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
Wind Power – Wednesday 3 July

Wind Power – Wednesday 3 July

Today’s ride felt long, at 84 km from Bucken to Haldem – it was also flat, so tiring on the arms and hands.

There was no fixed cycle route today. The Bicycle app and Google are unreliable in informing where dedicated bike paths actually exist, so our plan was fluid. We checked out at each turn off to see how things looked on the ground before proceeding. We started out following the L352 road. In one place the app indicated a bike path and we ended up riding with more traffic than was comfortable. In another it indicated no bike path and we found a very adequate tarred bike path separate to the road. After we passed south of Sulingen, we landed up in rural areas with lots of little narrow tarred roads – and quite a pleasant area for cycling.

We rode through many ripe wheat fields, some already harvested. There was quite a lot of rural activity around – tractors on the roads and cows in fields or munching hay in big barns. We saw wind turbines everywhere.

Freshly cut wheat field
We paused in Siedenburg

The surprise of the day was finding the Mühlenheider Museum of Wind Power, about 10 km from our final destination. We had some coffee and cake (for a donation – it is very low key and there is no real cafe) and had a good look at the historical wind turbine collection (from the 1980’s and 1990’s). Here is their web site:

Nineteen percent of German power is generated by wind with over 26,000 wind turbines.

Typical cycle path and scenery – last run to Haldem

We struck it lucky with our accommodation today. It is a room with shared bathroom and access to a kitchen and living area. Except there are no other guests, so essentially we have the apartment to ourselves with a kitchen, dining room, living room and balcony. There is nothing much to see in the town – only a small shop where we bought food for our evening meal.

Windy day – Tuesday 2 July

Windy day – Tuesday 2 July

Our ride was 74 km from Soltau to Bucken. We had variable routes and bicycle paths that went back and forth between little towns and stretches of forest or farmland.

It was nice and cool again today – generally below 20 degrees. However we had some strong head and cross winds, which are still preferable to a heat wave.

We bought some raw milk cheese from a stall outside a farmyard at Walsrode. It had a fridge and also sold honey, sausages and preserves.

Cheese stall – Walsrode

I love the look of the old farm houses in the little towns – all very well maintained. They are massive, with wood framed walls inter-laid with red bricks. I finally got a chance to stop and take some photos at a place called Böhme. There was also a display of old bee-hives – in woven baskets – in a cabinet on the street – I have only seen pictures of these in books before.

We crossed the Weser river at Hoya, and from here it was not far to our hotel in Bucken.

Crossing the Weser river at Hoya
Bucken church

Our hotel is great – we were upgraded from a double room to a huge two bedroom suite with a balcony and a massive bathroom (with two basins). I had to go and check with reception that there was no mistake and that we would still be charged the expected rate for a double room.

Riding again – Monday 1 July

Riding again – Monday 1 July

We resumed our tour again with an 83 km ride from Tespe to Soltau. We are on our way to meet Esther in Osnabruck on Thursday.

The weather was thankfully a bit cooler than Sunday, when we had a heatwave with temperatures up to 38 degrees. In contrast, the forecast high today was 25 degrees. There was also quite a bit of wind, so it feels like the weather is changing.

I spent most of the ride getting used to the new bicycle, especially the “butterfly” handlebars.

Our route took us almost immediately away from the Elbe. There was still a lot of water around though and we crossed over a number of smaller rivers.

Crossing Ilmenau river early in the ride

We paused to admire an old windmill at Bardowick – it was actually turning in the breeze. There were a number of modern wind turbines nearby, allowing one to contrast the old with the new.

Bardowick windmill

The rest of the ride consisted of wide open spaces we have become accustomed to after our break in this area, and villages with well maintained brick houses. We mostly had dedicated bike paths along roads, but occasionally also had to ride on the road. We stopped for coffee and cake (rhubarb with meringue, and strawberry yogurt) at an excellent bakery in Bispingen. I love the German cakes – they are never dry, always scrumptious.

We had a look around Soltau after checking into our Pension. It has a pedestrian street in the old town with some quirky touches.

Bicycle Calamity

Bicycle Calamity

We spent some time and effort during our break to prepare our bicycles for the next part of the tour. We had new chains and cassettes fitted at a bike shop in Geesthacht and bought new back tyres from Decathlon.
The calamity occurred after Kris fitted the new back tyre to his bike and re-adjusted the back brakes. These brakes have a non-standard fitting near the gears and had been giving Kris trouble over the last few weeks. The part that holds the break snapped clean off while Kris was making the adjustments.

We went back to the Geesthacht bike shop first thing the following day. The replacement part he had did not fit. It is not a standard part, so we decided to replace the bicycle instead of spending hours trying to find a replacement. We bought a second hand bike he had at the shop (175 Euro). It is not big enough for Kris so Jenny will ride it. Kris had to spend a number of hours moving bits and pieces between the bicycles (tyres, odometer, panier holders, rear rack, etc etc). Hopefully these two bikes will see us through the rest of our trip.

Jenny’s ‘new’ second hand bike – ready to leave on it’s first ride on 1 July

Andreas is helping us to donate the old bike to someone in the community – potentially refugees again, as with our bikes in 2017. He went to Decathlon and got a replacement part from them (for free!) so it looks as though the bike will be able to be repaired.

Holiday on the Elbe – 21 to 30 June

Holiday on the Elbe – 21 to 30 June

We took a break from our cycle tour to spend some time with Elsbeth at the holiday home in Tespe. We picked up a rental car in Hamburg on 21 June and Elsbeth arrived from London on Saturday 22 June. Here are some photo highlights from our time together

First Beer in Germany – Grüner Jäger, Geesthacht
 Scharnebeck twin ship lift 
Spargel at the Grüner Jäger, Geesthacht
Holiday home in Tespe
Welcome in Tespe – Thursday 20 June

Welcome in Tespe – Thursday 20 June

The ride measured 44 km again today. I’m not sure how we managed to achieve the same distance on our odometer three days in a row! We took our time again today. The first part of the ride was a continuation of the Elbe-Lubeck canal.

Barge on Elbe-Lubeck canal
Loading sand onto barge on Elbe-Lubeck canal

The canal reached the Elbe itself at Lauenburg. We looked around the town and had some coffee and croissants at a local bakery. It was an old fashioned place with lots of local people meeting up for coffee – we thought Elsbeth would enjoy the scene and resolved to bring her here during our stay.

After Lauenburg, we decided not to cross to the other side of the Elbe but to ride onto the next bridge at Geesthach. We then had to backtrack a bit on the south side of the Elbe to our holiday home in Tespe.

I was very relieved to find that the holiday home will suit us really well, as you can never be sure from online photos and comments. It is in an old family home right behind the stop bank. The elderly lady who runs it was born in the house. She still lives in part of it, and the rest is converted to the holiday home. There is plenty of space for all of us, with two bedrooms, kitchen, TV room and another sitting room. Tespe is a small town alongside the river – there is a small harbour for yachts near our home, but the rest of the town consists mostly of the residential red brick houses typical of the area. It feels fairly affluent. The nearest shops are in the next town a few kilometres away.

We had a reunion party with Silvia and Andreas at our holiday home in the evening. They arrived with crates full of food and drink for us – it was a feast.

This concludes the first half of our 2019 cycling tour – to be picked up again on 1 July after our break with Elsbeth in Tespe. Here are some travel stats:

  • 2,632 km travelled over 42 travelling days
  • average 63 km per day
  • a further 219 km clocked over 4 non-travelling days or in the evenings (without panniers)
  • our bikes have done a total of 2,851 km