Cycling the Danube River

By Rachael Wilson
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In April 2015, Rachael and Sarah travelled aboard the MS Theodor Körner to experience the Danube River Tour. Smooth cycling along the Danube through Germany and Austria, this is a relaxing tour with spectacular views.

How to get there?

With good flight options to Munich (International or Memmingen, Munich West), travel is straightforward and you can reach Passau in around 2 hours. There’s a regular bus service from Munich International to Friesing, where you pick up a direct train to Passau. When we travelled, the train departed Friesing hourly so it is worth checking the schedule in advance.

It’s then just a short bus or taxi ride to the boat mooring point. Be warned – Passau has two landing stages 2km apart, so it is important to check the correct mooring point for your boat before you arrive (same day is best, for the most up-to-date information).

Alternatively, book a transfer from the airport if you prefer to sit back and let someone else take you door to door from the airport to your boat.

MS Theodor Körner

Our home for four nights was on board the striking riverboat MS Theodor Körner which offers 61 cabins across three decks. All of the cabins are equipped with en suite bathrooms, air conditioning and also a TV! The cabins are perfectly designed and compact however if space is important to you I would recommend booking a junior suite as these will offer you plenty of room. We would advise to bring luggage in soft bags as these can easily be stored, large hard cases can affect the space in your cabin.

We were lucky enough to have a twin cabin on the Promenade Deck. One of the advantages of an upper deck or promenade deck cabin is that you are able to open the windows and allow fresh air in to the cabin, which can be a welcome treat after a day of cycling.

The boat itself was much quieter than we had anticipated as there are lots of shared areas available including a bar, a lounge and a large sundeck so there is plenty of space on board the for everyone to spread out. I would recommend taking advantage of the beautiful sun deck when you return from a day’s cycling either to enjoy the delicious afternoon tea and cake served every day or perhaps a nice chilled beer from the bar.

Our Bikes

Our trusty bikes had been pre-adjusted to our heights and tagged with our name for easy allocation. We were delighted to find them surprisingly light as well as comfortable – although the benefits of padded shorts cannot be underestimated if you’re cycling every day for a week!

E-bikes, tandems, kids’ bikes and trailers are also available, but these are in more limited supply so please book these in advance if you want them.

All bikes come with a spacious pannier (plenty of room for an extra layer of clothing, picnic, bottle of water etc), along with a handlebar bag, lock, repair kit and a comprehensive route and map book per cabin. Adult size helmets can be purchased on board if you wish to avoid travelling with your own.

Route Briefings

This tour is self-guided, so the cruise director held a briefing each afternoon in preparation for the following day. He would offer a briefing for English speakers and then another briefing for German speakers. These briefings were really useful and we would always recommend you attend these as you pick up little tips and quirks for the following day. The cruise director on board was invaluable with his local knowledge and frequently advised us if there was a detour worth taking or if there was a great place to stop for a local beer or a glass of wine!

The Route

A total joy! This is truly an easy-going, leisurely tour – perfect for novices, nervous cyclists or anyone just wanting to spend their time admiring the impressive scenery and taking it easy with no nasty surprises.The Danube cycle path (Donau-Radweg) is smooth, flat and well maintained and sign-posted. Most of our ride was alongside the river with just a few diversions through villages and small towns. We met very little traffic when we travelled in May (and all of that was on smaller roads) and it is almost impossible to get lost!

Pulling up at the end of your ride at the harbour is a lovely way to arrive back at your accommodation - no negotiating traffic or cycling through the streets trying to find your hotel. It was always a welcoming sight – Grein was especially lovely, where the boat moors right on the main waterfront and promenade.

It has to be said that the initial arrival in to the outskirts of Vienna is a less scenic part of the route – unsurprising, given the size of the city and practicalities of mooring. The boats all moor up at Nussdorf, around 10km outside of the city centre.

However, this day is one of the shorter rides, covered by lunchtime even at a leisurely pace, so you can deposit your bike back at the boat before heading in to Vienna bike, pannier and helmet-free.

This tour breaks you in gently with the first few days all being downriver. Although still leisurely, save some energy for a few small climbs towards the end of the week as you head upriver back to Passau.

Life on Board…

Boat and bike tours are always very sociable, even from the first night we were sat with other guests on board the boat for dinner and we then sat with these guests for the rest of our trip. This makes it very easy if you are a solo traveller as immediately you have a common interest of cycling and the boat to start a conversation. The on board attire is very casual, no ball gowns required! Even though the route is self-guided we found that a lot of the customers sitting on the same tables together would also cycle together the following day.

On our trip there was a mix of British, American, Canadian and German guests on board the boat with an age range from 25-75.

Food and Drink

Come with an appetite – the food is good and there’s plenty of it!

The Theodor Korner was very much a floating hotel and the restaurant was no exception - professionally and tastefully furnished, with all the nice touches of linen tablecloths and napkins, flowers and jugs of water.

Breakfast – the choice was plentiful and caters well for even the fussiest of eaters. We had the usual continental cold selection of cheeses and meats (with daily variations), different breads, crackers, pastries, fresh, tinned and dried fruit, along with cereal and yoghurts. We weren’t expecting the added bonus of a daily hot selection, including eggs, sausage, bacon and beans. We were even treated to smoked salmon one day! All of this accompanied by fruit juices, water, a selection of teas (including fruit and herbal) and coffee sets you up well for a day in the saddle.

Be aware – as it’s self-service buffet style it can get busy, so if you want maximum choice and your favourite items it always helps to get to breakfast in good time.

Packed lunches are also self-served and made at breakfast, before being wrapped and bagged up for you by a member of the crew. The system works well and avoids waste as you take what you want, including fruit and other snacks. Bottled water is left outside your cabin door in the morning to take with you for the day – a nice touch.

Anyone not cycling or going ashore can enjoy a light lunch on board (usually soup or a sandwich) – this just needs to be ordered at breakfast by around 9am.

Afternoon tea – a most civilised and welcome part of the day, with a fine selection of cakes and tea/coffee.

Dinner – we enjoyed a varied and creative menu, chosen from the menu provided the night before. Always 3-courses, plus a bread basket, comprising a starter, choice of meat, fish or vegetarian main course and pudding.

There is a table service for drinks and any wine unfinished at dinner is safely stored and put back on your table ready for the following evening.

“Midnight snacks” - in reality around 9pm – most guests have long since retired to bed by midnight! As if we hadn’t eaten enough all day, dishes of hot snacks were available on the bar every night.

The bar – we had a good selection of wines, beers, spirits and even cocktails, all at reasonable prices (wine ranged from 3 euros for a glass to 12 euros for a bottle of house wine and beer was 3.5 euros for a half litre).

To tip or not to tip...

The service we received during our stay on the MS Theodor Körner was outstanding, from the moment we arrived at the boat our bags were whisked off and taken straight to our cabins and this continued throughout our trip. The service was faultless in every department. The one thing that stood out for me and was totally unexpected was that our cabin was cleaned each morning, the beds were folded away, then during dinner all cabins on board the boat would then be serviced and the beds would be turned out again ready for the night. This would all take place within 1 hour 30 minutes, which was pretty impressive. Every single bike would also be carried off the boat each morning and lined up before we had even woken up, again at the end of the day when we returned to the boat, our bikes would be taken off us and carefully loaded back on to the boat. A lot of our customers ask us how much to tip, we would recommend €5 per person, per day and there will be a gratuities box at the end of the tour for you to discreetly deposit your tip, should you want to.

Send an enquiry or make a booking

These tours can sell out quickly, so book early to avoid disappointment, especially if you are after an upper deck cabin. For further information on any boat and bike tours, contact us to enquire or book on 01273 224066 or at [email protected].

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