Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Radreisemarkt (Cycle Touring Fair) Frankfurt IV

The Liebliches Taubertal (Gentle Tauber Valley) team were represented as it has been since the cycle touring fair started. We cannot remember an event without them anyway. What I like about these characters is their ability to find new cycle routes to connect the routes in their area with those in the areas round about. The first route was the 100km Klassiker the classic Tauber Valley Route, which connects Wertheim on the Main with Tothenburg ob der Tauber through Tauberbischofsheim, Lauda, Bad Mergentheim, Weikersheim, Creglingen and Rottingen. This was followed by the Sportive, the sporty Tauber Valley Route. This is a somewhat hillier variation that forms a loop around the Tauber valley and combined with the classic route makes up a trip of about 260km. The classic route has been upgraded or extended by the addition of a number of loops entitled die Erlebnistouren, which can be loosely translated as the Adventure Tours. The links to the south and the Jagst valley were next exploited in the Hohenloher Residenzweg (Hohenlohe Stately House Route) which visits a number of relatively unknown but quite interesting noble piles. The next was the Main-Tauber-Fränkisher Radachter (537 km) which follows part of the Tauber route before climbing over into the Main valley to follow the river downstream through Würzburg to Freudenberg and then returns to the Tauber via the Odenwald. This is a serious route. The latest routes are food and drink orientated: The Wein-Route in the Main and Tauber Valleys and the Grünkern-Route. Grünkern is dried unripe Dinkel (spelt) grain which was used initially after a wet summer in 1660 prevented full ripening of the grain and the unripe grain was dried in an attempt to make it edible. It was not much use as grain for bread, but added to soups it helped stave off hunger. It is now used in soups and in fritters and eaten as a delicacy in its own right. The hilly route runs through pleasant countryside through a number of interesting little villages.
Our "Romantic Road from Würzburg to Füssen" describes the Tauber Valley between Tauberbischofsheim and Rothenburg odT and can be obtained from us ( and the Romantic Road Tourist Authority (

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Radreisemarkt (Cycle Touring Fair) Frankfurt III

Saarland is one of Germany's smallest provinces, on the eastern border to France and Luxembourg, but it offers over 700 km of signposted cycleway. The province was represented at the Frankfurt fair and we were most impressed by the progress made over the last few years. We enquired about the Saarlorlux Route a circular route running through Saarland, Lorraine and Luxembourg, which is one those routes we look at from time to time and think it would be fun to do. It still is as long as one is prepared to navigate without specific signposting in Lorraine. There must be something about France that makes it difficult to organise signposting. The signposting is already in place in Saarland and Luxembourg. It was hoped as well to offer cycling holidays with pre-booked accommodation with baggage transfer. This too is proving difficult in France. However Saarland and Luxemburg have a network of cycleways crisscrossing the province and the Grand Duchy. One can book cycling holidays there. Contact the Saarland Tourist Office by eMail at info (at) or the Luxembourg Tourist Office (eMail: info (at)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Radreisemarkt (Cycle Touring Fair) Frankfurt II

We met Monique Goldschmit again at the fair. She runs an interesting company in Luxembourg called Velosophie. The company offers a range of maps, books, bags, bells, safety accessories, and cyclist's greeting and postcards. In addition Monique leads and plans reasonably priced luxury cycle tours in Luxembourg with a leader, luggage transfer, and a wine tasting. She also teaches cycling to adults in Luxembourg. If you ever fancied cycling in this fascinating albeit small country, then check out the Velosophie website, which is in German and French, but an eMail in English to velosophie(at) will bring a reply in English. (Replace the "(at)" by the more conventional symbol.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Radreisemarkt (Cycle Touring Fair) Frankfurt I

Every year about this time the Frankfurt branch of the ADFC the German cycling club organises its Radreisemesse. If you live in or near Frankfurt it is worth popping along and paying 2 Euros to visit the stands set by various largely German tourist offices, the ADFC itself, bike shops and tour companies. We will report over the next few days or weeks about what we saw and what we think is interesting.
If you want to hire a bike, a pedelec, a trike or even a tandem in Frankfurt am Main then take a look at Mosch.spezialradreisen if you can read German or drop an eMail to post(at) This company organises cycle tours all over the world, but when the bikes are not needed for tours you can hire bikes from it. They seemed like a pleasant bunch of folks and their trikes: HP are top drawer machines.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rubbish picking up day

Every year the town of Viernheim invites concerned citizens, clubs, political parties and the youth organisations to help clean up the mess that others throw out into the woods and verges around Viernheim. We took part this year as we have for several years. The litter lout looms large around Viernheim, in spite of bottle banks galore, free collection of packaging and a rubbish collection service that will accept almost anything - fridges, washing machines, car tyres, for example, for a small charge. We cleared a kilometre or so on the edge of the town which appears to be a favourite spot for Schnapps drinkers, who then throw the mini bottle out the car window, and fast food gourmets who don't want to have the remains of their repas stinking out their love nest on wheels. This is understandable, although from a road safety viewpoint somewhat worrying, that the early morning commuters have a quick double on the way to work, but why did someone throw away a valid Austrian motorway sticker; why did someone walk into the woods with a lorry battery when the town will take these for free? Did the number plate we found come from a stolen car? Still Viernheim looks all the better for its Spring clean and will stay looking well at least until the end of the week.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Germany’s Romantic Road celebrates 60th Birthday!

Recently the Guardian newspaper had a series of suggestions, for car drivers or motor cyclists, in its travel pages about Road Trips a la Route 66 and similar. They were a little sniffy about Germany’s Romantic Road which runs from Würzburg to Füssen. The newspaper suggested an Alpine variation, clearly offering more exciting landscapes, but we are doubtful that one can find more history per kilometre anywhere else in the world. We are surprised that our favourite newspaper treated the route with such disdain. Within its 420 km visitors can find amongst other treasures including: the Residenz in Würzburg, described by Napoleon as the finest vicarage in the world; Weikersheim whose chateau is a time machine back into the 18th century; Rothenburg ob der Tauber known the world over for its half-timbered mediaeval town centre; lesser known but equally charming are Dinkelsbühl, Feuchtwangen and Nördlingen (the latter lies in the middle of a meteor impact crater); Augsburg has connections with the Fugger family, the trading giants of their day, Mozart and Brecht; the Pfaffenwinkel area has magnificent views of the Alps and Füssen offers Ludwig’s fairy tale castle. We suspect the problem is that one needs to get off the motor bike or out of the car to appreciate the glories of this road.
Shortly afterwards the Tourist Authority for the Romantic Road sent us an invitation to join in the festivities to celebrate the 60th Jubilee of the founding of this route linking a whole series of fascinating towns. Throughout the year virtually all the towns along the route and the cities of Würzburg and Augsburg are holding special activities from wine festivals and concerts, sports events and open days to link together tourism, visitors and thousands of local people. On 8 May 2010 the programme will officially kick off in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, one of the best known of the small towns. Representatives from all 28 towns along the ‘road’ will converge on the Marktplatz, dressed in appropriate attire from 60 years ago to welcome guests and old friends. Period vehicles, cars, buses, bicycles and motorbikes dating back to the start of real tourism in the region will also be on display. The organisers hope that as many people as possible will raid grandfather’s, granny's and great aunt's wardrobes to find forgotten clothing from 60 years ago.
Music fans and anyone enjoying singing should try to head to Feuchtwangen on Sunday 4 July where there will be an open air concert in the Marktplatz. This will be directed and conducted by none other than Gotthilf Fischer, the German equivalent of the conductor of the Last Night of the Proms or the guy who used to lead the community singing before the Cup Final at Wembley Stadium. Any choir can join in - just contact the Tourist Authority beforehand.
The final major event, which we are likely to attend, will be in the fascinating little town of Bad Mergentheim on Sunday 10 October - billed as a celebration of the culinary delights to be encountered along the Romantic Road - our contact suggests it will be a gigantic excuse to eat and drink, probably to excess, but who cares as long as your hotel bed is booked and your bike parked safely until next day? With excellent vineyards in the Tauber Valley and around Würzburg and beer making in all local flavours and strengths further south many may wish to extend their stay. Food will certainly include many local dishes and extend well beyond sausages and sauerkraut while the Farmers Wives Association is publishing a cookbook. This could be your chance to learn German while preparing your lunch.
Write to: Romantische Straße Touristik-Arbeitsgemeinschaft GbR
Segringer Str.19
91550 Dinkelsbühl
The Romantic Road Tourist Authority website:

Our book ‘The Romantic Road from Würzburg to Füssen’ has information about the history, landscape and descriptions of all the towns as well as about cycling.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Obviously when one mixes in with traffic cycling round the town, it is prudent to keep one's eye open for the motorist who, without looking, opens their door as you cycle up on the left side of the car allowing you to collide gracefully with it. The cure to this problem is to give yourself plenty of room, keep your eyes open and be ready to scream "TÜR!" if you see the slit by the door opening. This problem is complicated in Germany by cycleways that have park slots to their right. If the cycleways are wide enough, it is no real problem, but there is a variation that complicates matters. For some reason unknown a lot of German parents prefer to mount a child seat directly behind the driver meaning that mother, father and the child all need to get into and out of the car on the left, on the traffic side. The parent concerned is then occupied getting the child's rucksack, teddy bear or plate of Saumagen and sauerkraut off the back seat. Little Hans-Dieter can then wander off into your path or even in to the track of the juggernauts roaring past your left side. Why this is done we can never understand. Why not mount the child's seat on the right hand side of car, on the side that is usually traffic free? It is a mystery to us both.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Weathering summer storms III - Kiel Canal: July

We are in process of cleaning up the Bergstrasse Bike Books hard disk and realised that we had written this blog but not uploaded it, so better late than never:
After trying the Eifel and Lake Constance our next foray was north to Schleswig-Holstein and the canal linking the North and Baltic seas. Our travel arrangements were fairly complicated involving carrying folding bikes on trains where all the normal bike reservations were booked on a Sunday when half Germany was travelling to view Iron Man competitions here and a Music and Fun event there. We were a bit frazzled by the time we reached Glückstadt YH on a lovely late afternoon, the sun sparkling on the little harbour, its ships and fine houses. Our companions had an even more exciting, though shorter journey, from Kassel using a Schönes-Wochenende-Karte, with luggage and full size bikes. These tickets enable up to 5 people to travel together on local trains, the snag being that bike space can be limited, connection time somewhat tight and the rest of Germany is travelling this way. However, after meeting by chance around the harbour saving the need to try phone contact, and exchanging a couple of years life and cycling stories over dinner, plus knocking back a few glasses of grape juice at their ‘out of town’ billet with a view of the sunset, journey stress disappeared.
Day 2
What had happened to the sun after it set yesterday? We met along the dyke north of Glückstadt (on the Elbe Estuary, downstream of Hamburg) in light rain or heavy drizzle, our views limited to the occasional sheep with a misty backdrop. However we were cycling together again and there were occasional glimpses of light towers and even blurred floating apartment blocks, ships heading out into the North Sea or towards the Kiel Canal. As the morning progressed the skies brightened, by Brunsbüttel the sun came out, and we stripped down to T-shirts. The locks separate the Canal from the N. Sea and we spent time on the observation platforms and the little museum. We stocked up on sandwiches for lunch (Camembert cheese with cranberry sauce, umm… delicious) and found the NOK cycle route signs out of town, roughly northeastwards. NOK? The Germans call the canal the Nord-Ostsee Kanal. Gravel surface, a bit muddy here and there but quiet apart from bird song and cries to look out for a picnic bench stop.
Following the gourmet sandwich stop we swung right and saw our first major ship gliding between the reeds even before we reached the actual towpath. Neil and I come from near Manchester, UK, so we’re a bit blase about Ship Canals but the Kiel Canal in its present form is definitely in another league to say nothing of the vessels themselves, mostly spanking new and mind-bogglingly expensive. No wonder that the investment in moving 80 million m3 of earth materials, splitting settlements and maintaining numerous ferry services has paid off, at least up to now. The economic slowdown has caused a reduction in traffic but we were kept happily entertained by the vessels, big and small that we saw. Though the weather prospects faded as the day wore on, we explored several of the loops away from the canal. Out to Neuendorf where drainage over hundreds of year has so reduced the volume of the soils that the current land surface lies 3.5 m below sea level, making it the lowest point in Germany. Then we cycled back to the free ferry at Burg our destination, over the marsh and up a steep hill into the town centre. The tourist office had closed for the day, but a phone call from the bookshop where the ‘nerve centre’ is located soon resulted in Burg’s tourist officer returning to meet us. She quickly located an interesting overnight stop for us in an old school, being converted into B&Bs/apartments. Though not quite finished, all the important bits like toilets, beds and showers were in place. We walked out of town to eat at a pleasant ‘roadhouse’ sort of pub and all found something tasty to eat.
Day 3
Next morning our friend M’s research into Burg’s bakeries the evening before resulted in the most fantastic breakfast, choice of beverages, and brötchen, ham, cheese, croissants, jam or honey (about 6 €each). We staggered out of the cafe, thankful to start the day with a quick downhill ride to the towpath, in a chilly wind with darkening skies. Still we had the wind with us, unlike a large group battling along towards Brunsbüttel. Ferry, then out through the fields away from the canal, past enormous estate farms, their enormous brick barns like some red brick beast crouching in the landscape, the ride settled into some sort of pattern. Occasionally an Autobahn bridge soared over the canal, its surface covered with tiny speeding vehicles as we kept an eye on the weather behind us, trying to guess which clouds would produce a downpour, others merely threaten. We used woods, bus shelters, overhanging eaves of barns to keep off the worst and then swung on again, thankful for the following wind. Our loops took us through busy little Albersdorf, where many Stone Age relics have been found and via remote countryside to Fisherhütte before reaching Hanerau and Hademarschen. Again the local tourist office found us quarters in a FEWO, a holiday house with two fantastic bedrooms and use of the kitchen if we wanted. For our evening meal we found an interesting restaurant a short distance away, before which Neil had managed to buy another bike helmet to replace his old one. This had got fatally damaged on the train journey north, a Viking funeral was promised by the bike shop.
Day 4
We had really given up bothering about the weather forecasts, rain, torrential, pouring, heavy showers with thunder, were evidently normal in July here. What really annoyed all of us was that way down south in our ‘home bases’ the sun was apparently shining and egg frying on pavements was becoming a community sport. So bear it we did, mostly grinning, at least in the photos. The clouds scudded low at our backs as we returned to the canal bank, crossed by ferry and turned north east. Our eyes adjusted to the gloomy light and only looking at my pictures of the old sluice at Giselau did I realise how it was. Over the next ferry at Oldenbüttel we sailed along through the marshlands with the wind blowing the grasses lining the dykes. Soon we left the canal on a detour through a nature reserve and bird watching paradise, sheltering in a convenient bus shelter in Lütjenwestedt to take lunch perched on a rise above the marshes. There were wonderful views of cloud-wracked skies as we descended through Todenbüttel and on through small villages of Schulberg back to the towpath and the ferry at Breiholz. From here into Rendsburg our route lay parallel to the River Eider formerly used as a ships route as far as Rendsburg. The Eider itself was mostly invisible beyond the canal embankments. The run into Rendsburg was extremely pleasant with tree lined banks and lots of groups of walkers who mostly moved aside for us gracefully. Grain silos and docks mark the beginning of Rendsburg proper but we were all looking forward to seeing the ferry suspended between the Meccano-inspired high level rail bridge. The Ships’ Greeting Point on the north bank did us proud as a Gibraltar registered freighter prompted a verse of ‘God save the Queen‘ as we strolled down to watch. We finally tracked down the Tourist Office in a bookshop in a main square and soon found reasonably priced accommodation in an hotel on the south side of the Canal. Too soon we breathed a sigh of relief at having avoided the downpours for the clouds finally unzipped themselves and we were all drenched en route to a supermarket for provisions. We can only recommend the tunnel under the canal, complete with lifts for cyclists and pedestrians, despite the odd drip it was much drier than outside. Within minutes we reached our hotel, stowed our bikes in a garage and ourselves in a warm, comfortable annex whilst the North German monsoons raged outside. Our only exploration that evening was the excellent hotel restaurant next door.
Day 5
Occasional awakenings during the night suggested more storms and there were puddles aplenty on the loop we made south and west next morning through railway workers cottages and out through suburbia to Jevenstadt before returning to the canal and taking the transporter ferry below the railway bridge. This is a famous spot for railway fans since the trains make a huge U-shaped loop to lose height over the rooftops down to the station in Rendsburg. We used this route on our September visit and it is spectacular. We swept through the centre of Rendsburg and out over the bridge where the Eider escapes from a large inlet through a commercial centre then villas along the Obereider shoreline. We risked a picnic in fitful sunshine, followed shortly by the first rains of the day. On through pretty villages where boatyards had been for hundreds of years and where the route climbed and fell allowing interesting downhill plunges. We turned away northwestwards to climb towards Bünsdorf and were forced to shelter once more, in the lee of some farm buildings. The owners did come to look at us enquiringly but were evidently reassured by our muddy bikes and damp appearance, without the need to set the dogs on us. On a sunny day we are sure that the Wittensee and the little sailing resort of Bünsdorf are both delightful but we did not linger but sped on towards Sehesedt, an estate village chopped in two by the building of the canal. Luck was with us as we found comfortable quarters in a FEWO, conveniently across from the pub/restaurant. Anyone needing supplies (as we did) must head out 4 km (on a cycleway parallel to the busy road) to Holtsee where there is an excellent supermarket. On the way home we explored the little village with its enormous brick barns and country house Dodging the increasingly violent wind and rainstorms we dined well in the pub that night.
Day 6
The meteorologists promised another day of wind and rain and it was dark and gloomy as we set off to visit the old sluices of the Eider Canal across the ferry and through the villages of Hammer and another estate village of Osterade. Though undoubtedly picturesque, the weed lined canal remains, the old sluices and pump house at Kluvensiek were definitely melancholy so after a quick photo session and discussion of falling eel populations in the Eider (global warming, pollutants?) with a biologist collecting samples we returned to the canal the way we had come. We had decided to press on to reach Kiel that day, in view of the unpromising weather though there were touches of sun for part of the day. We had hoped to pick up lunch in one of the villages en route but were either too late or arrived on a rest day so we kept going until we found a convenient bakery on the run in to Kiel. The cycleways took us right into the city centre though a certain nerve and savoir faire are needed to mix with the traffic near the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station). We found Kiel Tourist Office easily enough on the quayside close to the station and were fixed up with reasonable rooms in a somewhat old fashioned hotel though we had the impression they were more used to people arriving by ship or posh four wheeled vehicles. Big city, thousands of visitors, famous sights, our few Euros were largely irrelevant I suppose, but it was such a difference not to be made welcome. We were quartered over in Ellerbek, where the shops catered for much of the immigrant population and the street scene was lively but very different from ‘Downtown’ by the Tourist Office. It suited us and in the evening we wandered on foot back to the centre and ate in a bustling restaurant watching the shoppers rushing past under their umbrellas. The meteorologists had unfortunately got their sums right.
Day 7
Our companions T and M took a train back to Kassel whilst we entrained as far as Neustadt (Holstein). After the usual gloomy start the weather rapidly improved and we enjoyed a pleasant run along the Ostsee (Baltic) cycle route via Travemünde to Lübeck where we stayed a couple of nights in a Youth Hostel, to visit a friend and collect our impressions of our trip. Our verdict was that we would return in a couple of months and explore further.
We did, the weather was much kinder and you can order the resultant: ‘Cycling in Northern Germany - a Loop through Schleswig-Holstein’ on:

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