“Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl” (Bob Dylan)
My favourite Jimi Hendrix song is All Along the Watchtower written by Bob Dylan – it is this song that is in my head when I ride this route.
The ´Gutingi All Along the Watchtower´ is a suggested informal gravel ride that visits sites which projected power (and thus influence) or offered protection in and around the German city of Göttingen.
On a line of march
Despite the many people who like to say otherwise we live in the most stable and peaceful period in Central European history. Until very recently Europeans (and the World at large) lived under the threat of nuclear Armageddon and there was a great need to restrain trigger finger persons confronting each other across the Iron Curtain. Thankfully this was successful! And the land on which once the military barrier stood that had divided Germany has now either been reclaimed by farmers or is part of a Green Band that stretches from the Baltic to the Czech Republic.
Looking further back the area around Göttingen located in Central Europe has seen the ebb and flow of commerce, conflict and war. Even the Romans made it to the North of the city where they fought a successful battle before Rome retreated the Empire behind the River Rhine leaving most of what we know to be Germany today to the ´uncivilised´ tribes.
Göttingen sits along the Leine Valley and this is a natural route of march for an invading force and the last to do so was the United States Army during World War Two. They had fought their way here from France, then onto the Harz Mountains and East to Leipzig.
Before then the army of Napoleon after defeating a combined Prussian and Saxon Army at Jena occupied the 460 statelets that made up Germany under the auspices of the Holy Roman Empire. French troops took over Göttingen but they admired it as a seat of learning, thus their stay was reasonably benign because of this.
Before then the cataclysmic Thirty Years War had devastated the area and Göttingen was besieged. Although the nearby Plesse Castle and Göttingen´s city walls offered a certain amount of protection to those within, they could not save nearby Northeim and other towns or villages from being destroyed including the castle at Jühnde to the south.
Almost every century Germany has been suffering major wars including the wars to unite Germany into one nation under Bismarck and there were also many smaller conflicts between the different statelets. If that wasn´t bad enough the locals additionally had to contend with feuds or banditry that helped, besides famine and pestilence, to wipe villages off the map.
The Sites on Route
We start at the Schillerweisen Park at the pavilion where Jerome Bonaparte (King of Westphalia and brother of Napoleon) would meet his lovers when Göttingen and the myriad of German speaking States were occupied by the French.
The Schillerwiesen Park is outside the old Göttingen City Wall which offered some protection to its citizens such as during the Thirty Years War although it couldn´t ultimately stop Count Tilly who besieged the city in 1626 (with a Danish Garrison) or the Swedish who fought in the streets to take it back for the protestants in 1632. In 1641 Bavarian catholic forces revisited Göttingen to push out the Swedes. Nor was it any barrier many, many years later in April 1945 the US Second Infantry Division occupied Göttingen. Much of the City Wall remains although to ride round on top of the wall now you must cross the roads cut through them.
Central Europe and the lands occupied by the German speaking peoples was far from peaceful and you can find many watchtowers across the landscape guarding the approaches to cities such as Göttingen. The watchtowers in Göttingen were part of a series of a medieval defensive Landwehr lines made up of dense bushes (Incl. Hawthorn) and ditches that channelled entrants along roads, tracks, and checkpoints where taxes could also be collected.
Having left the Schillerweisen we climb to reach the high ground of the Hainberg Forest, here we ride along the ridge on what was once a Landwehr line linking up to our first Watchtower on route. This is the Wartesbergwarte (might also be known as the Halberwarte) now gone but remembered by a more recent wall circling a Linden tree growing where once stood the tower. A chain of watchtowers circled Göttingen and each had sight of another enabling any signs of trouble to be communicated down the line to the city.
Watchtowers on Route
The following watchtower sites are on our route: Wartesbergwarte (Halberwarte), Rieswarte, Roringer Warte (Bärwinkelswarte), Hainholzwarte, Diemardener Warte, Rosdorfer Warte (Hainbergwarte) and the Dreckwarte (Grymmenwarte).
The following Watchtowers are not visited and are lost.
Dicke Warte, Olenhusener Warte, Lohbergwarte, Kritenwarte, Kerstlingeröder Warte (Käsenapp), Sestellenwarte, Roykebergwarte, Backenbergswarte, Tzegenhellenwarte (Ziegenhelle), Warte an der Ausschnippe, Weizenbergwarte (and the church spire of Reckershausen)
After descending from the Wartesbergswarte we pass the Tonollo building at the foot of the Knochenmühle Climb and then cross the B27. We turn left and head up past the Experimenteller Botanischer Garten and the Max Planck Campus/Institute before we come to the ruins of Die Reiswarte, our second watchtower. We follow another Landwehr defensive line to Nikolausberg and then descend toward the almost complete Roringer Warte which once guarded the road from Göttingen to the Harz Mountains.
We return to the Tonollo building and cross the B27 once more, next we climb up to the Kehr via Herbehausen. The Kehr was once the site of the Hainholzwarte but all signs of it has been lost. From here we cross Kerstlingeröderfeld, once an important NATO Panzer base, instead it is now part of the Göttingen Wald.
More descending takes us close to the Stein Muhle and the historic Spinnerei where we turn toward the Diemardener Warte (the most complete warte) proceeding onto the Wartberg at Rosdorf (marked by tree), followed by the Dreckwarte (a circle of stones) in the Leine Valley where we end the ride @50.8km.
Watchtower/Warte & Landwehr Locations 1
Watchtower/Warte & Landwehr Locations 2
Want to ride it?
This is an informal ride and a suggested route only. If you would like to ride it with us do make contact. Or of course you may ride it at your own time and if you do, it would be great to hear from you – https://veloklubhaus.com/contact/.