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Ems River Tour

The Ems River flows north from Central Germany to the North Sea. The last third of the river parallels the border with the Netherlands. You will see many half-timbered buildings and many red-tiled roofed villages, typical of Central Germany.

Map of EmsTour Overview: June 2008. This is a six-day ride in the northwest corner of Germany along the Ems River. The distance is 258 miles or 415 kilometers. The tour is flat except for a few gently rolling hills between Telgte and Rheine. There are, however, numerous stretches of gravel or dirt path but over 50% of the way is paved bicycle path. Only rarely will you need to share the road with cars unless you have narrow tires and want to avoid the well-packed gravel paths. The whole ride takes us only 6 days including a short day on day 1 and an even shorter ride on day 6.

Path SignagePath SignagePath SignagePath SignageSignage: Signage varies along the route. Normally you will find signs similar to the photograph on the left (the Ems logo is the forward 'E' and the reverse 'E' shown below the red bicycle graphic. This logo is also depicted on numbered posts frequently.

However, if there are no Ems path signs, we sometimes follow the red signs. Red signs are not Ems bike path signs but they are an indication that all bicycles should travel in that direction. Rarely, is it the wrong way, but it can happen because these signs are not path specific. On the lower right are signs for routes to cities and towns. They too are for bicycles and they are not path specific either. However, if you know from your guidebook that you must go to this town or city, then follow that sign and you will be on low traffic or designated bicycle paths and headed in the correct direction.

Accommodations: We had no trouble finding overnight accommodations. There are plenty of hotels, Pensionen and a few Privat Zimmer with their “Zimmer Frei” signs displayed. A Zimmer is both singular and plural for the English word “room.” Frei simply means vacant. The only possible confusion for non-German speaking cyclists is when the sign Zimmer Frei has a sign next to it saying Besetzt. That means the room is now rented or otherwise not available. How Orwellian is that, “Free but busy.” For a full discussion on this subject refer to our Overnight Accommodations page.

Stops: We did sightseeing in the following cities and towns: Paderborn, Rietberg, Telgte, Rheine, Lingen, Meppen, Leer, and Emden.

Ems Guidebook by EsterbauerMaps and Guidebooks: We used the bikeline Ems-Radweg Von der Quelle nach Emden mit Dortmund-Ems-Kanal Radtourenbuch und Karte, scale 1:75,000.

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Day 1: Paderborn - Rietberg

Day Overview: Today is short and the path is flat. Short because we took the train to Paderborn in the morning. Of course, the path is flat because there are no hills.

Mile 0 (0.0 km): We start at the Bahnhof in Paderborn. Paderborn means spring of the Pader River. Paderborn is a cool little city worthy of some sightseeing if you have time. The Cathedral is from the 13th Century and it is a “Hall Church” an unusual design for churches in Europe. Just below the Cathedral is the spring from whence the city’s name is derived. The spring is the source of the Pader River.

Path Signage near PaderbornMile 1.4 (2.2 km): The Pader, on which I did a tongue-in-cheek tour travelogue a couple years ago, is a beautiful little river, commencing near the Paderborn Cathedral and flowing only 4 kilometers before its confluence with the Lippe River. It is a lovely bike ride mostly through a verdant park and along an idyllic lake where wild ducks and swans raise their families. Follow the signs to Hövelhof as shown on the photograph on the left.

Paderborn has an excellent website for bicycling in and around the city. If you stay in Paderborn, you may find some useful information at:

In researching the Pader Spring, I discovered that Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse in German) once had a summer palace at the springs. In 799CE, Charlemagne met there with Pope Leo III to plan his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor, an attempt by the Pope to usurp power from Constantinople and reinvigorate the Church’s influence over the western world. Of course, at the same time, the Pope would be making Rome the center of power instead of Constantinople. Keep in mind that Charlemagne as King of the Franks already had a huge empire and was in the process of enlarging it anyway. Historians argue that Leo III duped Charlemagne and the King did not fully understand the Pope’s connivance. Sorry for the digression, history fascinates me especially when I have been to the places where some of it occurred.

Taking cover from the rain near PaderbornPaderborn Park in the rainMile 5.5 (3.4 km): We are at the lake I mentioned. We have been here in the sunshine but today, “not so much.” It is raining and we ducked under this shelter for half an hour in hopes of staying dry.

The rain shower makes us discuss stopping in Hovelhof instead of putting in some decent mileage today. Fortunately, the shower passes quickly and we are glad to keep pedaling on down the path.

Pader and Lippe ConfluenceSchloss BinselMile 4.7 (7.5 km): In the community of Schloss Neuhaus, we pass the Schloss Binsel. The Pader flows into the Lippe River next to the Schloss. We have a travelogue about riding along the Lippe but we call it the Roman Route [add link].

Mile 13.0 (21.0 km): We stopped for our lunch at the park in the center of Hövelhof.

Single track dirt pathMile 28.0 (45.1 km): We find a path condition that reinforces our recommendation for wide bicycle tires. These dirt, single-track, paths are rare but we have encountered many such paths in the 20,000 some kilometers that we have bicycled through Germany.

Interior of ChapelJohanneskappelleRathausMile 31.1 (50.0 km): As we ride into the center of Rietberg, we pass a small chapel called Johanneskappele, it is opposite the Schlossstraße along Delbrücker Straße. By the way, the Schloss is at the end of Schlossstraße but it is closed and I understand that much of it has been demolished; only the Johanneskappele remains. Rietberg is one of those unexpected bonuses we frequently stumble upon during our rides. It is a glorious little city with a picturesque town center. There are many half-timbered buildings.

We discovered an art studio where the artist produced metal sculptures that were a hodgepodge of miscellaneous scrap metal parts, welded together to closely resemble people, animals, etc. Rietberg was mentioned in the chronicles around 1100 but archeologists know that this community has been occupied intermittently if not constantly since 6000 BCE. Interestingly enough, for those of you who have knowledge of German, there is no Berg (mountain) here, but there is (or was) a Burg (castle). At some point in time, the name was corrupted as the language changed in the Middle Ages but no one ever corrected it. According to Wikipedia, the name used to be Rietbike, which meant ‘reed creek’ in the old tongue of the area.

We spend the night at the Kolpinghaus. Kolpinghaus Rietberg, Mastholter 2, Telephone (05244) 974887 33397 Rietberg. A two-bed room with a WC in the room cost €60/night for two people.

Interior of St. Katharina ClosterMetal sculpture 2DoorMetal sculpture 1

Day 2: Rietberg - Telgte

Day Overview: Again, the path is almost completely flat but there are several stretches of gravel and one paved road that is patched over old patches that are patched over even older patches. The result is that it is actually rougher than potholed gravel. Oh, well.

Mile 0 (0.0 km): We start the cyclometer at the Kolpinghaus Pension where we spent the night. The Pension on the bike path and near the center of Rietberg.

WiedenbrückWiedenbrückWiedenbrückWiedenbrückWiedenbrückMile 7.0 (11.2 km): We ride into Wiedenbrück. Rheda-Wiedenbrück is another interesting and picturesque place to stop and enjoy half-timbered architecture. There are life-sized and nearly life-like sculptures of people scattered all over the center of town. In the town square, the sculptures are in a dancing pose. As I take in the whole picture, I find it almost hard to distinguish the sculptures from the tourists. There is a Cistercian cloister in Wiedenbrück and we even found some of the sculptures, representing acolytes and members of the order on the lawn in front of the cloister building. In the 19th Century, Rheda and Wiedenbrück were distinct neighboring communities. Rheda (established 1088CE) was on a rail line, had a Bahnhof, and consequently grew faster, enveloping the older Wiedenbrück (established 955). The construction of St Aegidius Church commenced in 755. Leaving Wiedenbrück, we ride through a former Bundesgartenschauplatz, or the site of a former national garden exposition and turned into a city park after the exposition. The path is mostly paved and it meanders through a large park with interesting plantings of grasses, shrubs, trees, and flowers. They call it the Ems Aue, or a place where the river spreads out into a delta-like configuration due to very flat land.

Mile 9.4 (15.2 km): This is downtown Rheda.

Mile 19.7 (31.7 km): Here are photographs of the former Abteikirche (Abbott Church) and the grounds of the former cloister and now the Hotel Klosterpforte in Marienfeld.

WarendorfWarendorfHotel KlosterpforteFountain at MarienfeldAbteikirche MarienfeldMile 33.6 (54.1 km): We ride past ein Hügelgrab or a grave hill without stopping. To get there turn right on the road about midway between crossing an irrigation canal and the community of Steckelmann.

Mile 38.5 (61.9 km): This is Warendorf. We see paper-mâché horses sprinkled throughout the downtown area. We have seen this type of public art in other towns. I believe it is in preparation for a fest and the horses serve not only to advertise the event but also as a competition between local artists and businesses who pay for the right to decorate a horse. The money goes toward the cost of the fest or to a charity.

Mile 51.9 (83.5 km): This is Telgte. Today, Telgte remains a pilgrimage city and thousands of Catholic Pilgrims visit it yearly. It is the site of the Pulitzer-Prize winning fictional work, “Meeting at Telgte, by Günter Grass. It is also the site of one of the largest annual horse shows in Europe. We stop for the night at Altes Gasthaus Pohlmeier Bracht, owned by Jutta Bracht. The address is Steinstrasse 30, 48291 Telgte, Telephone 02504/4560 Cell Phone 01725/318309.TelgteTelgte

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Day 3: Telgte to Rheine

Day Overview: Today we encounter more gravel path than the last two days. We also encounter gently rolling terrain as we traverse through Germany’s horse country. Many of the farms have white fences surrounding horse paddocks and sport large, well-kept barns and homes. The villages are idyllic with their red-roof-tiled, half-timbered buildings. The signage is not as frequent and the signs look like the photograph.

Mile 19.4 (31.2 km): The bike path touches the edge of Graven and we go into town in search of supplies for a picnic lunch.

Mile 22.1 (35.5 km): We stop for lunch in the middle of a pine forest. We are riding over small hills here and from a roadside marker, we learn that these hills used to be sand dunes that drifted, as dunes do in a desert, until the locals planted these trees to stop the drifting sand that caused the dunes to move.Maxa on bridge

Mile 33.6 (54.0 km): I took this picture of an interesting footbridge along the bike path. My dear wife posed for the picture to the exclusion of watching for the ever-present post that is always placed in the center of the path to prevent motorized vehicles from using the bridge. Her injuries were minor involving a little road rash and some damage to her brand new bicycle. One Band-Aid to her elbow, I hammer her bike basket back into shape, and we are off again. (This has been the year to get to know posts. On the ride through the Hessian hills, I too ran into the same type of post. One must pay attention, don’tchaknow.)

RheineRheineMile 45.4 (73.1 km): This is the Rheine Bahnhof. Rheine, as are most of the places in this part of Germany, is very old. Occupied as early as the end of the great ice age, 100,000 ago, it was first mentioned in the chronicles in 838. It received its city rights (became established as an official town) in 1327. During the Thirty Years’ War, besieging Protestant forces from Hessen and Sweden destroyed the town in 1647 but citizens rebuilt during the peace that followed the end of that war in 1648.

We stop at the Bahnhof to visit the tourist information office for information about overnight accommodations. This is a very busy place but we make a booking and pedal off following their map and directions. When we arrive at the Pension, we discover that contrary to expectations, there is no shower or toilet in the room. No wonder the price was right. We decline the room and pedal back to the Bahnhof tourist information office to obtain another recommendation. I do not know why, but the town is full of tourists and business people and accommodation pickings are slimmer than we are accustomed to.

Mile 46.9 (75.5 km): We choose Hotel Mühlenhof even though we find hotels more expensive than our usual choice of a private room in a home or a Pension. The address is 48429 Rheine, Surenburgstresse 77, 05971/6389, Fax 05971/6869. The cost is €75 (not too bad for a hotel). Food was excellent but a little pricey.

Day 4: Rheine to Haren

Day Overview: Unlike yesterday, we do not encounter any hills today but we do encounter many gravel or sandy dirt path conditions. Nevertheless, the countryside is beautiful and we have a thoroughly enjoyable long ride.

Mile 0 (0 km): Starting from the center of Rheine, we follow the Ems path signs toward Emsbüren.

Mile 18.1 (29.1 km): Huff-puff! We climb up a very steep 30-foot hill and take a picture of a distant cooling tower for the Stahlwerk Lingen, presumably a nuclear power plant that provides massive amounts of power needed by the Lingen Steel Foundry.

Deer farm near Rheine

Mile 25.7 (41.4 km): We take a lunch break on the outskirts of Lingen, which is also a long established community. Founded in 975, Lingen changed hands from the Spanish, to the Dutch, to the Hapsburgs (Holy Roman Emperor Charles V), to the Prussians, to the French, to the Hannoverian Royal Family, and finally in 1866, back to Prussia. Prussia joined other states to become the Federal Republic of Germany in 1876. It appears that most of the changing of hands was done peacefully although the French (Napoleon) raised a bit of havoc rampaging through this part of Germany in the late 19th Century.

Speicterbecken GeesteKlein Hesepe kleine KircheMile 31.8 (51.1 km): Past Biene (which means bee in German and I react funny to bees), we ride alongside a dike. Over the dike is a reservoir Speicherbecken Geeste but we do not see it until we are almost past it and decide to climb to the top of the dike and look.

Mile 41.6 (67.0 km): This is the tiny church in Klein Hesepe. Cute!

Mile 47.5 (76.4 km): Meppen.

Pension LuttermannPension LuttermannPension LuttermannMile 57.2 (92.1 km): We stop for an enjoyable night in Haren at Pension Luttermann, The address is An der Tenge 29 and the cost is €50 for a room for two people but it is a large room with two bedrooms and a kitchen. In the morning, the proprietor gave us a sack lunch for no charge. A very refreshing thing to do especially when compared to other Pensionen where they had signs posted saying not to take food with you.

Day 5: Haren to Leer

Day Overview: Today is flat again but we encounter several interesting towns and villages on the ride.

schendorf Churchschendorf Churchschendorf Churchschendorf Churchschendorf ChurchMile 0 (0 km): After starting my cyclometer in Haren at the Cathedral, we ride on a path alternating gravel and pavement as we follow either the Ems River or the Ems-Dortman Kanal very closely through what seems like a dozen small towns until we arrive at Aschendorf where I photographed the church.

Mile 33.7 (54.2 km): This is Papenburg and it is so quaint that we are obliged to stop here for an ice cream break and photograph their Rathaus as well as some canal locked sailing ships place in what was obviously a once useful waterway but now used simply for the enjoyment of the locals and tourists like us. Just past Papenburg, we pass the Joseph Meyer Werft (a Warft is a shipyard in English). This enterprise has been in business since 1795 and today they manufacture huge cruise ships in their 370-meter long and 100-meter deep dry dock.Leer Restaurant Waage, 1450 , 1453 Leer HarborLeer Restaurant WaageLeer Harbor

Mile 50.7 (81.6 km): In downtown Leer, we checked in with the Tourist Information office and secured accommodations at Gästehaus Grothaer owned by Hinrich Kuhlmann. The address is Heisfelder Str 74, 26789 Leer Telephone 04953/8152. The website is: www.kuhlmann-ferienwohnung.deor email to: Herr Kuhlmann recommends some of the several nice restaurants in Leer and we chose Restaurant Waage in the harbor and ordered their Matjes herring, a seasonal specialty. Waage also offered labskaus, another local seasonal specialty that is a combination of herring, corned beef, and red beets served with mashed potatoes and a pickle – I think it is delicious. Maxa hates the stuff because of the red beets. Some people just do not know what is good.

Day 6: Leer to Emden

Day Overview: Today is a short ride to Emden where we catch a train back to Kassel. It is flat and paved.

Mile 0 (0 km): There is no breakfast at Gästehaus Grothaer so we stopped at the first bakery on the bike path and had our breakfast. We are in the center of Leer.

Mile 13.4 (21.6 km): This is the village of Ditzum. We catch a ferry across to Emden. This is a great little fishing village and since we got to the ferry 2 minutes to late, we have over 2 hours to investigate the town and take these pictures. When I have that much time, I take too many pictures. Here is a sampling. Our first picture is the "ride" of a fellow long-distance cyclist. The Ditzum windmill was a working grain mill. You can get a tour of the mill. Lastly, when you have to wait, why waste time drinking from your water bottle? The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes and costs €2.00 each including the bicycles.

Ditzum and the ferryDitzum and the ferryDitzum and the ferryDitzum and the ferryDitzum HarborDitzum and the ferryDitzum and the ferryDitzum and the ferryDitzum and the ferry

Mile 19.8 (31.8 km): We end the tour at the Emden Bahnhof. We did not look around Emden since we have been here before. Rather, we caught the first train headed south toward our home in Kassel.

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