Monday, June 20 Seltz, FR to Gemersheim, GR
We awoke to a beautiful, warm, sunny day. It was sunscreen and shorts. We crossed the German border before noon and
The mountains were larger to our left and each of the villages we rode through had a church steeple that was typically Germanic. We rode the Rhine (Rein in German) bike route most of the day. In places, the route was closed due to flooding. Where it was not closed, the river was over its banks, but the levee prevented it from escaping into occupied territory. When the sign said “Hoch Wasser” (high water), they meant it. Many of the fields had large patches of crop that was still under water. We saw no farm machinery at work. At lunch we met an English couple, Pam and Steve, who were also touring. They told us they were staying in Germersheim tonight also. We made a date to join them at their hotel for dinner. We rode into Germersheim and finally found a map of the Euro Velo Route 15. We checked into our hotel and put out a request to Warmshowers for the city Ludwigshofen for the next night.
We left our hotel about 7 for drinks and dinner with Steve and Pam at their hotel. Pam had had a nasty fall after we saw her at lunch and scraped up her right elbow pretty badly.We had a lovely time visiting and didn’t get back to our hotel until after 10 p.m.
When we got back to our hotel we checked Warmshowerrs.org web site and the couple we contacted in Ludwigshofen had invited us to stay with them and asked us to have dinner at their home. We plan to go to the Tractor Museum here in Germersheim and then ride the 20 kms. to Speyer and check out the cathedral before riding another 30 kms. to Ludwigshofen and meet our Warmshowers hosts.
Tuesday, June 21 Germersheim-Ludwigshofen
We criss-crossed with Kate and Steve from England. We followed the EV 15 all the way. The GPS track that we programmed indicated that our journey today would be 40 kms. Wrong! We did 57 but with virtually no elevation gain. We missed the route sign at one point and were escorted to the route by an octogenarian but was tough as nails. We arrived in Ludwigshoffen about 4 p.m. and had our afternoon coffee. We bought a bottle of wine(Australian) to take to our hosts. We had no trouble finding their apartment because of the GPS. Emma, the 17 yr. old daughter, greeted us at the door in flawless English. Her mother Joanna teaches Swedish and speaks a number of other languages as does her husband Steffen and their other daughter, Linea(21). They made us feel very welcome. They love to host cyclists and keep a diary and a map with pins to register where their guests are from. We were the first from the U.S. We talked around the dinner table for about 4 hours before bed time.
Wednesday, June 22 Ludwigshofen-Nierstein
We got up early in order to have breakfast with Joanna and the girls. Steffen had said his goodbyes last night as he had to leave very early to go to work. Emma had an early doctor’s appointment so she and Joanna left the apartment about 8:45.
The day was warm and sunny all the way to Nierstein. On the way out of town we passed the BSAF chemical plant on our right for more than 8 kms. The company gives its employees bicycles which are red to encourage them to be environmentally friendly.
We spent about 2 hours in the city of Worms, an ancient city with particular importance to the religions of the world. We had a vague memory from school of the Diet of Worms, but became more informed during the visit.
It seems that Martin Luther, a catholic priest in the 1500’s, was put on trial, called the Diet of Worms, and ordered to recant his criticism of the church and its teachings which he said had strayed from the bible. He refused to recant in Worms and fled in fear for his life. That simple act was the spearhead of the Reformation and gave rise to the Protestant movement.
We visited the cathedral which was unique in our experience. It has 2 alters at opposite ends of the nave. It is the oldest Romanesque church in Germany, built between the end of the 12th century and the 14th century. From the outside, the edifice looks like 2 churches.
Across the street from the cathedral is the Lutheran Church of the Trinity. It also is a very old church, but the inside is quite modern and very attractive. There were pictures of before and after WW2 bombings. Wow. It has special significance because of its connection to Martin Luther.
We then rode to the Martin Luther memorial statuary, about half a km. from downtown and then on to the Jewish Cemetery, the oldest in Europe. The grave of a renowned Rabbi dates to the 11th century. We had lunch on the walking street and then left for Nierstein. Because we have not yet adapted to the heat, it was a long day despite only doing about 55 kms. As we neared Nierstein we left the fields lush with grains, corn, potatoes, and onion and got back into the grape growing vineyards in the valley and on the slopes falling into the valley. The smell of grapes on the vine, is intoxicating.As we rode in to Nierstein we saw a large river barge, the first activity along the Rhine (or the Loire) that we had seen because of the flooding. It was 4:30 and we were hot and tired. We found a hotel very near the promenade along the Rhine and settled in. We took a walk, found a place to eat, had some ice cream then returned to the hotel for a shower and soccer.
Thursday, June 23 Nierstein to Bingen
A most beautiful day, but under the heading “be careful what you wish for” the afternoon was very hot and, of course, 98% humidity. We had an easy ride of 20 kms.from Nierstein to Mainz.
We had our morning coffee and then toured the Johannes Grutenberg Printing Museum. The focus of the museum was Gutenberg’s invention in the middle of the 15th century of set and moveable type and repetitious printing. which replaced printing by hand. By example, it would take one person 3 years to hand print the bible. Gutenberg was able to print 180 bibles in one year using the printing press . Although the Chinese had done this centuries before with many more characters than western letters, their technology had not reached Europe. Gutenberg’s invention changed the course of history. Two of Gutenberg’s original bibles were on display with much security.
Were it not for the ability to produce pamphlets and books quickly there would not have been the exchange of ideas which resulted in the Protestant Reformation or the American War for Independence or many other events that were aided by the written word. The museum also had exhibits related to printing including making paper, creating water marks and book binding.
We visited the cathedral which was just across the plaza.
And took a brief walk around the center of the city.
Although the pictures do not show it, the city was setting up forig event. There were food, game, beer and amusement wagons for several Kms in every direction. The activity engulfed the city. A local told us it was the preparation for the annual Johannes Festival weekend which celebrates the invention of the printing press.We were tempted to stay for one day of the festival if it had started that evening, but it did not start until the following night so we moved on.
It became very hot and humid with no relief except in the few shady spots created by the trees along the bike route. With only 15Km to our destination, we stopped for liquid refreshments at a small café right on the river and bike route. Ed had a beer and Maggie sampled an unusual local drink mix of coke and beer. Once was enough of that. We arrived in Bingen 45 min. later and went to the Visitor’s Center, got a room right next door and had our picnic dinner in the room as neither of us wanted to go out in the heat again. It finally started to cool down after 9:30 but remained warm all night. Our room faced the front of the hotel which is across the street from the train tracks. The freight trains ran until about 11:30 p.m. and started again at 5:30 a.m. We saw a beautiful sunrise.
and a castle across the river
and a gorgeous river valley.
The agriculture in the valley of the Rhine has remained consistent, grains, strawberries, apples and grapes with the grapes taking over the slopes the closer we got to Bingen. From our hotel window we saw grape vines running up to the top of the hills on both sides of the river no matter how steep the slopes.
The hotel charges included breakfast, which is usual in most of Germany. It was a very nice spread with yogurt, fruit, cereal, breads and rolls of all kinds, cheese, some meats as well as eggs.
Friday, June 24 Bingen to Koblenz
It finally feels as if summer has come to stay. After breakfast we continued north enjoying the vineyards and castles along the Rhine. The guide says there are more than 150 castles and fortresses on this stretch of 100 Km. They aren’t exaggerating. It’s a party for our eyes in every direction. We made a coffee stop mid morning then stopped in a small village for lunch at a Bakery. It started to rain while eating and soon was a downpour. We waited it out under an awning for a half hour, but decided since it was so warm we’d just put on our rain jackets and ride. Shortly after heading out though, it became an outright gully washer. The lightning and thunder were a little worrisome, but aside from getting wet, all was well. After 45 min. of hard rain, the sun came back out. We dried off at a drink stop. Tonight’s resting spot is in the center of Koblenz.This is where the Mosel River meets the Rhine. We plan on touring this area tomorrow then exploring the path along the Mosel for a week or so. After checking in to the Ibis Hotel, we wandered around the old city and found dinner at a Turkish Kabob. Tomorrow we plan on touring the UNESCO World Heritage Sight, the castle on the hill.