In September 2021, my wife and I cycled along the Alme, Diemel, Weser and Werre rivers on a tour lasting several days. The goal was a leisurely, relaxed tour with few metres of altitude, but beautiful views and lots of water. That's exactly what this tour turned out to be. It was pure enjoyment.
Actually, we wanted to go hiking in the Cévennes, but of course the Corona virus threw a spanner in the works of these plans in 2021 as well. Travelling to France for a fortnight, this seemed inappropriate. So what to do?
"Let's go for a bike ride, what do you think", I asked my wife, "if we ride around here, then the journey to and from the bike ride is not far. The area is beautiful and we have the opportunity to experience the important architecture of the Weser Renaissance, to cycle along streams and rivers. I have planned Warburg, the monastery and castle complex of Corvey, Höxter, Hamelin, the Hermann Monument and the Externsteine as highlights." "Agreed, that sounds very good."
Not everything turned out the way we thought it would.
Notes, inspiration and route locations
Where did it go?
329 kilometres, 845 metres up and 836 metres down - via Borchen, Henglarn, Atteln, Dalheim, Blankenrode, Hardehausen, Rimbeck, Warburg, Dalheim, Haueda, Liebenau, Lamerden, Eberschütz, Trendelburg, Bad Karlshafen, Beverungen, Blankenau, Werden, Fürstenberg, Höxter, Corvey, Lüchtringen, Holzminden, Forst, Polle, Dölme, Rühle, Bodenwerder, Hehlen, Hajen, Grohnde, Hagenohsen, Tündern, Hameln, Wehrbergen, Fischbeck, Hessisch Oldendorf, Ahe, Engen, Rinteln, Varenholz, Erder, Vlotho, Rehme, Bad Oeynhausen, Löhne, Falscheide, Herford, Bad Salzuflen, Schötmar, Waddenhausen, Lage, Detmold - and by car via the Hermann Monument back to Paderborn.
"When you're down, when the days seem darker and darker, when work seems nothing but monotonous, when it seems almost pointless to hope at all, just get on your bike and chase down the road with no thought of anything but your wild ride."
Arthur Conan Doyle
"Cycling gives me great pleasure: it is wonderful, a little tired and heated to sit down somewhere and look out over the shrubs, the meadows and hills, and in the evening it is even wonderful to ride in the streets of the suburbs."
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Day 1 - From Paderborn to Warburg - 66 km - 41 miles
Dream Entry Day
We started at 9 a.m. in Paderborn. At the corner of Frankfurter Weg and Barkhauser Straße, there is a direct entrance to the route, as the cycle path to Borchen starts here.
The advantage of this day tour: Only very short sections lead over roads, the greater part over cycle paths and narrow tarred farm and agricultural roads. And the cycle path starts directly at Barkhauser Straße. Along the Alme, it goes on beautiful cycle paths, narrow and low-traffic roads via Barkhausen and Wewer to Borchen. From there via Gellinghausen, Etteln, Henglarn, Atteln to Husen. A very beautiful route. Very easy to cycle and well signposted. There is only a very slight uphill section. This part of the route has one disadvantage: A lot of pigs are bred in this area of East Westphalia, and unfortunately you can smell that thanks to the odour-enhancing slit floors in the stables in these places. This significantly reduces the desire to take a closer look at a place. We stay on or away from it for a short while and are compensated by the quiet landscape with beautiful views.
In Husen/Lichtenau we decided to take a short detour to Dalheim. There is an impressive, baroque and former monastery complex from the 15th century of the Augustinian canons' monastery. The monastery had its greatest heyday at the beginning of the 18th century, and most of today's buildings were built at that time.
From there we returned to the cycle path and shortly afterwards, unfortunately, took a wide, fast road up to the highest point of our journey, which we reached behind Blankenrode at about 420 m above sea level. Here is the watershed between the Rhine and the Weser. The Alme flows into the Lippe and the Rhine, whereas the Diemel flows into the Weser.
On the subsequent descent, down the Humbertsberg, we not only noticed the considerable, climate change-induced forest damage all around us. Unfortunately, the mantle of my rear wheel had also bulged considerably due to age. The fibre reinforcement of the mantle had become brittle and torn. So a fast descent was out of the question.
Now we descended into the foothills of the Diemel valley, which would now accompany us all the way to the Weser. Down the Schwarzbach valley to Hardehausen, and then along the Diemel via Rimbeck, Wethen, Germete to our destination in Warburg. A wonderful route to cycle, which we covered in the cyclist's best weather, light cloud cover and slight sunshine.
Warburg, with its more than 1000 years of history, likes to call itself the Rothenburg of North Rhine-Westphalia, is well worth seeing and visiting, both in terms of its location and its architecture. And there is a bicycle shop near the station that took care of my rear wheel in the late afternoon. One of the spokes was also broken. Unfortunately, it wasn't the last one, but we didn't know that at the time.
We spent the night at the really excellent FAMOS Schlafen guesthouse, where we not only had a good night's sleep, but also the best breakfast of our trip the next morning (contact: Sabine Ludwig, Famos Schlafen, https://www.famosschlafen.de/).
Day 1: Link to the Bikemap
Day 2 - From Warburg to Corvey Monastery - 75 km - 47 miles
Pure relaxation and tearing off kilometres in the evening
After the great luxury breakfast, we continued east down into the Diemel valley, and I would describe this section, from Warburg to Bad Karlshafen on the Weser, as the most beautiful part of the trip. I have rarely cycled so relaxed and calm. A beautiful, varied, winding, leisurely route along the Diemel. Past the impressive sandstone arch bridge of the railway over the Diemel, we cycled via Haueda, Liebenau, Lamerden, Eberschütz, Sielen to Trendelburg, where we barely made it to the bakery in the upper part of the cosy village, which was only open until 1 pm. We sat on the church lawn in beautiful weather and had a panoramic view of the beautifully timbered half-timbered houses of the village, which boasts an impressive 13th century castle.
From Trendelburg we followed the former railway line and Carlsbahn from Trendelburg to Bad Karlshafen further east. Unfortunately, the former Deiseler Tunnel was closed because thieves had stolen the lighting from the tunnel. But even the diversions was nice to ride. If you want, you can take a break at Café Mehlschwalbe in Wasserschloss Wülmersen, but unfortunately I found the staff there very unfriendly.
Towards afternoon we arrived in Bad Karlshafen and finally at the Weser. The town has a unique baroque harbour basin that has been reactivated for boat use and around which one can sit and enjoy coffee and cake almost untouched by car traffic.
A check call to our sports hostel in the Corvey monastery revealed that we had to arrive by 6 p.m. at the latest, as the reception would close at that time. Since we wanted to do some grocery shopping in Höxter, we had to pedal hard from now on to make it on time.
So unfortunately we saw nothing of the towns of Würgassen, Beverungen, Blankenau, Wehrden and Fürstenberg except a quick drive through.
Arriving in Höxter, we experienced our first cyclist-versus-car culture shock. After almost 2 days on the bike on small paths, railway tracks and small roads, we were no longer used to the absolutely grotesque noise of a city cut through by cars. Never before have I perceived car traffic as such a foreign body as when we arrived in Höxter. We were to feel this way again and again in some places over the next few days. So despite its architectural beauty, we didn't experience Höxter, because we just did some quick shopping and drove on. From the centre of the town, it's barely 2 or 3 km to the former Benedictine abbey on the Weser dating from the 9th century. Our youth hostel-like accommodation was in one of the side wings. We were greeted by a moderately friendly reception, rooms with bunk beds and sober and practical furnishings. Fully adequate, but rather 80s standard. (Contact: Weser Aktivhotel https://www.weser-aktivhotel-corvey.de/) On the other hand, we were able to stroll around the monastery grounds after our homemade dinner on the hostel's beautiful terrace and admire the monastery's huge grounds from the outside.
Day 2: Link to the Bikemap
Day 3 - From Corvey to Hamelin - 73 km - 45 miles
The beautiful, romantic Weser
Now we continued along the Weser for the next 2 days. At half past eight in the morning, the monastery lay in impenetrable fog. We enjoyed this cool and fresh ride through the foggy and damp atmosphere. Along the way we could spot numerous cobwebs wetted by the morning mist, fragments of the landscape loomed pale in the misty haze ahead of us. Later, the sun winked through the mist from the southeast. A beautiful day began.
From Corvey it is not far to Holzminden, where we stocked up on food and picnic for the day. We continued via Forst to Polle, where we rested in the shade of a large pasture at the ferry dock, which was no longer in use. The sun was shining on the castle of Polle, and it was interesting to watch the excursionists from the other bank who came to the ferry in vain. Via Reileifzen, Dölme, Rühle (rest, picnic, snack and toilet facilities) we pedalled on in sunny weather to Bodenwerder. Time to let our eyes wander to the right and left. There was always something to discover. Small pleasures in small discoveries. In Bodenwerder we strolled through this beautiful town and fortified ourselves with a fruity and cool milkshake.
You can also take a very nice break a few kilometres after Bodenwerder, in Daspe. There is a nice bench with a view of the moated castle of Hehlen. After Daspe and the pretty little village of Hajen came Grohne, where there is a bench with a very disturbing view of the huge cooling towers of the Grohnde nuclear power station. And just now I read that after 36 years of operation, the power plant will cease operation on 31 December 2021. Unfortunately, we will have to deal with its waste for a few thousand more years.
From Grohnde it is not far via Latferde, Hagenohsen to the Pied Piper town of Hamelin, which has been called a town since 1200. Hamelin experienced its greatest flowering in the Renaissance, Hamelin became a member of the Hanseatic League and the rich earnings of the merchants allowed for the impressively decorated buildings that still adorn the townscape today.
We enjoyed the evening in Hameln with very tasty pizza. It's always a nice feeling to take a leisurely stroll and rest in the evening after a day's legwork. I would choose Hameln over Höxter any day, but even in Hameln we found the massive way in which car traffic detracts from the quality of life very annoying. Our accommodation in Hameln was very good, we stayed at the Pension Lange-Droit, were able to store our bikes in the garden shed in a dry and theft-proof place and were served a very tasty breakfast on the balcony belonging to the room. To be able to have breakfast outside in the morning is really a great pleasure.
Day 3: Link to the Bikemap
Day 4 - From Hamelin to Bad Oeynhausen - 62 km - 39 miles
The sprawling Weser and a luxury health resort
Shortly after Hameln, the Weser turns to the northwest and the Weser valley opens up expansively on both sides. Now the landscape is characterised by large-scale farming and gravel and sand pits.
The cycle path leads along the Weser out of Hameln and it was with regret that we said goodbye to this beautiful town. We continued through Wehrbergen and Fischbeck to Hessisch-Oldendorf, which we only passed. Shortly after, a nice surprise awaited us, provided by a farmer for the tourists cycling past, a mobile drinks and food self-service cabinet. With fresh coffee, tea water, cool drinks from a fridge, bagged soups to warm up and lots of snacks. Payment in a can and on a trust basis. We accepted the offer with pleasure and gladly put in our obulus.
We continued through a landscape eaten away by former gravel and sand pits, but which also forms the habitat for rare animal species. South of Rinteln, for example, we saw a forked harrier, also known as a red kite, in the sky. A very beautiful bird. Even a pair of white-tailed eagles is said to nest nearby, we were told by an animal rights activist cycling past whom we met by chance and who spoke to us (because I was pointing my binoculars at the bird).
We arrived in Rinteln. Unfortunately, Rinteln has repeated the mistake of many towns and built an ugly supermarket ghetto on the eastern side of town, surrounded by huge car parks. Great for car drivers, but it's no longer good for shopping in the old town. Driving is the order of the day and once again it all seems so anachronistic. Change is needed. But I don't believe in it.
Rinteln is really beautiful, but we didn't feel like this kind of civilisation any more.
Contrary to the recommendation of our last hosts, we didn't feel like crossing the Weser next to the A2, so we changed sides of the river earlier, which brought new but different disadvantages. My wife's eBike has rather roadworthy slick tyres and was only poorly suited for the muddy forest paths of the alternative route. It is very unpleasant when the rear wheel repeatedly swerves to the side in slippery spots. In addition, there was an angry dog attack in Stemmen, which made this section between Stemmen and Vlotho, including the busy main road between Erder and Vlotho, the most unpleasant part of the whole bike tour.
After a short rest in Vlotho, of which I have very very unpleasant memories due to school holidays, we reached the mouth of the Werre into the Weser at Rehme/In der Schlagde, the lowest point of our journey, at only 42 m above sea level.
There we turned onto the beautiful cycle path along the Werre to Bad Oeynhausen, which we reached after 62 kilometres relatively rested, but very thirsty.
In Bad Oeynhausen, for various reasons, we experienced a very different arrival than in all the previous places. Bad Oeynhausen is rich, and so it has been possible to move cycle traffic from the Werre to the centre of Bad Oeynhausen through two tunnels underneath the road and railway. This makes the entrance extremely quiet and relaxed. In addition, you immediately reach the area around the spa gardens and feel captivated by the calm and relaxing atmosphere that seems to lie over this luxurious spa town.
Our accommodation turned out to be the former home of our landlady, a multi-storey, impressive Art Nouveau villa that we had all to ourselves, including use of the garden. (Contact: Haus Grünwald, Bad Oeynhausen). After a long shower, we went to the spa gardens and explored Bad Oeynhausen. The atmosphere that lay over the whole park in the early evening, in the midst of clinics and large villas, was strangely peaceful, solemn and quiet. It was very good for both of us and we liked it just as much. New German would probably say quality of stay, I'll just say: it's great to sit everywhere, look at the people and the architecture, relax. And that was the purpose of the trip. Perfect. Bad Oeynhausen was really quite perfect.
Day 4: Link to the Bikemap
Tag 5 - Von Bad Oeynhausen nach Detmold - 53 km - 33 miles
Beautiful meadows and through rural East Westphalia
We deliberately didn't plan to do so much on this day, as we wanted to visit the open-air museum in Detmold in the afternoon. We managed to do that on time.
From Bad Oeynhausen, the cycle path took us out again into the scenic and beautiful Werre floodplains, which stretch almost as far as Löhne. We both found it interesting to realise how little we still wanted to go to places and the noise associated with them. Time in nature on the bike had changed our needs a lot.
We continued via Falscheide and the Spatzenberg to Herford. Shortly before Herford I heard a rattling and a stop revealed the catastrophe. Four spokes were broken.
Could we continue?
We decided, yes, we would continue to Detmold, but carefully and slowly, and if possible along accessible supply routes, in case we had to break off the tour at some point. So we continued always close to the road or the railway and then the last 5 km along the federal road 239 from Lage to Detmold, which we reached at 1 pm.
We freshened up a bit in our very well-maintained and richly Frisian-decorated accommodation (contact: Gästehaus Dunkelberg) and then walked to the open-air museum. Large car parks and a long queue awaited us. Later, I made an exciting discovery in the open-air museum. I saw a building that I knew from my childhood. An old farm from Ostentrop, which had been transported to the museum in Detmold. Ostentrop is the birthplace of my parents and I spent a lot of time there as a child. It was rare, I was told at the museum, for someone to experience a building in its old location.
The Detmold open-air museum is characterised not only by the collection of buildings from large parts of Westphalia and Lippe, but also by its hilly location. Coming from the entrance, you climb up and up until you reach the part where a large number of the preserved buildings are grouped into a village. But there are also many things to discover around it, with preserved farmsteads and farmhouses, schools, mills and other buildings scattered far and wide across the site. An acquisition of recent years is, among other things, an originally furnished petrol station from the 1950s. There are rescued pharmacy, tailor, shop and dwelling house interiors that, given their humble simplicity, make me doubt whether we are really doing everything right with our way of doing business. Buildings and interiors are lovingly put together and as historically correct as possible. Unfortunately, especially in the agricultural area, it is not the museum's concept to fill the objects with real life. I would be very interested to see this. I have to admit to myself that I like to glorify the unpleasant part of our cultural history. It would help me if I could look at and experience the everyday life of earlier times more realistically, because it would bring me closer to the hardship it entailed. A very worthwhile visit and if you take your time you can spend the whole day there, admiring the beautiful floors, half-timbering, barn doors, cow barns, chests, shop fittings and much much more.
Day 5: Link to the Bikemap map
Report on a very beautiful, late summer cycle tour from Paderborn via Diemel, Weser and Werre to Detmold.