This story is told by guests on the first Rails to Trail Tour. 14 of them started a week ago from now. Read their impressions!
Bike day 1: Epen (NL) – Margraten – Eijsden- Maastricht by DEAN
So here we are with a group of strangers ready to push off on a 40 kilometer ride. It is day 1 of a nine day tour and you have to wonder how it will go. Will the pace be too fast? Will the rental bikes be ok? One of us is a very experienced bicyclist and the other isn’t so will it be enjoyable for both of us?
I have to say that the tour planners did a great job of laying out the route from Epen to Maastricht. The route minimized the bicycling strain for all, and maximized the feel of the little towns and countrysides.
We enjoyed views of castles and churches and an actual windmill. We visited the war museum of allied forces which reminds everyone of the sacrifices made for Freedom.
We had our lunch on the banks of the Maas (Meuse) River. This region is rich in culture from the Nederlands and Belgium so many times references are made in one or the other or both languages, especially in the food.
As we rolled into Maastricht mid afternoon, we followed the old fortress wall to one of the original gates. After entering the city we made our way to a medieval water wheel driven mill that is still in operation.
Bike Planet Tours did such a good job laying out routes, supplying food, presenting histories of each area and setting a comfortable pace, that any anxieties were soon forgotten and an adventure begun. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
Bike day 2: Epen (NL) – Aachen (DE) by NANCY
A beautiful day! Some uphill and a bit steep in places (thank you, e-bike!) First stop was morning coffee at a restaurant with a terrace overlooking a peaceful hilly landscape of farms. A wonderful spot to escape the business of normal life.
Aachen was amazing, one of Charlemagnes homes, now a town hall that was rebuilt in 1200. The attached cathedral was buil in 796 !! Beautiful windows and painted ceiling spakring with inlaid gold. There is a large open space behing the townhall. A huge sandboy of white sand well populated with children and their shovels digging and enjoying, in the background we saw well dressed dignitarien attending a reception on a tenace of the town hall.
Most amazing is the excavation of Roman foundations in town, some dating back to 4100 BC.
Yes, a good ride topped with unimagened beauty and connection to past history.
Bike day 3: Aachen – Monschau by JANELLEN
Today we started along the Fen Rails-to-Trails bike path. It was drizzling with rain when we started, but didn’t last too long. Our first stop (for coffee) was Kornelimunster. We walked down into the small town and visited the monastery, which is quite old and has lovely stained glass windows. We walked through the town square and back up to the bike path where we’d parked our bikes.
The bike path is lined with tall pines, deep ferns and a variety of wildflowers. As we biked along we passed intersections with the remains of former train stations — often old train cars, rail crossings and signs. It was quiet and peaceful as we rode through the afternoon.
We arrived at Monschau and our first glimpse was a stunning photo op. We were on a hill above the town, looking down at the half-timbered buildings, church steeples and the most incredibly picturesque German village. We maneuvered our bikes down the cobblestone streets, stopping around every corner to take photos. I think we were all awe-struck by the beautiful surroundings.
Our hotel was right next to one of the main churches and right across from the Red House of the cloth merchants. It was an old hotel and we had to carry our bags up various landings to find our rooms. The rooms were really lovely and most of them had incredible views of the village.
Quick showers and we gathered on the hotel terrace for a toast to the day. Probably the most memorable event of the day was the town bells at 6 p.m. It wasn’t just one bell or one chime, but multiple bells and chimes and rang throughout the village for five minutes.
Ending the day in Monschau, I felt like I was in a timeless setting.
Bike day 4: Monschau – St. Vith by BARBARA
This morning we awoke in a gingerbread village! Monschau, Germany is a place where time stands still…each building is so picturesque & cuter than the last. Fortunately, the Allies felt it was a place too lovely to bomb and for that I thank them. As usual, we were offered a quite lovely breakfast.
The village was in a valley, down off the bike trail, so we were offered a couple options; ride along a river that had a bit of a grade up or take the van up to the trail & ride along till we meet up with the river group. I chose to take the van, as did several others. We met the others at a cute coffee trailer and after a short stop we’re off again.
We cycled along lovely countryside. If you enjoy cycling on a trail, usually in single file, for long periods, then this tour is definitely for you!
I am glad I was given the option of using an E- bike. During the first day ride, I struggled more than I expected to and realized that the European bike gear ratios are not what I’m used to. Lenny was able to get me an e bike that evening and by the next day I was flying along with much more ease! Lenny & her crew do what they can to make sure we’re having a good time.
We made it to St. Vith and had another lovely dinner.
Bike day 5: St. Vith – Troisvierges – Bastogne – Clervaux by MARK
We bike out of St. Vith and plunge into the verdent countryside. Twisting and turning, climbing and cruising over bridges and streams, through tunnels, we skirt forest edges and gaze over lush fields. Cattle graze and laze as we pass. Coffee and cakes in a village square and then onwards with a fes breathless climbs and always the shadows of ancient forests wrap around us. Dark + brooding. Sunlight shafts show flashes of brilliant green moss. I feel the ghosts of old soldiers. Weary eyes in frozen foxholes watch us pass. This is Bastogne and I feel their presence. I am moved. Silent. A wonderful lunch in Bastogne and we bus to the unforgettable WW II museum. We leave humbled, inspired and bus to the charming willage of Clervaux for a quiet meal in the square before bed. One of the great days of our biking experiences.
Bike day 6: Clervaux – Echternach – Trier by Sally and Guy
Our 6th and final day of this fantastic rail/bike tour week started with the usual delicious and varied breakfast. Today offered flexibility in the program. The group took advantage of either of the 2 options: cycling or canoeing, along or on the Sauer/Sure River. The rides set off in Luxembourg – enjoyed the gentle, flat meandering on peaceful track beside the river where the blue canoes looked a relaxing way to travel and were a beautiful contrast to the lush grass and trees lining the river bank.
The bike rides crossed the bridge into Germany for coffee and then crossed back again into Luxembourg to resume another relaxing ride along the river til lunch.
After our picnic lunch on the river bank and cafe in town, the ride continued being a beautiful scenery and relaxing trail beside the river again conscious of a busier road than usual beside us, it did not detract from the river scenery of bird life, fishermen, swans, geese, canoes…On the banks our first view of grapevines and apple trees.
The Sauer joined the Moselle where the rivers confluenced. The scenery changed – sailingboats replaced the canoes and villages along the banks replaced the many campers earlier in the day.
Not only were we offered flexibility but as it turned out, for the first time, a few challenges arose but all were sorted out by the tour manager calmly and effectively.
The day culminated in the riders and canoeists reunited over a wonderful German dinner. The most relaxing, gentle ride of the week was a good way to finish!
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