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5,4 24.05.2019 | Stephen M. Bavaria by Bike + Boat

Very Satisfactory!

Overall:
There was a lot to enjoy about this tour; it was an experience to remember, a happy time, just what a holiday should be.

Highlights

  • The big cities: Regensburg, Nürnberg and Bamberg,
  • A number of small, colourful towns along the route. (Wikipedia gives most only about a line of text, but they are all attractive and worth seeing.)
  • Forchheim (on the last cycling day).
  • An idyllic hour or so cycling along the King Ludwig Canal into Nürnberg.
  • Profusion of wild flowers in the meadows.
  • Enjoyable company of fellow guests and crew.
  • Good food and drink.

Niggles:

  • A group tour involves compromise; this was apparent when visiting towns en route. Some of us wanted to spend longer looking round, others less time, or, sometimes, even no time. Those wanting longer would joke “There’s no rush!” as they rushed round trying to see as much as possible in the time available.
  • During the tour, I had only a vague idea of which of many waterways we were cycling along at any point in time; it’s a characteristic of my geekiness that I like to know this kind of stuff, as I find it enhances my appreciation of the tour. I’ve had to find out afterwards, by displaying my GPS tracks om maps.

Regrets:

  • No time to visit the Heimat Museum Christoph Willibald Gluck in Berching.
  • Didn’t visit the town of Hilpoltstein (I note there are castle ruins there).

Rad & Reisen’s local agent: Actieve Vaarvakanties
Actieve Vaarvakanties appears to be the husband and wife team, Sander and Els, who own and operate the boat La Belle Fleur, so, basically, a small, independent company whose only tours are the ones they operate using this boat.

Ship Operator: Actieve Vaarvakanties

Date of my Tour: 2018-06-23/29 (6 nights / 7 days)

Direction: Regensburg to Bamberg
I had no particular reason for choosing this direction: it just happened, conveniently for me, for the week following the Bavarian Highlights tour I’d booked for the previous week.

The route roughly follows the Main-Danube Canal, or its predecessor, the King Ludwig Canal, and, looking at its profile, it appears the high-point is in the vicinity of Hilpoltstein. Also, the Danube end is over 100 metres higher than the Main end. Cycling from Bamberg to Regensburg, then, you have more climbing to do to reach Hilpoltstein, which you do after two days of cycling; from Regensburg to Bamberg, you climb the 100 metres less across three days, although half a day of this is along the Danube (Regensburg to Kelheim). I doubt if there’s much in it either way, but if you wanted to minimise your ascents, the Regensburg to Bamberg direction is probably the easier cycling.

My own feeling, too, is that doing the tour in the Regensburg to Bamberg direction means that you gradually build up over several days to the climax of the ride along the King Ludwig Canal and the visit to Nürnberg; doing it in the opposite direction would mean these highlights are encountered early on, leaving the remaining days as something of an anti-climax.

Options Chosen:

  • 1-bed Cabin.
  • Travel documents in English.
  • Bike without a coaster (“back-pedal”) brake.

Materials Supplied
A few weeks prior to the tour, I received documents from Rad & Reisen:

  • Travel Information Booklet.
  • Street Plan of Regensburg.
  • Receipts.

In my cabin on arrival:

  • Route Booklet.
  • Map Booklet.

At the first daily briefing, a booklet containing street plans of the towns to be visited was distributed. The same booklet is used for both directions of travel so, for the Regensburg to Bamberg direction, you start at the back of the booklet and work forwards.

Transfers:
The week before the tour started, I had been on the Bavarian Highlights tour (code 332), so was starting from München (Munich), from where I took a Deutsche Bahn train from München Hauptbahnhof to Regensburg Hauptbahnof. It’s about an hour’s travelling time from München Airport (code MUC) to München Hauptbahnhof (using S-Bahn lines S-8, the better option, or S-1), so, had I been travelling from home directly to Regensburg, I would have also considered flying to Frankfurt (M) Airport (code FRA), which has a railway station at the airport (Terminal 1) and compared journey times / ticket prices from there against the München route. The website also mentions Nürnberg airport (code NUE) as a possibility, but I found my usual airline offers limited services to/from there.

From Regensburg Hauptbahnof, I took a taxi to the boat’s mooring place adjacent to Donaulände, adding that “It’s close to the 0941 Beach Club”, which, my driver told me, was an essential piece of information, because, otherwise, he would have taken me to a completely different location, further up the Donau (ie Danube), where much larger cruise boats docked. The mooring point is at the very edge of the street plan received in the pre-tour materials, but is marked on a zoomed-in map printed in the travel information booklet; however, it’s difficult to match the two together, so online maps of Regensburg need to be consulted if you want clarity. From the car park adjacent to the Beach Club, we could just see the top of the boat over the bank of the river.

At the end of the tour, I was extending my stay in Germany by a couple of days with an independently-arranged trip to Bayreuth, which neccessitated a train journey from Bamberg to Bayreuth. Had I been flying home immediately, I would have taken a train either to Frankfurt (M) Airport, or back to München. (From Bayreuth, I took a train to München, changing at Nürnberg, then S-Bahn line S-8 from München Hauptbahnhof to the airport.)

I made a bit of a blunder with my train ticket from Bamberg. Assuming the tour would end immediatley after breakfast on the last day (Friday), I had bought a ticket departing from Bamberg mid-morning. In fact, the final morning includes a guided walking tour of Bamberg and the suggestion is not to expect to leave the boat until around mid day. I had to leave the walking tour early in order to return to the boat to make my departure. (My taxi to the station was bang-on-time; that’s German efficiency for you!)

The boat
La Belle Fleur

You board the boat on its top deck where there’s an open-air seating area. A door leads to a stairwell (stairs are steep, as is usual on these river boats) down to the corridor on the main deck; to the left is the lounge/dining room, along the corridor to the right are the cabins and at the end is another stairwell up to the emergency door out to the top deck. Non-crew members are not able to enter the boat through this door.

The lounge/dining room has an area for dispensing beverages — a variety of teas and coffees — which are free of charge; however, the machine does not work when the boat’s power is switched from generator to battery (overnight). There’s also a fridge containing beers, a selection of wines and soft drinks, for which a charge is made. An “honesty” system is used for recording the drinks you’ve taken from the fridge and you settle up, in cash, at the end of the tour. On this boat, there’s also a charge for Wi-Fi access, accounted for through the same “honesty” system. At the other end of the lounge/dining room there’s storage space containing books (generally travel books of the areas in which the boat tours, plus three photo books of the tours offered by Actieve Vaarvakanties (which seems to be the tour company Sander and Els run from their boat La Belle Fleur)) plus a variety of games and pastimes which people might like to use, particularly in wet weather.

Cabins are small, as is typical in these boats. In my cabin, to the left, just inside the door, was a storage area with hangers and shelves for clothes, then, beyond this the door to the mini-bathroom. Butted along the hull wall, opposite the entrance door, was a bed and, at right-angles to this and at a higher level, so it could overlap, the second bed along the right-hand wall of the cabin. With this second bed being at a higher level, there was plenty of space underneath for storing baggage.

Life on Board
My first surprise was to discover there were only 7 tourists on this tour; the boat has a capacity of 19, so I considered it lucky that it was being run with so few bookings. (Thinking about it, the boat would have had to sail to Bamberg for the start of the next tour, so the operators probably thought it better to sail with some customers than to go with none at all.)

So, in addition to myself, we had Gregor and Marion from Germany, John and Sarey from Australia, Marjorie, also from Australia, with her British friend Rosemary. Our crew, co-captains Sander and Els, and tour guide Anna are all from the Netherlands.

Once everyone had arrived and had some time to settle-in, a meeting was arranged in the lounge/dining room, where, over refreshments, introductions were made and safety details explained. Details of the multiple escape routes, fire doors and emergency alarm buttons were all covered. One completely new feature on this boat, which I’ve not come across before, is the provision of smoke masks in each cabin, for use in the event of a fire.

On this tour, the daily schedule was breakfast at 08:00; cycling 09:00; evening meal 18:30 followed by briefing for the following day. For lunch, you make a packed lunch at breakfast time to take with you on the cycle ride. A carton of fruit juice and a biscuity-type snack is also provided for your lunch pack. For the on-board meals, you are not assigned to a particular table. With just 7 of us on the tour, with the tour guide, Anna, we made a group of 8 on two tables placed together.

One of the advantages a bike-and-boat tour has over a moving-on bike-and-hotel tour is that, if you don’t want to cycle on any particular day, you don’t — you simply advise the tour guide you won’t be riding, and stay on the boat for the day, letting it take you to the day’s destination, relaxing on deck, in the lounge or in your cabin, making use of whatever facilities the boat has to offer. Of course, if the boat arrives early, there’s also the opportunity to go ashore for some sight-seeing. So, no one needs to feel pressurised to cycle if they don’t feel up to it.

On this tour, there’s only one cruise when the passengers are on board and that’s at the end of the visit (on foot) to Nürnberg, after which the boat sails on to Erlangen while the passengers enjoy their evening meal. During the daily cycle rides, you hang your cabin key on a key board just outside the lounge/dining room. At other times when you leave the boat, you need to take your cabin key with you, for the key also unlocks the door allowing you to come into the boat (the door is locked overnight). This is a slightly different system than that on other boats, where a key hanging on the board is taken as an indication that you have gone ashore.

Bike
My booking had included an option for a standard bicycle without a coaster brake (“back-pedal” brake) and this was honoured; the two hand-operated brakes worked effectively.

Gearing was provided by a Shimano Inter-8 (8-speed) internal gear hub (in other words, high quality and very reliable) with a twist-grip shifter, which, typically for this type of gear, operated motor-bike style (rotating forwards goes down the gears, rotating backwards goes up). Unlike a derailleur gear system, hub gears can be changed even when the bike is stationary, so it doesn’t matter if you come to a halt in a high gear, you don’t have to struggle to get started again, just shift down to a low gear and start off easily. The range of gears available was quite sufficient for this route. (I’m not sure why this tour is graded as Level 2, for it was much easier than the Level 2 Bavarian Highlights tour I had done the previous week.)

Brakes were Shimano roller brakes: hub brakes; they were noticeably less powerful than the V-brakes usually fitted, but are independent of weather conditions and not affected by road grime. They were perfectly adequate for the purpose.

It was fitted with dynamo lighting powering a front light, which I switched to its “senso” setting (the light comes on automatically if the ambient lighting falls below a certain level). I noticed it had switched on a few times when we passed through wooded areas. With a suitable adapter, you can use the power from the generator hub to provide USB power for small electronic devices — Anna used this system to keep her GPS charged during our rides.

A cage for a water bottle was present, on the handlebars. (You need to supply your own bottle, either a cycling-specific one, or, as many people used, an ordinary bottle of the type in which water is purchased.) I fitted a Klickfix handlebar bracket, which enabled me to attach a handlebar bag and provided a mount for my own GPS device. Everyone was supplied with a pair of pannier bags.

Each bike had a lock which, when engaged, prevented the rear wheel from rotating; not particularly secure, but a common arrangement on the European mainland. During rides, each user was expected to lock the bike while away from it exploring on foot. In the evenings, the bikes were lined up along the bank beside the boat and Anna took charge of locking them and holding the keys.

Navigating the Daily Routes
This is a guided tour, so it is simply a matter of following the Tour Guide. Even I can do it (most of the time!).

The Tour Guide: Anna
Anna took her tour guide duties seriously, having prepared properly and always trying to find a suitable answer to any questions that people asked. She did her utmost to meet the various requirements of her group as fully as she could, even though, sometimes, they could be conflicting (eg those who don’t want to spend long at a particular place and those who would like some time to explore), and finding a cycling pace that was acceptable to all.

For periods of free time, Anna always had suggestions of things to do for anyone wishing to continue exploring, and, generally, she seemed to be speaking from practical experience, rather than simply relaying something she had read.

Each evening, after our ride, I handed Anna a Post-It note containing our ride statistics (as detailed also below) obtained from my GPS device. I was surprised on our last evening, to find Anna had, on the quiet, been aggregating these figures, which she then presented to the group, showing what we had accomplished during the week.

Cycle Clothing
We were lucky with the weather during our week, with the only rain occuring in the closing minutes of our final ride, just as we were reaching the boat at Bamberg. It higghlighted that dry weather cannot be taken for granted in Europe even in the height of summer, so make sure you pack rainwear and plan to carry it (in a pannier bag) on every ride.

For the remainder of the time, the weather was excellent for cycling, requiring light, comfortable summer clothing and footwear and the usual precautions against sunburn. Although most days are likely to be of this character, there’s always the possibility of a colder day, so it’s sensible to pack one or two items of warmer clothing, or arm- and leg-warmers that can be combined with other clothing, but, with luck, these will not be needed.


Day 1 (Saturday): Regensburg
The booklet received before the tour requested guests aim to arrive between 14:00 and 16:00 (2 pm to 4 pm). I arrived before most other people and was welcomed aboard by Anna, Sander and Els, given assistance with my luggage to my cabin, and offered refreshments in the lounge when I was ready.

Once everyone had arrived and found their cabins, we all assembled in the lounge for introductions from the crew, and information about the boat, its safety features, and an outline of the daily routine. Because we were a small group, just 7 tourists, we took turns to say something about ourselves — our name and where we were from — which is not always done on every tour.

Before the evening meal, Anna conducted a guided walk of Regensburg, taking us along the waterfront up to and onto Steinerne Brücke and then exploring the town around this area. Some sort of classic car festival was in progress and in the Domplatz outside St Peter’s Cathedral, a number of these cars were parked, attracting a fair-sized crowd. Classic cars were also being driven in the nearby streets. The event continued the next day, for we encountered more of these cars in nearby towns, such as Bad Abbach.

After a visit to the cathedral and then to the nearby Catholic basilica, Kollegiatstift unserer Lieben Frau zur alten Kapelle, Anna handed out street plans to enable an hour or so of independent exploration. I found my way to Schloss Thurn und Taxis, but did not have enough time to make a visit to the museum worthwhile.

Evening Meal
Vegetable Soup
Pork cutlet with green beans, pasta and salad
Mousse

Day 2 (Sunday): Regensburg to Riedenburg
The route started off going upstream along the right bank of the Donau (Danube), but immediately crossed a bridge onto the islands, crossing back part way at the Steinerne Brücke and then back onto the right bank at the very end of the island. The route continued along this bank all the way to Bad Abbach, where we locked our bikes and found a café for refreshments. The main street was lined with people awaiting classic cars from the rally we had seen in Regensburg the previous day.

Leaving Bad Abbach, we retraced our path back to a bridge across to the left bank of the Donau, which we followed until the outskirts of Kelheim, where the Altmühl river, part of the Main-Danube Canal in this section, converges with the Donau. We continued into Kelheim where we stopped for lunch and some sight-seeing in the town.

One of the landmarks in this area is the Hall of Liberation (Befreiungshalle), which we could see on a higher ground just outside Kelheim. King Ludwig 1 ordered its construction to commemmorate a German victory over Napoleon in 1813. Our tour did not include a visit to this monument (some of the Altmuehltal tours would enable it to be visited).

After lunch, Anna took us on a short diversion to show us the first lock on the original Danube-Mainz Canal, also known as the Ludwigskanal ([King] Ludwig Canal, after King Ludwig 1 of Bavaria), now superseded as a working canal by the Main-Danube Canal (the river names round the other way) which was completed in 1992.

Continuing along the river, we reached the bridge Holzbrücke Tatzlwurm at Essing (the Rad & Reisen web site has a picture of La Belle Fleur passing by), where we stopped for photos. Until 2006, this was the longest wooden bridge in Europe. Here, we were caught-up by an idiosyncratic character we had seen earlier on the river, peddling a home-built vessel incorporating a pair of bicycle wheels with paddles attached, a kind of human-powered paddle-steamer.

Further on again, Burg Prunn came into sight on the hillside above us and, then, a bend in the track gave us our first view of Riedenburg, with a colourful row of houses lining the riverbank opposite and the top of Falkenhof Schloss Rosenburg protruding above the treeline on the hilltop.

In the evening, several of us took walks into the town and the more energetic climbed to one or other of the two castle ruins above the town (Burgruine Tachenstein and Burgruine Rabenstein), from where there are excellent views looking down onto the town and along the valley. Coming back down, even in the summer, you notice the night beginning to draw in.

GPS Metrics
Distance54.8 km
Active Time04:08
Elapsed Time08:04
Average Active Speed13.3 kmh-1
Max Speed35.9 kmh-1
Total Ascent116 m
Total Descent95 m
Max Altitude366 m
Min Altitude329 m
Calories1030
Evening Meal
Puffer (potato dumpling base with salmon sauce)
Schnitzel
Apfel Strüdel

Day 3 (Monday): Riedenburg to Beilngries
Just upstream of Riedenburg, the Altmühl curves in a large loop, although, from our bikes cycling along the bank, this may not be obvious. Towards the end of this loop, close to the village of Oberhofen, and right on the river bank next to the cycle path, we came across a reconstruction of an iron age farming encampment, consisting of wooden buildings, one of the sites of the Altmühltal Archaelogy Park

Continuing our ride, we soon come across Schloss Eggersberg perched high above the valley, ruins on a rocky promontory, then along a quiet, picturesque limb of the Altmühl, another rocky outcrop and on to a disused lock, part of the old King Ludwig Canal. Here, there’s a very pretty Lock-Keeper’s cottage, creepers sprawling across its eaves and gable end, colourful potted plants and some wild flowers all along its front. A nice place to stop, take in the scene and watch a couple of goats nearby.

Leaving the river, we passed through Mühlbach and then on to our main stopping point of the day, the town of Dietfurt, with its surprising connection to Chinese culture. I’ve read a few articles on the web condemning the various China-related celebrations the town undertakes, accusing the townspeople of what is these days called cultural appropriation and of racism. Personally, I thought these articles came across as “angry”, not recognising the spirit of good-will. Anyway, irrespective of the China connection, the town is worth visiting.

Just outside Dietfurt, the Altmühl river and the Main-Danube Canal take separate paths, the canal going more northerly. We stayed close to the river until the outskirts of Beilngries, where we turned north, crossing the Altmühl for the last time and heading back to the canal, where we found our boat waiting for us.

It was early afternoon, and Anna had an extra ride for anyone who wanted more cycling. It was a choice between exploring Beilngries or cycling somewhere else and it wasn’t clear to me the somewhere else would be a more interesting place, so I decided Beilngries would be getting my attention. (I think Rosemary might have wanted to do more cycling, but she didn’t want to cycle alone, so everyone ended up staying in Beilngries.) I had no difficulty filling my time; I explored the town centre, which inevitably meant finding the Tourist Information Office, where I was given a leaflet describing a walk round the town walls.

In the evening, Anna suggested that anyone wanting an extra excursion could walk up to Schloss Hirschberg (though it would be closed) on the top of the hill. It was quite a long trek, first along the canal, then climbing up along paths through the woods. Eventually you emerge onto open grassland at the top, with the Schloss just a bit further along. There are great views overlooking the town. I probably stayed too long, for it was getting dark as I made my descent. At one point, I noticed a figure lurking at the bottom of one section of the path and began to feel worried they might be intending me harm. As I drew close, I was relieved to hear Anna’s voice: she had never been to the top, and wanted to know how much longer it would take her to get there.

Back at the boat, Anna and I sat in the lounge reviewing photos taken during the course of the day. Anna turned in and a while later I decided it was time for me to do so as well. But I found an emergency door, normally latched open, had closed, blocking off access along the corridor to my cabin. I could not open it. I went up onto the top deck and tried the other door to try to access the corridor from its other end, but this door is exit-only for passengers, so I could not get in. I decided my only options were to spend the night in the lounge, or to press one of the emergency buttons we had been told about in the safety briefing, to summon help. I pressed the button in the corridor and went back onto the top deck to wait. I heard an alarm was sounding in the bridge. A minute later Sander emerged and I showed him what had happened. “I’ll have to reset this in the bridge,” he told me and within a few minutes the emergncy doors (there were actually two of them) were open again and I was tucked away for the night in my cabin.

GPS Metrics
Distance29.4 km
Active Time02:07
Elapsed Time04:13
Average Active Speed13.8 kmh-1
Max Speed38.2 kmh-1
Total Ascent106 m
Total Descent95 m
Max Altitude420 m
Min Altitude353 m
Calories586
Evening Meal
Summer Salad: Prosciutto Ham, Brie, Melon
White fish in foil, broccoli, pasta, Salad (tomato, cucumber)
Ice Cream and stawberries

Day 4 (Tuesday): Beilngries to Hilpoltstein
Cycling along the Main-Danube Canal, we skirted the village of Biberbach and very soon reached our first stop, the Benedictine Monastery in Plankstetten, where we had some time to explore. Our group had started using the term “bling” to describe some of the intricately-decorated churches we had seen; this had plenty of artwork, but was more conservative than some.

Another short ride brought us to the lock station at Berching. A map showed that the Main-Danube Canal provides a commercial shipping route all the way from the North Sea (and thus, the Atlantic Ocean) to the Black Sea. Another diagram illustrated the working of the system, showing the clever way in which, when emptying the lock, water is saved in reservoirs alongside, enabling it to be re-used to fill the lock again. While we were there, we had a practical demonstration of its workings when our own boat, La Belle Fleur, came up through the lock.

The town of Berching, where we took our mid-morning break, was only a few minutes away, and well-deserved our time. Close to the town hall, but just outside the town walls, I found a building which is the Heimat Museum Christoph Willibald Gluck, who was born in the smaller village of Erasbach, a little north west of here. Here, too, the paths of the old and new canals diverge substantially, the new canal, which we were following, turning west, the old continuing north.

Leaving Berching, we crossed to the other side of the canal, from where we had a good view of the town walls. We continued along the canal for a good distance, crossing again, and then turned north away from the canal and towards Freystadt, our lunch-time stop. We had time to explore the main street (Marktplatz), a notable feature of which was the two towers at either end (entry-gates to the town) on which storks had been encouraged to nest, attracting a lot of interest.

After lunch, Anna led us through one of these gates for a short visit to the Maria-Hilf-Wallfahrtskirche (bling-bling rating from our group) a few hundred metres outside Freystadt. Then, we returned back through the town, exiting by the opposite gate and returning to the canal, taking a bridge over this into the village of Forchheim (we were to visit a town with the same name a couple of days later, on our last cycling day) and then took a cross-country route through fields packed with wild flowers, returning to the canal as we skirted north of Hilpoltstein, finding our boat in a quiet mooring some distance out of town.

Although Hilpoltstein is one of the larger towns on our route, we were some distance away, so Anna’s suggestion for the evening was simply to walk in the locality, which was a pleasant spot. It would have been possible to request use of the bike after dinner and cycle into town and I regret I did not do this.

Hilpoltstein is pretty much at the highest altitude of the tour, so from this point onwards, despite some local climbs, the general drift of our cycling would be downwards, as borne out by the GPS statistics for each of the remaining days showing total descent exceeds total ascent.

GPS Metrics
Distance49.7 km
Active Time03:44
Elapsed Time08:06
Average Active Speed13.3 kmh-1
Max Speed43.6 kmh-1
Total Ascent216 m
Total Descent204 m
Max Altitude460 m
Min Altitude371 m
Calories968
Evening Meal
Maultaschen (a kind of big ravioli)
Veal Steak, cooked tomato on the vine, potaato wedges, salad (tomato, cucumber, chopped peppers
Rice Pudding with cherry sauce

Day 5 (Wednesday): Hilpoltstein to Nürnberg, then sailing to Erlangen
A few hundred metres of cycling from our mooring point brought us to a major bridge over the canal and into the environs of Lake Roth (Rothsee). (We would not encounter the Main-Danube Canal again until we reached Nürnberg, at the end of the day’s ride.) We followed a path on the eastern side of the lake, reaching a bridge across to the west, continuing on this side into the town of Allersberg, our first stop.

Allersberg is a small town, so some of our group wanted to press on immediately, but, fortunately, they were pursuaded to stop for a coffee. Those of us who used our time to explore the couple of main streets immediately apparent to us, found more than enough to keep us occupied.

From Allersberg, we soon entered woodland, cycling on a good track, forest encroaching on both sides. Along the route, we spotted the distinctive modern waymarks of the old pilgrimmage trail, Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain). We passed a few hamlets (Haarlach and Furth) and eventually reached our lunch stop at Wendelstein, a substantial town.

In Wendelstein, I found a bench on which to eat my packed lunch, then popped into a nearby hotel/restaurant for a hot drink, leaving my remaining time before we re-grouped for looking round town.

Setting off again, we crossed Wendelstein’s river, the Schwarzach and within a few minutes reached another waterway, our old friend, the King Ludwig Canal, which we had not seen for days. We followed this canal all the way to the Königshof district/suburb of Nürnberg. In effect, nature is being allowed to reclaim this canal, giving, in my opinion, the most beautiful cycling of the entire tour, a haven of tranquility and an absolute delight, a balm to the senses. At Königshof we crossed a road and took a short path onto the Main-Danube Canal at the city’s harbour, where several large luxury cruise boats were moored.

We cycled past these boats (I couldn’t help noticing one called Jane Austen, but bearing a Swiss flag, which I thought a bit incongruous) and locked our bikes securely: we would be taking public transport — bus to Frankenstraße, U-Bahn to Lorenzkirche — into the centre of Nürnberg, where we we would be exploring on foot. Emerging from the underground at the Lorenzkirche (St Lorenz Church) stop, Anna made sure we all had maps with suggested attractions to visit and that we knew when we needed to be back at this point for the return journey to Nürnberg Harbour.

Time was short, so it was necessary to be purposeful about this visit. We were at St Lorenz Church, so this was an obvious place to start. Then, I crossed the Pegnitz river and arrived at the main market square, Frauenkirche a landmark here, with Schöner Brunnen at an opposite corner. Unfortunately, a lot of cranes in this area (my general experience is that Germany is constantly maintaining, conserving, building, improving, so cranes and workings are ever-present). Onwards and noticeably upwards to the castle, Kaiserburg Nürnberg and more cranes, then along to Tiergärtnertor and Albrecht-Dürer-Haus, down Albrecht-Dürer-Straße and into Weißgerbergasse, which, Anna had told us was the only street in Nürnberg of original buildings, not reconstructions following WW2 bombing. On the way back to Lorenzkirche, there was just time to visit Henkersteg, the wooden “Hangman’s Bridge”, connecting the island in the Pegnitz to the main city.

Back at Nürnberg Harbour, we could see La Belle Fleur had arrived. As we cycled past the Swiss-registered Jane Austen a number of officers were relaxing alongside and I couldn’t resist stopping and asking them “What’s your favourite Jane Austen novel?”, to which the senior man replied, “I don’t know anything about her.” Well! (I later discovered the ship may be Swiss-registered, but is owned by a British company, so the strange name is explained.)

Our bikes on board, we now had an evening cruise along the canal to our overnight mooring at Erlangen. And, the answer to The Great Mystery which had occurred to me earlier: if our crew, Sander and Els, are busy sailing the ship, how are they also going to be able to serve up our evening meal? (A top question, I think all will agree!) A Chinese Buffet, in heated trays, all laid out for us in the lounge. A cruise along the canal, a lovely, balmy evening, Chinese food just asking to be eaten up on the sun deck, convivial conversation with your travelling companions; what more could you ask for? Bliss!

GPS Metrics
Distance23.6 km
Active Time02:39
Elapsed Time08:23
Average Active Speed13.3 kmh-1
Max Speed27.7 kmh-1
Total Ascent140 m
Total Descent202 m
Max Altitude403 m
Min Altitude313 m
Calories630
Evening Meal
Chinese buffet
Chocolate mousse

Day 6 (Thursday): Erlangen to Bamberg
As well as the Main-Danube Canal, the other waterway we would encounter on today’s ride is the River Regnitz, which is the name given to the confluence of two other rivers, the Pegnitz, the river which flows through Nürnberg and another river, the Rednitz. The River Schwarzach, which we had encountered at Wendelstein, on our approach to Nürnberg, is itself a tributary of the Rednitz.

Our first stop of the day was the town of Erlangen, reached by crossing both the Main-Danube Canal and Regnitz. We arrived at the Marktplatz, where stalls had been set up with a lot of colourful flowers and plants and grocery produce on display. Nearby, there’s a park (the Schlossgarten Erlangen), but the gate I tried was closed (there may be other entrances). My overall perception, though, was that Erlangen is not as visually appealing as other German towns.

Leaving Erlangen, we headed north on a path between the canal and the Regnitz, eventually skirting round Möhrenhof. After crossing the Regnitz, Anna stopped and told the group she was aware of a water wheel (Wasserschöpfräder) close to here, but she’d never been to it. We told her we’d like to try to find it. It turned out to be no more than a hundred metres off our track, and there were three of them, still partly working. Wooden troughs from the wheels showed their original purpose was to supply water for irrigation, the troughs directing the water into the fields.

Continuing in a northerly direction, we crossed the Regnitz again and then cycled alongside the canal. At some point along here, the canal and the Regnitz merge, although skillful engineering to control water levels allows them to separate again further on. Still cycling on this merged waterway, we reached Forchheim, which was to be our lunchtime stop.

I liked Forchheim: it had a plentiful supply of half-timbered buildings, including those on the town square, a good-sized church (St Martin) just behind, and a bustling main street with a water feature along its entire length.

Setting off again, our afternoon’s cycling kept more-or-less on the canal. The Regnitz becomes too meandering to be useful for commercial traffic, so in this stretch it winds its own course nearby. By mid-afternoon, people started clamouring for a break, so Anna took us into the town of Hirschaid, which she said was not a pretty town (clever expectation management, Anna!). Even so, a short distance from the canal, we found Brauerei Gasthof Kraus, with a nice courtyard away from the street with plenty of seating and plenty of other satisfied customers, where our needs were more than adequately catered for. A dicey moment just as we were unlocking our bikes to leave: a huge tractor lumbered into the courtyard and started making turning movements right next to our bikes. The driver knew what he was doing, though, and seconds later, he was away again, leaving the bikes untouched.

The final stretch was now before us, essentially a straight run alongside the canal until, on the outskirts of Bamberg, we cross at a lock and discover the river has merged again. And then, all of a sudden, and, for me, unexpectedly, there is La Belle Fleur. Our cycling is over; time to empty our pannier bags and say goodbye to our bikes!

GPS MetricsDayWhole Tour
Distance53.1 km211 km
Active Time04:0817 hr
Elapsed Time08:0437 hr
Average Active Speed12.8 kmh-112.5 kmh-1
Max Speed26.1 kmh-143.6 kmh-1
Total Ascent109 m687 m
Total Descent155 m750 m
Max Altitude307 m468 m
Min Altitude254 m254 m
Calories9794193
Evening Meal
Barbecue Buffet
Profiteroles, chocolate eclairs, pastries

Day 7 (Friday): Bamberg
The cycling was over, but the final morning still offered a guided walking tour of Bamberg.

Our berth in Bamberg placed us on an island between two arms of the Regnitz (the right, eastern, arm also being the Main-Danube Canal) and midway between the bridges Löwenbrücke and Kettenbrücke. East, on the other side of the canal, is Bamberg’s main railway station, but our interest, the old town, took us in the other direction, across the island, where much of the city lies. A short walk along the canal path brought us to some steps up on to a city street and then the major street, Hauptwachhstraße. Already there were interesting things to see here; then we reached the left arm of the river and highlights of old Bamberg: the two old bridges and the buildings in their vicinity, including the old town hall.

Further on the other side of the river, we arrived at Bamberg Cathedral and another collection of imposing historical buildings. But, by way of contrast here, Anna took us into the rose garden of the Neue Residenz, in resplendent bloom at this time of year and a vantage point from which to take views across the city.

Our tour continued through some of the old streets and along the river front and, returning close to those two old bridges, we entered the historic smoked beer brewing house Schlenkerla (Schlenkerla, die historische Rauchbierbrauerei). Fittingly enough, this was the end of the tour and also the point at which I had to bid farewell to my fellow guests to return to the boat for my onward journey.


Photographs
As ever, selecting just two photographs to illustrate a week of cycle-touring is an impossible task, but I’ve given it a go.

I’ve chosen an image from the end of our first day of cycling, our initial glimpse of Riedenburg, the Schloss visible high on the left, castle ruins on the right.

The second image comes from the very end of the tour, during our walk through Bamberg. Anna called it a standard viewpoint of the old town hall. Rad & Reisen doesn’t illustrate the tour with an image of this, so I thought I’d supply mine.

  • Overall satisfaction 6
    Booking handling 6
    Travel documents 5
    Information at the beginning of the tour 5
    Accomodation 5
    Board 6
    Route description 5
    On-site assistance 6
    Route-character 5
    Bicycle + equipment 5
    Price-performance ratio 5
  • Comment of your RAD+REISEN-Eurocycle-Team

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