Luxembourg – Saturday 13 July

Luxembourg – Saturday 13 July

Today’s 64 km ride took us to Luxembourg city in Luxembourg.

We followed the Mosel again for the first part of our ride. The landscape was flatter here, with almost no grapevines. We crossed the border into Luxembourg at Wasserbillig, around 15 km into our ride.

After this, the bike path (Luxembourg national route 4) took us up some hills – quite a shock for us after getting used to the flat river trails. We were on very quiet roads, alongside some cows. We have also left the grape vines behind, riding alongside ripe wheat fields and corn again.

Our route was alongside Luxumbourg national cycle routes 4 and 2. We rode through Manternach, Wecker, Hagelsdorf, Roodt sur Syre, Mensdorf, Niederanuan.

View of Manternach coming down the hill

We enjoyed looking at this building under construction, with beautiful wooden arches, using CNC cut cross laminated timber that fits together perfectly. The consultant is from a Swiss University (Lehrstuhl Fur Holzkonstruktionen Lausanne).

The towns were very quiet – with hardly anyone about. In fact, the only people we saw involved in Saturday recreation activity were other cyclists – all dressed in lycra on racing bicycles. We didn’t pass any cafes or shops to buy coffee or cake. There are some beautiful modern looking houses, and well kept older ones.

The cycle ways were not purpose built, but rather along small paths or quiet roads. This all changed when we got to the outskirts of the city, where we rode on a luxury two way cycle road, including traffic signals at intersections.

Main cycle way into Luxembourg city

We enjoyed the view of part of the old town, down in a steep (Alzette) river valley, from a bridge as we rode into Luxembourg.

River valley view from bridge

This is an odd place. The country side was basically empty, and when we got into Luxembourg city, all the people were packed into the pedestrian malls. In fact, most of them were tourists. We rode around and had some coffee and cake (custard squares) at a bakery/cafe.

We enjoyed taking the Pfaffenthal lift down to the Alzette river valley part of town, like a small village 60 m down from the old city centre. The elevator is free to use and large enough for several bicycles and pedestrians. It also has glass sides.

Our hotel was a few kilometres away from the historic centre, near the railway station. It has lots of pretensions (4 stars), but the area is not that great, with lots of dubious characters hanging around on the street (drug dealers?). We had some kebabs for dinner, and then some (expensive) beer at a swanky pub.

Riding through the vines – Friday 12 July

Riding through the vines – Friday 12 July

It was still cool and a little hazy as we left Bernkastel-Kues for our 76 km ride to Trier, all along the Mosel river.

It seemed as though there were even more vineyards today, with vines covering entire hillsides. I felt impressed with the scale of the vineyards, even more so than I remember from our last trip. There are fewer castles in this part of the valley and you get the sense that it is broadening out as you approach Trier.

It was quite hot in the afternoon when we arrived in Trier. We had some beer and snacks (Kris-soup, Jenny- apple cake) at a cafe on the town square before having a look around the historic town center.

Our hotel was a few kilometers out of town and we stopped at a supermarket to buy food for supper along the way. There was a sudden thunderstorm while we were in the supermarket that cleared up by the time we got to the hotel. The hotel is fairly old and quite basic. However our room was nice and big with an outside patio where we could sit and eat our food.

We went down into the hotel restaurant later to look for a good wifi signal and to have some beer. We ended up next to a very sociable group of friends who were meeting up from all over Germany. We had a good time chatting and drinking with them.

More Mosel – Thursday 11 July

More Mosel – Thursday 11 July

Today’s ride was 95 km from Treis-Karden to Bernkastel-Kues. It turned out a little further than we anticipated, due to the number of bends in the river.

It was overcast when we set out in the morning – with a gorgeous quality to the light. The Mosel was very still, throwing up reflections of the town as we crossed the bridge to ride on the other side.

Tries-Karden in early morning

We paused to watch this little narrow tractor riding up and down the steep slope and trimming the vines. Now we know why they all look so neat.

Narrow tractor trimming vines
Another ruin

The biggest town we passed by was Cochem, about 12 km into our journey.

It started to rain a little bit at Cochem. At first it was very light, barely making a difference, and later it set in to proper rain. It was not really cold and we were still able to enjoy the scenery.

Beilstein

It only stopped raining around 15 km from our destination, after we had stopped for some refreshments. It took a while to find a local cafe that was open. I had Apfelstrudel and Kris and Esther had soup. You see Apfelstrudel advertised outside all the cafes – it seems to be the traditional cake in this part of the world, something I am very susceptible to.

Apfelstrudel on the Mosel

Another wonder of the Mosel river valley is the size and height of some of the bridges spanning the valley. This bridge is so huge it was impossible to capture the whole thing in a photo.

It’s amazing where they will plant a vineyard

Bernkastel-Kues, our destination for the night, is a relatively large town, spanning both banks of the Mosel. It also has it’s own castle which overlooks the town. Our hotel is really close to the old town, and relatively expensive. We had to telephone someone and let ourselves in after taking a key out of a lock box using a code. The receptionist appeared later and helped us lock our bikes away in their garage.

Approaching Bernkastel-Kues

It began to rain heavily just after we left the hotel on foot to get something to eat in town. We ended up in a small pizzeria eating an excellent Calzone pizza. It was starting to dry up again by the time we left and I took a few pictures of the beautiful old buildings in the town.

Birthday on the Mosel – Wednesday 10 July

Birthday on the Mosel – Wednesday 10 July

We were lucky to reach the beautiful Mosel river in time to celebrate Kris’s birthday. We have toured through the Mosel river valley before, in 2015, and always vowed to return. This was Esther’s first visit and we enjoyed sharing it with her.

The day’s ride was just 55 km to Treis-Karen, the weather was sunny and we took a very relaxed pace. The first stretch was really easy – down the big hill we had climbed the night before and then into Koblenz, where we had a look around.

A highlight of Koblenz is the Deutsches Eck (German corner). This is the confluence of the Rhine and the Mosel rivers. There is a huge statue and paved promenade, a cable car and a castle on the other side of the Rhine. A busker was playing the accordion as we enjoyed the scenery while riding around in circles on our bikes.

The rest of the ride along the Mosel was idylic, as can be seen from the pictures below. The Mosel has the steepest vineyards in the world and is also dotted with castles and ruins. I tried to take a picture of each one.

It became quite hot and we noticed a trend among male cyclists, namely cycling topless. Kris threw caution to the winds and followed their example – although he kept his helmet on!

Bike path, steep vines, high bridge
Thurant castle above Alken
Another castle

Treis-Karden (our destination) is a neat small town on the river. Our accommodation was in a Pension right on the central square – above a bakery. Our rooms had a shared balcony looking out on the square.

We had a walk around town and a beer at the beer garden down by the river. We decided to eat at Oscar’s burger cafe – next door to our Pension and owned by the same people. Here we also enjoyed some Riesling from the nearby Otto Knaup Vineyard. The burgers were special and the Riesling was wonderful.

Rhine River Ride – Tuesday 9 July

Rhine River Ride – Tuesday 9 July

Today was our longest ride so far – 116 km from Cologne to Weitersburg. This was largely due to us underestimating the distance to the accommodation we had booked.

Almost the entire ride today was alongside the scenic Rhine river. It was not hard and we set off at a relaxed pace, not realising how long the day would be.

Rhine river view – leaving Cologne
Bridge on the Rhine

We were charmed by the small town of Unkel, about half way into our ride.

Rhine vineyards
Break along the Rhine

The last 20 km of the ride were hard. We were tired and Kris found the navigation to our accommodation tricky. We thought it would be straight forward when we booked the pension, as it was alongside the Rhine. But it turned out to be awkwardly situated in relation to the motorways and it was not easy to work out the best route with a bicycle. We stopped a couple of times for directions from people on the street. The last 2 km were up a steep hill – we actually walked some of the way.

We bought a heap of food and some red wine in the previous town and enjoyed it while recovering on the terrace outside our bedrooms, with the view of the Rhine below.

Recovering with a wine at pension in Weitersburg
Rhine view from Weitersburg
Cologne – Monday 8 July

Cologne – Monday 8 July

Today was a long 93 km, from Hagen to Cologne. The first part of the ride was messy and unpleasant – with no real bicycle path and busy traffic. We rode to Grevelsberg and Schwelm. From Schwelm, we had to traverse two river valleys, to Beyenberg. This involved a lot of hill climbing. It was hard work and our progress was slow.

Once we climbed the hill up past Beyenberg it was flat country. We got onto good bike paths from here (they may have been old railway tracks) and we began to make better progress. We stopped for a restorative coffee and cake at Lennep – and then made our way through Wermelskirchen and Burscheid. We got onto the Rhine just as we reached Cologne.

We were exhausted when we arrived. Our hotel is near the centre so we went to see the Cathedral on foot and afterwards enjoyed a meal at a “Brauhaus” where we also had some of the traditional “Kolsch” beer – which is served ice cold in small 200 ml glasses.

Eigelsteintor – gateway in city wall built between 1228 and 1248
Kolsch beer
Der RuhrtalRadweg (Ruhr Valley cycle way) – Sunday 7 July

Der RuhrtalRadweg (Ruhr Valley cycle way) – Sunday 7 July

Today we rode 73 km from Soest to Hagen, with most of our ride along the Ruhr Valley Cycle Way. It was a cool day, with perfect conditions for cycling.

We started off on small roads and cycle paths, including a climb to ride up along a ridge, before Wickede. We could hear the church bells ringing in the valley down below. The view stretched out for many kilometres on either side. It looked quite industrial in the distance. We managed to keep a good distance from the very urban areas on our ride today. There was a wind farm along the ridge and we stopped at a bench made out of an old wind turbine generator. There was a display showing how much energy was being generated – around 600 kW

Wind farm not far from Wickede

We found the RuhrtalRadweg (Ruhr Valley Cycle Way) soon after Frohnhausen and stayed on this route for the rest of our ride to Hagen

Bicycle bridge over railway line at Frohnhausen

There were many other cyclists on this cycle path, most seemingly just out for a day ride on Sunday afternoon. One of them kindly took a photo of us on a bridge over the river.

Ruhr River
Ruhr River

The Ruhr cycle way was not alongside the river all the way. It occasionally veered away into towns or bits of forest or farmland in the river valley. We even found ourselves on a mountain bike track (maybe we were off the official path) – which ended up at this lovely beer garden above the river. We were only around 10 km from Hagen, so we stopped for a drink. Most of the people in the beer garden had arrived by bicycle.

Hagen was a disappointment. We rode into the town but it was fairly dreary. So we headed to our accommodation around 3 km out of town near a university. The accommodation is great – large newly fitted out rooms. We thought the university may have an interesting buzz – but evidently it is an on-line university with almost no students on campus.

However there is an excellent beer garden and Argentinian restaurant very near to the hotel, where Esther treated us to a delicious meal

A Quiet Saturday – Saturday 6 July

A Quiet Saturday – Saturday 6 July

Today felt like a very long ride – 86 km without many stops – from Münster to Soest. We originally wanted to go to Dortmund, but couldn’t find reasonable accommodation there because of a Pokemon Go convention on the weekend!

We rode out of Münster on a “Bicycle Street” – where bicycles have priority, although cars and motorcycles can also ride through.

We travelled along many small rural roads today – in some places it was so quiet it felt like we were the only people in the world.

The biggest town we passed through was Hamm, and I thought we may pause for a snack. However it was almost like a ghost town, and we kept going when we didn’t see anywhere appealing to stop.

Bear fountain in Hamm

This place was called Kirchwelver, and includes a church and cloister. It was very neat and picture perfect.

We rode alongside more ripe wheat fields, some freshly cut fields, and today we also saw a couple of large noisy machines chewing the wheat up on one side and spitting out the chaff on the other.

Another feature of the ride was that the mosquitoes were out in force. All three of us were bitten while riding and were left scratching our arms and necks in the evening (and the next day).

Putting a little more air in the tire, in the forest

We felt quite parched by the time we arrived in Soest, so we enjoyed a beer at one of the restaurants on the main square before heading out to our hotel.

Bicycle Capital of Germany – Friday 5 July

Bicycle Capital of Germany – Friday 5 July

Our first tour day with Ester was around 67 km, from Osnabrück to Münster, including some time exploring the town before we went to our accommodation in a city apartment.

Elsbeth had made us aware that we are riding through the Teutoburg Forest area, where the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest took place in 9 CE. An alliance of Germanic tribes ambushed and decisively destroyed three Roman legions. The Romans never again attempted to conquer the Germanic territories east of the Rhine river, and this is regarded as a turning point in world history.

The Tautoburg Forest covers a large area and includes two nature reserves. However, I had my eye out for the name and picked up on it when we passed by a sign pointing to the Teutoburger Waldsee. We decided to do a short detour to see it. It was very peaceful, there were baby ducks.

We found our way onto a bike path alongside the blue-green Dortmund-Ems Canal, around 15 km out of Münster. There was a lot of activity on the canal, with a number of barges going up and down, mostly carrying sand. We followed the canal almost the entire way into Münster

I had read about Münster being the Bicycle Capital of Germany. Evidently vehicle traffic (36.4%) fell below traffic by bicycle (37.6%) in 2007.

We were not disappointed, as we rode through the centre of the city to the Schloss on a tree-lined bicycle only promenade. There were bicycles everywhere. Our impression was that there were more bicycles than cars around the centre of the city, and some of them were moving really fast. All the intersections are adapted for bicycle flow. We are not used to riding with so many other bicycles and had a couple of incidents where we inadvertently blocked the on-coming bicycle traffic by standing in the wrong place at the lights.

Our accommodation is a central city apartment. We took the opportunity to make some food in the kitchen and relax in the hip living room. The downside was that the window in our bedroom was broken and couldn’t close, and it was also really noisy on the street below. Kris and I ended up dragging our mattress into the living room and sleeping on the floor for a quiet night.

Reunion with Esther – Thursday 4 July

Reunion with Esther – Thursday 4 July

Today we had a short ride, of just 44 km to Osnabrück, where we had arranged to meet up with Esther. Esther is our Swiss friend who will be joining our cycle tour for a couple of weeks.

It was another typical countryside ride, but with a few more hills.

Country road with maize fields

Barges on Mittellandkanal

We arrived in Osnabrück early and had a look around the city centre. It is quite large and prosperous with lots of pedestrian malls and cafes.

We relaxed a bit in the hotel before going to meet Esther at the station in the evening. It was great to meet up again for the first time after our tour together in 2015.

Reunion beer