Rhine River Cruise
One of the benefits of our lifestyle, travelling the world and house sitting, is that the money we save on accommodation allows us to do some of the things we really love. As many of you know, we love to cycle and explore the areas we are in. Four years ago we did a river cruise along the Danube River from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary and back but with a difference. This was a “bike and boat” cruise – the idea is you cycle sections of the river route and meet your boat at the next port/destination. This enables you to experience the local scenery and towns in a much more intimate way than just sitting on deck watching the scenery go by. You can stop wherever takes your fancy, have a lunch time picnic by the river or enjoy a cold beer in the square of local village. The day is your own – as long as you get back to the boat before it departs for the next destination. Another wonderful benefit is that once you arrive in a large city like Vienna or Budapest you have the bike available to get around and explore.
Having enjoyed our previous bike and boat trip so much we wanted to try another and booked an 8 day Rhine River cruise in Germany. The 220 kilometre cruise started in Mainz, traversed the beautiful UNESCO world cultural site of the “Upper Middle Rhine Valley” and finished in Cologne.
The boat for this trip was the recently re-furbished MV ARLENE II and it was very comfortable.
The cruise price included our cabin, all meals (you put together a lunch bag at breakfast to take with you each day) and 7 speed bikes with pannier bags, guide book and maps. Your only other expenses are drinks on the boat and purchases during your cycling each day. The route along the river was generally flat so our 7 speed bikes were more than adequate however for a supplement you can also rent E-bikes. These would have been useful for riding up to some of the castles along the route!
I should point out that it is not compulsory to ride every day or even ride at all. If you just want a leisurely River Cruise then you can just go as a non-riding passenger. There are many luxury boats cruising up and down the European Rivers with price tags to match but we find these cruises to be great value at around €1,000 per person (about $1,600 AUD).
The first day of the trip is just the arrival of all the passengers, the safety briefing, introduction to crew and our evening meal. The real action starts on day 2 so for the purposes of this blog I’ll be referring to just the cycling days.
Each day of the trip I put together a slide show with some commentary explaining the photos. I’ve included these in this post and recommend you watch them in full screen. You’ll get a much better feel of the places and sights as we rode along the river.
Day 1 Mainz to Rüdesheim, approx. 33 km
The first cycling day was a Sunday and as we made our way out of Mainz there were plenty of locals walking, riding and enjoying the River side on a sunny summers day. We cycled past a number of large boat marinas on our way and stopped at Biebrich Castle, Eltville Castle and village (where a wine festival was in full swing) and Geisenheim for a well earned local wheat beer. Upon our arrival in Rüdesheim we wandered the quaint streets full of tourists and wine bars before catching the chairlift up to Neiderwald-Denkmal – a massive memorial commemorating the unification of Germany. We enjoyed magnificent views over the river, vineyards and across Rüdesheim and Bingen (on the opposite side of the river).
Day 2 Rüdesheim – St. Goar, approx. 31 km
The sun was shining again on day 2 and began with a short ferry crossing to Bingen. We took the opportunity to ride up to Burg Klopp – the 13th century castle overlooking the town and now used as the Town Hall. We climbed the 37 metre tower for sweeping views over the town and river and then set off on the first of our two days cycling through the World Heritage Site of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. These were probably the two best days of the trip.
Along the way to the beautiful town of Bacharach for our lunch stop we passed many castles including Rheinstein and Reichenstein that were built on the steep hill sides of the river valley. The afternoon ride to our final destination of St Goar was also filled with wonderful vistas and many more castles – some in ruins, others intact. At St Goar we took the very steep walk up to the Rheinfels castle ruins where a hotel complex has been built adjacent to the ruins.
Day 3 St. Goar – Koblenz, approx. 38 km
Our riding today took us further into the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and through more beautiful scenery and villages on our way to Koblenz. We took morning tea at Boppard – a lovely walled town with attractive local square and many ubiquitous window flower boxes. Further on we found a nice park next to the River for lunch and explored the river bank. I was really surprised to find shells, similar to those you find on the beach, on the bank. This is a fresh water river so can only assume that there are fresh water shell fish too.
We continued along past the spectacular Marksburg Castle and Schloss Stolzenfels to Koblenz – our overnight stop. Koblenz is where the Father Rhine and Mother Moselle Rivers meet at Deutsches Eck (or German Corner) and is famous as the location for the massive memorial to Kaiser Wilhelm I – the Kaiser who brought about the unification of Germany in the 19th century.
Day 4 Koblenz – Andernach, approx. 30 km
Our first 3 days of cycling were fantastic as we enjoyed sunshine, wondrous villages and beautiful scenery. However, that all came to a crashing halt on day 4 with grey skies, some rain and views of industrial estates as we headed North between Koblenz and Andernach. There were absolutely no highlights of this day except perhaps for Jacqueline’s hot chocolate at a small Italian cafe for morning tea! The overnight stop at the walled town of Andernach did make up for the lack of sights during the ride. It was delightful with many of the towns walls and gates still very intact.
Day 5 Andernach – Bonn, approx. 45 km
Our second last day of cycling took us to the old West German capital of Bonn. A lot of our previous days riding had been on bike paths adjacent to the thin strip of land between the steep hillsides and river. This is used for roads and train lines as well as our bike paths so it was nice to enjoy the early part of this day cycling through fields and forests. We were told that there was a picturesque half timber village on the other side of the river that was worth a visit. So we took the short ferry ride across to Linz and weren’t disappointed.
A bit further on we stopped at what remained of the Bridge at Remagen. During WWII this was the last remaining bridge over the Rhine River used by the Allies as they pursued the retreating Germans. Konigswinter Castle loomed on the opposite bank as we concluded our lengthy ride at Beethoven’s birthplace – Bonn. We explored Bonn in the afternoon on our bikes and after dinner on the boat chatted with a couple of fellow Aussies at a river side beer garden.
Day 6 Bonn – Cologne, approx. 37 km
The first part of our final day of cycling was similar to day 4 as we made our way through the industrial periphery of Bonn. However, as we got closer of Cologne we were back riding through forests and riverside parks. Surprisingly, there are actually beaches along certain parts of the River and we stopped so that I could have a paddle. The last few kilometres were very interesting as we approached Cologne through the re-invigorated wharf areas to the South of the City. Cologne is a major city on the River and was bustling with people, cyclists and tourists enjoying the summer sun. We eventually found the MV Arlene II and said farewell to our trusty bikes .
The crew put on a show (with a pirate theme) at the evening meal for last night of the cruise. It was a bit of fun to end a memorable holiday.
Some of our friends have asked about how fit you have to be to do one of these holidays. Forty kilometres in one day may seem daunting but you have to realise that you are not just cycling from start to finish. You are stopping along the way for a cuppa or lunch or to look at a village or sight. This breaks up the distances into smaller, manageable chunks and before your realise it you’ve done 30 kilometres. If you still think it’s too far then just pay the supplement for the electric bike. You still have to pedal but the battery does most of the work.
It really is a fun way to enjoy a River cruise. You get some exercise (to burn off the food and drink from the cruise) and you get a much more intimate and better look at the places along the route. We thoroughly recommend it.
Do you have a question? Post it in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer it.