The Boger home is close to the flood
wall protecting the city from the occasional high water of the Tauber River.
Day 6: Königshofen to Wertheim
Today is short but hilly at the start
and then again close to Wertheim. At least it is all paved. Unfortunately, I mishandled
my tape recorder so I do not have much in the way of comments on the day.
We waive goodbye to our hosts
the Bogers and duck through the floodwall gate, cross the river, and rejoin the
We end the tour at the Bahnhof
in Wertheim. We get in early enough to buy a train ticked and have lunch in the
old town center.
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