Rhine Route - Germany

The Route of Eurovelo 15 - To Koln and Bonn

Germany

Cycling in Germany

We crossed the border into Germany from the Netherlands near Roermond. A rather low key affair with open gates between a country lane and a gravel road. A small electric fence provided a little memory of German and Dutch hostilities.

We plan to cycle from the Dutch border via Bruggen and Eastwards back towards the Rhine (if the wind allows). We will then follow the Rhine upstream to France and Switzerland.

The transition between cycling in Germany and cycling in the Netherlands was always going to be difficult for the Germans to compete. Initially the route signposting was excellent but within a few kilometres it reduced to a limited number of arrows and no indication of sense of direction. The Dutch (Belgian) method of indicating a arrow and the number of the next junction suddenly seems like a very sensible system.

The routes we have followed are immediately more off road than the Dutch counterparts. We have had fine weather - but many of these routes would be filthy in wet weather. We have utilised a German Cycling map which indicates all sorts of cycling options ADFC-RegionalKarte. These have proven to be very useful in planning - especially when approaching the less well known cycle touring area of the Ruhr.

We are also using a German guide from Bikeline (Rhein-Radweg), which was donated by our friend Dietlinde. As it is all in German, we are missing out on some of the explanation but the maps offer alternatives of interest and we use it for planning our trip along the Rhine.

For accommodation, we have used campsites and Youth Hostels. We found good campsites hard to come by, especially in the touristy areas like the middle Rhine valley. Notable exceptions are campsites Friedenau in St Goar and Rudesheim am Rhein campsite. The Youth Hostels have two main characteristics: if there is a hill, they will be on top of them, and there is no cooking facilities (and sometimes no washing facilities for clothes). The only exception is Koln Pathpoint, who is aimed at backpackers and in the heart of the city.

Eurovelo 15

Eurovelo 15 - Bonn to Karlsruhe

Eurovelo 15

Eurovelo 15 - Karlsruhe to Basel

Childrens Favourites

Polizei, Feuerwehr (fire service), bendy buses and Eis Cafes (ice cream parlours). The numbers of eis (ice) cafes is astounding. Good and cheap ice-cream parlours can be found in nearly every town. A blessing for children and cycling parents alike in hot weather. Food-wise, the wide availability of all kind of sausages and schwein-schnitzel (pork scallops) provides plenty of proteins for the children. It would be rude not to mention the wide variety of ultra-healthy-grainy german breads available in every bakerei (as well as plenty of delicious nutty cakes, yum yum).


7th June - Hot - Swalmen to Hardt (Monchen Gladbach) - 31km

For our route to Germany please follow this link to the Netherlands

The border with Holland was only marked by a small sign but we felt the difference quickly. It looks like we will have to ween ourselves from the excellent Dutch cyclepaths. The cycle path to lovely Bruggen was mostly gravelled and gentle hills started to appear. There were barriers in the way that were tricky to manoeuvre around with the Chariot. Then we were back on roads with cars...

We made it to a hostel near Monchengladbach set in Hardt Forest. It is a wide forest crossed by many cycle paths and with good playgrounds. The "regime" of the Youth Hostel was quite different from the relaxed Dutch hostels: evening meal at 18.00 exactly ("you must turn up 15 minutes before"), breakfast at 8.00 and check-out at 9.00! Amazingly we manage to hit all the deadlines without crumbling under the stress!

Border

The Netherlands/German border near Swalmen

Cycle Lane

Cycle routes started more rustically in Germany

Strawberries

Strawberry Season - along with asparagus (white)

Castle

Bruggen Burg

8th June - Hardt to Grind - 55 km Train (20 km) and the Rhine again!

After a good look at the map, we decided to cycle to Monchengladbach and take the train to Neuss Rhein Park. This 20 km train ride saved us two days cycling through the big coal area of the Ruhr. The kids may have enjoyed the mining pits and the impressive machines but the lack of accommodation between Monchengladbach and the Rhine put us off.

So here we were on the Rhine again!

Train

The 30 km train ride from MonchenGladbach to Neuss - it was all very quick, painless and efficient even with the trailers

Hochwasser

High water - means that the ferries across the Rhine could not operate

Rhine

Eventually back on the Rhine - we had been warned that the heavy snows and rains further South had caused a lot of flooding

Canoe

Users big and small share the Rhine - the flood waters make it more entertaining for Canoeists

9th June - Grind to Koln - 35 km North Winds (Good) and Floods

The Rhine is still high and it is sometimes not possible to follow the marked cycle path. Other than this, cycling to Koln was easy with following winds and mostly flat. We stopped at the pretty village of Zons for Sunday lunch (the children had cheese and ham paninis, what a change from the usual cheese and ham sandwiches!).

We reached Koln Pathpoint Youth Hostel in good time and we were pleased to find out that the rules are not as strict as in Hardt Hostel!

10th June - Koln

Updating the website, cleaning very dirty clothes and climbing the 530 steps to the top of Koln Cathedral (according to Louis "they should not build churches that high"). Louis and Max won a well deserved ice-cream (and are sleeping well at the time of writing!).

Closed

Flooded water meadows North of Leverkeusen

Cycle Lane

A remote controlled grass cutter - it didn't seem to be be very quick as the operator kept getting left and right mixed up

Flood

A closed cycle route - most sections were clearly signposted as closed

Remote

Lovely quiet diversion from the floods. Luckily a GPS helps re-route when the intended route is closed

Koln

A grey arrival in Koln and a couple of days in a hostel

Bike Storage

Bike Storage in a Koln youth hostel

Underpass

A Koln Underpass

Bell

The biggest bell in Europe

Scooters

Scooters in Koln

Dom

The last 50 metres to the top of the cathedral spire

Weel earned

A well earned ice cream after the climb to the top

11th June - Koln to Bonn - 43km

A relaxed start today slowed down by a visit to the post office to package up unwanted items to the UK. We cruised through the centre of Koln taking in the sights and stopped after 5km to have lunch. We had booked into another hostel in Bonn and we still had 40km to ride. The hostel choice was due to a lack of campsites in the vicinity of Bonn. The campsites we did see had been evacuated due to high floodwaters.

We had been expecting to follow the Rhine but at times we were alongside and in the Rhine. Around Wesseling we found the Shell refinery - spectacularly large and appears to be the turning point for the Koln tourist boats.

It was at this point that we spotted our first hills since England. An ominous sight as we had been told that Bonn hostel was at the top of a hill. And what a hill it was. A 130m, 12% climb at the end of a long afternoon. Louis raced against his mum and won by miles!

Dom

Last view of the Dom

Cycle Lane

Not the way that the Dutch do things. A right struggle with the chariot.

Dockside

Redeveloped dockside area of Koln

Remote

Uphill, busy road, refinery. Spot the Old Windmill.

Bonn

The first hills since we left England. The climb to the Youth Hostel was testing.

Bonn

After so many sprinters stages a mountain top finish was inevitable

Challenging

The busy main road out of Bonn to the Youth Hostel was challenging

Scooters

Louis wanted to race Maman uphill - and won!

12th June - Bonn - another rest Day?

The stiff climb up to the Youth Hostel and the abundant cultural attractions of Bonn forced us to an unexpected additional "rest day". It was as resting as possible when showing a 4 year old and a 2 year old around modern art galleries! "Don't touch that", "Don't stand there", "Why is that painting not finished?".

Louis finished the art gallery with "Can we go now? There are too many things - I can't remember anything."

We followed the art gallery with an animal museum (the Koenig Museum) - this was much more successful and one of the best zoological museum we have visited so far. The big success of the day however was taking Bonn bendy bus and the metro/underground and being given Beethoven shaped sweets at the tourism office.

Waiting for the Underground

Waiting for the Underground

Animal Museum

He's behind you - Koenig Museum

Art

Max and scooter. The most he enjoyed the art all day

Beethoven

Bonn was the home to Beethoven - he appears everywhere

13th June - Bonn to Remagen - 25km

The cycle route hugs the Rhine all the way South to Mainz. Unfortunately so does the road and railway. At times the route is a mere pavement to the highway, at other times it runs through meadows and a separate embankment. Some stages alongside the railway can be deafening when the huge goods trains are passing by.

Today was noted for the first rain of our trip - an almighty downpour only 10 minutes away from the campsite. The tent was put up in the rain and the game of cards, all the cars, stickers and books came out. Louis had his first "I want to go home" outburst (he is normally prone to these kind of outbursts, sometimes within 20 minutes of arriving somewhere, so after more than two weeks travelling, we were proud of him!).

Bonn

The route leaving Bonn, the Rhine was still high

Playing

Playing next to the Rhine

Ice Cream

Another Eis Cafe stop - available in every town it's cheaper and nicer than the nasty mass produced generic Unilever/Walls/Nestle products

Roadworks

We didn't pay enough attention to the diversion signs

Rain

Big rain on it's way

Max

Max in the Chariot

Rhine

The Rhine still high, but lovely villages and castles - many of the villages had been flooded a week before.

14th June - Remagen to Koblenz - 43km

A long day through to Koblenz. We started by the side of Remagen bridge, which was destroyed during the second world war (partly by the Americans, partly by the Germans before it finally gave up all by itself and collapsed into the Rhine taking 30 American soldiers with it. The days riding was mixed: the cycle path is at time wedged between the highway and the railway and the surface can be poor, not to mention the dust left by the recent flooding. We were keen to stay at Koblenz camping site, which is brilliantly situated opposite the giant statue of Emperor William I on Deutches Eck ("German Corner") where the river Mosel joins the Rhine. However, things have changed since we stayed there 8 years ago. The facilities for tents are abysmal, i.e, we could pitch on the road verges or behind the toilet block. Another campsite where tents are being pushed out in place of the more lucrative camper vans.

Twice today, we were told "Respect!" by fellow cyclists, usually in the steep bits when you turn all red and don't have enough breath to reply. Still, it is nice to be "respected" and pretend we are cool dudes, even though it feels strange as we are only doing a bit of cycling with our children.

Castles

The first impressive Rhine castle

Puppets

Impromptu puppet show by Isa for an audience of 3

Cablecar

In the cable car going over the Rhine from Koblenz to the Festung Ehrenbreitstein

Sentry

Sentry duty in Koblenz Fort

Stocks

Sandwiched between the Vineyards and the Rhine - Road, Rail and Cyclepath

Soldiers

An unusual site in Germany - a grave to the fallen heroes

15th June - Koblenz to Brey - 17km - 2 crashes and a World Heritage Site

Koblenz marks the start of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the middle Rhine Valley until Mainz. We started the day by a visit to the impressive Festung Ehrenbreitstein (military fort) above Koblenz. This is perched on a 100m high cliff on the opposite side of the Rhine. Luckily for us a cable car with a special car capable of taking bikes with trailers allowed us to pay an easy visit. The inside of the fort is very impressive and provides a maze of tunnels and battlements and great views across the city, the Mosel, the Rhine and the hills to the North and West.

The Rhine valley is from Koblenz much tighter and within the next 10 km, we spotted no less than three castles high up each side of the Rhine.

Isa lost a few points today by dropping the bike twice (tight gates and tiredness). Louis coped with it quite well.

Max is his usual enthusiastic self and get quite excited every time he sees a car/train/tractor/motorbike/castle/cow. However, he has not grasped the concept of our travelling. A typical conversation today was: "Look Max, there is a castle ahead." Why?" Because there are a lot of castles along this section of the Rhine" Max: "Where is the Rhine?"

Wood

The start of timber framed houses

Flood Levels

Historical flood levels shown on the walls. The current floods didn't even reach the floor

House

Terry and Max

Signs

Massive signs on the side of the Rhine for the ships. This section was where a Sulphuric Acid tanker capsized

16th June - Brey to St Goar - 25km

A relaxing day along the twists and turns of the Rhine, the most scenic day of the trip so far. Beautiful castles (we lost count, possibly a total of seven castles), old towns and play park after play park for the kids.

Eventually we have found a nice campsite in Germany. Cyclotourists tents (i.e. just us) have their own little paddock next to a stream and a steep woodland. There was no loud train, no loud boats and no road (a rarity on the Rhine route). We loved it so much that we decided to shelter in this beautiful corner from the forecasted heat wave for the next two days. (Campingplatze Friedenau)

Castles

Views of castles from castles - inside Burg Rheinfels and a labyrinth waiting to be explored

Wine

This is the real start of the wine growing regions - so we had to do some wine tasting

Castle View

The view from the top of Burg Rheinfels - another lucrative toll station on the Rhine

Stocks

Louis was out of control after three glasses of Rosé, this was the only solution

17th & 18th June - St Goar - Hot Hot Hot

We visited Burg Rheinfels castle, which was only a short but steep walk from the campsite. The derelict castle and fort are a maze of tunnels, mines, staircases, corridors and chambers - a torch is essential to discover everything. It was an exciting way to escape the brief heatwave. Our plan for the following day (35 degrees C) was a trip to the local Freibad (open air swimming pool). It however seemed like everybody had the same idea and the pool was heaving despite it being a Tuesday.

19th June - St Goar to Rudesheim - 41km - 36 Degrees C

We attempted an early departure to avoid cycling during the hot part of the day, but despite our best endeavour, we only managed to leave at 9 o'clock and the temperature was already high. By the time we stocked up in town and spoke to some fellow cyclotourist from South Africa (who incidentally warned us that France is a dangerous country as they were robbed there!), it was 10 o'clock. So the going was hot but we reached our campsite in Rudesheim by 2 pm. We have decided to try our luck with the cycle path on the other side of the Rhine as according to our guide there is an interesting diversion from the classic Rhine route and most importantly, there are two campsites and two swimming pools next to each other.

Our campsite open air swimming pool was unfortunately full of mud. Like most campsites along the Rhine, this spot had been 1 metre underwater a week previously. It was therefore a bit soggy with lots of mosquitos and a child's playground motorbike full of stinky floodwater. Apart from that, it was one the second best campsite we have come across in Germany!

The rest of the afternoon was spent finding the second swimming pool (indoors this time)and fighting the automatic ticketing system, closely followed by another fight with the automatic entry system with special tokens. We made it in the water by 4 pm after much frustration (and possibly some swearing at the so-called german no-nonsense efficient systems).

Kaub

Max & Louis helping to take the photos

Kaub

Kaub Castle - a lucrative toll point positioned in the centre of the Rhine - it has never been destroyed

Kaub

Favourite german campsite

Louis & Max

Leaving our favourite German campsite

20th June - Rudesheim to Mainz - 37km - Flooded route & Roadworks

Our intended diversion from the main Rhine cycle way was cut short by high water and road works on the main road. We decided to take the ferry and carry on the main route in hope to escape an impending storm. It seems that we were lucky: the rain briefly passed over our heads and we reached Mainz Youth Hostel dry and quickly thanks to the Northerly winds.

Crossing a big city is always really entertaining from the children. There are trams, bendy buses and lots of Polizei to look at. For the parents, it is a nice break from non-stop story telling.

Rhine

Looking back on the "Mouse tower" in the middle of the Rhine from Bingen Eck

Flooded

Flooded routes again. This time we had to turn back

Stormy

A stormy crossing over the Rhine

21st June - Mainz to Oppenheim - 27km - Not Really a campsite

A morning visiting Mainz followed by a delightful cycle through the vineyards. Terry could not resist a spot of wine tasting and break the bank by purchasing a fine Riesling for £3.00 (and it was really good)!

We carried on to the campsite marked on our map and found out that it was "private", i.e., it was a static caravan park. The owner of the nearby restaurant took pity on us and allowed us to pitch the tent in their garden. Apart from the swarms of mosquitoes, which started biting in earnest straight away, the spot could have been ideal. We spent the evening by a sunny beach watching the ferries go by until the mosquitoes really got the better of us...

Church

Everything turns blue - St Stephan church in Mainz with stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. Detail 1 Detail 2

Bikes

Bikes locked to a tree. We took two 1 metre locks with us - nothing fancy and we keep our fingers crossed.

Bretzel

Louis' first pretzel

Radhaus

An excellent bike shop in Mainz - Isa purchased some new panniers to replace her holey ones

Louis & Max

A ship with new lorries, tractors and mobile cranes - perfect entertainment for young boys. Detail for Dad's here

Vineyards

Lovely route adjacent to vineyards South of Mainz

22nd June - Oppenheim to Lampertheim - 48km - Good Days, Bad days

The day started by finding a small tick in Max' left ear, which dropped off soon after (yuck!). We then went to the beautiful town of Oppenheim, up on a hill (not good for a start). We found out that for once we were too early: the tourist information office opens at 11.00 on Saturdays. We decided to keep going in order to find a pharmacist and to give a miss to the rather interesting Keller Labyrinth, which is an underground network of passages under the town. We found a friendly pharmacist in the next town, who tried to reassure Isa. Apparently, we are not cycling in an area with Lyme disease and Max's tick bite has been pushed back to an "amber" alert.

The rest of the morning was spent cycling along the rhine vineyard route, lovely again but possibly not very exciting for the children. Luckily, the firemen of Guntersblum were having a cleaning day following the recent floods and two of their lorries were on full display! The children were allowed in the lorries and in the fire station. How exciting!

The next town of the map was Worms (the kids love that name). This time, we were too late for the tourism office, which shut at 2pm. We cheered ourselves up with yet another stop at an amazing ice cafes, which had 7 queues going and no less than 25 different flavours of ice cream!!!

We quickly found out that the next camping had been shut for years and the second campsite was again a private caravan park. Wild camping was not an option because of the soggy ground. We decided to push on to the next town, Lampertheim in order to found accommodation there. We ended up in a small Greek restaurant and with a much bigger bill to pay than usual but we were all glad for the respite from the mosquitoes.

Max

Max enjoying a Rhine beach. The water levels had dropped enough to make this possible.

Strawberry

A strawberry salesman

Cigarettes

On every street corner -a cigarette vending machine

Campsite

A lovely morning at the campsite - but keep moving or the mosquitos will eat you alive

Fire

Louis and a fire engine

Fire

Louis tries out the Fireman's "Halt" sign

23rd June - Lampertheim to Mannheim - 27km - Chemical Factories & Mannheim

An easy Sunday morning start from our Greco German restaurant was slowed up by a conversation with a German Irish resident - he had a quite remarkable german accent with the gentle Irish lilt.

We have definitely left the touristic part of the Rhine cycle path now. The road coverage and sign posting leaves sometimes to be desired. But the landscape was fully industrial now as we were cycling on the other side of the massive BASF chemical factory site (about twice the size of Monaco).

Mannheim is also far from the romantic Rhine valley towns. The city centre has been destroyed many times and the building blocks are now arranged in a grid system. Another ice cafe stop gave us enough energy to reach our campsite next to Strandbad (the sand beach) South of Mannheim. Having learnt from our previous mistakes, we rang ahead to check the campsite was open this time. The beach, normally really long, was a small gravely affair next to an excellent pizza place. It was a good place for the children - passing boats, a playground and strangely enough no mosquitoes (perhaps a benefit of staying in the vicinity of a chemical factory)?

Crane

Overhead crane on the route

Power

Another power station to divert around

Fountain

Mannheim fountain - Lively

Dyke

Cycling along the Dyke

Max

Max with an ice cream, the bib is essential to try and keep any clothes clean

Sleeping

Mannheim's Campsite - Lovely

24th June - Mannheim to Speyer - 28km - Sorry no camping

We dodged rainstorms all day - sometimes more successfully than others. The road from Mannheim to Speyer was rather unexciting apart from the construction site of Mannheim's Block 9 coal power station. We counted no less than 13 cranes of all types and all sizes on site (who wrote the CDM Construction and Design Management)for this one exclaimed Terry!). We arrived at Speyer and decided to check if our proposed campsite existed. "Sorry there is no camping in or near Speyer" was the disappointing reply. We ended up in the Youth Hostel - again. Speyer has plenty to offer: a romantic style cathedral, a beautiful old town and most importantly for the boys, the Auto and Technik Museum with 60 aeroplanes, space shuttles, 150 cars and buses on display.

Old Rhine

The Altrein (old Rhine) now bypassed by the canalised Rhine

Block 9

Mannheim's New Power station - underway

Rain

Sheltering from a massive rain storm on the way to Speyer

Dom

Speyer Dom

25th June - Speyer to Leimersheim - 38km - Russian Space Shuttle & Gingham Hideaway

A dreadfully leaden sky and soggy streets were of no concern as we were off to the Auto und Technik museum in Speyer. A full collection of vehicles from a Boeing 747 taking off and a Russian Space shuttle to a submarine U boat and MiG fighter jets. Everyone enjoyed it and we forgot we had to cycle 35 km to our pre-booked gingham hideaway (aka Villa Pettersson).

We left Speyer too late and set off at a good pace with 30 km to go - following a diversion of the Rhine Route and a closed bridge we had cycled 10 km and still had 30 km to cycle - a bit demoralising - and then the second big rain storm hit us.

We had pre-booked two nights in a lovely little bunkhouse in Leimersheim recommended by our friend Dietlinde - an excellent choice - Louis and Max could not contain their excitement at staying in their own "little house".

Technik Museum

The Technik Museum in Speyer. A Boeing 747 in take off. A spiral slide forms the landing gear!

Space Shuttle

A Russian space shuttle (Buran)

Submarine Captain

Max and Louis piloting a U boat (submarine)

Technik Museum

A different view of Speyer Dom

26th June - Leimersheim - Gingham Hideaway catching up with an old friend

We spent a rest day at Villa Pettersson feeding ducks, hens and painting snails! Our friend Dietlinde, who lives in Esslingen about 30 km away, came to visit us (on bike of course). We met Dietlinde in Harwich at the start of our first big trip in 2005 and got talking about Rolhoff hubs then. We kept in touch since. Dietlinde came with a full supply of Nussecken for us to eat, a list of up to date campsites and accommodation along the Rhine route and toys for the children. Thank you Didi!

Villa Pettersson provides some affordable luxury to weary cyclotourists. The website can be find under this link. The hosts Bernard and Iris speak excellent English. In the evening, an outside stove was lit for us and Bernard read Louis the story of farmer Pettersson and his cat Findus while we sipped some lovely local rose wine.

Mosquito

The flooding and warm weather had even got to the graffiti artists

Gingham

Luckily we were in the Villa Petterson to avoid the mosquitos for one night

27th June - Leimersheim - Lauterbourg - 37km - Rainy day to France

We were mostly near the Rhine until another set of deviations of the Rhine route came into to operation due to works on the flood defence dykes. This deviation was in place for about 60km.

The day was rainy and not particularly interesting apart from a few storks sighting. The border crossing happened all of a sudden somewhere around a roundabout: on one side everything was written in German, and on the other one it was all in French and easy to read again (at least for Isa)!

Stork

A stork in flight looking for food

Stork

The Rhine near Karlsruhe

Storks Feeding Babies

A stork family being fed

Alsace

Isa celebrates a return to France

For the continuation of a trip through Alsace please follow our France page