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Kocher, Jagst, and Tauber Bike Tour
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.

Tour Overview: This 5-day ride starting in Unterkocher-Aalen Map of the Kocher Jagst Tauber bike pathand 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.

Signage: Generally, the signage along the Kocher is good. However, keep the name of the Kocher Jagst Tauber path signKocher Jagst Tauber path signKocher Jagst Tauber path signnext 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.

Accommodations: 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.

Stops: Ingelfingen, Möckmühl, Schöntal, a cloister just past Berlichingen, Bad Mergentheim.

Maps and Guidebooks: Guidebook for Kocher Jagst by bikelineWe 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.Taubertal guidebook by bikeline

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Day 1: Aalen-Unterkocken to Enslingen

Marienburg above Niederalfingen , Germany Picture of big Catholic church in Abtsgnd GermanyDay Overview: 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, www.gaestehaus-stuetz.de, email at info@gaestehaus-stuetz.de. The rooms cost €50-€75 per couple per night and they have ten of them. They serve a good breakfast too. Aalen Germany

Mile 0 (0.0 km): Starting at Unterkocken, which is one train station south of Aalen, we ride north toward Aalen’s Altstadt.

Mile 1.0 (1.6 km): 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.

Mile 15.4 (24.8 km): 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 HohenstadtUntergröningen Schloss 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.

Mile 31.6 (50.8 km): 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 aHouse in Gaildorf, Germany 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.

Mile 41.1 (66.1 km): We ride into Tullau after a nice long drop back to the level of the river.Pictures of Closter Comburg 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.

Pictures of Closter ComburgSchwaebish-Hall, GermanySchaebish-Hall, GermanySchaebish-Hall, GermanyMile 44.3 (71.3 km): 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.

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Day 2: Enslingen to Bad Friedrichshall (Jagstfeld)

Day Overview: 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.

Kocher Valley Bridge the tallest in GermanyPicture of valley with Schloss behind Steinkirchen or WeilersbachMile 2.9 (4.6 km): 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.

Mile 4.4 (7.1 km): 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/ or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Stjacquescompostelle1.png). 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, Kunzelsau, Germanyconnecting 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.

Goetz von Berlichingen HouseMile 18.7 (30.1 km): 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.

Mile 31.6.8 (50.8 km): 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.

Mile 37.1 (59.7 km): 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.

Mile 41.9 (67.5 km): 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.

Mile 46.0 (74.0 km) approximate: 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.

Hotel Schoene Aussicht Bad Friedrichshall, GermanyHotel Schoene Aussicht Bad Friedrichshall, GermanyMile 49.1 (79.0 km): 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, info@schoene-aussicht-jagstfeld.de. 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?

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Day 3: Bad Friedrichshall (Jagstfeld) to Hohebach

Day Overview: 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.

Mile 0 (0 km): 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.

Mile 8.0 (12.8 km): 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.

Deer near Schloss AssumstadtMile 12.0 (19.3 km): 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. Schloss Assumstadt

Moeckmuehl, GermanyMoeckmuehl, GermanyMile 15.7 (25.3 km): 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.

Mile 20.5 (33.0 km): 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.

Castle in Jagsthausen that has been converted into a hotelCastle in JagsthausenMile 24.5 (39.5 km): 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.

Mile 26.8 (43.2 km): 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 of Schöntal near Berlichingen, Germanyof Schöntal near Berlichingen, Germanyunder 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.

Mile 31.9 (51.4 km): 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.

Mile 35.2 (59.7 km): 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.

Mile 43.2 (69.5 km): 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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendelin_of_Trier.

Mile 44.5 (71.6 km): 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 info@verborgener-wenkel.de. 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

Day Overview: 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.

St. Anna ChapelMile 4.1 (6.6 km): 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.

Mile 18.8 (30.3 km): 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 An old covered wooden bridgelike 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.

Mile 34.8 (56.0 km): 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

Rothenburg ob der TauberTown Hall, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, GermanyRothenburg ob der Tauber, GermanyDay Overview: 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.

Mile 0 (0 km): 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 info@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, or Rothenburg ob der Tauber, GermanyRothenburg ob der Tauber, GermanyRothenburg ob der Tauber, Germanywalled 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.

Mile 2.2 (3.5 km): 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.

Mile 7.9 (12.7 km): 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.

Mile 12.5 (20.1 km): 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.

Mile 23.7 (38.1 km): In Weikersheim, we filled up our water bottles. It is a hotFilling water bottles in WeikersheimBad Mergentheim, Germany day and the water seems to evaporate from our bottles.

Mile 31.9 (51.3 km): 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.

Mile 38.0 (61.2 km): 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

Day Overview: 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.

Mile 0 (0 km): We waive goodbye to our hosts the Bogers and duck through the floodwall gate, cross the river, and rejoin the bike path.

Mile 26.4 (42.5 km): 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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