Overview | How We Rate This Trip | Route Descriptions & Maps | Road Stories | For What It’s Worth
Throughout the entire world, possibly the easiest airport to escape from on a bike is the Frankfurt Airport. Right out the front door is a bicycle path. Usually, we have pedaled to Heidelberg the first day. The trick is to find the correct bike path (weg). There is an extensive system so that you can avoid the busy roads. Accurate and readable maps for biking (or driving) are available everywhere including at the ever-helpful tourist offices. From Heidelberg, there are good bike routes, east, west and south; to France or Austria or the Czech Republic.
How We Rate This Trip
The saving grace is the very extensive bicycle path system. If it were only the roads that you rode on, we’d be talking about their manic lust for speed and the largest pool of drivers in Europe. Although crowded, the roads are flawlessly engineered. The “wegs” offer escape from these crowded roads.
There is lots of traffic that moves very fast on the roads. The bicycle paths (wegs) are much preferred. On some of the more popular bike paths, the bike traffic, especially the families, can impede your progress in the more popular biking areas
We’ve been in Germany 6 times and we’ve always gone in the spring and fall. Once we jumped the gun and went in March and it was cold, windy and rainy. On our May trips, the weather varied from warm and sunny to cool and wet. It seems that we’ve always lost some time to bad weather.
Maybe we’ve been unlucky but the winds have always been unpredictable. You have to be very lucky for good conditions. The prevailing winds are supposed to be westerly.
Germany has neither a spectacular coastline nor the grandeur of the Alps. Rather the scenery consists of fairytale castles, huge forests, picturesque towns, villages, and winding rivers. The beauty is mostly cultivated; farm fields and vineyards.
As in most of Western Europe, there are too many bike specific guidebooks available to mention. The information offices in the places of interest had perfect detailed maps often specifically for biking. We obtained “weg” (bike path) information at these offices almost everywhere. The tourist offices spoke perfect English. Other bikers, mostly German, were always helpful
Road Safety: 4
The traffic is fast moving and often left us uneasy on the busier roads. The Germans are excellent drivers but it felt so good to escape to the extensive bike path system. These paths were often separate from the roads but sometimes, they were on the shoulder of the busy highways.
General Safety: 5
Germany is, in many parts, very populated. As usual, the greater the density of population the greater the risk of crime. Once out of the major cities, crime, violent or otherwise, became negligible.
The food is hearty and well prepared. The hotels are undoubtedly clean and neat. The prices are high compared to other places in the world. What I’m saying is that you get quality but at a price.
Any tap water is potable. If you want bottled water, it’s available although expensive. Coffee is well brewed. Everything is available and good. Beer and wine are local and excellent.
German food is rich and hearty; dumplings, potatoes, bread, ham, pork and of course Wurst – that comes in all shapes, sizes and colors, hot or cold. Generally, with your room you get a “killer” breakfast; cereal, yogurt, bread, rolls and of course sausage. This is all a matter of taste but it is good fuel.
The Germans are inveterate campers so there are plenty of camp grounds during the season. We avoided the impersonal and expensive hotels and opted for the Gasthaus or Gasthofs. The equivalent of the B&B is marked by the sign that says “Zimmer Frei”. These are always good and good value.
The Germans are traditionally known for neatness, love of order, diligence and comradely cheer that they call “Gemutlichkeit”. We enjoyed their openness, warmth, honesty and helpfulness. The Germans are mostly multilingual and fluent in English that opens up the communication and information gathering for a tourist.
It’s less pretentious here. The local music and dance is more down to earth. It seems that everything is hearty and big. All arts are offered at a very high level. The classical music performed here is probably the best in the world.
The large cities have suffered from the wars of the last century. The smaller cities and towns are better preserved. Its mostly medieval buildings that are quaint and well preserved. Of course, there are the cathedrals and castles.
TOTAL SCORE 77
Route Descriptions and Maps
May 1993 into & out of Frankfurt.
The romantic way, the black forest and the Bodensee.
Frankfurt Airport to Heidelberg 85K
Out of the terminal and go left on the bike path (weg). Around airport next to sound barriers to the west then through a forest to Waldorf, 8Ks. Then continue on the bike path to Morfelden along the railroad tracks. Take the minor road toward Darmstadt. Better to go around town to Highway 3 then bike paths all the way to Heidelberg avoiding Mannheim. Mostly flat and easy through heavily populated area but not a problem because of the designated paths for bikes. This is an easy and simple first day to an interesting city. Into Heidelberg over the main bridge.
Heidelberg to Bad Mergentheim 120K
Cross the Neckar river on the old bridge and take the bike path on the north side to Erbach, 32K. Sometimes the weg is dirt but it’s ok. Away from river to Gaimuhle. Gradual climb on a somewhat busy road. Up to Reisenbach, 10Ks. Steep for the last 3Ks. Then flat or down to Mudau and Buchen, 17Ks. Quiet road and single lane. Then to Hettingen, Gotzingen,then right to Bofsheim, Dorrhof and Rosenburg. Its flat to Bofsheim but there are 2 climbs before Rosenberg. Then to Eubigheim, Uiffingen and Boxberg. Flat and quiet. A hill before Boxberg. Then on a parallet road Hwy. 292 into Schweigen. Now 2 options: 1) 15Ks through Koigshoften, Flat on the road with fast traffic. Sometimes a bike path. 2) 9Ks on direct route with steep climb over a hill then down into Bad Mergentheim.
Bad Mergentheim to Dinkelsbuhl 95K
Good bike path that follows the Romantic Road to just before Rothenburg through the ancient towns of Weikersheim, Rottingen and Creglingen. After Rothenburg, we couldn’t find the bike path so we took Hwy 25 to Wornitz. It was ok. Then we took the minor roads south to Dinkelsbuhl. Good riding.
Dinlelsbuhl to Augsburg 118Ks
Sunny, perfect day (May 30). From Dinkelsbuhl, its an easy 31Ks of bike path cycling along B25 to Nordlingen, which is set in the fertile Ries depression. Take Hwy B25 to Mottingen and then into Donauworth on the Danube river. The cycle path ends in Mottingen (there are plans to continue it), Then its 48Ks to Augsburg. Flat on B2 which runs the entire way to Augsburg. No cycle path and the traffic was moderate to heavy. But cycing is fast. There are quieter but longer ways.
Augsburg to Turkheim 55Ks
After leaving Augsburg, the whole route is on quiet back roads. Mostly flat. 15Ks to Gessertshasen. 8Ks to Fischach. 12Ks to Konradshaufen. 15Ks to Ettringen and then 5Ks to Turkheim. The last of the Romantic road.
Turkheim to Kisslegg by train.
Kisslegg to Wasserburg 45K
15ks on back roads to Wangen. Then pick up the Danau-Bodensee bike path (weg). We had a little trouble finding the weg. The “weg” went through farms and over rolling hills for 30Ks. Pretty. Down to the Bodensee at Wasserburg.
Wasserburg to Stein Am Rhine 110K
Mostly a touring day around the Lake. Along the lake on wegs and minor roads to Lindau then to Bergenz (Austria) then back to Wasserburg and finally to Friedrichshafen. Took the ferry to Romanshorn (Switzerland). Roade along the lake to Kreuzingen then to Stein Am Rhein. Sometimes on roads and sometimes on “wegs”. All flat. At this point until Baden Baden, we started using a bicycle map we bought in Romanshorn. Published by ADR in 1992.
Stein Am Rhein to Schaffhausen 23K
Now in Switzerland on back roads to Schaffausen through the forest. Mostly flat and quiet. The border line is complex here so sometimes you’re in Switzerland and sometimes Germany. There are no border formalities on these back roads.
Schaffhausen to Waldshut by train.
Waldshut to Menzenschwant 44K
Steep climb to Schmitzgn then a very steep descent. It was raining. Hilly to St. Blasien. Then on to Menzenschwand, only a village. The black forest is beautiful.
Menzenschwand to Freiburg 78K
Cold and rainy. Over a pass going north then up and over a second pass and into Freiburg.
Freiburg to Basel, Switzerland 60K
Through vineyards and small towns with the Black Forest as a backdrop but dark and overcast again. Rode to the Rhine River then along the river on a nice packed sand bike path. It’s a litlle boring through the woods but quiet.
Basel, Switzerland to Freiburg, Germany via France 85K
Cross the Rhine into France and start on the bike path along the river. At this time the path was poor and stoney. So we found the minor back roads. Crossed back into Germanu at Neuenburg near Mullheim. Then retraced our trip Basel to Freiburg.
Freiburg to Gengenbach 70K
Using a local bike suitability map we rode to Waldkirch through Denzlingen. Through fruit trees and vineyards. Out of Waldkirch turn up to Lahr. Up and over into another valley. Into Haslach then to Gengenbach.
Gengenbach to Ettlingen 65K
Down the valley to Offenburg. Out of town on Hwy 3 through fruit trees and vineyards. There were other quieter routes in the broad Rhine valley but we stuck to Hwy 3 to make better time. Moderate traffic. Relatively flat. From Baden Baden we took minor roads through Kuppenheim and Malsch to Ettlingen.
Part of a trip from Munich to Warsaw, March 1991.
It was too early and the weather regularly curtailed our progress.
Munich Airport to Muldorf 80K
The information office was of no use. We were directed to roads that parralled Hwy 12 which we rode on to Muldorf. We then obtained an excellent biking route map. It was a good ride. Cold. Map Used: ADFC-Radtourenkarte (1 of 27 covering all of Germany) published 1991.
Muldorf to Passau 123K
Minor roads to Altotting then to Braunau (Austria) across the river then back again into Germany along the river to Scharding (Austria), across the river again. Now ride on the bike path into Passau on the Austrain side. Reported to be a little longer but faster. Its mostly flat and easy.
Passau to Aschach 70K
Now picked up a bike map for the bike trail along the Danube to Vienna, Austria and almost to Bratislava (Slovakia). Great trail next to the river. Strong head winds today. (See Austria)
Part of a trip from Warsaw, Poland to Frankfurt, Germany
May 1990. We entered Germany from Czech Republic
Czech Border to Bischofsgrun 48K
We started in Karlovy Vary in Czech Republic and went through Cheb to the border. We bought a bike weg map in German which led us to a dirt path so eventually we rode the highway. Moderate traffic but big trucks. Hwy 48 all the way to Bischofsgrun. Mostly climbing gradually. From Schirnding to Marktredwitz we took a parallel side road.
Bischofgrun to Bamberg 130K
Rode on E48 until we crossed A9. This was all downhill. Then we took back roads up and over to Kulmbach and into the Main River valley. Then we followed the river all the way to Bamberg except at Alten-Kunstadt we took a back road over the mountain and through the forests and back down to the Main Valley. Then used minor roads into Bamberg.
Bamberg to Schweinfurt 75K
We got good maps in Bamberg for cycling. They were in German but very explicit for this whole trip. Out of Bamberg on an excellent bicycle path (weg) on the south side. We followed the river. The path runs through the city centers of the old towns along the river. Cross over to the north side at Zeil A Main then through Hassfurt to Theres. Just outside Theres cross back to the south side to Unter then back again to the north side into Schweinfurt. Very good bike route following the bike map.
Into Frankfurt Airport and then cut down to the Alsase region in France.
Frankfurt Airport to Heidelberg
(see trip above)
Heidelberg to Ettlingen 70K
Out of Heidelberg head for Sanhousen on the minor (and quieter) road south. This road is east of A5 and west of Hwy 3. Then head for Hwy 3. Theres a good bike path that parallels the busy Hwy 3 all the way to Ettlingen. There are a few hills through Wiesloch until Bruchsal. Its flatter though Weingarten. You avoid the congestion of Karlsruhe next to Hwy 3 through Durlach and into Ettlingen on the bike path.
Ettlingen to French border near Greffern 55K
Continue on bike route next to Hwy 3 to turn off for Baden Baden. Its 6Ks into Baden Baden and 6Ks back to Hwy 3. Then continue south 2Ks to Sinzheim. Now take the minor road west to Leiberstung and then Rheinmunster then cross Hwy 36 to Greffern then 2 more Ks across the Rhine River bridge into France.
Into Luxembourg and out of Frankfurt
Down the Mosel River and up the Rhine River
Luxembourg to Trier 75K
From Luxembourg City, where bicycle trail route information is readily available, follow the bike path to Echternach on the Sauer River. Cross over the river into Germany and take the well marked bike path 25Ks to the confluence with the Mosel River. Sometimes this route is on the shoulder of Route 418. Then take the bicycle path directly along the Mosel to Trier.
Trier to Traben-Trarbach 84K
The Mosel route bicycle path continues, off and on, the whole way. Take the Moselroute out of Trier to the river side. After Thornich, take the quiet south bank to Newmagen and, just before Minheim, cross the river off of Hwy 53. Another good path to Kues on the north bank. Then back over the river and before Kinheim, cross over the river again. Some riding on the main road. Then after Krov on a queit road to Traben-Trarbach.
Traben-Trarbach to Koblenz 103K
Continue on the well signposted bicycle trail. To Reil on the quiet road along the river. Cross and take the bike path to Punderich. Then take the path to Zell. Then side roads to Ballay and Neef. Cross over river. On and off bike path to Senheim the cross again and then to Beilstein. Now lots of twists and turns to Cochem.. Lots of tourists here. Follow route to Koblenz, some bike path and some on the wide highway shoulder. Good views of the river and vineyards.
Koblenz to Mainz 92K
There’s a good bike path most of the way to Mainz and a shoulder the rest of the way. It’s very popular with cyclists. The path runs along the main road through St. Goar, Oberwesel and Bacharach. Then at Niederheimbach, the path runs away from the highway along the Rhine. Cross the River Nahe and then to Bingen, a large town. To Ingelheim and Heidesheim. Then to Budenheim and finally along the river to Maintz.
Maintz to Frankfurt Airport 45K
There is not point to describe our route since we were lost most of the time but we did find some bike paths. Basically we followed the Main River then cut south to the airport. Through Waldorf there is a bike weg to the airport.
Germany and France 1986
We’ve all faced decisions on where to bike. My wife Sally and I were definitely flying in and out of Frankfurt, Germany, but we waffled back and forth about whether to spend our two weeks in Germany or France.
On the flight over, we were still debating the question. France has an excellent rural road system and Germany is so densely populated; but the German people are more approachable and many speak English. The French are aloof and few speak English, but French cuisine and wine are superb. However, the German beer and hearty food also appealed to our bicycler’s appetites. The weather would be the same for both countries in September: expect 13 days of precipitation out of 30.
We finally decided to ride to Heidelberg the first day. We felt that we could always catch a local train if the roads were too congested.
We emerged from the Frankfurt airport into hazy, warm sunshine. We took a minor road south avoiding the Autobahns and happily discovered our first of many bicycle paths. We followed a series of interconnected paths all the way to Heidelberg. Sometimes these paths were separate off-road ways and at other times they were wide shoulders next to the road. Occasionally, we’d be forced to ride on the roads which were congested with very fast moving traffic, but overall it was a pleasant first day ride.
Our orientation to biking in Germany was beginning. We followed the signs showing a silhouette of a bicycle all the way to Heidelberg; but there were risks in traveling by the seat of our pants. At one point, we encountered a sign showing a graphic of a bicycle with a read circle around it. We blithely passed it thinking this must be a special route since the pictured bicycle was circled in red. We all know that feeling—on a narrow road with heavy, fast moving traffic; white knuckles clutching your lower grips; head down to both squeeze the edge of the pavement and disregard the roaring traffic coming up from behind. It’s even worse when, off to the right, you spot the bike path that you should be on meandering through the serene fields. And so we learned that the sign with the bicycle circled in red meant emphatically “No Bicycles.”
On our second day, again under hazy, warm sunshine, we headed further south. About noon, we encountered our first harvest festival in Wiesloch. The bands were playing, the bratwursts were cooking, and the beer was flowing. American military bases dot this area, so we were hardly foreigners. Still Klaus, a spry English-speaking octogenarian, adopted us and gave us a guided tour of the town and festival. We snacked on the various local specialties and then hit the road again.
By later afternoon, we were pedaling through Ettlingen where it was also festival time. Sally and I decided this festival would be especially good nocturnal entertainment, as it was unabashedly food, drink, and entertainment oriented. Local sports clubs and singing clubs, etc. each sponsored a booth which sold different German beers and local food specialties to raise money for their respective clubs.
We took a room at a hotel and headed for the festival. While ordering two steins of beer and watching a dance group perform, I literally bumped into Gerhard who immediately, in perfect English, invited us to join him and his wife Gilda at a picnic table. Again, we had guides.
Our preconceived notions of Germany were right: friendly people who spoke English, opportunities to meet and get acquainted with the local people, excellent food and beer. Our surprises were pleasant ones. The bike paths allowed peaceful biking even thorough the densely populated regions, two glorious days of warm sunshine, and it seemed like there were harvest festivals everywhere on the weekends during September.
The next day we crossed over the Rhein into France. We stopped at a small village fest, had sausages for lunch, and continued on to Huguenot where we booked a room. As we pulled into the city, the weather was becoming cloudy, windy, and cold, but here was yet another festival where we had a dinner of Torte Flambé, a local specialty.
We were in France, but in Alsace where the contrast between Germany and France is not that marked. After all, Alsace has been both German and French through the years depending on the vicissitudes of the last war and treaty. Since World War I, it has been French except for German occupation during World War II. Our innkeeper described Alsace as the best of both France and Germany.
We eventually found our way to Strasbourg, the interesting metropolis of the Alsatian region. First, we biked through the Vosges Mountains, ending up in a cold downpour at Schirmeck. For the sake of comfort, we went to the station to catch a train. The line ran only one way—to Strasbourg.
We toured Strasbourg on foot, got tourist information, and washed our clothes in a Laundromat. (Later on, back in Germany, we discovered that Germany, unfortunately, has no self-service Laundromats.)
That night, we dined at a restaurant which specialized in the local cuisine which consisted of sauerkraut, sausages and beer. The German language, or rather the Alsatian dialect, which sounded very much like German, was usually spoken and the half-timbered buildings were typical German architecture.
The next day, armed with better maps, we headed for the Route du Vin (Wine Route). After a deceptively steep ride to Obernai from Strasbourg, we skirted the vine-covered mountains while riding in the relatively flat Rhein valley. These romantic medieval towns were only three or four kilometers apart, so our progress was slowed as we toured each one. The highway always circumvented the towns t avoid their narrow cobblestone streets. Our bikes gave us a great advantage over the motorists since we could always ride through the towns by simply spotting the tallest church spire (usually at the town center) and heading in that general direction.
Most of the towns were completely intact from medieval times. We have all taken pictures of quaint places by making sure to cut a supermarket or apartment building out of the photo frame, but in these perfectly preserved towns you could turn 360° and snap photos. There was very little destruction during the last wars since Alsace simply capitulated to whomever arrived first—invariably the Germans.
As you would suspect, there were plenty of tourists. The roads were fairly heavily traveled, but the French drivers were extremely courteous, steering a wide arc around us even if they had to pull out into the oncoming traffic lane. Sally and I figured that the French drivers didn’t want to risk knock off a future Tour du France hero, since most of the bikers with whom we shared the road were not touring but rather race training.
One day toward evening, anticipating a hot shower, we realized that there were no hotel rooms available in the beautifully preserved town of Ribeauville. Panicky tourists were rushing in and out of each hotel, guesthouse, and pension the town. It was simple for us. We would ride up to a hotel, Sally would hold my bike, I would poke my head in the door and ask simply “Complet?” (French for full). The proprietor would answer, “Oui,” and we would go on to the next one.
The race for shelter was on as we rode to the next town, Riquewihr, which was even more picturesque than Ribeauville. The motorists zoomed around us and we could see that the hotels outside the town were full since the tourists would pull up to the hotel, run inside, immediately run out and speed off.
As darkness fell, we pushed straight into town on the little narrow roads. Since cars were not permitted into the city center, the first hotel at which we inquired still had two rooms available. Now, however, we became overconfident. Sally stationed herself at this hotel to protect our potential room while I cased the rest of the town for a possible better deal. I could find no other available room so I quickly returned. Sally said that there had been no other customers in the meantime. However, the proprietor, recognizing what I had been doing, now declared that one of the rooms had been taken, so that the only room available had no shower…not even down the hall.
We had to take it and we did. She was punishing us for attempting to find another room. The French are master politicians in world affairs and in everyday life. Applying your basic power politics, she managed to not only put us in her least desirable room, but also forced us to agree to eat both dinner and breakfast in the hotel dining room.
The room rates in France are strictly government controlled so that you are never really ripped off. If rooms are in great demand, however, the proprietor may require you to have meals there. This was seldom a problem, but the continental breakfast was usually overpriced.
We washed rather well in our wash basin and descended to the dining room. Our meal was excellent. Actually, the worst meal we had in France could still be described as “very good,” but the food was usually “excellent.”
We spent the majority of the time on this bike trip in France, so “how did you find the French?” was a legitimate question put to us upon our return. Sally had spent time in France previously and she could have answered cryptically: “We didn’t.”
Except for waiters, store clerks, and innkeepers, our contact with the French people on a personal level was minimal. There was the French farmer in a small town in Lorraine who invited us into his house, gave us a tour of his house and attached barn and offered us refreshments. And there was the couple in Soultz in Alsace who owned the hotel, but they seemed more German than French, just like Alsace itself often did.
And then there was Luigi—the bartender. We approached him in a small bistro in Besancon, just south of Alsace, and asked for “2 bieres, s’il vous plait.” I thought I had perfected this line, but Luigi shot back at me, “I suppose you want two Budweisers.”
You’d have to call him French. He had not left France for 20 years, was married for 25 years to a French girl, and his son for whom he was working that night spoke only French. Luigi, as his name would imply, was of Italian extraction, but had grown up in England. He was an orphan during World War II, lived by his wits on the London streets, and at night slept in the Victoria Train Station.
Sally and I took turns peppering Luigi with questions. He recommended and took us to a small restaurant around the corner, introduced us to the owners, helped us order the specialties of the region, and joined us for dinner. We mentioned our lack of contact with the French and Luigi commented, “The French are not mixers. They prefer cafes in which to see and be seen rather than pubs to discuss the events of the day with both friends and strangers.”
The meal was excellent as usual, and Luigi then mapped out our following days. “You must go to Arbois and stay at the Hotel du Paris which has the best country restaurant in the region—three starts. Go to Beaune and then finally to Dijon.”
Our trip was developing into a tour of France. The bicycling was enjoyable and served the dual purpose of burning off the calories we consumed in the restaurants, the bakeries, and right off the trees.
Each night we would find a restaurant emblazoned with the necessary emblems of merit that could satisfy our biker’s hunger with local specialties and local wine. Each day, as we made our way from Strasbourg to Dijon, we would choose between the breads and pastries of the small bakeries (every town, no matter how small, had its own bakery) or the fruits of the season.
Along the rural routes, the mirabelles and plums were ripe on the trees. Mirabelles looked and tasted like cherries, so we would stop any time we spotted an especially luscious harvest hanging on a tree and pick and eat our fill.
Although there were plenty of bicyclists on the roads, they were either local shoppers transporting their groceries in their big front baskets or racers who swooshed past us during their workouts. The bicycle tourists we encountered were neither French nor German.
In Beaune, we met two English bicycle tourists and started comparing notes. We enthusiastically described the “Route du Vin” through Alsace to them. Reflecting upon their tour of central France, they had decided to call it the Route de la Peche” (Peach Route) based upon their huge consumption of the local fresh fruit.
We also met Ellen and Irv Rothschild of Cleveland in Beaune. We were staying at the same hotel and spotted each other’s bikes, so we sought each other out. Irv was a retired professor from Western Reserve Medical School who was the most enthusiastic bicycle traveler I have ever encountered. If he and Ellen weren’t touring, Irv was either writing about his trips or tearing apart his bike in his basement. He is considering writing a book entitled “The Joys of Bicycling.” He captured me in the garage of the hotel to show me more than I wanted to know about his bike’s mechanics. As my attention span was being tested, his instincts as a teacher led him to tap the part he was instructing me about and say, “Now pay attention here.” I know that we would read with relish a book entitled, “The Joys of Bicycling” by such an enthusiastic, interesting, and experienced author.
Over dinner, he allowed us to express our feelings about the joys of bike touring. We told him we loved to travel and we like to be physically active. We felt encapsulated in a car zooming from one city center to another. The genuine folks are most likely in the countryside and villages. We especially love our encounters with these people and these encounters seem easier when on a bicycle. It seems to us that people are more open since even a stranger on a bicycle obviously presents no risk to them. The bicycler shows a real interest and commitment to their area just by being there rather than only passing through. Irv and Ellen understood.
In Kaisersberg, we met a 70 year old retired Swedish airline pilot who was meandering through Europe on an ancient one-speed bike. He said that after a career of flying over Europe at 30,000 feet, he was just poking around little streets in tiny villages, which previously were but dots on the landscape.
While still in Alsace, Sally and I attempted a shortcut to find ourselves up the side of a mountain on a dirt track running through the vineyards. As we pushed our bikes up the final steep grade of a hill, we spotted a couple in folding chairs having a picnic of bread, cheese, and wine. They had come by car and I cold see Great Britain license plates, so instead of greeting them, I simply said, “Every time I find myself in the most obscure corner of the world, I invariably run into a bloody Englishman.” This couple then went on to regale us with stories of their past bike tours throughout all of Europe. It was obvious that their preference was biking, even though they had driven this time.
After Following Luigi’s tour through Beaune and Arbois, we rode into Dijon. On impulse, we rode directly to the train station and discovered that a train was leaving shortly for Metz and that they would allow us to take our bikes onto the train. This quick trip would position us to ride down the Moselle River to the Rhein and then up the Rhein back to Frankfurt. So we left Dijon, a reputedly interesting and attractive city, after a most superficial look and headed for Metz, a supposedly less notable city in the north.
When we arrive in a new area, we usually starte at the tourist information office if there is one. Some of the information people, after a hectic summer of answering the same questions over and over, had obviously run out of patience. However, in Metz where the tourist traffic is relatively thin, M. Cleven, the elderly director of the Metz Tourist Office, gave special attention to our concerns as bicyclists instead of giving us the usual curt answers.
He reassured us that there were bike paths almost all the way up and down both rivers. He gave us maps and information galore and guided us to Sierck les Bains, the last French town on the Moselle. We had excess French francs and wanted to spend one last night in France before following the Moselle into Germany. He assured us that there was a nice hotel and restaurant in Sierck les Bains.
We saw the hotel on the river as we descended a sweeping hill into the center of town, but it was closed for two weeks because the owners were on vacation. We rode through the small town and found the recommended restaurant where we made reservations for later.
Since we didn’t have any guidebooks, we had become experts at picking hotels and restaurants in both Germany and France from their outside appearance. Each establishment wore emblems of recommendation like a soldier would wear his medals. We especially looked for the Swiss and German Touring Club emblems on hotels and Hatchett Guide emblem or just the sheer number of any emblems on a restaurant.
After some inquiries, we learned that there were rooms across from the train station. We had little choice. It was a pit but with a correspondingly low price: 50 francs ($6). We would still have 550 francs in cash ($66) after paying for the room. As it turned out, the recommended restaurant was very elegant with lots of tuxedos and fabulous food. Our bill exceeded our cash, and I had to put the surplus amount due on a credit card. Sally said, as we waddled away, that this must truly indicate something about our values when we spend 12 times as much on dinner as we did on our hotel! She was right.
Whereas the contrast between Germany and France was vague in crossing into Alsace, it was very sharp as we traveled down the Moselle. There was an abrupt change in architecture, food, attitude, and style.
The traffic was heavy, but as before in Germany, we found bike paths which ran along the Moselle and the Rhein. Again, we were surrounded by vineyards cascading down the hillsides as we pedaled through medieval towns full of tourists. Occasionally survival became paramount as we were forced to share the road with the fast moving traffic streaming along the riverside.
The last night we stayed in Weisbaden which left us with a 40 mile trip the next morning to the Frankfurt Airport where we knew showers were available. On reaching the center of Weisbaden, the sound of loud rock music was blaring from the boom boxes of American GIs. There are many U. S. army bases in this area also. At our hotel we met the proprietors, Horst and Anna, who had recently returned from a vacation in France. We swapped stories about the meals we had feasted on, the bakeries we had overindulged in, and the fresh fruits of the season that we had devoured. We said that France is the best place in the world to be hungry.
The German couple confided that they had spent a leisurely time sailing a powerboat through the rivers and canals of France. Anna, a trim woman of 35, confessed that she gained five pounds on the trip. Horst, more portly, sheepishly admitted to putting on 20 pounds on their two week trip. The ultimate reason for traveling by bicycle in France is to avoid doing this!
At the Frankfurt Airport, we met a couple from Sheboygan, Wisconsin who assured us that we would not only survive but enjoy the bike trip they had taken down to Munich from Frankfurt, primarily because of the network of bike paths. This report rekindled the debate about where we would bike when we return to Europe. On the plane, Sally and I reviewed the positive and negative points of biking in France and Germany. The arguments for each place really hadn’t changed. Ultimately, we will probably head for France. The deciding factor is the French cuisine.
For What It’s Worth
A cycling German couple in Bamberg showed us the best routes but stated that the best bike trip in all of Germany and Austria was Passau, Germany to Vienna, Austria.
Using the trains.
We took the train from Schweinfurt to Wurtzberg. There was no human at the ticket office so we studied the schedule and determined which trains took bikes. If there was a picture of a “suitcase”, we could put our bikes on the train. Then we deduced that “Gleis” meant track. Then there was a color code for direction. We went to the track at the scheduled time and of course a train pulled up and off we went. In Wurtzberg, we took a shower for $2 at the train station and then connected to the Frankfurt Airport.