This 5-day ride starting
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.
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 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,
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
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.
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
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 info@Krone-Enslingen.de.
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.
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 (http://www.peterrobins.co.uk/camino/
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.
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 stop.
Before Hagenbach, 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?
to the top
Day 3: Bad Friedrichshall (Jagstfeld) to
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
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.
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.
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 http://www.doerzbach.de/FREIZEIT/wendel.htm.
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
email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cost was €90.00 per night for two people.
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 gravel lengths.
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.
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.
to the top
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,
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, or
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.
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
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.
we filled up our water bottles. It is a hot
day and the water seems to evaporate from our bottles.
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 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.