There’s nothing better than exploring Europe from the seat of a bicycle, as my husband Rich and I first discovered in 1990 when we bicycled through Switzerland, France and Italy. Fast forward 28 years and many more cycling tours along the way, and we’ve found ourselves with a chance to share the joy of international cycling with friends through our new venture called Hound Dog Cycling Adventures.
After selling our Tour de Nebraska five-day bicycle tour in 2017, we turned our focus to planning our first international cycling trip down the Danube River through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary in August. The only major European River that flows from west to east, the Danube River covers a distance of 1,760 miles and crosses 10 countries all the way to the Black Sea.
Match that with a beautiful paved trail on both sides of the river, and you quickly see that the Europeans understand the economics of bicycle touring and why the Danube Trail was a perfect setting for our first-ever Hound Dog Cycling trip.
We are grateful for 13 other cyclists, mostly Tour de Nebraska alumni and a few new friends, who were willing to join us on this boat-and-bike tour that started in Passau, Germany, a picturesque German town on the Austrian border at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. Passau was a perfect place for us to gather together, get better acquainted and share our excitement for the adventure ahead.
Once on our boat, we joined 70 other cyclists from Germany, Australia, Canada and Denmark in anticipation of riding the scenic Danube River Trail past local pubs, luscious vineyards, quaint villages and beautiful countryside for the next eight days.
Everyone in our group chose to ride the eight-speed bikes provided by our local outfitter. The bikes were heavier and more upright than what we normally ride, which actually made it easier for us to check out the sights. Some in our group, including Rich, rode electric-assist or “e-bikes,” which are extremely popular in Europe. The “self-guided” tour gave everyone a chance to ride “on their own,” linger and explore as long as they made it back to the boat for supper.
Trip highlights included a Trappist monastery/brewery, ancient castles, local wine and “radlers” (a mix of lemonade and local beer created for cyclists by the Germans in 1900), the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, trailside fruit stands, ferry crossings, happy hours and gourmet meals on the boat – and for some, the nude sunbathers along the trail!
We also had a chance to ride and wander through the breathtaking and historic European capitals of Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. The Europeans understand the value of bikeable/walkable communities, even in these large cities, which made it easier for us to take advantage of our time there.
The best memory, perhaps, was a chance for our “Team Nebraska” to experience this fabulous adventure together and meet interesting characters along the way. We were able to keep our sense of humor and be flexible despite a grumpy boat guide and itinerary changes due to the low water levels. Gathering for a beverage with our new friends on the top deck each evening under the stars made for a perfect coping strategy.
For those who think you missed out, we plan to offer one international trip per year. The 2019 boat/bike tour, Tulips and Windmills Cycling Tour of the Netherlands, is already full. But the recently announced 2020 “Cycling the Camino de Santiago” through Portugal and Spain is accepting registrations (limited to 18 riders).
What better way to see the world and create unforgettable memories? Carpe Diem!