Upper Rhine

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Upper Rhine

Upper Rhine
Rh-a case for two

Stefan and Joseph go on tour. Joseph is twelve and Stefan is his dad. But only sometimes, on long weekends, like now between Basel and Lake Constance, are they a team.

Joseph Roessler


I’m really excited, even though it’s not the first motorcycle tour that Stefan takes me on. But the first bigger one. Together we want to explore the Upper Rhine between Basel and Lake Constance. Early in the morning Stefan and his Guzzi picks me up from my mother’s in Freiburg, and we drive on the country road to Basel. Stefan has been riding a motorcycle since I’ve known him, so for twelve years. While driving, I try to look past his broad leather back to see how fast we are going. Well, about eighty things. Not exactly the screamer. But Stefan is probably afraid I’ll fall down behind. You sit on the fat California like on a sofa. Totally soft, and no one really does fall off while making snails. If only the borrowed motorcycle pants wouldn’t itch so much. At first I try to hold on to Stefan’s leather jacket, but it’s pretty slippery. And I still can’t get around his stomach. At some point I have to let go because a glove slips. Then I notice that the case handles are actually much better. When we take a short break in Schliengen, I pull a pair of jeans under my motorcycle pants. This solves the problem with scratching. But now the borrowed motorcycle jacket is tingling on the neck. Thank goodness Stefan has a scarf with him that he stuffs under my collar. Somehow the whole thing is not really fun, because it is pouring out of buckets. Stefan says that it would sometimes be the case with motorcycling and seems pretty happy that the borrowed clothes are all waterproof. The sun is finally out in Basel and we have to change money first, we forgot that at the border. So we look for the nearest ATM to withdraw a few francs. But the ATM just spat out the credit card, no bills. It only worked with the next machine but one. (I’m not allowed to write down the remarks my papa made about the Swiss and their banks.) We park the Guzzi on the banks of the Rhine and stroll through the old town for ages. What does Stefan have the motorcycle for? He says that then you wouldn’t notice the city and shows me the cathedral and the town hall, which the people of Basel have painted red and gold. Insanely interesting! We are finally heading for a bar called “Château lapin”, which means “Hasenburg”. For once, Dad isn’t into beer, and we sit a few steps further in the »Zum Roten Engel« cafe, which is more of an alternative shop. But the fruit curd they have tastes delicious. We stroll back to the Rhine and take the »Leu« ferry from Grobbasel to Kleinbasel. Sounds funny. Stefan always says that the Swiss are so slow, whereby he pronounces the word “slow” in a strangely funny way. In fact, I have already seen a race in Basel, namely ?? believe it or not? on gondolas in the middle of the Rhine. The gondolas don’t look like the ones in Venice, but are more long, flat boats. But the tasks were really tricky. The guys in the boat have to picket up the Upper Rhine with long poles. With an oar, which you change while driving, it goes around a bridge pier. Then downriver through a slalom marked out with buoys in the middle of the stream, and finally they turn around to brace upriver again towards the start and finish. Our next destination is the old Roman town »Augusta Raurica«. Stefan thinks I have to see that. We drive on the Swiss side of the Rhine to Kaiseraugst to the excavations. But the tour doesn’t work because … Yes, that’s right, it’s starting to rain again, heavily for an hour! We take shelter and Stefan tells me about the Romans on the Upper Rhine: Back then, 200 years ago, the Rhine was the border between the civilized Romans and the Germanic barbarians. Here on the Upper Rhine the Romans founded a large city around 44 BC. The theater offered space for 8,000 people, making it the largest north of the Alps. Even through the gray wall of rain, the ruins look pretty huge. Maybe the Teutons wanted to go to the theater one day, at least they came and turned the city into kindling. It has remained that way to this day. At least that’s what it looks like. When it finally stops raining, we continue to Rheinfelden. Now, without this disgusting wetness, it’s totally great on the back of the Guzzi. Stefan finally gives a little more material and we even overtake another motorcycle. Cool! But immediately afterwards my father has to deal with some Roman ruins again. Here they are really boring. I think the hydropower plant in Rheinfelden is much more exciting. It must have been built shortly after Roman times, it looks so old. Stefan drives a bit into the Black Forest, which is called Hotzenwald here, and it goes straight up the mountains. The road runs in really tight curves here. At first it feels strange when the motorcycle is so leaning, and I’m a little scared and cling tight to the case handles. After a while I understand that you can sit at an angle just as loosely as on a straight stretch. I just have to look past Stefan into the street to see when a curve comes and whether it leads to the right or to the left. Then it’s really fun and I get a really tingly feeling. When braking downhill I have to hold on to the suitcases neatly so as not to slip on Stefan’s back. When I accelerate, I just push myself against the baggage roll behind me. Soon it will be completely automatic. It smells great of the forest and is much cooler than down on the Rhine. Stefan is getting annoyed because we can’t find a room. “Either there isn’t one or it’s full,” he growls when he has stopped and asked for the third time. I don’t think that’s so bad, because then maybe we can camp. Daddy’s not really in the mood for it, I think, but we packed up the camping gear. When we discover a great mountain meadow, Stefan finally asks a farmer if we can pitch our tent there for one night. Great, the guy doesn’t mind. We immediately unload, pour all the poles, ropes and tarpaulins onto the meadow and try out how everything belongs together. An igloo tent, great. While Stefan later warms up a soup on a small stove and slowly gets in a good mood again, I roll out insulating mats and sleeping bags in the tent and stow all our stuff. It’s totally cozy in there. I try to crawl into my sleeping bag. When we have emptied the pot, I am so tired that I can just put on some warm sweatpants and sleep immediately. At night I wake up to a strange noise, there is a rustling nearby, but Stefan is right next to me. The next morning the meadow and the tent are soaking wet with dew and morning mist. Stefan drives to the next there and buys baguettes, cheese and tomatoes for breakfast. Since we don’t have proper dishes with us, he sabers everything with his pocket knife, and we have breakfast on the motorcycle saddle. Then drive down into the valley to Bad Sackingen. Stefan shows me the covered wooden bridge, the trumpet smithy and the house of a poet named Joseph Viktor von Scheffel. The covered bridge leads directly over the Rhine into Switzerland, but you cannot drive over on a motorcycle. Not because the customs officers wouldn’t let us, but because the bridge is too old for road traffic. It was built 400 years ago and can only be used by pedestrians and cyclists. In the house where this Victor Scheffel lived, there is now a museum in which loud masks are on display. Maybe for Carnival, which is celebrated wildly down here, as dad once said. We continue to Laufenburg. Strangely, there is a German and a Swiss Laugenburg. Anyway, we were in both. In Waldshut, which is now back in Germany and right behind a Swiss nuclear reactor, I’m hungry and we stop at a pizzeria. I think they have the best pizza in the world here. Well, Stefan thinks the second best. Then we want to go to Kaiserstuhl, for which the Rhine has to be crossed again. Most of the Rhine bridges are guarded either by customs officers or by Saint Nepomuk, sometimes both. His real name is John of Nepomuk and is considered a bridge saint, because as a martyr he was pushed from a bridge into the river and drowned. (Sometimes I wonder where Papa got all these stories from.) In any case, there is a statue of Nepomuk in the beautiful old city tower of Kaiserstuhl, which you can visit for free. Inside there is also a wooden column from the 11th century that extends through the entire tower. From the ground floor, where the main entrance is, to the top. On the 3rd floor you can look down on the Rhine and the village, and at the top, in the top of the tower, a wheel turns like in a hamster cage, but big enough for people to fit in. With it, weapons and food were used during sieges pulled up, as the tower keeper tells us. From Kaiserstuhl we chug to Rheinau, where a covered bridge also crosses the river. This time we can drive over it and get back to Germany. Sometimes I don’t even know whether we’re in Switzerland or Germany. Only Stefan says now and then that we are here or there. If the Rhine is at the border, there are always a couple of customs officers at the bridges. Occasionally there is just a sign: “Attention here Switzerland” or: “Here again Germany” or something. Then we look at the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen. It’s the biggest waterfall I’ve ever seen in front of my eyes, so not in the telly or in a picture. For 15,000 years, the Rhine has plunged 150 meters down here. Strictly 23 meters, as it says on a blackboard. In the middle of the waterfall, two steep cliffs rise up, to which you can cross over and climb up by ferry. Top! But Stefan doesn’t want to, says it would be too cumbersome. To do this, we climb down a cave passage at Laufen Castle to the foot of the waterfall. We stand right in front of the thundering stream and let the water splash on our faces. Right on the bank we discover a small campsite that is actually only intended for boaters. But the groundskeeper lets us on anyway. We even make a campfire and cook pea soup. You can swim great here, say the other guests. The Rhine does have a good current, but it is pretty flat and you can stand almost anywhere. In August there are even real swimming competitions over several kilometers in various locations. Stefan and I want to try it the next morning too. But when we look at the murky water with its swirls of foam, it looks so lousy cold that we’d rather let it be. Unfortunately, it’s Sunday already and Stefan says we should gradually make our way home. Too bad. After we have charged, we head towards the Black Forest. Now that I’m already an experienced touring rider, Stefan has promised me that he’ll step on the gas a little. (Finally!)


A tour on the Upper Rhine is already an exciting thing because of the proximity to Switzerland and France and the cultures that come together there. If you then add a few excursions to the almost alpine southern Black Forest, the tour offers the perfect basis for a long weekend.

Arrival: Basel can be easily reached via the A 5 Frankfurt ?? Karlsruhe ?? Basel. From there it goes according to your mood, either on the Swiss or German banks of the Rhine in the direction of Schaffhausen or Stein am Rhein. To enter Switzerland – the border will be crossed several times on the tour – you need an international green insurance card in addition to your identity card and vehicle documents. A motorway vignette does not necessarily have to be purchased because the tour can only be driven on country roads. However, the vignette fee is automatically due when approaching via the motorway. If you leave the Autobahn a few hundred meters from the border at the Weil exit and enter Basel from there (is signposted), you can save 40 francs. If you want to start the tour at Lake Constance, drive via Stuttgart on the A 81 to the end of the motorway in Singen. From there it is only a few kilometers to Stein am Rhein. Travel time: A tour along the High Rhine is tempting throughout the motorcycle season. Particularly attractive, however, in the often really warm midsummer there and the mostly very pleasant Indian summer. Accommodation: There are numerous hotels and inns along the High Rhine. For a double room with an overnight stay you should calculate at least 120 marks, in Switzerland the same amount in francs (around 150 marks). Overnight stays on the beautiful campsites on the banks of the Rhine are cheaper (shown on the map). Traveling with children: Even if you are riding a motorcycle with children for the first time or only once a year, complete safety equipment is the top priority. Depending on age and size, the kids often fit even small women, so that you can borrow a motorcycle jacket, pants and boots from a friend if necessary. You can’t make any compromises when it comes to a helmet. It needs the exact head size, should sit comfortably and not slip. Even if it might not fit any more in the next year, you shouldn’t save money here. Don’t forget a kidney belt and gloves. Special motorcycle clothing for children (textile and leather) is now offered by many manufacturers. There was a detailed overview in MOTORRAD 13/97. Before setting off on a larger tour – and 200 kilometers is a bigger tour for children – you should go on smaller trips together and then take a day trip. Pay attention to numerous breaks, after half an hour the kids’ attention can wear off. The children should sit comfortably, their feet must reach the footrests (possibly raise them) and they must be able to hold on. A special child seat is less recommended, as it – quite apart from the approval – holds the child on the motorcycle in the event of a fall. We strongly advise against acceleration demonstrations and corner scratching. This is only very impressive, it also scares older children. The desire to ride along is then quickly gone. Literature: As far as we know, there is no separate travel guide to the Upper Rhine. References can be found in works on the southern Black Forest or northern Switzerland (Basel and Aargau). A good substitute is “The Black Forest South Leisure Map” from Marco Polo Verlag for 9.80 Marks, which, in addition to the small scale of 1: 100,000, provides numerous descriptions and references to attractions. Tents and campsites are also listed here. Distance driven: around 200 kilometers Time required: weekend tour

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