Romantische Straße – Harburg to Dinkelsbühl

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Last night we talked on Skype with the in-laws and they let us webcam with Poppy the dog who looks very relaxed in front of the woodburner.

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I slept really well last night – mind you, I went to bed at 10pm which was an hour and a half earlier than normal. Consequently when I woke up at 7am I felt very refreshed and we were both up and down at breakfast by 8am.

I wasn’t 100% sure if breakfast was included in the room rate (it wasn’t mentioned on my email reservation confirmation) but it was, which was a bonus. Once again I had a slightly lighter breakfast. This was our cheapest hotel at 59 Euros, a real bargain we thought!

We’ve mentioned the books we’re using to help us plan our journey but I realise I haven’t really described them.

The main book for routefinding is the Bikeline book.

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We are also using a book written in English, although it dates from 1997 so is a bit out of date (it talks about Deutschmarks, for example!)

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The author of this book has a slightly singular voice at times, and he is also very keen on visiting everything whereas we’re a bit quicker with our riding, but it’s useful to have an idea of what we are likely to see each day.

Here is the planned map of today’s route:

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However we had spent some time last night looking at the route and working out small diversions to avoid the off-road sections, plus gratuitous hills. We particularly noticed the very beginning of the route did a rather strange loop to a village called Hoppingen, whereas we could just ride up the hill behind our hotel and join the route after a couple of miles, avoiding a five mile route. So we did!

We managed to organise ourselves a bit better today and were able to head off just after 9am, a good hour earlier than we have been leaving previously. This was partly to try to avoid some of the rain that was forecast from 11am. I am not too keen on cycling in rain and thought that we should make the most of the dry early morning.

Here is James outside the hotel ready to leave (we’d oiled our chains and other bike bits following yesterday’s rain before heading out).

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We cycled extremely slowly up the very steep slope at the back of our hotel which leads up to the B25 road (a very fast A-road) but which has a cytcle path alongside it from Harburg onwards towards Nördlingen, the next major stop on our route.

The official route crosses over this after its detour to Hoppingen and then goes further south, passing through seven small villages and going up and down quite a few hills. The English guidebook said these villages aren’t very interesting and you might as well ride on the very good cycle path beside the B25 so that’s what we decided to do.

We were cycling past farmland which was mostly sweetcorn or grass or fodder but we did see this field of asparagus.

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We were very soon looking down over a huge flat area which is called the Ries.

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The English guidebook explains:

At this point, the geologically distinctive area known as the Ries is entered. It was formed 15 million years ago, when a meteorite crashed down on the mountain plateau previously located there, falling at aspeed of around 100,000km/h, and with an impact 250,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb.

It produced a transient crater which, as a result of the evaporation of the meteorite itself and the rocks it hit, gradually spread to cover an almost circular area 25km in diameter. In the process, a new type of rock, known as Suevite, came into existence.

A shallow lake formed in the crater, but this silted up over the course of the next two million years.

Following the last glaciation period, the present landscape gradually emerged, flat and virtually treeless, with some highly-distinctive rocky outcrops amid extremely fertile soils. The Ries is among the world’s largest craters and has been studied more than any other. As it shares many characteristics with the craters of the moon, the astronauts of NASA’s Apollo 14 and 17 came there in 1971 to undertake preparatory research.

We were very much able to see the Ries as we whizzed along the cycle path, with a huge ring of hills around it. The hills that we had passed over were rocky and clearly not man-made and we could well imagine how they would have been thrown up as the meteorite hit.

Here’s a short video James took to show you the view of the crater and the surrounding hills.

We were now cycling through the fertile middle bit and we saw lots of rows of sweetcorn with markers for the different varieties – a test field perhaps?

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On our way to Möttingen we saw this monument, more evidence of the Romans.

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And this is looking back at where we came from, Harburg is in that row of hills behind Alfie.

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We were making really good progress despite the fairly strong headwind, helped significantly by the high-quality, smooth cycle track and the lack of lots of side roads to negotiate, although there were just a few which involved the cycle path doing a bit of a convoluted route.

Much quicker than we expected we were arriving at Nördlingen, a Roman-era town with impressive walls. Here is James approaching the gate, the Reimlinger Tor.

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And here it is close-up – it looked a bit like a Pagoda from a distance.

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This is a view to the side of the gate, the walkway which you can take on the city wall almost the entire way round.

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And here is an amusing name for a hairdressers (at least, I thought so).

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Nördlingen has a large church in the middle, the St Georgskirche, with a very tall tower known locally as “Daniel”. Unfortunately the church had scaffolding on but was still impressive.

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We found the town centre square which was bustling with a market and lots of visitors. I liked this little sculpture.

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And its explanation – it’s the logo for Cittaslow, an international group for towns that focus on a good lifestyle and their individual identity in a global environment.

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Nördlingen had all the traditional town goodies like beautiful half-timbered houses and fountains, etc.

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James had commented that he wished he had a marker pen with him to draw on our Bikeline map when we planned alternative routes. Lo and behold we saw a stationer’s shop so popped in to see if they had a pen, which they did – several. James chose an orange one and was very pleased with it. I was keen to get moving as I had parked Alfie outside this building and it was advertising that they sold Windbeutel, cakes that I REALLY like!

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The plan was not to stop for cake in Nördlingen as we wanted to make the most of the dry weather. The Windbeutel was tempting me to hang around but in the end we set off, James triumphantly with his new orange pen.

This was the gate on the way out, the Baldinger Tor.

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Again, you can see the steps up to the walkway around the town. It was a shame we didn’t have time to look round really but I wanted to avoid as much rain as possible, wimp that I am!

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Here is that gate from the other side.

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Our route went on a short stretch of cycle path which took us under a main road. Here I am looking back at the town with the Daniel tower very much in evidence.

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I saw a couple of these billboards today – somehow I wouldn’t expect an English attendee of a Rocktober Party to look like this!

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We headed up to Wallerstein and then Birkhausen and Maihingen.

Just before a fantastic swooping downhill into Maihingen we saw a bench with some stones around it. James said the stones showed evidence of the meteorite hit because they were all twisted, so he took a couple of pics.

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We then enjoyed the fast downhill into Maihingen, avoiding the usual slugs but also at one point a huge hairy red caterpillar. I saw one later on today which I photographed.

At this point the Bikeline book gives two options for the route; the main route goes off-road through the hills to the west of Fremindgen, lots of forest tracks which are unmade and with significant ups and downs. The alternative route goes further east and passes through Fremdingen itself. It looked a little less hilly, and with definitely better road surfaces, so we decided to take that option.

From Maihingen we climbed up a pretty significant hill towards Utzwingen. Utzwingen was a small village but with what looked like a fairly new Lutheran church. It also had the swerving white paint all over the road which we’ve seen a lot on this tour – the paint goes for miles in a wavy pattern. Does anyone know what it means?

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I thought the church was the top of the hill but sadly not, we had a bit more climbing to do (I have used my granny ring more on this tour than probably the last year’s worth of riding put together!), but the view was most definitely worth it!

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And here is a panoramic video taken by me.

We saw this wonderful bird wheeling around over our heads quite close and I tried to get a couple of shots which ended up as silhouettes. The bird looked a bit like an enormous kestrel with that same reddish colouring. A red kite?

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From Utzwingen we stayed on top of the ridge with great views a lot of the time. We rode past Herblingen, seeing it just down the hillside from our road, then through Hochaltingen where a brand new (unmarked on our map or Garmin) cycle path cut a corner off part of our route and saved us half a mile or so.

From there we had a brilliant downhill into Fremdingen. I took the opportunity to film James coming past.

I was pretty hungry by now and wanted to stop in Fremdingen for some food. The rain had still not arrived apart from a couple of spots here and there but it was time for food as we’d done eighteen or so miles. Although it wasn’t wet it was very cold and I’d had to stop behind a hedge to put on an underlayer and had also added my armwarmers. My feet were a bit cold too – tomorrow I shall wear two pairs of socks (with sandals, yikes!!!!)

I spotted a bakery immediately we reached Fremdingen (I am good at detecting cakes!) and we parked our bikes outside – next to this rather random pharmacy delivery vehicle!

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We ordered a sandwich each and tea and coffee. James also posed for some photos with his new orange pen, of which he is inordinately proud!

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When we set off again we were doing a completely off-map option which my Garmin suggested was possible. It avoided some bad off-road paths on the official route (which had drawn very close again) and looked, on Google Satellite View, like it was well-tarmacked. Which it was. It’s surprising how useful Google Satellite View is for our tour planning!

This went past a lake and then along a new bit of cycle track which stayed near the B25. However this track ran out, as we reached the turning for Rüblingstetten, as we expected it to, so we took that turning and then joined the official route again for the first time in about eight miles.

As expected, this route was rather off-road.

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The surface was very soft in places and very hard work to push the bike through but it was a fairly short stretch so I knew I would survive, especially as it wasn’t yet raining. We could see some rainclouds but not that close and we were beginning to hope we might survive the day’s ride dry.

Here’s another one of those impressive caterpillars!

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The route went very near to Greiselbach at which point the route headed off-road in a westerly direction but the main road to Dinkelsbühl, our destination for the day, headed north-west. We had already checked to see if there was a cycle track (there was), so we took another quick detour.

This was obviously on the driving route as we took this photographs of our bikes being all romantic!

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The cycle path beside this road disappeared briefly in the village of Wilburgstetten where we rejoined the Wörnitz river (which we had first met at Donauwörth) and then we found the path again, it went through an underpass and we transferred onto a lovely quiet bike road which soon rejoined the official route, going through a farm on its way.

We were now on the final two mile run to Dinkelsbühl which included this lovely bridge just for cyclists!

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Then it was a short journey through the suburbs and we arrived at one of the many gates for Dinkelsbühl, the Nördlinger Tor.

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Our Hotel was fifty metres inside this gate.

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I went in and met a very friendly receptionist who took us to a locked garage to store our bikes and who seemed exceptionally keen to carry James’s panniers for him!

We were shown to a really nice room.

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With posh bed hangings!

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Of course within five minutes it looked as though a bomb had gone off (or meteorite crashed) as we emptied our panniers, washed our clothes etc.

Here is the display from my Garmin for today – our diversions knocked five miles off the total!

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After we’d had a short break it was time to head out and explore Dinkelsbühl.

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It has a city wall all the way around with lots of towers and gates.

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These steps were up to a walkway around the walls.

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Look how worn they are!

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A view over the town from the walkway.

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James liked the roof.

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I am sure this shop says “Army Stuff”!

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One thing we noticed, when walking around, was that every shop had its exterior writing in gothic script and there were no advertising signs hanging out. Even the banks just had the bank name, in gothic script, painted on the outside. The only advertising you could see was inside the windows.

This meant the place looked wonderfully uncluttered but I am sure there are a lot of rules about living here which must be irritating for inhabitants. We assume there is a rule against velux windows, for example, as several houses had glass roof tiles in a square, presumably as skylights, where you would normally see a velux.

Some more views from our walkabout.

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I liked this vet’s logos.

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This is the Rothenburger Tor which we will pass through on our way tomorrow morning.

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More street scenes.

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It was then that I spied a bakery/café and the urge for a cake overcame me.

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It was a strawberry and yoghurt cake so very healthy, of course!

Here is the little chocolate sign on it.

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However, when I put the Kaffee Sahne (creamer fake milk stuff) into the cup of tea, it went like this:

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This has happened to me once before at a motorway service station in the UK and I think it’s because the long-life creamer is off. Anyway, they made me a fresh cup and this time put normal milk in it at my request.

After the tea and cake (although James had neither, he just watched me) we wandered round some more. Sorry for the endless number of photos of Dinkelsbühl but it’s so lovely!

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We found a pizzeria for our evening meal and James had a local beer.

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Stefansbräu reminded us of our chum Stefan of course!

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The restaurant was in the old Pfarrerhaus (Viicar’s/Minister’s house) which was very posh as it had vaulted ceilings.

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James’s pizza was called Volleyballone, mine was a bit more normal!

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We had intended to go to hear the Night Watchman but when we got to the Minster it had started to rain quite heavily and we would have had to pay 5 Euros each for a tour in German. OK in the summertime but a bit too much money in the rain, especially as James wouldn’t understand much of the tour commentary.

Tomorrow we are heading for Rothenburg ob dem Tauber which is like Dinkelsbühl only more so. The forecast is similar to today (rain most of the day) so hopefully it will end up being the same (i.e. no rain whilst we are cycling).

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