Chapter 1: Strassbourg - Donaueschingen
In the year 1988 we did the Danube Bike Trail from Passau to Vienna. Meanwhile the upper part of the Danube Bike Trail leads from Donaueschingen to Passau, the beautiful landscape and good gastronomic conditions are worth to be considered for a summer tour. There are two guide booklets, one by Fink-Kümmerly+Frey and the other by Esterbauer. And an Interregio train goes from our home at Braunschweig without change to Donaueschingen.
Four weeks before the start of our tour I enter a tourist office to prepare the logistic and bureaucratic arrangements. It would be convenient to start the bike tour at Strassbourg, to look around at the upper Rhine and then to cross the Black Forest by train up to Donaueschingen. At first I book a hotel at Strassbourg. Then I try to get a connection by train to Offenburg. After some time the computer figures out, that the bike reservation can only be booked until Frankfurt/Main, from there another group of cyclists has booked earlier already. For we don't want to change the day for the start we take this as a challenge - as usual if we go by train.
Finally I leave the tourist bureau carrying with me: hotel reservation and bill, train ticket, bahncard, seat and bike reservations. The only thing I leave behind is some of my money (VisaCard of course).
Saturday Braunschweig - Offenburg - Strassbourg, 35 km
At 5 o' clock we arise, at 6 am we take off to the railway station and at 6.50 the train departs. There is plenty of room in the train for us and the bikes. From the reservation signs we now can exactly forsee what will happen: at Darmstadt there will come a bike group of 12 persons, this is the group who caught our reservations before. The conductor however says nothing about that all.
But at Frankfurt the conductor changes. The new one at first examines the reservation signs and says to us that we should leave the train for we have no further reservation for the bikes. I remember situations in the past when we managed to take 30 and more bikes with a train. So we decide to stay to the end but we get somewhat excited as you will imagine.
Some time later the conductor controls the tickets and now he says: "Well, we will see how many there are to come at Darmstadt". We get some more hopeful and peer out of the window as we arrive at Darmstadt. There are roughly about 9 bikes. And the conductor does not take note of us, he prefers to give this or that advice to the cyclists who with much noise enter the train.
As the train leaves off again we give a sigh of relief. The other group - all couples in our age - want to go to Donaueschingen for the upper Danube too. But we want to visit Strassbourg before and so some time later leave the train at Offenburg, everything as planned before. And a thankyou to the conductor of course.
It is very hot at this time and we walk to the market place and enter a cafe first. From the roadmap we can see that there are two routes to Strassbourg, one in the shadow of a forest but aside a main road with much traffic, the other way leads along the shore of the river Kinzig. We choose the shadow route but soon find ourselves on the other way at the river and there is no traffic, so we stay here. You can learn now, where those recent yearly century floods of the Rhine come from. This river Kinzig looks like a canal and leads from the hills of the Black Forest to the Rhine dead ahead on the shortest distance as possible. Moreover they have built dikes to settle the land around.
At Kehl we approach the Rhine and cross the bridge and the checkpoint to France. Because of the recent nuclear experiments of France where all rational people were horrified about we decide NOT to show our passports. Because the officers do not take any notice of us we succeed.
We soon reach the center of Strassbourg where a curious group strolls around with music. There are figures like camels walking on wooden stilts. High above of that there sit small people and have their fun with the people passing by. We go our way and find out that crowds of tourists are around. So we are glad to have booked the hotel before. At the way to the hotel we pass one of the nicest sections: the Petite France, a small island with romantic houses and narrow streets.
The hotel is less romantic for it is member of one of these combine groups, IBIS this time. After some difficulties with the magnetic card at the door we enter our room. Soon we leave again to have a visit of the city. The first thing I note is to have not enough money, for I only changed DM 50.- before. This is not enough to have a French menue for two persons in an elegant restaurant. We cross a strange bridge with a roof named Terrasse Panoramique. There are a lot of stone sculptures and through the holes at the floor you can see the water shining below.
Cathedral of Strassburg
Sunday, Strassbourg - Voerstetten, 96 km
During the night there was some rain so the damp and raindrops make a fresh air. We start along a river called l'Ill. We meet a biker couple who do not look like to come just from a noble hotel. They ask us for a place for a breakfast but we only know our hotel IBIS. We go on straight ahead into the botany, and this is the Canal Rhone du Rhin. There is a brand new red pavement, wonderful old sycamore trees at the canal and flowers at the shore or at a bridge. An antique sluice is worth to be part of an industrial museum for its old fashioned techniqe with handles and cogwheels.
Today many French race cyclists are on the way. They rush along and erveryone shouts a Salute and we answer by Hello or MoinMoin. Finally this wonderful route ends at a rotted wooden bridge. At this place a team of firemen makes exercises to use a boat or splash waters from a tube. We get no shower however and enter a road at the Rhine. You only can see the Rhine if you climb a dam, the other time you ride throug the woods at the shore with many climber plants. The river runs straight ahead again to bring the waters as fast as possible to the large towns during spring when the snow melts in the Alps...
Before you get dull in your mind of such thoughts you should use the ferry boat at Rhinau, it is just waiting as we arrive. We can pass the waiting cars and soon are back to Germany again (this means we can trust to our money now). Now we cross the natural ressort area Taubergießen on unpaved tracks.
Here they found a solution to overcome the mass of waters: they have built places for flow over where the waters can stream into the amphibian woods. So you see typical birds around - but I cannot find the translation(I did meanwhile): Cormorants and a diving bird with a small bonnet (Haubentaucher=Great Crested Grebe).
Some time later we are on the road again and we admire the clean houses with their balconies full of flowers. At a snackbar we stop for a soup and a one-day biker regrets us to have a headwind from the south. He gives some hints how to find the best places round the Kaiserstuhl, a famous wine area.
As we see high mountains in front we think to approach the Black Forrest now, may be it is even the Feldberg - the highest mountain there? As we come nearer it proves to be the Kaiserstuhl itself, many wineyards around. Here we find signed bike trails (KRW = Kaiserstuhlradweg, ORK = Oberrhein-Kaiserstuhl and BRSG = Breisgau-Weg).
As we reach the nice village Endingen Heidi says "One nearly feels as to be in the holidays now" (...if we not had to sit on the bikes - but this declaration is suppressed). Consequently it starts to rain now and we stop at a place where a fruit saleswoman offers honey, housemade sausages etc. We buy some plums because those aside the route are not ripe yet though they would be cheaper. Spitting the pits we wait until the rain stops. Our saleswoman does not come from the Kaiserstuhl as we hear from her Eastern Europe accent.
We made and make a good speed furtheron so we now are not far from Freiburg
and can look for an accomodation. The best would be a small village with
a "Gasthaus" but the first we find is near the Autobahn and
too noisy. At the next they offer two single rooms to us. Heidi thinks
about this: "One night seperated after twenty years together will not be
so bad" but this is my response: "It depends on every night" - or so.
Finally we find the right place at the Gasthaus Zur Sonne at Vörstetten. From a catalogue we read that this pension has specialized to guests who go to the south at the Autobahn nearby. I try to translate:
You are going South?
You want to go to Siena, Urbino, Aix en Provence or Cassis?...
The twilight of the evening is over the valley of the Rhine, Vosges (Vogesen) and Kaiserstuhl.
Leave the traffic jam and the registration numbers of all the others now...
Gasthaus "Zur Sonne", 250 years of cultivated hospitality...
The clock of the churchtower will count your best hours...
We beam with joy.
And now the big BANG comes over us. The church tower with it's huge clock is just aside and now strikes three times that everyone knows three quarters of an hour have gone. 15 minutes later we hear under the showerbath four double lashes following seven another double lashes with another timbre. And now we know: we have 7 pm now.
After we had our dinner we notice with relieve that they have stopped this noisy clock for the night.
Monday, Vörstetten - Freiburg - Donaueschingen
In the morning guess what will awake us. At 6 pm this double lashing clock of the churchtower comes to life again and every 15 minutes lets off a couple of bangs. And once to demonstrate that a new day is to come they ring their bells for 10 minutes. We have our breakfast pretty early today.
We soon arrive at Freiburg and enter the railway station to get the time of departure and the tickets for the Höllentalbahn which will bring us over the Black Forrest. The other way would be to go up to the highest point by train and to ride down on the bike but the fog hangs at the trees today and we better stay to keep dry.
Before the train departs we would like to visit Freiburg now without our loaded bikes. So we look for a baggage office but there is no one. We ask some people and gadually we learn, that they quit this and other services since the German Rail Ass. (Deutsche Bahn AG) has become a private business. Usually you find someone then who helps you besides his actual obligations. But this is not the case, we are very angry about Freiburg and resign. 20 minutes later we sit in the train and swing over the Black Forrest.
At Donaueschingen the sun is shining.