Last week, I recounted the first half of our trip to Germany in May 2018. Today, I’ll pick up where I left off, which was in the town of Koblenz. Two days of biking down, two days to go!
From Koblenz, we headed north towards our destination of Bad Honnef, a 57 km (35 mile) day. “Bad” roughly translates to “bath” or “spa” which is why you see the word appear in so many German town names. A mineral spring was discovered here in 1897, after which the town name was changed from Honnef to Bad Honnef.
This was one of the least rural sections of the trip, as Koblenz is a moderately large city surrounded by a fairly continuous string of smaller towns. It wasn’t until the second half of the day that we ventured back into more rural areas.
We stopped at a waterfront park in Andernach for lunch and ended our day of biking with a quick ferry ride across the Rhine from Rolandseck to Bad Honnef, where we spent the night at a small place called Markt 3. We had beer and pizza at the restaurant downstairs and then dessert at a little place across the town square. We also explored as much as we could on foot before retiring for the night.
Day four was the only day of our bike trip that dawned with the threat of rain, though we largely dodged the storm. Weather wise, we were very lucky. Lots of sun, not too hot, and almost no rain. It finally started raining not long after our arrival in Köln and poured most of the next day, so our timing turned out to be pretty perfect.
Day four was the final leg of our journey from Bad Honnef to Köln. This was the flattest day, and we covered about 52 km (32 miles) along the eastern banks of the Rhine, for a trip total of about 205 km (127 miles). We didn’t stop for too many photo ops this day – mostly, I think, because none of us wanted to continually suffer through the butt pain associated with getting on and off our bikes – so I don’t have a ton of pictures to share from the bike ride itself.
We ate lunch in a little riverfront park on the outskirts of a small town I can’t remember the name of and spent a few minutes along the river in small town of Zündorf. This suburb of Köln celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 2008, making it 1010 years old when we saw it! The history of this area of the world is just so much richer than in most areas of the US and I wish we’d had more time to learn about it.
The other excitement of the day was missing a sign and taking a wrong turn in Bonn, resulting in us riding in giant circle. I cleverly – if I do say so myself – dubbed it our ‘Bonn Voyage.’ It added a few extra kilometers to our already sore muscles but it was a pretty area so none of us minded too terribly much.
At long last, we made it to Köln, catching occasional glimpses of the magnificent Kölner Dom (aka the Cologne Cathedral) until it became the defining feature of our view as we entered the city. Our accommodations for the night were just a few blocks away at the Hotel Müller, making it an easy walk the next morning when we had a chance to go inside the magnificent sanctuary.
I don’t think photos can accurately capture how enormous this building is. It stands at 157 meters (515 feet) tall, making it the largest gothic church in Northern Europe. It took 632 years to complete and has since undergone almost constant renovation, particularly following the damage it sustained from air raids during WWII. There was scaffolding surrounding parts of it even when we were there.
Despite its magnificence, I couldn’t help but notice the eerie appearance of the church. I’m not sure if it was the dark colors, the spikiness, or both, but from some angles it almost looked creepy. Regardless, it’s a testament to the ingenuity and hard work of the thousands of people it took to complete its construction.
This sadly marked the end of our bicycle journey and also our time in Köln. From here, we caught the train back to Mannheim, returned our bikes, and headed back to Ludwigshafen for one final night before our flight back to the US.
The upsides to touring the region by bike were definitely the beautiful views, the relatively leisurely pace, and the flexibility to stop whenever and wherever we wanted to enjoy the scenery. The downside is that I wanted to stop every two minutes to take photos, which was obviously not feasible if we were going to complete the journey. This is just the type of trip where you have to commit a lot of the scenery to memory.
And, this trip is the beginning of what I hope will become a tradition of exploring Europe by bike. We had a wonderful time, we loved the freedom that biking provided, and Pat and I can’t wait to bike our way through another part of Europe in the hopefully not-too-distant future!