Leine River Bicycle Tour
The Leine River winds its way north through a beautiful wide valley
that contains many small towns. Additionally, there are several famous cities like
Hanover (Hannover) and Göttingen.
June 2006. This is a 5-day, 183-mile (294 km) bicycle tour through central Germany.
Two friends from the Mannheim area Judith and Neil Forsyth of
accompany Maxa and me on this tour. We start in Leinefelde which is part of the
former district of Eichsfeld, historically a Catholic enclave inside the mostly
Protestant north of Germany. As such, many of the cities and villages were destroyed
several times during the 30-years war (1618-1648) and the citizens changed religions
back and forth until the village settled upon Catholicism.
After World War II, this region was a part of the state of Thuringia and thus
was in the former East Germany. Our tour ends in Hodenhagen, a village at the confluence
of the Aller and Leine rivers. The guidebooks continue the tour down the Aller to
Verden, almost to the Weser. Since we know that we will ride the Aller in 2010,
we stop our tour at Hodenhagen and save the Aller for later.
The Leine River Valley has a lot of rural area with its accompanying agriculture.
I have never seen so many horses on one ride anywhere in Germany. For an old farm
boy like me, it is interesting and pleasant.
As we approached our hotel the first evening, I rode a couple of kilometers along
with a local rider who was out for a little evening exercise. I explained that we
were riding down the Leine River to Hodenhagen. We had a nice chat but he told me
that he was sorry that the ride was not as pretty as, for example, the Weser River
ride or some of the other rides in Germany. That comment set my expectation that
the ride would not be beautiful. I shared this expectation with my fellow riders.
Notwithstanding this man’s negative perspective of his own home region, we all heartily
agreed at the end of the ride that he is just wrong. The Leine River valley is not
only beautiful it is also a wonderful adventure full of interesting sights, picturesque
towns, and cute villages. I guess one can get used to anything, perhaps – even paradise.
The number and location of signs along the route is not the best. On our first day,
the signs disappeared. Because we were following an out of date guidebook (published
in 2000), we did not know of the new path between Heiligenstadt and Arenshausen.
Instead, we followed the old path over hill and dale while we could have been coasting
along the river bottom.
We had no trouble finding overnight
accommodations. However, unlike Bavaria and other parts of southern Germany, central
and northern Germany have more hotels and Pensionen rather than Privat
Zimmer. 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 Accommodations page.
You must see the walled village of Einbeck.
It is interesting as well as beautiful. Göttingen is well worth some sightseeing
time too. We did not take any of the side trips in the guidebook to, for example,
Hildesheim. That may have been a mistake because I found a lot of information on
the Internet about Hildesheim.
used the “bikeline Radtourenbuch und Karte, Leine- Radweg, von der Quelle zur
Weser.” That translates to “bicycle tour book and map, Leine bike path, from
the spring to the Weser” but we stopped at the Aller confluence.
Back to the top
Day 1: Leinefelde to Gross Schneen
The path is paved except for several
short sections of gravel. Expect several hills in the morning but past Arenshausen
the path is mostly level.
Starting under blue skies at
the Bahnhof in Leinefelde our first stop is at the spring; the source of the Leine.
If you miss it, you have not missed much.
the obligatory visit to the spring, we follow signs to the cloister at Beuren. They
started construction of this cloister for Cistercian nuns in 1673. We could have
but did not take the guided tour of the building. You can prearrange a tour by telephoning
3606/5241. We continue through the villages of Wingerrode toward Bodenrode on a
low traffic road following the river.
As we approach Heiligenstadt,
we lose track of the Leine bike path signs. We follow some other non-specific bicycle
signs that take us to the North Bahnhof where we realize, by looking at our guidebook,
that the "real" path turned to the right several blocks to the south.
So, back we go to the real path, shift down, and climb a steep hill; a pusher for
most of the members of the Over Fifty with Bad Knees Club. Once atop the 200-foot
hill, we ride along a lightly traveled back road climbing and dropping with the
undulating landscape. We ride the optional path up into Marth. I don’t have a clue
why we do so, perhaps we have not had enough hills this morning. Or, probably it
is just because it is here. Maxa asks a resident for the best way back to the Leine
and he tells us to turn right at the next intersection and take the small road down
into Arenshausen. This isn’t the bike path but it is a great drop on a low traffic
road through a small picturesque valley.
We arrive in Arenshausen.
It’s hot and we are thirsty. Today is a beautiful day but one in which the water
in our bottles disappears quickly. In Arenshausen, we take a break at an establishment
that used to be a service station during the East German times. The building is
ramshackle but the operators are pleasant and doing the best they can with the new
capitalistic political regime. The owner asks us if we enjoyed the wonderful new
bike path along the river from Heiligenstadt. “Huh? (Wie Bitte?)” we say.
“We’ve been riding up and down really steep hills since Heiligenstadt. What new
path?” She explains that a recently opened path extends from the North Bahnhof to
Arenshausen so bikers can avoid the hills. We kick ourselves; we must have been
right next to the start of it when we turned around and went back. Local knowledge
is valuable. They say experience is something you get right after you need it. But
if we had known about it, we would have missed Marth. I would have foregone Marth
in a heartbeat.
Leaving Arenshausen, we
ride through Kirchgandern. The border between Thuringia (Thüringen) and
Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) is just outside of Kirchgandern. There is
a former POW prison camp in Friedland (mile 23.6) that was converted after the war
into a resettlement camp for refugees returning to Germany from Russia and other
Eastern Soviet Bloc countries. It isn’t used anymore.
In Klein Schneen, we stop
at the train tracks as the guard arm comes down. Across the tracks, we notice a
cute place to spend the night. The train comes roaring by and the din makes it impossible
to talk among ourselves about the possibility of staying here a train comes through.
We cannot hear ourselves think, let alone converse. So, assuming this was not a
good stop because of the noise, we pedal off the path into Gross Schneen where we
found Pension Am Birkenfeld. This Pension is also a Ferienwohnung
or vacation apartment. It is wonderfully quiet and comfortable. The owner is Frau
Vollerecht, who by coincidence is an attorney. The address is Grosserbruch 3, D-37133
Friedland, Gross Schneen, Telephone 05504-93550, Fax 935522. Our cost is €45.00
per night double occupancy (the cost for two people to spend one night).
Back to the top
Day 2: Gross Schneen to Einbeck
The path signage is a little scarce
north of Göttingen and especially on the jog left then right at Hillerse. However,
if you like level bike paths, you will like today’s ride. The only hill was a set
of stairs leading up to a bridge over the Leine just north of Göttingen.
We rejoin the bike path and
make our way to Rosdorf. We have to take an alternate route due to construction
outside of Niedernjesa. The alternate is a paved path following a back road into
Rosdorf. The next stop is Göttingen.
is the university town of Göttingen. The Gänseliesel fountain is sort of the symbol
of Göttingen. The remarkably well-preserved town suffered little during and after
WWII. Although, Göttingen was recognized in writing as early as 953CE it was established
prior to the 7th Century. It was also one of the many Hanseatic League towns and
therefore was a center of wealth and commerce during the late Middle Ages. Known
today for its university, it is perhaps the birthplace of modern physics. Great
scientists such as Albert Einstein, Max Plank, and Karl Gauss attended here. By
the way, the brothers Grimm taught here too (in addition to fairytales, they were
into history, language, and linguistics). The trademark or symbol of the city is
the Gänseliesel statue. Originally designed to represent children (often illegitimate)
who were resigned to a life of labor sometimes herding geese in the village, the
statue came to be a part of folklore in the city. Doctoral degree candidates who
pass their last oral examination are dressed in costume and paraded to the statue
(sometimes in a wheelbarrow) whereupon they climb up and kiss the girl’s face. Some
say Gänseliesel is the most kissed statue in the world – but I would like to know
who keeps these statistics.
We are approaching Hollenstedt.
We have the choice of climbing a small hill to see the castle and the town or take
the alternate route around the town. We vote and the winner is the alternate route.
Three of the four of us have probably seen enough castles to last a lifetime. I
am the only romantic. However, I am carrying my brand new backpack binoculars on
this trip. I no sooner announce to the group that if anyone has a desire to look
at anything through the binoculars to let me know when we pass a small lake that
is a bird sanctuary – complete with a viewing station. We stop to see what there
is to see from it. With our binoculars and the help of another bird watcher, we
identify two species of herons, two species of geese (one from Africa), several
swans, and three different duck species and several other water birds. This is pretty
cool for the first time I use my binos for real bird watching.
We stop for the night in
Einbeck, the home of the Einbecker Brewery, a popular beer in Germany. Not only
is there a brewery here but the old town is unusually picturesque with half-timbered,
cheek-by-jowl buildings, complete with a city wall and a town square. It is well
worth the short side trip off the bicycle path. We stay at Gästehaus Zur Stadt Einbeck,
Benser Strasse 27, Frau Inge Schneider is the owner (telephone 05561-4086). After
phoning her from the edge of town, we pedal toward the town square but we stop to
buy beer and wine at the local Getränkeladen (a kind of liquor store).
When we finally get close to Benser Strasse, a young man asks if we are looking
for the Gästehaus. “Yes,” we answer; and we follow him around the corner
where Frau Schneider is waiting for us on the sidewalk. She worried when we didn’t
arrive at the time she expected us. Apparently, she didn’t realize we would be passing
a Getränkeladen on the way and she also didn’t realize how much we needed
things to drink after a long day’s bike ride. What does one drink in Einbeck? Well,
Einbecker Bier, of course. In spite of her disappointment in her guests,
Frau Schneider is a gracious hostess and helps us decide where to find a restaurant
Back to the top
Day 3: Einbeck to Bergstemmen
Prepare for a few hills north of
Fraden. They are high but not steep so most of us in the Over Fifty with Bad Knees
Club will be able to pedal up them. Except for short stretches of dirt or gravel,
most of the path is paved.
Einbeck is beautiful. It has over
700 half-timbered buildings and an intact wall – or most of it. It was first mentioned
in 1252 and has had its own brewery since 1351. We arrived late yesterday and this
morning we will be on our way early but if we were here during normal business hours,
there are walking and bicycle tours that explain the city’s long and interesting
history. Einbeck too was a member of the Hanseatic League. It was also a center
for bicycle manufacturing, fabric dyeing, and bread baking (where don’t they bake
bread in Germany?). Our dinner last night was at the Brot Haus, a building originally
built as the guild house for the bread baking guild. Today, it is owned by the Einbecker
Brauerei as their official restaurant. Hint: If ever you find yourself in a brewery
town, the Braustätte is the brewery’s official restaurant and will probably serve
the best food in town.
We rejoin the bike path at the
edge of Einbeck.
This is Alfeld. Between
Alfeld and Gronau on the east side of the valley are Germany’s Seven Mountains (Sieben
Berge). These hills are one of the supposed locations for the Brothers Grimm fairytale
of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, fairytales, as with most old tales
and stories, have gathered a little controversy over time. It seems that the stories
of both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are attributed to more than one location.
Snow White is also placed in the Bad Zwesten and Bergfreiheit south of Fritzlar
in Hesse some 50 miles southeast of Alfeld. The tale of Snow White reoccurs in several
countries including countries in Asia. France though is perhaps the most likely
to be the country of origin. Only Walt Disney knows for sure. Anyway, that is my
belief and I am going to hold to it.
We stop for the evening
in Bergstemmen at the Bergstemmer Hof, a Hotel Garni, costing €65.00 per night double
occupancy (the cost for two people to spend one night). The address is Sackstrasse
6, Bergstemmen 31171; Telephone 05069-9095. This is a typical Pension with
rooms upstairs above the bar/restaurant and also in a second building across the
courtyard. The food tastes great and is a good value. The host is helpful and allows
us to clean the mud off our bikes in his paved courtyard.
Back to the top
Day 4: Bergstemmen to Steinhude
While there are no hills today,
there will be a fair amount of gravel and dirt path. You may get the feeling that
there is less pavement than dirt and gravel path. Nevertheless, the path is well-packed
and well traveled so except for the wettest days, one need not be concerned. Signage
is spotty but if you keep Hannover as your destination in mind you will be able
to get through the morning. Getting lost in Hannover is probably mandatory (at least
it is likely) but if you try to stick close to the river, you’ll make it.
Marienburg. We have been watching
a large castle on the hillside get bigger and bigger as we get closer and closer
to it. I take a picture because it looks almost like a storybook castle. Now, right
underneath the castle, we cannot see it clearly because of the forest. Marienburg
is the home of one of the oldest royal families of Europe. Closely related to the
English monarchy, members of this family ruled Hannover for many years. Coincidentally,
we are here in June of 2006 and this month some $54 Million dollars worth of family
belonging are being auctioned off to the public in order to fund the refurbishment
of the castle and the creation of a tourist destination. From here, we meander along
any of several paths with few, if any path signs as we make our way toward Hannover.
Hannover (in English, Hanover)
is a large city. You ride for miles along the bike path not knowing if you are in
the city or in its suburbs. However, now we are at the southern end of the Maschsee,
a long, man-made lake surrounded by a park in the center of the busy city. The bike
path through Hannover is nice, following a series of parks and open areas and keeping
you away from heavy traffic.
We cross underneath the
Mittelland Kanal (Mid-land Canal – connecting Berlin to the North Sea). Duck! No,
not the bird; it’s the bridge with the canal in it. It has a low clearance. It is
a little surreal to think you are riding under a canal. Oh, well. I’ve had this
experience several times during the last seven years of bicycling in Europe.
We leave the bike path in
Bordenau to ride to Steinhude where we stop for the night. The city is 10 or 12
km off the path.
Steinhude has the feeling
of a seaside resort community but it is just on a large lake. It is darling on the
promenade with seafood restaurants, shops, and bicycle rental shops. Due to some
unfortunate communication, we pedal the wrong direction after receiving directions
to the home (a Private Zimmer) where we are to spend the night. Anyway, we finally
figure it out and we are exceedingly happy to have found such a nice accommodation.
The Address of Gästehaus Wie-Wa (from the owner’s names, Wassmann and Wiemann) is
Schlesierweg 17, 31515 Steinhude, telephone is 05033-8176, Fax 05033-3140. The cost
is €50-€60 for double occupancy (the cost for two people to spend one night).
Day 5: Steinhude to Hodenhagen
The path today is mostly flat,
even the hill shown in the guidebook is only 10 feet in height. There are some interesting
path conditions though, off and on between pavement, gravel, dirt, and grass. If
you are in Steinhude on a weekend, there is a museum in the military airfield that
is open only on weekends. It is called Wunstorf Fliegerhorst and it was in operation
during the war so it has an interesting history. In addition to a Russian helicopter
and 500 model airplanes, it also has a restored Junker JU 52, one of the
German WWII transport/bomber mainstay airplanes. This type of plane was nicknamed,
Tante Ju (Aunt Ju). The museum website is
Wunstorf Fliegerhorst (a
Fliegerhorst is an airport).
Neustadt am Rübenberge and
we are back at the bike path.
We here is a sign (shown on
right) showing that there are two ways to Mandelsloh. Today is such a nice day,
we take the long way.
Hodenhagen Bahnhof and the
end of the Leine River Bike Tour. I don’t care what that guy said about the Leine
valley not being pretty. Remember the biker we met the afternoon of our first day?
It is beautiful and is one trip that I would be happy to repeat in a couple years.
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