A Cycling Trip on the Niederrhein

Where I´m living now is not where I hail from, and as my parents still live in the same small village I spent my youth in, I sometimes go there to visit them. This summer I also made up my mind to go and have a look at Germany´s newest bridge spanning the Rhine, at Wesel, which is only about 15 km away.

Wesel received its first road bridge across the Rhine in 1917, built due to increased transport rquirements at a time when not much other large construction was undertaken in Germany. However, the bridge did not last for three decades even as it was blown up in March 1945 before the Allieds crossed the river. Some six decades of provisional bridges followed until in the nineties a decision was taken to replace the old road bridge erected in 1950 with a modern four carriageway construction. This bridge was built between 2005 and 2009.

RBseite

For me it still was a new experience to cycle across it, so I did. Setting off near Hamminkeln, I crossed Wesel (encountering some of the nastiest compulsory cyclepaths I have yet met), the new bridge and carried on across a really wonderful cyclepath following the Rhine dykes to Rheinberg, a town blessed with some great architecture.

Approaching the bridge it becomes clear that the new structure really is huge.

RBhalfside

So you think that there should be ample and well-signposted provisions for cyclists, but there´s no such luck. The first thing you notice is the overpowering presence of motorized traffic, contrasted with the minute cyclepath.

RBcyclviewBefore you enter the 772m long bridge, there is a gap in the cyclepath surface which may well cause a puncture in a road bike tyre.

RBgapcyclepath

Looking down from the bridge you can see the remains of the old railway bridge, also destroyed during WWII, and now under a conservation order.

AlteeisenbbrIn general, Wesel suffered heavily during WWII as it was targeted repeatedly by allied bombers with 97% of its buildings being destroyed. The building with the tower, closest to the center of the b/w picture, top left of it, was rebuilt and became a high school until 1976. That was where I learnt my English basics, among other things. BTW, reconstruction of the town´s cathedral lasted until 1994, and during the early seventies when I went to school in Wesel, there were still plots with ruins on them in the town centre.

800px-Wesel_1945

Public Domain/ARC Identifier 535793/USAAF

 

Back to the present. Once you have crossed the new bridge, you have to be careful not to miss the only signpost to Rheinberg, and even when you have seen it, it leads onto a disused sliproad of the 1950 bridge, and unless you´re lucky enough to be able to ask a passer-by, there´s no way you can find the beautiful cycleway to Rheinberg.

Once you have found it though, you´re rewarded with great views of the Rhine.

WegRheinSchiffeTourists from many countries use the cycleway, and even during my short trip I talked to a German couple, a Canadian, and several Dutch. They all appreciate the fact that a well-kept cyclepath near a river makes for very easy cycling.

Also you find many restaurants and hotels right on the cycleway.

Ausfllok

Historical details abound. What used to be the strictly guarded demarcation of Prussia and Holland now is a hardly recognizable and effeortlessly crossed border between EU member states Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. No good old times here, again.

Milestone

The landscape being very flat, unlike the more prominent features of the Mittelrhein like Loreley, the view even from the relatively low dyke can be picturesque.

BüderichBut then you´re always reminded very quickly that you´re on the outskirts of the Ruhr industrial centre.

KraftwerkRBweitWeselWhile you can´t say the the landscape is dominated by it, the new bridge still is a well-visible feature for miles around. It certainly dwarfs Wesel´s St. Willibrord Cathedral spire.

AlteBrOn the way back the last remainders of the old road bridge can be seen.

Lastly, driving back home after the prolonged visit to my parents´, this was what my trusty old Volvo told me:

400tkm

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