The bike path R1 exists since some years and leads through picturesqe landscapes from the Dutch border near Zwillbrock via Münsterland, Teutoburger Wald and Weserbergland to Hoexter at the Weser stream. Meanwhile they have generated many more numbered and signed bikepaths. The best known are eg. Round the Lake of Constance (Bodensee), Main-, Altmühl-, or Danube-bike path. Moreover they have worked to generate continuations of the R1 to the west until Calais (LF4, LF1) and to the east across the Elbe to Berlin, Poland and finally Petersburg. But at in the moment this is utopia for many sections, especially the eastern ones. May be some generations later the R1 will replace the Transsib. But for now let us try the first section as stated above.
The R1 at the section between Holland and the Weser is well suited for family tours. There are 270 km distance, so we need some few days only and choose the Ascension day and the days thereafter. We can circumvent our local barbecue and that much beer as usual at Ascension day by this trick. I find my collegue Rainer B. to participate the bike tour. A day before the start I visit the barber's shop to have a speedy hairstyle. But nonetheless we must discuss the direction of the winds. Remember the story 1000 km into the wind of the last year. At that time we said, as we left the outskirts of our hometown to the eastern direction: "Wouldn't it be better to go to Holland?". And just now we have a high pressure period with eastern winds. So we can start fom our front door and cycle to Hoexter first and from there to Holland. We arrange the starttime and part to arrange the luggage for tomorrow.
But during my way home I state a west-wind now and this would be from ahead all the time on the way to Holland. So I make a detour to the railway station and find a proper train at 7.49 am from Braunschweig to Hengelo but without bike transport. Moreover I study the weather forecast in the TV at home and after a phone call we decide: we better go by train first. And "no bike transport" will be a challenge.
Ascension Day: Bad Bentheim - Höven
I have a lonesome breakfast and smear my sandwiches myself with love. Later as Rainer unpacks his victuals there are pretty ribbons around the packages. That's the difference between a husband and a bachelor with a girl friend.
But at first there is the challenge to get the bike with us. As we purchuase the tickets the clerk says "But you cannot take the bikes in that train, it is a D-Zug". "We will learn about that" we say - we have special experiences from Poland etc. As the train arrives, a young man with a mountainbike comes out of the train. So we enter the same waggon and thoroughly fix the bikes aside the compartment. The conductor is at the other end of the train, but we seem to be so interesting for him that he comes along. We had to stay near the bikes he says and we nod and stroll to the next but one compartment. After 2 1/2 hours we leave the train at Bad Bentheim.
Soon we have fixed our panniers and then start the bike tour. There is a sign: To the Castle and we climb up a small hill, there is a castle on a rocky cliff, somewhat unusual for this region which tends to stay on windmills. After this first delicacy we leave the main road and head to the left into the bushes. There shall be a hike trail along a nature reserve area. We ask a woman with a broom in front of her garage and get the right direction. The area is named Venn and this is a swamp and pasture region, a lake as well. At one point there is a look-out platform to observe the peculiarities. There are lots of people coming along, cyclists at most and using Dutch bikes (Hollandrad). After some time we find out, that these are Dutch people too who have come from their "cyclist's paradise" as we say. The German excursionists mostly prefer their cars to make a tour.
Near Gronau we ride on the B 54 and now have time to check the wind. It comes steadily from the southeast and this is neutral in the moment. We pass hamlets like Epe, Alstätte or Ammeloe until we reach Zwillbrock. This is the real start of the R1. There is a border crossing, a remarkable baroque church and some nice restaurants. And crowds of people may be caused by the fine weather meanwhile. We sit in a garden for a coffee and a piece of cake. We think of our unprepared accommodation. If all these people would ride on the R1? The most of them are from Holland again and obviously do a one-day-trip only.
For accommodation and information we have a brochure about the R1 from the BVA (Bielefelder Verlagsanstalt). So we start and visit the first place of interest. This is the Zwillbrocker Venn, the greatest inland sea-gull colony. We go to the viewpoint for visitors where one can observe the gulls as they breed. But this is soon somewhat boring. At a sign they state that there are about 150 kinds of birds, but we fail to see them all. We go on tour with a proper headwind. We often pass hedges or forests and do not feel the wind then. But it is annoying anyhow...
On the right side there is the Dutch border which may be a ditch, a hedge or row of trees: as we say a green border. After 10 kms we reach the crossing Terpelle. I go 5 m behind the border and now can say: I have been in Holland.
Within Vreden and Stadtlohn we pass an airport. Suddenly there are something like flying draggons at the sky. They look like motorbikes with parachutes, motorized paragliding. We see many people at the airport so there will be any festivity. We head on towards Coesfeld, and then will have done 50 km of the R1. We look for an accommodation and in the small village Höven just on the route we find the pension An der Holzbrücke and get a room. Now the restaurant is booked, because 10 other cyclists from Bremen spend some short holidays here. At Coesfeld there would be no free lodging as well, so we had some luck again.
We have our dinner in the garden and then go for a walk around. We end just in front of a hog's paddock. The pigs lie fat and lazy on the grass, only the ears are erected for not to loose contact to the outer world. A big boar is the boss. If it is necessary he may drive a naughty sow into the barbwire of the fence. Moreover a little bird wavers around and this is a budgerigar (Wellensitich). We hope that he will find his home.
We walk on a small trail until we reach a pool. This once was a gravel-pit or brickyard or something like that. Today it is a waste dump, more elegant they call it "Reprocessing and Recycling". A swan stands in the black water and looks like sunk into the mud until his belly.
We return to the restaurant and the beer in the guest-room. The 10 cyclists group has come in meanwhile. They have absolved a 60 km tour today and now we hear phrases like "Karl was always at the top" or "Walter disappeared suddenly" and much laughter.
Finally a thunderstorm comes up and rain comes down during the night.
Friday: Höven - Harsewinkel
The day starts chilly, grey and foggy. We start at 9 am with long legged trousers and coat. Due to the weather the wind has changed and now comes from behind (west) as planned before. In spite of that the cyclist always thinks to have a headwind, but that may be caused by the airstream of his speed.
We cross a large forest and come to the moated castle Schloss Valar, the entrance is grilled. We then continue on a dead straight path in the wood. Some kms later we know: we are wrong, there is no sign of the R1 anywhere. But the road map is good enough to find the right route again after some time. The bike path is usually lead far from any traffic on field and forest paths. Only few villages are passed. If one would see all remarkable points it would be necessary to do side trips to nearby places. We are content with the landscape which is forests and meadows, hedges and fields. The barley (Gerste) has grown up and the stalks wave in the wind (from west).
The next sightseeing point is another moated castle Schloss Darfeld and we can read about it: "An unique example of southern architecture in the north of Germany". But it is in private possession and cannot be inspected. An older couple just has a discussion with a local dragon (Hausdrache - a woman) and finally are allowed to visit a side court. We do not descend from the bikes and admire everything from afar. It really looks very romantic, all buildings surrounded by water and a large park behind.
We are now north of the recreation area named Baumberge. In fact the route gets a little bit hilly. Once a mountainbiker comes down, styled from helmet to pedal. He is unabel to say "Hello" or something like that for he then had to rise his head. And we have also to be careful to ride around the puddles and muddy areas from the rain last night.
We then come to Haus Stapel, a classicistic jewel surrounded by water again. The gate is open and we see a lot of cars. We suppose there is any administration office. (Later I got an Email from the owner: all buildings are inhabited). Moreover we discuss how they preserve the fundaments of the moated castles against the humidity. Did they use pitch (Pech) or clay?
At the next town Havixbeck we detect another remarkable activity. There is a street where they have made constructions for traffic calming. This means the wide high-speed lanes have got kerbstone noses, planted beds and trees and a zig-zag lane. In one case there a real islands in the pavement. But there are still drivers who interpret this situation as a challenge and curve therein with squealing tires. May be the locals would be angry about such attitude and this would help.
At our hometown we have the contrary situation. If any lane gets smaller or park room may vanish the readers write letters to the newspapers and complain about the damnation of the motorized vehicles and the degradation of personal freedom. May be the responsible citizens of Harvixbeck are more progressive than others.
We come to Hohenholte, a nice village. We sit down for a rest on a bench in front of the church. A group of younger cyclists comes up, they have an attending van for the baggage. The next section along the creek of a mill is very nice. And this is the idea of a signed bike path: to find out the most picturesque points and paths. A cyclist unknown with the area would never find out such secrete connections.
We pass another famous castle owned by the dynastie of Droste-Hülshoff (Anette von Droste Hülshoff, 1797-1848 was a famous German poet). Visitors have to pay DM 4.50 so we feel to be not invited. The area is surrounded by palisade-like enclosures so nothing is to be seen of the park and castle. Several busses stand around, may be of senior tours or any club's excursion.
We continue straight ahead towards Münster. There is another house in the water named Haus Vögeding. Finally we end in the city of Münster and feel the urbanely and hectic activities after we had all the nature before. We cross a place named "Überwasser-Kirchplatz" and then there is the center at the Domplatz. For we never resist to criticise about something: this time there are no benches at the place and the silhouette of the cathedral is hidden by lime trees. But the scenery is impressive and so think some Asian tourists with their cameras around their necks.
At the pedestrian area there is a big business. A lot of booths are established, may be there is any festivity to lure the people into the town. E.g. there is a flight simulator, but we will not need this installation for we have our bikes. Near the Servatii-Kirche we settle down in a restaurant named Stadt New York though we usually do not like such fast-food institutes. We can sit outside and observe the passers-by. Once a "Cop" (Contact Police) officer strolls along. Someone known to him shouts in dialect: "Hallo, Korl, hasse veel to dohn?" ("Hallo Karl, is there much to do?") He answers: "Nearly not to get by" and unhurriedly strolls on. But then he detects a vehicle that is parked in an forbidden area and immediately pulls out his recorder to protocolize the criminal act.
We finish our dinner and continue our tour passing the town of Telgte, the steeples are to be seen from afar. We cycle along the river Ems, which is canalized and diked. Then we reach Warendorf, the town of horses. The most famous horseman of this town was Hans Günther Winkler (Olympic champion Stockholm 1956) and the most famous horse was Halla. We have a look to the small lanes and half timbered houses until we reach some parks, cross the Ems and pass the Emssee.
The distance of today comes near the 100 km limit and let us look in our R1-brochure for a hotel or pension. We choose the town of Harsewinkel near Gütersloh. At the Hotel Dom-Gaststätte we get a room. There should be an oldtimer meeting this weekend so the accommodations may be booked out later on. But we saw no single oldtimer or enthusiast as long as we stayed at this place.
While I stand under the shower bath I suddenly hear a melodic men's chorus singing "Oh my creek running so sweet" or something like that. The walkaround is not so interesting, there is a typical Westphalian small town. Remarkable is a framework for creeper plants in the shopping lane. This is so unhandsome that it is unclear who could plan such a thing. Afterwards we ask in the hotel and they tell, that there was a big discussion and the newspapers were full of this matter.
In the evening we sit around and drink some beers. But at once some youngsters come in and insist to look in the TV what is running with the soccer team Werder Bremen. Due to this matter we have to vacate our position and sit at another table and hear the comments of the youngsters during the game. I think Werder has won...
Saturday: Harsewinkel - Höxter Vörden
During our breakfast we sit amidst of cupboards with trophies of the local shooting club. We start for a 25 km southern loop around Gütersloh. There is a section parallel to the Autobahn and this is not so favourable due to the noise and smelliness. Past the village Verl we enter the large forest of Schloss Holte. This is painted yellow and there are three towers, all surrounded by waters - another moated castle. We stop at the bridge and stay to the rest of our supplies. Suddenly a group of mountainbikers comes up. Looking at the castle they say "Nice home to live in". And as we have assembled all of the bikes in the midst of the bridge a car of an inhabitant comes along and the bridge must be evacuated.
We then have to use a road across the Teutoburger Wald. This is is a pity, for this could be one of the most scenic sections of the tour. On the other hand the hills are easy to climb. Finally we ride on an unpaved path under oaktrees which may be hundreds of years old. They look somewhat rotten as if they would not stay alife very long. We remember the Varus Battle "Schlacht am Teutoburger Wald" in the year 9 AD which was said to have been around this area. Meanwhile they have found out that the Varus Battle was at quite another place near Osnabrück. In consequence of this fact the famous monument "Hermannsdenkmal" is placed at quite a wrong place as well. But let him throne at the Grotenburg above the town of Detmold, as he looks on the land beneath his feet with his upraised arm and sword.
We have reached Detmold Hiddesen and cycle up and down. I just figure about the fact that we had no defect or puncture during all of our last tours. And we just run down a hill and I fail to find the right gear at the bottom so my fellow from behind must use his brakes. Thereafter he strongly pushes his pedals and suddenly the tire of his rear wheel scrubs at the tubes of the frame. OK, the wheel can be fixed, but we have to repeat this procedure several times until we realize: the axis of the rear wheel is broken. We have Saturday, a quarter to two, and a taxi driver tells us that the shops of Detmold close a 1 pm on Saturdays. We try to find a bike shop which is still open. The first shop is closed already. We ring the bell, only a dog answers. Our faces get longer. "Fortunately we have a railway station here" I say. "I will not capitulate that fast" is the answer. We argue, ife could remove an axis from another bike if one would find a willing helper.
We stroll behind the house of the bike shop and hope to find a back entrance. But there is only a woman cleaning her herring-booth from the market. She is very friendly as we tell her our problem. "We only use an old bike, the axis is all the same" we state. I see an old bike aside and I point at it. "This is mine" she anxiously shouts. "We would give you the money for the repair" we say but she fears to await some complications and so we resign.
The other bike shop shall be near the railway station. In sight of this we detect: it is not closed yet. We nearly cannot await a red traffic light to get there. And they are very helpful, they get a spare axis from an old bike in the cellar and we go to a parking place nearby. We can replace the axis by ourselves - we are no fools. It is really easy to remove the old axis for this comes out in two parts and with it all the 16 balls of the ball-bearing. We finally have picked them out of the grass.
Meanwhile I run back to the shop to get some grease for the ball bearing. If we are OK they ask and I say Sure! But when I come back Rainer meditates above his salade of rings, balls and nuts. We finally need a special screw wrench. Now there is only one thing to do: put the smaller parts into a handkerchief, take the rear wheel and old and new axis and rush back to the bike-boys.
I have to watch for the rest of our equipment and take the rain coat to lie in the sun. I nearly fall asleep until pst half of an hour Rainer comes back with the repaired wheel. He has paid an amount of money for the coffee pot and moreover we are endless thankful about their help. We now could continue but have to go gor coffee and cake first. We end in the pedestrian area and recuperate from the strain before. Suddenly the mountainbikers from Schloss Holte come up. "You have not gone very far" the say. We say "A break of an axis" and this is impressive.
We have now 4 pm and lost more than two hours. But now the tour is very nice, up and down in the foothills of the Teutoburger Wald. The highlight are the Externsteine, some huge rocks which are said to have been Germanic sanctuaries. We then pass the restaurant Silbermühle where I once decades ago consumed a trout as we hiked at the ridge-path of the Ttb. Wald.
Finally we come down to a romantic valley of the Mühlbach and find another castle at Vinsebeck, a remarkable baroque creation, as is to be read. And is painted blinding white just now. We continue on a wonderful path along the Heubach.
Now it is my turn, Suddenly the left pedal cracks and as I remove my foot from the tangle of straps and parts all the stuff falls to the ground. We await balls of a ball-bear again but this time we have luck. "Hey, a defect" someone says from behind. A bearded man comes up. He just had absolved the distance from Berlin to Königsberg by bike, Reichsstrasse 1, this is his breviary. Now he looks at the pedal, I have sorted the parts meanwhile."Not so bad" he says and altogether we go to a nearby barn. We then take a hammer and treat on the pedal in turn. Finally the rivet (Niete) which holds all together seems to be OK again. "We are not at Russia here" he says with contentment. And if we would have choosen our accommodation at last. But we want to continue and the second time this day say thousand thanks.
Some time later we overtake another group of cyclists. And as it is: in sight of other bikers one tends to enforce the speed to impress the persecutors. So we do, and after some time we detect someone in our lee behind us. "It's only me" he says, "you just go my speed". This was the last we heard of him, some hundred meters ahead the sporty fellow is far behind. And of course we ride our usual speed again.
We do not want to finish in Höxter today for we have weekend and the Weser-Radweg will bring many guests to the hotels. Moreover there is a horse tournament, better we look earlier for an accommodation. But now there is the festival of the shooting club at the nearby village Marienmünster. So the Gasthaus zum Krug at Höxter-Vörden is booked. But we find a private room at the Pension Gründer, an elder lady welcomes us.
We have dinner at a pizzeria and the final beers in the guest room of the Gasthaus zum Krug.
Sunday: Hoexter - Braunschweig
The last day of our little tour starts with a fine downhill to Höxter, the final point of the R1 (at that time). We want to ride all the way back home so we do not spend much time at Höxter. We cross the bridge of the Weser and then ride a short section of the Weserradweg. It is said that on this bike trail there sometimes happens a traffic jam. (Meanwhile, 2002, the Weserradweg is the most popular bike trail in Germany). We leave the valley of the Weser at Boffzen and start to climb up the Solling. We pass a parking place in the wood and detect lots of flowers and many people making photos. And then we remember: in the year 1991 two policemen were killed by three brothers at this place. Now it looks as if there are people who like to visit this place and feel something like chill about the crime.
Via Neuhaus and Silberborn we reach the Große Blöße, 528 m, the highest point of this mountain.From there we fly downhill to Dassel, my highest speed is 53 km/h. At Dassel we look around a little bit for during the 40/50s we once lived here and I started my scholl career here. Many old houses are restaurated and the school has been broken down. At the Bierberg, where we have collected blackthorn (Schlehe) and dogroses (Hagebutte) meanwhile they have built modern houses.
The continuation of our route is hilly. Via Lüthorst we climb the Hils and for the first time have to push the bikes. We decide to ride on an unpaved forest trail and at a crossing we apaarently choose the wrong direction. We have to brake hard and reach a point not far from the begin of the uphill. The next mountain is the Selter on the road towards Freden at the Leine river. We produce much sweat and enjoy a rest with coffee and cake. The weather is uncertain, we could go to the railway station at Kreiensen, but as long as it stays dry we prefer to cycle. I will not enumerate the following names of the route, they get more and more known to us until we reach our home about 8 pm. We have done 150 km and this is a good stretch.