Categories
2019 Germany The Netherlands

Osnabrück to Venlo

In the late summer, I cycle in Germany for four days. From Osnabrück the route goes over and parallel to the long stretched ridge of the Teutoburger Forest to the southeast, to cross the Ruhrgebiet from east to west after Paderborn. It is a very varied tour, with lots of nature, of course also the city jungle, and between Dortmund and Duisburg regularly striking industrial buildings in sight. I ride 450 kilometers and climb almost 4,500 meters.

Day 1: Osnabrück > Kempen (114 km)

Very early this morning I take the train to Deventer, and from there to Osnabrück. Excited I start cycling from the Hauptbahnhof. I immediately feel and hear an annoying rattling noise in the drivetrain (at the moment I suspect the front chain ring, but when I get home it turns out to be a worn-out rear chain ring), with the result that I am stuck with a rattling bike for four days. But who cares; with a bike equipped with a Rohloff hub I’m used to irritating noises.

The first part of today’s route is very diverse. I often ride on narrow asphalted roads, and now and then I take bits of gravel roads and forest paths. There are many climbs, though not long (I stay between 125 and 225 m) or steep. It is familiar terrain: I have been here three times with the Tecklenburger Rundfahrt, and recognize a beautifully situated forest path from a preparation ride on the TBR last spring.

Halfway through the day I want to see what’s true about the Bielefeldverschwörung: a conspiracy theory claiming that the allegedly nearby town of Bielefeld doesn’t exist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bielefeld_Conspiracy). And damn it: after I have cycled over the ridge of the hill on a boring road especially for this city, I don’t manage to catch even one glimpse of Bielefeld. From now on I will take conspiracy theories seriously!

Finally, north of Paderborn, I cycle fifteen kilometers on cobblestone strips through a wooded and heathland area–an army exercise site. After a calorific intermezzo in Schlangen, I climb 250 meters to the highest point of the day and reach Camping Eggewald. This is a fine place: not too big and nicely situated, and in the old stables is a museum where an old tractor and agricultural machinery can be admired.

Day 2: Kempen > Allagen (103 km)

After I’ve taken a picture of the camping boss sawing wood, I’m on my way. The first part I cycle on paths and gravel roads through the forest, followed by a few kilometers on the main road. In Neuenbeken I turn left, cross the railroad and start some climbing (and descending) over narrow asphalted roads through a area full of wind turbines. On the right behind me, I can clearly see the long-stretched ridge of the Teutoburger Forest.

From Grundsteinheim I ride a whole stretch unpaved through the deserted forest of the Sauertal. Occasionally the road becomes a bit worse and overgrown, but I can keep on cycling. And that’s despite the fact that I’ve mounted slicks (Schwalbe Supreme) just before this trip. These “cozy socks” tires filter out unevenness particularly well and perform superbly on asphalt and even on dry gravel roads. Only once, in this Sauertal, I almost crash after slipping on a piece of clayey mud.

After 35 kilometers I take a break at the Rewe in Atteln. For holiday cyclists like me this supermarket chain offers an attractive formula: the bakery and coffee machine are always located at the front of the shop, with a place to sit; this way, you can take a break and still keep an eye on your bike and luggage. And today, the Rewe comes at the right time: the energy of the pasta pesto from early this morning has been consumed, while I still have almost 70 hilly kilometers to go.

From the little town I cut off over a steep and bad path to the main road, which I soon leave for a stage through a second wind turbine area. Via the picturesque Fürstenberg I climb over a wide road to the Albachstausee, and then through the forest to the third wind turbine area of the day. On small roads I cycle to the larger town of Brilon, by me a Fanta to get some extra energy, and continue along the main road to Altenbühren.

The highest point of the day is the Warsteiner Kopf in the Arnsberg Forest. In this area I ride, mostly on gravel roads, for an hour between 480 and 560 m. In the descent, I pass the huge Warsteiner Brauerei. Via Hirschberg I finally reach the camping site, where I pitch my tent next to the playground. A very cute little white fluffy dog is running around, and I consider smuggling it back home.

Day 3: Allagen > Werden (124 km)

On today’s program are far fewer hills. I’m going to the Ruhrgebiet. After a short descent to the Möhnesee I cycle along this lake for a long time. I see lots of e-bikers, among them regularly obese men of 30 to 40 years old on e-MTBs. After a crossing to the Hevesee I climb in the forest over gravel roads. I descend to Neheim where I reach the Ruhr river. After the climb on the other side of the valley, the landscape widens up.

After having cycled some 60 kilometers I sneak into the Ruhrgebiet southeast of Dortmund. From Haus Rodenberg in Stadtbezirk Do-Aplerbeck, where a couple gets married, I follow the Emscher Radweg for a while, and consume an apple turnover and coffee at the Rewe. From the smooth cycle path at the Phönixsee I can see the Hochofen and Gasometer of the Hörder Bergwerks- und Hütten-Verein (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%B6rder_Bergwerks-_und_H%C3%BCtten-Verein) in the distance.

Via car-free roads and bike paths, sometimes through pieces of forest, I arrive at the huge campus of the Technical University Dortmund, where I cycle under the H-Bahn (unmanned monorail). About ten kilometers further on I reach the Zeche Zollern coal mine and industrial complex in Do-Bövinghausen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zollern_II/IV_Colliery). It looks beautiful and impressive here, but unfortunately I don’t have time for a visit.

I’m glad that I’ve planned the route in advance, as sometimes I get disoriented in this disorganized looking urban jungle of highways, railways, bike paths and forests. As a surprise, I suddenly end up in Bochum near a beautiful park with leafy avenues and stately houses. Here one can find the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Mining_Museum), the world’s largest mining museum. Next, I ride for a long time on a cycle path over a former railway line.

In Dahlhausen I cross the Ruhr via the narrow Schwimmbrücke. On the other side, at the top of the climb, I have a beautiful, panoramic view of the Ruhrgebiet. Down again I cycle for a while with a young lady on a fitness bike along Lake Baldeneysee. She tells about the Krupp family, who had their own station built on the other side next to Villa Hügel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_H%C3%BCgel), allowing the German emperor to come for a visit. I end this inspiring cycling day on a somewhat massive campsite at the waterfront.

Day 4: Werden > Venlo (107 km)

This day consists of two parts: in the morning I ride crisscross through the Ruhrgebiet, followed by the last part to Venlo this afternoon. But first things first. From the campsite, I climb underneath Villa Hügel to Essen. I pass the Hauptbahnhof underneath to the big city center of Essen, and from there to the huge Zeche Zollverein (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zollverein_Coal_Mine_Industrial_Complex), which has been an Unesco World Heritage Site since 2001. Image that some hundred years ago, the whole Ruhr area was scattered with coalmines and industrial complexes like this.

After this, I continue to the former Zeche Nordstern (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordsternpark) in Gelsenkirchen, which is located on the Rhein-Herne-Kanal. In the vicinity of the Nordstern Park are several interesting objects, including a huge, naked Herkules von Gelsenkirchen (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herkules_von_Gelsenkirchen), standing impressively on top of an old mine tower. I would like to stay here longer, but I have to move on!

The next ‘highlight’ of my cycling trip is the Tetraeder (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrahedron_in_Bottrop), a pyramid-shaped watchtower, based on a mathematical quadrilateral, on top of an ember waste mountain in Bottrop. As far as I am concerned, this is the best viewpoint of the entire Ruhrgebiet. I cycle further between the canal and the Emscher, see on my left the Gasometer of Oberhausen, and arrive at the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landschaftspark_Duisburg-Nord) where a former blast furnace complex is located.

A few kilometers further on I arrive at the Rhine. Before crossing it, I cycle along the Innenhafen of Duisburg and then through the center of this ugly town. Via the Brücke Der Solidarität I reach the west bank of the Rhine and complete the remaining 45 kilometers to the Netherlands. The only positive element of this last super boring stretch to Venlo is the ice cream from the petrol station in Neukirchen.

Statistics

– Day 1: Osnabrück > Kempen (114 km; 1,525 altitude meters)
– Day 2: Kempen > Allagen (103 km; 1,532 alt.m)
– Day 3: Allagen > Werden (124 km; 878 alt.m)
– Day 4: Werden > Venlo (107 km; 506 alt.m)

Categories
2019 Belgium Germany Luxembourg The Netherlands

The Ardennes

To compensate for the prematurely terminated Kyrgyzstan trip I make a cycling trip through the Ardennes in August. The trip goes from Maastricht to the French border, from Sedan to Luxemburg-City, and via the High Fens back to the Netherlands. The landscape is varied, the road surface mainly asphalted and the temperature very high. In six days, I cover more than 600 kilometers and climb 7,200 meters. (Unfortunately, I have lost most of the pictures).

Day 1: Maastricht > Barveaux (91 km)

I arrive early by train in Maastricht. I cycle via the Sint-Servaasbrug, the Onze Lieve Vrouweplein and the Sint Pieterstraat in the direction of the Sint Pietersberg. After the viewpoint at the ENCI marl quarry, I continue south along the Meuse and the Albert Canal. For a while, I cycle along with two gentle psychology students. The route through Liège goes smoothly: it is well signposted, and the stretches of bike path along the quay are nice.

After Liège I follow the Ourthe for a while. Sometimes the cycle path is squeezed between the river and the railway. Usually the road surface is fine; only once I have to walk over a stony path. Because just cycling along the river is boring and not very challenging, I also add some unnecessary climbs. Eventually I reach a family campsite along the Ourthe, crowded with Dutch people. For the first time since my first cycling holiday (in 2000) I’ve taken a little chair with me.

Day 2: Barveaux > Poupehan (107 km)

From Barvaux I cut off a part of the Ourthe and cross the by now narrow river again at Hotton. After a few stretches of jeep track and footpath, I follow more boring roads, through heavily wooded landscape and hardly any river valleys. This is one of the higher parts of the Ardennes, with climbs up to about 400 meters. It’s also ‘summer camp country’ here: everywhere I see groups of adolescents walking and even cycling – and that in this heat!

At Rochehaut I reach the Semois (beautiful view!) and follow a nice descent to Poupehan. I end up on a family campsite that is too expensive: I pay no less than 24 euros for a spot near the toilet block. There I defend my miserable spot with all kinds of attributes against the camping idiots  who put their feet agonizingly close to the tent pegs. But it could be worse: at the neighboring campsite, anti-social people party on Dutch music until late in the evening.

Day 3: Poupehan > Arlon (102 km)

From the Semois I immediately climb from 200 to about 450 meters. In Corbion I have breakfast on the sidewalk of the supermarket. Just after this village, I pass the border with France, turn off the main road, and ride on good gravel roads southwards through the forest. Via hamlets with names like Olly and Illy I descend further to Sedan in the Meuse valley. The landscape on this side of the border is much more beautiful and open than on the Belgian side. Also the road quality is significantly better.

Sedan houses one of the largest fortresses in Europe: the Château de Sedan. In recent military history (1870, 1914, 1940) the town played a strategic role. I ride a few blocks through the stately streets of the city center and then cycle out of the town along an excellent cycle route along the Meuse and next the Chiers – a good preparation for e-biking along the Danube, later when I’m old.  

At Tétaigne I cross the river and gradually climb over small roads and through small villages. After Matton-et-Clémency there is a nice stretch on a narrow road and a jeep track through a forest to the Belgian border. In Chassepierre I ride parallel to the N83 east for a while. My planned route is sometimes blocked because whole stretches of forest are closed due to the hunting season. As a result, I have to take alternative stretches over duller roads.

At Étalle, instead of the N83, I take a dead straight roman road, which at a certain point gets quite bumpy and dusty. Just before Arlon I cross the Semois: early this morning at the camping this was still a wide river, but in the upper part only a small stream remains. In Arlon-North I end up on a campsite on the N4, with a fine restaurant and a friendly reception.

Day 4: Arlon > Vianden (100 km)

From the back of the campsite I cycle on a barely visible path to Bonnert, and from there on narrow tarmac roads and a forest path through the lovely Vallée des Trois Moulins towards the border. From Eischen I take the ‘piste cyclable de l’Attert’ southeast. In Luxembourg, several old railway lines have been transformed into cycling routes with good road surface, which makes it easy to cover longer distances.

After Steinfort the landscape opens up and I ride via villages like Garnich and Holzem over cycle-friendly roads to Luxembourg-City. There I go through the car-free Vallée de la Pétrusse, a gorge that lies between the old fortress (the ‘Gibraltar of the North’) and the districts on the south side. I cycle under the Pont Adolphe (in 1908 the largest stone arch bridge in the world), climb to the Rocher du Bock, and descend again to the Alzette.

From Dommeldange I climb steadily to an altitude of 400 meters on a bicycle route that largely follows the track of the old railway line to Echternach. At Hemstal I turn off to Hersberg. Here I descend through the forest along the Härdbaach on a trail on which cycling is easy. In this lovely valley one can find the Kuelscheier: a dark, narrow rock tunnel of about 100 meters long through which you can walk.

After a bit on the tarmac road I go off-piste again in the Hallerbaach valley. This time the path is so difficult that I have to get off the bike once in a while. But I don’t care because it is beautiful here! In the touristic Beaufort I reach the main road again and after a short descent I end up 200 meters lower in Reisdorf on the Sûre. In Wallendorf I turn left and cycle the last part along the German side of the river Our on a nice little road to the camping in Vianden.

Day 5: Vianden > Troisvierges (83 km)

From the campsite I climb over a nice piste cycable to Fouhren, and from there on to Brandenbourg. Here is the beautifully situated ruin of the castle baring the same name. I buy myself an apple turnover and coffee in Diekirch. A bit further, just before Ettelbruck, I arrive at the Patton Monument: a statue of General George S. Patton Jr. holding binoculars in his hands, probably thinking of a brilliant tactical plan to hunt down the Germans (‘those lousy Hun bastards’).

From Warken I cycle north again through a beautiful, quiet valley. In Welscheid I climb via several hairpin bends to a plateau, followed by a grandiose descent on a car-free road to the valley of the Sûre. Next is a somewhat annoying climb to another plateau, followed by a descent to the valley of the Clerve. The piste cycable along the meandering river up to Wilwerwiltz is really beautiful!

Located in Clervaux is the Benedictine Abbey of St-Maurice and St-Maur, built in 1910 and modelled after the famous Abbey of Cluny. So it’s fake. By now it’s 4 pm, but still hot. After eating a delayed reward – an enormous orange, two peaches and a can of Fanta – I’ve cooled down a bit. What remains is an easy stretch of cycling along the river, which by now is called the Woltz, before I arrive at the campground in Troisvierges.

Dag 6: Troisvierges > Heerlen (124 km)

Today is already the last day of this short cycling holiday. Because of the long distance and the expected heat, I get up very early. This allows me to cycle the first part of the Vennbahnradweg in peace. This cycle route is nicely constructed, and offers the possibility to cycle all the way from Luxembourg to the Netherlands in just one day. In Sankt Vith, where during the Battle of the Bulge in WW2 a lot of fighting took place, I have Torte und Kaffee for breakfast.

At Waimes I cut off a part of the Vennbahn road, which makes very wide loops here. Further on I cut off again, this time through the High Fens. With more than 600 meters this area is the highest point of the trip, but definitely not the highlight. The road leads mainly through and along boring stretches of forest. So I’m glad when after the Wesertalsperre the route becomes a bit more varied again.

In the shade of the ancient Aachener Dom I order coffee and a sandwich. Next I ride out of Aachen via a nice route. I cycle for a while with Fabian, who invites me to drink Apfelsaft at his place in Kohlscheid. Guter Vorschlag! He turns out to be a professional photographer and has travelled a lot, among others in Pakistan (for work) and Mongolia (cycling). It is nice here and I could stay for hours, but I really have to move on!

The last part of the route is diverse and follows narrow roads along Wasserburg Haus Heyden and the Amstelbach to Kerkrade, and via the Wilhelminaberg to the city center of Heerlen. With a record-breaking temperature of over 40°C this is the hottest place in the Netherlands. In Heerlen, the railway station is being renovated and the elevators are not working. Packed like sardines in a tin, I hold my bike by hand in a busy, hot train back to Den Bosch.

Statistics

– Day 1: Maastricht > Barveaux (91 km; 837 altitude meters)
– Day 2: Barveaux > Poupehan (107 km; 1,604 alt.m.)
– Day 3: Poupehan > Arlon (102 km; 1,131 alt.m.)
– Day 4: Arlon > Vianden (100 km; 1,159 alt.m.)
– Day 5: Vianden > Troisvierges (83 km; 1,298 alt.m.)
– Day 6: Troisvierges > Heerlen (124 km; 1,159 alt.m.)

Categories
2018 Germany The Netherlands

Dresden to Roermond

In October 2018 I cycle from Dresden (D) to Roermond (NL). The road leads through the Ore Mountain Range (Erzgebirge), Sauerland and Thüringerwald, along the Elbe and the Rur, and through picturesque town, forests in autumn shades and misty river valleys. In nine days, I ride some 1,000 kilometers and climb almost 10,000 meters.

Day 1: Dresden > Geising (121 km)

From Amsterdam I take the Flixbus to Dresden. Except for the delay at the border –the Polizei picks a junkie with drugs out of the bus– I’m really satisfied with this nightly travel option. After arriving in Dresden I hardly take the time to marvel at the renovated baroque buildings in the tidy city center. I have no time to waste – I’m here to cycle! I have imposed a tight schedule on myself – quite challenging, it turns out later, because of the early sunset in October so eastern in our time zone.

The first 50 kilometers I cycle southeast with the Elbe on my left. On the other side of the river I regularly see little palaces between the abundant greenery. After Pirna there is a large S curve in the river, with the Bastei rising high above the Elbe, and in the distance the hills of ‘Saxon Switzerland’ (Sächsische Schweiz). From Bad Schandau I beat the tram (the Kirnitzschtalbahn) in the climb and next ride an –in the hurry– shortened unpaved track through the National Park, where the trees prevent a view of the famous rock formations. Schade.

It is already halfway the afternoon, but I still have more than 50 kilometers and 1,400 climbing meters ahead of me. Oops… Between Postelwitz and Krippen I use the ferry to cross the Elbe and cycle southwest for a long time. Next follows a pretty hilly stage, on both asphalt roads and forest paths. It’s already at dusk when I reach the ‘open’ landscapes with the most beautiful views of the autumnal forests. Under the waxing moon I see groups of deer grazing. It feels quite special to be toiling here all by myself.  

After riding in the dark for 1.5 hour, and still ten kilometers to go, I decide to call it a day at a simple hotel in Geising. While enjoying Reichenbrander beer I chat for some time with manager Jens. He proudly tells me that this small village with only 1,200 inhabitants has achieved a lot –good medical facilities and various sports facilities (ice rink, ski lifts, snow cannon) – thanks to their entrepreneurial and community spirit. The local curling team had even almost qualified for the Olympic Winter Games.

Day 2: Geising > Bozi Dar (106 km)

I say goodbye to Jens and climb from the gemütliche Geising to the touristic Altenberg, and from there on through the forest. At Neuhemsdorf the landscape opens up again allowing me to have a wide view to the north. Here I turn left. I follow a fine bike path along a brook. To my right there is only forest, while on the Czech side the landscape is very open. This is really a nice area to cycle!

At Teichhaus I turn left, and take a bike path to Eine Herberge im Bos. Next I cycle up a hill with again a wide view, followed by a whole stretch through the forest with beautiful autumn colors and every few kilometers piles of logs along the road. In Neuhausen there is a wooden toy factory and ditto museum. From Grünthal I climb steadily along a babbling brook for a while. This part is completely in the forest, so there is not much to see.

I have been cycling in the Erzgebirge all day: the 150 kilometers’ long mountain range on the border between Saxony and Bohemia, which owes its name to the large ore deposits that have been mined here for a long time. I see a lot of manufacturing industry, museums of crafts and old railway lines. In Steinbach I turn left to the south and ride along a stream with a genuine steam train on the other side. In Schmalzgrube I take a gravel road to the Czech Republic. A little further on I cycle to Vodní Nádrž Přísečnice (the Preßniz Dam).

The road along the lake is wide and boring. Just before Měděnec the landscape opens up again. From here I can see far into Czechia, despite the smog-filled air. Next I have to ride many more kilometers on wide roads with moderate slopes, mostly in the forests; it is not until the ski resort of Klínovec that I can see far away again. It is almost dark when I arrive in Bozi Dar, where I find a hotel room. Also on day 2 I haven’t made it to the planned camp site. Verdammt noch mal!

Day 3: Bozi Dar > Hof (103 km)

From Bozi Dar I cycle the first dozens of kilometers through pine woods (boring!) and meadows (great!). On the straw-yellow colored plateau near Prebuz I really feel abroad: there are hardly any people and houses are few. Near Club Nancy, the place where I actually wanted to camp yesterday, it is gorgeous. The road winds down through the beautiful forest along a stream. Everywhere leaves are whirling in the air, and in some places the road is literally littered with them. Autumn in full glory!

In the Czech towns I pass through I see quite some derelict and closed factories, shops and other buildings. What a contrast with the neat German places on the other side of the border. I also cycle through Luby, since the second half of the 17th century a center of violin making, which was lost with the expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War. And in Kraslice I pass a shop with Pat & Mat on its facade: would these two clumsy handymen be responsible for the poor condition of the buildings here?

From an old, dilapidated textile factory in Plesna a beautiful cycle route –often narrow and unpaved– starts, alternating between the Czech Republic and Germany. The part from Worla is also beautiful. Here I would like to return some time. South of Hof (Bayern) Just before sunset I cycle through a city park and cross the Untreusee via funny, covered wooden bridges. For the third day in a row I have not made it to the campground again. Luckily I do find an affordable hotel in Hof and have a Wiener Schnitzel for dinner.

Day 4: Hof > Meyersgrund (119 km)

Hof has a nice city center, especially the Neustad near the Sächsische Saale. I cross this river a few times. I then continue on an unpaved bike path under the A72 viaduct to Saalenstein. From here it is quite a climb onto the A9. And directly after the Authobahn I descent 200 meters. Well, this is a good warming-up for this demanding day full of climbing.

In Blankenstein the ascent to the Thüringerwald begins. The road rises very gradually between the meadows. Once on top of the ridge it goes up and down over asphalt and gravel roads for the rest of the afternoon. To be honest, I had expected this area to be far more beautiful. The villages, with dark-gray tiles on the facades of their houses, seem nice at first sight, but on closer inspection they turn out to be a touristic Kurort, a factory town or just a boring place. Beautiful views are scarce. I think the Rennsteig is heavily overrated.

On a bicycle path I have a chat with an older man who, thanks to pedal assistance, is able to climb lot –just like when he was younger. Once again I race against the clock to reach the destination in daylight. But to no avail. The last hour I ride in the dusk on a gravel road, overlook a junction, cycle the wrong way, and take a small path in the dark to the valley where camp site Meyersgrund is located. The good news is that I can finally use my tent and cooking stuff, so I haven’t dragged them along in vain.

Day 5: Meyersgrund > Probsteilzella (104 km)

From the campground I climb over a nice gravel road through the forest to the ridge (900 m). After an expensive cup of coffee in a kiosk with a nice panoramic view I continue on an asphalt road. I stay at this higher altitude for a while now. In Oberhof I arrive in a dreadful place. The place is full of bored visitors strolling back and forth between the parking and indoor ski hall. I also see people riding e-MTBs for the first time this holiday.

Here I go again a bit further over Rennsteig. For pine tree fans this path might be pure enjoyment, but due to the lack of nice views I find it boring. After a long descent I reappear from the forest. From Floh I ride a short bit on an old railway stretch. After having gained a few hundred meters in altitude I arrive at the Elfriedenquelle. Via a gravel road I descend to a beautiful valley with the babbling Laucha in it. I follow this stream via Tabarz to Langenheim, a nice village on both sides of the Laucha.

Down in the mildly rolling landscape I cross the Autobahn (A4) three times in a row. Due to my tight schedule I have to skip the historically interesting Eisenach –birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach and hometown of Maarten Luther. My route leads through many small villages on sometimes bad, unpaved country roads to the meandering Werra River. The last half hour I cycle at dusk with the lights on. At 7 pm I reach the planned finish location: camping Probsteizella. Wieder geschafft!

Day 6: Probsteilzella > Affoldern (121 km)

When I come out of the tent, all I see is fog. The first couple of kilometers take me along the Werra, but I don’t see anything of it. And also because of the cold, I really long for the sun. I ride through the lovely village of Falken, where I buy myself high-calorie sandwiches in a small bakery. After this I leave the Werra and turn left. At Schnelmannshausen is a beautiful old church between the half-timbered houses. A little further in the valley the sun finally breaks through; this results in nice pictures especially with all the patches of fog floating in the valley.

I follow a narrow road to Ifta. From here I cycle on nice roads with little traffic westwards. This part of Hesse is quite picturesque with all those cute villages with half-timbered houses. I especially like Netra: it has a prominent townhouse from 1580, an old church and a large manorial estate. At Wichmanshausen I ride between the pillars at the construction site for a new (motor)way. After Hoheneiche I turn left into another valley to the west.

At Burghofen I don’t pay attention to the map, and ride via a steep tractor path 100 meters in vain to a ridge with hunter’s stands. It does result in a nice view and some variation. After another climb I descend to Spangenberg where I eat sandwiches and coffee on a terrace in front of the supermarket. After this I cross through a wider valley. The busy road to get to the other side of the A7 is annoying, but immediately after that the quiet roads return.

Recommended by Google Maps I end up on a dead end path in the woods after Hesserode. After a few hundred meters walking between branches and through the mud, I arrive at an enormous excavation. Hmm… Luckily the supply road down is not closed, and I can continue. It’s still not completely safe here by the way: on a stretch of motorway where I think cycling is allowed, a a driver from the opposite direction decides to pass a car with at more than 100 km/h and almost hits me. I have a baroque angel from Dresden on my shoulder…

Time is running out again. I ride as fast as I can via the Wabern sugar cane factory to Fritzlar. Fritzlar is a very old, strategically located town, where Bonifatius founded in 723 the predecessor of the current Saint Peter Church. Because of the imminent darkness I actually want to stop, but the hotels here are way too expensive for me. So I carry on: first on a footpath along the Mühlengraben, and then on a very pleasant bike route along the Eder. At 7.30 pm I reach the campsite in Affoldern.

Day 7: Affoldern > Schmallenberg (88 km)

With a soaking wet tent on the back of my bike I head for the Edertalsperre. This dam, built in the 1908-1914 period, was destroyed by the British Air Force in the night of 16 to 17 May, 1943. The resulting flood ravaged the valley. This is hard to imagine at this very moment. As a result of prolonged drought the ‘lake’ loses two billion liters of water annually. I hardly see any water, and boats and landing stages are lying on the ground.

The partially unpaved road along the ‘reservoir’ goes up and down. After the Edersee I ascend a few hundred meters through a forest to Buchenberg and Fürstenberg, I descend on a jeep track through the forest to Heimbach, and from the valley back up to Rhadern. And there back down again… After that follow about ten kilometers through a gently sloping landscape with villages that lack the charm of East Hesse. The monotony is lurking, and so… saddle soreness alarm!

From Medelon I climb gradually over a partly unpaved cycle path through a quiet valley to Winterberg. This ski resort is downright hideous. And why are all these tourists doing here during autumn? Yet, the surroundings of Winterberg are quite beautiful. The descent is on a largely unpaved cycle path through the woods and then parallel to the main road to Schmallenberg. There I arrive at 6.15 pm at a nice hotel with a nice café/restaurant. Tomorrow to Cologne!

Day 8: Schmallenberg > Köln (131 km)

On the menu is the longest stage of the holiday. First I ride tens of kilometers through several valleys over or parallel to major roads. There is a lot of ribbon development and remains of old industry here, and constantly I hear the sound of cars. Cycling in the villages and cities is a disaster. The rich and innovative Germany really lags behind when it comes to smart traffic control technology, and the designation of cycle paths is often confusing. The fact that Germans park their cars on the cycling lanes adds to the unsafety.

In Olpe I eat and drink something in a Konditorei, and continue my way west. At Hützemert I dive into the 724 meters’ long, old railway tunnel. Also hereafter I ride whole stretches on old railway tracks, which makes cycling through these busy valleys a lot more pleasant. In Overath I turn right and have to go up very steeply to Heiligenhaus and immediately descend. At Untereschbach the same story: steep up and through the forest Königsforst Wildniswald back down. But at least I can cycle on quieter roads for a while.

Coming out of the forest I cycle under the A4 motorway, turn left and go straight on to the center of Köln (Cologne). I maintain a high speed, because I want to be at the railway bridge before sunset to take a picture of the cathedral, and barely manage to do so. I find a good and affordable room in the Maternushaus. I leave my bike in the underground parking, near a Parkplatz nur für Frauen. I buy myself a hamburger menu at the Mac.

Day 9: Köln > Roermond (107 km

From Köln I cycle about 20 kilometers in an almost straight line over the Aachner Strasse to the west. A little further on I arrive at Hambach: RWE’s largest lignite (brown coal) mine, where also Europe’s deepest location on the ground is situated. To realize this mine some villages had to disappear and a large forest was cut down. And the destruction of the forest is still going on. Every year, no less than 40 million tons of lignite are mined thanks to the world’s largest excavation wheel dredgers (225 m meters long and 96 meters high).

The mine has also swallowed part of the most northerly situated Roman road on the European mainland. That road ran all the way from Köln to Boulogne-sur-Mer in Northwest France. From Jülich, a stop on the Roman road, I cycle further along or close to the Rur River (not to be confused with the Ruhr River), which flows into the Meuse at Roermond. It strikes me that autumn hasn’t yet arrived here – how different it was in the higher eastern parts of Germany. In Roermond I take the train back home.

Statistics

– Day 1: Dresden > Geising (121 km; 1,790 altitude meters)
– Day 2: Geising > Bozi Dar (106 km; 1,760 alt.m)
– Day 3: Bozi Dar > Hof (103 km; 1,510 alt.m)
– Day 4: Hof > Meyersgrund (119 km; 1,840 alt.m)
– Day 5: Meyersgrund > Probsteilzella (104 km; 1,290 alt.m)
– Day 6: Probsteilzella > Affoldern (121 km; 1,100 alt.m)
– Day 7: Affoldern > Schmallenberg (88 km; 1,250 alt.m)
– Day 8: Schmallenberg > Köln (131 km; 880 alt.m)
– Day 9: Köln > Roermond (107 km; 320 alt.m)