“There are two roads of nearly equal length, one on the left bank of the Rhine, which is traversed by the daily diligence (13 hours is the time occupied in the journey); and the other on the right bank, through the territory of Baden, which is provided with post horses at the following stations: Sakingen, Waldshut, Ober Lauchingen, Schaffhausen.”.
I was more than familiar with both options as, living halfway along this route, it was one of my regular cycles and today takes half the time on bicycle as it did back then by horse and cart.
Following Murray’s guide, I took the route from Basel on the Swiss side of the Rhine.
First stop, was the town of Augst and, on a steep hill above it, “the site of the Roman city Augusta Rauracorum, founded by Munatius Plancus, in the reign of Augustus.” Munatius and Augustus; now there are two names which you don’t hear that often nowadays. I promised myself to name my firstborn Munatius Augustus Jones I, if for no other reason than for my own amusement.
“Its existence on this spot is sufficiently proved by the quantity of Roman remains that have been, and still are, discovered wherever the ground is turned up. There are indications of an amphitheatre, now converted into pleasure grounds; but the remains of buildings are very slight.”
Indeed, the area to this day remains a wonderful open air museum dedicated to the Roman settlement and the amphitheatre has been half rebuilt. Instead of playing host to gladiators and lions, it now acts as an open air theatre for plays and classical concerts. As I sat on the top step looking down into the pit below, I couldn’t help but think of the scene from Life Of Brian and imagined Manatius saying to Augustus, “I want to be a woman. From now on I want you all to call me Loretta. It’s my right as a man.” Which may explain why the name has since disappeared.
Further along The Rhine, the wooden bridge at Rheinfelden, together with “the rocks in the river bed form considerable rapids and falls” have both long since gone, and now a stone pedestrian bridge connects the German and Swiss towns of the same name.
“On an island in the middle of the river, above the bridge, rise the ruins of feudal Castle of Stein, which was destroyed by the army of the Swiss Confederacy in 1445.”
Despite crossing this bridge the best part of one hundred times, I’d never even noticed this island before reading “Murray’s Handbook For Travellers To Switzerland 1838”. The ruins of the castle were actually completely removed in 1843, just five years after the book was published, probably confusing many Victorian English travellers who had bought the copy of their book on eBay, or which other prestigious London auction house they shopped at. Today, there is a garden, with a large tree replacing the ruins.
Murray’s recommended inn, the Drei Könige has closed down but the beautiful building remains at Zürcherstrasse 9 as an International School.
Lauffenburg is another pretty town along the Rhine whose “wooden bridge” has been replaced by a stone one. Murray refers to the German side as “Klein Lauffenburg”, although today the towns on each side of the river share the same name.
It was interesting to read about the waterfalls which have also long since been removed.
“The river is here interrupted by more rapids and falls, in German called Lauffen, whence the name of the place. Small boats descending the stream can only pass them by unloading their cargoes above, and being let down gradually by stout ropes, held by men stationed on the bank.”
Looking up at the old riverside houses on the Swiss side, from across the bridge, it was possible to imagine the effort boatmen would have gone through back in the day. Nowadays, the sight of even small pleasure boats, let alone those with cargo, is a rare thing in this neck of the Rhine.
Crossing the river from Switzerland into “Baden”, the German state of Baden Wurtenburg, Murray’s route took me to my local town, Waldshut, “a walled town of 1000 inhabitants, on the skirts of The Black Forest.” Today the populations stands at 23,000, plus all the Swiss tourists who flock here to admire the historic walled town centre and do their shopping at half the cost of what they’d pay just across the bridge.
“A mile above this, near a small village called Coblenz (Confluentia), the Rhine is joined by the Aar.”
Today, where the Rhine and Aare meet, is an incredibly busy border crossing, with the Swiss stopping here to claim back the 11% difference in VAT on their already incredibly cheap shopping trip to Germany.
The rest of the route from Waldshut, passing close to my home through “Thiengen” (Tiengen), Erzingen, and back into Switzerland through Neunkirch to Schaffhausen, takes you through some beautiful farmland and vineyards, although bizarrely none of this gets a mention by Murray, who was obviously saving page space for his next Route.
SCHAFFHAUSEN ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS (105km):
Opened in 1799 and now a restaurant, Restaurant Falken, serves local specialities including a Schaffhauser Pfanne, a plate of mixed meats, vegetables and rosti.
Couronne, not recommended.
The 3 star Hotel Kronenhof, dates back to 1489 with previous guests including Goethe, Tsar Alexander, General Dufour and Michel de Montaigne. Whilst Murray, may not have recommended it, “very good” reviews online, show it’s improved its game since.
There is a good inn close to the Rhinefall… At the village of Neuhausen, 10 minutes’ walk from the fall, there is a clean and moderate small inn, Zum Rhinefall: charges – beds 2 fr, dinners 3 fr, breakfast 11⁄2 f.
Whilst there is now an ugly 1980s building housing a Hotel Rhinefall, it is not the same Hotel Zum Rhinefall mentioned by Murray. For historic accommodation, you can’t do much better than the Dachsen am Rheinfall Youth Hostel, located in the thick walls of Laufen Castle on the opposite side of the river, right above the waterfall itself.
171⁄2 Stunden = 561⁄2 English miles.
At 105km (65 miles), the route is exactly the length Murray advised (an English mile being 1.9km), and it follows the No.2 national cycle route most of the way, along The Rhine river and paved throughout, making it possible to be followed by road bike. Trains along the route offer alternatives.
11km ~ AUGST → flat
12km ~ AUGUSTA RAURICA ↗ 25 m
20km ~ RHEINFELDEN (CH) → flat
45km ~ LAUFENBURG (CH) ↗ 180 m ↘ 125 m
46km ~ LAUFENBURG (DE) ↗ 10 m ↘ 10 m
60km ~ WALDSHUT (DE) ↗ 65 m ↘ 40 m
63km ~ KOBLENZ (DE) ↗ 20 m ↘ 40 m
68km ~ TIENGEN (DE) → flat
85km ~ ERZINGEN (DE) ↗ 105 m ↘ 30 m
93km ~ NEUNKIRCH (CH) ↗ 30 m ↘ 5 m
105km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ↗ 65 m ↘ 85 m
~ All routes ~ Introduction ~