[ blog » 2019 » UK_tour ] d28, France pt. 3: Baerenthal to Karlsruhe (by Philipp Gesang, location: IRE Karlsruhe–Pforzheim)

Yesterday afternoon I had befriended a couple of tourers from Belgium whose itinerary through central Europe was already six weeks long. Naturally, this turned into another spontaneous Surly owners meetup as she was rocking a Straggler.


When planning the route home I had picked two medium climbs to conclude my hilly adventure: the Grand Wintersberg and the Eselsberg. As the taller one of the two the Wintersberg boasts a tower at the summit at 581 m. So I did those extra 25 m on foot for a breathtaking view on the northern Vosges and, needless to say, so I could claim the third ascent above 600 m altitude of the entire trip.

Once again the Vosges again proved to be one of the most beautiful corners of the world. Climbing hills on a bike is significantly easier when the countryside is so stunning it distracts from the strenuous exercise. Nothing beats cycling up those slopes in the shades of pine forests with their characteristic smell. The thought occurred to me that I should scrap my plans for next year's trip and cycle in the Vosges for a month instead.

The Eselsberg which is reachable from the lower Col du pigeonnier is not nearly as spectacular at the top as the Wintersberg. A closed area surrounding an antenna mast takes up the summit and since the pines grow tall here the view was rather lacking. Nevertheless the col was worth the effort. After only 49 km cycled tge Garmin showed already over 1200 m elevation gain. The value should not grow noticably during the rest of the day.


The descent into the Rhine plain at Wissembourg was pleasant and not overly technical. 28 days after I rolled out of the Kirkwall airport I was back in the flat for the final kilometers of the tour. As during the last three days a light headwind was blowing from the east which in these parts is just about the oddest imaginable direction. Amittedly, the breeze wasn't entirely unwelcome in the >30 degrees heat.

Near Altenstadt I intended to follow the cycle route into Germany but at the border I opted out of crossing it. Thanks to Schengen national borders are hardly noticable on bike paths these days since there are no customs checks and in many cases not even signage to indicate a change of jurisdiction. While this was mostly true here as well, it was the sudden drop in road quality that gave away the border. While road on the French side boasted a clean, evenly paved surface, its German continuation was little more than an agricultural gravel path. No need to head into Car Country just yet, I decided, and took the busy road on the French side of the Lauter river instead. Which for half the distance to Lauterbourg had an excellent bike route beside it.

After crossing the Rhine at Maximiliansau I approached Karlsruhe, finish of today and the trip. Its cycling infrastructure is surprisingly good with helpful signage even in the outskirts, bike paths broad enough so you don't get doored, and numerous bike-only roads especially in the city core. Compared to the other cities I passed through on this trip Karlsruhe is on par with Edinburgh if not better. I took some pictures at the castle, headed to the main station, and boarded the next train home


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