Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bikes on buses in Germany

Germany now has long distance buses crisscrossing the country. Until this year long distance bus services were forbidden and had been forbidden since the 1930s when the Nazi government wanted to protect the railway monopoly. The present government has reversed this decision and long distance bus services have sprung up all over Germany.
The MeinFernBus company offers accompanied bicycle transfer for up to five bikes a trip. The company offers trips between Heidelberg and Nuremberg, Berlin and Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich and Cologne/Düsseldorf  to Freiburg. Prices are much cheaper than trains, but the journey times are longer. You can book your bike online. Bike transport costs nine Euros a trip. We realise that you are coming to Germany to cycle not to sit on a bus, but Cologne for example is a major hub for low price airlines and if you want cycle in the Black Forest or around Lake Constance then the Cologne/Düsseldorf to Freiburg services could be very interesting. The website is at www.meinfernbus.de in English and German.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rickshaws in Cologne

If you are thinking of visiting Cologne which as a city has much to recommend it, then check out the activities of perpedalo (http://www.perpedalo.de/). The English on the website is a source of wonder. I suspect it's machine translated. The company offers cycle rickshaw tours of the old town, conference bikes, guided tours on foot and if you are feeling brave you can hire a rickshaw to pedal yourself. The centre of Cologne is best investigated on foot or a bike.
When we were in Cologne we stopped at the Köln-Deutz Youth Hostel, which is to be recommended. It is ten minutes walk from the cathedral and Hauptbahnhof (central railway station). However you will need to be a member of a YHA.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cargo bikes in Berlin

There is another aspect of cycling as well as the Berlin-Copenhagen Cycle Route that links the two cities: The popularity of cargo bikes. Cargo bikes are often to be seen on the streets of both cities. Denmark is home to a number of major cargo bike manufacturers: Bullit, Christiana, for example.
An almost parallel society of enthusiasts has blossomed in Berlin. The Berliner Lastenrad-Netzwerk (Berlin Cargo Bike Network) has a mobile workshop to help groups build cargo bikes or modify conventional bikes. Its website: www.werkstatt-lastenrad.de features films on the building of and plans for cargo bikes. All this information is in German. If you want more information use the contact details on the website and drop the folks an eMail in English.
The Lastenrad-Fans Berlin (http://preview.tinyurl.com/d4zepuf) meet once a month to cycle round the city to encourage the city fathers to build wider cycle paths and offer safe parking areas for these bikes.
Unlike Copenhagen there does not yet appear to be a manufacturer of cargo bikes, but in a city like Berlin that is very open to new ideas, it won't be that long before somebody starts to manufacture.
A Bullit cargo bike amongst the messengers' bikes at the City Museum in Copenhagen

Copenhagen by the harbour

A parking area in Copenhagen especially for cargo bikes

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another Dutch German bike route, The Berkel Route

The River Berkel starts west of Münster and flows 168km east through an area of quiet countryside to finally joins the River Ijssel in Zutphen. This area is not well known as a tourist area, but offers a number of treasures:

  • Billerbeck with the gothic Ludgerus Cathedral, the Romanesque Johanniskirche and the historic merchants' store houses.
  • Coesfeld set in a park landscape.
  • Gescher with its bell museum.
  • Stadtlohn famous for its potteries.
  • Vreden borders on the Zwillbrocker Venn nature reserve which offers a flamingo colony.
  • Borculo and Eibergen both offer water mills, chateaus, ancient churches and in addition the biggest labyrinth in the world the village of Ruurlo. 
  • Zutphen offers defensive gates and merchants' houses.
However having written this list from E to W I would suggest that wise cyclist follows it from W to E. The west wind in the Netherlands is a serious matter. In addition once you arrive in Billerbeck you can travel on to Münster which was recently voted the most cyclist friendly city with over 200 000 inhabitants in Germany.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Charge your e-bike batteries for free while you absorb some culture in Baden-Württemberg!

The growing importance of the e-bike in leisure cycle touring is reflected in the decision of the Staatlichen Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg (Provincial Castles and Gardens Organisation, Baden-Wuerttemberg) to provide free charging stations for e-bikes from spring 2013. Visitors can utilise sockets directly or can hand over their bike batteries during their visit to the historic building or garden. There are charging stations in Heidelberg Castle, in the Ducal Palaces in Mannheim and Ludwigsburg, in Bebenhausen monastery / castle, in Urach Palace, and in Wiblingen Convent. In addition there is a group of sites around Lake Constance, a popular cycling area: in Schloss Meersburg, im Fürstenhäusle Meersburg, in Convent und Schloss Salem und in the fortress ruin at Hohentwiel. Visiting cyclists do need however to buy a ticket before plugging in their bikes or handing over the battery for charging.
Weikersheim Castle Copyright Landesmedienzentrum Ba.-Wü

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Saarland Tourist App

A newish app for cyclists and walkers from from the Saarland Tourist Authority struck us as an excellent idea. The app shows a zoomable 1:25 000 map of every cycle and walking trail in the province with extensive descriptions, profiles, photographs, sites of interest and restaurants/cafés. In addition the happy or not so happy wanderer on finding damaged signs or not finding missing signs can take a photograph and send a message to the tourist authority describing route problems. If gps is turned on, the location is sent automatically. When we find a missing sign, we tend curse and promise to send an eMail when get home, but we often forget. Unfortunately the app is only available in German the moment, but profiles, maps and photographs don't demand much knowledge of the language. You could of course send an eMail to info@tz-s.de requesting a version in English. This type of app would be of use to folk like Sustrans as well. The app is available free of charge from the Apple iTunes store and the GooglePlay store. Check www.tourismus.saarland.de to find direct links and lots of information on the Saarland. The website is in German, English, Dutch and French, but only the German version offers a link to the app.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

More and better GPS devices

According to a report in the Südhessen Morgen, 2 April 2013 GPS devices for outdoor use are selling like hot cakes. It is no longer just  nerds who are buying the instruments but also normal cyclists who want to have a quick tour at short notice.  Thomas Froitzheim of the Allgemeiner Deutsche Fahrrad Club (ADFC), the German cycle touring club, pointed out that newer systems offer the comfort of the navigation systems for motorists combined with outdoor touring maps. One enters either a target or a time limit and the GPS device works out a route, often using an audio system to describe which way to go. Obviously there are still buy instruments available where the cyclist or walker needs to work out a route on his or her PC which is then transferred to the GPS device. This stage will be a critical point for us, as a number of these instruments and their map collections only recognise Microsoft Windows® systems, which is not much use for those sensible souls who use Apple Macintosh computers.
The more modern GPS devices help the errant cyclist who leaves the suggested route to return to the path of righteousness, whereas the older systems show the route and  the cyclist's position letting him or her find their way back. However, Thomas Froitzheim thinks that both the older simpler and the newer systems suffer from content quality. There is not yet enough information about the quality of cycle routes built into the system. We think it would be better if cyclists could specify the most scenically interesting route or the one with the best tea rooms, etc. This could be the app the cycling world is waiting for.

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