Tripsite Traveler: Basel to Mainz

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November 23, 2015

I have been a member of the Tripsite team since 2012. I have researched and written tours for our website and have helped many of you with your cycling adventures. Now it was my turn and I was about to embark on my first ever Tripsite tour, a brand new bike and boat trip from Basel to Mainz.

I convinced my sister to come along as well and so, our adventure began...

The Rhine flowing through Basel, Switzerland, the start of our journey!

Our floating hotel for the week was the lovely Andante. The boat and the crew were absolutely wonderful. We met lots of interesting people, ate WAY TOO MUCH delicious food, and drank our share of German beer. If you have hopes of losing weight on this trip, think again, the food is simply too delicious.

Our delicious dessert on board! (photo by Adam, one of our amazing chefs)

The highlight of our trip for me (apart from the food!) was the rich history that we encountered in each town along the way. Our first ride, my favorite of the week, led to Breisach, Germany. As we cycled through quaint French villages, church bells ringing, I experienced a wistful longing for the days when I would walk to church with my grandmother. In these villages, everything stops on Sunday, a reverence that seems lost among us today. Immediately entering Breisach, the Romanesque cathedral St. Stephen welcomes you with its towering spires. After cycling nearly 60 km on the first day, we forced our tired legs to climb to the top of the cobblestoned hill where the cathedral rests. The view from the top was worth the climb offering stunning panoramic views of hillside vineyards, castle ruins, the Vosges Mountains, and the Rhine River.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral towering over Breisach

The next day en route to Colmar we stopped in Neuf Breisach, a fortified town built in 1697. Today, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage sight. It is a quiet town that definitely shows it’s age and scars from WWII.

Entrance to Neuf Breisach

Colmar, located along the Alsatian Wine Route, was one of my favorite towns. The colors of the old town are so vibrant and no matter which way you turn, you find an amazing photo opportunity that looks as though its straight from a magazine. Interestingly, Colmar is home to the sculptor Frederic Bartholdi, famous for designing New York City’s Statue of Liberty. Also of interest is the Unterlinden Museum, featuring a large collection of art, and St. Martin’s Church.

The beautiful canals in Colmar, France

Strasbourg has always been on my list of European cities to visit and I was excited to have the opportunity. It is unique in that it is very close to the German border so you can see both German and French influences. The very impressive Gothic Cathedral, Notre Dame de Strasbourg, was our first stop. The ornate sculptures and massive stained glass windows are even more meaningful when you see them up close and learn that construction on the building began in 1015 and took nearly 3 centuries to complete!

The Cathedral, Notre Dame de Strasbourg and the two story carousel in the square

On the last cycling day, we had the opportunity to cycle from Speyer to Heidelberg and then to Mannheim. It was honestly the most difficult cycling day and some of our fellow passengers opted not to cycle to Heidelberg. Despite the difficulty, I’m really glad that we did because you can't be that close to Heidelberg and NOT visit!

Heidelberg is a romantic, yet energetic town, boasting one of the oldest universities in Germany. Entering the Old Town over the stone “Alte Brueke” or Old Bridge that stretches across the Neckar River, you immediately see the impressive castle that sits on top of the hill overlooking the Alstadt. I was fascinated to learn that Martin Luther visited the castle during a visit to Heidelberg to defend his theses in 1518. The castle withstood wars and weather since the beginning of its construction around 1300 and while it does show it’s age, a large portion is surprisingly still intact.

Fueled by German chocolate, we climbed the steep and narrow street and over 300 stairs to the top of the castle. (You might decide to take the tram!)

Heidelberg as seen during our climb to the castle!

Photos from Heidelberg (Left to Right): Church of the Holy Spirit as seen from the castle, The golden statue of St. Mary, View of the castle from the Alte Brueke, Alleyway in Alstadt

Overall there were aspects of the trip that could have been better. The route descriptions were among the top complaint and are being revised for 2016. However, when we did get turned around a bit, we always quickly met up with fellow passengers who were in the same boat, pun intended! I found that sometimes the best things are discovered when you're lost, whether it is a fantastic little cafe tucked away or a unique German pub decorated with kitschy dolls. It is all part of the experience, I think, and what a wonderful experience it was!

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