We were now on the Schwarzwald Panorama-Radweg (or not – see below) but it was not entirely clear where to get onto the route in Besenfeld. The only option was a 19km forest track to Freudenstadt and after yesterday’s experience of the roughness of some Black Forest tracks we opted to give this a miss and go by road to Freudenstadt and pick up the official route of the Schwarzwald Panorama-Radweg there.
Consequently, the day began with a long, fast downhill drop through forest and meadows and a giant sawmill (a tourist destination in its own right). We had not realised just how high we had climbed yesterday and looking at the Schwarzwald countryside around us began to fear that we were going to pay a price for all this freewheeling.
We were correct in our anticipation. Long hard cycling climbs in bottom gear, intersperaed with short bits of recovery walking followed. Eventually we reached the outskirts of Freudenstadt and were confronted by main roads and heavy traffic. A bit of creative walking through roadworks saw us across the most fearsome of these highways and then with some advice from a friendly native and some pavement cycling (mostly designated shared paths) we reached the town centre Marktplatz and its TIC.
The TIC staff were totally unhelpful about cycling with no useful information about the Schwarzwald Panorama-Radweg, which we found surprising as here we we were in a Black Forest town with the SP-R advertised all over the internet as a major cycle tourist route, but no corresponding on the ground interest or signing (unlike other radwegs we had previously cycled in Germany). They marked our map with a “possible” way out of town onto the SP-R.
We visited the public WCs and then settled in the Marktplatz for elevenses coffee and cake (and also bought our picnic lunch). Freudenstadt has an attractive town centre unfortunately marred by being the cross-roads of two very heavily trafficked main roads. While enjoying coffee Sheila also scoured the maps in a bookshop and bought a more detailed one to help us tomorrow.
We made our way out of town as suggested by the woman in the TIC and as we cleared the built up area reached the fork in the road she had described and had said that the route continued one way (or maybe the other?) at this point. Questioning local residents gave us no better advice. We went left.
The path had a tarmac surface (like most on the Neckartal) and seemed good, but then gave way to a forest track. This too was quite cycleable. But it became progressively more exciting. As the track started to drop steeply, the surface became dusty and the loose surface on hairpin bends made braking a tentative process to avoid sliding. We stopped for a team conference. Surely this can’t be the correct route? Should we retrace? A long way to go and then no guarantee that the alternative fork would be better. We decided to press on down on the assumption that we must come out on a road at some point and could take it from there.
Finally a T-junction and a road. What road? Going where? No road signs to assist so we looked at the sun, decided that south was best and turned right. The road continued down in a long descent until finally we came to a road junction with place name and distance signs. We were far too far east, but realising that the SP-R was a lost cause at this point, we decided to head on minor roads across country to reach Lossburg, the next known destination on our route. We accepted that this would be very hilly and it was. Although the scenery and villages were all attractive enough if you could wipe sufficient sweat out of your eyes to see them properly.
We reached Lossburg. The good news was that we were back on route. The bad news was that we had cycled 50km, which was hopelessly over-distance compared with the distance and time we should have taken to get to Lossburg. A revised ETA for our intended destination of Obereschach was about 10pm (and this was providing our legs did not give out on all the further climbing and we did not get lost again).
Time for a cunning plan. Somewhere in Lossburg according to the map there should be a branch line railway and if we were really lucky there might be a train going somewhere. We found the single-track line and we found a tiny halt. No station staff, just a machine. We were about to discover that unlike in Britain, Deutsche Bahn have discovered and implemented working new technology. This machine talked multiple languages, understood about bicycles and knew where and when all trains in Germany were going. It would be pleased to sell us tickets. We could take a train to Hausach and then change there for a train to Villingen, from where it would be possible to cycle to Obereschach and arrive in time for dinner. We bought tickets and thought we had better buy two bicycle tickets to cover the tandem. It seemed remarkably cheap.
Feeling much happier again we took the panniers off the tandem to be ready and then settled down on the platform to eat our picnic lunch, watching the train go by in the opposite direction while we did so.
When it returned we put out our hands because we were not sure whether such a small halt might only be a request stop. Looked for the carriage door with the big bicycle sign and climbed aboard. German tandemists, you just don’t know how lucky you are when it comes to train travel – there was the multi-user drop-down seat area for any combination of person, bicycle, pram or wheelchair you desired, including tandem length space.
We enjoyed the delights of Black Forest scenery and half-timbered villages from the carriage window, reached Hausach and changed trains with no bother at all. In fact the Villingen train was a more main-line train, but with the same multi-purpose space and even more room. We had our tickets checked on board and were politely informed that we had clearly not pressed the right final button combination on the Lossburg machine and had bought two tickets for our tandem but had not included ourselves. We paid up the difference.
There were some heavy showers on the way but these had cleared and it was sunny as we arrived in Villingen feeling quite smug that our train assist had kept us dry as well as getting back onto a sensible time schedule.
Unlike Freudenstadt in Villingen there were cycle route signs everywhere giving comprehensive directions at all junctions for a plethora of radwegs including even the SP-R. We felt we were back in a cycle friendly town. Cycling out of town and onto a good surface cyclepath with clear signs took us to Obereschach with no further confusion.
Arrived in good time to shower and change before leisurely pre-dinner drinks in early evening sunshine on the terrace in front of the hotel.
We hoped that with the new better radweg map we had bought today our route finding tomorrow should not be so problematical even if the radweg signs were absent again.
(Tandem in a garage rather a long walk across a yard and beyond behind the hotel, but good secure parking with the garage door opened by our own hotel room key)
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Following yesterday's routing problems we decided on a revised route, abandoning the Schwarzwald-Panorama Radweg for most of the day in favour of local cycle routes shown on our new map.
Early breakfast and then retraced our route into Villingen and stopped at the railway buffet to buy elevenses and picnic lunch.
Fully provisioned we set off to find the route out of town following the River Brigach. Armed with our new more detailed map we managed to stay on route, or when we deliberately chose to vary it we did actually know where we were.
In the outskirts of Donaueschingen we left the cycle-path to follow the ring road, as we thought. But after about 1km we began to have doubts and re-checking the map realised we had mistaken another main road for the ring road and should have carried straight on there. Retraced to the junction and back down the ramp to continue into the centre of Donaueschingen, where help from a friendly local cyclist enabled us to weave around the railway station and through the bus station to leave Donaueschingen on a shared path beside the correct road.
On the way to Hüfingen we were confused by the clear cycle route signs for Achdorf. We wanted to go to Achdorf eventually but were not convinced about the suggested road. Decided to trust the map rather than the signs and crossed the railway line to pick up the route to Hüfingen. A bit of factory land and edge of town housing saw us into Hüfingen and across the river bridge. Looking at the time and lack of cafés we walked back across the bridge and sat on a shady bench for elevenses of buns and water in the absence of coffee.
After Hüfingen we were again waylaid by a clear cycle route sign for Achdorf. We followed it and started out across fields on a good tarmac path. After a couple of kms, however, this turned into a rougher track that led us into the forest and eventually to an ambiguous junction with no signs (apart from lots of walking route signs). We pondered whether to go back, but with our new map we could see where we had ended up and decided to carry on along the forest track that would put us back on route to Hausen in not too far. Unfortunately this did require a bit of hot uphill pushing for a rather un-cycleable hill.
Back on road it was a steep pull in very hot sun to get us through Hausen and finally on our desired route to Achdorf. The pay back was deservedly excellent with a 10km freewheel in the valley of the small River Krottenbach as it fell downhill through wonderful scenery with great views. Finally we swooped into Achdorf. Too small for a café but we saw some flags on a building and investigated. It was a small “Free Tibet” wayside refuge in a barn, with lots of Tibetan memorabilia and drinks and food available on an honesty “put your money in the box” basis. It was also a pilgrim refuge on one of the innumerable ways through Europe to Compostela. We sat in the shade and enjoyed cold drinks.
The next section of the route was a very roller-coaster road with a series of very steep climbs and drops near to but above the River Wutach and taking us towards Fützen. We arrived on high ground and could see Fützen way below in a hole in the ground. Alternatively there was a very inviting tarmac cycle-path apparently skirting the hill and not losing height as it bypassed Fützen. We decided that a visit to Fützen was not an essential part of today’s itinerary and enjoyed a good path over high meadows to Grimmelshofen, where we stopped at the start of the riverside path for a late picnic lunch on a bench in the shade. We were now back on the Schwarzwald-Panorama Radweg, which was overlapping the Südschwarzwald Radweg.
Easy cycling beside the River Wutach brought us to Stühlingen. The new town was on the flat in the valley, but the historic town and our hotel was a climb up the valley side. We walked the last steep bit to reach LandGasthausrebstock, our Bett und Bike hotel for the night. Showered and settled down to Apfelshorle. And we were glad to be indoors when by 5:30pm the clouds we had seen building through the day ended in heavy stormy rain.
The hotel was geared up to cyclists and motorcyclists and had various books, maps and essential kit for sale. We pondered the detailed (and consequently rather heavy) Südschwarzwald Radweg guide, which would cover most of our next stage to Basel, and decided to buy a copy.
(Tandem in garage beside tractor museum that belonged to the hotel)
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