Author Topic: The Five-Rivers Way, Bavaria  (Read 2152 times)


  • Inch by inch.
The Five-Rivers Way, Bavaria
« on: 17 July, 2018, 08:11:46 pm »
I’m just back from a week in Bavaria riding the Five-Rivers Cycleway. I couldn’t find much info about this path (in English) so I thought I’d pop a little report here in case anyone else fancies it.

The Fünf-Flüsse Radweg (Five-Rivers Cycleway) is a less well-known, mostly flat, 200 mile (300 km) circular route around Bavaria. The rivers are: Pegnitz, Vils, Naab, Donau (Danube) and Altmühl though as a bonus the return leg (if you’re going clockwise) is along a canal, the Ludwig-Main-Donau-Kanal.

Why do it? I chose it because of cheap Ryanair flights from Manchester to Nuremberg - £20 each way. Nuremberg is a fascinating city and the airport is close - just 30 mins on their efficient trams, costing about 3 euros. I hired a trekking bike from Rentabike Nuremberg, plus panniers and toolkit and lock, for 5 days, costing me 80 euros and it was delivered to my hotel on the Monday morning. The bike was delivered BY bike - Stefan arrived with the rental bike being towed behind his own, on a trailer. Note if you want a helmet you’ll need to specify that, and there’ll be a water bottle cage but not bottle.
The bike had a quirky set of gears and maybe a more competent mechanic than me could have stopped the rear mech skipping but I was afraid of breaking something. Also - as you’d expect - it was a little uncomfortable as it was not set up the way I have my own bike. I developed a numb finger which I suspect is a slightly trapped nerve in my shoulder.

Overview: There are many beautiful sections and a few dull bits (but over 200 miles, there are bound to be). There were some surprises (random sculptures along the canal, an archaeological village on the Altmühl, toxic caterpillars…). The villages and towns were gorgeous. English is NOT universally spoken, or just the most basic version by people working in cafes and hotels but no more than that. (Indeed I cycled for a way with Thorsten and his partner Ines. He explained he had grown up in the DDR and consequently learned Russian as his second language, not English.). There will be more sausage than you have ever thought possible. “Wurstsalat” is not very salady. The signage can be confusing. A GPS is recommended! If you like beer you are in luck.

Signage: There is an official sign for the cycleway, of three blue wavy lines, and these appear as stickers on lampposts, usually nestling in with a million other stickers, and are easy to miss. You’ll also see more conventional fingerpost signs with green on white writing, but these mark ALL cycle paths and even offer multiple options between towns. There are SO MANY cycle paths. In the UK if you see a cycle path you can usually assume it’s the one you want, as we’re not exactly blessed. Not so in Germany where you’ll be offered a confusing plethora. I bought a map, in German, though that didn’t matter, and used it to plot my own GPS track for my Garmin, and I am VERY glad that I did. Even when I deviated slightly from the official route, I could see I was going in the right direction.
There were also around four diversions - the useful word you need to know is “umweitung”. One was well signed with yellow markers. One was not - I tried two different ways of getting around it, and ending up tiptoeing through the roadworks anyway. One was ignored by me - well, us, as I was cycling with Thorsten and Ines, and we just went through anyway. The last one was a joint exercise by the police and fire service who had closed part of the canal. There were no signs and I just fudged it and trusted to my GPS to reroute me.

Other People:
As well as Thorsten and Ines, the path was very popular. But we all seemed to potter along at 8-10mph - I was rarely overtaken - you’d go along and see no one ahead or behind, but the minute you’d stop (for a pee in a bush/sneaky drink of leftover wine/whatever) then there’d be a steady stream of cyclists at 30-second intervals. In a way, this is comforting for the solo cyclist. Very little chat, as it happens, and very few hellos - this is not rudeness but where there are so many cyclists, you can’t say hello to everyone. Cycling is so normal, it would be like saying hello to everyone you passed walking through London. Only in more lonely spots do other be-panniered-folk greet you. Note here in the south it’s hallo/morgen/servus/Grüss Gott.

Plentiful. The only English-language guide I found online, here, suggested they didn’t book ahead. I did, using the recommendations from the Bike und Bett website (they accredit places which have good facilities for cyclists like tools and secure storage). As I went along, though, I saw so many potential places to stay that you could perhaps wing it.

Everywhere. I just ate my way around Bavaria. As long as you’re not a gluten-free lactose-intolerant vegetarian, in which case you’ll starve. All my accommodation did big German breakfasts and many offered packed lunches but I didn’t take them up on that, as I had no issues stopping. There are also lots of tables and benches along the path, so you can buy cakes in a backerei and stop. There was one dedicated cycling rest stop with shade, fresh water and a map. There were fewer water fountains/pumps that I found in southern France, however.

General Observations:
Keep right! Use the cycle path if there is one. Obey traffic signals and the green man whether the road is clear or not. Just place your hand on the yellow box where it says “signal kommt” - no button to press unless it says “drucken” - and you will hear a faint ticking sound. On marked cycle paths, you will find cars stop and give way to you as you swoop past side roads and around roundabouts. I found this very disconcerting, being used to a more defensive English style of riding where you assume everyone is out to get you.
This area is very Catholic, and like much of Germany as a whole whether Catholic or not, completely closed on a Sunday. I am not joking. Unlike Berlin which does have corner-shop-type places, there is NOTHING on a Sunday in Bavaria except some restaurants (and my hotel’s restaurant was closed on Sunday!) You might get snacks in a petrol station.
Say “morgen” when you go into the hotel’s breakfast room on a morning but you don’t have to be cheerful about it!
Public loos were few and where you do find them, they often cost 50 cents. I took every opportunity to use them when I saw them. Otherwise you’ll be doing wilderness wees and that brings me to … TOXIC CATERPILLARS.

“Eichenprozessionsspinnern” is the German word you did not learn at school. I encountered three sections in the wooded areas where there were warning signs in place. I made a stupid and erroneous connection between “Eichen” and “Eichhörnchen” and thought it was a cute advisory of “watch out for squirrels” - but no - it’s about the oak processionary moth, a health hazard you can scare yourself reading about on Wikipedia. If you are asthmatic you may wish to consider precautions like a particular antihistamine.

So those are the overview points for anyone thinking of doing the ride themselves. Here’s my diary for anyone wanting more specifics.

Day one: Nuremberg to Amberg, 46 miles (75 km).
It was a long day but worth it to stay overnight in Hotel Fronfeste, a converted prison! I left Nuremberg quickly following the river east. It was also the hilliest day, and very pretty. The official route heads up into the town of Sulzbach-Rosenberg, a bit of a climb - it’s a pretty town but as I wasn’t stopping there, it was a horrible hilly surprise at the end of the first day. It’s actually not bad; I was just grumpy because I was tired. Amberg is gorgeous and I ended up in a beer garden, surrounded by singing locals on a brewery crawl. Two men joined me at my table, and we chatted in painful German/English mix (Germlish? Engman?) about politics, bicycles, and beer. Their first question was “will brexit still happen now Johnson has resigned?” and to be honest I had no idea that he had, as I had been cycling all day. It is embarrassing when people in other countries know more about our own politics than I do.

Day two: Amberg to Pielenhofen, 32 miles (52 km).
It was a random choice of overnight stop. I think most people probably push onto Regensburg, a much bigger town. Pielenhofen is a village with accommodation in a strange ex-cloisters building which was last updated around 1950. It was cheap, with a shared bathroom and great food. This was one of my favourite days, as the terrain was wooded and beautiful. Also, only doing 32 miles meant I could wander and divert and take my time.

Day three: Pielenhofen to Kelheim, 26 miles (41 km).
A silly day, far too short really, which made day four too long. And I had tried to get into Regensburg as I went past but failed, getting confused by so many optional cyclepaths, and I did a circle on various bridges over the Danube. After meeting the same people three times I was too embarrassed to keep trying. However, this WAS my favourite day in terms of scenery and track. Settlements like Bad Abbach were beautiful and I was in no hurry. I stayed in a very posh pension in Kelheim. The route was busy along this stretch, and various other national and regional routes use the same route.

Day four: Kelheim to Neumarkt, 59 miles (95 km).
Ugh, don’t be me - plan your days better! This was the worst day. I was tired. The hire bike was causing issues with my neck and finger and bum. I usually ride on a Brooks saddle so the more “comfortable” saddle on this bike was not at all comfortable after four days. It was hot, and there was a headwind for the first 30 miles, and I saw far fewer cyclists. I did also see the archaeological village by the Altmuhl, though, so that was a treat. I took the official Five-Rivers route that goes via Freystadt but in hindsight I might have been better on the alternate route that goes from Berching straight up to Neumarkt. This day was mostly flat farmland and not a lot to see. It was like cycling in eastern England. On the other hand, when I got to Neumarkt, I stopped in Kloster St Josef which is an actual working nunnery so that made up for everything - it was incredibly peaceful.

Day five: Neumarkt to Nuremberg, 31 miles (50 km).
Those two guys in the beer garden in Amberg had told me that today was the prettiest section. I’d agree to a point. It was almost all along a tree-lined canal, but even the nicest tree-lined canal is just a tree-lined canal after a few miles. It was enlivened by a large amount of huge sculptures for about five miles, though. I took my time and diverted into towns like Wendelstein. The last 8-10 km were a slog through endless industrial Nuremberg, past the Nazi rallying grounds which are now a place you can visit and reflect. However I didn’t see them as the path was so good it was separate from the road and lined with trees. The guy from the bike hire place came to the hotel to collect the bike … and I got drunk alone in my room. It was ace.

Re: The Five-Rivers Way, Bavaria
« Reply #1 on: 17 July, 2018, 08:18:05 pm »
Thanks for posting this. One for the bucket list thinks.
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Re: The Five-Rivers Way, Bavaria
« Reply #2 on: 17 July, 2018, 11:45:48 pm »
A bit of a coincidence as planning to do this route next Monday. I am flying out Friday, and after spending a bit ofmtime in Amberg, start from Amberg on Monday morning. Amberg to Regensburg, from therento Welteburg (just off the route), then to Berching, Nuremberg and back to Amberg. Hoping the weather holds. Any recommendations?

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: The Five-Rivers Way, Bavaria
« Reply #3 on: 18 July, 2018, 07:33:38 am »
I got Eichenprozessionspinnered on my tour in NL last month - horrendous itching round my neck and my partner‘s arms, but antihistamines did help.

Looks like you had a good trip. Germany can be ace for cycling but I too have had issues with signage on marked routes in the past.
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake –


  • Inch by inch.
Re: The Five-Rivers Way, Bavaria
« Reply #4 on: 18 July, 2018, 01:22:02 pm »
Canardly - don't wait for bucket lists! Do it now :)

Auntie Helen - oh no! I only looked it up when I was 190 miles in with 10 to go. I think I would have worried a lot more if I had known every time I saw one of the signs.

It was a great trip. I've cycled in Germany before but only day-trip stuff on hired bikes, and I've done multi-day tours before but never alone. This little trip was a big thing for me.

Orejas - my biggest recommendation is have each day loaded onto your GPS! Amberg is beautiful but not enough there to occupy a whole weekend, I think. Make the most of Nuremberg first if that is where you are flying to. I hope you enjoy Regensburg as I did miss out on it; I saw the Roman replica boat being rowed up the Danube though. Lots of Roman stuff in Regensburg. Watch out for the alternate routes on signposts - you will come to fingerposts that have two Five-Rivers signs both telling you to go to Nuremberg (for example) and pointing in different directions. One clue is to chose the one with the little tree by the placename, as that indicates a scenic route.

I can't think of any other advice except what I posted in the OP. Don't order a Wurstsalat unless you really, really like sausage in a massive pyramid topped off with red onion and a pickle.

Enjoy it! I would love to know what you think of it.