Monday, October 31, 2011

Avoiding a faux pas in a German pub

This definitely applies to Bavaria: When you walk into a country pub/restaurant you will notice that although there are tablecloths/ cutlery on most of the tables, one biggish table will be bare. This is the Stammtisch, where the regulars sit. There is no restriction on sitting there, but we advise you not to sit there, even if the landlord/lady lets you. It is not done. You only sit there if you are invited.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guided Cycle Touring

We, like Tim Burleigh of, do not lead multi-day tours in Germany or anywhere else. We offer advice about where to cycle, how to cycle etc. with our books ( and website, and Tim with his website. Judith and I have experienced both sides of guided touring. (Judith and I have organised a day tour for the local group of the ADFC over most of the last few years. If any of our readers wish to come on the next club tour we organise, drop us an eMail, but be warned we do live a long way south of London town.)

We worked as member of a tour leader team for an American organisation and as customers with a Geman tour company. The former was superbly well organised with back up van, directional signs painted on the road and well maintained hire bikes including spares. It was expensive, but value for money.  The customers had to pay for a driver and two guides. 

We paid serious sums of money to join a German tour group last year. It was advertised an easy trip for beginners. The less said about the trip the better, but we found that many of the members of the group including the leader saw the whole trip as a sporting exercise. We had been looking forward to a leisurely few days in the autumn, but found ourselves struggling having to race up hills.

If you are going to travel on a group tour enquire about its aims, so that you don't find yourself bored out of your mind because the group wants to cycle 30 or 40 Km a day or you're struggling to keep up the whole time. Be prepared to remind the leader about this. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cycling across Strasbourg

It strikes us that cyclists are often interested in cycling through a city, but not that bothered about seeing the sights or at least spending a lot of time doing it. This is quote from our new eBook: "Following the Rhine gently upstream, Rotterdam to Basel, a cycle tourist's guide" showing how to cross Strasbourg.
It starts in la Wantzenau just north of the city.

In la Wantzenau turn off left towards la Robertsau and Strasbourg through the village and then turn left into the woods. The route through the woods is delightful, allows easier access to Kehl and avoids finding one’s way through the maze of streets that is central Strasbourg. 
Once out of the Robertsau Woods follow the route through a posh suburb to reach the Quai Jacoutot and the Marne Rhine Canal. Cross the canal, turn left along a cycle path on the canal bank. It is easier to cross the road to the left hand side before the bridge and cycle on the footpath across the bridge. Follow the path along the edge of the canal by Rue du Général Conrad to Rue du Général Picquard
To reach Kehl turn right along Rue d’Ostende. It is signposted. Left along Boulevard d’Anvers to cross Anvers Bridge. Swing right at the end of the bridge to follow Route du Petit Rhin to Route du Rhin. Follow this to the left signposted Kehl/Allemagne to cross the Europa Bridge to reach Kehl.
To reach the Vélo Rhin route south towards Marckolsheim (and Basel), carry straight on along the Quai des Belges under the Anvers Bridge to reach the Quai des Alpes, Quai du Général Koenig, Quai Fustel de Coulanges and Quai Louis Pasteur. Turn left to cross the bridge and then right to reach the Vélo Rhin cycleway to Illkirch-Graffenstaden (signposted). 

Without wishing to be trivial, the two highlights that tourists visit in Strasbourg are the Minster and Petite France, an area of half-timbered houses and narrow canals. Following our route around the centre of Strasbourg it is possible to visit both tourist highlights: 
Strasbourg Minster At the second bridge carrying trams look right. You will see the Minster, turn right to follow Rue de la Première Armée Française towards the church. It is difficult to miss. There are a number of cycle shops on Rue de la Première Armée Française.
Petite France Return to the same route and follow the canal side cycle path along Quai Louis Pasteur toward Illkirch-Graffenstaden. Just before crossing the bridge turn left across the canal to join the towpath, then dive off left to cycle under the bridge and then follow the towpath right to reach the edge of Petite France.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Fest

Yet again apologies for the length of time that it has taken us to sort out the new book: "Following the Rhine gently upstream, Rotterdam to Basel, a cycle tourist's guide". It is finally finished and is on It is available in just about every form for every type of reader that Smashwords can think of.  Why it took us so long we don't know and we are still fighting to set up the Kindle version for sale on Amazon, but readers can buy a version for Kindle from Smashwords.
The next issue of atob Magazine will feature an article by us about travelling by rail with bicycles in Italy and we were asked to write something new about ourselves. One of the lines we used to describe the Rhine Valley was "where the Fest is a way of life…" The magazine's copy editor, Peter Henshaw was troubled by the term "Fest" and asked us to explain it. We are using the term to describe the ability of the Germans to organise an event with lots to eat and drink and much jollity to celebrate almost anything. This weekend, for example, there is an Oktoberfest on two evenings with a marquee, Bavarian beer and food in Mannheim; there are two nights when the multicultural Jungbusch area of Mannheim (read Soho) celebrates between 20:00 and 02:00 with live music on stages set in the street, classical concerts in the churches and food from all over Europe and the Near East; the local power from waste incinerator is having an open day on Saturday with, of course, eating and drinking, games for the kids and a visit by the Mannheim ice hockey team and there is a week long annual fair starting next weekend in nearby Speyer. Viernheim's annual Kerwe ( a fair to celebrate the founding of the church.) looms. The Town Hall car park is closed from next week. In addition we received an invitation in the post this morning to visit the 50th anniversary of the founding of our local electrical goods shop with fun and games for children, special offers, cooking demos and the odd item to eat or drink. We learned today that one of the local annual German-American Volksfests will continue even when the US Army leaves the area in 2012.
What this means for the touring cyclist: As you travel along the Rhine Valley on a Saturday or a Sunday you are likely to pass tables and benches where folks are sitting nibbling on a pig's leg and sipping beer, wine or lemonade, listening to  live music anything from Country and Western  through swing to an oompaah band. Get off your bike and join them. You will be made welcome.

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