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TOURISM

10 things to consider for a bike trip in Germany

From making sure you know about your German hotel's 'rest day' to knowing the rules of the Radweg, here are US resident Phil Schaaf's tips for a cycling vacation in Germany.

Two cyclists in Bärnau, Bavaria.
Two cyclists enjoy a ride in Bärnau, Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Oberpfälzer Wald | Thomas Kujat

When Santa Fe native and author Phil Shaaf set out on a cycling trip in western Germany, he praised the stunning sights and welcoming locals (including a football team).

Here are his recommendations for exploring Germany by bike. 

1. Train…for however long you plan to ride each day, prepare for it. Your legs and lungs need to be in shape, but so does your backside, i.e. your rump needs to to adjust to the amount of riding you plan to do, even if you are on an e-Bike. It’s all about saddle time.

2. Confirm your reservations before you arrive. Also, be sure to ask about the hotel’s ‘Ruhetag,’ or rest day, as the hotel will be closed that day. If you arrive on a Ruhetag, they will put your room key in a lock box and notify you via email or text of the code to access the box. 

On a related point, Hotels are not the only establishments that might have a Ruhetag. Many restaurants, especially in small towns, will close on certain days, usually Monday or Tuesday, so don’t be surprised if you reach a town and can’t find a place serving lunch. A good practice is to carry sufficient water and a pretzel or candy bar on every ride.

READ ALSO: Riding the Radweg: A guide to touring Germany by bike

A hotel in Hamburg.

A hotel in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Ulrich Perrey

3. Ask your hotel in advance about bike storage. Most places have a good spot to put bikes, but it makes sense to be certain at the time you reserve a room. You might end up storing your bike in a courtyard or hallway, but whatever the hotel recommends should be safe and secure.

4. Have a GPS programme for your route. The signage is generally good, but have a backup directional system in place on your phone and/or watch. Finally, don’t wait until you get to Germany to test out your technology. It’s best to know how everything works before you arrive. 

5. Familiarise yourself with the signs used along the “Radweg” (bike path). Oftentimes, people on bikes share the path with those on foot, but there can also be separate trails for cyclists and pedestrians. Germans follow the rules, so you should do the same while riding there.

6. If you think you hear the ring of a bell, you are not imagining it. Someone is alerting you that they intend to pass on the left. The locals won’t overdo it, so it is usually one small ring.

READ ALSO: 13 ways to have fun in Berlin for free

7. Make sure to stop, take pictures and enjoy the scenery, but don’t park your bike on the Radweg, set it aside the path and take all the time you want.

A cyclist in Hamburg.

A cyclist by the water in Hamburg. Make sure to enjoy the sights. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Wendt

8. “Radler” literally translates to “cyclist,” but it’s also a mixture of beer and lemon-lime soda. Very refreshing, Radlers are an enjoyable beverage on a break or at the end of the day. 

9. Most Germans speak English. It does help, however, to know a few words in order to read signs, interpret menus and to connect with the people you meet on your trip. At a minimum, have a translation app handy for those moments when you could use a turn of local phrase.

A bottle of Radler.

Make time to enjoy a Radler (either with or without alcohol). Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Gregor Tholl

10. Covid: hotels and many eating establishments require a vaccination card, have mask protocols and will ask you to comply with contact-tracing efforts via a QR code or filling out a form with pen and paper upon entry. The best practice, therefore, is to carry your vaccination card with you at all times and to comply with the local rules.

READ ALSO: Holiday like a local: Five of the best camping regions in Germany

Member comments

  1. Good tips, i’m sure on the “most Germans speak english” comment though. After 3 years i would say for sure ‘most’ don’t.

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CULTURE

REVEALED: The best events and festivals in Germany this July

Summer is the best time of year to get out and about and experience some of the incredible cultural events that Germany has to offer. From electronic music to scrumptious food fests, here's what's on this July.

REVEALED: The best events and festivals in Germany this July

Tollwood Summer Festival, Munich Olympiapark (June 15th – July 17th) 

Tollwood Olympiapark

A sign for the Tollwood Festival at Munich Olympiapark. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

The Bavarian capital of Munich is gorgeous in the summer months, and if you fancy a trip, there are few better times to go than during the city’s iconic summer festival.

For 32 days each year, Olympiapark in the north of the city is transformed in a bustling festival site with markets, street food, beer gardens, music and cultural performances. It’s free to get onto the site just to walk around and soak up the atmosphere with a refreshing beer, though some of the performances are ticketed.

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Munich with the €9 ticket

This year, visitors to the Olympiapark in the first few weeks of July can see adventurous walks and tricks from some of the world’s best tightrope walkers on a slackline installed 15 metres above the ground. The dreamy art installation, “Museum of the Moon”, treats visitors to a dazzling projection of the moon at eye-level in the park accompanied by specially composed soundscapes. 

The festivities are set to go out with a bang on July 16th during the “Midsummer Night’s Dream” party with music, world cuisine, dancing and fireworks.

KeNaKo Afrika Festival 2022, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1st – 11th July)

Performers at the Kenako Festival in 2019

Performers at the Kenako Festival in 2019. Photo: Kenako Festival

Not to be outdone by the Bavarians, Berlin will be bringing the warmth and vibrancy of Africa to Alexanderplatz at the start of July with the KENAKO Africa Festival.

There’ll be a sprawling African market complete with arts, crafts and clothing from around the continent, as well as lively podium discussions, concerts and workshops. Arrive early to browse the stalls before tucking into some traditional cuisine and enjoying the music. 

The festival is partly about education and discussion, so if you feel like you don’t know enough about the countries of this fascinating and diverse continent, you’re in the right place. Entry to the festival ground is free of charge. 

Hong Kong Street Food Festival, Berlin Gleisdreieck (July 7th)

Dim sum

Traditional Chinese dim sum. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa-tmn | Elke_Wentker

If you’re a fan of Hong Kong street food (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) you won’t want to miss this pop-up festival at Jules B-Part in Berlin’s Gleisdreieck park. Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Bureau, you’ll be taken on a whirlwind tasting tour of the region’s vibrant culinary culture, from mouthwatering dim sum to refreshing desserts like Mango Pomelo Sago and deliciously sweet Milk Tea.

You’ll need to be on your toes to catch this one, since the food vendors are only setting up shop in the park from 11am to 4pm. Food and refreshments are all completely free – but it’s first come first served, so get their early if you can. 

Podfest Berlin, Berlin House of Music (July 16th & 17th) 

A speaker at Podfest Berlin 2021.

A speaker at Podfest Berlin 2021. Photo source: Podfest Berlin

Berlin’s podcasting community has grown rapidly in recent years, with new success stories emerging all the time. If you fancy mingling with this talented crowd – and even catching some of them in-action – there’s no better place to do it than at Podfest 2022.

For one weekend action-packed weekend, the House of Music will be turned into one big podcast recording studio where visitors can attend live recordings, seminars, panels and enjoy general festival fun and networking.

To reflect Berlin’s general international vibe, podcasts will be recorded in numerous different languages, including English, Spanish and German – so there really is something for everyone.

Early bird passes are on sale now and cost €34 for two days.

Düsseldorf “Kirmes”: The Biggest Funfair on the Rhine, Oberkassel Rheinwiesen (July 15th-24th)

A woman sells fairground tickets at the Düsseldorf Rheinkirmes

A woman sells fairground tickets at the Düsseldorf Rheinkirmes. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Martin Gerten

More than just a funfair, Düsseldorf Kirmes is pretty much a world of its own, complete with beer tents, food and exhilarating rides of all shapes and sizes.

This ginormous fairground is the perfect place to release your inner child this summer and experience a bit of Rheinische Frohheit – the joyful nature that people from this area are known for.

Enjoy soaring above the city on a rollercoaster in the scenic Rheinwiesen, sip on a local beer or two and make sure you block out some time to see a bit of Düsseldorf – the North Rhine-Westphalian city with a “dorf” (village) feel to it. 

One thing you may not be aware of is that Düsseldorf has the largest Japanese community in Germany, so once you’re tired of stodgy fairground food, we recommend grabbing some sushi at some of the city’s authentic Japanese restaurants. 

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €9 ticket

Duckstein Beer and Culture Festival, Hamburg HafenCity (15th-24th July)

Stalls at the Duckstein Festival in Hamburg.

Stalls at the Duckstein Festival in Hamburg. Photo: Thomas Panzau

Up north in Germany’s famous port city, Hamburg’s harbour is set to become a hub of music, art, culture and food throughout mid-July. Against the stunning backdrop of the the International Maritime Museum, musicians from all around the world will perform in the “unplugged” concert series. To add to the intimate feel of the concerts, many of the sets will be acoustic and the artists will perform at eye-level with the audience. 

If it’s markets you’re after, you also won’t leave disappointed: the city’s best designers, artists and craftspeople are set to descend on Osakaallee and transform it into the aptly named Design Boulevard for the 10 days during the festival. There are also set to be a range of pop-up international food hubs on Dar-es-Salaam-Platz, Störtebeker Ufer and Busanbrücke, where visitors can sample exotic dishes from far and wide, washed down with a Duckstein beer.  

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

Parookaville Electronic Music Festival, Weeze Airport, North-Rhine Westphalia (July 22-24th)

Crowds at the main stage at Parookaville Festival

Crowds at the main stage at Parookaville Festival. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marius Becker

Electronic music fans won’t want to miss this one: the three-day Parookaville festival is back, returning to its iconic location at Weeze Airport just a stone’s throw from the Dutch border.

Since its inception in 2015, Parokaville has become something of an institution in Germany’s electro scene – and many people say it’s worth going just for the spectacle alone. The organisers pull out all the stops to make visitors to Parokaville feel like they really have entered a genuine “city of dreams”, complete with a massive steampunk zeppelin adorning the main stage and a seven-meter high “monument” to Bill Parooka, the legendary founder and mayor of Parookaville. You’ll also find a town hall, post office, a power plant, the town “jail” (a tattoo parlour) and even a Parooka church where people can tie the knot. 

This year, some of the headliners include Fisher, Afrojack and Yellow Claw. 

Maschsee Lake Festival, Hannover (July 27th – August 14th)

Maschsee festival

Visitors enjoy a beer on the east bank of the Maschsee Festival. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Hannover Marketing und Tourismus GmbH (HMTG) | Kevin Münkel

Long lazy days and balmy evenings spent at the lake are an essential part of German summer, and there’s no bigger celebration of this cultural tradition than the Maschsee lake festival in Hannover. 

Every year, two million visitors descend on Hannover’s Maschsee over three weeks in summer to enjoy the best of world cuisine and art in stalls and stages peppered along the waterfront. There are also boat rides, activities for kids and sports on the lake itself – and don’t forget to pack swimming stuff for a refreshing dip!  

READ ALSO: Five German foods to try this summer

If you don’t live close enough to Hannover for a daytrip, the organisers offer experience packages complete with a 3* or 4* overnight stay, a cocktail at one of the festival bars, a boat trip around the lake and entry to the festival. It sounds like the perfect way to while away a few days this summer. 

Bayreuth Wagner Festival, Bayreuth, Bavaria (July 25th – September 1st) 

Bayreuth festival performance 2021

A performance of ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremburg’ at the Bayreuth Festival in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Festspiele Bayreuth | Enrico Nawrath

For classical music lovers, the Bayreuth festival should need no introduction. It’s an epic weeks-long event dedicated to a single composer – Richard Wagner – and has been held in the same venue that Wagner himself commissioned for almost 150 years.

Traditions and history are a major part of the festival, with the same ten Wagnerian masterpieces being played each year, including The Flying Dutchman and all four parts of the Ring Cycle. Attendees will also see the intermission musicians play their specially composed fanfare – a tradition that dates back to the first performances at the Bayreuth Festival Theatre in 1976. 

You can also learn more about each of the performances through a series of introductory talks or (if you’re a skilled musician) take part in one of the masterclasses in singing and composing.

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