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Rhine

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The Rhine – one river in four languages; Rhine in English, Rhein in German; Rhin in French and Rijn in Dutch. Even though the different languages pronounce their vowels slightly differently, all the words for Rhine sound quite alike. The Rhine in Germany is 592 miles long (953-kilometers) making it the longest of the German rivers. The Rhine Gorge, between Mainz and Koblenz, is one of the most picturesque in Germany. This is due to the 23 castles and palaces (or ruins thereof) and because of the famous (at least among the barge sailors) Lorelei rocks at the bend in the river near St. Goar. So, in this 102 kilometer section of the river, there are over 4 castles, palaces, or ruins per kilometer. If anyone knows of a section of river, anywhere in the world, with more castle-like edifices per kilometer, please let me know.

Tour Overview: Map of RhineThis 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.

Stage One: 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.

Stage Two: 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.

Stage Three: 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.Path SignagePath Signage

Stage Four: 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.Path SignagePath SignagePath SignagePath Signage

Signage: 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.

Accommodations: 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 Overnight Accommodations page.

Stops: Guidebook by "bikeline"A 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.Guidebook by "bikeline"Guidebook by "bikeline"

Maps and Guidebooks: 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.

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Day 1: Stein am Rhein to Schaffhausen

Day Overview: 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.Stein am RheinGailingen Covered Bridge

Mile 0 (0 km): 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.

Mile 8.4 (13.5 km): 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.Hochrhein cycle path sign

Mile 13.4 (21.5 km): 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 quite pleasant.

Day 2: Schaffhausen to Laufenburg

Day Overview: Leaving Schaffhausen, 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.Rheinfalls

Mile 0 (0 km): 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.

Mile .9 (1.5 km): 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.

Mile 7.3 (11.7 km): After crossing 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 as intended.

Mile 27.8 (44.8 km): 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 been clean.

Mile 36.7 (59.0 km): 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.Manfred and his trailer

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.

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Day 3: Laufenburg to Bamlach via Basel

Day Overview: 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.

Mile 0 (0 km): 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.Bad Säckingen wooden bridgeBad Säckingen tower (Turm)

Mile 7.0 (11.3 km): Bad Säckingen. 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.Gatehouse of Schloss Beuggen

Mile 19.0 (30.5 km): The photograph 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.

Mile 26.2 (42.1 km): 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.Basel from the main square

Mile 30.5 (49.1 km): 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.

Mile 34.4 (55.3 km): Crossing the Rhine on the Mittlere Brücke, we make our way back toward the German border, which we cross at kilometer 59.

Mile 49.2 (79.2 km): 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.

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Day 4: Bamlach to Rheinhausen

Day Overview: 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.

Mile 0 (0 km): 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.

Mile 16.3 (26.3 km): 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.Schloss Ruin at Burkheim

Mile 23.2 (37.4 km): Breisach is 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.Unusual path condition

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.

Mile 45.2 (72.8 km): 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

Day Overview: 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.

Mile 0 (0 km): 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 Rust.French Path Signage

Mile 6.5 (10.4 km): 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.

Mile 15.9 (25.6 km): After joining 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.”

Mile 26.4 (42.5 km) Approximate: Entering StrasbourgStrasbourg. 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 “Strasbourger Münster” 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 12:30 PM.

Mile 35.5 (57.1 km): After leaving 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.

Mile 40.7 (65.5 km): We ride across a long bridge back to the German side of the Rhine.

Mile 43.3 (69.7 km): 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.

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Day 6: Freistatt to Jockgrim

Day Overview: 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).

Mile 0 (0 km): We commence our mileage readings when we get back to the bike path.

Mile 12.4 (19.9 km): 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.Echesheim park, lunch stop

Mile 30.3 (48.7 km): Elchesheim, a 900-year old village.

Mile 44.6 (71.8 km): 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 the states.

Mile 48.3 (77.7 km): 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

Day Overview: 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.Rheingau Path Sign

Mile 0 (0 km): 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.

Mile 13.4 (21.6 km): 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.Alt Portal in Speyer

Mile 25.4 (40.8 km): 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.

Mile 35.2 (56.6 km): Schloss Schwetzingen. 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.Judith Forsyth with Bromley Bike

Mile 47.7 (76.8 km): 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.

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Day 8: Mannheim to Mainz

Day Overview: 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.

Mile 0 (0 km): 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.

Mile 8.7 (14.0 km): 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 Dom ModelWorms Dom

Worms bridge

Mile 14.1 (22.7 km): 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 http://www.stonecarver.com/grotesque.html* 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.Looking down a road near Oppenheim

Mile 23.3 (37.5 km): 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 entering Nierstein.Alter Gehardt Weinbrand

Mile 35.0 (56.4 km): Nierstein. This 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, Nierstein.

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 http://www.lodging-germany.com/info/Mainz/history.htm*.

Mile 47.4 (76.3 km): 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.

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Day 9: Mainz to Eltville

Day Overview: 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.Path Signage

Mile 0 (0 km): 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 Klaus.

Mile 9.8 (15.8 km): In Eltville, 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

Day Overview: 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.

Mile 0 (0 km): We start today at the same place in the center of Eltville where we stopped our cyclometer last night.Drosselgasse in Rüdesheim

Mile 10.3 (16.5 km): Rüdesheim. This 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.Phalzgrafenstein Phalz im RheinSchloss Burg Rheinstein

The photograph on the left is Phalzgrafenstein Phalz im Rhein with Burg Gutenfels in the background. On the right is Schloss Burg Rheinstein.

Mile 10.6 (17.0 km): Bingen. Flat tire repairWe 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.Burg Stahleck above Bacharach

Mile 21.2 (34.1 km): 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.)St-Goar

The photograph on the left is of St. Goar.

Mile 35.8 (57.6 km): 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.

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Day 11: Bad Salzig to Koblenz

Day Overview: 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 Festung Ehrenbreitstein.

Mile 0 (0 km): I reset my odometer once we get back to the bike path in Bad Salzig.

Marksburg on Rhein

Mile 10.4 (16.7 km): 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.

Deutsche Eck

Mile 17.3 (27.8 km): Festung EhrenbreitsteinDeutsches 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

Day Overview: 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.

Mile 0 (0 km): 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.

Mile 24.3 (39.1 km): 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.

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Day 13: Bad Breisig to Bonn

Day Overview: Linzerstruester-FountainThe 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.Linzerstruester-Fountain

Mile 3.9 (6.3 km): 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 destroyed bridge at Remagen

Mile 5.6 (9.0 km): 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.

Mile 21.3 (34.3 km): 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

Day Overview: 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.KölnerdomKölnerdom

Mile 0 (0 km): 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.

Mile 37.3 (60.0 km): We stop for the night in a suburb of Dormagen.

Day 15: Dormagen to Nierst

Day Overview: 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).

Mile 0 (0 km): Dormagen.Ferry from Zons to BernathSchloss BenrathSchloss Benrath

Mile 4.1 (6.6 km): At Zons, we ferry across to Bernath. We visit the Schloss Benrath and then follow signs toward Himmelgeist. It is in-city riding.

Mile 21.5 (34.6 km): Bike traffic through Düsseldorf is as heavy as I have ever seen it. Fortunately everyone is well behaved.

Mile 30.1 (48.5 km): 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.

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Day 16: Nierst to Wesel

Day Overview: Neiderrhein path signToo much information path signNWe 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.

Mile 26.0 (41.8 km): Enter Binsheim.

Mile 37.3 (60.0 km): The west end of the bridge over the Rhine into Wesel.

Mile 46.7 (75.2 km): 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

Day Overview: 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.

Mile 8.1 (13.0 km): 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.

Mile 31.4 (50.6 km): 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

Day Overview: 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?

Mile 2.7 (4.4 km): 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.The border to Holland

Mile 7.8 (12.5 km): 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.

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Day 19: Dutch Border to Rossum

Tour in Holland Overview: Map of HollandIf 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 completeness.

Maps and Guidebooks in Holland: Holland's way points by Rolf HaaseWe 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.Border in 2010

Mile 0 (0 km): The border and the edge of Millingen an der Rijn.

Mile 14.3 (23.0 km): Downtown Nijmegen.De Gouden Molen in Rossum

Mile 42.3 (68.0 km): In Rossum, we stop at De Gouden Molen; Waaldijk 5, Rossum 5328 EZ; +00 31 (0)418 661306; info@goudenmolen.nl; their website is http://www.goudenmolen.nl*.

Day 20: Rossum to Kinderdijk

Day Overview: 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.

Mile 0 (0 km): 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.

Mile 7.5 (12.1 km): Zaltbommel.Bridge in Holland

Mile 20.8 (33.4 km): Across from 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.5 Stork nests in electrical towerMonument to dike builders

Mile 23.1 (37.2 km): SleeuwujkWindmills abound in Holland

Mile 38.2 (61.5 km): Ferry from Dordrecht across Nieuwe Merwede.

Mile 46.4 (74.7 km): Ferry from Papendrecht to Dordrecht.Hotel Kinderdijk

Mile 54.4 (87.6 km): Hotel Kinderdijk.

Day 21: Kinderdijk to Rotterdam

Day Overview: 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 as tourists.

Mile 0 (0 km): Since Hotel Kinderdijk is on the bike path, we reset our odometers as we leave.VVV Tourists information

Mile .06 (.09 km): Ferry from Kinderdijk to Krimpen aan den IJssel.

Mile 4.0 (6.4 km): We cross a bridge over the the IJssel River from Krimpen aan den IJssel into Rotterdam.

Mile 4.3 (7.0 km): 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.

* An asterisk after a link indicates that that link will open in a new window. That way, you will maintain your place in the Bicycle Germany website.

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