The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Free­wheel­ing in the birth­place of the bi­cy­cle

- By Lizzie En­field Recreation · Arts · Wine · Bicycles · Alcoholic Drinks · Outdoor Hobbies · Hobbies · Germany · Rhine · Speyer · Worms · Mainz · Helmut Kohl · Margaret Thatcher · Neustadt an der Weinstra?e · Manheim · Rheinau · Schwetzingen

IN THE town of Sch­wet­zin­gen I ad­mired a tower of bi­cy­cles, part of a sculp­ture trail mark­ing one of Ger­many’s big an­niver­saries – 200 years since the in­ven­tion of the bike. In June 1817, Karl Drais took his ‘Drai­sine’, a two-wheeled foot-pro­pelled con­trap­tion, for a spin along the banks of the Rhine from Man­heim to Rheinau. The roads were rut­ted and the five-mile trip took more than an hour, but it her­alded the ad­vent of the mod­ern-day bike.

To­day, the area around the Rhine, where Drais lived and worked, is a cy­cling par­adise. Miles of ded­i­cated paths take you to his­toric towns and cities, past ma­jes­tic cas­tles, and through Ger­many’s big­gest wine-pro­duc­ing area.

As I cy­cled along the banks of the Rhine, the red sand­stone spires of Speyer’s vast Ro­manesque cathe­dral came into view. And af­ter a fur­ther 22 miles me­an­der­ing through the val­ley, I reached the city of Worms, where, at the Diet of Worms, Luther fa­mously de­fied the Holy Ro­man Em­peror in 1521, the tip­ping point of the Reformatio­n.

A mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to Luther dom­i­nates a cen­tral square, while a mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion charts his role in the Reformatio­n, and Luther wine is read­ily avail­able.

To­gether, Speyer, Worms and Mainz, the Rhineland’s cap­i­tal, form the Schum cities – an acro­nym of their He­brew spelled names, and the cra­dle of Ju­daism in Europe.

Take a stroll through the 11th Cen­tury Jew­ish ceme­tery on the out­skirts of Worms or up Ju­den­gasse to the old­est syn­a­gogue in Ger­many.

And don’t miss the re­mains of the 12th Cen­tury rit­ual baths in Speyer.

The area is as rich in wine as it is in his­tory, and the route be­tween Worms and Mainz takes cy­clists up into its ter­raced heart­land, with plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for tast­ing.

How­ever, I was mind­ful of the drink­ing ad­vice, sculpted in re­lief on a bronze foun­tain, show­ing four wine glasses, each with a face, their ex­pres­sions rang­ing from sober to hugely ine­bri­ated.

The more es­tab­lished We­in­strasse (wine route) took me to Dei­desham, a favourite haunt of for­mer Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl. He brought Mar­garet Thatcher here, al­though she missed the an­nual billy-goat cer­e­mony.

Af­ter free­wheel­ing down an av­enue of al­mond trees, I passed through Gim­meldin­gen, home to the an­nual al­mond blos­som fes­ti­val, be­fore head­ing into the tim­ber­framed cen­tre of Neustadt and a din­ner in the cosy sur­rounds of a tra­di­tional we­in­stube. Dishes in­cluded sauma­gen (think a Ger­man ver­sion of hag­gis) and an apple flan doused in cal­va­dos.

The next morn­ing, I reached the im­pos­ing Ham­bach cas­tle. Ham­bach is the home of Ger­man democ­racy and a fit­ting place to end my homage to Drais, whose in­ven­tion did away with ex­pen­sive horses and helped democra­tise travel.

As I tucked into a well-earned plate of dumplings, I raised a glass of lo­cal ries­ling to Drais and all those who sail in his lat­ter-day Drai­seins.

 ??  ?? RICH HIS­TORY: The pic­turesque Rhineland town of Speyer, with its cathe­dral in the back­ground. Top: The bike sculp­ture in Sch­wet­zin­gen
RICH HIS­TORY: The pic­turesque Rhineland town of Speyer, with its cathe­dral in the back­ground. Top: The bike sculp­ture in Sch­wet­zin­gen

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