In the valley of the Sinn River there are two more or less parallel railway lines of two tracks each.
The old line was built in the 19th century and is used today for local and regional trains and for freight. The new high-speed line was built in the 1980s for the ICE trains (InterCity Express), which started running in 1991.
Here in the town of Burgsinn the two lines meet. The old tracks are on the left, the new tracks are on the right with an ICE train on its way north to Fulda, Hannover and Hamburg.
Second photo: The parallel old and new railway tracks in the Sinn Valley, as seen from the train in April 2007.
Landscape along the bicycle route in the Jossa Valley.
This was only the second time I have cycled through here. In an earlier phase of my life I used to drive through here every week, but that was a long time ago.
Update: Just had another bicycle trip through here in August 2006. My route this time was Schlüchtern to Sinntal, Sinntal to Bad Orb (where I saw the opera Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven) and then Bad Orb to Frankfurt am Main.
The town of Reineck, with a castle and historic Old Town, is one of the last towns near the bottom of the Sinn Valley, before the Sinn flows into the Main at Gemünden.
For the continuation of this bicycle trip, see the Main River Tour on my Germany page.
Mernes is a village in the Jossa Valley, between Burgjoss and Marjoss.
It turns out that there is a description of Mernes and the Jossgrund area in an English-language geneological website by a man named Robert Desch who lives in Hiawatha, Iowa.
Mr. Desch writes: "Ferdinand Desch Sr. was born in Mernes Germany (Still to be confirmed) in 1825. At the Age of 8 he immigrated to the United States with his Parents who both died at Sea, possibly a brother and a sister, John Desch, John Desch and Adam Desch."
After arriving in the United States, those of the Desch family who survived the sea voyage moved to Indiana and later settled in Ohio.
To this day there are about fifty people named Desch living here in Mernes.
In all these valleys there are well-marked bicycle routes with little or no automobile traffic, often following Forest Service access roads such as this one.
The bicycle routes are well signposted, as a general rule, but you still have to have a good cycling map so you don't take a wrong turn someplace.
You can't really get lost, because it's all downstream, but you can certainly find yourself at the end of a dead-end road if you're not careful.
There are thousands of parking lots like this all over the woods in Germany, with short and easy hiking trails that go around in a circle and come back to the parking lot.
For a longer hike from here, there is a suggested route on the following website in German:
Anyone who grew up and went to school in Frankfurt has probably been to the Wegscheide, which is a camp for Frankfurt school classes up on a pass in the Spessart hills, not quite four kilometers to the east of Bad Orb.
The name Wegscheide means parting of the ways, not only because it is on a pass with roads and trails going off in different directions, but because at one time the idea was that school classes would come here in their last year together, before splitting up and all going their separate ways.
The camp was first built for the German army in the First World War, then acquired by the Frankfurt schools in the 1920s. When the Nazis came to power they made it into a forced labor prison, and for several years after the Second World War it was a camp for displaced persons. Two cemeteries nearby attest to the horrible conditions in those years.
In the 1950s the Frankfurt schools were again able to take over the Wegscheide, and to this day they use it for class excursions and also as a summer camp during the school vacations.
(I have never been involved in the Frankfurt school system, but I did once spend a week at the Wegscheide for other reasons. This was quite a long time ago.)
Down in the next valley to the east of Bad Orb and the Wegscheide is the town of Burgjoss.
This building is a water castle, so called because there was once a moat around it for defense. According to a plaque at the entrance, the oldest parts of the walls date from the 9th century. The house in something like its present form was built in 1573.
Like every other town and village in this area, Burgjoss changed hands numerous times over the centuries. At one time or another it has been ruled by the principalities of Mainz, Aschaffenburg and Frankfurt, and by the kingdoms of Bavaria and Prussia.
The castle has been used since 1875 by the Forest Service, first of Prussia and then, since 1945, by the Forest Service of the Land Hessen.
Burgjoss is in the Jossa Valley, which after some winding around flows into the Sinn River, which in turn flows into the Main at Gemünden. So from here it's downstream all the way to Frankfurt and Mainz.
Near the Wegscheide is a typical forest parking lot with a sign urging motorists to get out of their cars and go for a walk in the woods.