The Magellan Harz Mountains Tour of 2018 began on a damp morning at the end of April with five clients from all over the UK met at Stop24 Services outside Folkestone…
We went quickly across the tunnel and onto the fast roads of France and Belgium with a marked improvement in the weather: making for happy faces at the first coffee stop!
We started by visiting the dams made famous by the RAF Dambusters who were in the area 75 years earlier during the Second World War: the Harz Mountains, the Black forest, the Vosges Mountains and all points in between.
The poignancy of the visit to the dams was not lost on any of our tourers, and we reflected on that while we sat at the edge of the Mohne Dam drinking coffee on a brilliant sunny day. We discussed the air raids and the damage to both the infrastructure of
the surrounding areas and the large loss of life to the local people downstream.
Our next stop was Braunlage in Lower Saxony where we stopped off for three nights, allowing us to ride the surrounding mountain roads and visit to the Kyffauser hairpins. Unfortunately they were closed due to road works, but although we couldn’t do the 88 hairpins of the pass we found other roads that excited and challenged us just as much in the surrounding areas.
This is what Magellan specialise in, if there are unforeseen events the Guide will find another opportunity to keep your holiday on track!
Most of the group members explored the local area, however three of us took the opportunity to visit an iconic well-known castle, famous for reasons aside from its formidable age! (nearly a thousand years old) I’m talking about Colditz, of course!
The setting of many films and a place where many actors reputations were made and enhanced. We followed the escapees journey from the tunnel dug from the roof (I know it sounds odd but believe me its true) down into the wine cellar then up again to the spot that they were thwarted, mere metres from freedom. This is the place from which the British MP Airy Nieve escaped, only to write a post card to the camp Commandant to say he had arrived home safely and he hoped his escape would not be too much of a problem for him!
The tour lasted around two hours and cost €18 but because you are given access to rooms that the public are not allowed to enter it was well worth it. Our guide had an endless supply of stories about the inmates and their attempts to escape. Colditz was in East Germany during the cold war and it wasn’t until the wall came down that people had real access to the site. It was a hospital until 1999 and is now in the process of being refurbished, but what a building! They even have a replica of the glider constructed by British personnel to escape via the roof.
The evening was topped off with a parade of Walpurgis or witches back in Braunlage. Each year the witches of the local area are purged from the town with a parade and a huge firework display in the local park, and all the town turns out to support this annual event.
Our next stop puts us right in the middle of castle country with outstanding views of castles around every bend. We drive past the convergence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers then off to Castle Burg Eltz and wonderful trip around what is a very special castle nestled in a picturesque valley. Fourteen generations of the same family have lived in this castle with some of them even related to our own Royal Family.
And if that wasn’t enough here is Marksburg castle just a few miles from our hotel.
While some chose the stately majesty of a castle tour or two, others chose the brash noise of the Nürburgring which although closed for bikes on the day we visited (it was the May bank holiday) it still provided a spectacular display and if you were so inclined you still had time to slip in a quick castle spot on the way back.
From the Rhine valley we then spent an amazing day riding some brilliant roads to Baden Baden and our overnight stay prior to riding the iconic B500, a road on many peoples bucket list. The weather gods were extremely kind to us the following day and the sun shone all day making for some awesome riding through the Black forest and over the Rhine and into France and the Vosges mountains.
The ski lodge of the Rouge Gazon provided a welcome break on this trip from the heat of the valleys as it is perched right on the top of the mountains in the snow. We enjoyed outstanding views and lovely food including local cheeses which were incredible.
From the heart of the Vosges Mountains we rode north to Reims, yet again in brilliant sunshine! We made sure to use as many twisty roads as we could find to locate the hidden gem in the middle of Reims that is the Crystal Hotel. Situated in the heart of the ‘cafe’ area, and with secure parking underground only 50m away, what more could you ask for?
Some well earned beers and hearty meal then off to a relaxing nights sleep before we depart for the tunnel and home.
Don’t for a minute think the final day is just a case of ‘getting to the tunnel as fast as possible’, far from it. The road to the tunnel doesn’t include any motorway riding unless you want it to, and the roads pass through the farming heartland of the north and along the frontlines WW1, with many cemeteries to stop at and pay our respects to.
The tunnel eventually appears on the horizon and the realisation that the 2018 Magellan Harz Mountains Tour is drawing to a close, but what a trip?!
Now the only question is what is your next tour with this forward thinking tour company? Go on, you know you want to…
For details of all the rest of our 2018 tours (some with a few spots left!) see our website…