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Archive for the ‘Cycle: Weser River Bike Trail’ Category

Rinteln

Marktplatz_RintelnHaving left Hamelin and any pied pipers behind us, we gently bike north along the Weser. Along the river we encounter more examples of the famed Weser Renaissance architecture and countless ‘little’ waterways and lakes. These lakes are mostly quarry ponds turned into public swimming lakes and recreational parks. One of the more famous one is the Doktorsee, west of Rinteln. Rinteln itself is another well preserved example of the regional architecture and shows a city that had managed to procure city rights early on – Rinteln_Archivhäuschen_vor_dem_Münchhausenhofwhich meant taxing anyone and anything traveling on the Weser and through town – and maintain that profitable position for a considerable time. For two centuries – from 1619 – 1810 – it was even a moderately famous university town. Its adaptability was crucial for survival, as the politics, alliances and ownership changed frequently in those times.

Porta Westfalica

Porta Westfalica KanzelAs we continue towards Minden we come through Porta Westfalica, a city that was created in a communal land reform in 1973 and unites 15 local villages and communities. Its name comes from the central geographical feature of the region: the gorge between two mountain ranges, where the river Weser cuts through and enters the north German lowlands. This area has been called Porta Westfalica since the early 18th century, when it was fashionable for the elite to use Latin or French terms and means ‘gateway to Westfalia’. One could imagine this region having enjoyed a similar economic success as Rinteln, but because the only towns in this area with city and taxing rights didn’t have bridges across the Weser and were not connected to any major trade routes, they didn’t fare as well. This changed in the 19th century with the first bridge across the Weser in 1864 and the establishment of a railway connection to Cologne.

Minden

Minden RathausThe city of Minden has a colourful history dating back to the 3rd century A.D. Being located along the Weser and substantial economic rights being granted in 977 meant it became a prosperous city and the center of attention in the wars that ravaged the region during the 17th and 18th centuries. The 20th century proved equally difficult and the town sustained heavy damages towards the end of WWII, when bombings aimed at destroying underground war equipment factories destroyed large parts of the historic center. Unfortunately afterwards decisions were made to demolish damaged buildings and replace with modern structures. 800px-Minden_Windloch_1Despite that, a few of the more impressive buildings have survived and are now well looked after. Just a few examples: the reconstructed Minden Cathedral in the Romanesque/Gothic style; Minden old city hall, the oldest monumental Gothic city hall in the whole of Westfalia;  the smallest building in the city – ‘Haus am Windloch’ – was built in the 17th century as residence for the local city musician, who also maintained and played the churches’ organ. It was built so close to the church that the gap channeled very strong winds.  There are plenty of other buildings to admire as well on a quick tour through the city center.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Fairy tales and fairy towns

800px-Münchhausen-AWilleTall tales start in Bodenwerder, well some of the tallest have been started by a fictional character, the infamous Baron Münchhausen, who is the first person narrator of ‘Baron Münchhausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia’, a satirical work with political aims. Some of us might know, that there was a real Baron Münchhausen, who was born in Bodenwerder and who did love to tell some rather tall tales of his military career. But when these stories were adapted and published anonymously, the real Baron was so outraged that he threatened to sue the publisher and the author decided to remain anonymous. Not until Rudolf Erich Raspe had died could his authorship be confirmed.

Hamelin

Pied_piperOur next stop through this picturesque part of Germany is another famous fairy tale town: Hamelin. The Pied Piper of Hamelin and his abduction of the city’s children have been a topic of tales and fairy tales for the past 800 centuries. As early as 1300 the story was told on glass stained windows in the church of Hamelin. Many researchers have wondered and examined what the root of this tale was and have come to some interesting conclusions. Most notably is one theory, that all a city’s inhabitants were referred to as the city’s children and that they may have been enticed to emigrate to other parts of Germany and Poland to populate these regions. Comparisons of family names suggests and supports that theory.

Whatever the historic truths, it has given many authors and artists opportunities to expand and illustrate it in various ways. During your guided tour through the town you will not only learn about this famous tale, but also about Hamelin’s history and architecture.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Fürstenberg porcelain factory

As we travel along the Weser through lots of small picturesque villages we come through Fürstenberg, where we get to have a look at the third-oldest porcelain manufacturer in Germany. The company was founded in 1747 by the order of Duke Karl I. von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and soon after was ordered to incorporate a blue “F” ( for Fürstenberg) into their design, which became their trademark. Despite changes in company structure and flood disasters the company is still successfully trading today. Nearby is Fürstenberg Castle – from ~1355 – which houses the museum documenting the history and designs of the porcelain factory. The history overview on the company’s web site gives good examples of past and present designs.

Höxter

hoexter_innenstadt_sigurdehlertIn Höxter we will stop for a guided tour through the town centre with its famous half-timbered houses and medieval history.

Since 775 Höxter had been along the major trading routes to the north and east and was heavily sought after. Unfortunately this also caused a lot of hardships during the wars and the town’s wealth declined after the Thirty Years’ War. In the 19th century its fortunes were on the rise again with the founding of a brewery and getting connected to the railway network. Nowadays it is known for the nearby Imperial Abbey of Corvey (UNESCO World Heritage site) and it’s finely restored examples of medieval and Weser Renaissance architecture.

Holzminden

Tillyhaus_HolzmindenOn our way to Bodenwerder we come through the interesting village Holzminden. Another medieval town with lots of picturesque half-timbered houses that has evolved from a wood- and sandstone processing industry to a manufacturing town of a wide range of products, most famously its scent and flavours industry.

While we continue to today’s destination we get to see quite a few more idyllic small villages along the river beckoning for a leisurely look.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Benedictine Monastery in Bursfelde

Bursfelde_Kirche_von_SOHalfway on our route to Beverungen we will visit the Benedictine Monastery in Bursfelde and have a look inside. The monastery was founded in 1093 by Heinrich dem Fetten as burial place and place of commemoration through prayer for his family. Even though the monastery was connected to the Imperial Abbey of Corvey nearby, through changes in the political climate and ownership, its relevance declined in the following four centuries to the point that no monks are recorded residing there by 1402. During the reformation process in the 15th and 16th century the catholic-based monastery become even more secluded until the Duchess Elisabeth von Brandenburg – who had converted to Protestantism – ruled for her under-age son and effected major changes regarding the reformation and finances. As the rulers – and their beliefs – changed, the monastery changed confession as well. After the Peace of Westphalia was proclaimed in 1648 the monastery became protestant again and stayed that way until today. No matter under which flag they sailed, the monastery had always been a centre of learning and until today that influence can be seen in the remaining library and modern day activity of the Theological Centre of Bursfelde Abbey.

Bad Karlshafen

Carlsbahn003Shortly before our final destination we will drive through the picturesque town of Bad Karlshafen and get to see the distinctly different style of the reconstructed Huguenot Baroque buildings.

The city was founded in 1699 as an ‘exile city’ to provide a spiritual home for religious refugees during the reformation process in the 17th century in Europe. Here they were mainly Huguenots from France who were welcomed and sheltered by Karl from Hessen-Kassel. In 1730 the Huguenot apothecary Jacques Galland discovered the brine springs which shaped the economic future of the town. Initially used to produce salt, it ultimately led to the town becoming a spa destination for the application of therapeutic brine baths.

As the Baroque architecture was a practical manifestation of the Counter-Reformation and intended to persuade everyone of God’s splendour and the Catholic churches’ magnificence, it will be interesting to observe how that was put into practice in this particular town.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Important trading post to the North

1024px-Hann_muenden_weserursprung_ds_wv_06_2011Officially the city was mentioned the first time in a document from 1183, but it’s location at the confluence of the two rivers Werra and Fulda into the Weser – a main transportation route to the North Sea – would have meant that it had been settled a bit earlier.

Another hint to its earlier foundation is the name of the village Gimundi (802), in the location of today’s Altmünden. A linguist would be able to explain how it could have transformed to become today’s Münden, let it suffice to say, that they think it is a reasonable deduction and carry on discovering this little jewel of Medieval and Weser Renaissance architecture.

Trading wealth

1024px-Hann_Münden_Rathaus_2007Than as now cities, communities and their owners had to be quite creative to come up with ways of financing their building projects and quite often opulent lifetstyles. An obvious one for places on major trading routes was imposing trading tariffs, road tolls and staple rights. The right to impose these ‘council rates’ had to be ‘earned’ and were highly sought after. A city’s wealth would radically improve, which in turn could radically change the townscape. Hann. Münden is a classic example of this: in 1247 Münden was given the staple rights to the rivers and a building and trading boom ensued in the following centuries until 1823 when the system was changed and the staple rights became redundant.

Weser Renaissance

20130810_192834_Wanfried_SchlagdTo facilitate trading numerous jetties, packhouses and markets were built along the rivers, in the now famous and unique Weser Renaissance style. On our cycle tour along the river Weser, we will see plenty examples of this particular architectural style, which seems to be very appealing to many people. In a book from 1964 its author Jürgen Soenke claims that its appeal is due to its roots: the waterway landscape and its inhabitants created the buildings and because they were folk people, it has ‘folksy” features.

During your guided tour through Hann. Münden you will be able to see the beautifully preserved town hall and other buildings showcasing that style. We are very lucky that as the result of the Thirty Years’ War everyone in the region was too poor to build new buildings and just repaired the old ones, thus retaining the original designs and look of this period of time.

Last but not least

800px-Münden_Rinnstein_im_StraßenbelagFor a very long time the name Münden caused lots of mix ups, as it was often mispronounced and mistaken for Minden ( which happens to be on the Weser as well) or Munich! So the local railway added Hannoversch to it, but that did not solve it as it was too long to be printed on the tickets, and depending on how you pronounced it could be mistaken for other towns in Hannovers’ vicinity. Ultimately they abbreviated it to “Hann.”, denoting its locality ( near Hannover) but making it distinctly different. This writing has been officially adopted by all city councils since then, but the locals still call it just Münden!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Cruising through Germany on two wheels

As you might remember from some of our previous articles, discovering Germany with us will at some stage involve a bicycle. At Sidetracks we think a bike is an excellent way of covering a decent distance and still having the leisure to enjoy your surroundings, town and country alike. So for the next season in Germany we have put together three exciting bike tours that will take you through different parts of Germany and can be combined with our other tours. These tours will not only keep you fit cycling, but take you on a ride discovering Germany’s history, culture and traditions. Today I want to introduce the tours and the regions they cover in general and in the following weeks we will present to you some of the highlights of these tours.

Main River Bike Trail

"Roter Main (Bayreuth)" by Tafkas - Own work.

“Roter Main (Bayreuth)” by Tafkas – Own work.

This 5 star trail will take you through picturesque towns of the Main valley starting in the festival town of Bayreuth and finishing in Würzburg, a UNESCO world heritage city which dates as far back as the 4th century. Along the river you will get to see other stunning examples of architecture throughout the centuries and experience a variety of local cuisine, wines and beers as we move from traditional beer brewing country to wine growing region.

Saar Moselle Bike Trail

Saarschleife by Niesefrosch Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwikiFileSaarschleife.jpg#mediaFileSaarschleife.jpg

Saarschleife by Niesefrosch

This is a wine lovers’ kind-of trail: along two rivers famous for their wine growing and wine making history we will take you on a journey through time. From the UNESCO heritage site (Völklinger Hütte) to breath taking views from mountain tops (Saar Loop), a medieval castle (Burg Eltz) and to the Villas and Baths from Roman times (Porta Nigra, Villa Rustics and Imperial Baths). By the end of the trip you will have enjoyed more than your share of art, architecture and history on top of having a taste of the renowned wines of this region.

Weser River Bike Trail

599px-Minden_an_der_Weser-FachwerkhäuserAlmost smack-bang in the middle of Germany this tour takes you through a region rich in history and stories. Along the river Weser you will get to see buildings dating from the Romans (Porta Westfalica) through the Middle Ages to the Baroque Period, all set in small rural towns and all with different characters. From porcelain manufacturing to perfume making to the birthplaces of some truly unique characters of German folklore. One special feature of our ride will be discovering the huge range of half-timbered houses prevalent in this area. By the end of the tour you will have gained an interesting insight into middle German history and culture.

Last comment…

…for today that is: as electric bikes are becoming increasingly more popular, we will be offering the use of those on our tours as well. All the tours are quite easily manageable with ‘normal’ bikes, but if you would like to, you can experience the difference for an additional charge. Please get in contact with us if you’d like to know more about electric bikes or our tours.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

 

 

 

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