A Bicycle Ride Along The Rhine
This page describes our bicycle ride down the Rhine River. The Rhine
– one river in four languages; Rhine in English, Rhein in German; Rhin in French
and Rijn in Dutch. Even though the different languages pronounce their vowels slightly
differently, all the words for Rhine sound almost alike.
The Rhine in Germany is 592 miles long (953-kilometers) making it the longest
of the German rivers. The Rhine Gorge, between Mainz and Koblenz, is one of the
most picturesque in Germany. This is due to the 23 castles and palaces (or ruins
thereof) and because of the famous (at least among the barge sailors) Lorelei
rocks at the bend in the river near St. Goar. So, in this 102 kilometer section
of the river, there are over 4 castles, palaces, or ruins per kilometer. If anyone
knows of a section of river, anywhere in the world, with more castle-like edifices
per kilometer, please let me know.
is an 18-day, 592-mile, 953-kilometer in Germany but adding the portion in Holland
it becomes an 21-day, 693-mile; 1,116-kilometer bicycle tour along one of the most
important rivers in Europe. That said, we choose to accomplish it in four stages,
the first in 2002 and last two German stages in 2003. Finally, the Dutch stage was
in 2010. It is possible to get too much of a good thing all at once.
2002. In my opinion, the “Hochrhein”
or upper Rhine from Constance to Basil is beautiful and interesting. Although there
are some small hills to climb there are also some nice drops. The landscape is of
rolling hills, small forests, rivers, streams, fields and small villages.
June 2003. The route from Basil to
Mainz is sometimes called the Middle Rhine. Except for the cities of Strasbourg,
Speyer and Worms, it is just another German river route. Those cities make the trip
worthwhile. We did not take the side trip to Freiburg but we considered it seriously.
I would like to go back someday and see that town, which nestled into the Black
Forrest. I bet it is as picturesque as Stein am Rhein.
2003. In Mainz, the trip gets interesting
again. The 102 kilometers through the Rhine Gorge, between Mainz and Koblenz, is
arguably one of the most beautiful parts of Europe. Perhaps it is because of all
the castles (18 visible but 23 close by) or perhaps the landscape but in any event,
the views are to die for. The south-facing slopes are covered with vineyards and
wine tasting is almost mandatory. This area is pregnant with history. You will see
many castles on both sides of the river, even a couple built right in the river.
Several short riding days makes for a lot of sightseeing. Obviously, one could bike
either faster or slower depending on your preference and ability. Yes there are
some minor hills past Mainz but this is one of the flattest rides we have taken
in Germany. The “Neiderrhein” or Lower Rhine has the densest population,
especially between Bonn and Dortmund. But once you pass those cities, the landscape
becomes pastoral again as you approach the Dutch border. Most of the hills are before
Basil and most of the gravel path is between Basil and Mannheim. Sure the rest of
the tour has a few small hills and a few short chunks of gravel but not enough to
In 2010, we finally completed the
river by riding the portion in the Dutch Netherlands. The landscape is flat and
the small villages are quite different in character than their German counterparts.
At the border, the Rhine splits into three estuaries. We followed the Waal, the
largest and coincidently the shortest of the three.
The signage changes several times. I
will try to present a photograph of the signs as we ride along but there are so
many different types of signs, I know that I do not capture all of them. As with
other long rides that cross political borders, every government wants to promote
their own unique bike path sign. The blue square with Rhein/Rhin atop it seems the
We had no trouble finding good
accommodations. It seems they are plentiful along this well ridden bike path. 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.
short list would include Stein am Rhein, Schaffhausen, Basil, perhaps Freiburg,
Strasbourg, Speyer, Worms, Mainz, Rüdesheim, Bacharach, Koblenz, Bonn, Köln, and
Emmerich. In Holland, the stops include The Hague, Rotterdam, and Dordreck. There
are, of course, many other small cities, each with its own history and charm that
can be richly enjoyed.
We used three different
bikeline guidebooks on this tour.
Rhein-Radweg, Teil 1; Rhein-Radweg, Teil 2; and Rhein-Radweg Teil 3. All
were in the scale of 1:75,000. These guidebooks not only have maps but if they are
recently published, the guide to accommodations in the back is really helpful.
Back to the top
Day 1: Stein am Rhein to Schaffhausen
Our tour starts at the end of our
Lake Constance tour in Stein am Rhein. We leave
here mid afternoon so our first day is pretty short. Nevertheless, the mileage is
as accurate as our poor cyclometers can make it. Today’s ride is paved but just
a little hilly. The first hill is the steepest and it is just outside of Stein am
Rhein. We share a low traffic road with a few cars for most of the day.
Leaving Stein am Rhine, we quickly
climb on gravel path some 160 feet into the forest. We cross the German/Swiss border
at mile 3.4 (5.4 km). There is no one to stamp my passport here. it is a shame if
you collect passport stamps like I do. We had planned to overnight in Gailingen
but upon arriving it is such a nice day and since we are not at all tired, we push
on. It is threatening rain though and we know we are stretching our luck.
We are in Büsingen, an enclave
of Germany and completely surrounded by Switzerland. We spoke briefly with a local
woman who expressed (somewhat strongly) that most of the people do not like their
village being an enclave. They want, for several practical reasons such as fire
protection, taxes, etc., to be part of Switzerland. However, Germany, according
to her, is not likely to allow them to change their allegiances. We could overnight
here in Büsingen in Der Adler, right in the center of town but we decide to push
on. We later realize that is a mistake. There aren’t any accommodations in Germany
for several miles. And the thunderclouds seem to be getting darker and closer as
we ride along. But for now at least, we are still riding in the sunshine.
We decide to give up on
our insistence not to spend Swiss Franks by taking a hotel in Switzerland. We are
a little tired now and it is getting late in the afternoon. Our experience warns
us that we should find a room before 5:00 PM or risk not finding one until quite
late. So, just after crossing the Rhine at Schaffhausen, we pull up in Neuhausen,
Switzerland for the evening. And just as we are settled in the hotel, it rains cats
and dogs for half an hour. Our timing is perfect. In German, there is a saying that
goes like this, “When you travel with angels, good things happen to you.” I do not
know which one of my three riding partners is an angel but it seems to be working.
We choose Gasthaus Frohsinn in Neuhausen. The cost is 131 Swiss Franks per room
per night. It is quite pleasant.
Day 2: Schaffhausen to Laufenburg
Leaving Schaffhausen, we climb
a steep hill to the top of the plateau above the Rheinfalls. Thereafter, there are
some rolling hills, even some nice drops but not much in the way of hills to climb.
This makes us all happy. Actually, towards the end of today, we do get into some
steeper rolling hills but nothing we have to push up. We do not take many pictures
today because of the overcast – they just do not turn out well.
We cross the Rhine after leaving
the hotel and start our cyclometers at the river. We are picking our way along the
river trying to get a good view of the Rheinfalls. The falls are at mile 1.3. Supposedly,
this is the largest falls on the Rhine. At high water, and today the water is fairly
high, these falls are quite a sight. We try to find a good vantage point from the
right bank. There is a good view from the left bank but the Swiss Tourism industry
has done an outstanding job of blocking all view of the falls unless you pay several
franks to see it from one of the castles they have commandeered for that purpose.
I am too stubborn to pay to look at a waterfall so we try to catch it from the other
riverbank. As you can see, we do not do too badly either.
Leaving the Rhine, we climb
250 feet to the top of a hill and opt for the alternate route toward Jestetten.
This is to avoid a drop and another uphill but at the same time, we are avoiding
another good view of the Rhine too. Well, one has to make choices in life. You cannot
have everything, and I would rather have happy women than another view of the river.
After crossing back into
Switzerland between Lottstetten and Rafz, we drop gently into this agricultural
community and notice several large Hofhäuser or buildings that are part
house and part barn. This type building is common throughout many of the German
farming villages. Finding our way through Rafz is interesting. The problem is that
there are too many bicycle path signs. It is easy to become confused. There is a
good bike shop here and these people will understand if you get lost and they will
point you in the right direction if you do lose it (I am talking about your way,
not your breakfast). Switzerland has a reputation for being clean and true to its
reputation, it is. We have seen several street sweepers, even small machines used
to clean the sidewalk. Also, pet owners seem to have good habits of cleaning up
after their dogs. We have noticed many stands along the path that hold plastic bags
for picking up after dogs. And, unlike New York, people actually use them as intended.
We ride into Waldshut. This
is an unremarkable town except for the huge factory that we ride past. We learn
that it is closed and mostly abandoned. It is contaminated with pollutants and the
powers that be have decided just to fence it in instead of spending millions to
clean it up. Also here in Waldshut, the river takes on a muddy appearance for the
first time. Perhaps it is from the rain we have had in the region and the Aare River
that joins the Rhine here is full of silt where the Rhine has thus far been clean.
We stop for the night at
Hotel Engle in Luttingen just east of Laufenburg. Actually, we ride past it all
the way to the Rathaus where we check for accommodations. We are advised to backtrack
2.4 miles to this suburb of Laufenburg where we are pleasantly satisfied with our lodgings.
The address is Luttinger Str. 34, telephone 07763-7104, For € 50 per room, double
occupancy (the cost for two people to spend one night), and the bathrooms are in
the rooms, it is nice.
In the evening, as we enjoy wine and snacks on the veranda, we meet Manfred.
He is a slightly crazy employee of the Austrian Railroad who - to celebrate his
40th birthday - took a solo bike trip to Portugal. He took the train to Portugal
but he is riding back pulling an extremely heavily loaded bike trailer. Much of
the load is Spanish rice, 9 pounds, and 4 kilos of Portuguese wine, over 8 pounds.
He covers 100 plus kilometers per day, coasts downhill at breakneck speeds (60 km/hr),
and pulls that heavy trailer over the Pyrenees Mountains. That is crazy! But he
is fun to talk with; I just would not want to ride with him.
Back to the top
Day 3: Laufenburg to Bamlach via Basel
Bike path signs are spotty but
by keeping an eye on the river and your map you will get by nicely. A few short
steep hills today, especially if you overnight in Bamlach as we did. That one could
be circumvented by stopping in Bad Bellingen but you’ll miss the Hotel Storchen,
a nice place in Bamlach. And you will miss a nice steep drop the next morning into
We start out from our hotel in
Luttingen, a suburb of Laufenburg. Laufenburg has a nice little Altstadt
(Old Town) with narrow, windy, cobblestone streets and old buildings.
Bad Säckingen. The bridge
here is the oldest bridge of its kind in Europe. It was built in the late 18th Century
and it connects Stein, Switzerland with Germany. There has been a bridge over the
Rhine since the year 700. Also, the large regional church, called a Münster,
is in the late Rococo style, it is impressive inside. We shopped the market here
in Bad Säckingen hunting and gathering our lunch materials. We sampled smoked trout,
herring in cream sauce, huge pretzels or as they call them here Bretzeln.
As we get ready to leave, Maxa points to my crotch and says, “you’re coming out!”
Vivi-Anne quickly averts her eyes. Glancing down, I see that part of me is trying
to escape my Lycra bike pants through a split seam. A quick change is certainly
required. How long have I been wandering around a crowded marketplace with split
pants? I do not know; I do not notice anyone staring but it is not like they would
come up to me and mention it either. God, another embarrassing moment; my life seems
full of them. In case you wonder, no, I do not have a photograph of the split.
The photograph here is of
the gatehouse of Schloβ Beuggen. Up a steep pitch at kilometer 33 and we stop for
lunch with a view of the Swiss version of Rheinfelden. When the locals here wish
you a good appetite, they say, “Ein Gute,” short for ein guten Appitit.
If they want to wish you a good afternoon, they will say, “Tag,” which
is short for Guten Tag. Just so you know what is being wished to you as
you happily munch on the purchases you acquired at the market in Bad Säckingen.
I am happy I had changed my bike shorts or I might have mistaken the comment for
meaning something else.
After a kilometer of clay
path alongside the railroad track, we turn right at the soccer field in Wyhlen.
A local tells us that kids have vandalized the signs though town so we have to navigate
carefully with our map.
We enter Basel riding along
the non-existent shoulder of a busy street. Crossing the river, we visit the Old
Town area and have three cups of coffee and a tea in an outside café on the Rathaus
Platz. Our server tells us the cost is €19 but she gives us our change in Swiss
Franks. We are about to leave Switzerland and have no need or use for Franks but
what can you do, it is the currency of the realm. All in all, we wish we had our
money back and they had kept their coffee. We felt like they gouge the tourists
here a bit too much.
Crossing the Rhine on the
Mittlere Brücke, we make our way back toward the German border, which we
cross at kilometer 59.
We stop for the night at
Gasthaus/Hotel Storchen in Bamlach. Rooms cost €52 for two people for one night.
It is quiet, clean, and provides a great view of the surrounding valley. They are
closed Thursdays. The specialty of Gasthaus Storchen is liver with Rösti,
a type of deep fried mashed potatoes like tater tots.
For the last 20 kilometers, we have been riding atop the dike on a hard packed
gravel path. We could see the river occasionally but there is not much boat traffic
anyway. The trail reminded me of a green tunnel with the trees occasionally touching
overhead. It is hot today so the shade was welcome. Perhaps it was the heat that
addled our brains a bit a when we met a group of senior citizens walking on the
trail. We asked them about accommodations in the area. They recommended Bamlach
because it was right here (they pointed to the right). We turned off the trial and
climbed a steep pitch where we found a tunnel under the railroad tracks. After pushing
our bikes about 100 meters through the narrow, damp (running water on the cement
floor), dark tunnel, we emerged into sunlight to stare almost straight up a 300
foot hill. It is so steep we almost cannot push our bikes. In fact, Eckhard and
I had to help Maxa and Vivi-Anne because it was just too steep for them. Never in
my life had I tried to climb such a steep hill pushing a bike. We must have climbed
220 feet in an eighth of a mile. We make it off the footpath and finally to a street.
Then we continued a climb (but at least we could pedal) uphill to the local
Gasthaus. I will admit, the effort was worth it. The accommodations were reasonable,
the food was quite good and we were glad to be done for the day. I’ll bet those
senior citizens had taken a bus down to the dike. They sure did not walk or they
would have warned us about the hill.
Back to the top
Day 4: Bamlach to Rheinhausen
Flat, flat, flat all day long.
Get used to it. There probably will not be any hills until you get back home. There
is a fair amount of gravel today. In fact, we avoid the monotony of riding on the
gravel path atop the dike by taking the alternative path shown in the guidebook
at mile 37. Plan on stopping and looking around a little in Burkheim.
Starting at the Storchen, we pedal
once and then coast 3.2 kilometers into Bad Bellingen. Here, on the Rhine bike path,
I zero my cyclometer.
We found a small wire pen
with several small spotted deer inside. Cute! We have been riding gravel path up
on the dike all morning. Not too many ships to see because they are all a few kilometers
west of here in France on the Rhein/Rhin Canal.
Breisach is a good lunch
stop. Ahead, we take the alternative route to Burkheim. Burkheim is a typical small
German village. Built during the Renaissance, the Rathaus sports a Hapsburg
coat of arms because for 500 years, it was under the protection of the Austrian
The photograph to the right shows an unusual path condition that we encountered
along the way. We had to pedal through a spillway of a small dam.
We stop for the night in
Niederhausen, a part of the Rheinhausen community. We check out several establishments
but settle on Gästehaus Schröeder for €37 a room. We have to share a bathroom but
the rooms are just as clean and big as the Hotel Hirsch across the street that charges
€50. So we save enough for a couple extra Biere at Hotel Hirsch where we
dine this evening. Gästehaus Schröeder is at Hauptstrasse 30, 79365 Rheinhausen
2-Neiderhausen, telephone 07643-5400.
Day 5: Rheinhausen to Freistett
Again today, the terrain is flat
but there is not as much gravel path today because we opt to ride into France and
most of the way is on pavement. The highlight today is the city of Strasbourg, headquarters
city for the EU, European Union. The government buildings can be boring but inner
city and the cathedral are well worth the visit.
We stay on the alternate route
to Rust (2.8 km) where we find the “Europapark,” a private amusement park similar
to Six Flags in the USA. Rust is a good size town with lots of lodgings but undoubtedly
more expensive than Rheinhausen. We are surprised that there are no listings in
the bikeline guidebook for Rust.
We use the free ferry at
Rhinau to cross into France. Again, avoiding the somewhat boring gravel path atop
the dike and through the “green tunnel” if we had stayed in Germany. Our goal is
to connect up with the left bank path and ride into Strasbourg. The Canal du Rhöne
au Rhin appears to be a bit boring too. Paved but straight as an arrow. We choose
to live a little on the wild side (chuckle) and ride down road D-20 to Gerstheim
at mile 12. The path signs change in France to that shown here.
After joining bike path
along the Canal du Rhöne au Rhin we stop for coffee in Plobsheim and have one of
those memorable travel experiences. What fun!
Asking for directions to a café we promptly bump into the language barrier. A
very patient woman at a bakery helps direct us with hands and feet and a few words
of English to balance our precious few words of French through town to a café. It
turns out to be one of those neighborhood places where the elderly retired 'boys,'
complete with berets and walking sticks, gather for their morning beer, wine, or
schnapps. They enjoy some lively, hand waving, conversation with their friends.
As we enter, we are immediately marked as English speakers and one of the gentlemen
rises from the table of regulars to announce - in English - that if we need help,
he can certainly provide it. Maxa thinks he is showing off his language skills to
his friends but we are glad for the local contact, nonetheless. As we converse,
we notice that this establishment only serves things to drink until noon, when lunch
is served. We order our beverages but remark that we are disappointed that we cannot
enjoy croissants along with the Café au Lait (coffee and milk) and tea.
The kind gentleman bows deeply and informs us of a Boulangerie just around
the corner. “But we cannot bring food from another store into this café, can we?”
We ask. “But of course.” He assures us, smiling widely with his one remaining tooth.
We think he might be stating something that the owner of the café would rather not
have adopted into company policy.
Anyway, it turns out the Boulangerie is closed this day so we are spared
the potential embarrassment of trying to please our new friend but annoying the
proprietor. What a cute establishment though. The worn, gingham tablecloths had
been darned and worn through again. They were faded but spotlessly clean. The floor
had been scrubbed so hard for so many years that the planks were dished and rough.
And the restrooms; so tiny that you had to make up your mind what you were going
to do before you go inside, because there simply is no room to turn around once
you pass the door. Door? Did I say door? There was no door on the men’s room. Also,
no sinks in the room with the toilets. The single sink located between the men’s
and women’s toilet rooms and has a full view of both. Women could carry on a conversation
with the men who were standing there, facing the wall. Privacy is not likely to
happen here. So if you go, be quick about it and wash your hands upon exiting
because the whole café has a view of the sink too. Not that anyone keeps track,
you understand. One obvious benefit, you know the staff washes their hands; they
have no choice given the audience. The normal condition in Western Europe can be
characterized as, “sometimes not modern but almost always clean.”
As we get close to the center of town, we find a place to lock our bikes. A friendly
local tells us about bicycle theft being rampant here and this city has more than
its share of pickpockets. So, forewarned, we adjust our clothing and take our bikes
with us as we walk the inner-city center. The “”
is a special type of cathedral in the center of the city and is well worth seeing.
We take turns going through it and guarding the bikes outside. There is a particularly
interesting astrological clock inside. Our guidebook mentions there is a Spiel
or a little show at 12:30 PM.
After leaving Strasbourg
by following bike path signs to La Wantzenau, we ride past a zoo with more of those
cute spotted deer. They also have rabbits, peacocks, and other foul.
We ride across a long bridge
back to the German side of the Rhine.
We stop for the night in
the village of Freistett, just northwest of Rheinau. We stay at zum Waldhorn (€58
for two people for one night). It is about a kilometer from the bike path.
Back to the top
Day 6: Freistatt to Jockgrim
Today’s path is flat and lots of
gravel path along the dike. Eckhard and Vivi-Anne drop off in Karlsruhe and fly
home. But they will join us again on the Rhine next year in Koblenz which even though
it looks as if we rode this river in one continuous ride, we took a some breaks,
one for a whole year (not counting the Dutch portion).
We commence our mileage readings
when we get back to the bike path.
This is the point on the
bikeline guidebook map where the alternate gravel path starts. The alternate
follows the dike just outside of Hügelsheim. We opt for the yellow, paved road but
the traffic is heavy enough that if I had it to do over again, I would have remained
on the gravel path.
Elchesheim, a 900-year old
We are crossing the Rhine
at Karlsruhe. This after getting lost in the Rheinhafengebiet, which translated
means the Rhine Harbor District. In Karlsruhe, we say tschüβ (bye) to Eckhard
and Vivi-Anne. They are taking the train from here to Mainz and from there a short
30 kilometer ride into Frankfurt where they will trade their bikes for an airplane
back to the states.
We have been checking for
overnight lodgings since we left Karlsruhe. No luck – everything is occupied. We
are told that there is a large manufacturing facility in the area being rebuilt
by workers from all over Germany. These workers have booked all the accommodations
in all the villages for miles. We decide to take a chance and leave the trail here
where the road to Jockgrim intersects the bike path and see if there are any rooms
there. If we are wrong, we have ridden 12 kilometers out of our way for nothing.
Fortunately, we find the last room available. The establishment is called the Elephant.
It is clean, tiny and at €36, quite affordable. We share the bathroom with three
other rooms, each of which houses a factory worker. They get up at 5:00 AM, we were
to learn. Also, there is no breakfast served. Nevertheless, Jockgrim is a pretty
little town that wraps itself around a steep valley. It has lots of half-timbered
homes and buildings but no bakeries. Bummer. That means we will have to bike a while
before breakfast tomorrow morning.
Day 7: Jockgrim to Mannheim
Again today the path is flat and
paved. The biggest hill (50 feet) is climbing onto the bridge after you leave Speyer.
As we get further into Central Germany, the activity and the density of population
After riding 6 kilometers back
to the cycle path, I zero my cyclometer at the intersection of the road to Jockgrim
and the cycle path where we left it last evening.
Just as we enter Lingenfeld,
we encounter a steep 30 foot hill, probably the only one today. At the bottom, we
met a fellow in a wheelchair pulling a trailer loaded down with a tent and camping
gear. It is the kind you pedal it your arms. At least he was pedaling with his arms
but I am sure I could not pedal it very far with my arms. He too has ridden the
same path we have been on all the way from Lake Constance. He is pedaling his wheelchair
to Holland. And I thought we were adventuresome – Ha! We are wimps by comparison.
In Speyer, we check out
the Speyerdom or the Speyer Cathredal. We find it a modest Romantic structure
seemingly lacking in aggrandizements. Nevertheless, Speyer has a colorful history
and was for years during the Middle Ages an important seat of power and the headquarters
of the areas Bishop.
Schloss Schwetzingen. This
is Schloss was a hunting palace for the princes of the Phalz (Palatinate).
Its gardens are one of the largest Baroque gardens in all of Europe. Mozart has
At the Bahnhof in Mannheim,
we meet Judith Forsyth who with her husband Neil have written several bicycle guidebooks.
See my Links page for a link to their web page. They entertain
us for the evening at their home with generous helpings of Spargel (white
asparagus that is in season in early June) and a walking tour through the suburb
of Viernheim. The picture is of Judith on her folding Bromley bicycle that she and
Neil ride all over Europe, even over the Alps.
Back to the top
Day 8: Mannheim to Mainz
Today is pretty flat but there
are a few small hills (20 feet or so) just out of Nierstein, south of Mainz. Most
of the ride is on bike paths or lightly traveled roads. There are short sections
of gravel but nothing dangerous. The country is beautiful and the villages picturesque
but we do not stop for sightseeing. I guess when we are by ourselves, we just keep
on truckin’ down the road. Perhaps that says that we need companions to help us
to stop and smell the roses.
We start the day in Viernheim.
Unfortunately, this is not anywhere near where you might start it. We are about
10 kilometers northeast of Mannheim and to get back to the bike path, we must ride
through a military Installation. We do so without problem even though 9-11-01 is
just a few months ago. However, for the ease of those who follow, by studying our
map, I note that we will join the bike path in Lampertheim at a point just 14 kilometers
north of the Mannheim Bahnhof. So, if you start at the Bahnhof or thereabouts,
we will meet up there.
Bike path in Lampertheim,
just north of the gravel stretch. North of here we ride through several onion fields
and they are being worked by a farmer on his tractor. My eyes tear from the onion
fumes wafting from the fields. It is as if I were slicing onions in the kitchen.
Worms. After crossing the bridge,
we are at Niebelungen Strasse. From here we visit the Dom (Cathedral) and
find it so ensconced into the center of the city that it is not possible to take
a picture that shows off its grandeur well. The Kaiserdom Saint Peter was built
during the 11th and 12th Centuries. (Yes, Virginia, it did take a while to build
churches back then.) The Dom is well decorated with Gargoyles and Grotesques
and it made me wonder what purpose they performed. So, I found a website that explains
the history and use of Gargoyles well. At
you will learn that no one really knows but there are suppositions that they were
to ward off evil sprits and/or tell stories to the illiterate church goers. Probably
more than any other purpose, they were just art that the stonemasons used to express
their individuality and creativity. A sort of stone signature that other stonemasons
could see and appreciate.
The pretty little town of
Mettenheim. I love the steep pitched, red-tile roofs and the quaint old brick buildings.
And I will bet that in the fall, the colors of the vineyards and the trees make
this a poster perfect village. For the next several kilometers, we will be riding
through wine country. The photograph is looking down a road near Oppenheim shortly
before entering Nierstein.
Nierstein. This is a picturesque
village tucked perilously between mountain and river. It seems like the mountains
are lifting up the back part preparatory to sliding the whole thing into the Rhine.
They make a brandy in Nierstein (in German a brandy or cognac is Weinbrand)
called Alter Gerhardt . This VSOP brandy
is hard to find even in Germany because it is made in such small quantities. But
it is the elixir of the gods if you like smooth, well balanced brandies. Better
than many of the expensive VSOP brandies out of Cognac, France. This is just my
opinion but many in my family agree. The photograph credits are to Wein- und Sektkellerei,
Jakob Gerhardt, Nierstein.
At some mileage point we enter Mainz. It is a little hard to tell exactly
where but it does not matter really. Mainz was where Herr Gutenberg invented his
printing press in about 1450. Mainz has also been a center of political and
religious power for centuries.
We quit for the day at the
Mainz Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station). Truth be known, we stopped this
tour for the year 2002 here and took the train to our home base in Kassel. What
follows below is when we picked up this river the following year in 2003. Since
most people will be riding some section of the Rhine anyway, we will just continue
as if it were one very long river tour.
Back to the top
Day 9: Mainz to Eltville
It is a short ride today – less
than 16 miles. Actually it is short because we are continuing our Rhine tour a year
later than when we ended it on Day 8. We stopped last year (2002) in Mainz and we
are in Mainz again (2003) as we complete the Main River
tour from its source in Bayreuth to the confluence with the Rhine. Nevertheless,
if you are using train travel to get to Mainz or Frankfurt to start the tour, you
may well find Eltville a convenient place to stop for overnight lodgings. The main
recommendation for Eltville, is Frau Jensen’s B & B. The riding conditions on
this side are poor. We share the road with traffic, sometimes heavy traffic, much
of the way. The bikeline guidebook recommends the left bank – I would concur
– if it were not for Frau Jensen’s B & B.
Still following the blue Rhein
– Rhin international European Union style bike path signs, we set our cyclometer
to zero at the Theodore-Heuss-Brücke (the main bridge over the Rhine into Mainz).
From Mainz we opt to follow the right bank of the river so we can see Rüdesheim
which is across form Bingen. Interestingly, since the confluence of the Main River
with the Rhine, we have been following signs of the Rheingauer-Riesling Route. The
vineyards on this south facing slope of the Rhine Valley belong to the Rheingau
wine growing region. Many famous vintners are located here with perhaps the most
commonly know being Schloss Johannisberg and perhaps Johannisberg Klaus.
In Eltville, we stop for
the night at the B & B of Frau Jensen, Lönsweg 3, Eltville, Phone 06123-2485.
She charges 60 for double occupancy (the cost for two people to spend one night)
but for only 65 you get a three room apartment. The breakfast is the most fantastic
we have ever seen - huge quantities and the highest of quality. Wow! The only drawback,
if there is one, is that Frau Jensen’s home is a little hard to find because the
street she lives on is narrow and uphill (60 feet) from the main street of
Eltville. Hey, I would sure come back if ever I find myself in Eltville again. On
the first weekend of July every year, Eltville hosts a Champaign festival.
Day 10: Eltville to Bad Salzig
We ride through beautiful countryside
looking up at the high mountains of the Taunus whose lower south facing slopes are
clothed with the vineyards of the Rheingau. The path is mostly flat with a few low
hills (20 feet) and mostly paved. Crossing to the left bank in Bingen, we watch
lots of barges and watercraft on the river as we ride through scattered showers.
Germany is a green country; it is green because it rains a lot. The path is mostly
gravel between Eltville and Rüdesheim. Again, the recommendation by bikeline
is for the left bank of the Rhine. From Bingen, the path is both paved and flat.
Most of it is on a designated bike path but the path is always close to or on the
shoulder of the busy highway that follows the river through the steep walled Rhine
Gorge. Here is a list of the castles, etc. that one sees in order of appearance:
Starting in Bingen, Burg Klopp, Mäuseturm, Burg Rheinstein, Burg Sooneck, Burg Stahleck,
Werner kapelle, Burg Pfalz, Burg Gutenfels, Castle Schönburg, Lorelei Rock,
Burg Katz, Burg Rheinfels, and Burg Maus. There are others as well but they are
just out of sight from the river.
We start today at the same place
in the center of Eltville where we stopped our cyclometer last night.
Rüdesheim. This is a cute
touristy town. One can see castles, monuments and museums of winemaking in the Rheingau.
It just has too many t-shirt shops and tour busses for my liking. The Drosselgasse
is the main shopping street. It is frequently crowded during mid-day. Try taking
the cable car up to the Niederwald Monument that celebrates German Unity after the
Napoleonic Wars. Since 1990, it has new meaning for Germans – unity of the east
and west Germanys. From here, we cross to Bingen on the ferry. The cost is €1.80
per person with bikes.
The photograph on the left is Phalzgrafenstein Phalz im Rhein with Burg Gutenfels
in the background. On the right is Schloss Burg Rheinstein.
experience a flat tire between Bingen and Bacharach. We have been riding hard since
Bingen trying to outrun a nearly black cloud that popped up over the Taunus Mountains
but because of the flat tire, we are caught in a rain shower. We take shelter in
a tunnel under the railroad track and wait for it to blow over. We are amazed at
the number of castles we can see. Several places give us view of two or three at
once. One of the most famous castles is the Mouse Tower that is built right in the
river. Its owner, a bishop, mercilessly burned a group of beggars and was then attacked
by swarms of mice as God’s punishment for his evil deed. At least that is the fable.
This is Bacharach and it
is guarded by Burg Stahleck. The Burg, or castle, also serves as a youth hostel
or Jugendherberge. (On my Links page, you can
find a link to the German youth hostels.) In Bacharach we take shelter from another
shower. But this time, we sit under an umbrella in a Biergarten and do
what one is suppose to do in a Biergarten. (Grow beer from a seed? Nope!
The photograph on the left is of St. Goar.
In Bad Salzig, we dodge
another shower by stopping for dinner in a restaurant. When it blows over we will
make our way to Gästehaus Neier where we pay €43 for another 3 room apartment. It
is quite nice and breakfast is nice as well. The address is Romer Str. 18, 56154
06742-6324, fax is 06742-940540. This establishment is in a quiet part of town a
few kilometers up the valley – but the climb is gradual. Coincidentally, we are
staying at the same place with the people with whom we shared the tunnel during
this morning’s rain shower.
Back to the top
Day 11: Bad Salzig to Koblenz
As before, today the path is mostly
paved and quite flat. More castles than you will want to visit but they are fun
to see from afar as well. This is the end of the 102 kilometer tour through the
Rhine Gorge, as I said in the tour overview, one of the most romantic sections not
only of Germany but of Europe. There are no hills and only a few short patches of
gravel. Here is a short list of castles, etc. to be bypassed today: Burg Liebenstein,
Burg Sterrenberg, Kurfürstliche Burg, Phillips Burg, Marks Burg, Schloss Stolzenfels,
Burg Lahneck, Kurfürstliche Schloss , Deutsche Eck, and Festung Ehrenbreitstein.
I reset my odometer once we get
back to the bike path in Bad Salzig.
Rhens is historic. There
is a round tower here that was used as a collection point for duties and taxes from
vessels on the river (as were most of the rest of the castles on or close to the
river). In 1645, ten witches were tortured and beheaded in this tower. Karl IV,
King of Germany, asked the citizens of Rhens to make a throne from stone and when
they did, he rewarded them by lowering their taxes. Since then, every reigning German
monarch visited Rhens sat on the stone throne and ceremoniously swore allegiance
to whomever it was owed. The photograph on the left is of Marksburg on Rhein, across
the river from Rhens.
Eck. This is a monument celebrating the creation of Germany in 1897. (In importance
to Germany, this date is similar to 1776 in the USA.) The statue is of Kaiser Wilhelm
I on a horse. He was the first Kaiser of the united German. Destroyed during WWII,
it was rebuilt in 1953 as a reminder of the post war divided Germany and today,
after 1989, it represents a reunified Germany sporting all 16 of the German states.
After visiting this monument, take time and check out Koblenz. Like the monument,
Koblenz also sustained heavy damage during the war. But it was in Koblenz that the
BRD (Federal Republic of Germany) was conceived and established after WWII. Across
the river is Festung Ehrenbreitstein, one of the largest castles on the Rhine. There
is a youth hostel inside.
Day 12: Koblenz to Bad Breisig
Bike path is paved all the way
from Koblenz to Bad Breisig but there are a couple of hills (30 and 40 feet) – one
in Neu Andernach and one just outside of Bad Breisig. The Rhine is wide and full
of watercraft. However the landscape is less interesting than that through the gorge.
Starting at the Balduinbrüke which
is either the last bridge over the Mosel or the first bridge you come to as you
ride up the Mosel from the Deutsche Eck monument. We navigate somehow the twisty
turny bike path as it winds through Lützel, just north of Koblenz. It is city riding
but the route keeps one off the busy streets for the most part.
We stop in Bad Breisig for
the night. Our choice is House Erika which it turns out is 3 kilometers uphill from
the bike path. It is only €21 per person for one and the rooms are nice, large,
and include a shower. The address is 74 Frankenbach Str. Phone 02633-8999. They
only have three rooms but there is Haus Cordula (phone 02633-95832) right next door
if your party is larger.
Back to the top
Day 13: Bad Breisig to Bonn
path today will be flat again. And it is mostly paved too. Maybe I am getting bored
but outside of Linz, there doesn’t seem to me much of interest today until we get
to the Beethoven Haus in Bonn.
We take the ferry from Kripp
to Linz at a cost of €5.10 for all four of us. Our bikeline guidebook tells
us that Linz is cute and since it is so hot today, we opt to do a lot of sightseeing.
Linz is worth it and we enjoy our visit.
The Bridge at Remagen collapsed
on March 17, 1945, after a pitched battle between advance forces of the Allied troops
with the German Army who was trying to deny access across the Rhine. There is a
1953 movie entitled Bridge at Remagen.
We end the day after spending
a couple hours in the museum called the Beethoven Haus, or Beethoven’s birthplace.
From there we ride a couple kilometers into the center of Bonn and stay overnight
at the Hotel Ebis (€49). Rooms are clean and hotel-like but they do not offer a
Day 14: Bonn to Dormagen
Again today the path is flat and
paved. The river is busy and it feels like we are riding on a bike path through
a city most of the time. There are a few fields and open places but the humanity
is pretty densely packed in around this part of Germany.
Leaving Bonn, I reset my cyclometer
at the Kennedy Brücke. With no breakfast to nourish us, we subsist on free apples
provided by the Hotel Ebis until we can stop for coffee. The path passes close to
the Kölnerdom or the Cathedral in Cologne. If you have not seen it, stop
and look around. The cathedral survived the war in amazingly good shape (perhaps
because allied bomber pilots considered it a landmark worth preserving) and is a
great example of architecture of the 16th Century. The site itself has been a place
of worship since before Roman occupation 2,000 years ago. It was once considered
the largest church in all of Christendom.
We stop for the night in
a suburb of Dormagen.
Day 15: Dormagen to Nierst
Another day of flat, mostly paved
path. This area is more industrial than agricultural. There are a few highlights
though, as there always are when on a bike in a foreign country – with my beautiful
bride (he hastened to add).
At Zons, we ferry across to
Bernath. We visit the Schloss Benrath and then follow signs toward Himmelgeist.
It is in-city riding.
Bike traffic through Düsseldorf
is as heavy as I have ever seen it. Fortunately everyone is well behaved.
In Nierst, we stop for the
night. We are at Hotel Landgasthof Sum Hasen. Address is: Stratumer Str. 34, 40668
Meerbusch-Nierst, Telephone 02150-1441, fax 02150-206015, they have 10 rooms. The
cost is about €80 per room. It is a newer building and the owners are pleasant.
Back to the top
Day 16: Nierst to Wesel
managed to lose our way not once but three times today. No harm done, eventually
we found the path again without backtracking. This is a bicycle-friendly part of
the world and if you ask enough people where the correct path is, you will eventually
get the right answer. Sifting it out of all the wrong answers is a bit tricky though
but you live and learn. First of all, do not show the people your map. It just confuses
them. Just ask them for the Rhine bike path or Rhein Fahrradweg. Since
we get lost so often today, you can pretty much disregard our mileage reading today.
I provide a few only for reference. The signs for the bike path seem to change frequently
and that is confusing. We are in an area where we see Neiderrhein Route
signs. You could buy a map for this area but they have signed routes all over the
whole area. It is like a spider web. My advice is to keep your objective in mind
and enjoy the scenery as you ride through this part of the Rhine River Valley. It
is less industrial and much more picturesque than yesterday.
The west end of the bridge
over the Rhine into Wesel.
We stop for the night in
Wesel at Hotel zur Aue, Reeser Landstr. 14, 46483 Wesel. Telephone 0281-21000, fax
0281-24806. Owned by the family S. Nitsch we have dinner here tonight and are pleasantly
pleased with the offerings. They serve a nice breakfast too. Their price is €65
for a double room per night. Wesel is a 750 year old community that is has a history
of being a power center during Roman times as well as a part of the Hanseatic League
during the Middle Ages.
Day 17: Wesel to Kleve
For our last day we enjoy more
flat, paved cycle path today. The route is picturesque and pleasant. Like yesterday,
there are tons of bike routes around this area. The path takes us a short distance
from the river and believe it or not, we actually climb a couple small hills (70
feet) just before Kleve. Do keep the name of the next few towns in your mind as
you navigate through here, it will save you aggravation. Ask me how I came upon
this gem of knowledge.
Xanten, a 775 year old community
is worth stopping in to check out the churches, especially the St. Victor’s Cathedral
(St. Victor Dom). This was also a former Roman settlement and undoubtedly Celtic
before the Italians moved in. They have an archeological park but we did not go
Kleve is our stop for the
night. We find Hotel zur Post, Hagsche Str. 44, 47533 Kleve, Telephone is 02821-24579
or 02821-12761, Fax 02821-25790. They have about 15 rooms most with showers. They
charge €55 for two people for one night. Kleves, situated on the left bank of the
Rhine, was particularly hard hit during the war. It is close to the Ardennes, where
the Battle of the Bulge was waged during WWII. A bit before that (say about 1,900
years), it was one of the largest northern forts of the Roman occupation.
Day 18: Kleve to the Dutch Border
Today is a short day (7.8 miles
and 12.5 km) and still mostly paved and flat. Signage is still a problem because
there are so many bike path signs but none of the right kind. It matters little,
the land is flat and the river is always to our right. How can we go wrong?
Just outside of Rindern, we
pass St. Willibrord Church. As they were excavating to build this church, they discovered
a Roman bath complete with a monument to Mars, a Roman god. Today, that stone monument
is incorporated into the alter of the church.
We reach the end of our tour
at the Dutch border. Beyond is the town of Millingen an der Rijn (Millingen on the
Rhine) From here we are off the clock. We ride a few more miles toward Nijmegen
but with sore legs and butts, we decide our fun meters have been pegged and we flip
a U-turn and head back for the Bahnhof in Emmerich. By the way, Emmerich was another
one of the most destroyed cities during WWII – over 98% destroyed.
Back to the top
Day 19: Dutch Border to Rossum
you continue the ride down the Rhine into Holland, do see our
Rhine in Holland Tour for detailed notes and
comments. Some of which I have copied into this travelogue. Since we rode upriver
in 2010 and this travelogue contemplates riding downriver, I have taken a little
artistic license with the comments. We happened to be in Holland because we had
just completed the Bike and Ship North of
Amsterdam and we tacked on this final section of the Rhine just for a sense
used two maps by Falk Number 15 Zuid-Holland-Zuid met Goeree Overflakkee
and Number 11 Rivierenland Met Rijk van Nijmegen. Both were of the sort
Fietskaart met Knooppuntennetwerk (Bicycle Map with Waypoint Network).
These maps show the waypoint numbers along cycle paths and low-traffic roads. We
also had along the bikeline’s Rhein-Radweg 3, Von Mainz nach Rotterdam.
That guidebook was useful in locating lodgings as well as recommending a route.
On the left is an example of the way point signs. Photo by Rolf Haase.
The border and the edge of Millingen
an der Rijn.
In Rossum, we stop at De
Gouden Molen; Waaldijk 5, Rossum 5328 EZ; +00 31 (0)418 661306;
firstname.lastname@example.org; their website is
Day 20: Rossum to Kinderdijk
Today the path is paved and flat. But then one could say that about
almost any day bicycling in Holland. We ride along the Waal most of the way and
enjoy watching the commercial traffic on the river.
Starting at De Gouden Molen hotel,
which is on the cycle path and overlooking the Waal, we head west toward the end
of the Rhine and its estuaries.
Across from Woudrichem.
We could not find the ferry shown in the bikeline guidebook. Perhaps it does not
run anymore or perhaps we are just poor navigators. Instead, we ride to waypoint
21 and cross the bridge into Rijswijk. Now a few kilometers back into Woudrichem.
Ferry from Dordrecht across
Ferry from Papendrecht to
Day 21: Kinderdijk to Rotterdam
Today is short because we like to stay outside the bigger cities in
the theory that we will save money. Besides, we think that Rotterdam is just a big
modern city with little to say for tourism. When we get into Rotterdam, we will
either take a train or continue on to Delft and The Hague, both of which are more
interesting to us as tourists.
Since Hotel Kinderdijk is on the bike path, we
reset our odometers as we leave.
Ferry from Kinderdijk to Krimpen
aan den IJssel.
We cross a bridge over the
the IJssel River from Krimpen aan den IJssel into Rotterdam.
End of the Rhine in downtown
Rotterdam at the VVV. VVV stands for "Vereniging voor Vreemdelingenverkeer "
– a Dutch mouthful that means "Association for the Traffic of Foreigners."
or Tourist Information.
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