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.
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.
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 ensure
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
On this tour we used
BVA Römerroute, Von Xanten bis Detmold, 1/50,000. BVA is part of
Bielefelder Verlag .
Back to the top
Day 1: Xanten to Wesel
It is flat today and mostly paved.
Did I mention that rain showers are forecasted?
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 built 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.
We cross the Rhine on the
bridge and ride into the 765-year old community of Wesel.
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,
. 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 a 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 3: Haltern am See to Werne
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 a long stretch of hard packed gravel
along the canal on either side of Ahsen.
Starting at the Bahnhof
in Haltern am See, we head toward Flasheim.
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.
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?
City center of Lünen.
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
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
email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Back to the top
Day 4: Werne to Lippstadt
While the path is nearly flat we
did have one hill right at the beginning. We also found a lot 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.
Leaving Werne we climb a 60-foot
hill right out of town.
We are at the church in
Lippborg. This community was established in 1189.
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.
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
We gradually climb up to Paderborn.
There is some gravel, but it is easy riding.
In Cappel, we took a picture
of the Chapel in Cappel. Hey! It rhymes.
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.
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.
We ride through 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.
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
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:
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
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.
Back to the top
Day 6: Paderborn to Detmold
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.
Leaving Paderborn we ride
to Bad Lippspringe, where we explore the park with the springs that are the source
of the Lippe River.
This is Kreuzkrug. Our gradual
but steady climb of over 300 feet from Paderborn is about to get much steeper as
we leave the paved path and start up the forest road on a gravel path to the top
of the watershed divide.
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.
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 upriver, it was relatively
flat, except for the last 20 kilometers.
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