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 to Aalen.
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
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 you ride.
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 Accommodations page.
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.
Back to the top
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 few more hills but
since you are riding down river, there is – mathematically – more down hill
than up hill. 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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
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 am sure.
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.
Back to the top
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
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 down river 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 deaths 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
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 the village.
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, email@example.com.
Like most hotels, the 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?
Back to the
Day 3: Bad Friedrichshall (Jagstfeld) to Hohebach
Today there are several hills.
After all, we are now riding up river. 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
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 town.
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 gage railroad. I
know it is abandon 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’d
spend more time prowling though 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 down hill 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 http://www.verborgener-winkel.de/,
email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cost was €90.00 per night for two people.
Back to the top
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
The St. Anna Chapel is the location of a well whose water
cures people from 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.
Back to the
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 down river, 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 09861/936730, www.kreuzerhof-rothenburg.de
This establishment is wonderfully quite because the street in front is off the
beaten path and paved with asphalt instead of cobblestone. It has a nice Hof,
garden that guests can use in the evening and the breakfast is quite 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
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
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
We waive goodbye to our hosts
the Bogers and duck through the floodwall gate, cross the river, and rejoin
the bike path.
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.
Back to the top