Cycling along the river Rhine - Part 2 - A missed train and the beginnings of a great journey

I was looking forward to cycling in the Rhine valley. I chose a Sunday in the month of August (after making sure that there was a high probability of sunlight throughout the day) to visit the Rhine valley. At the time, I used to reside in the city of Heidelberg. Bingen was a city located around 100 kilometers from Heidelberg but there was no direct train in the morning to take me there. Hence, I decided to take the intercity train to Koblenz, cycle from Koblenz to Bingen along the bank of the river and in the evening board the return train from Bingen to Heidelberg. Having chalked out my route, I gathered my bicycle, camera and other paraphernalia and reached Heidelberg station in time for the train. Eventually, the train arrived. The trains have a separate compartment for bicycles. On seeing me board the train with a bicycle, the train ticket controller stepped out with a harassed look. He asked me if I had a reservation for the bicycle. I had made no such reservation. Geht nicht! (Won’t do!) he told me firmly and restricted me from loading my bicycle. He said that the compartment was already filled above and over its capacity. I peeped inside the compartment to only see that it was truly packed with cyclists. Dejected, I disembarked from the train. Arguing with the ticket controller would have been a futile exercise and a precious waste of time. At its scheduled time, the train departed. The train rumbled down the tracks leaving poor old me on the platform to stare at its receding outline. What do I do now? Usually, even without an advance bicycle reservation, one finds place to board the train with a bicycle. Hence, I had not taken the effort of making a separate bicycle reservation. The rush on that specific day was completely unexpected and took me by surprise. I stood on the platform contemplating what to do next. Having taken the effort to get ready for the trip, I was loath to go back home. Hence, I firmed up and decided not to go back unless and until I had a glimpse of the Rhine valley. Having made up my mind thus, I started looking for other options to reach the valley.

The next train to Koblenz was at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. That would have been too late. So I looked up the regional train schedule. There was a scheduled departure in the next 30 minutes that, through a connecting train, would reach me at Bingen at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Immediately, I looked up Google Maps and decided on an alternate route from Bingen to Sankt Goar and back. According to the new plan, I would reach back home at Heidelberg at 11 pm. But I decided to get it done and put it behind me, so I embarked on my journey. Heidelberg to Mannheim, Mannheim to Kaiserslautern and from there on to Bingen. Taking such an unorthodox route I reached Bingen three hours later. Luckily, the regional train reached Bingen on time. No sooner I stepped out of Bingen station, then I saw the bank of the Rhine river. The murky green waters of the river were relatively calm. The garden located on the bank of the river was quite in the afternoon sun. It was a warm and lazy summer afternoon and I could sense it in the air. Au contraire, I was teeming with energy and looking forward to a circumambulation of the Rhine. I started cycling along the edge of the river. A short distance ahead, I saw a board providing information about the bicycle route along the bank of the river. Sankt Goar was located 29 kilometers along the route. So I calculated that I should be able to easily reach my destination in 2 hours (give or take a few minutes) and return back to Bingen before sunset. However, in a corner of my heart, I was a bit sceptic about making it back in time. However, after an incantation to Lord Ganesha (the remover of all obstacles), I started on my journey.

The Rhine, vineyards, and my bike

Oberwiesel and Schünburg
The river-bed was wide. I could see even large boats plying up and down the river. The slopes of mountains on both sides of the river were lined with vineyards. The rows of grape vines gave the mountains a ‘combed hair’ look. The road and the railway meandered between the hills and the river. The cycle lane was on the edge of the road, along the river bank. Vast gardens, an occasional beer-garden, a campsite or sometimes a jetty for embarking and disembarking interrupted the bank along the route. After a short ride, the well-known castles atop the mountains started making their appearance. Some were as grand as a palace while others were like a small mansion. Built somewhere between the 12th and 14th century AD, these castles are an excellent example of the then prevailing style of architecture. I continued my journey, stopping in between to take a photograph or two of the castles and the river. On my way, I reached a village called Oberwiesel. There is a medieval observation tower on the border of the village. Atop a mountain behind the village stands a beautiful mansion. This is called Schünburg. Amongst the many castles found in the area, this castle and the village of Oberwiesel are popular with tourists. The river takes a magnificent turn here and adds to the beauty of the place. After bit of photography around the place, I moved on.

The train route, the road and the bicycle track in the middle Rhine valley