After long preparations, I finally set out for my very first bike tour. It was the beginning of June, 2017, and I took the train from Prague to Hamburg, in Germany, where I started my journey along Elbe river.
From Hamburg, I had to get to Cuxhaven, a small town where the Elbe river flows into the North Sea. After that, I spent 7 days going up-stream back home. Whether you are into bike touring or not at all, read about my 1150 kilometer-long trip.
I rode along the Elbe quite often last few years and I was tempted to set out for a longer trek. The Elbe Cycle Route, officially called Elberadweg, is quite popular here in the Czech Republic and I think it’s not just because of good PR. Thanks to its ease, good path surface, and minimal elevation, the route attracts mainly elder riders or families with children and some of them spend on the route even more than two weeks. On the other hand, you can find fellows that zip through the route in 3 days. My plan was to fit between these two groups and in the end, it took me 8 days to get back to Prague.
Before I hit the road I considered changing my plans several times because looking closely at the route and its surroundings. You can easily see that there is not so much to do besides pedaling the whole day. So, if you want to ride just around 50 kilometers a day and enjoy the rest of the time off-saddle, you may need to look somewhere else.
But I liked that aspect of the route quite a lot, to be honest! I enjoyed the fact that there is a whole day of pedaling ahead of me and the only problems you have is to find a nice place to eat in the midday and to sleep in the evening. After a few days, I barely got into the center of town near the route as I always got lost there and there is not much to see.
Thanks to the flat surroundings of the route I was able to ride longer stretches each day and didn’t get bored as nature was changing a lot. So, all in all, this route was a good choice for me as a first-time bike tourer.
I crossed the river very often. Usually, I used one of many ferries, as the bridges are quite unique in some parts of the route. The transfer to the other side costs between 1 and 2 euros. The worst thing is the working hours of the ferry which can cause you problems if you ride late into the night or if you start very early in the morning. Generally, ferries have longer working hours compared to bascule and swing bridges. Because of their early closing time in the afternoon (6 PM or so…) I had to ride about 50 kilometers more on my second day. After that experience, I paid more attention to the time and the necessity of crossing the river.
I was quite surprised with the inability to stop for a meal in a restaurant next to the route. There are places you can stop by, of course, but don’t expect to find them as frequently as you are used to in the Czech Republic where you can find five of these in every other little village. I had to change my plans, and so I prepared the meal for myself more frequently, saved some money and ate healthier food in the spots with nice views.
The stretch between Hamburg to Havelburg is the most beautiful part of the Elbe Cycle Route. Nature is very diverse there and gorgeous meadows change with forest roads that offer pleasant shade and are more amusing compared to the tarmac road of the route.
Another amazing part starts just behind Dresden when you pass by Bohemian Switzerland. When you watch all the high sandstone above you after few days of riding in nature without hills, they look quite spectacular but you will get used to it quickly.
On the other hand, I didn’t like the stretch from Hamburg to the coast. The surrounding of the route is monotonous and if the headwind is as strong as I experienced there you don’t even enjoy the fact finally being at Cuxhaven after all the struggle.
I started worrying about where to stay for a night usually in the late afternoon as it was clearer how far I would get that day. Before the tour, I knew that besides paid campsites I would also wild camp occasionally.
I slept four nights at the paid campsites in the end. The prices vary between 10 and 12 euros in Germany, and sometimes you have to pay an extra 50 cents to 1 euro for a shower. When I arrived at Děčín I decided to spend also the last night in the camp as it was about to start raining, the price was around 150 CZK (approx. 6 euros).
I spent three nights wild camping and I have to admit that these nights are the ones I think back to the most. It is really exciting looking for the right camping spot at the end of the day, above all if it is already getting dark and you are still pedaling. All in all, I was lucky and came across a perfect place every time.
It is quite hard to find a spot to sleep in some parts of the route but mostly there are enough opportunities. You can guess the areas from the map – I was always surprised in a pleasant way how many spots you are able to find even in the place you wouldn’t expect, not the other way.
If you are fancy reading in detail about my trip, there are three articles thoroughly describing my journey (unfortunately in Czech only, but the photos speak for themselves):
It was a splendid week during which I discovered the charm of traveling by bike. You might not be surprised to hear that I liked it a lot! I like the freedom that bikes give you. I can go whenever I want, at my own pace and stop by any interesting spot I like. I feel more connected with the nature I ride through and I am conscious of the weather because it can cause a lot of troubles.
I have several plans for future tours. Some of them resemble this one, but the others are totally different. We will see if any of them will happen in the end. I will definitely write about them here on the blog.