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Bicycle Camping in Germany ( South West) - Fact sheet

Grace Newhaven   bikefishATiinet.net.au

2016/Dec 24

[ For Czech, Slovakia, France, click here ]

Before you go :

·         A tent that blends into the landscape is very useful !

·         Make a Google map of your proposed journey ( it’s Shareable via www) to plan & calculate distances. Consider a Google plan as well ( also to Share)

·         Download an “off line” e/map and experiment with it. Get a good translation app.

·         Get Google codes if you want to use other computers besides your own.

·         Source a useful adapter, with USB port(s).

Roads & Traffic : German motor traffic is extremely courteous by Australian standards. Rural roads carry little traffic and are generally well surfaced. Separated, sealed bicycle paths are very common, mostly with an adequate surface. Within towns, cyclists usually share a path between the pedestrian lane and the roadway. On-road signage is good, though not on a numerical system ( ie unlike the French), but usually easy to follow. There are a lot more bicycles than you see in Australia, with all kinds of demographics on bikes, and especially school and university students. There are many independent, small but well stocked bike shops. Roads are generally free of bottles and other litter.

Maps: Paper road maps are of good quality, but I recommend “Pocket Earth” or similar off-line maps as well ( some are free). Some of these will show bicycle friendly roads and paths, and can calculate and display a specific bicycle route to your destinations. Tourist information offices are common, and provide some useful local maps.

Water: There is safe, drinkable tap water everywhere in Germany. You can also buy bottled water everywhere, if you are prepared to waste the plastic bottles. Generally, it can be a problem trying to find a tap outside ( ie accessible) : parks and private gardens don’t have them. Many small towns may appear deserted, but you can ask for water in a bar or café, and cemeteries are good too. It will be useful for overnight camping to have a wine cask bladder or similar bulk container. If you are lucky, you may see a working fountain, or locals will show you to a spring that they use themselves. However you go, be careful not to run out.   

Food : Food is various and usually delicious in Germany. Most towns have a small grocery store supermarket, eg REWE at the top, with Aldi, Netto or Penny somewhat cheaper. Supermarkets sell everything necessary [ except milk powder !] and are open long hours, but closed on Sundays, so be prepared. Bread shops may open on Sunday mornings. Petrol stations may be open for food – and even alcohol- on Sundays. Food is generally a little cheaper than in Australia (despite a higher GST) but of a slightly better quality and variety, with many “bio” [ organic] options. There is a wide variety of delicious breads, as well as a huge assortment of processed meats and sausages – some very artificial looking ! Alcohol is very cheap and easy to find; there are substantial beer bottle deposits, with a premium on plastic bottles.  Bottles are returned at the point-of-sale, via “reverse vending machines  tho generic glass bottles may be returned to convenience stores. Even cheap beer is very good, and you can try the cheap wine. The Aussie stubby holder neoprene jackets are unknown in Europe, you may want to take one, as you will sometimes see cold beer for sale in shops, tho rarely. Muesli is common, but if you want Milk powder in Germany, you will not find it, so buy in France. Fuel alcohol (“bio-ethanol”) may now restricted for security reasons, but was common and around 3 Euro /litre at hardware shops. Shop staff are usually friendly, and English is widely spoken,  but it will help to have a little German : “ Ich spreke keine Deutsch”   [ I don’t speak German] is useful. Market stalls and roadside vendors are also useful for small quantities of fruits and vegetables. The very cheapest restaurant meals would be ~ €9.00, with very cheap drinks prices ( compared to Australia).

Camping : German people, even cyclists, will often tell you that “free camping” is difficult or impossible, but in my experience there was plenty of accessible, green, public space in forests, reserves etc. With a small, discrete tent, you should have no problems. There are commercial “Camping  Platz (Grounds) ” in many towns ( but not all), charging from E6.00 to €12.00 or more for a single camper. These are marked on maps, but it may be hard to find one for every night without a lot of planning. Some have WiFi, of variable quality, for an extra charge, sometimes expensive. These campsites cater for motor travelers on long stays, rather than overnight cyclists, and are sometimes about as attractive as used car yards. But you can get a shower and wash your clothes, and perhaps charge your device. Youth Hostels are expensive !     

Trains : Express trains are not bicycle-friendly. However, local or “regional” trains are generally much easier with a bike, as well as cheaper. Ask for any “special” prices, particularly at week ends and “off peak”. While most carriages are readily accessible with a heavily loaded bike, some are not - a few carriages have high steps and narrow doorways- and you may need to ask a fellow passenger for help, especially if you have to make a tight connection, which can be common. Bikes may also travel on some tram systems. Be careful however not to buy a ticket that crosses an international border, unless you want to spend too much! In Germany, there is a flat rate of €5.00 per bike (folding bikes are free, and you will see a lot of commuting Bromptons !). Ticket inspectors are frequent & vigilant, with strict on-the-spot fines for fare evasion; but also helpful and usually speak some English. Booking offices at major stations are also generally helpful and efficient

Internet & WiFi : WiFi is useful, if and when it’s available, ( eg at MacDonald’s), but having connectivity in “real time”, especially from your “wild” campsite, is so useful it’s practically indispensable. I recommend having a local pre-paid SIM card. My “International Travel SIM” from Australia was expensive and almost useless. To access your Google or Hotmail accounts, you need to make arrangements before you leave home to carry printed “security codes” with you. Be aware too that German keyboards may be difficult for people not accustomed to their layout. FaceBook Messenger is quite useful, too. Internet cafes are no longer common, so your own device is almost indispensable.

Misc : the German Post office is relatively cheap for parcels to Australia ( eg if you need to send any equipment home).

Websites :

For a log of the trip that produced this Fact Sheet, and links to pictures, click here

For a similar Fact Sheet to this, see “ France North” http://members.iinet.net.au/~bikefish/France.htm

 

Eurovelo Routes ( Germany) : www.eurovelo.com/en/cycling-in/germany

Distance calculator : www.freemaptools.com/how-far-is-it-between.htm /

An encyclopedic, private site with a lot of useful advice for Germany : www.cycletourer.co.uk/

Glossary

English

French

German

Beer

Biere “Be-aire

Bier 

Bicycle

Velo

Farhad

Bread

Pain [ “paa”]

Brod

Cheese

Fromage

kase

Fruit

Fruit [ “fru-ee”]

Obst

Map

Carte

Karte

Meat

Viandevee-ond

Fleisch

Milk

Lait “ lay”

Milch

Vegetable

Legume

Gemuse

Water

Eau [ “oh”]

Vasser

Wine

Vin [ “veh”]

Wine