Riding the Danube
A story by Bob
Since I was a child and first heard the "Beautiful Blue Danube" waltz, I've had an image of the Danube river as romantic and beautiful, but I'm ashamed to say that I had never seen the Danube before this trip, taken in July 2004. The occasion to cycle down the Danube came about in conjunction with a meeting that my biking partner, Len Kleinrock, and I were to attend in Berlin. We looked around various maps and guide books for some biking trip that we could take in the vacinity of Berlin. What we wanted was a 250-mile stretch with interesting tourist attractions, such as enchanting small towns, and yet bike-friendly roads. We considered the well known "Romantic Road", with such delightful towns as Rothenburg and Dinkelsbuhl. It looked tempting, but I had toured this road previously, and was more inclined to find something new. We increasingly focused on the rivers in Germany. The Rhine is storied and has its famous castles, but the roads looked formidable there, and we kept coming back to looking at the Danube. Of course, though it begins in Germany, its best stretches are after the Austrian border. Finally, that was our choice.
We began the planning for the trip early in the year. Our previous bike trips in Europe, described elsewhere in this web site, were "roll-your-own" trips, where we did all the logistics and planning ourselves -- choosing the route, getting hotel reservations, and arranging for bikes. As we had learned, this can be quite time-consuming and complicated, but it always gave us a feeling of accomplishment. However, the Danube trip looked to be difficult to arrange this way, because the accommodations along the path are quite limited in the busy summer months and the tour operators book up most of the available rooms. Finally, we decided to book a self-guided tour with one of the companies that specialize in the Danube tour. We booked through an agent, Adventures on Skis, in Boston. The trip was handled by Rad & Reisen Eurocycle.
We had some misgivings about both the choice of the Danube route and the use of a packaged tour. In the following paragraphs I'll give our initial worries and how they turned out in reality.