Herkules to Wartburg Bicycle Path
The Herkules to Wartburg ride is a short bicycle ride in picturesque
farmland with many half-timbered, red-tiled roofed villages and towns to enjoy.
2008. When in Germany, we live in Kassel (Central Germany) so this tour about a
two-day ride to the Wartburg Castle near Eisenach. It is a good way for me to explore
the area around the city of Kassel. The distance is 71 miles (113 km).
is a bit sketchy but except for one missing sign they appear when one really needs
In the city of Kassel, there
is an abundance of hotels, Pensionen, and private rooms for rent. Out in
the villages, there are not many overnight accommodations because this area is not
as popular a tourist area as other parts of Germany. Besides, this is only a two-day
ride (some will make it in one day) and I only need one overnight stay. I found
it in Creuzburg where there are several possibilities. For a complete discussion
of lodgings go to my Overnight Accommodations
Other than the overnight stop in Creuzburg,
there are no must-see stops along the way. However, the villages are quaint, the
architecture is picturesque, and the countryside is verdant and beautiful.
: I used the 1:50,000
Bielefelder Rad Spiralo Herkules-Wartburg Radwanderkarte.
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Day 1: Kassel to Creuzburg
do not ride to the top of the Herkules monument to begin the ride as prescribed
in the guidebook, rather I start from the Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof, then join the path
two blocks north of Wilhelmshöhe Allee on Goethestrasse. The Herkules Monument
(Hercules in English) is the crowning monument on the large, formerly royal
palace grounds called the Wilhelmshöhe Bergpark. You can take a streetcar
to Schloss Wilhelmshöhe or you can take a bus to the monument at the top but neither
option is as easy as starting at the train station (Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof).
Judging strictly from the distance signs, you shorten your ride by only 6 kilometers
but you save the streetcar fare and a long hill, which is especially steep from
the Schloss to the Herkules monument. I know this because I have ridden
it more than once.
Starting at the Wilhelmshöhe
Bahnhof, I ride one block east along Wilhelmshöhe Allee to the first traffic
light, then jog left then right on Goethestrasse. From there I follow the signs
of the Herkules-Wartburg Radwanderweg (biking and hiking path) through
Kassel past the Orangerie and then through Karlsaue and the Fulda-Aue Park.
At Leipziger Strasse, cross
the street and look for a small street to the left called Fishausweg. It may not
be signed because it is not as I ride past. That short street will take you down
to the Losse Cycle Path. The Losse is really not much more than a small stream but
there is a bike route called the Lossetal Radweg and I am following it for several
After riding through some fields
on a paved bike path, I enter Niederkaufungen. Both Niederkaufungen and Oberkaufungen
have many half-timbered buildings.
After climbing a gradual
hill on a bike path along the busy highway, I enter the village of Helsa is yet
another pretty little half-timbered village. The streetcar from Kassel comes through
here on its way to Hessisch Lichtenau.
In Hessisch Lichtenau, I break
for my picnic lunch near the last stop on the streetcar line from Kassel. So, if
you want to, you can take a streetcar with your bicycle to this point. You will
miss a few villages but also the long gentle hill to this point.
This is the top of the hill
on the outskirts of Hessisch Lichtenau. From here to Hasselbach is one of the best
drops I have had the pleasure of coasting down. It is paved, smooth, without blind
corners or stoplights (well maybe one near the bottom in Walburg). The drop is 500
This is the church in Waldkappel.
In Hoheneiche, I miss a left turn
sign but I knew I have to turn left somewhere. I do so one block past where I should
have turned. The result? I am glad you asked. First, I pass the sewage treatment
facility, which normally tells me I am on the right path. Next, I climb up a long
steep hill. The path turns from pavement to gravel, then to double track dirt path,
then to a grassy single cow path type of thing before it becomes no path at all.
At one point, I pass a few cows in a pasture. They stop eating and stare at me.
I think I know why; unlike flatland cows, these cows have never seen a person on
a bicycle before. They think I am nuts; they are right.
I see a road about 100 meters
uphill and push my bike to it. This is the top of the hill on my overland mountain
adventure. I have climbed over 500 feet in 3 km. By using my Boy Scout training,
I triangulate my position using the highest point on the hills surrounding me (Steinberg
383 meters) and guessing at my position. I guess that I am on a road that will take
me down into Wichmannshausen. I meet some hikers and they confirm my guess. The
rutted and washed-out gravel and dirt road is a steep downhill. I have to be very
careful to avoid falling. Finally, I reach the bottom and find another paved bike
path into Wichmannshausen.
In Wichmannshausen, I find
a sign telling me that Hoheneiche is only 1.8 km away and I can promise you, there
is no steep hill on the correct path. I traveled over 5 km over what seemed like
the Matterhorn. OK, I exaggerate – but only a little. On the bright side, this side
trip just means that when I stop for the night, I will enjoy my beer more.
a long gentle climb of about 400 feet into Netra, I photograph the Schloss on the
edge of the village.
This is a high point where
I cross into the Werra River drainage. I am about 480 feet above the Bahnhof in
Kassel. From here, I try to coast all the way into Creuzburg and I almost make it.
Just past Lüderbach, I noticed
an interesting pyramid-shaped monument on a nearby hill. I find out later that it
is a grave marker from 1776 but I know little else about this monument.
In Creuzburg, I spend the
night at a small Pension signed Zimmervermietung (translates to room rental).
It is owned by the family Ebenau and the address is Bahnhof Strasse 34, 99831 Creuzburg.
The telephone number is 036926/90969 and the Handy (cell phone) is 0175/8786897.
The cost is €25 per night for a single room but €44 for a double room per night
Creuzburg was established before 775 CE. However, even before that Saint Boniface
(672-754), dedicated a church in Creuzburg. Throughout much of the Middle Ages,
Creuzburg has been closely associated with the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. Martin
Luther is also connected with the Wartburg, as are many who were active in the religious
Creuzburg was also the refuge of Elizabeth, the fourteen-year-old bride of Ludwig
IV. She is known today as St. Elizabeth of Hungary or St. Elizabeth of Thuringia.
Her body is entombed in Marburg where there is a church named after her. When young
Ludwig died en route to oust the “infidels” from the Holy Land as a part of the
Sixth Crusade Elizabeth was carrying their third child. She was only twenty-one
years old. She chose to exile herself from the Wartburg Castle and moved into the
Creuzburg Castle. She had already established a reputation of being kind to the
poor and the sick. She continued her charitable work until her death in 1231. She
was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1235 (extremely fast action for the Church
in those days).
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Day 2: Creuzburg to Eisenach
First things first, I visit the
castle which is just about 100 meters from the Pension up a short steep pitch. The
castle was built in 1200 CE but it was heavily damaged near the end of WW II. The
damage was because the Werra River was one of the last strategic strongholds of
the retreating Wehrmacht, the German army.
At the church in the center of
Creuzburg, I reset my odometer.
Built in 1223, the old bridge
over the Werra just outside Creuzburg impresses me. The style is Romanesque.
Cross under the Autobahn at
Hörschel. Hörschel is at one end of the Rennsteig, a well-known mountain bike and
hiking trail. The other end is in Blankenstein near the Saale River. The Rennsteig
path crosses the peaks of the Thuringia Forest. The 195-kilometer path is historic.
The Rennsteig has been a major commercial path since the Middle Ages. The picture
of the church with the brown and gray steeple is from Hörschel.
I miss seeing the sign indicating
that Eisenach is 9.9 kilometers to the left so I took an unplanned, unwanted, and
needless tour of Hörschel. Once I get back on the correct path, I climb a 55-foot
hill on a gravel path. Other than being mostly unpaved, the rest of the way into
Eisenach is uneventful.
The end of the ride at the
Wartburg. From the town to the castle, one can ride up a steep windy road that gains
over 600 feet in elevation. But in lieu of that hill, I recommend leaving your bike
in town and taking a shuttle bus to the castle. I just wish I had the foresight
to do that but here I am with my bike and dripping in sweat. Actually, I did not
even ride up on the road; I ended up taking an unpaved footpath through the forest
and pushing a good share of the way. I would have to wait almost two hours for an
English language tour of the castle. However, since I visited the castle several
years ago, and we took the German language tour on that occasion I just hang out.
The ride down on that windy road is a real rush. I know I have to slow down for
the curves but nevertheless, it is exhilarating. Upon reaching the bottom, I explore
my chances of taking a bus back to Hessisch Lichtenau. My plan is to ride home to
Kassel from there. For riders who don’t mind a few hills, this is a good two-day
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