Tour Overview: This is
a 5-day ride starting in Unterkocher-Aalen
following the Kocher downriver to its confluence with the Neckar, then over
to Bad Friedrichshall. From there we ride the Jagst upriver supposedly back
to Aalen but we cheat a little and hop a train in Crailsheim instead. We
train to Rothenburg ob der Tauber and then ride the Tauber downriver to
Wertheim. The distance is 244 miles (392 km). 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
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
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 guidebook.
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
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
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
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
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/*
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 stop.
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?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.