For the past two and a half weeks, I’ve been following the EuroVelo 6 bicycle route across Southern Germany. Beginning on the edge of The Black Forest, this route has led me along the picturesque Rhine and Danube rivers, where colourful towns, pretty cities and stunning lakes are abundant. I’ve been to the city of Ulm, home to the highest church tower in the world; to Donauworth, which is supposed to boast the most beautiful street in Southern Germany; I’ve cycled past the spectacular scenery of the Danube Gorge, and I’ve paddled in the perfectly blue Lake Konstanz.
France is known for being exceptionally well set up for cyclists. And while I do agree with this, I think Germany is even better. While the roads may not always be as smooth and pristine as those in France, its bike paths are more diverse and exciting. There was always something new to see; the EuroVelo 6 route often seemed to take me a little out of my way to show me rustic villages or beautiful farmland. I usually didn’t mind; the scenery was worth it, and it helped ensure I was able to find amenities easily.
Although, one afternoon, I was taken through a forest; initially, a welcome respite from the sun. This respite was short-lived, however, as I was brutally attacked by mosquitoes, rougher terrain and steep hills. Thanks for that, EuroVelo!
I hadn’t expected Germany to be particularly beautiful. I don’t know why, to be honest, but I’m very glad I was wrong. My first few days took me along the Rhine, right on the border of Switzerland. In fact, the route often dipped me into Switzerland itself, showing off colourful villages, meadows of poppies and the Rheinfall waterfall. Simply breathtaking. The banks of the Rhine are known for being very flat, which I was grateful for – it allowed me to eat up the kilometres with ease, following Germany and Switzerland’s well-maintained bike paths.
After those first few days, I arrived at Lake Konstanz. I spent an afternoon relaxing by its waters, enjoying the holiday vibe that emanated from ice creams stalls and tourists splashing in the water. I was really beginning to enjoy this cycle tour, and found that I was also very much beginning to enjoy my own company.
The initial ups and downs of feeling alone had long gone and had been replaced by a content solitude. Some days, I felt a liberating sense of freedom – everything I needed was packed onto my bike and I could just accept and enjoy wherever the road took me. I had no one to compromise with, no one to dictate rest stops or what we should have for dinner.
From Lake Konstanz, the route took me a little way north, away from the Rhine and towards the Danube. The ever-changing blues, greens and browns of the Danube became a much-appreciated companion, assuring me that I was always going in the right direction. It’s pretty difficult to get lost when you’re following a river, after all.
It was heart-warming to see such a huge variety of people biking along the Danube’s trails. Old ladies on e-bikes, families towing babies in trailers, and children as young as 4 are all out pedalling along the river. It was along the section from Sigmaringen to Ulm where I met a German man named Dirk and his 9-year-old daughter, Julia. I was super impressed to see the distances Julia was cycling – I think I would have stubbornly protested after just 10 kilometres at that age. As we were following the same route, we ended up staying at the same campsites for 4 nights in a row. It was nice to see some familiar faces at the end of the day.
Almost every day, I’d cycle through a fairy-tale like town, complete with cobbled streets, pastel-coloured buildings and quaint roadside cafes. Always rustic and elegant, I could never resist stopping for a mid-afternoon coffee in the square of a beautiful town. My mid-afternoon caffeine fix was always very much looked forward to, and I’ve enjoyed coffee in some wonderful locations along the route.
Ulm was my favourite city on the route. I was gobsmacked by how high the church tower of the Ulm Minster was, only to later find out its the tallest in the world. Seriously, it’s tall. If you go up to the top of the steeple, you’ll see fabulous views over the city. And, apparently, on a clear day, you can even glimpse The Alps.
As I left behind the Baden-Wurttemberg region of Germany and entered Bavaria, the scenery got even more spectacular. The Danube opened up, flowing alongside towering cliffs. I cycled through beautiful forests, was greeted with warm hospitality at every beer garden and every cafe, and was graced with gorgeous sunshine every day.
One night, I even came upon a designated free camping site for cycle tourists – initiated by the local council. Situated right by the river, and in a beautifully-kept field, I pitched my tent and enjoyed a free night.
Yep, I love Germany.
My only complaint at the moment is that I’ve contracted carpal tunnel syndrome in my left wrist. Apparently, this isn’t uncommon in long-distance cyclists; gripping too hard, keeping wrists in awkward positions for long periods of time, and vibrations from cycling over rough surfaces can cause it. I’m taking a few days off to recover in the city of Regensburg – a UNESCO heritage city perched on the banks of the Danube. It’s quite beautiful here, so I’m not complaining too much!
I’m only a couple of days of cycling from the German town of Passau – right on the border of Austria – which I’m very excited about. The route from Passau to Vienna is one of the most popular cycling routes in the world – most likely for a very good reason. It’s supposed to be dotted with medieval castles and palaces, rustic towns, and impossibly beautiful riverside scenery. And, once in Vienna, I’ll be almost halfway to Istanbul, which is mindblowing.
Annoyingly, a record-breaking heatwave is about to hit Europe. Temperatures are approaching the high-end of the thirties, which is likely to make cycling rather hard work. I’m hoping the next part of my route is shaded by trees…
Update: I completed this European cycle tour in August 2019. You can read my full London to Istanbul diary here.
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