G3VGR ALTMÜHLTAL PANORAMAWEG     Essing – Kelheim     

I woke up anticipating an exciting final day on the Panoramaweg. The weather was a little cooler and overcast, but the temperature would be high again later. However, I expected to finish my walk by lunchtime. Leaving Essing, I crossed the Main-Donau canal for the last time over the impressive "Tatzlwurm", which, at 169 meters long, is now the second longest wooden bridge in Europe.  From the bridge there is a great view across the Main-Danube Canal to Essing and the ruins of Burg Randeck. I walked along the river bank for 500m after the bridge then the trail turned right into a forest and up to the Klausenhöhle, a complex of several nested caves which were occupied during the last Ice Age. The trail continued along the edge of the forest and parallel to the Main-Donau-Kanal, passing some small waterfalls and the Schellnecker Wände, large vertical rocks which are popular with rock climbers. Opposite Altessing, the trail turned right again, away from the canal, into a beech forest. I looked back at my last view of the Altmühl before the final steep climb of the Panoramaweg which took me uphill along the Keltenwall to the nature reserve Weltenburger Enge. The Keltenwall was one of the three ramparts of "Alkimoennis", a large Celtic oppidum, and it originally stretched between the Altmühl and Danube, providing protection to the west of the Iron Age settlement. I was making slow progress along the Keltenwall and the ensuing trail through the forest, due to stopping every few minutes to appreciate the beauty of it all. I wished this walk would go on forever. Eventually, I reached a scenic viewpoint with the breathtaking view over the Danube that's seen in all the tourist literature. Below me to the right was the beautiful Kloster Weltenburg on a bend of the Donau and to the left, the towering limestone cliffs of the impressive Donaudurchbruch.  This is one of the highlights of the Panoramaweg, so I lingered for a while admiring the view and taking photographs, before taking a side trail down through the forest to the left bank of the Danube.

I crossed the Danube on a Zille, (traditional wooden barge) to Kloster Weltenburg, the oldest Benedictine abbey of Bavaria, founded around 600AD. On arrival at the abbey, I first visited the Asamkirche, a magnificent baroque church built in the 18th century by the Asam brothers. Next was a visit to the Klosterbrauerei, the world's oldest monastery brewery where beermaking started in the eleventh century.  Visiting historic sites is thirsty work, so I next headed to the biergarten of the Klosterschänke to sample the results of their 1000 years of brewing experience. After a few Krugs of Asam Bock (6.9%), I really didn't feel sufficiently steady enough to climb back up to the Weltenburger Enge, so decided on the easier (and often recommended) option to travel to Kelheim on one of the regular excursion ships. This was a good decision, as views on the journey along the Danube through the narrow sections of the Donaudurchbruch passing 100 Metre high limestone walls were most impressive, despite being viewed through an alcohol induced haze. Approaching Kelheim, the impressive Befreiungshalle attracted much attention from the ship's passengers. It was built by King Ludwig I as a monument to the Liberation war against Napoleonic domination and overlooks the town of Kelheim from its position atop the Michelsberg.

The ship docked at the landing stage in Kelheim and I had now reached the end of the Altmühltal Panoramaweg. Opposite the landing stage, I caught the Ludwigsbahn, a white-and-blue mini train, which took me through the pretty Altstadt and up the Michelsberg, terminating outside the Befreiungshalle.
The rotunda was built in 1863 in the Neo-classical style.  From the outside, the facade is decorated with 18 goddesses of victory, each holding in its hands the name of one of the eighteen German nations participating in the war. The interior of the Befreiungshalle is quite magnificent, with a marble mosaic floor ringed by 34 large marble goddesses of victory, each goddess representing one of the German states in Ludwig I's time. Pillars suport the rotunda, 90 feet in diameter, which is is crowned by a cupola 150 feet high. Embedded in the floor, made of different colors and types of marble, is a message that declares, “Germans: Never forget why the freedom fight was necessary and why you were victorious.” The overall impact was reminiscent of my visits to the Voortrekkermonument in Pretoria. The Liberation Hall towers over the Danube valley and Kelheim and offers a great panoramic view. To the west from the Befreiungshalle is a partially reconstructed section of another of the original defensive walls of Alkimoennis.

I'd arranged to stay overnight in Kelheim and had made a reservation at the Gasthaus Zum Schwann. A short, steep downhill walk from the Befreiungshalle brought me to this charming hotel located at the foot of the Michelsberg. In the early evening, I strolled around the Altstadt. This was almost the end of an eventful day and just one last experience remained. Kelheim is home to the Schneider Weisse Brewery so my final visit of the day was to the Weisses Braühaus to sample their fine Weissbier. It's possible to order a beer by either its name or a part number, so I started with a TAP7 (Mein Original). A few more of these went down well with a traditional Bavarian Schweinebraten and I finished the evening with a TAP6 (My Aventinis - 8.2%). On leaving the brewery, I stood on a bridge over the Danube and watched the last of the setting sun over the Michelsberg. This was a great end to a successful walking holiday. Next morning, I caught trains from Saal an der Donau to Lindau to join my friends from the Loughton Amateur Radio Club for the three days visiting the Hamradio rally at Friedrichshafen.

Tatzlwurm
Crossing the Tatzlwurm
Burg Randeck overlooking Essing
Lily pond opposite Altessing
Schellnecker Wände
Mountain bikers not welcome
Forest trail along the canal
Steps up to start of Keltenwall
Along the Keltenwall
Along the Keltenwall
In the Weltenburg Enge
The magnificent Kloster Weltenburg
A traditional Zille is used to cross the Danube
Biergarten at Kloster Weltenburg
Asamkirche
Klosterbrauerei
Sampling the Asam Bock
Donaudurchbruch
Befreiungshalle
Befreiungshalle interior
Commemorating Blucher's Prussians at Waterloo
View over Kelheim from Michelsberg
Donautor
Kelheim Altstadt
Kelheim Altstadt
Sunset over Michelsberg

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