Europe is full of year-round outdoor adventures, but visiting in the fall takes everything to a more colorful level. Castles, lakes and even outdoor Wiener Schnitzel stands transform into extraordinary settings with a backdrop of brilliant fall foliage. Fall is also the time many cities offer wine tasting and Oktoberfest celebrations. Taking one of the numerous cycling and barge tours with Rad und Resen provides a delightful way to experience Fall.
About the Barges
Rad und Resen offer tours throughout Europe on several barges. With room for around 84 passengers, the barges certainly don’t offer the amenities of a cruise ship with Pirate themed scavenger hunts and water slides.
We enjoyed the more intimate setting and never felt lacking in the way of comfort or amenities. Our room was small, yet comfortable. After cycling all day, we happily showered, ate dinner and went to bed. The same bed for eight nights in a row with no packing and unpacking!
The barges maneuver along major European rivers, stopping at large and small cities that welcome tourists. We even spent a night in Vienna. This offered a chance to mingle with locals on a daily basis as we rode past farmers in their fields or chatted with people in small community Farmer’s Markets. On most days, the barge went through several locks. It’s a strange feeling to look out your cabin window and see you are inside a black “box” that is rapidly filling with water!
Happy (And Tired!) Kids
On our tour, the youngest child was an 8-year-old girl who had no difficulty keeping up with her 15-year-old brother. In most cases though, I’d suggest kids be around 12 before taking on this type of bike ride. (This was a family that had a “required” one hour reading time every night before dinner. Mom, Dad and the three kids plopped themselves into a corner of the meeting room and read from 4:30-5:30 daily.)
Parents on board our barge told us their children all slept soundly after cycling 25-40 miles each day. It goes without saying that Allan and I barely made it back to our room after dinner before falling asleep. Because the bike paths are so well marked, I observed some of the teenagers riding on their own. They simply met up with their parents at a designated time. Great way to experience independence!
Kids on our tour rode through towns as local children walked home for lunch. Yes! Kids in Europe actually walk or ride bikes a mile or so home for lunch without having mom pick them up. Then they walk back to school after lunch. That’s followed by another walk home after school. (We seldom saw any overweight local children on our rides.) Riding bikes through small villages lends the opportunity for American kids to go into local grocery stores and check out the variety of juices or pastries. It’s a great learning experience to be in a foreign country and try to communicate with the language barrier.
Kaffee und Kuchen
Every morning, we enjoyed a substantial breakfast while watching the hard-working staff unload the bikes off the barge. Using the variety of breads and cold cuts from the buffet, we made sandwiches which the staff wrapped up and added to our lunch bags of fruit, granola bars and water bottles.
Some of our best times were finding a place on the outskirts of a town and enjoying our picnic lunch. Then we pedaled into town to complete the meal with pastries and gelato. No need to count calories when you get so much exercise! As a motivation to get back to the barge on time before departure, staff served Koffee and Kuchen on the upper deck. Allan and I made a point of sitting in a lounge chair, enjoying our third or fourth pastry of the day, watching the late-comers race to the barge before it took off. (Doesn’t take much to entertain us!)
Delicious three-course dinners ended each day in casual and cozy atmosphere. No need for fancy dress-up clothes!
Rad und Reisen provides well-maintained bikes for their guests, along with saddle bags to carry lunch and souvenirs. E-Bikes are available, but since the paths are along rivers, there’s little need to even shift gears.
Our particular tour had us riding bikes through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, along the Danube River. Nearly all of our cycling was along designated bike paths, so we never had to worry about traffic. I did worry about my stamina as a couple of 82-year-olds on our barge always swiftly passed us up! Best of all, the designated bike trail was slightly downhill. I love a flat bike path!
Starting time each day was a relaxed process with groups leaving at staggered times. My husband and I seldom saw any of our fellow passengers along the way. (Except those over-achieving 82-year-olds.) The only requirement was to be on time in the afternoon to catch up with the barge that moves 25 miles down the river as you pedal and admire the sites.
We rode 25-40 miles a day, which never seemed like a chore because of the stops along the way. Anytime we say a winery, castle or attraction, we stopped to check it out. So easy to do on bikes! Because our tour took place in September, we enjoyed mild weather and sunny days filled with colorful leaves falling on the bike path. Stores and restaurants were all open, yet we seldom encountered crowds.
Checking out the Campgrounds
Because we were fortunate to have extra time, we rented an RV after our bike and barge tour and checked out more of Germany. European RVs are generally smaller than the mammoth beasts we call RVs in the States, which means they are easier to drive.
For any outdoor loving family, camping, (even in the Fall) is another way to explore Europe. We especially like how most communities post directional signs to their campgrounds. Even without a directory, we simply followed the signs and found a place to camp for the night. A favorite spot of ours is CampingPlatz Klausenhorn.
While our bike and barge tour followed the Danube River, Rad und Reisen offers tours along other rivers in various European countries.
I make a living giving workshops to the hospitality industry, so I’m on “high alert” while traveling, looking for examples of great and not so great customer service. In this case, the tour totally exceeded my expectations from keeping on a schedule, great food, immaculate facilities and friendly staff. All that, plus plenty of places along the bike route to buy gelato. Who needs anything more?
Have you cycled through Europe or taken a barge cruise? Share with us in the comment section below.