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The Roman Route Bicycle Tour

The Roman Route bicycle tour is an attempt to follow the route of three Roman divisions who were wiped out by Germanic tribes in the year 9 CE.

Tour Overview: Map of Roman RouteJune 2005. Called the Roman Route (Römerroute), this is a 6-day, 197-mile (317 km) bike tour along the Lippe River in northwestern Germany. The tour starts in Xanten on the lower Rhine and ends in Detmold deep in the Teutoburg Forest.

History: The tour follows what is thought to be the fateful route that 3 divisions of Roman soldiers took in September, 9CE. They were tricked and massacred by native German warriors from the Cherusci tribe among others. The Roman Governor of Germania, Varus, was returning with his three divisions to his winter quarters from a summer of taming the wild German tribes near the Elbe River. The winter quarters were probably in Haltern or Xanten but as he marched, he was told of a minor uprising to the north so he turned his army north to put it down. As he slogged through some forested wetlands, he was ambushed by the tribes under the leadership of Arminius who until a day or so before, was an officer in Varius’s own army. Arminius, also known by his German name of Hermann, was a Cherusci prince who years earlier had been sent to Rome as a hostage to insure and enhance the friendly relationship of the tribe with the Roman government.

In Rome, Arminius/Hermann learned Roman customs and later as an officer in the Roman army he learned Roman tactics. He returned to Gaul (Western Europe west of the Rhine) to serve under Varus but he secretly arranged a coalition of tribes to fight against the Romans. After tricking them into an ambush, he led the attack and wiped out all three legions (15,000 to 18,000 fighting men) and presumably their camp followers as well. Camp followers are non-combatants such as a few wives, children, prostitutes, barbers, cooks, cleaners, weapon makers, etc., etc.Main path sign

The exact location of the battle is not known but was for years was believed to be somewhere in the forest called the Teutoburger Wald. Today, an archeological excavation north of Osnabrück near the community of Kalkriese is providing significant evidence of being the site of the actual battle. To learn more go to Wikipedia’s article on the Victory of Arminius over the Roman Legions under Varus. There are many websites about this battle and its related history; here are a few:Other path signsOther path signs http://www.livius.org/ha-hd/haltern/haltern.html http://www.livius.org/x/xanten/vetera.html.

Signage: The route is well signed and is depicted by a pentagram with the graphic of an ancient Roman helmet, a bicycle and the text “Römer Route, Xanten-Detmold.” More frequently, one finds only a sticker with the graphic of the helmet. As usual, one always need to have in mind the names of the towns and places ahead (and conversely, what you have already passed) as you ride. In the lower Rhine or Niederrhein, there are bike paths galore and signs pointing every which way as can be seen in the example on the right.All bicycles this way

Accommodations: We had no trouble finding lodgings along the way. Since we arrived in Xanten with the intention of riding a half a day, we did not even make a reservation for our first night as we sometimes do. We just started out and found our first room when we decided to break for supper. While Zimmer or Privat Zimmer are found less frequently in northern Germany, there are a few. 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 our Overnight Accommodations page. The average cost per night for the Zimmer will be about €50 for two people to spend one night but they vary between €40 and €60 (price is no indication of quality - it only reflects competition). Pensions and hotels are typically a little more expensive but the most we paid was about €75; again for two people to spend one night. Besides my own Hotels in Germany page, the website www.roemerroute.de has many hotels and accommodations listed. Just click on the towns, then on Hotels.BVA Guidebook

Stops: The first stop is in Xanten, a former Roman outpost with a wonderful Archeological Park just outside of town. Beyond Xanten, there are four communities along the Lippe that date from before the 1st Century. Of these, the nicest is Haltern am See. Additionally, both Paderborn and Detmold are interesting.

Maps and Guidebooks: On this trip we used BVA Römerroute, Von Xanten bis Detmold, 1/50,000. BVA is part of Bielefelder Verlag .

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Day 1: Xanten to Wesel

Day Overview: It is flat today and mostly paved. Did I mention that rain showers are forecasted?Rain ShowerBarge traffic on 
Rhine

Mile 0 (0 km): Xanten is an extremely old community indeed. First mentioned as Castra Vetera in 13 and 12 BCE it served as a home base for Roman soldiers and as such, it controlled the Rhine and the Lippe Rivers. In the 4th Century, the Romans left but by the year 762 the local population was being converted to Christianity and a church was built. The city was sacked by the Normans in 863. By the 10th Century, Xanten was a Bishopric and in 1096 they had a Jewish synagogue as well. In 1228, the city of Xanten was granted city status and in 1263, the construction of the Cathedral was commenced. The city walls were build in the 14th Century. Unfortunately, we do not get to visit the Archeological Park on the outskirts of Xanten because it is inundated by tourists today. We have been by here before when we rode down the Rhine and we vowed to come back and visit the park but with all the people, it just would not be fun so we renew our vow to return someday and continue to peddle on down the path.Wesel CathedralBridge over Rhine
Wesel

Mile 9.8 (15.7 km): We cross the Rhine on the bridge and ride into the 765-year old community of Wesel.Typical cycle path

Mile 12.2 (19.7 km): Since we are riding south along the bike path, we reset our cyclometers at the Wesel Bahnhof and will consider that the start point for tomorrow. We spend the night at Gästebeherbergung Wesel, a few kilometers east of the city center. We considered Hotel Kaiserhof in the center of Wesel that charges €70 for two people to spend one night. Not bad, but we get some advice from other bikers who steer us to the Gästebeherbergung. The address is 46485 Wesel, Am Klosskamp 41, Telephone 0281 51150, Fax: 0281 2068420, website: http://www.gaestebeherbergung.de/ . Our hostess is Frau Häsel, a real sweetheart. This is a fantastic place for €50 and we are really glad for the recommendation. The rooms are huge and exceptionally well decorated. It is 4.2 miles (6.7 km) east, along Schermbecker Landstrasse, which is parallel to the bike path. There is party of 16 other cyclists staying here. They are enjoying themselves at a catered supper as we arrive.

Day 2: Wesel to Haltern am See

Day Overview: The path is mostly flat today but there are several sections of unpaved path too. If conditions are wet, the path may be dangerous because some of it is rutted dirt which turns to sloppy, slippery mud when wet.GeorgskircheSchermbeck, St. Ludgeruskirche Fishermen along side canal

Mile 4.2 (6.7 km): We leave our neat accommodation and ride down Klosskamp, across Schermbecker Landstrasse (58) and jog left then right down Schwarzensteiner Weg back to the bike path.

Mile 10.4 (16.8 km): We ride past Schloss Gartrop but it is under renovation and restoration so it is closed to the public. I did not photograph Schloss Gartrop but I did photograph St. Ludgeruskirche in Schermbeck shown on the right.

Mile 28.8 (46.3 km): Wechsel Station (Day 2, Mile 28)The picture on the right of a red tile roofed building with a mural is a former horse team changing station (like the Pony Express in the USA) that dates back to between 1716 and 1806. The street itself is Hellweg and it is a centuries old trading route for a variety of commodities, including precious salt.

Mile 41.9 (67.4 km): We stop in Haltern am See the site of an ancient Roman fort or Castel. Because we have not seen any signs for Zimmer, we overnight in Hotel Sondermann, Rekumerstrasse 48, 45721 Haltern am See, telephone 02364-3730, fax 02364-14873, €70 for two people for one night with shower but only €60 with just a sink in your room. They have 8 rooms and are right in town. Haltern am See is another picturesque small city.

Haltern am SeeHaltern am SeeHaltern am SeeGoats near Haltern am See

Day 3: Haltern am See to Werne

Day Overview: We find one small hill in Vinnum and a couple more substantial hills (but not too steep that we have to push our bikes) between Bork and Cappenberg. Again, the path is paved most of the way but at kilometer 22.9 we ride a dirt path through the Dahler Holz which should be avoided if it is really wet. Other than that, there was quite a long stretch of hard packed gravel along the canal on either side of Ahsen.

Mile 0 (0 km): Starting at the Bahnhof in Haltern am See, we head toward Flasheim.

Mile 12.9 (20.8 km): We are crossing under the Dortmund-Ems Canal. It is really weird to ride under what looks like a normal highway bridge and look up to see a ship passing overhead.

Mile 19.9 (32.0 km): Outside of Cappenberg there is a nice drop but stay on the road because the bike path has steps. Who would put steps in a path down a nice drop?

Mile 28.2 (45.4 km): City center of Lünen.RR Crossing Control at day 3 mile 35

Mile 35.6 (57.3 km): We cross the railroad on the outskirts of Oberaden and we find a self controlled railroad crossing gate. Pull the handle to raise the gate. If it does not raise, lookout! A train is coming! You might get spoken at in German but if you do not know the language, just reply in English that you do not speak German. Hopefully, you will be told to wait in English.WerneWerneFootbridge for bicycles tooReward at the end of the day

Mile 39.8 (64.1 km): City center Werne. From here we ride to the Kolpinghaus Hotel. It is an 18 room hotel at Altermünster Str. 12, 59368 Werne, telephone 02389-98500 or 2100, fax 02389-9850125. Their website is: www.hotel-kolpinghaus.de, email is schettler@hotel-kolpinghaus-werne.via.t-online.de. They charge €65 for two people for one night. Kolpinghaus is a chain of establishments throughout Germany, Austria, and Italy. They are designed for the worker so they are fairly simple, inexpensive, and normally have a good restaurant. We have stayed at two different Kolpinghaus Hotels and have always been happy with the service and the rooms.

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Day 4: Werne to Lippstadt

Day Overview: While the path is nearly flat we did have one hill right at the beginning. We also found quite a bit of gravel but it was not the muddy, rutted tracks we encountered yesterday. In Hovestadt, the only area where the path was a little dicey, I recommend going around it.

Mile 1.6 (2.6 km): Leaving Werne we climb a 60-foot hill right out of town.

Mile 26.3 (42.3 km): We are at the church in Lippborg. This community was established in 1189.

Mile 34.0 (54.7 km): Leaving Herzfeld and entering Hovestadt, we follow the route signs into the park and onto a dirt footpath. However, I think you are better served by staying on the main road. The path is dirt, and mud-puddlely, and the signs in the park are almost nonexistent so one is not sure where to exit the park. Instead, try to follow the street named Alter Postweg to Eickelborn then reacquire the path there.The participants in this tour

Mile 39.1 (63.0 km): We stop for the night in Benninghausen at a really cool Gasthaus. Gasthaus Bracht-Henneken, 59556 Lippstadt, Benninghausen Str. 190. They charge €52 for two people for one night. The telephone is 02945-5687. They have 8 rooms. For supper, we rode 1.5 kilometers down the path to Shankwirtshaft Loesmann auf der Heide, Benninghausen – Heide 70, 59556 Lippstadt, telephone 02945-5660. Their website is: http://www.loesmann.de . This is a complete restaurant, family style, with many regional dishes as well as the normal German fare. What a great experience, both the Gasthaus and the restaurant.

Day 5: Lippstadt to Paderborn

Day Overview: We gradually climb up to Paderborn. There is some gravel, but it is easy riding.Chapel in Cappel

Mile 4.3 (7.0 km): In Cappel, we took a picture of the Chapel in Cappel. Hey! It rhymes.

Mile 13.2 (21.3 km): We take a break at Freier Stuhl, which we think is perhaps an ancient place at the corner of three old principalities or fiefdoms where the Herren (owners of land in the feudal system) or other important folks would meet to discuss any differences. Or perhaps, it was just a place to get away from their wives and drink a draft or two.Information "shed" in Anreppen

Mile 25.5 (41.1 km): In Anreppen, we stop at a small log shed that says Römer Info Stand (Roman Information Booth). We learn a little history from the Roman times from the depictions and graphics inside the shed. For one thing, there was a large fort here in Anreppen, one of four along the Lippe River. The others were at Holsterhausen, Haltern, Oberaden. There were also five other forts and accompanying settlements along the Rhine too, between Mainz and the Dutch city of Nijmegen. One of which is Xanten.Schloss NeuhausSchloss Neuhaus gardens

Mile 33.6 (54.0 km): We ride though the gardens of Schloss Neuhaus and note the confluence of the Pader River with the Lippe. I have written a page on this river up as a separate tour just for fun. I thought that since we have ridden the longest river in Germany, the Rhine at 592 miles, I should also describe the shortest too. The Pader at 3.5 miles long is perhaps Germany's shortest River.Paderborn Cathedral St. Mary, St. Liborius and St. KilianPaderbornPaderborn Cathedral St. Mary, St. Liborius and St. KilianPaderborn Rathaus

Mile 37.1 (59.7 km): This is the spring of the Pader River and the center of Paderborn. The antiquated German word Born, can be translated into English as spring or well. The spring is just below the Paderborn Cathedral.

Mile 39.3 (63.2 km): We cannot find two rooms in Paderborn for 4 people. There are several for just two people but we are riding with Guntram and Ulla and need two rooms together. I snore something awful (it will wake the dead in the next county) and the idea of sharing a room with Guntram and Ulla is not an option because of my snoring. After spending some time in the Tourist Information office, just down from the main town square, we finally decide to try the Jugendherberge, or Youth Hostel. We find it accommodating. We each get separate rooms although only one of them has the bathroom in the room. The cost is €14.40 per person including linen and breakfast. Breakfast is a feast; it’s complete with fried eggs and bacon, something that is rare in Germany. The address is: Meinwerkstrasse 16, 33098 Paderborn, telephone: 5251/22055, fax: 5251/280017.

When you stay in a Jugendherberge, one should purchase a lifetime membership card. If you are over 26 years of age, membership cost €20 each. Only in the state of Bavaria are people older than 26 prohibited from using the hostels. I do not know why. And, from the following website I learned something new: “Even if you do not have a Hostelling International membership card, you can stay in German Youth Hostels by paying a small extra charge. For every overnight stay you will receive a so-called Welcome Stamp. Once you have collected six Welcome Stamps you will receive a full membership card.” Attributed to: http://old.web02.djh.de/international/html/03-basics/basics.jsp .

Paderborn itself is an extremely old community. It is first mentioned in 772 when it is reported that Charlemagne himself destroyed a sacred oak tree worshiped by Saxons. The tree was fabled to be in the vicinity of the Externsteine, a group of rock monoliths between Paderborn and Detmold. More on Externsteine below.

The Cathedral of St. Mary, St. Liborius, and St. Kilian in the city was built in the Romanesque style between the 11th and 12th Centuries. Inside, you will find a famous stained glass window known as the “Hare Window” because of its subject matter. I was not impressed but I am a cretin when it comes to stained glass.

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Day 6: Paderborn to Detmold

Day Overview: It is a gradual climb all the way past Bad Lippspringe to the Kreuzkrug establishment (a good place to buy your last beer before climbing a steep hill in the woods). From the Kreuzkrug to Detmold, it is pretty hilly but nothing you cannot push up.Restaurant in downtown LippspringeLippspringe

Mile 7.1 (11.5 km): Leaving Paderborn we ride to Bad Lippspringe, where we explore the park with the springs that are the source of the Lippe River.Path

Mile 12.4 (20.0 km): This is Kreuzkrug. Our gradual but steady climb of over 300 feet from Paderborn is about to get much steeper as we leave paved path and start up the forest road on a gravel path to the top of the watershed divide.

Mile 16.5 (26.6 km): Turn off to the ExternsteineHermann Monument from a postcardJust over the top of the hill (which is another 500 feet higher than when we left the pavement at the Kreuzkrug) we have a great little drop. Be careful though, there is a dip in the road just before you get to the turn off for the Externsteine. Watch for the wooden sign pointing the direction to the Externsteine some 500 meters off the cycle path. Externsteine means “external rocks” in English. I do not know why they are called that. These rocks are well worth visiting. Geologically they are over 70 million years old but more interestingly, they have been an attraction for visitors since the local Saxons revered them as a sacred place long before Christ and Christianity. One of the monasteries in Paderborn purchased the land surrounding the Externsteine in 1093 in order to benefit from the reverence of the area’s inhabitants. Many stories about the importance of the Externsteine to the Teutonic tribes have been told. Since we did not ride up to it, here is a scanned image from a postcard of the Hermann Monument.

Photographs of the Externsteine rocks are below.

ExternsteineExternsteineExternsteine

Mile 24.6 (39.6 km): This morning in Paderborn, Maxa promised Ulla that we would finish the ride in 40 more kilometers. Here at kilometer 39.6, just 400 meters short of breaking Maxa’s promise to Ulla, we board the train home and end our Römer Route Tour. We passed on riding up to the Hermann Monument because no one, including me, had the desire to climb any more hills today. We have enjoyed the ride and marvel that even riding up river, it was relatively flat, except for the last 20 kilometers.

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