Weser River Cycle Path
This page describes our tours along the Weser River. The Weser is one
of the longest rivers in western Germany behind the Rhine. Formed by the confluence
of the Werra and Fulda at Hanoverische Münden, it flows over 450 kilometers north
into the North Sea. The river drains half of the former West Germany and has been
economically important since people first settled in the area during the early stone
age. The landscape is rolling small hills turning to flat near Porte Westfalica.
August, 1999. However, portions have been covered again in later
years. Our eight-day 292-mile (471 km) ride from Kassel to Bremerhaven follows the
Fulda River from Kassel to the beginning of the Weser at Hann. Münden. From there,
we follow the Weser to its end near Bremerhaven. In addition to seeing a beautiful
part of Germany off the beaten tourist track, you will notice the different styles
of home building starting with the half-timbered or Fachwerk homes in Central
Germany to the brick and straw-roofed homes of the north.
As with many river valley tours, the
signage will change in appearance several times over the tour. It depends on which
local government the route goes through. Different governments give different levels
of priority to these long-distance bike routes. Nevertheless, the route is generally
well signed and getting lost is difficult but possible. (We managed it twice but
for only short distances.) But then, my wife and I are not the world’s best Boy
or Girl Scouts.
There are plenty of places to
stay even if they are fewer per kilometer and a little more expensive than river
valleys in Bavaria. The recommended guidebooks graphically show the locations of
hotels, Pensionen, and Gasthäuser or guesthouses. For an in-depth
discussion of different overnight accommodations,
click the link.
Obviously, we are parcel to
Kassel since we live there when in Germany. Other
interesting stops include Hann. Münden, Bad Karlshafen, Polle, Bremen, and Bremerhaven.
BDR Deutsche Rad-Tourenkarte, 1:100,000, you will need maps number
6, 11, 15, and 21. Another map that includes a guidebook is the Esterbauer
bikeline – Radtourenbuch Weser-Radweg, 1:100,000.
This guidebook is worthwhile because it lists the sights, their location, hours,
and a short description. Interestingly, one map will occasionally show a slightly
different route than the other. Both routes work well.
Back to the top
Day 1: Kassel to Bad Karlshafen
Today’s ride takes you from Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof to the
banks of the Fulda and follows the river to Hann. Münden. From there, it follows
the Weser River North to Reinhardshagen. The only mentionable hill today is the
90-foot rise just before you cross the Weser at Reinhardshagen. Today’s ride is
46 miles (74 km) and it will take 8 to 10 hours including a short stop in beautiful
Hann. (Hannoversch) Münden.
Riding conditions are good. Once we get through Kassel and onto the river path,
you will be away from automobile traffic most of the day. North of Hann. Münden
you ride on a lightly used road but it is more pleasant than the heavy traffic on
the other side of the river. All but about 3 miles (in short chunks) are paved.
If you have read the Fairytale Tour, you
will notice similarities between the beginning of that ride and this first day’s
ride to Bad Karlshafen. It is the same route description but we extended the first
day from the 27 miles to Reinhardshagen all the way to Bad Karlshafen, a total of
to 45 miles. Just know that you have the option to cut the ride shorter if you want
to. Hann. Münden is well worth the stop and you can overnight there, or just up
the road in Reinhardshagen.
We start at the Kassel-Wilhelmshöher
Bahnhof and ride east down Wilhelmshöher Allee toward the Fulda River.
Here are two matching old buildings that are gate watchtowers.
Unlike other watchtowers, these were not connected to a city wall because Kassel
has not been a walled city since its very early history. Here too is the Kassel
Städtisches Museum that holds exhibits on art, architecture, the history of wallpaper
manufacturing, and a history of man since the dawn of mankind. (If you have read
Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear, you get the impression that she may have done
her research right in this museum.)
Turn right on to Friedrichs
Strasse for one block then left one block to Obere Karl Strasse then right again
on Fünffensterstrasse to the tunnel. Take the tunnel under the arterial and turn
left or north. (This street changes its name several times in a few kilometers but
if you follow the arterial, you’ll be on the right street.) For background, if you
know a little German, you may wonder why anyone would name a street Fünffensterstrasse
(five-window-street). In the days when the street was named, houses with more than
five windows facing this street were taxed.
As you make your way through Kassel, you may pass the Orangerie,
which was planned by Landgrave Karl in 1722 but not completed until 1830. I wonder
if he got a building permit from the city and had to keep extending it.
When you get to the river, ride downriver looking for the R-1 bike path signs.
By the way, R-1 begins just north of the Bavarian border and ends in Bad Karlshafen.
On some maps, this route is alternately marked HR-1, which stands for Hessischer
Radfernweg or Fernradweg (Hessia’s long-distance bike route) or Fuldaradweg. We
follow these R-1 signs all the way to Bad Karlshafen (except between Hann. Münden
and Reinhardshagen). If you miss it one place, just get to the river on the next
cross street, you’ll find the path.
Continuing, we cross a cute
covered bridge over one of the many streams that flow into the Fulda. We note a
sign indicating that a bike-friendly Gasthaus is to the left in Simmershausen.
The river bends back on itself here and we are on the outside of the bend. Across
the river, inside the bend is Gut Kragenhof. A Gut is a set of buildings for a large
farm. A Hof is also building for a large farm but the building for a Hof is of the
kind that includes dwelling for people and the barn all in the same structure. A
Hof typically forms an L or a U shape with the barnyard in the middle.
Simmershausen is part of Fuldatal, the town where the Grimm fairytale
Hans in Luck is based. In this fairytale, Hans, who
had just completed his 7-year vocational apprenticeship was paid a lump of gold.
As he made his way through Fuldatal, he traded his hard-earned gold first for a
horse, and then he traded the horse for a cow, then the cow for a pig, then the
pig for a goose and finally the goose for a grindstone. Obviously, one would question
the business acumen of someone who traded away 7-years work for a grindstone, right?
Well, it gets worse. Upon losing the grindstone down a well, Hans proclaimed, “I
am the luckiest man on Earth.” And with a light heart and no weight of wealth upon
his shoulders, he walked home to his mother.
The message? Perhaps people unburdened with wealth can have a happier life. I
know that some, perhaps most, of us are happier than the brightest of mankind.
After crossing a bridge
over a small creek, we see a Grenzstein on the right of the path. These
tombstone-like markers were used on the boundary of properties such as kingdom and
fiefdoms in the past. In this case, the date is 1838 but nothing else is readable.
Turn left at the Altstadt and Werratal sign. This will take
you into the old town part of Hann. Münden (Hannoversch Münden). This is one of
the best-preserved Fachwerk or half-timbered towns in Germany. The town
was established before 1247. There is a small Schloss or palace here and
on the hill overlooking the town is a defensive structure called the Tilly Schanze.
In the Rathaus (town hall), there are murals that tell of floods, of being
conquered by the Swede Tilly in the 17th Century, and a doctor Eisenbart who died
here in 1727. Doctor Eisenbart was thought to be a quack. Many thought his methods
were ill-advised and some of his patients died. However, later some of his methods
were held to be correct, or nearly so, and ahead of their time. Not soon enough
though to prevent a catchy tune about his quackery becoming popular among school-age
children. The Rathaus glockenspiel plays this tune at Noon, 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM
may want to visit the confluence. It is a public park on a spit of land between
the Werra and the Fulda. There, under the big tree you will find a couple of poems
in German, one of which every school child in the region had to memorize; "Wo
Werra sich und Fulda Küssen; sie ihre Name Büssen Müssen. Und heir entsteght durch
diesem Küss; Deustch biss sum Meer der Weser fluss. And all that roughly translates
to: Where Werra and Fulda kiss, it gets its name. And from here because of this
kiss, it is German until the Weser flows into the sea. And there you have it - don'tchaknow.
Back on the path and traveling
north from the confluence of the Werra and the Fulda rivers, the beginning point
of the Weser. The path joins the primary arterial headed out of town for a block
or two. We recommend crossing the Weser at the next bridge and turning left at mile
20.6 (33.2 km) just on the other side. The sign will be for the Wesertal Radfernweg
(Weser Valley Long Distance Bike Route). There is less traffic on this side of the
river making the ride more enjoyable.
On the upside, using this path will give you the opportunity to use one of the
small ferries that cross the Weser at Reinhardshagen. On the downside, there is
a hill over here. Hey, nothing is perfect, ask Hans. We are riding between two of
the largest forests in this part of Germany. On the left is Bramwald and to the
right, across the river is Reinhardswald. Reinhardswald is the setting of the fairytale
Hänsel and Grethel. In that forest, poor Hänsel and
Grethel got lost after the birds ate their trail of crumbs. It is where
the hapless children stumbled upon a gingerbread house in the forest, the home of
a witch. The wicked witch would have cooked and eaten them had not they used their
wits and escaped her nefarious plan.
Back to the top
Cross the ferry to Reinhardshagen. The ferry will cost €1.00
each (1999 Euros). Reinhardshagen is a town that combines the two older, smaller
towns of Vaake and Veckerhagen. There is an information booth in the center of Veckerhagen
on Müllerstrasse. It is about two blocks east and two blocks south of the ferry.
We take accommodations tonight in a Privatzimmer or a “room for rent.”
It has a community room in which we take our breakfast the next morning (breakfast
is included in the price). The room includes its own bathroom, something that is
not always the case with Privatzimmer. The cost is considerably less than
we normally spend and the building and furnishings are almost brand new. Our hosts
have remodeled an older building that used to be a bakery. They do not speak English
but they are friendly and help us secure the bikes for the night. We eat our evening
meal at Hotel Peter. It is nice but we think not as nice as the Brauhaus
would have been. Consider eating at the 500-year-old Historiches Brauhaus (“Historical
Brewery”) in Veckerhagen, Kirchplatz 9. This is also a hotel and is great value
for overnighting. Our experience here in Reinhardshagen proves our theory that staying
in the smaller villages is less expensive than staying in the larger towns and cities.
We ride north from Reinhardshagen
on the R-1 bike path staying on the west side of the river.
As we ride through these
rolling hills slightly above the river we notice two wooden Hochstände
in the field below us. Hochstände (high stands) are a common sight in this
part of Germany, especially in areas where deer abound. Hunters erect them and sit
in them for hours during hunting season. I understand hunting deer by walking around
is not done here.
You are across from Bursfelde.
What appears to be a double-spired church is actually two churches the western church
was originally built sometime before 1104 as a Benedictine cloister. The easternmost
church was build between 1130 and 1140. Both churches have frescos according to
our Baedeker guide. We cannot get there from here because there is no bridge or
ferry. However, I have it on good authority from a reader of this travelogue, that
if one wanted to see these buildings, one should ride on the other side of the river.
There is no "bike path" per se, but there are good, low-traffic roads
you can use. Yes, the hills are a little steeper, but it is nice riding, beautiful,
and worth the detour. Also, across from the church, you will find a restaurant that
specializes in pfannkuchen (pancakes ). The reader who told me about these
buildings considers them as his "favorite sacred buildings." He was raised
in the area and assures me that the detour is well worth it. (Thanks, Jens!)
North of Oberweser we lose
the trail for a while. The signs here are a little confusing here. I have a theory
that little kids sometimes change the signs, then hide in the bushes, and giggle
watching the confused tourists. Whenever we get confused, we try looking at the
signage as if we are coming from the other direction. It doesn’t always help but
sometimes you can hear the kids. No kids here though. We ride on.
We are across the river
from Wahmbeck. Here is a steep and dangerous drop to the ferry landing and tertiary
road that is the continuation of the bike path. Don’t lose control or you’ll end
up tangled in the fence. The sign says “Radfahrer absteigen” that means
“bicyclists dismount” and walk your bike down. There is a sharp turn at the bottom.
From here the path parallels
but is separate from a heavily used road the rest of the way into Bad Karlshafen.
Enter Bad Karlshafen. We notice a sign to the Bahnhof
and a Jugendherberge (Youth Hostel) as we get close to downtown. This town
has an interesting history but it is most notable for Americans as one of the ports
from which German mercenary soldiers departed for the United States during our American
Revolution. The mercenaries were called Hessians because of the 30,000 or so mercenaries
employed by the British crown to put down the revolting colonists in America, 13,000
were from the German state of Hessia (Hesse). The rank and file of these
men were conscripts pressed into military duty because they owed loyalty to a Landgrave
or because they were in debt or in debtors prison. Some were criminal prisoners
guilty of violent crimes. Of the 13,000 Hessian troops shipped to America, about
7,000 did not return to Germany but settled in the new United States of America.
Why? Well, some were criminals who simply were not welcome back in the old country
but many others were bribed to stay by an act of Congress who sought new citizens
to settle the west, which at that time was Pennsylvania and Ohio. Others were bribed,
again by an act of Congress, to desert the British Army and they were given land
in Pennsylvania as a reward.
take a break on the benches lining the Inner Harbor and eat our lunch. The blocks
in this town laid out in squares rather than the helter-skelter plan of typical
ancient German villages. Bad Karlshafen was designed by and for a community of Huguenots.
If you do not already know, the Huguenots were a sect of early Protestants who were
persecuted in Catholic France and invited by Landgrave (similar to a Duke) Carl
(aka Karl) from Hessia to resettle in northern Hessia. The Huguenots were renown
artisans, farmers, and architects. The landgrave wanted them to design and build
the town of Bad Karlshafen as a showplace of his wealth and power.
Back to the top
Day 2: Bad Karlshafen to Polle
Today’s 32-mile (51 km) ride is
mostly level except for a 60-foot rise at mile 3. The path in nearly 100% paved.
are riding in Central Germany but headed north. Here is a good time to notice that
most buildings are of half-timbered style with painted stucco between the timbers.
The stucco used to be held in place with a mixture of straw on a framework of woven
sticks. Nowadays, the stucco is smeared over wire covered light-weight masonry blocks.
The roofs are usually made from red tiles although other colors are less frequently
Today the citizens in Bad Karlshafen
are having a street fest. These are common in the summer all over Germany; they
are for the citizens more than for the tourists. Germans love to celebrate and they
go to great lengths to have a good time. Of course, a good time always includes
Bier and bratwurst; and frequently dancing and singing too. From
the center of town around the Inner Harbor, go northeast two or three blocks to
the bridge over the right bank of the Weser. Then turn north at Brückenstrasse (no
street sign here but the bridge is easily seen); you will see signs for R-1 and
R-4. Bad Karlshafen is one end of R-1 – from here, it goes back to Kassel and on
to the south. So turn left following R-4 also signed as the 'Weser Radweg'
or Bike Path.
You are in Würgassen. There
is a ferry crossing here but make an S turn and cross the bridge to the left bank
of the river. On the other side of the river, there is an extremely steep (18%)
drop back down to the riverbank. The sign “absteigen” here strongly suggests
that you dismount and walk down.
We stop for a snack in Wehrden.
If you look across and downriver, you will see a castle on the hill about a mile
north. That is Fürstenberg, a porcelain factory and museum nowadays. It is a good
destination for a side trip if you like climbing hills. You can take the ferry across
the river here in Wehrden. If you split your group to take in this famous porcelain
factory, I suggest you meet up again at the bridge in Holtzminden.
You ride on the outskirts
of Höxter and pass close to Schloss Corvey, a palace and a museum. Höxter is an
extremely old city. Settled first as a fort and named Huxori in the seventh century,
this town has been a self-standing city-state wielding both religious and political
power through the Reformation and the Middle Ages. In 1948, the Baroque Schloss
Corvey, a former monastery founded originally in 822, was converted to a museum.
We do not stop for this museum but it might be interesting given the age of the
This is Holtzminden. We
take yet another break for Kaffee and Kuchen here; I down a dish
of Eis, with two flavors of ice cream, three types of chocolate sauce,
chocolate sprinkles, and whipped cream. Maxa enjoys a hot apple strudel with hot
vanilla sauce. As we eat, we watch the activity in the Marktplatz where
housewives and restaurant owners purchase their farm-fresh foodstuffs.
Take the road to the left at the “Y” and ride three-quarters
of a mile to the ferry (1 €each) across the Weser at Polle. We stop for the night
here at mile 32.0 (51.5 km). You can find a place to spend the night at the
Haus der Gäste or Verkehrsamt at the castle ruin. The German words
'Haus der Gäste' and 'Verkehrsamt' mean House
of Visitors and Traffic Office, respectively. We choose Haus Radefeld, a regular
family home with a large front yard full of apple trees. We arrive early enough
in the day to check out the village culinary offerings. The best quality restaurant
is Graf Everstein at the castle ruin. The second best choice is Alter Fritz (Austrian
food) followed by the Weser Terrasse on the river. We choose the Weser Terrasse
because of its great view and outside dining. We believe that best food does not
always translate to the best total experience.
Frau Radefeld, the owner of Haus Redefeld, rents a small apartment in her basement
to travelers and vacationers. The accommodations include breakfast. Frau Radefeld
proves to be a sweet lady who doesn’t drive; so to save her an early morning walk
to the bakery the next morning, I volunteer to pick up the fresh Brötchen
or hard rolls with my bike.
Day 3: Polle to Rinteln
There are no hills today; it’s
all flat or gradually downhill. The path is mostly paved, but there are a couple
miles of roads that you must share with automobiles and some street riding in the
In the morning we take the ferry and backtrack the three-quarters of a
mile to the “Y.” Here we turn left and ride up the short hill. You are on a back
road and your next probable stop is Bodenwerder, former home of the famous or infamous
Baron von Münchhausen. (Have you ever heard of the psychological syndrome called 'Munchhausen
by Proxy' or MBPS? It is named after the Baron from here. Google it.)
In Rühle there are three
Gasthäuser in case you wanted to stay here rather than Polle. Or, perhaps
you want to stay in Polle and here after only riding 7 miles – it’s OK of course,
but at this rate, you’ll need a month to get to Bremerhaven. A little further, at
mile 10, you ride on a busy highway for a half-mile. It has only a narrow shoulder
to ride on. At least it’s short.
Bodenwerder. We leave the
path here because we want to check out the home of the Baron von Münchhausen across
the river in the center of Bodenwerder. The baron was thought to be a teller of
tall tales, many of which have been published. Although the stories are told long
after his death by family members who may have put the old fellow into an undeserved
bad light, according to the locals here.
You are across from Schloss
Hehlen, there are Pensionen here not shown in our guidebook. At mile 16.6
in Hajen, there are at least two more pensions; one is a Heu Ubernachung or a barn
type of affair where you sleep in the hay. The other is Ritterhof Munk Gaststätte.
I note with interest the
two types of electrical power producing machines here. A wind power machine is to
the right and a nuclear power plant is on the left. Germany has many operating nuclear
power plants but wind machines are becoming more prevalent. My brother-in-law, who
is knowledgeable on the subject, informs me that by law, the electric utility companies
must subsidize wind power generation. Kirchohsen, across the river, is where the
Emmer River conflates with the Weser.
On outskirts of Hameln,
we ride through small plats of ground where people can grow their own vegetables
and flowers. It is called a Schrebergarten. These mini-farms were the brainchild
of Herr Doctor Daniel Schreber, who is an interesting character. More about him
in my Miscellaneous About Germany page.
Now in Hameln and riding
through an industrial area, we watch carefully for Weser path signs. We are riding
on city streets and it is less enjoyable than country riding. At the end of Kubrucken
Strasse, turn left and follow bike path signs along a red brick path through more
of this industrial district. When you leave this area, you’ll be back at the river
and in the hotel district. At mile 27, we take advantage of delicious looking pastries
in the hotel Konditorei and wash it down with a Kännchen Kaffee.
Hameln is the town where the Pied Piper of Hamlin (Rattenfänger von Hameln)
first rid the town of plague-causing rats, then after being refused payment for
his services by recalcitrant city officials, rid the town of its children too. This
is a moral lesson to those who renege on promises. Even the McDonalds restaurant
is located in a half-timbered house.
We ride past a Jugendherberge
a Youth Hostel.
We are in Grossenwieden.
We are tired now after a
long day (it is 7:00 PM) and we follow a large group of cyclists. After checking
in to our hotel, we take a walking tour of the city following a guide provided by
the hotel. Historically, Rinteln dates back to the thirteenth century. It was an
outpost for nonresident landgraves for most of its early existence. The Rathaus,
or town hall, is an example of what the guidebook calls “Weser Renaissance”
which is a style often repeated in public buildings along the Weser.
Back to the top
Day 4: Rinteln to Stolzenau
There are two short stretches of
shoulder riding on heavy traffic roads and several short stretches of riding on
light traffic streets or roads. There are no hills today and only a small portion
of the path is gravel. Overall, the conditions are good.
The street is named Pferdemarktplatz,
which means horse market place. Do you suppose that this area was where horses were
bought and sold for farm use or perhaps horses were used for meat, which was common
during the Middle Ages. Just out of town, we ride past the Doctorsee (a See
is a lake in German), which is recreation area with several campgrounds or Campingplatz.
For those of you who ride
past Rinteln in search of inexpensive overnight accommodations, here is a Pension
at Veltheim owned by Family Mueller (€20 with breakfast but share bathroom) – Phone
05706-612, the address is Am Lohne 6 PW, Veltheim. Ahead and to the east, there
is a large structure on the hillside in the distance. It is a bronze statue of Kaiser
Wilhelm I above Porta Westfalica. You will ride right underneath this Denkmal
or monument in another 10 miles.
After you cross under the
Autobahn the signs are confusing. Go straight and cross the railroad at
mile 12.6. Whenever we get to an area where the signs seem to be missing or make
little sense, look at them as if you were coming from the other direction. Normally,
but not always, you will come to understand what was meant.
Take the hairpin right on
the sidewalk. Follow the signs across the Weser towards a suburb called Barkhausen.
A few miles further and we come to Minden. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century
after Minden joined the Hansa League, the red brick architectural style of houses
in the far north of Germany was brought to this area because of the influence of
the Hansa League. Minden, an important manufacturing city, was significantly destroyed
during World War II.
Cross the river at the locks.
We turn off the path to
ride 500 meters to the palace or Schloss at Petershagen. Built in 1306, it was the
residence of Bishop of Minden. In 1545, the Schloss was rebuilt in
Weser Renaissance style. The same family has owned the Schloss since
1901. The hotel here cost €100 per person per night and includes breakfast, lunch
and dinner. It is more than we like spending. But perhaps, once in a vacation, it
would be a nice way to give yourselves a treat. Judging from the wine list, they
have a nice wine cellar. This town has a great website at http://www.petershagen.de/
if you want to see all of the restaurants click on Gastronomie and if you
want overnight accommodations click on Unkünfte. websites like this will
make my job easy. I just wish they would give us a choice of languages in which
to view the site.
We ride through Glissen
and miss the turn in the path. We ride straight and get lost. I suggest you turn
right and take a route that is better signed than the one we take. Getting lost
is no big deal if you have a map. Just ride to the next town, find where you are,
then go back to the bike path. Towns in western Germany are seldom far apart.
For the second day in a
row we ride for 8-hours. We enter into Stolzenau and take the first hotel we come
to. Hotel and Gasthaus Burgmannshof turns out to be a good choice, but not the only
option. After a nice dinner at Hotel Zur Post down the street, we return to our
hotel for a nightcap in their bar. There we complain to our host of some bicycle
maintenance problems we are encountering and he immediately telephones the local
bike shop owner. The bike shop owner comes to the hotel at 9:00 PM, joins us for
a beer and looks at my bike. He invites me to stop by his shop before opening the
next morning for repairs. What a nice experience. If Gasthaus Burgmannshof is full,
try Hotel Zur Post. For about the same price (€55), it is a little larger and has
a nicer restaurant.
Back to the top
Day 5: Stolzenau to Magelsen
Today you will ride 30 miles (48
km) on paved path and road. There are no hills today. The cathedral in Bücken is
worthwhile to see.
Leaving Stolzenau, we ride north toward
We follow the Hauptstrecke”
or main route across the Weser to Landesbergen rather than following the alternative
route to Liebenau. The alternative route looks fine on the map and may have even
less traffic than we encountered. Hindsight is 20/20 they say.
Once you are over the bridge,
loop around to the right and back under the bridge. Here is Landesbergen.
Enter Nienburg. On Thursdays,
they have a public market in the center of town (right on the bike path). This town
has many half-timbered homes and in general, it seems much older than Stolzenau.
The guidebook says that Nienburg was founded around 1025. It started life as a burg
or castle and the name “Nienburg” come from Neue Burg or “New Castle.”
Apparently, there is nothing left of that castle today. St. Martin’s Kirche was
built in the 15th Century. It was constructed upon a 12th-century foundation. This
is in the North German Brick Gothic architectural style.
As we ride by, a group of
elderly gentlemen are drinking beer at a table and they point the way for us. They
are cute in their non-verbal communication – both pointing and hoisting a beer in
a friendly greeting. This is just another example of how friendly the Germans are
to cyclists. If the beer-drinking group is not there when you ride by, just stay
close to the river – that is where the bike path is.
Enter Bücken. My wife Maxa
(very wise indeed), will tell you that there is always a bakery close to any tall
steepled church and there is. Why is there a bakery close to the church? Because
the preacher needs a cup of coffee and a piece of cake to help with the creative
process of writing his weekly sermon. In this case, the pastry was good, the church
is well worth a quick peek inside and it was much nicer to come all the way into
town instead of staying on the Weser bike path. As always, with a good map, you
can pick up the trail again just as we did just north of Bücken on the outskirts
of Hoya. The double spire Abbey Church of St. Maternian and St. Nicolas in Bücken
was first built in 882. About 1050 the original wooden church was replaced by a
smaller stone building. The rest of the church was built in stages and was completed
about 1500. The stained glass windows are from before 1250 and the mural paintings
inside are from 1867.
We ride through Hoya. After
30 miles, we are getting tired but we encounter two sets of Weser bike path signs
and we are confused. One took us out of town towards a town named Hassel. It sure
was a hassle. We rode 2 miles toward Hassel before we realized we were following
the wrong path and we had to come back, (4 miles round trip). The trick is to leave
town on the north end and take the brick road toward Weinbergen, Niederboyan and
Magelsen. The maps we have do not reflect a change in the route signage. The path
used to bypass Magelsen but now it goes right through this small community. No doubt,
the Greater Magelsen Chamber of Commerce promoted this change. Anyway, it is a good
thing because we feel the need to stop for the night and we find a great place in
We stay overnight at Adelheid’s Hof Pension. Adelheid and
her husband have converted a complete set of farm buildings, a Hof, into
a small, quaint and picturesque resort. They cater to bicyclists and groups of people
who come to retreat from the stress of city life. Adelheid is an expert on women’s
issues as they relate to German law and society but she will only discuss these
issues if you ask her. Mostly she and her husband are gracious hosts, willing to
cook you Bratkartoffeln, (fried potatoes with onions and bacon) for your
dining pleasure. The will serve you cold beer (as much as you want) and friendly
conversation. All this while you watch the rabbits nibble on the garden greens and
the birds busy with their duties of raising their young and clearing the air of
insects. Because we mentioned we enjoy flute music, Adelheid put on a CD by Mark
Grauwels and we watched the sunset.
As an aside, if you have not yet eaten Bratkartoffeln in a restaurant,
you are missing one of the best cyclist foods ever invented. It has everything you
need to survive any ride, and more.
Back to the top
Day 6: Magelsen to Bremen
Another day without hills. Actually,
I miss them a little. The path today will be mostly paved and away from traffic
except for a stretch at the start of the day.
We leave Magelsen after enjoying an authentic
farm breakfast. As luck will have it, we have a rainy day ahead of us but I would
rather ride in the rain than work in an office any day. We take the back roads west
following the signs to Verden. The cool rainy weather does not dampen our spirits.
Living in Seattle as we do, we are used to the rain. We say that the light is more
diffused and the colors in the scenery are subtler. Rationalizations. But rain or
shine, Oiste at mile 4.7 is cute with its narrow winding streets, red tiled roofs,
and half-timbered homes and shops.
Here is a nice looking Bed
and Breakfast where prices start at €17. Undoubtedly that is for one and probably
involves sharing a bathroom. It is less than what we paid in Magelsen but we remain
happy with our experience. From Oiste to Verden we ride on primary roads with rush
hour traffic but there are wide shoulders designed for bikes. It has stopped raining
but the trucks are splashing dirty water on us just to remind us that we are not
completely sane. As we cross the Weser into Verden, we note a sign to a tourist/historical
site that is undoubtedly the early settlement at the confluence of the Aller and
the Weser. There have been people living here since pre-history. The first mention
of a settlement here is in the seventh century.
Verden has a nice cathedral
and a picturesque downtown shopping district. You exit town on the north end of
the downtown quite close to the river (in case you lose track of the bike path as
we did while we were sightseeing) oh well, that is normal for us. We picked up the
bike path at the Kaufhalle (a discount store on the north edge of the downtown area)
and ride towards Achim.
This is the small community
of Thedinghausen. We are starving since we have not stopped for sustenance since
breakfast. At the Imbiss or snack kiosk, we meet a family of bikers who
have camping gear (tents, sleeping bags, etc.) They have been biking for several
days already. They have had no trouble finding free camping spots along the way.
But they are natives and speak the language. If you don’t mind paying a few Euros,
there are plenty of campgrounds or Campingplätze along the Weser. Campgrounds
are safer than open fields too, especially if you are traveling alone. We left the
trail a couple miles back because we went into Thedinghausen for lunch. The trail
runs alongside a busy road but to find it again we ride the field paths and zigzag
through the farming country. We join the bike path again just north of Thedinghausen
and ride the dike into the outskirts of Bremen.
We stop at Hotel Werdersee on the outskirts of Bremen. It
costs about €57 for double occupancy (the cost for two people to spend one night),
which is on the upper limit of our budget. Hotels will just get more expensive as
we get closer into town so we opt to stay here. This is a classic hotel built in
the late fifties. It has pressed white sheets, is as clean as a whistle and has
a good restaurant. (Added later: A reader told me that about one mile further and
right on the trail, that Dieter König, and wife Adelheid operate a Privat Zimmer
and Ferienwohnung where double occupancy (the cost for two people to spend
one night) is only €45 the first night and is discounted thereafter. Make contact
by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)
We did not take advantage of the restaurant though. Instead, we bike the 2.5
miles or so into Bremen and check out the Altstadt or Old Town. We are
caught in another shower just as we get into the Schnoorviertel. This town
quarter is a tourist attraction nowadays but formerly it was a rundown area that
attracted artists, etc. with cheap rents. Today the rents are expensive and it shows
in the high quality (and high prices) of the merchandise in the shops. There is
a legitimate theater here and the theatergoers are dressed “on the edge” of the
fringe. We linger over Bier und Bratwurst, waiting for the rain to stop. We end
up riding home after dark. If you ride after dark, you must have lights on your
Back to the top
Day 7: Bremen to Rodenkirchen
Today is a long 43-mile ride but
it is all flat and paved. There is a lot of riding on the shoulder of roads or on
bike paths next to the roads. Fortunately, they are not high traffic roads.
are now in northern Germany. There are small drawbridges used to cross canals and
small rivers. Also, perhaps you have noticed that the majority of buildings are
no longer half-timbered with stucco between the timbers. Instead, most of the buildings
are made of brick and if they are half-timbered, they have brick between the timbers.
Bricks were preferred by the Hansa League, which was a tightly knit trading group
that existed between 1300 and 1800. They preferred bricks because they aged better
than stucco. Roofs too have changed in character. Here you are likely to find many
roofs partially or entirely of thatch. A well-installed thatch roof will last as
long as a tile roof and until 50 or so years ago, was a locally produced material
by harvesting thatch from the many bogs and lakes ubiquitous in the north.
Take the dike route into Bremen. There
is an island in the river with bike path access but we do not take it. The island
might be nice to explore but we have “miles to go before we sleep, and miles to
go before we sleep,” as Robert Frost would say.
Cross the bridge into Bremen. Turn right on the other side
to go into the Schnoorviertel or Schnoor Quarter. Turn left to
stay on the path, which winds through the Altstadt. The cathedral is St.
Petri Dom. It is appealing with gothic architecture and beautifully intricate stained
glass windows. For €1, in 1999 prices, you can walk up into the bell tower. The
bike path signage in downtown Bremen is spotty at best but the path eventually crosses
the Autobahn bridge to the north. (Actually on a separate footbridge suspended
below the car deck.) On the downtown side of the river, stay as close to the river
as you can as you approach the bridge. You will be on Schlachte. Follow
it to the bridge. By the way, you do need to cross this bridge because it is the
last bridge over the Weser before the North Sea. To cross the river north of here,
you have to take one of the several ferries.
You will pick up the signs
for the Weser bike path at the end of the bridge as it winds through the residential
areas on the left bank of the river.
Cross the Ochtum River and
just a half-mile down the path on the left is a monument to some local dignitaries
who fought and died (along with their serfs) in 1234. They were probably defending
against either the Saxons or the Prussians.
In the small picturesque
town of Ohrt, you can decide to take the dike route up to a small drawbridge and
cross the Hunte River at that point or turn left over the railroad bridge. However,
the drawbridge up the dike is normally open for boat traffic, therefore closed to
us. It opens to us (bikers, etc.) only once per hour on the hour between 7:00 AM
and 10:00 PM. This information is marked on the map but it’s in German and I miss
it. So, we ride a total of 4 miles out of our way to find that the bridge just closed.
On the bright side, we see some pastoral landscape including some sheep on the dikes.
The ride in the sunshine is pleasant and we are having fun – what more do we want?
Enter Elsfleth. There is
a Zimmer just over the bridge.
You are in downtown Brake
(pronounced like broccoli without the “li”). There is a Pension and a museum here
as well as a hotel just down the street. We are tired but we continue anyway. We
want our ride tomorrow to be short. Besides, the weather is as good as it gets for
bikers – sunshine but cool.
Enter Rodenkirchen. There
is an information sign next to the Bahnhof. You can choose your own hotel
from this sign. We choose one outside of town but while in the process of riding
towards it we find ourselves in a sudden cloudburst. It rains so hard the water
can’t run off the streets. We are riding in a lake. After donning our rain gear,
we can’t find a place to get out of the rain, so we turn around, ride back into
Rodenkirchen. We take what turns out to be the last room in Hotel Albert. What an
experience. We are glad to be safe and dry again. We enjoy a typical German supper,
meat and potatoes. The shower is a real circus. We don’t attempt to read the directions
(all in German) this evening. But in the morning, we find this particular type of
shower has its own built-in heater and pump. You have to turn the heater on 5 or
10 minutes before you shower. Even then, adjusting the water temperature turns out
to be a learned skill that one acquires just as you finish your too hot/too cold
shower. Breakfast is wonderful here. In Hotel Albert as in most hotels and pensions,
the breakfast is included in the cost of the room. The table set in a cute farm
motif including a wicker chicken sitting on a cloth nest. All the usual breakfast
breads, Wursts, cheeses and other condiments are present, as we have come
to expect. However, we are typically served a soft-boiled egg with the breakfast.
This day we don’t see any eggs at our place setting. Reaching back into my childhood
experience of gathering eggs on the farm, I remember to look under the chicken for
the eggs. There they are – staying warm under the chicken. Just like back home in
Back to the top
Day 8: Rodenkirchen to Bremerhaven
Today is a short eleven-mile ride
to the ferry then about another few blocks to the Bahnhof and you are at the end.
The route is paved and mostly on roads. The shoulders and the bike lanes are wide
and safe, however.
Hotel Albert in Rodenkirchen. Ride east
toward the dikes and the river. We took the street named Zu Dem Dichen
(literally “to the dikes”). In 2 miles, you will be out of Rodenkirchen.
There is a bicycle store
here if you need repairs. More probably, you will need the Konditorei or
bakery that is here as well. Once you’ve consumed your second breakfast, continue
toward Blexen Fähre (ferry) or follow signs to Blexen itself, either way,
will lead you to the ferry.
The Blexen Ferry. Buy your tickets inside the Bahnhof
here at the ferry. You will probably find English spoken, at least well enough to
get a ticket to the only place the ferry goes, Bremerhaven. The ferry departs every
20 minutes except at night. Once across, follow the cars and the Alle Richtung
(All Directions for all traffic) signs. Once you get to the street, you will find
directional signs to the train station or Bahnhof. If not, feel free to
ask directions. It’s less than a mile and it’s in the center of town.
Bremerhaven Bahnhof and the end of the tour. Today’s
ride took just over two hours, including the ferry ride. At the Bahnhof,
we buy a “Schöne-Wockenende-Ticket” or a “Happy
Weekend Ticket.” In 1999, the only cost €8.00 but the price has gone up since
then so that in 2012 they cost €40 (plus €5 for each bike). They are good all weekend,
anywhere in Germany, for up to five people. We pay another €6.00 for our two bikes
but it is still a good deal. We change trains three times to getting back to Kassel.
The trip lasts almost five hours but we enjoy the ride – just as we enjoyed the
bike ride to get here.
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