May 9th 2011. Schwäbisch Hall -Rothenburg o.d. Tauber, 76 km.
Very good weather but wicked North-Easterly wind !
Happy birthday Joanna !!
Kocher-Jagst Radweg to Braunsbach; then Kraichgau-Hohenlohe Weg to Rothenburg.
Via Langenburg, Billingsbach, Herrentierbach, Kottmannsweiler, Schrozberg, Leuzendorf. Camp ground in Detwang, 2 km North of Rothenburg.
(A few short cuts towards the end with respect to the original Kraichgau Weg. The heat, the wind, the "one-way" hills (up only) and a solid lunch of Beer and Wurst had knocked our legs out !... should have known better...).
Very early start at 7.00. First stop just outside the camp grounds, at the Bakery in Steinbach for coffee and a healthy (?) sweet sticky bun stuffed with raisins and poppy seeds...
Unbeknown to us at that stage... we'd need the energy a few kms down the road...
Back through a very quiet Schwäbisch Hall before life started picking-up. A few streetsweepers were nonchalantly cleaning the city center. The morning sun gave us another perspective of this beautiful medieval city. The reflections of the half-timbered houses on the river were superb !
The Kocher Jagst was pure magic all the way to Braunsbach, running through meadows and woods, alongside a stream. Daisies, buttercups, wild forget-me-nots and many other flowers were in bloom, celebrating another glorious Spring morning.
The light was very soft and mist hovered over the lower parts of the vales, still hidden from the morning sun. There was no noise: just the trickle of water in the stream.
The cycle path wove through the countryside, passing under the Geislingen viaduct that was for a long time the highest and longest in Europe, until the one in Millau was built.
We stopped at the Rathaus in Braunsbach for a new stamp in our Travel Logs. The gentleman confirmed that the weather would remain excellent for the next few days. So far, so good ! Just outside the village we hit our first ordeal of the day... suddenly, the road started to climb through the woods inconsiderately, winding steeply upwards.. The result was an altitude gain of close to 400m in just under 3 kms... No need to say that that portion of the way was done pushing the bikes until we reached the top of the hill.
My arms and shoulders were aching from the effort.
For a few kms we thought that we were done with this nonsense. The long ride down to Bächlingen was our reward for all the efforts made so far... but an experienced cyclist comes to fear such moments of happiness: the climb up the other side of the valley is unsually strictly proportional to the downhill ride... and in any case, a hell of a lot more painful !
True to form, the cycle-path leading to Langenburg was a killer ! It wove through meadows and fields and was lined with rows of apple-trees that we had plenty of time to admire, pushing the bikes along, swearing and panting, trying to avoid looking too far up-hill, so as to not lose heart...
Finally, we got to the top. One main street of half-timbered houses, ended by a beautiful castle surrounded by rose gardens didn't take long to visit. For aficionados, the castle houses a major collection of motorcars.
Being Monday, most shops were closed. At 11.30 AM, we decided that the morning efforts deserved some strong fuel so we sat down in the only restaurant open in town for a super meal of Wurst, potatoe salad and Beer.... Once Again !!!
After lunch: back on the Kraichgau Weg. Third ordeal of the day ! (they say that they come in threes...). Hills, hills, hills. (UP only !!)
The map was not very helpful. The normal cycle path was leading us through a succession of small villages and the distance to Rothenburg just didn't seem to go down. After a while, we realized that we were being "taken for a ride" through the German countryside and that if we continued to follow the Kraichgau, our legs would be shot before reaching our destination.
Along the road, we met Felix and Juta, two cyclists enjoying their 8kg bikes... Their indications saved 20+ km, but exposed us to the strong North-Easterly wind, since our track remained 'on top'.
The road took us through Kottmannsweiler, Kälberbach etc.. a string of farming villages polluted by the stink of pig manure... Stopped in Schrozberg to refill the water bottles in a flower shop and then enjoyed a mad full-speed, down-hill ride all the way to Rothenburg Ob der Tauber which is considered the most beautiful medieval town in Germany.
Indeed it was, but once again it was perched on top of a hill...
Fortunately the camp ground in Detwang was in the valley, just outside Rothenburg.
Tents up, showers taken, aluminium donkeys unloaded, evening ritual performed...
Up the hill for a visit of this incredible town... Dinner in one of the many restaurants and back "home" for a well deserved night's sleep!
Since we had started, this stage had been the most testing due to the landscape, the wind and the heat. However, it had also been one of the most beautiful !
We had just passed 1,000km. Prague was getting closer !