24 Jul

Cycle Tour Europe: Rad & Reisen Cruise Review

Disclosure: We were guests on the Theodor Körner however this in no way impacted the fabulous time that we had. I just thought you should know. :)

Our cycle tour Europe itinerary got a bit convoluted part way through. Itinerary is, in fact,  a bit of a strong word for what we actually had. What we had was a basic circle route penciled out on a map that included most of the places that we wanted to see. Our real plan, though was to cycle as much (or as little) as we wanted to, enjoy Europe to its fullest (read: eat and drink everything possible!), and take advantage of every opportunity that came our way. Mission: Accomplished.

Our real plan took us through the beauty of Northern France,  through historic Luxembourg, along the south end of the Rhine River in Germany to Freiburg to visit old friends. It saw us up and over the Swiss Alps (by train – we didn’t cycle over the Alps!) to feast on pizza and red wine on the banks of Lake Como before taking an epic 8 train (with seven train switches!) journey to Brussels in Belgium. After drinking as much beer as possible in Belgium, and falling head-over-heals for Amsterdam, we rode along the absolutely-unexpectedly-stunning coast of the Netherlands before entering Germany (again) to cycle the truly-appropriately-named ‘Romantic’ section of the Rhine. Another slightly-less-epic train journey took us to Passau in eastern Germany so we could finish our cycling adventures in style as we boarded the Theodor Körner and biked and cruised along the great Danube river. See, convoluted but a truly successful plan!

Theodor Körner - Rad&Reisen

So, I wanted to tell you about the Rad & Reisen Cruise because I think it’s an absolutely perfect way for folk (like you) to enjoy cycle touring the best parts of Europe without having to enact a plan like above and cycle the 2500+ KM that we did.

Everyone can cycle tour Europe. Everyone. In fact, I’ve already recommended this exact cruise to my sister-in-law and my friend here in London because I think they would love, love, love it.

Here’s a link to the Passau-Vienna-Passau cruise that we took. I won’t detail the route as you can look on the site for that information (and see all the other options they offer all over Europe) but I will tell you what I liked, and what I didn’t like, about the cruise (because that’s what really matters!)

Generally the cruise works like this. The ship acts as a floating and moving hotel. You check into your cabin at the beginning of the week, leave all your non-cycling stuff there, and go cycling along the river each day.  At some point during the day the ship passes you and magically appears at the end of your cycle just when you need it for a hot shower, a cold beer, and a great meal. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Cycle touring perfection. Easy, peasy.

Ship Facilities

Theodor Körner - Rad&Reisen

Built in 1965, the Theodor Körner is one of the oldest passenger ships fording the waters of the Danube. Lucky for us though it was completely renovated just this past winter so the facilities on board were brand new and very comfortable.

Our twin, side-by-side, berth cabin was more than I expected from a river boat. The beds were comfy, the window opened, the closet easily held all our stuff, and the full bathroom had a real toilet and a powerful, and hot, shower. During the day one of the berths was tidied away to create more space and was magically made up for us each night while we enjoyed dinner. No, it’s not a massive room but keep in mind that you’re on a ship – it was more than comfortable and, really, you’re only sleeping in there – there is plenty to do on, and off, the ship to keep you out of there!

The Panorama Bar at the front of the ship is where all the action happened. Coffee and cake in the afternoon, before dinner beers, route information meetings, and evening entertainment all occurred in this quite stylish lounge. I enjoyed spending time here except when the entertainer was playing. I really did not like the entertainment. Perhaps it was a demographic thing. Maybe I need to better appreciate old ‘classics’ from the 60’s and 70’s. It may just be that I have a thing against Casio keyboards and electronic accompaniment. It doesn’t matter; it was like nails on a chalkboard and I just couldn’t handle it. Luckily, there were other options.

The Back Deck was where you could usually find us. Comfy lounge chairs, great views, shade from the sun (or, more likely, the rain), and blessed silence. Perfect. Although there wasn’t a bar on the Back Deck we could bring our beers back or ask for service if we didn’t feel like making the hike to the bar.

There were two other lounge areas available; neither of which we really used. The Library is a comfortable, quiet, indoor lounge and the entire roof of the ship is a sun deck also – alternately too hot or too wet to use during our journey.

The ship was really comfortable, and casual. You won’t need to bring your best sparkly dress and high heels, just some comfy clothes and a smile.

I’ll make a quick note about bar prices. I have been on other cruises which, not only did not allow outside drinks on board, but then fleeced me when I ordered a drink. Not cool. This didn’t happen on the Theodor Körner. In fact, we felt no need to bring drinks on board because they served cold, perfectly poured, beer where ever we were for the same price as on shore. Very cool.


Seating is assigned on board; you receive a table number and sit with the same people all week. We were seated at a table for six amongst a few tables of English speakers – thoughtful, as we have had a few meals on our trip with non-English speakers and it can be a bit…quiet. Our group of Australians, New Zealanders, Russians, and Canadians had a great time getting to know each other over our meals. Space was a little tight but we managed although I wouldn’t want to be at a table with a bunch of burly guys.

Breakfast was buffet style with a good variety of bread, meat, cheese, yogurt, fruit, and cereal along with some hot options such as eggs, bacon, sausage and mushrooms. We filled up at breakfast in order to fuel the riding for the day. Those who stayed on board during the day were offered a prepared lunch; those of us riding made up some quick sandwiches which were wrapped up for us with a piece of fruit and a chocolate bar for a picnic lunch later on.

Dinners were good and varied. A menu was placed in our cabin each evening so we could choose our evening meal the next day; usually a choice of meat, fish, or vegetarian. Each meal had an appetizer, a main entree, and dessert. Some meals were better executed than others; I would say that the fish dish was the most consistently good throughout the week. Wine was available at a cost but you could buy a bottle, have a glass or two out of it, and they would save it for you for the next day. Nice. My favourite part was after dinner. Along with the usual coffee service they came around with a bottle of schnapps or digestif to finish off your meal. A different bottle was offered each night; I sampled them all and proclaim them all to be delicious!


Theodor Körner - Rad&Reisen

Of course we had our own bikes and gear for the cruise, as did a number of others on board, but it was possible to arrive with nothing more than your bike shorts and a smile. You could rent all the gear that you needed; 7-speed, 21-speed, and electric bikes were all available at a very reasonable price. The bikes all appeared in great condition – and were well sized for each participant. Each had a small repair kit, a handlebar bag (which all riders received even if you had your own bike) and a side pannier to store the stuff you’d need for the day. Helmets aren’t mandatory here but you could buy one for a a couple of euros if you wanted to be safe. Each rider was assigned a bike but there were many, many, many more on board so, if you didn’t like the one assigned, another could easily be found. Everyone I spoke to seemed to be quite pleased with the equipment they had rented.

The crew took excellent care of the bikes, whether rented or our own. They stored them away on deck for us each night and had them all lined up and ready to go well before we were ready in the morning. My only complaint here was that it had rained on the bikes one night and my seat was wet in the morning. Petty, I know, but it wouldn’t have taken much effort to have given them all a quick wipe to save our wet bums.

Route Information

Theodor Körner - Rad&Reisen

This is what made the experience for us. We’ve spent weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks cycling through Europe. Determining where to go, figuring out the best possible route, discovering interesting stops along the way, searching for places to stay, and always looking for regional cuisine and the best beer we could find. It’s takes a lot of time and effort and there is no doubt that we cycled right by some of the best that Europe has to offer simply because we had no idea it was right there!

On board, each cycling group had been issued a route book which not only included daily detailed maps but also turn-by-turn instructions to accompany the map. Every afternoon Andreas the cruise director held a meeting (once in English and then again in German) to review the next days cycle route. It wasn’t the detailed routing information that we were after though – we could easily get ourselves from Point A to Point B – no, the best part of the meeting were all the secret spots he pointed out along the way. Places that you wouldn’t know were there unless someone told you about them (or you could read the German signposts).

It was the charred mackerel (with ice cold beer) for ‘second breakfast’ one morning, knowing which castles were worth climbing up to (and which brewed their own beer!), refreshing glasses of Most (local apples cider) on hot afternoons, bicycle museums to explore, schnapps tastings on the cycle-only river ferries, platters of delicious food we enjoyed at the taverns he recommended along the way, whiskey and wine tastings, and the best coffee and ice cream must-stops.

Each days cycle had two possible routes – usually one on either side of the river – a recommended route and an alternate route. Andreas described each route (along with each ones hidden secrets) and explained why one would be recommended and one would be alternate so it was easy to choose which route we wanted to take. You can bet we always chose the one with the most tasty options along the way. :)

Biking Route

Theodor Körner - Rad&Reisen

The riding was easy. Really easy. Downhill-trending-smooth-flat-with-a-tailwind easy. Anyone could ride it easy. You could totally ride it easy. There were some alternate routes and spurs that we did that were not flat and smooth but you don’t have to do those bits. The regular route is mostly on bike only paved or packed gravel paths and only on lightly trafficked roads occasionally – and those roads expect cyclists on them. It is very safe. There were a few families riding with children as young as seven or so and they were fine. Any hills or roads with cars on them were clearly pointed out by Andreas during the route information meetings so there are no surprises. You could totally do this.

It’s beautiful. I’ll let you in on a secret; we preferred riding the Danube to riding the Romantic Rhine. I know! I’m surprised too but the Danube was so peaceful, and green, and quaint. The villages were cuter and friendlier, the people didn’t seem tired of tourists or expect them to be there, there was no railway right along side with trains barrelling along every 10 minutes, and most of the time the only river traffic were the kayakers slowly drifting downstream. It was nice, and calm, and relaxing.

We rode between 35 and 50 KM’s each riding day. There were 5 riding days total and one day off in Vienna (if you didn’t book the biking tour, that is). There was no set starting time each day – we didn’t all leave en masse or ride together, although we all generally left between 8 and 9 AM and tended to ride in the same groups leapfrogging each other along the route all day. We had all day to get to the end point and were free to stop wherever and whenever we wished. We were often the last on board, having taken our time eating and drinking along the way, and we always had plenty of time to get ready for dinner. There is no need to rush the cycling – there is lots of time.

We luckily had no breakdowns or accidents (well, one of our group did have trouble staying on his bike but fortunately suffered no real injuries other than the hit to his pride) but the cruise director is always available by phone should the need have arisen. This isn’t a guided tour but it is well supported.


There were a few excursions available throughout the trip. A bus or bike tour was offered in Vienna – we did the bike tour and really enjoyed it. An evening operetta was also offered in Vienna but opera sounds, to me, like cats screeching and makes my ears bleed so we went to a nearby wine house instead. I think we made the right choice. In the small village of Grein a young resident came and gave us a tour of the historic theatre in town – it was a fun glimpse at what used to make a small town click and a revealing look at how villages like this are struggling now as young people move away and tourism replaces industry in the economy.

Who Else Was On Board?

I wasn’t at all surprised by who our fellow passengers were. Mostly Germans, with a smattering of Belgians and our little international English speaking section. There were a couple of families with children on board but the average age was mid-60’s I would say. It’s an active cruise so people are fit and mobile of course. Although we never had any deep conversations, most people spoke some English and all were very friendly. They certainly were all interested in having a good time – we were often tucked away in bed well before they had danced their last dance in the Panorama Bar in the evening.


So, is it worth it? I can’t decide that for you. We usually travel on a tight budget and Budget Girl (that’s me!) is loathe to spend extra on things that we can do ourselves for a lesser cost (and really, it doesn’t matter how much less, Budget Girl is a hard-ass!). Having said that, I am SUPER HAPPY that we took the cruise. We really enjoyed it, thought the facilities and service were excellent, and got SO MUCH out of having someone do most of the planning work for us.

If you’re wanting to do some cycle touring yourself but aren’t sure if you want to do all the work involved then this is definitely a great option. Like I said, I have already recommended it to my friends and family as I think they would really enjoy it.

You can check out all the Rad & Reisen Tours on their website; they have a bunch, there’s bound to be one where you’re going!


01 Apr

Monday Moment: The Berlin Wall, Germany

The Berlin Wall Today

The recent protests in Berlin this past week reminded me of my short time there. I found Berlin, and Germany, to be fascinating as they try to keep moving forward while trying to honor, and learn from, the past.

Perhaps a small misstep last week as part of what remains of the Berlin wall was torn down to make way for a residential complex. I wonder if some design feature couldn’t have been made of this historic piece? On the other hand must we continue to be drawn back? Is there enough memorial and should we instead be looking forward?

What do you think?

17 Dec

Monday Moment: Frankfurt Rail Station

Frankfurt Rail Station

I love travelling hubs. Those points where travellers come together; the point being to fan out again reaching to the next destination.

Airports, bus depots, and train stations filled with coming and going. Big bags, small bags, suitcases and backpacks. Experienced and efficient, or first timer and unsure; all funnel through with a unified goal of catching that plane, train, bus, or ferry.

Watching people say their goodbyes is as heart wrenching as watching the hellos is heart warming. A constant ebb and flow of coming and going whose balance must be maintained.

17 Jun

Monday Moment: German Beer Radish

German Beer Radish

The best way to get to Andech’s Monastery is to park at the bottom of the hill it tops and walk the 6 kms through fields and meadows and up into the forest. As we did this I noticed most people carrying with them what appeared to be bags of salad. Our hosts, Hanno and Annette, had assured us that there was a fabulous beer garden at the top that also served meals…why would people be bringing their own salad? And what was in that bag than Hanno was swinging? Salad?

All was revealed at the top.

Once we had settle in with our pints of Doppelbock, and we were munching on pretzels (OMG…what I wouldn’t do for an authentic German pretzel!),Hanno pulled a German beer radish out of the bag that he had so carefully toted up the mountain. He proceeded to cut it in a very particular way – first in one direction and then precisely in another direction so that a ‘radish accordion’ was created. Carefully, he poured salt in the cuts and left it to rest.

I looked around and, everywhere I looked, tables were chatting and laughing and slicing up their radishes. Apparently it is a well known secret that salted radish, beer, and pretzels are heavenly together! (Heavenly…get it? We were at a monastery!)

In time, our radish began to ‘weep’ and was declared ready to eat. We pulled it apart and enjoyed every salty bite. My new favorite; beer, radish and pretzel.

16 Apr

Monday Moment: Hanover, Germany


Like much of Hanover the Aegidien Church was destroyed during World War II. Most of the city was rebuilt and it remains one of the more modern cities in the country. The church, however, was never rebuilt but stays in ruin as a memorial to the ravages as war.


08 Mar

I Want To ‘Go With Oh’ to Berlin!

Some of the fondest memories of our RTW trip are the five days we spent in an apartment in Berlin. I was already head-over-heels in love with Germany – its cleanliness and orderliness, its undeniable history and steadfast resolve to overcome it, its attention to detail, and its beer….oh, the beer!!

Staying in an apartment, in a regular neighbourhood made our time there even better. We walked to the grocery store, stopping in to The Little Pub along the way. Yes, it was really called that, and it really was little; with maybe a dozen stools, the same bartender every evening and a rotating cast of characters holding court. We did our laundry at the waschsalon, that had small cafe/bar in the front so we could have a beer while our clothes tumbled. We took the U-Bahn into the city to do our sightseeing during the day and returned at night to have dinner on the corner. It was perfect.

How would you go about finding and apartment in Berlin? Go With Oh has hundreds of apartments and hotels to choose from all over the city. Our apartment was in Prenzlauer Berg but there are plenty of great neighbourhoods to explore.

So what if I had the chance to go back? What would I see this time?

The CurryWurst Museum. A whole museum dedicated to the ketchupy, curry-y sausage sensation!

The Berliner Fernsehturm or TV Tower. The tallest tower in Germany offers some great views of the city – what a great overview to see how the city is growing and changing.

The Bauhaus Museum. A chance to learn more about this modern design icon in a building that is worth the visit alone.

It all from a bike. There are plenty of places to rent bikes in Berlin to take advantage of cruising through the nearby parks and maybe catch some weekend markets along the way.

Take a free Berlin Walking Tour. I love walking tours and this one, from Alternative Berlin Tours looks quirky and interesting, taking us just off the beaten path and showing the other side of life in this cosmopolitan city.

Berlin is one of those cities that I could see myself living in. Staying in an apartment while visiting lets me pretend I’m living there now.

**You could win 500 Euros of accommodation with Go With Oh to see Berlin yourself!! They’re also giving a way an iPad, a Panasonic Lumix Camera, and 500 Euro of Samsonite Luggage.**





06 Feb

Monday Moment: Berlin U-Bahn

I used to have a somewhat recurring dream as a teenager.

Hearing the drone of engines overhead I look up to see a pattern of bombers heading towards me. The first wave of bombs drop just as the leading line of planes block the sunlight overhead. A heartbeat later the  second wave drops. Then another and another until the sky is filled with planes and falling bombs.

I dodge the bombs and resulting explosions one after the other, my legs moving at half time in my paralyzed dream state. Willing them to move faster I jump from one side of the street to the other watching the destruction around me but, somehow, miraculously staying just ahead of it all.

It was the early Eighties. The height of the Cold War when we all feared the Soviets would push their ‘red button’ and rain nuclear war down on us. The imagery must have come from old war movies I had watched but the fear was very real every time I woke up.

We came upon this graffiti in the U-Bahn (Underground) in Berlin. I hadn’t thought of the dream for many years but was stopped dead in my tracks as my mind raced back to what was illustrated right in front of me.

21 Nov

Monday Moment: German Beer

Paulaner Beer in Germany

I loved Germany. Most of all I loved the beer in Germany. I took a picture of every new beer we tried…it’s an exhaustive gallery to be sure. This one is one of my favorites; Paulaner Weissbier. Light and refreshing with hints of citrus, spice and clove. Enjoyed in my favorite place in Germany…Frank and Heike’s backyard. Prost!

04 Jan

Prost! Here’s To Schnaps!

Without doubt one of my favourite traditions in Germany is the welcoming of guests with schnapps and, as we were guests with family during our time there, we were welcomed with open arms…and bottles.

Schnapps, as we know it in North America, doesn’t hold a candle to the real deal. Here it is syrupy and sweet – more like a liqueur and definitely not my style. But German schnapps is all smooth and flavorful; more like what a flavored vodka is today only more flavorful; packing a punch but convincing you it’s your friend all the same.

It is brought out immediately and often, with great fanfare and pride for it is often homemade and has a story behind it. This, really, is the best part; who made it and how…where the recipe came from…how the ingredients were procured.

Cousin Frank and his wife, Heike shared a Hagebutten (Rosehip) schnapps that their good friends had made, alongside commercial peach and raspberry options and one that I remember tasting somewhat like Jaggermeister. All were delicious and sampled more than once!

Cousin Hanno told a grand tale of travelling to Italy on his motorbike and returning with jugs of 200 proof alcohol on the back of his bike; smuggling the goods across the border to have the best ingredients possible available for his homemade schnapps. I love this story and imagine him on some vintage motorcycle wearing goggles and a leather jacket with his scarf flapping in the breeze as he meanders across country with jugs of alcohol strapped on like paniers…of course it wasn’t like this at all…but a few schnapps in and you’ll believe me!

Enjoying schnapps is a large part of my memories of visiting Germany in 1986 with my family. Again lucky enough to be visiting friends, we were welcomed into their Kleingartensparte (allotment garden) complete with the cutest garden house ever, and toasted the evening away with peach schnapps. Hearing the ‘pop’ of the cork and the rousing ‘Prost’ cheer is a warm memory for me.

We don’t seem to have the same affinity for this type of drinking here in North America. Bringing out a bottle of this sort of liquor brings to mind doing ‘shots’ as a young drinker and seems much more vulgar than the civilized notion of schnapps.

I think I’m going to start a one woman campaign to change this. So, if you find yourself invited to my home in the future, you can expect a warm welcome and an offer of shnapps – hopefully complete with the story of how I made it myself.


26 Sep

Into The Warm Embrace Of Family

With warm and welcoming hugs Jasons’ family welcomed us into Germany and showed us all their favorite places in this fabulous country. It was nice to stay in a family home, eat home cooked meals and have the planning done for us…we relaxed right into it and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Heiko, Fritzhof, Yana and Thees First stop was Hanover where J’s second cousin Heiko lives with his wife Jana and their two young boys, Fridtjof and Thees. Lonely Planet says that the only reason to visit Hanover is for the annual tech fair that occurs there, but I disagree whole-heartedly.

Heiko showed us around his city, visiting new and old areas, stopping in at various art shows and galleries along the way. Our own wandering showed a city with a good mix of old and new architecture (more new than old as the city was leveled  during the war), with lots of pedestrian walkways, lakes and parks to relax in. It’s not be a city that has big sights to see, but instead is a city that takes time to relax into and discover.

I enjoyed it and loved spending time with the family – the boys cracked me up and as the weekend progressed I realized more and more how much alike J and Heiko are…looks, mannerisms, interests…I had not thought that second cousins could be so much alike.

Hurry, Hurry Our next stop was Seesen where Frank and Heike were jumping up and down with excitement on the train platform as we arrived. We were quickly whisked back to their beautiful backyard (complete with Canadian flag in our honor) to immediately sample some of the local brew – what a welcome!

The following day they took us on a  hike to the Brocken, the highest mountain in the Hartz Mountains. It was a beautiful hike (complete with a beer stop at the ‘ranger station’) into an area of the mountains that has only been accessible since reunification. The tank tracks we walked Old Reich Tankway along were a constant reminder of the border patrols that used to occur in this area and from the top we could see for miles and miles – it was stunning. Beer and currywurst were the reward at the top before we hiked the 2.5 hours back down.

Frank and Heike also took us to visit the 1000 year old city of Goslar. Located not too far from Seesen, it was a nice drive through the country to get there. Goslar was extremely pretty and, being a UNESCO Heritage Site, is well preserved. They knew of all the best, and secret places and we had a wonderful time there.

Our time in Seesen came to an end all too quickly, but Berlin was waiting and we were looking forward to it, and our apartment, there.

Welcome Drink With Hanno And Annette Our last stop in Germany took us to the small town of Friedberg, where another warm welcome awaited us. Hanno and Annette welcomed us into their home and showed us around even as they prepare for their own big trip to Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. It was great to hear about all their past travels and the plans for this next one.

Hanno Prepares The Radish Our first full day there saw the weather clear just enough to warrant a visit to the Andechs Monastery. The walk to the monastery was nice…through fields and meadows with great views…and the monastery itself is a stunning example of a typical Bavarian Baroque church…but it’s the beer they brew here that was the real draw! Smooth, dark and strong – it is the perfect accompaniment to the traditional pretzels, radish and pork shank that we also enjoyed.

Annette Checks Out The View It was back to the mountains the next day for a visit to the German Alps and a fairy tale castle. The clouds were lying low that day but we headed up the cable car anyway hoping to break through on the way up. Within 100M of the top we could see the sun start to shine and then ‘pop’ we were above the clouds and within the peaks of the Alps. To say the view was stunning would be an understatement. With mountains as far as I could see and a puffy cloud layer below, the view was mesmerizing.

Neuschwanstein Castle We hiked down through the clouds and valleys, traversing across a bit to reach Neuschwanstein Castle – the very castle that Walt Disney is said to  have modeled Disneyland on. It truly is a like a fairy tale…rising  up out of the mountain with turrets and walls and a grand demeanor. In the distance lakes dotted green, green valleys and small villages with their red roofs added to the fairy tale setting. It would not have been surprising to see Cinderella or Snow White here. It sounds cheesy I know, but it was very ‘once upon a time…’. The inside was, as Annette says, ‘very kitsch’ but fabulous all the same…what else would I expect from a fairy tale castle?

We had dinner that evening high upon a mountain across the valley where we had fabulous views of both Austria and Germany. A fabulous end to a great day.

Oktoberfest Cheers And then there was Oktoberfest. Our last day in Germany spent in Munich watching lederhosen and dirndl dressed men, women and families enjoy the largest beer drinking party in the world. It was absolutely huge! At least nine ‘tents’, each holding up to 7,000 beer-swilling partiers and that doesn’t count the thousands out in the grounds wandering around. Amazing! We had a good time and thoroughly enjoyed our huge 1L beers (although I could have done without the hangover for the flight to Istanbul the next day!!).

We loved our time in Germany and, certainly, the warmth, generosity and hospitality of J’s family made it all the better. There is nothing like the warm embrace of family to make time go by all too quickly – we will have to return to spend more time and see more of this beautiful place. Thanks to all of you who took us in, served us your amazing food and beer, and showed us your favorite places – we loved it!!