is an 18-day, 592-mile, 953-kilometer in Germany but adding the portion
in Holland it becomes an 21-day, 693-mile; 1,116-kilometer bicycle tour
along one of the most important rivers in Europe. That said, we choose
to accomplish it in four stages, the first in 2002 and last two German
stages in 2003. Finally, the Dutch stage was in 2010. It is possible
to get too much of a good thing all at once.
2002. In my opinion, the
“Hochrhein” or upper Rhine from Constance to Basil is beautiful
and interesting. Although there are some small hills to climb there
are also some nice drops. The landscape is of rolling hills, small forests,
rivers, streams, fields and small villages.
June 2003. The route from
Basil to Mainz is sometimes called the Middle Rhine. Except for the
cities of Strasbourg, Speyer and Worms, it is just another German river
route. Those cities make the trip worthwhile. We did not take the side
trip to Freiburg but we considered it seriously. I would like to go
back someday and see that town, which nestled into the Black Forrest.
I bet it is as picturesque as Stein am Rhein.
2003. In Mainz, the
trip gets interesting again. The 102 kilometers through the Rhine Gorge,
between Mainz and Koblenz, is arguably one of the most beautiful parts
of Europe. Perhaps it is because of all the castles (18 visible but
23 close by) or perhaps the landscape but in any event, the views are
to die for. The south-facing slopes are covered with vineyards and wine
tasting is almost mandatory. This area is pregnant with history. You
will see many castles on both sides of the river, even a couple built
right in the river. Several short riding days makes for a lot of sightseeing.
Obviously, one could bike either faster or slower depending on your
preference and ability. Yes there are some minor hills past Mainz but
this is one of the flattest rides we have taken in Germany. The “Neiderrhein”
or Lower Rhine has the densest population, especially between Bonn and
Dortmund. But once you pass those cities, the landscape becomes pastoral
again as you approach the Dutch border. Most of the hills are before
Basil and most of the gravel path is between Basil and Mannheim. Sure
the rest of the tour has a few small hills and a few short chunks of
gravel but not enough to fret about.
In 2010, we finally completed
the river by riding the portion in the Dutch Netherlands. The landscape
is flat and the small villages are quite different in character than
their German counterparts. At the border, the Rhine splits into three
estuaries. We followed the Waal, the largest and coincidently the shortest
of the three.
The signage changes several
times. I will try to present a photograph of the signs as we ride along
but there are so many different types of signs, I know that I do not
capture all of them. As with other long rides that cross political borders,
every government wants to promote their own unique bike path sign. The
blue square with Rhein/Rhin atop it seems the most prevalent.
We had no trouble
finding good accommodations. It seems they are plentiful along this
well ridden bike path. 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
short list would include Stein am Rhein, Schaffhausen, Basil, perhaps
Freiburg, Strasbourg, Speyer, Worms, Mainz, Rüdesheim, Bacharach, Koblenz,
Bonn, Köln, and Emmerich. In Holland, the stops include The Hague, Rotterdam,
and Dordreck. There are, of course, many other small cities, each with
its own history and charm that can be richly enjoyed.
We used three
different bikeline guidebooks
on this tour. Rhein-Radweg, Teil 1; Rhein-Radweg, Teil 2; and Rhein-Radweg
Teil 3. All were in the scale of 1:75,000. These guidebooks not
only have maps but if they are recently published, the guide to accommodations
in the back is quite helpful.
to the top
Day 1: Stein am Rhein to Schaffhausen
Our tour starts at
the end of our Lake Constance tour
in Stein am Rhein. We leave here mid afternoon so our first day is pretty
short. Nevertheless, the mileage is as accurate as our poor cyclometers
can make it. Today’s ride is paved but just a little hilly. The first
hill is the steepest and it is just outside of Stein am Rhein. We share
a low traffic road with a few cars for most of the day.
Leaving Stein am Rhine,
we quickly climb on gravel path some 160 feet into the forest. We cross
the German/Swiss border at mile 3.4 (5.4 km). There is no one to stamp
my passport here. it is a shame if you collect passport stamps like
I do. We had planned to overnight in Gailingen but upon arriving it
is such a nice day and since we are not at all tired, we push on. It
is threatening rain though and we know we are stretching our luck.
We are in Büsingen,
an enclave of Germany and completely surrounded by Switzerland. We spoke
briefly with a local woman who expressed (somewhat strongly) that most
of the people do not like their village being an enclave. They want,
for several practical reasons such as fire protection, taxes, etc.,
to be part of Switzerland. However, Germany, according to her, is not
likely to allow them to change their allegiances. We could overnight
here in Büsingen in Der Adler, right in the center of town but we decide
to push on. We later realize that is a mistake. There aren’t any accommodations
in Germany for several miles. And the thunderclouds seem to be getting
darker and closer as we ride along. But for now at least, we are still
riding in the sunshine.
We decide to
give up on our insistence not to spend Swiss Franks by taking a hotel
in Switzerland. We are a little tired now and it is getting late in
the afternoon. Our experience warns us that we should find a room before
5:00 PM or risk not finding one until quite late. So, just after crossing
the Rhine at Schaffhausen, we pull up in Neuhausen, Switzerland for
the evening. And just as we are settled in the hotel, it rains cats
and dogs for half an hour. Our timing is perfect. In German, there is
a saying that goes like this, “When you travel with angels, good things
happen to you.” I do not know which one of my three riding partners
is an angel but it seems to be working. We choose Gasthaus Frohsinn
in Neuhausen. The cost is 131 Swiss Franks per room per night. It is
Day 2: Schaffhausen to Laufenburg
we climb a steep hill to the top of the plateau above the Rheinfalls.
Thereafter, there are some rolling hills, even some nice drops but not
much in the way of hills to climb. This makes us all happy. Actually,
towards the end of today, we do get into some steeper rolling hills
but nothing we have to push up. We do not take many pictures today because
of the overcast – they just do not turn out well.
We cross the Rhine
after leaving the hotel and start our cyclometers at the river. We are
picking our way along the river trying to get a good view of the Rheinfalls.
The falls are at mile 1.3. Supposedly, this is the largest falls on
the Rhine. At high water, and today the water is fairly high, these
falls are quite a sight. We try to find a good vantage point from the
right bank. There is a good view from the left bank but the Swiss Tourism
industry has done an outstanding job of blocking all view of the falls
unless you pay several franks to see it from one of the castles they
have commandeered for that purpose. I am too stubborn to pay to look
at a waterfall so we try to catch it from the other riverbank. As you
can see, we do not do too badly either.
Leaving the Rhine,
we climb 250 feet to the top of a hill and opt for the alternate route
toward Jestetten. This is to avoid a drop and another uphill but at
the same time, we are avoiding another good view of the Rhine too. Well,
one has to make choices in life. You cannot have everything, and I would
rather have happy women than another view of the river.
back into Switzerland between Lottstetten and Rafz, we drop gently into
this agricultural community and notice several large Hofhäuser
or buildings that are part house and part barn. This type building is
common throughout many of the German farming villages. Finding our way
through Rafz is interesting. The problem is that there are too many
bicycle path signs. It is easy to become confused. There is a good bike
shop here and these people will understand if you get lost and they
will point you in the right direction if you do lose it (I am talking
about your way, not your breakfast). Switzerland has a reputation for
being clean and true to its reputation, it is. We have seen several
street sweepers, even small machines used to clean the sidewalk. Also,
pet owners seem to have good habits of cleaning up after their dogs.
We have noticed many stands along the path that hold plastic bags for
picking up after dogs. And, unlike New York, people actually use them
We ride into
Waldshut. This is an unremarkable town except for the huge factory that
we ride past. We learn that it is closed and mostly abandoned. It is
contaminated with pollutants and the powers that be have decided just
to fence it in instead of spending millions to clean it up. Also here
in Waldshut, the river takes on a muddy appearance for the first time.
Perhaps it is from the rain we have had in the region and the Aare River
that joins the Rhine here is full of silt where the Rhine has thus far
We stop for
the night at Hotel Engle in Luttingen just east of Laufenburg. Actually,
we ride past it all the way to the Rathaus where we check for accommodations.
We are advised to backtrack 2.4 miles to this suburb of Laufenburg where
we are quite satisfied with our lodgings. The address is Luttinger Str.
34, telephone 07763-7104, For € 50 per room, double occupancy (the cost
for two people to spend one night), and the bathrooms are in the rooms,
it is nice.
In the evening, as we enjoy wine and snacks on the veranda, we meet
Manfred. He is a slightly crazy employee of the Austrian Railroad who
- to celebrate his 40th birthday - took a solo bike trip to Portugal.
He took the train to Portugal but he is riding back pulling an extremely
heavily loaded bike trailer. Much of the load is Spanish rice, 9 pounds,
and 4 kilos of Portuguese wine, over 8 pounds. He covers 100 plus kilometers
per day, coasts downhill at breakneck speeds (60 km/hr), and pulls that
heavy trailer over the Pyrenees Mountains. That is crazy! But he is
fun to talk with; I just would not want to ride with him.
to the top
Day 3: Laufenburg to Bamlach via Basel
Bike path signs are
spotty but by keeping an eye on the river and your map you will get
by nicely. A few short steep hills today, especially if you overnight
in Bamlach as we did. That one could be circumvented by stopping in
Bad Bellingen but you’ll miss the Hotel Storchen, a nice place in Bamlach.
And you will miss a nice steep drop the next morning into Bad Bellingen.
We start out from
our hotel in Luttingen, a suburb of Laufenburg. Laufenburg has a nice
little Altstadt (Old Town) with narrow, windy, cobblestone
streets and old buildings.
The bridge here is the oldest bridge of its kind in Europe. It was built
in the late 18th Century and it connects Stein, Switzerland with Germany.
There has been a bridge over the Rhine since the year 700. Also, the
large regional church, called a Münster, is in the late Rococo
style, it is impressive inside. We shopped the market here in Bad Säckingen
hunting and gathering our lunch materials. We sampled smoked trout,
herring in cream sauce, huge pretzels or as they call them here
Bretzeln. As we get ready to leave, Maxa points to my crotch and
says, “you’re coming out!” Vivi-Anne quickly averts her eyes. Glancing
down, I see that part of me is trying to escape my Lycra bike pants
through a split seam. A quick change is certainly required. How long
have I been wandering around a crowded marketplace with split pants?
I do not know; I do not notice anyone staring but it is not like they
would come up to me and mention it either. God, another embarrassing
moment; my life seems full of them. In case you wonder, no, I do not
have a photograph of the split.
here is of the gatehouse of Schloβ Beuggen. Up a steep pitch at kilometer
33 and we stop for lunch with a view of the Swiss version of Rheinfelden.
When the locals here wish you a good appetite, they say, “Ein Gute,”
short for ein guten Appitit. If they want to wish you a good
afternoon, they will say, “Tag,” which is short for Guten
Tag. Just so you know what is being wished to you as you happily
munch on the purchases you acquired at the market in Bad Säckingen.
I am happy I had changed my bike shorts or I might have mistaken the
comment for meaning something else.
After a kilometer
of clay path alongside the railroad track, we turn right at the soccer
field in Wyhlen. A local tells us that kids have vandalized the signs
though town so we have to navigate carefully with our map.
We enter Basel
riding along the non-existent shoulder of a busy street. Crossing the
river, we visit the Old Town area and have three cups of coffee and
a tea in an outside café on the Rathaus Platz. Our server tells us the
cost is €19 but she gives us our change in Swiss Franks. We are about
to leave Switzerland and have no need or use for Franks but what can
you do, it is the currency of the realm. All in all, we wish we had
our money back and they had kept their coffee. We felt like they gouge
the tourists here a bit too much.
Rhine on the Mittlere Brücke, we make our way back toward the
German border, which we cross at kilometer 59.
We stop for
the night at Gasthaus/Hotel Storchen in Bamlach. Rooms cost €52 for
two people for one night. It is quiet, clean, and provides a great view
of the surrounding valley. They are closed Thursdays. The specialty
of Gasthaus Storchen is liver with Rösti, a type of deep fried
mashed potatoes like tater tots.
For the last 20 kilometers, we have been riding atop the dike on
a hard packed gravel path. We could see the river occasionally but there
is not much boat traffic anyway. The trail reminded me of a green tunnel
with the trees occasionally touching overhead. It is hot today so the
shade was welcome. Perhaps it was the heat that addled our brains a
bit a when we met a group of senior citizens walking on the trail. We
asked them about accommodations in the area. They recommended Bamlach
because it was right here (they pointed to the right). We turned off
the trial and climbed a steep pitch where we found a tunnel under the
railroad tracks. After pushing our bikes about 100 meters through the
narrow, damp (running water on the cement floor), dark tunnel, we emerged
into sunlight to stare almost straight up a 300 foot hill. It is so
steep we almost cannot push our bikes. In fact, Eckhard and I had to
help Maxa and Vivi-Anne because it was just too steep for them. Never
in my life had I tried to climb such a steep hill pushing a bike. We
must have climbed 220 feet in an eighth of a mile. We make it off the
footpath and finally to a street. Then we continued a climb (but at
least we could pedal) up hill to the local Gasthaus. I will
admit, the effort was worth it. The accommodations were reasonable,
the food was quite good and we were glad to be done for the day. I’ll
bet those senior citizens had taken a bus down to the dike. They sure
did not walk or they would have warned us about the hill.
to the top
Day 4: Bamlach to Rheinhausen
Flat, flat, flat all
day long. Get used to it. There probably will not be any hills until
you get back home. There is a fair amount of gravel today. In fact,
we avoid the monotony of riding on the gravel path atop the dike by
taking the alternative path shown in the guidebook at mile 37. Plan
on stopping and looking around a little in Burkheim.
Starting at the Storchen,
we pedal once and then coast 3.2 kilometers into Bad Bellingen. Here,
on the Rhine bike path, I zero my cyclometer.
We found a small
wire pen with several small spotted deer inside. Cute! We have been
riding gravel path up on the dike all morning. Not too many ships to
see because they are all a few kilometers west of here in France on
the Rhein/Rhin Canal.
a good lunch stop. Ahead, we take the alternative route to Burkheim.
Burkheim is a typical small German village. Built during the Renaissance,
the Rathaus sports a Hapsburg coat of arms because for 500
years, it was under the protection of the Austrian Hapsburgers.
The photograph to the right shows an unusual path condition that
we encountered along the way. We had to pedal through a spillway of
a small dam.
We stop for
the night in Niederhausen, a part of the Rheinhausen community. We check
out several establishments but settle on Gästehaus Schröeder for €37
a room. We have to share a bathroom but the rooms are just as clean
and big as the Hotel Hirsch across the street that charges €50. So we
save enough for a couple extra Biere at Hotel Hirsch where
we dine this evening. Gästehaus Schröeder is at Hauptstrasse 30, 79365
Rheinhausen 2-Neiderhausen, telephone 07643-5400.
Day 5: Rheinhausen to Freistett
Again today, the terrain
is flat but there is not as much gravel path today because we opt to
ride into France and most of the way is on pavement. The highlight today
is the city of Strasbourg, headquarters city for the EU, European Union.
The government buildings can be boring but inner city and the cathedral
are well worth the visit.
We stay on the alternate
route to Rust (2.8 km) where we find the “Europapark,” a private amusement
park similar to Six Flags in the USA. Rust is a good size town with
lots of lodgings but undoubtedly more expensive than Rheinhausen. We
are surprised that there are no listings in the bikeline guidebook for
We use the free
ferry at Rhinau to cross into France. Again, avoiding the somewhat boring
gravel path atop the dike and through the “green tunnel” if we had stayed
in Germany. Our goal is to connect up with the left bank path and ride
into Strasbourg. The Canal du Rhöne au Rhin appears to be a bit boring
too. Paved but straight as an arrow. We choose to live a little on the
wild side (chuckle) and ride down road D-20 to Gerstheim at mile 12.
The path signs change in France to that shown here.
bike path along the Canal du Rhöne au Rhin we stop for coffee in Plobsheim
and have one of those memorable travel experiences. What fun!
Asking for directions to a café we promptly bump into the language
barrier. A very patient woman at a bakery helps direct us with hands
and feet and a few words of English to balance our precious few words
of French through town to a café. It turns out to be one of those neighborhood
places where the elderly retired 'boys,' complete with berets
and walking sticks, gather for their morning beer, wine, or schnapps.
They enjoy some lively, hand waving, conversation with their friends.
As we enter, we are immediately marked as English speakers and one of
the gentlemen rises from the table of regulars to announce - in English
- that if we need help, he can certainly provide it. Maxa thinks he
is showing off his language skills to his friends but we are glad for
the local contact, nonetheless. As we converse, we notice that this
establishment only serves things to drink until noon, when lunch is
served. We order our beverages but remark that we are disappointed that
we cannot enjoy croissants along with the Café au Lait (coffee
and milk) and tea. The kind gentleman bows deeply and informs us of
a Boulangerie just around the corner. “But we cannot bring
food from another store into this café, can we?” We ask. “But of course.”
He assures us, smiling widely with his one remaining tooth. We think
he might be stating something that the owner of the café would rather
not have adopted into company policy.
Anyway, it turns out the Boulangerie is closed this day
so we are spared the potential embarrassment of trying to please our
new friend but annoying the proprietor. What a cute establishment though.
The worn, gingham tablecloths had been darned and worn through again.
They were faded but spotlessly clean. The floor had been scrubbed so
hard for so many years that the planks were dished and rough. And the
restrooms; so tiny that you had to make up your mind what you were going
to do before you go inside, because there simply is no room to turn
around once you pass the door. Door? Did I say door? There was no door
on the men’s room. Also, no sinks in the room with the toilets. The
single sink located between the men’s and women’s toilet rooms and has
a full view of both. Women could carry on a conversation with the men
who were standing there, facing the wall. Privacy is not likely to happen
here. So if you go, be quick about it and quite. Wash your hands upon
exiting because the whole café has a view of the sink too. Not that
anyone keeps track, you understand. One obvious benefit, you know the
staff washes their hands; they have no choice given the audience. The
normal condition in Western Europe can be characterized as, “sometimes
not modern but almost always clean.”
As we get close to the center of town, we find a place to lock our bikes.
A friendly local tells us about bicycle theft being rampant here and
this city has more than its share of pickpockets. So, forewarned, we
adjust our clothing and take our bikes with us as we walk the inner-city
center. The “”
is a special type of cathedral in the center of the city and is well
worth seeing. We take turns going through it and guarding the bikes
outside. There is a particularly interesting astrological clock inside.
Our guidebook mentions there is a Spiel or a little show at
Strasbourg by following bike path signs to La Wantzenau, we ride past
a zoo with more of those cute spotted deer. They also have rabbits,
peacocks, and other foul.
We ride across
a long bridge back to the German side of the Rhine.
We stop for
the night in the village of Freistett, just northwest of Rheinau. We
stay at zum Waldhorn (€58 for two people for one night). It is about
a kilometer from the bike path.
to the top
Day 6: Freistatt to Jockgrim
Today’s path is flat
and lots of gravel path along the dike. Eckhard and Vivi-Anne drop off
in Karlsruhe and fly home. But they will join us again on the Rhine
next year in Koblenz which even though it looks as if we rode this river
in one continuous ride, we took a some breaks, one for a whole year
(not counting the Dutch portion).
We commence our mileage
readings when we get back to the bike path.
This is the
point on the bikeline guidebook map where the alternate gravel
path starts. The alternate follows the dike just outside of Hügelsheim.
We opt for the yellow, paved road but the traffic is heavy enough that
if I had it to do over again, I would have remained on the gravel path.
a 900-year old village.
We are crossing
the Rhine at Karlsruhe. This after getting lost in the Rheinhafengebiet,
which translated means the Rhine Harbor District. In Karlsruhe, we say
tschüβ (bye) to Eckhard and Vivi-Anne. They are taking the
train from here to Mainz and from there a short 30 kilometer ride into
Frankfurt where they will trade their bikes for an airplane back to
We have been
checking for overnight lodgings since we left Karlsruhe. No luck – everything
is occupied. We are told that there is a large manufacturing facility
in the area being rebuilt by workers from all over Germany. These workers
have booked all the accommodations in all the villages for miles. We
decide to take a chance and leave the trail here where the road to Jockgrim
intersects the bike path and see if there are any rooms there. If we
are wrong, we have ridden 12 kilometers out of our way for nothing.
Fortunately, we find the last room available. The establishment is called
the Elephant. It is clean, tiny and at €36, quite affordable. We share
the bathroom with three other rooms, each of which houses a factory
worker. They get up at 5:00 AM, we were to learn. Also, there is no
breakfast served. Nevertheless, Jockgrim is a pretty little town that
wraps itself around a steep valley. It has lots of half-timbered homes
and buildings but no bakeries. Bummer. That means we will have to bike
a while before breakfast tomorrow morning.
Day 7: Jockgrim to Mannheim
Again today the path
is flat and paved. The biggest hill (50 feet) is climbing onto the bridge
after you leave Speyer. As we get further into Central Germany, the
activity and the density of population increases.
After riding 6 kilometers
back to the cycle path, I zero my cyclometer at the intersection of
the road to Jockgrim and the cycle path where we left it last evening.
Just as we enter
Lingenfeld, we encounter a steep 30 foot hill, probably the only one
today. At the bottom, we met a fellow in a wheelchair pulling a trailer
loaded down with a tent and camping gear. It is the kind you pedal it
your arms. At least he was pedaling with his arms but I am sure I could
not pedal it very far with my arms. He too has ridden the same path
we have been on all the way from Lake Constance. He is pedaling his
wheelchair to Holland. And I thought we were adventuresome – Ha! We
are wimps by comparison.
In Speyer, we
check out the Speyerdom or the Speyer Cathredal. We find it
a modest Romantic structure seemingly lacking in aggrandizements. Nevertheless,
Speyer has a colorful history and was for years during the Middle Ages
an important seat of power and the headquarters of the areas Bishop.
This is Schloss was a hunting palace for the princes of the Phalz
(Palatinate). Its gardens are one of the largest Baroque gardens in
all of Europe. Mozart has played here.
At the Bahnhof
in Mannheim, we meet Judith Forsyth who with her husband Neil have written
several bicycle guidebooks. See my Links page
for a link to their web page. They entertain us for the evening at their
home with generous helpings of Spargel (white asparagus that
is in season in early June) and a walking tour through the suburb of
Viernheim. The picture is of Judith on her folding Bromley bicycle that
she and Neil ride all over Europe, even over the Alps.
to the top
Day 8: Mannheim to Mainz
Today is pretty flat
but there are a few small hills (20 feet or so) just out of Nierstein,
south of Mainz. Most of the ride is on bike paths or lightly traveled
roads. There are short sections of gravel but nothing dangerous. The
country is beautiful and the villages picturesque but we do not stop
for sightseeing. I guess when we are by ourselves, we just keep on truckin’
down the road. Perhaps that says that we need companions to help us
to stop and smell the roses.
We start the day in
Viernheim. Unfortunately, this is not anywhere near where you might
start it. We are about 10 kilometers northeast of Mannheim and to get
back to the bike path, we must ride through a military Installation.
We do so without problem even though 9-11-01 is just a few months ago.
However, for the ease of those who follow, by studying our map, I note
that we will join the bike path in Lampertheim at a point just 14 kilometers
north of the Mannheim Bahnhof. So, if you start at the Bahnhof
or thereabouts, we will meet up there.
Bike path in
Lampertheim, just north of the gravel stretch. North of here we ride
through several onion fields and they are being worked by a farmer on
his tractor. My eyes tear from the onion fumes wafting from the fields.
It is as if I were slicing onions in the kitchen.
Worms. After crossing
the bridge, we are at Niebelungen Strasse. From here we visit the
Dom (Cathedral) and find it so ensconced into the center of
the city that it is not possible to take a picture that shows off its
grandeur well. The Kaiserdom Saint Peter was built during the 11th and
12th Centuries. (Yes, Virginia, it did take a while to build churches
back then.) The Dom is well decorated with Gargoyles and Grotesques
and it made me wonder what purpose they performed. So, I found a website
that explains the history and use of Gargoyles well. At
you will learn that no one really knows but there are suppositions that
they were to ward off evil sprits and/or tell stories to the illiterate
church goers. Probably more than any other purpose, they were just art
that the stonemasons used to express their individuality and creativity.
A sort of stone signature that other stonemasons could see and appreciate.
The pretty little
town of Mettenheim. I love the steep pitched, red-tile roofs and the
quaint old brick buildings. And I will bet that in the fall, the colors
of the vineyards and the trees make this a poster perfect village. For
the next several kilometers, we will be riding through wine country.
The photograph is looking down a road near Oppenheim shortly before
is a picturesque village tucked perilously between mountain and river.
It seems like the mountains are lifting up the back part preparatory
to sliding the whole thing into the Rhine. They make a brandy in Nierstein
(in German a brandy or cognac is Weinbrand) called
Alter Gerhardt . This VSOP
brandy is hard to find even in Germany because it is made in such small
quantities. But it is the elixir of the gods if you like smooth, well
balanced brandies. Better than many of the expensive VSOP brandies out
of Cognac, France. This is just my opinion but many in my family agree.
The photograph credits are to Wein- und Sektkellerei, Jakob Gerhardt,
At some mileage point we enter Mainz. It is a little hard to tell
exactly where but it does not matter really. Mainz was where Herr Gutenberg
invented his printing press in about 1450. Mainz has also been a center
of political and religious power for centuries. One convenient and succinct
link about this is
We quit for
the day at the Mainz Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station). Truth
be known, we stopped this tour for the year 2002 here and took the train
to our home base in Kassel. What follows below is when we picked up
this river the following year in 2003. Since most people will be riding
some section of the Rhine anyway, we will just continue as if it were
one very long river tour.
to the top
Day 9: Mainz to Eltville
It is a short ride
today – less than 16 miles. Actually it is short because we are continuing
our Rhine tour a year later than when we ended it on Day 8. We stopped
last year (2002) in Mainz and we are in Mainz again (2003) as we complete
the Main River tour from its source in
Bayreuth to the confluence with the Rhine. Nevertheless, if you are
using train travel to get to Mainz or Frankfurt to start the tour, you
may well find Eltville a convenient place to stop for overnight lodgings.
The main recommendation for Eltville, is Frau Jensen’s B & B. The
riding conditions on this side are poor. We share the road with traffic,
sometimes heavy traffic, much of the way. The bikeline guidebook
recommends the left bank – I would concur – if it were not for Frau
Jensen’s B & B.
Still following the
blue Rhein – Rhin international European Union style bike path signs,
we set our cyclometer to zero at the Theodore-Heuss-Brücke (the main
bridge over the Rhine into Mainz). From Mainz we opt to follow the right
bank of the river so we can see Rüdesheim which is across form Bingen.
Interestingly, since the confluence of the Main River with the Rhine,
we have been following signs of the Rheingauer-Riesling Route. The vineyards
on this south facing slope of the Rhine Valley belong to the Rheingau
wine growing region. Many famous vintners are located here with perhaps
the most commonly know being Schloss Johannisberg and perhaps Johannisberg
we stop for the night at the B & B of Frau Jensen, Lönsweg 3, Eltville,
Phone 06123-2485. She charges 60 for double occupancy (the cost for
two people to spend one night) but for only 65 you get a three room
apartment. The breakfast is the most fantastic we have ever seen - huge
quantities and the highest of quality. Wow! The only drawback, if there
is one, is that Frau Jensen’s home is a little hard to find because
the street she lives on is quite small and uphill (60 feet) from the
main street of Eltville. Hey, I would sure come back if ever I find
myself in Eltville again. On the first weekend of July every year, Eltville
hosts a Champaign festival.
Day 10: Eltville to Bad Salzig
We ride through beautiful
countryside looking up at the high mountains of the Taunus whose lower
south facing slopes are clothed with the vineyards of the Rheingau.
The path is mostly flat with a few low hills (20 feet) and mostly paved.
Crossing to the left bank in Bingen, we watch lots of barges and watercraft
on the river as we ride through scattered showers. Germany is a green
country; it is green because it rains a lot. The path is mostly gravel
between Eltville and Rüdesheim. Again, the recommendation by bikeline
is for the left bank of the Rhine. From Bingen, the path is both paved
and flat. Most of it is on a designated bike path but the path is always
close to or on the shoulder of the busy highway that follows the river
through the steep walled Rhine Gorge. Here is a list of the castles,
etc. that one sees in order of appearance: Starting in Bingen, Burg
Klopp, Mäuseturm, Burg Rheinstein, Burg Sooneck, Burg Stahleck, Werner
kapelle, Burg Pfalz, Burg Gutenfels, Castle Schönburg, Lorelei
Rock, Burg Katz, Burg Rheinfels, and Burg Maus. There are others as
well but they are just out of sight from the river.
We start today at
the same place in the center of Eltville where we stopped our cyclometer
is a cute touristy town. One can see castles, monuments and museums
of winemaking in the Rheingau. It just has too many t-shirt shops and
tour busses for my liking. The Drosselgasse is the main shopping street.
It is frequently crowded during mid-day. Try taking the cable car up
to the Niederwald Monument that celebrates German Unity after the Napoleonic
Wars. Since 1990, it has new meaning for Germans – unity of the east
and west Germanys. From here, we cross to Bingen on the ferry. The cost
is €1.80 per person with bikes.
The photograph on the left is Phalzgrafenstein Phalz im Rhein with
Burg Gutenfels in the background. On the right is Schloss Burg Rheinstein.
experience a flat tire between Bingen and Bacharach. We have been riding
hard since Bingen trying to outrun a nearly black cloud that popped
up over the Taunus Mountains but because of the flat tire, we are caught
in a rain shower. We take shelter in a tunnel under the railroad track
and wait for it to blow over. We are amazed at the number of castles
we can see. Several places give us view of two or three at once. One
of the most famous castles is the Mouse Tower that is built right in
the river. Its owner, a bishop, mercilessly burned a group of beggars
and was then attacked by swarms of mice as God’s punishment for his
evil deed. At least that is the fable.
This is Bacharach
and it is guarded by Burg Stahleck. The Burg, or castle, also serves
as a youth hostel or Jugendherberge. (On my
Links page, you can find a link to the German
youth hostels.) In Bacharach we take shelter from another shower. But
this time, we sit under an umbrella in a Biergarten and do
what one is suppose to do in a Biergarten. (Grow beer from
a seed? Nope! Try again.)
The photograph on the left is of St. Goar.
In Bad Salzig,
we dodge another shower by stopping for dinner in a restaurant. When
it blows over we will make our way to Gästehaus Neier where we pay €43
for another 3 room apartment. It is quite nice and breakfast is nice
as well. The address is Romer Str. 18, 56154 06742-6324, fax is 06742-940540.
This establishment is in a quite part of town a few kilometers up the
valley – but the climb is gradual. Coincidentally, we are staying at
the same place with the people with whom we shared the tunnel during
this morning’s rain shower.
to the top
Day 11: Bad Salzig to Koblenz
As before, today the
path is mostly paved and quite flat. More castles than you will want
to visit but they are fun to see from afar as well. This is the end
of the 102 kilometer tour through the Rhine Gorge, as I said in the
tour overview, one of the most romantic sections not only of Germany
but of Europe. There are no hills and only a few short patches of gravel.
Here is a short list of castles, etc. to be bypassed today: Burg Liebenstein,
Burg Sterrenberg, Kurfürstliche Burg, Phillips Burg, Marks Burg, Schloss
Stolzenfels, Burg Lahneck, Kurfürstliche Schloss , Deutsche Eck, and
I reset my odometer
once we get back to the bike path in Bad Salzig.
Rhens is quite
historic. There is a round tower here that was used as a collection
point for duties and taxes from vessels on the river (as were most of
the rest of the castles on or close to the river). In 1645, ten witches
were tortured and beheaded in this tower. Karl IV, King of Germany,
asked the citizens of Rhens to make a throne from stone and when they
did, he rewarded them by lowering their taxes. Since then, every reigning
German monarch visited Rhens sat on the stone throne and ceremoniously
swore allegiance to whomever it was owed. The photograph on the left
is of Marksburg on Rhein, across the river from Rhens.
Eck. This is a monument celebrating the creation of Germany in 1897.
(In importance to Germany, this date is similar to 1776 in the USA.)
The statue is of Kaiser Wilhelm I on a horse. He was the first Kaiser
of the united German. Destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt in 1953
as a reminder of the post war divided Germany and today, after 1989,
it represents a reunified Germany sporting all 16 of the German states.
After visiting this monument, take time and check out Koblenz. Like
the monument, Koblenz also sustained heavy damage during the war. But
it was in Koblenz that the BRD (Federal Republic of Germany) was conceived
and established after WWII. Across the river is Festung Ehrenbreitstein,
one of the largest castles on the Rhine. There is a youth hostel inside.
Day 12: Koblenz to Bad Breisig
Bike path is paved
all the way from Koblenz to Bad Breisig but there are a couple of hills
(30 and 40 feet) – one in Neu Andernach and one just outside of Bad
Breisig. The Rhine is wide and full of watercraft. However the landscape
is less interesting than that through the gorge.
Starting at the Balduinbrüke
which is either the last bridge over the Mosel or the first bridge you
come to as you ride up the Mosel from the Deutsche Eck monument. We
navigate somehow the twisty turny bike path as it winds through Lützel,
just north of Koblenz. It is city riding but the route keeps one off
the busy streets for the most part.
We stop in Bad
Breisig for the night. Our choice is House Erika which it turns out
is 3 kilometers uphill from the bike path. It is only €21 per person
for one and the rooms are nice, large, and include a shower. The address
is 74 Frankenbach Str. Phone 02633-8999. They only have three rooms
but there is Haus Cordula (phone 02633-95832) right next door if your
party is larger.
to the top
Day 13: Bad Breisig to Bonn
path today will be flat again. And it is mostly paved too. Maybe I am
getting bored but outside of Linz, there doesn’t seem to me much of
interest today until we get to the Beethoven Haus in Bonn.
We take the ferry
from Kripp to Linz at a cost of €5.10 for all four of us. Our bikeline
guidebook tells us that Linz is cute and since it is so hot today, we
opt to do a lot of sightseeing. Linz is worth it and we enjoy our visit.
The Bridge at
Remagen collapsed on March 17, 1945, after a pitched battle between
advance forces of the Allied troops with the German Army who was trying
to deny access across the Rhine. There is a 1953 movie entitled
Bridge at Remagen.
We end the day
after spending a couple hours in the museum called the Beethoven Haus,
or Beethoven’s birthplace. From there we ride a couple kilometers into
the center of Bonn and stay overnight at the Hotel Ebis (€49). Rooms
are clean and hotel-like but they do not offer a free breakfast.
Day 14: Bonn to Dormagen
Again today the path
is flat and paved. The river is busy and it feels like we are riding
on a bike path through a city most of the time. There are a few fields
and open places but the humanity is pretty densely packed in around
this part of Germany.
Leaving Bonn, I reset
my cyclometer at the Kennedy Brücke. With no breakfast to nourish us,
we subsist on free apples provided by the Hotel Ebis until we can stop
for coffee. The path passes close to the Kölnerdom or the Cathedral
in Cologne. If you have not seen it, stop and look around. The cathedral
survived the war in amazingly good shape (perhaps because allied bomber
pilots considered it a landmark worth preserving) and is a great example
of architecture of the 16th Century. The site itself has been a place
of worship since before Roman occupation 2,000 years ago. It was once
considered the largest church in all of Christendom.
We stop for
the night in a suburb of Dormagen.
Day 15: Dormagen to Nierst
Another day of flat,
mostly paved path. This area is more industrial than agricultural. There
are a few highlights though, as there always are when on a bike in a
foreign country – with my beautiful bride (he hastened to add).
At Zons, we ferry
across to Bernath. We visit the Schloss Benrath and then follow signs
toward Himmelgeist. It is in-city riding.
through Düsseldorf is as heavy as I have ever seen it. Fortunately everyone
is well behaved.
In Nierst, we
stop for the night. We are at Hotel Landgasthof Sum Hasen. Address is:
Stratumer Str. 34, 40668 Meerbusch-Nierst, Telephone 02150-1441, fax
02150-206015, they have 10 rooms. The cost is about €80 per room. It
is a newer building and the owners are pleasant.
to the top
Day 16: Nierst to Wesel
managed to lose our way not once but three times today. No harm done,
eventually we found the path again without backtracking. This is a bicycle
friendly part of the world and if you ask enough people where the correct
path is, you will eventually get the right answer. Sifting it out of
all the wrong answers is a bit tricky though but you live and learn.
First of all, do not show the people your map. It just confuses them.
Just ask them for the Rhine bike path or Rhein Fahrradweg.
Since we get lost so often today, you can pretty much disregard our
mileage reading today. I provide a few only for reference. The signs
for the bike path seem to change frequently and that is confusing. We
are in an area where we see Neiderrhein Route signs. You could
buy a map for this area but they have signed routes all over the whole
area. It is like a spider web. My advice is to keep your objective in
mind and enjoy the scenery as you ride through this part of the Rhine
River Valley. It is less industrial and much more picturesque than yesterday.
The west end
of the bridge over the Rhine into Wesel.
We stop for
the night in Wesel at Hotel zur Aue, Reeser Landstr. 14, 46483 Wesel.
Telephone 0281-21000, fax 0281-24806. Owned by the family S. Nitsch
we have dinner here tonight and are pleasantly pleased with the offerings.
They serve a nice breakfast too. Their price is €65 for a double room
per night. Wesel is a 750 year old community that is has a history of
being a power center during Roman times as well as a part of the Hanseatic
League during the Middle Ages.
Day 17: Wesel to Kleve
For our last day we
enjoy more flat, paved cycle path today. The route is picturesque and
pleasant. Like yesterday, there are tons of bike routes around this
area. The path takes us a short distance from the river and believe
it or not, we actually climb a couple small hills (70 feet) just before
Kleve. Do keep the name of the next few towns in your mind as you navigate
through here, it will save you aggravation. Ask me how I came upon this
gem of knowledge.
Xanten, a 775
year old community is worth stopping in to check out the churches, especially
the St. Victor’s Cathedral (St. Victor Dom). This was also a former
Roman settlement and undoubtedly Celtic before the Italians moved in.
They have an archeological park but we did not go in.
Kleve is our
stop for the night. We find Hotel zur Post, Hagsche Str. 44, 47533 Kleve,
Telephone is 02821-24579 or 02821-12761, Fax 02821-25790. They have
about 15 rooms most with showers. They charge €55 for two people for
one night. Kleves, situated on the left bank of the Rhine, was particularly
hard hit during the war. It is close to the Ardennes, where the Battle
of the Bulge was waged during WWII. A bit before that (say about 1,900
years), it was one of the largest northern forts of the Roman occupation.
Day 18: Kleve to the Dutch Border
Today is a short day
(7.8 miles and 12.5 km) and still mostly paved and flat. Signage is
still a problem because there are so many bike path signs but none of
the right kind. It matters little, the land is flat and the river is
always to our right. How can we go wrong?
Just outside of
Rindern, we pass St. Willibrord Church. As they were excavating to build
this church, they discovered a Roman bath complete with a monument to
Mars, a Roman god. Today, that stone monument is incorporated into the
alter of the church.
We reach the
end of our tour at the Dutch border. Beyond is the town of Millingen
an der Rijn (Millingen on the Rhine) From here we are off the clock.
We ride a few more miles toward Nijmegen but with sore legs and butts,
we decide our fun meters have been pegged and we flip a U-turn and head
back for the Bahnhof in Emmerich. By the way, Emmerich was another one
of the most destroyed cities during WWII – over 98% destroyed.
to the top
Day 19: Dutch Border to Rossum
you continue the ride down the Rhine into Holland, do see our
Rhine in Holland Tour for detailed
notes and comments. Some of which I have copied into this travelogue.
Since we rode up river in 2010 and this travelogue contemplates riding
down river, I have taken a little artistic license with the comments.
We happened to be in Holland because we had just completed the
Bike and Ship North of Amsterdam
and we tacked on this final section of the Rhine just for a sense of
used two maps by Falk Number 15 Zuid-Holland-Zuid met Goeree Overflakkee
and Number 11 Rivierenland Met Rijk van Nijmegen. Both were
of the sort Fietskaart met Knooppuntennetwerk (Bicycle Map
with Waypoint Network). These maps show the waypoint numbers along cycle
paths and low-traffic roads. We also had along the bikeline’s Rhein-Radweg
3, Von Mainz nach Rotterdam. That guidebook was useful in locating
lodgings as well as recommending a route. On the left is an example
of the way point signs. Photo by Rolf Haase.
The border and the
edge of Millingen an der Rijn.
In Rossum, we
stop at De Gouden Molen; Waaldijk 5, Rossum 5328 EZ; +00 31 (0)418 661306;
website is http://www.goudenmolen.nl
Day 20: Rossum to Kinderdijk
Today the path is paved and flat. But then one could say
that about almost any day bicycling in Holland. We ride along the Waal
most of the way and enjoy watching the commercial traffic on the river.
Starting at De Gouden
Molen hotel, which is on the cycle path and overlooking the Waal, we
head west toward the end of the Rhine and its estuaries.
Woudrichem. We could not find the ferry shown in the bikeline guidebook.
Perhaps it does not run anymore or perhaps we are just poor navigators.
Instead, we ride to waypoint 21 and cross the bridge into Rijswijk.
Now a few kilometers back into Woudrichem.
Ferry from Dordrecht
across Nieuwe Merwede.
Ferry from Papendrecht
Day 21: Kinderdijk to Rotterdam
Today is short because we like to stay outside the bigger
cities in the theory that we will save money. Besides, we think that
Rotterdam is just a big modern city with little to say for tourism.
When we get into Rotterdam, we will either take a train or continue
on to Delft and The Hague, both of which are more interesting to us
Kinderdijk is on the bike path, we reset our odometers as we leave.
Ferry from Kinderdijk
to Krimpen aan den IJssel.
We cross a bridge
over the the IJssel River from Krimpen aan den IJssel into Rotterdam.
End of the Rhine
in downtown Rotterdam at the VVV. VVV stands for "Vereniging voor
Vreemdelingenverkeer " – a Dutch mouthful that means "Association
for the Traffic of Foreigners." or Tourist Information.