From April 27 to May 6 this year, my dad and I went on a 2-week trip to Germany. This would be our second trip together since 2013. Our intention was to start out in Bennigen, where some old friends of my parents lived; then ride along the Neckar and Rhine rivers up to Krefeld, to visit with other friends. This trip was estimated to be around a 360 mile route, and would require 7 riding days. The intention for the rest of the time was to explore Hamburg and Berlin, visit some of the museums and monuments.
My dad had a bicycle in Germany already, and I was to take my Novera touring bike over on the airplane. To do this, it involved dismantling the bicycle, loading it into a specialized box, and checking it in as over-sized luggage onto the plane flight. For packing, the intention was to pack light — bringing bicycle clothes for a maximum of three days (hopefully to wash them along the way). The weather was going to be mostly cloudy with possible rain in the 40’s, so I was sure to pack cold-weather and rain gear. I carried all the bicycle panniers as carry-on items to save on luggage costs.
The flight (April 21)
On the flight to Germany, we flew Lufthansa on a Boeing 747, and strangely they did not charge for shipping the bicycle. It was a bit difficult lugging everything around the airport and onto the train to Frankfurt, but we somehow managed. We took the train to Frankfurt, and at the train station, I watched all the baggage while my Dad took the bicycle box to the bicycle shop to have it re-assembled. The bike shop in Frankfurt would store the bicycle box until we returned. While my dad had the bicycle reassembled, I unpacked all the panniers, and filled them with the items from the duffel bag. I then wait for my dad to return with the bicycle, at which point we could attach all the panniers and strap the duffel bag to the back of the bicycle. After loading the gear onto the bike, everything was much simpler to wheel around.
The train ride to Bennigen gave me some practice loading the bicycle on the public trains. Most of the trains had bicycle-friendly compartments, typically with belts for attaching to the bike to prevent it from rolling around; in others, actual bicycle racks. We couldn’t get a direct train to Bennigen, since the ticket counter said they could not secure us a spot on the train since we had a bicycle. So instead, we were directed to Bennigen on a route which would require four train transfers. On our second train, at some point, the train stopped mid-track, and would not go any further because of supposed track damage — so we were essentially stranded in an unknown location somewhere Karlshrue. Fortunately, there was some college student girl who knew English adequately enough to be able to help us get our bearing again. We had to take a train which took us in the opposite direction, then take another crowded local city train in Stuttgart — which happened to be loaded with guys in their 20’s who had been drinking heavily, were passing out beer, and were causing a ruckus — which then dropped us off a block from the main train station. From there, we were able to find the right trains to Ludwigsburg and then to Bennigen — after a total of 7 trains, arriving at the desired location several hours later than anticipated. I met my parent’s childhood friends who lived in Bennigen, and stayed at their house the first night.
Cycling Day 1 – Bennigen to Heilbronn (April 22)
We set out towards the West along the Neckar river. Along this section of path, we would encounter many small towns, and see quite a few vineyards, which were cultivated along interesting stone structures built into the sides of hills.
We spent the first night in Heilbronn, which is a city which may have some family history. It is believed that my great-grandfather lived in or near this city before migrating to the United States. We found a quaint hotel, and were able to store our bicycles in the garage of the hotel.
Cycling Day 2 – Heilbronn to Heidelberg (April 23)
Heilbronn is a city which may have some family history. I will need to iron out some of the details, but I believe my great-grandfather lived in or near Heilbronn before migrating to the United States near the beginning of the 1900’s. The weather was mostly clear the entire day. I started out in shorts and a shirt with short sleeves hoping that it would warm up. We stopped during the ride at a Biergarten near Binau for some lunch, and had some wurst, at which point I needed to put on some more clothing layers since it was still in the 40’s. Along the way, we saw several castles, passed through many small villages which almost seemed a relic of the past – old-style buildings and very few signs of industrialization, many agriculture fields. I noticed a tendency as we traveled downstream for cities to look more and more industrialized. We reached Heidelberg finally, and lodged at the Tannhaeuser Hotel.
Cycling Day 3 – Heidelberg to Worms (April 24)
As we left Heidelberg, we appeared to be entering more heavily industrialized area. There were much fewer small towns and many more factories and buildings. This trend continued until we reached Manheim, where the Neckar river intersected the Rhine river.North of Frankenthal, we rode along the East side of the Rhein for a while past a vast agricultural area. We had bratwurst at a small food stand in Lampertheim, the last city before reaching Worms. We finally crossed the Nibelungen bridge into Worms.
In Worms, we stayed at Hotel Hüttl, right across from a Lutheran church and close to the Wormser Dom. There was also a quite impressive reformation memorial in Worms, which consisted of statues of important figures of the Protestant Reformation (to include Luther, John Huss, Wycliffe, Frederick the Wise, and various others). We finally had dinner, and I was a bit relieved that we didn’t need to go on a diet of worms, but instead enjoyed my favorite dish I had in Germany — white asparagus and potatoes.
Cycling Day 4 – Worms t o Bingen (April 25)
Our plan starting out the day was to find a hotel in Mainz-Kastel on the east side of the river, and eventually have to take a ferry across the Rhine later on. I started the day by checking for hotels in Mainz, however I was not finding many cheap hotels which had vacancies. We decided to just wing it and see if we could just find something.
The weather this day was mostly overcast, with a few periods of drizzle. Somewhere near the town of Eich, we became confused because the bicycle guide map was indicating trails which didn’t even exist, meaning we took a couple wrong turns and ran into some dead ends.
As we were making our way into Mainz, we decided to find a hotel in a smaller city, either in Budenheim or Heidesheim. We saw signs for a hotel in Budenheim, but realizing they were not convenient to find, made the decision to continue on to Heidesheim, which we knew had only one total hotel. On arriving at the hotel, we discovered that the hotel, also, had no vacancies; and the reason for this was because there was a major convention happening in Mainz, so all hotels within several miles of Mainz were completely full.
At this point, my dad was intending to continue riding all the way to Bingen, which was a plan I was not happy with. It was already 5:30 PM, meaning This was already our longest riding day yet (already close to 60 miles). It would take us at least another hour to ride to Bingen (11 miles away), we were uncertain we would even be able to even find a hotel here, the weather wasn’t particularly good, we were tired and hungry… Anyways, I was ready to call it a day, and not motivated to ride any more. So I devised a plan: Get out my phone, turn on data roaming, and make sure we have a hotel reservation somewhere, then we will take the train. I was able to make a hotel reservation at one of the recommended hotels in the bicycle book in Bingen. Then we would hop on the train. The plan worked well, and provided a good escape from a stressful situation. I was able to get a reservation at Hotel Krone which had excellent bicycle accommodations and a friendly staff, and a great view out the window. We finished the day at Zum geschwollenen Herz restaurant (To the swollen heart).
Cycling Day 5 – Bingen to Koblenz (April 26)
This section of the bicycle rout was perhaps my favorite, and it was especially nice to have clear skies all day. There was very little industrial areas, and occasional small towns that we passed along the way, and an abundance of castles.
Cycling Day 6 – Koblenz to Bonn (April 27)
In light of our experience with hotels, I made a reservation for our hotel in Bonn on my cell phone. On leaving Koblenz, there was a little bit of confusion in the route. It took us past the Memorial of German Unity, and the directions for crossing the Moselle river and finding the bicycle path were a bit unclear. I think we wondered off into an RV park, and had to turn around. We eventually saw more industrial areas, which we needed to navigate around. Eventually, the trail became clearer. We eventually made it to Remagen, and saw the remnants of the Ludendorf bridge, which is a historic WW2 landmark. Someone I know, who just recently passed away, was one of the first waves of American troops which crossed the bridge in WW2.
In Remagen, we found a Döner place, where we had to go just so we could text images of Döner to my youngest sister. Döner was her favorite meal while she was staying in Germany, so it would only be fitting that she would appreciate images of us eating Döner, especially since she just had a baby and was nursing and was ravenously hungry all the time.
We eventually made it to Bonn, and our first stop was at the front door of the house where Beethoven was born and lived for a few years. We then went to the Beethoven museum, which had a few Beethoven artifacts, manuscripts, and writings. As my tradition, I bought a bust of Beethoven to add to my collection of composer busts purchased near the birthplace of the composer.
The bicycle journey ended in Bonn. The next week, we mostly traveled by train and walking to other areas in Germany.
The following images give a fuller perspective of the distance traveled.