Romantische Straße – Dinkelsbühl to Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Thursday 12 September 2013

After a reasonable night’s sleep, started somewhat amusingly when James’s side of the bed partially collapsed (he fixed it OK), we went down to breakfast.

The skies were grey but the earlier rain had turned to drizzle and we hoped for a dry-ish afternoon at least.

We’d read a lot in the guidebook about the special Pretzel window in the church but couldn’t see it last night in the dark. It wasn’t as obvious as we had thought anyway when we had a look on our way past this morning, but James spotted it – several pretzel shapes in the stonework at the top of the window.


Here is a close-up.

This was the original planned route for today’s ride to Rothenburg ob der Tauber:


Today would be a day of change, leaving the Wörnitz river that we had followed for a few days and swapping (eventually) to the Tauber.

We started off, however, following the Wörnitz as it wound its extremely wiggly way northwards. We were mostly riding on quiet lanes, seeing few cars in the first half hour or so. Possibly a good thing as these lanes were narrower than a lot of German roads and it was a bit of a squeeze when a car with a trailer had to pass.

We saw a heron in a field. That reminds me, we saw an enormous white stork near a lake yesterday – it was huge! I also saw another massive bird standing up in a field later today but had no idea what it was except some kind of scary-looking bird of prey. It looked as though it could carry away a cat or two!

Anyway, this was the sort of view we had for the first half hour today, including a view of rain clouds.


Because of the rainy forecast we had already decided to modify the route to shave off some extra miles. We still planned to visit the towns of Feuchtwangen and Schillingsfürst on the way to Rothenburg but the official route did a rather random diversion. Our English guidebook took yet another route. James and I checked the maps last night and decided on our own variation.

Which in fact we slightly altered when arriving at a junction near Schopfloch. We had planned to turn right here and join the cycle path on the B25 but this sign gave us an alternative route – the official Romantische Straße route which is 20km to Feuchtwangen or the ‘Direkt’ route which is 10. We went for Direkt!


We cycled northwards into a fairly stiff wind, routing through Larrieden and then crossing the Wörnitz. We had to go over a bit of a hill, unfortunately, and it started raining quite heavily at this point so we put on our waterproofs and headed off up the hill.

I was regretting not stopping to shelter in a barn we had passed as a minute or two later the rain started really pouring down and we were out in the open with no shelter. We just rode through it. We were awarded with a good view at the end but I was soaked and James’s shoes had let in a lot of water again so he had wet and cold feet.


Still, Feuchtwangen was getting ever closer and just as we reached the outskirts of the town the rain stopped and there were brief glimpses of sunshine.

Feuchtwangen has a famous cloister (according to my Romantic Road iPhone app) but we couldn’t find it marked on our map or my Garmin. I assumed therefore that it would be part of the main church, the Stiftkirche, so we headed there.


No cloister but they did have this rather cool building beside the church.


The open space in front of the church was teeming with young people on a school trip so it was clearly a popular place to visit but as we were wet and cold we decided to press on.

Our route now went alongside the river, which was no longer the Wörnitz which had headed off to our west but was now the Sulzach. There was a nice cycle path through the meadows beside the river and I was surprised to see a lot of flowering crocuses – surely it’s the wrong season for them?


The route took us under a main road, along it for 200 metres or so and then struck off northwards beside the Sulzach again through very empty, rolling countryside. The road was mostly OK but there were a few less smooth sections, such as this one.


Fortunately the paved bits were wide enough for Alfie’s track so I didn’t have to send a wheel through the grassy, bumpy middle section.

We saw this hill in the distance and our map suggested we might have to go over it. We seemed to have quite a hilly route today so that was no great surprise!


At Bonlanden the Bikeline guidebook had a warning symbol that the signage for the route was a bit dodgy. This was clearly nonsense, the cycle route sign was fine, but it did take us along a narrow track beside a factory which had railway lines. James’s back wheel slid quite impressively as he went over these tracks!


The road became a bit more off-road for two miles.


Theoretically this was wide enough for Alfie – just – but the reality is that it’s very, very difficult to ride with both front wheels just on the paving stones so I went along with one wheel in the grass.

We went through Archshofen, then had a climb up a bit before we crossed over the A6 motorway. The subsequent downhill was through a wooded section which was actually a bit chilly. We then crossed the railway and headed into Dombühl, the last village before our lunch stop in Schillingsfürst.

However we had a really long and steep climb out of Dombühl that seemed to go on forever. I twiddled up in about third gear (out of 33); James was a bit quicker as usual. This photo is looking back at where we have come from. We needed a breather so the excuse of taking a photo was handy!


Here is James consulting the map to see if we have any more evil hills like that today (fortunately not!)


Once again we were riding through woodland, feeling occasional spots of rain but nothing as significant as earlier in the day.

It wasn’t long before we could see Schillingsfürst in the distance, the large building on the left of the mound, Schloss Schillingsfürst, very evident.


Schillingsfürst is an interesting place because of a significant piece of geography. From my app:

The castle, the baroque palace of the princes of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, stands on the spur of a hill in the Franconian Heights. Because the palace is located right on the European watershed, a local legend says that the rainwater from the western side of the palace roof runs into the Rhine and the North Sea via the river Main, whereas the rainwater from the eastern side finds its way into the Danube and Black Sea.

We wended our way into Schillingsfürst and stopped at the first bakery we could find. It was time for lunch, a hot drink and to warm up a bit.

Here is James contemplating his coffee and sandwich.


He went for a healthy sandwich although eschewed the sandwich specially labelled “For Men” (which had extra herbs, apparently!)


I had a filled baguette.

My attention was caught by a display of cakey-things called Schneeballen (snowballs)


After my baguette I thought it only right to try one as I hadn’t seen them before.


It was a kind of pastry, very light but hard/crispy, and was most tasty although difficult to eat without causing an explosion of icing sugar everywhere.

James watched me eating the Schneeball and got hungry again so he had a Nussecke.


After we had finished our food and drink it was time to head off again in a lull in the rain. But first I had to pose on the watershed. My left foot and arm would, if washed away, drain (eventually) into the Tauber and Main and then Rhine and North Sea, my right foot and arm would end up in the Donau (Danube) and Black Sea. It’s a weird thought!


Schillingsfürst, being a watershed town, was clearly up high. This meant a downhill next – here is James preparing and letting me go first.


And it was a good thing he let me go first as the road from Schillingsfürst to Bellershausen is fantastically fast. I got up to 37.7mph and hadn’t pedalled at all since the start of the hill. In fact I stopped for James to take a photo of me with Schillingsfürst Castle behind, still not having pedalled, and then rolled back onto the road (without pedalling) and continued right to Bellershausen before I needed to pedal. That was probably a full mile of no pedalling for me; James had to pedal to overcome the headwind on his upright bike but this is the sort of road that recumbents love.


After Bellershausen we crossed under the A7 motorway, built up on stilts to cross the valley.


At Diebach James had pre-planned a short route variation to avoid some off-road shenanigans and this just involved us continuing on the main road rather than heading off across fields. At Bockenfeld we rejoined the officical route which was meant to be tarmac but was actually crushed stone but it was a reasonable enough quality that I just went for it. It was here that we first started cycling alongside the Tauber river which was also fed by the Wethbachgraben (which we crossed) and the Kimberger Mühlbach, along with several other tiny streams. These all end up in the Rhine which is a weird thought, especially as by the time we reach Würzburg I will have ridden the entire route to Düsseldorf that these little streams follow.

At Gebsattel we knew we were almost there and this sign showed how many different cycle routes had converged here.


Earlier today we had, for a while, followed a route signed with a fish which is some kind of fishing/cycling route. It was raining though so I couldn’t get a photo without drowning the phone!

On the last stretch into Rothenburg ob der Tauber, just after we crossed over a main road on an impressive bike bridge, we passed this house. I loved all the different things on the roof – loads of extra effort but looked really cool!


We rode through the suburbs a bit and then arrived at the town walls. This sign showed us that we were crossing another important cycling route.


This was our route into the Altstadt (old part of town).


This is the Spital Bastion, a 17th century bastion with two inner courtyards, seven gates and an upper walkway. We returned to this on foot later.

Here is one of the inner courtyards, taken whilst pedalling along!


Here is James having reached the inner sanctum!


We trundled our way slowly (cobbles!) down the main street before turning off right down a tiny lane to our hotel, Alter Keller.


The lady gave me a key to what turned out to be an empty apartment building next door to the hotel and that was where we were to store the bikes, just in the hallway (the building wasn’t used).

Here are the Garmin statistics for today’s ride:


After our showers and clothes washing we decided to make the most of the dry weather (and occasional sightings of blue sky) and head out for a walkies around Rothenburg which was clearly an interesting town.

My app explains:

High above the deeply carved Tauber valley, where the Romantic Road meets the Castle Road, the silhouette of historical Rothenburg ob der Tauber rises up against the sky. With its fully intact mediaeval centre, the town is an architectural gem that is an absolute must for sightseers. Its intricate winding passageways, small squares with towers, fountains, quaint wine taverns and its half-timbered buildings create a romantic and enchanting atmosphere that is without equal. You might like to see the completely intact mediaeval town wall, along which you can circle almost the entire town centre…”

That sounded like a plan!!

So we headed off to wander up and down the high street for a bit.


This is the main town hall, wrapped up because it’s being renovated/restored but with a picture on the wrapping.


And this is the tourist information office, also wrapped.


Another quaint cobbled street.


Oh look, a windowful of Schneeballen!


It turns out that the Schneeball is a special pastry from Rotheburg. They were everywhere, in all the bakeries and with different coatings and in different sizes. They are very yummy!

I liked the change of heights with these two roads, both of which has a gate.


James and I spied a set of stone steps up a side road which appeared to lead to the walls walkway. And indeed they did!


These passageways were very long – you can see James halfway along.


One section had lots of people’s and companies’ names marked at regular intervals. I assume they gave money for some restoration of the walls or something similar.


The level of the walkways changed as we explored further.


A view from inside the wall walkway of the Lutheran church.


People’s houses and back gardens but up right against the wall.



A view from the gate that we arrived through, up along the high street towards the Town Hall.


Inside the Spital Bastion.




A handy waggon and cannon.




This is a view of the courtyard within the bastion.



And outside, the moat.


Looking up at the gate – the stones are strangely dressed, with convex stonework.


The bastion, the moat and the footbridge.


From the outside:


Looking in:


Another view of the moat.


And of the tower at this gate.


The interior of the church near this tower. Now I am sure that it said it was a Lutheran church on the outside but the guide book says “St John’s Church, the Catholic Church built between 1390 and 1410”. It looks kinda plain inside for a Catholic Church.


Looking up a side street at the wall with one of its many towers – we walked along there earlier.


An inner tower, Plönlein/Siebers Tower.


More gorgeous buildings.


This is St Jacob’s Church. Its construction was begun in 1311.


The building next to it had this sundial which we couldn’t work out at all. We took the photo at about 5pm.


The Galgen Gate.


From the other side.



After all that walking about it was time to go back to the hotel and maybe have a cuppa and cake. How handy that they had some Erdbeerkuchen in stock. The lady cut me a huge slice to have with my cuppa!


It rained really hard between 5:30 and 6:30pm which was fine as we were both in the hotel room, James having a sleep and me writing up this blog, but the weather had cleared nicely by 7pm when we started thinking about going out to dinner.

We stopped at a restaurant on the main street which had a good selection of things we liked.

James started by ordering his first wine of the trip, now we are in Franconia. His choice was Röttinger Feuerstein Halbtrocken.


Then it was time for food. We both ordered schnitzel-type meals so had our salads first.


I had a Zigeunerschnitzel (Gipsy) which is slightly hotter than the normal Schnitzel.


James had Schweinelendchen “Allgauer Art” with Spätzle.


And for dessert we had a Gemischtes Eis (mixed ice creams) with two spoons.


We enjoyed our meal. It was good to see the night watchman of Rothenburg go past the restaurant’s windows at one point; he was carrying a lantern on a pole but looked more like the Grim Reaper!

Tommorrow we head out of Bavaria for the first time since we dipped our toes into Tirol in Austria last Friday. We’ll be overnighting in Bad Mergenthein in Baden-Württemburg which happens to be the town from which James’s wine today came, so he’s looking forward to a chance to have some of that again.

The weather forecast is also a bit more kindly with less rain, more sunshine and higher temperatures. Maybe I can ditch the legwarmers I’ve had to wear for the last three days!

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