Autumn pampers us with long sunny days. Summer holiday period is over, hotels and resorts are blissfully quiet. Now is the time to get on a bicycle and discover beautiful spots just outside my doorstep. I start in Düsseldorf with an early morning coffee and a raisin bun. My bicycle will take me along the valleys of the Rivers Rhine, Moselle and Saar. Off we go.
THE LOWER RHINE VALLEY stretches between the city of Bonn and the North Sea. Although highly industrialised, the area offers beautiful natural reserves and idyllic countryside. Head south if you are a fan of wine tasting. The Romans introduced viticulture about two thousand years ago here. Noblesse oblige: today, Germany is the eighth-largest wine-producing country in the world.
EUSKIRCHEN is a small town and gateway to the Eifel, a mountain range that offers stunning landscapes, dense forests, countless multiday treks and bird watching opportunities. The town itself hosts quite a number of interesting creatures such as this blue Amazonian ara that you can sometimes meet in front of MacDonalds at the railway station.
TRIER is the oldest town in Germany. The catacombs of its imposing cathedral have been a burial place of Catholic bishops for almost two millenniae. You can touch their tombstones and listen to the amazing church organ either during the Holy Mass or at occasional concerts that take place at weekends here. The River Moselle and its vineyards are ten minutes away from Porta Nigra, a large city gate built by the Romans. Its image adorns special edition of the two-euro coin.
After a heavy dose of European cultural heritage, it is time to enjoy the sun, picturesque towns and an occasional cup of coffee along dozens of well kept cycling tracks. If you have enough stamina, they can take you as far as the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, we enter Saarland, the smallest German state, apart from the city-states of Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg.
VILLEROY AND BOCH have their headquarters in a little town of Mettlach where people come to buy their world famous tableware and tiles. I am sure negotiating adjacent hills with a fine china crockery set on rear bicycle carrier is not a good idea. Here, I'd better go on a splurge at the Saareck Castle, a fine guest house and a former seat of von Boch family.
SAARLAND is where Germany mingles with France and the other way around. Once Celtic, once Roman, once French, then Prussian and then French again, the area was re-united with Germany in 1957. Start you day with a baguette for breakfast followed by wurst and potato salad at lunchtime. Visit the fortifications of the town of Saarlouis, named after King Louis XIV of France. Or just enjoy the arcadian bicycle ride along the River Saar.
VÖLKLINGEN is a small town with a big UNESCO World Heritage Site: the famous ironworks. The first smelter began producing metal from iron ore in 1883 here and the plant was operational until 1986. An industrial maze was turned into an open air museum with excellent exhibition and interactive science centre. It is an important anchor point on the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH).
The iconic RIVER SAAR LOOP attracts quite some cyclists. You can effortlessly drive to the top of the mountain in you car. However, it is the sweat and having to carry the bicycle on your back along parts of the path that make the views even more breathtaking and the sunset - even more romantic. Yes, Germany and the Germans can be romantic but, as for a task-oriented nation, it is time to head straight for the French border. A bientôt!
Here are the maps of the first part of my bicycle trip: