Hessia Rivers Tour
Hesse Rivers is a 4-day ride from Biedenkopf on the Lahn to Hanau on
the Main. The tour takes you diagonally across the state of Hesse along six different
river drainages or valleys. However, we do not follow any single drainage but rather
skip from one drainage to the next. We start near the source of the Lahn, then move
to the Schwalm, Schlitz, Fulda, the Kinzig, and finally end on the Main. The distance
is 146 miles (235 km).
2008. The Hesse Rivers tour is hilly as we ride from one drainage valley into the
next. Some of the hills are gentle but long, others are downright steep and we get
off and push. Strong riders need not be concerned, just lower your gear and keep
on pedaling. I find it helps to stare at my front tire. Most of the route is paved
but like all the other tours, sections of gravel path are not uncommon.
Signage is interesting. On this tour,
you will ride on several different signed long distance routes. We follow a given
route for a while and then change to another route for the next stage. The order
you see routes are as follows: the Lahntal, R-2, R-4, R-1, and Rhein-Main-Kinzig
R-3. Once you understand which route you are following, the signage is excellent.
This area has several Spa-towns
(towns starting with the word “Bad” because Bad in German means
bath or mineral springs but it is best translated as "spa"). Outside of
these towns, Zimmer are scarce. 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 my Overnight
Marburg, if you have time because it is
a short way off the route we choose. Also Neustadt, Alsfeld, Bad Salzschirf, Fulda,
Steinau on Strasse, and of course, Hanau. If one was to continue on to Frankfurt,
the Frankfurt Old Town is also worth a visit.
From Biedenkopf to Fulda
we did not use a guidebook, only a 1:100,000 map of the area, which you can purchase
at any bookstore. (Depending on the series, you might need two maps.) From Fulda
on the Fulda River, we used the Rhine-Main-Kinzig guidebook all the way to the Main
River. The title of the guidebook is Rhine-Main-Kinzig, Auf den Spuren des Spätlesereiters,
1:75,000, published by VUD Verlag. The route, also known as R-3, was charted by
the ADFC or Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club, or General German Bicycle Club.
It is a great map because of the symbols and the topography shown. Unfortunately,
the map assumes people will ride upriver but downwind (unless the winds is reversed
on the day you travel). We ride the guidebook backward. However, following a guidebook
backward is not difficult, just start and the back and page toward the front. It
might also help to stand on your head, pat your nose and rub your tummy.
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Day 1: Biedenkopf to Stadtallendorf
Except for the first hill, the
rest of the path is mostly downhill or flat. Expect short stretches of well-packed
gravel and beautiful landscapes. When you get to the call box and arm at the railroad
crossing at mile 17.1 (27.5 km), be sure to use the call box and not cross the track
if the arm is down. The trains through this area travel fast and you could be in
a world of trouble if you take a chance. Besides, the guy controlling the arm can
see you. Look up and left to the two-story building just east of the crossing.
We start at the Bahnhof in Biedenkopf
on the Lahn River and almost immediately, we climb an 80-foot hill. The drop is
Kernbach was established
At this point just north
of the town of Colbe, we leave the Lahntal Radweg, which continues on to Marburg.
However, we continue to follow the R-2 signs toward Kirchhain. If, as I suggest
in the “Stops” above, you opt to spend some sightseeing time in Marburg, you would
leave the R-2 path now and ride south on the Lahntal Radweg for about 5 to 7 kilometers
into downtown Marburg. Maxa and I have an aunt, Tante Erna, who lives in Marburg
so we have visited the beautiful, and historic university town many times.
We dip into Kirchhain for a break and snap a photograph of
their Rathaus or Town Hall. Given the time of day, we consider staying here in Kirchhain
but we are not tired enough yet so we continue on to Stadtallendorf and look there.
In the center of Stadtallendorf
we talk to the tourist information office and identify our hotel for the evening.
It is Milano and is owned by T. H. Stevanodic, Niederrheinische Str. 7, 35260 Stadtallendorf,
telephone 06428/1229, fax 06428/2319. The cost is €60 per night for two people.
The rooms are newly renovated and the outside is being painted as we visit. Milano
serves Italian food when open but today it is not open. We can recommend Restaurant
Poseidon, a Greek Restaurant with classic German food too. Many Greek, Italian,
and even Turkish restaurants serve classic German food along with their specialty.
After all, they have to cater to their customers.
I Googled Stadtallendorf and find it has a history. Apparently, during WWII,
the town had a large munitions factory and a slave labor camp to help produce munitions.
There is some controversy over whether that fact was known to the Allies during
the war or not. In any event, the town did not suffer much damage as it would have
if the Allies had known about the munitions factory.
Day 2: Stadtallendorf to Grossenlüder-Bimbach
Although the path is mostly paved,
today is hilly. There are six “noticeable” hills but only one steep enough to push
up. They are gradual but long and high.
After resetting my odometer at
the Bahnhof in Stadtallendorf, we search for an R-2 bike path sign and get back
on the trail. We head into the forest on a gravel path that climbs gently over a
watershed divide between the Lahn drainage and the Schwalm drainage. At about 5
km, we come upon a multiple track railroad crossing with the guard arm down and
a yellow call box alongside. I push the button and a disembodied feminine voice
tells us that trains are coming and to wait. There are two trains in quick succession
and then a third but still, the arm does not rise. Then five minutes later, one
more train whizzes by at a high rate of speed. The box squawks to ask if we are
still there. “Ja, wir sind immer noch hier,” I say into it. The arm lifts
and she instructs us to tell her when we are across. There is a call box on both
sides of the tracks.
the tracks, we find ourselves in the middle of a troop training exercise. We see
soldiers wearing gas masks, carrying full combat packs, and weapons going about
their business and pretending that two civilians on bicycles do not exist. They
grunt a greeting as they jog down our forest road. They look serious as if there
is a war they might be sent to; Afghanistan perhaps.
We leave the forest and enter Neustadt. To get here we climbed
over a 150-foot hill on packed gravel forest road then coasted down gently into
Neustadt. This is one of the quaint German towns that you see on travel posters.
Check out the pictures of the half-timbered Rathaus (town hall) and the Junker-Hansen-Tower,
built in 1480 as the southwest tower on the old town wall. This is touted as the
world’s largest half-timbered rotunda. The masonry walls are four meters thick.
This is the top of a 270-foot
the hill between Neustadt and Willingshausen. It is mostly downhill into Willingshausen
from the top of that hill.
In Willingshausen, we turn
right on low traffic roads toward Alsfeld by way of Bernsburg and Ruhlkirchen.
This is Ruhlkirchen. The terrain has been rolling but nothing
like the hill going into Willingshausen.
The bench and crucifix are on a small hill overlooking Seibelsdorf.
We see many of these little monuments, some of which have benches like this one.
They make great lunch spots. The cattle photo was taken on the outskirts of Seibelsdorf.
The small reservoir is Antriftsee. Leaving Angerod (31.4
km) we climb a 50-foot hill on a busy road before arriving in the village of Leusel
(34 km). We could have avoided this busy road if we had ignored our map and stayed
on the path around the reservoir. That path comes out in Leusel.
We are in Alsfeld, close to the center of town. Two bike paths split at this point
and we want the left branch. Alsfeld is gorgeous with its half-timbered buildings.
I photographed the Fuldertor, which is the last of the town wall towers from 1386AD.
The locals call the tower the Stork Nest because there is a nest on the top but
this year it is unoccupied. That happens when the storks do not return from their
winter vacation. Sometimes other storks move in but the stork population is declining
and some nests remain unused for many years.
Passing the Auerhahn Schlitz
Bauerei (brewery), we stop for a pint of the local suds. Lauterbach beer is not
to my taste but on a hot day, anything cooler than our water bottles is welcome.
We consider stopping here in Lauterbach but it is still early in the day so we decide
to bike to the next town with overnight accommodations, Grossenlüder. Our waitress
helps by giving us the name and number of a place where we can make a reservation.
That way it will not matter how long we take getting there; we will still have a
place to stay. The path signage is good, just follow the R-2 signs out of town.
is downtown Bad Salzschirf. We got here following the path signs, not the map. The
map would take us a bit more directly but this is a nice little spa town and it
has many places to stay overnight.
After a nice drop, we arrive
in downtown Grossenlüder.
In Bimbach just past Grossenlüder, we stop for the evening
at Pension zum Luedertal, Fuldaer Strasse 13, 36137 Grossenlüder-Bimbach. Telephone
06648/61918, fax 06648/62378, email address is email@example.com, Internet
is www.zum-luedertal.de. The cost is €60 for two people per night. This is a wonderful
place to stay, with large rooms and inside bicycle storage. The restaurant is high
quality and has reasonable prices. It is right on the bike path. We also are treated
to a good breakfast in the morning.
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Day 3: Grossenlüder-Bimbach to Bad Soden-Salmünster
Most of the path is paved until
late afternoon. Today is a little less hilly than yesterday but that is not saying
much. From Bimbach to the rim of the Fulda Valley, there are three hills. In Neuhof,
we encounter a hill as we leave the town. Also, south of Neuhof, there is a pusher
of a steep hill but the reward is the great drop into Flieden. Then we climb up
and down several more hills before dropping into Schlüchtern.
After climbing over the three
hills mentioned, we look down into the Fulda River Valley and the city of Fulda.
We have a nice 200-foot drop through Maberzell and into the outskirts of Fulda.
We join the R-1 at the bottom of the hill. The R-1 is the Fulda Valley Long Distance
Bike Path (Hessischer Radfernweg R1) that starts in Gersfeld passes through Fulda,
Bad Hersfeld, Kassel, and Hann. Münden, to end in Bad Karlshafen on the Weser.
Mile 6.2 (10 km): We arrive at the Fulda Cathedral (Dom). I took several
pictures of the Dom both outside and inside. The church next door, which is St.
Michaels. One picture is of the relics of St. Boniface who died in 754 CE. He is
the patron saint to the Germans. St. Boniface was a colorful fellow and well worth
reading about in Wikipedia.
As we leave Fulda we start on the Rhine-Main-Kinzig R-3 route so I reset my odometer
where R-3 starts.
This is the bridge over
the Kinzig River in Schlüchtern. Getting here we dropped 500 feet from the hill
above the city. Prior to the drop, we chugged up and coasted down several high hills
between Neuhof and Schlüchtern.
We took several pictures of the town of Steinau on der Strasse,
a Brothers Grimm city. The Grimm family raised their children in this town and that
fact is commemorated by the fountain in front of the Rathaus.
In Bad Soden, we stop for
the night at Hotel zum Heller, Gerhard-Radke Strasse 1, 63628 Bad Soden-Salmünster,
telephone 06056/7350, fax 06056/73513. The cost is €25 per person per night or €50
per couple. This is a good recommendation, there are 25 large renovated rooms and
they offer a great breakfast buffet. Our balcony overlooks the small creek, the
Salzbach, and we enjoy a bottle of wine on this warm evening while our laundry dries
on lines we have strung across the balcony.
Day 4: Bad Soden-Salmünster to Hanau
Today is not the most interesting
cycling day unless you count riding into a stiff headwind as interesting. (A friend
of ours says that a headwind is just a poor man’s hill.) The path is mostly flat
finally and except for a couple kilometers of well-packed gravel, it is paved.
Wächtersbach is the first
community after leaving Bad Soden. Leaving here, stay to the left of the Baumart
because we did not see a sign.
We stop for coffee in Gelnhausen at restaurant Burg Schränke.
The owner of the restaurant overhears us speaking English and chats us up. He is
opinionated and holds an ultra-conservative view of current politics. Would that
more people were of similar mind. [Remember, this is dated June 2008.]
We end this tour at the
Bahnhof in Hanau. The path continues on down the Main through Offenbach to Frankfurt
and Mainz and ends eventually in Rüdesheim but we have already traveled that part.
If you want some of the travelogue, look at our Main tour and the Rhine tour.
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