Hello, my name is Gil Wagner. My sister, Trish, and I are bicycling along the Neckar River from Villingen to Mannheim and then following the Rhein to Amsterdam. We have toured considerably in North America crossing the United States West to East and Canada South to North through Alaska. This will be our first European tour. We are Americans ages 65 and 60 respectively. I am a retired Navy Pilot and School Teacher. Trish is a florist and owns her own flower shop. She was born in Kornwestheim, Germany in 1951 and has never had the opportunity to return to her birthplace. We ride recumbents and are looking forward to beautiful scenery and meeting wonderful people along the way.
We arrive at the Stuttgart airport at 0800 on 6 June 2013 and depart Amsterdam by plane on 9 July. We plan on taking the train to from Stuttgart to Villingen to begin our bicycle tour. We are using Bikeline Neckar and Rhein Rad-weg maps. Maps are written only in German, and we neither speak nor read German but are studying. Since we have never toured in Europe or used the train system any assistance or suggestions regarding any part of the tour or hosting possibilities will be appreciated.
An American couple has put together this really informative www regarding cycling in Germany. I really recommend it.
hope this helps
Gil, a year earlier, and I could have really helped you out -- I was living in Stuttgart. Now I can just sort of help you out. Some thoughts:
Between Villingen and Stuttgart you'll go through Horb and close to Haigerloch. Both are excellent places to linger, and a couple of my favorite villages. Tübingen and Rottweil are bigger and also nice stops.
The road that goes more or less along the Neckar is a B road, meaning not the Autobahn, but not a quaint bike road. However, there are many good sign-posted bike routes. Your maps should keep you on those routes, but there are signs just in case. If all else fails, you can ride on the bigger road (B14 south of Stuttgart) until a village, and pick up the bike route there. I have the Bikeline map book for the Danube, and it's generally a good set of maps.
Don't expect much English outside of Stuttgart until you get to Heidelberg. Some of the innkeepers speak a smattering, so you'll be able to get by. The accent in Baden-Württemberg is lovely, but it took me a while to understand it. Don't be discouraged if what you hear sounds NOTHING like what you've been studying. Just smile and plead "Langsam, bitte." The people in that region are some of the nicest you will ever meet. And the food is almost always excellent.
Shops are closed Sunday and holidays. There are a LOT of holidays. http://www.web-calendar.org/en/holidays/baden-wurttemberg/2013
For trains, I don't really have anything to add to Robert's link. Except that Baden-Württembergers are more likely and willing to bend the rules than, say, Prussians.
The Neckar between Heilbronn and Heidelberg is absolutely lovely. The section between Stuttgart and Heilbronn is ok, but I recommend budgeting your extra Baden-Württemberg time to Heilbronn-Heidelberg. The other leg that really deserves extra time is on the Rhein, from Bingen to Koblenz. That's where we took our visitors.
I haven't ridden on the Rhein north of Koblenz, but I have driven all over. For our ride, we rode on the Mosel between Koblenz and Trier (again, just spectacular), and meandered through Luxembourg and Belgium to Aachen and Maastricht, then took the train to Utrecht and rode to Amsterdam (actually, we did it in reverse, but no matter). Having since lived there, I don't regret our route choices at all. The route along the sea from Den Haag to Amsterdam is wonderful, though parts are crowded and not so wonderful in July.
If you have an unlocked cell phone with a sim-chip, and want no-contract service and data on your phone, I've used and been happy with both Simyo or Aldi-Talk. Simyo has english menus, and you have to order it online and have the chip sent to a German address. Aldi-Talk is all in German, and you can buy it in any Aldi store. Simyo is better for using out of Germany, or at least it was when we left. There was talk of EU regulations to lower international roaming charges, but I don't know where that went.
The CouchSurfing scene is pretty big in Germany as well, though more for social gatherings than for travelling, it seemed to me.
If you have a craving for Taco Bell, Your USN-ret ID should get you onto the bases around Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and Heidelberg. Send me a message if you'd like more info on those. My husband is also a Navy pilot (soon-to-be retired), and that's why we were there (though not to fly).
I'm happy to answer any other questions, before you leave or if something pops up on your trip. I wish I could have hosted you! You and Marc probably would have talked about flying all night.
tailwinds -- Kate
Kate, thanks for the great info. This is going to be some trip... I can see now.
I'll be in contact if any questions arise.
Do you know if they allow recumbents on the train from the airport to City Center Stuttgart?
At the time you'll be getting on the train, it's not a problem. If it were earlier in the morning, there's a restriction, but by the time you get all put together, no worries. Bikes aren't technically allowed 6:00-8:30 and 16:00-18:30 on the Stadtbahn (though I have seem them on board during rush hour). On the S-Bahn, bikes are allowed during those times, but you have to buy a Kinderticket for your bike. Other times, your bike is free. The airport-Zentrum train is an S-Bahn train.
You can ride from the airport, on some hills through the forest... maybe not the most fun to navigate while jet-lagged, but very pretty. I can't recall if there are signs from the airport.
Hug the west bank of the rhein, as the right side gets crazy in spots up towards cologne. I can't tell you how many times I have ridden the same crazy, lost circles in that area because of abysmal signage. ;)
There are bike paths on both sides of the rhein, most of the way.
Super easy trip, all in all. Quite pleasant, well signed, mostly. I find the rhein, north of duisburg, a bit dull (germany flattens out and you're up on dikes a lot), esp. compared to lower rhein and beauties like the neckar.
The parks you ride through along the river in koblenz, bonn, and köln, and düsseldorf are really nice (and all south of duisburg)..
Unless you're bent on amsterdam for some reason, I really think there are vastly nicer routes to take than the northern rhein.
The jagst, ahr, mosel, kyll, altmühle, main, main-donau kanal, donau, and dozens of other small wateways all have great bike paths along them, with a lot of different personalities.
Have fun. Email, if you need any help.
The Bikeline maps show the west bank as the primary route with some east bank alternate routing that we will ignore. Amsterdam is only the destination for sight seeing and airport departure. We are planning on staying on the Rhine to Arnhem and then hoping to get local information on routes through the more scenic areas to Amsterdam. I have been told English is spoken more in this area than throughout Germany and hope to obtain help with routing.
Glad I found this thread, we will be doing a similar trip but the other way around in September!
Fly into Amsterdam from Brisbane, Australia and plan on making our way to Basel. The Mosel looks so good we'll branch off there at Koblenz up as far as Trier. Then back track to continue down the Rhine. Or does anyone recommend continuing on from Trier across country to the Rhine? We'd then have to back track back Koblenz as I believe that is a great section and not to be missed! I too have the bikeline maps, but it is great to hear first hand from others who have been there and done that!
Maybe this sites are usefull:
www.fietsersbond.nl/fietsrouteplanner (for the Dutch part)