Cycle Vacation in Germany: follow the Main, Rhine and Neckar Rivers
Flowing through a medieval corridor of castles, the Neckar River is a wine-soaked tributary that feeds the mighty Rhine, the grandfather of all European waterways. Like the Main River we start on! You will discover three rivers on this easy, well-marked bike route endorsed with 4**** by the German Cycling Association. From the ship’s deck and bike path you’ll see hilltop castles, sloping vineyards, medieval villages and legendary forests.
While this region boasts high-tech automakers (Porsche & Mercedes), no where has medieval charm and Renaissance architecture been so well-preserved. It’s a place where red-headed giants and robber barons, dwarf jesters and warrior brides named Brunhild still live in the mists of time. The ancient city of Worms is the heart of Germany’s national identity and the geographic setting in the epic saga The Song of the Nibelungs. No one has found the buried Rhine treasure yet, nor bathed in dragon’s blood for some time, but Germans would never say never. Great storytellers like Tolkien, Goethe and Wagner all tapped into this romantic Zeitgeist. Mark Twain left his own mark on his famous trek to Heidelberg in his travel memoir, A Tramp Abroad. He wrote, “Germany in summer is the perfection of the beautiful.” Once you see it, we think you’ll agree.Read more
Arrival at Aschaffenburg
At our lovely docking area at the Flosshafen the IRIS awaits its guests. Guides will show you the highlights of Aschaffenburg, of which the Johannisburg is certainly the most prominent one!
The massive four-winged palace, build from 1605 untill 1614 is one of the most important Renaissance buildings. After serious damage during WWII, the palace was restored, including rescued parts of its furnishings. Next to it the Pompejanum, an idealized replica of a Roman Villa, build in the 19th century. And yes, Aschaffenburg has lovely terraces as well to have your first cold local beer. Cheers!
Aschaffenburg to Frankfurt
Our first ride starts on the Main Radweg, a designated bike bath following the River down stream. Although the city of Frankfurt is quite a huge city, staying along the river takes us through the countryside to the heart of the city. We cycle through Kleinostheim and Dettingen. After crossing
the River Main on a small ferry, the tour continues to the romantic city of Seligenstadt with its windings alleys, wood framed houses, and
basilica. We bike further along the river to Hanau, the town where the famous Grimm Brothers were born. You will find the IRIS again in in Frankfurt-am-Main, where you have time to explore this metropole with its modern buildings, museums and lively shopping center.
Frankfurt to Mainz
Today we bike from Frankfurt to Mainz, still following the Main.
In the afternoon there will be time to explore this interesting city. Mainz was settled as a military base for Roman legions that guarded the Rhine’s west bank from the “Barbarians.” The fateful ambush at Teutoberg Forest in 9 AD instilled four centuries of fear in Rome, ensuring their legions would never conquer east of the Rhine. Now Mainz’s inner city is its pride and joy, filled with spacious plazas, lovingly restored half-timbered houses and magnificent Baroque style churches. The ‘Old Town’ has a very charming and warm atmosphere. We have entered the Rhine now! The major European waterway will show many ships passing by.
Mainz to Worms
Let’s leave the imperial Roman city of Mainz and head on to the city of the Dragon Slayer.
Today you will see a strong current of barge commerce as you pedal under modern bridges, through garden parks and sparkling cities on a smooth asphalt bike path. You will ride along an old branch of the Rhine and see how the river looked before Napoleon “tamed” it. Johann Gutenberg first mass-produced the Bible on his revolutionary press in Mainz. Given this is Germany’s largest wine-growing region, it would be a sin if you don’t get a proper baptism. We love ‘Meenz’ for their city slogan: “Save Water, Drink Riesling.” Topping our list is wine tavern Beichtstuhl (Confessional Chair). Order the local plate “hand cheese with music” and see what happens. Another inspiring watering-hole is the Heiliegeist (Holy Ghost), a medieval homeless sanctuary built in 1236. Weinstube Hottum is one of the most traditional taverns. In a class by itself, you might stumble upon the humble Weinhaus Bluhm for no frills and rarities by the glass.
Next stop — Worms, the most important city you never heard of. The place where popes and emperors met in gilded halls and Martin Luther defended his thesis without success. The Jewish community is Germany’s oldest. Even the geology is fascinating. Pre-historic shark teeth are still being unearthed along the Rhine Valley, and most recently, archeoligists discovered 9 million-year old primate bones. No visit to Worms is complete without drinking with the local nuns. This is the home of Liebfraumilch, the cheap swill that tarnished the German wine industry for decades. Think Blue Nun and Black Tower, then forget you ever drank them. Luckily, things have changed. The real “Milk of our Virgin Mother” vineyard only crushes 100% Riesling grapes and she is a dry and elegant Lady of the Cloth.
Worms to Heidelberg
Passing Mannheim it’s now time to enter the Neckar region! Our bikepath takes it to one of the most famous and oldest cities of Germany, it’s time for walking shoes in Heidelberg. The Gothic and Renaissance castle sitting on the Königsstuhl (King’s Seat) overlooks the oldest and most prestigious German university. Take the funicular up and explore the red sandstone behemoth and see the world’s largest wine barrel, timbered from 130 trees with a 58,500 gallon oak belly. Fortunately, Heidelberg escaped WWII with all of its original buildings intact. The castle however didn’t fare as well through the ages, repeatedly struck by lightening and partially plundered by pesky French neighbors. The world’s first bicycle was invented in 1817 by former Heidelberg student Baron von Drais — his prototype lives in the Kurpfälzisches Museum. Another fascinating sight lies hidden in the forest. The Thingstätte is a Nazi amphitheater commissioned by Joseph Goebbels for large propaganda events. To get to it, cross the Old Bridge across the river, up the Schlangenweg (snake path) to the Philosophen Weg (philosopher’s way). This is the best sunset look-out over Heidelberg.
Don’t worry if we run out of time today, there is a full day coming up to explore Heidelberg.
No sailing today, still we will offer a bike ride for those who can’t do without and a guided excursion to enjoy all Heidelberg has to offer.
Before leaving Heidelberg tomorrow, make sure to touch the monkey at the Old Bridge. Polishing his mirror bestows luck; rubbing his fingers ensures a return to Heidelberg. Sculpted by Herr Rumpf, this bronze version replaced one that taunted humans for 600 years.
Heidelberg to Eberbach
This morning you ride along the mythical Odenwald forest where the Grimm Brothers collected tales of bewitched princesses, angry goblins and farm lads who outsmarted the devil. Germans adore trees and two-thirds of the country is covered in forests. Have we mentioned cake and coffee yet? Well, it’s high time to partake in this beloved tradition. Stop by Café Grimm in the village of Hirschhorn (stag antlers) for strudels, fruit tarts, Bee Stings and Black Forest cake. If you’re not a sweet-tooth, the medieval alleyways and cobbled lanes lead straight up to the castle terrace for cold beers and Neckar Valley views. This place has been marinating in history longer than Sauerbraten, the region’s legendary comfort food. Today’s ride concludes in Eberbach, a quiet little village.
Eberbach to Heilbron
On our way to Heilbronn we visit romantic Bad Wimpfen known for its therapeutic salt waters. Language tip: BAD before a town means ‘bath’ town. Bad Wimpfen’s market has been lively for 1,000 years and one of Germany’s oldest. Mark Twain ambled through on a European trip to cure his writer’s block and drew sketches of the medieval Blauer Turm (Blue Tower). If you climb 134 steps to the tower keeper’s front door, maybe Frau Knodel might offer a beer and a tall tale. Getting there, the stretch is dotted with castles around every bend. At the end of the day Heilbronn awaits us. Today’s adventure concludes in Heilbronn with its unforgettable Glockenspiel at the Rathaus — a very rare trio of moon & celestial calendars and clock with head-butting rams, crowing cocks and trumpeting angels! Find a soft seat in a wine tavern on the town square. which brave soul will try the dangerous Katzenbeisser black Riesling, the red cousin of Pinot Noir? Or, take a leisurely stroll through the garden exhibits on display by the 2019 German Horticultural Show. This national floral event is a great honor for Heilbronn.
Heilbron to Ludwigsburg
Start biking from Heilbronn where ‘white gold’ is mined under the city. Another ride along the Neckar, getting smaller already but still navigationable we follow its curves and arrive in Ludwigsburg,
In Ludwigsburg, life revolves around tending grapes and pouring liquid gold into crystal goblets. The famous ‘Felsengarten’ is a city of stone giants embedded with ancient sea fossils. Then comes Lauffen am Neckar, the home of a 7-year old girl-Saint strangled by her nanny and thrown in the river in the 9th century. Lauffen also suffered 37 air raids during WWII, located too close to a decoy target that looked like Stuttgart’s main rail station.
Ludwigsburg Cycle and Sightseeing
Today you can choose between cycling, guided walks and strolling of on your own. Ludwigsburgs baroque beauty awaits you. Cycle options all over, following the river a bit more or just exploring the countryside.
Guides will offer tours and accompany you.
Ludwigsburg Day of Departure
After breakfast it’s time to say goodbye to the IRIS, the crew and your fellow travelers.
For those continuing on the Swiss-Austrian-German river Inn Hotel tour, you will be brought to the central station by cab.
Our premium barge IRIS
One of the best: our premium barge IRIS, sailing since 2005. Fully air-conditioned, lovely front sundeck, lounge and dining-area and selfservice Bar. Delicious 3 course dinners and packed lunches. Lots of options at Breakfast. Want to know more about bike and barge? check here
Your climate controlled cabin has two comfortable beds and lots of storage (for such a small cabin!). Ensuite your private bathroom. Hairdryer, towels, shampoo and showergel…it’s all there.
Snuggling up or enjoying a nice conversation ….just experience our lovely lounge area
our self service bar
Based on the honesty system, we offer you a variety of local wines, beers, liquors and soft drinks.
Icecubes/iced water and coffee and tea are available 24/7 for free.
Don’t expect uniforms, expect nice staff members, working as a team to give you the hospitality you deserve!
What’s Included on the Bike&Barge tour:
- 10 nights on board
- Bed linen and towels
- 8 x dinner on board, glass of wine at dinner
- Packed lunches for bike trips
- Coffee and tea on board
- Tour guide (from 18 guests 2 guides)
- 2 guided excursions/entrance fees
- Cabins cleaned daily
- Climate-controlled cabins
- Helmets, panniers and waterbottle
What’s Not included:
- Bike rental € 120,- per bike
- E-bike on availability, € 200,-
- Entrance fees for museums, monuments, etc.
- Travel and cancellation insurance
- Miscellaneous beverages and expenses on excursions.
- Gratuaties for Staff and Guides
E-bikes on request & availability € 200,- per bike