Biking the Danube on the cheap

By Carolyn Dockins
This item appears on page 35 of the January 2020 issue.

I biked the Danube cycle path from Donaueschingen, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary, approximately 1,260 kilometers (793 miles), in June 2018. I did this because most older people do not give themselves physical challenges, and I wanted to give myself a challenge and a reward for staying in shape. I found I was able to slowly increase my mileage as the days continued. 

During the first half of this trip (June 6-16), biking alone before meeting friends in Passau, Germany, I managed to spend, on average, less than $100 a day. Of course, being on my bike the entire time, the transportation cost was negligible.

The first day began when I put my bike together on the train just before arriving in Donaueschingen. This is one of the places that is thought to be the start of the Danube. It is joined by two other rivers: the Breg and the Brigach. 

I arrived in the afternoon and found a Zimmer (guest room) in someone’s home that cost 30 (near $33) for the night. For dinner that night, I ate pretzels and snacks in my room.

The next day I biked stage 1, from Donaueschingen to Fridingen, through the Black Forest and small, quaint villages. Throughout the trip, I found the cycle path marked fairly well with route signs for bikers.

That night’s room at Gasthaus Lowen (Mittlere Gasse 3, Fri­ding­en; phone +49 7463 99420, [in German only]) cost 50. Dinner was the local specialty, meat patties and veggies, and with lemonade and the tip it cost 15.50.

A buffet breakfast was included in the rate. Since I am small and don’t eat much, I took part of my unfinished breakfast with me to eat for lunch.

Stage 2, from Fridingen to Mengen (with a break in Sigma­ring­en), began about 7:30 or 8-ish with rain and thunder. My GPS was not functioning and I couldn’t make phone calls, but people I met on the road assisted me in finding a Gasthaus, Ennetach Dorfstuber (Ablachweg 6, Mengen; phone +49 7572 4862530), which cost 50 for the night, including breakfast. Dinner was fruit, energy bars and cheese purchased at a supermarket for about 11.

I left Mengen for stage 3 full of a good breakfast, including paté. This stage went through the Swabian Alps, and it seemed like I was directed to cross a bridge, ride up the hill to a village and down the hill, cross another bridge up to the next village and then repeat. This went on for much of the day. Here there was no trail along the Danube; roads were mostly unpaved farm roads or along railroad tracks.

Including dinner that night, I paid 60.90 at the Sternplatz Hotel (Lindenstraße 28; phone 49 7391 7816830, in Ehingen.

After eating a buffet breakfast (included), I pedaled to Ulm on stage 4, spending the afternoon in that picturesque and historic town. I had biked through the rain on and off, and my fancy rain gear did not keep me dry. 

My friend, at home, got my phone working, so I was able to use GPS to navigate and to call a tourist office in Ulm. I explored the cathedral, heard a choir and found the site of Einstein’s home.

For dinner, I ate half a chicken and a salad (I was hungry). I also bought snacks and chocolate at a gas station.

Hotel Anker (Rabengasse 2, Ulm; phone +49 731 63297, [in German only]) cost 50, including a good breakfast. Dinner was 8.60, and I spent 5.82 sightseeing in Ulm.

Stage 5 took me to Dillingen on roads along the Danube that were mostly of crushed gravel. Bypassing some villages, I managed 55 kilometers. 

I met some American teachers and went with them to Gasthof zur Sonne (Wittislinger Straße 9, Dillingen; phone +49 90 71 2201, [in German only]), which cost 70. Dinner there was good — schnitzel and potato salad for 13.50.

I rode 72.2 kilometers on stage 6, from Dillingen to Donauwörth to Neuburg an der Donau, following tertiary roads at times, getting off the gravel. This was agricultural land of corn, wheat and potatoes. I had to get directions many times in small cities. 

In Neuburg (where a nice castle can be found), a Zimmer cost me only 30. Other expenditures that day were 5.60 for coffee and a pastry, about 3.20 for bottled water and 20 for dinner.

The next day, I biked exclusively on the crushed-gravel Radweg (bike trail) along the Danube from Neuburg to Weltenburg, where accommodations could be had at Abtei St. Georg, or St. George Abbey ( [in German only])

I stayed in an upstairs room with giant wood beams and a view of the huge, brown, tumultuous Danube, which was well above normal levels due to much rain. The room cost 60 and a meal with beer, 17.70.

In the morning I biked to the boat ramp, as it was recommended to take a boat through the deep gorge to Kelheim to begin stage 8. 

From Kelheim, I biked only 31 miles to Regensburg. This small city is about 2,000 years old, with a Gothic church about 700 years old. It was a lively and beautiful town, so I spent the afternoon walking the old streets and taking in the sights. 

Staying in Hotel Kaiserhof (Kramgasse 10-12, Regensburg; phone +49 941 585350,, this was the only day I spent more than $100, with the boat ride costing 9.50, the hotel 75 and dinner 8.70, for a total of 93.20 (near $103).

Weather was good the next day, so I rode to Bogen. While on gritty and gravely roads, my bike’s pedal mechanism started making a rubbing noise, so I switched to paved roads. There were no bike shops along this stretch, but I washed my bike well that night and it sounded better. 

Pension Schreiber (Stadtplatz 23, Bogen; phone +49 9422 80 69 93, [in German only]) cost 48, and pizza, snacks and ice cream added 13.22.

I then biked to Passau to meet a couple friends and spent the night with them. We continued to Vienna (from Passau to Vienna was the busiest section of the Danube cycle path), splitting costs, then two of us rode on to Budapest. Arriving in Budapest earlier than planned, we took a train trip down into Slovenia and Croatia and back.

I can only say that when it was all over, I felt exhilarated and felt I could do anything!

Highland, MD