In summer 1817, Baron Karl von Drais, a civil servant to the Grand Duke of Bade in Germany, tested his exciting invention, the Laufmaschine, which is regarded as the archetype of the bicycle.
Translated as ‘running machine’, because it didn’t have a drivetrain (pedals, a chain, or a derailleur etc.) it was the first vehicle with two wheels placed in line. Weighing 50 pounds approximately, the frame and wheels were made of wood and riders sat on an upholstered leather seat and pushed themselves forward with their feet – just like children starting out on balance bikes.
Created as a muscle–powered replacement for the horse (horses were expensive, needed a groom and consumed a lot of food) the Laufmaschine became an international sensation. Although short lived, it was soon known under various names, such as the Draisine in Germany, the Velocipede in France and the Hobby Horse, or Dandy Horse, in England. Accessories included an umbrella to ward off the rain and a sail for windy days.
Since Drais’ first innovation, 200 years ago, bicycles have evolved rapidly into what we know, and love, today. There was the Boneshaker in 1867, the Penny Farthing in 1878, the Rover 1885 and the modern-day road bike in 1908. To mark this significant anniversary, Freedom Treks, who specialise in guided and self-guided bike tours for all cycling levels, is offering 2 for 1 bike hire on selected tours in Germany, for 2017 bookings.
With more than 70,000 km of well signposted bike routes, Germany is one of the leading countries in Europe for a cycling holiday. Freedom Treks features more than 30 tours in Germany showcasing the most interesting sections of the routes. Ride alongside meandering rivers surrounded by magnificent slate mountains, roll through sun-dappled forests and pedal past glistening beaches with undulating sand dunes. Take a break from cycling and tuck into tasty regional food accompanied by rich, refreshing beer…
Tempted? Here are five top tours to start…
Danube River – MS Theodor Körner
Boat and bike through Germany, Austria and Slovakia following the cobalt blue waters of the Danube River. Pause to explore some of the Danube’s incredible cities, including Vienna’s musical landmarks and Bratislava’s cobbled streets. Beginning and ending in Passau, known as “The Three Rivers City” because it is situated at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz, cycle along the former “Iron Curtain”. Spend a day marvelling at the grand Hofburg Palace and iconic Hundertwasser House in Vienna. The easy cycle route winds its way through Austria’s UNESCO listed Wachau region: breathe in the sweet smell of fresh apricots and sample some crisp wine. After each day of cycling, return to the MS Theodor Körner, which has a spacious lounge with a bar and a sun-deck.
The seven night self-guided Danube River – MS Theodor Körner tour costs from £665 pp (two sharing) including full-board accommodation, services of an English-speaking guide on board, daily briefings, maps and route information, welcome meeting with cocktail, daily cabin cleaning with towels and bed linen, harbour fees, coffee in the afternoon, daily live music and a farewell gala dinner with cocktail. Return flights, transfers, bike and helmet hire extra. (Electric bikes are also available to hire.) Freedom Treks is offering 2 for 1 bike hire on this tour, saving more than £60.
Lübeck to Stralsund – German Riviera
Combining picturesque harbours, sweeping shoreline paths, primeval forests and wild beaches with white glittering sand, this hotel and bike tour is an ideal introduction to northern Germany. Starting in Lübeck, declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987, pedal along the beautiful Baltic coast to Stralsund, an old Hanseatic town featuring twisting Gothic turrets. Highlights include walking along the cobbled streets of Wismar, which is one of the prettiest long-standing towns in the region, spotting graceful cranes and grey geese in the national park areas across Barth and Zingst and visiting the artists’ colony of Ahrenshoop on the Fischland Peninsula.
Level: Easy to Moderate
The seven night self-guided Lübeck to Stralsund – German Riviera tour costs from £556 pp (two sharing) including B&B accommodation in a mix of two and three, or three and four star hotels, luggage transportation, maps and route information, welcome meeting and the ferry from Warnemünde-Hohe Düne. Return flights, transfers, bike and helmet hire extra. (Electric bikes are also available to hire.) Freedom Treks is offering 2 for 1 bike hire on this tour, saving more than £70.
Prague to Dresden
For 12 years in a row, The Elbe Cycle Route has been voted the most popular in the country by members of the German Cyclists’ Federation and it’s easy to see why! Think Bohemian cities, secret courtyards, terraced vineyards, green mountains and charming spa towns. Departing from Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, enjoy a relaxed cycle along the peaceful banks of the Rivers Vltava and Elbe towards Dresden in Germany. Visit a selection of grand castles, including Prague, Veltrusy, Strekov (considered to be one of the most romantic forts in the Czech Republic) and Decin, one of the oldest and largest citadels in northern Bohemia. Leave the opulent fortresses behind and head into the heart of Saxon Switzerland, home to forested slopes and rocky towers. Arrive in Dresden and stroll around the vibrant city, being sure to visit the Zwinger Palace, Theatre Square and incredible cathedral.
The six night self-guided Prague to Dresden tour costs from £549 pp (two sharing) including B&B accommodation in three-star and one four-star hotel, or four-star hotels, luggage transportation, maps and route information. Return flights, transfers, bike and helmet hire extra. (Electric bikes are also available to hire.) Freedom Treks is offering 2 for 1 bike hire on this tour, saving more than £60.
Lake Constance & Rhine Falls
Admire the natural beauty of Lake Constance, one of Europe’s largest freshwater lakes, plus take a boat and visit the cascading Rhine Falls, Central Europe’s largest waterfall, all at a laid-back pace. Starting and finishing in the German city of Constance, follow the glistening shoreline along a well signposted and car-free path into Austria and Switzerland. Marvel at the world’s largest collection of aviation exhibitions at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, ride through a gorgeous nature reserve past the Rhine delta, see the sights of Romanshorn – the most important Swiss harbour on Lake Constance – and pedal along the Höri Peninsula, where the writer Hermann Hesse and the artist Otto Dix once lived. Plus, don a raincoat and travel to the foot of the powerful Rhine Falls by boat. Here, guests will be able to experience the sheer force and beauty of the falls up close.
The seven night self-guided Lake Constance & Rhine Falls tour costs from £417 pp (two adults and two children, age 6-13 years, sharing a quad room) including B&B accommodation in three-star hotels, luggage transportation, maps and route information, entrance to Rosgarten Museum in Constance and a boat trip to Rhine Falls Rock. Return flights, transfers, bike and helmet hire extra. (Electric bikes are also available to hire.) Freedom Treks is offering 2 for 1 bike hire on this tour, saving more than £100.
Rhine & Neckar from Koblenz to Bad Wimpfen
Explore Mannheim, where the bike was invented all those years ago, on this gentle boat and bike tour. Cycle along easy paths alongside the sparkling Rhine and Neckar rivers taking in the many spectacular UNESCO World Heritage sites. Beginning in Koblenz, where the Rhine and Mosel rivers merge, board MS Patria, and set sail up the waterway making the leisurely journey to Bad Wimpfen. Disembark the boat at set places and discover the beautiful city of Rüdesheim, the largest – and oldest – vineyard in Germany in Niestein and the ancient Eberbach Abbey, situated in a scenic valley and famed as the setting for the mysterious film ‘The Name of the Rose’, with Sean Connery. Finish the tour in Bad Wimpfen, a charming health and spa resort and the flourishing centre of Germany’s famous nobility Hohenstaufen, home of the Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa.
The seven night self-guided Rhine & Neckar from Koblenz to Bad Wimpfen boat and bike tour costs from £786 pp (two sharing) including full-board accommodation on MS Patria, an English-speaking guide on board, maps and route information, daily briefings, mooring and lock fees, daily cabin cleaning and towels, afternoon coffee and tea and a welcome drink. Return flights, transfers, bike and helmet hire extra. (Electric bikes are also available to hire.) Freedom Treks is offering 2 for 1 bike hire on this tour, saving more than £70.