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  1. #1
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    Going to Europe. I have some general questions

    Landing in Frankfurt 5/15. I will ask all my questions in one thread.

    I am arriving 5/15 and leaving 8/1. I am looking for any route suggestions or places you would recommend visiting. My current plan is as follows: From Frankfurt, I will follow the Rhine and Danube to Munich or thereabouts. Then the Austrian Alps and Dolomites into Italy. Depending how much time I have and how strong I feel, I would like to take a ferry to Sardinia, Corsica, and Nice. From Nice, I will take the Route des Grandes Alpes to Switzerland, perhaps watching the Tour de France stages at either Galibier or Tignes in mid July along the way.

    What are the laws regarding free-camping in Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and Switzerland? I hear free-camping is not permitted on Corsica or in Switzerland. My tent is bright orange. I have never been rousted in the US or Canada in it, but I would guess there's a bit more open space here.

    Usually I tour with a laptop that is too big and heavy. Mostly I store photos and keep a journal on it. I think this time I will keep a paper and pen journal and try to write my photos from compact flash card to CD. I suspect there are a lot of places that would do this in the larger cities that I might pass. Could someone confirm this? I have also been looking into bringing a smart phone/pocket pc kind of gadget. Anyone got an opinion on these?

    I hope for this to be a cultural and gastronomical tour as well. I toured France in 2004 and connected almost every tour in the Lonely Planet book. When I went there, I mostly wanted to ride the famous cols of the Tour, like the Tourmalet, Galibier, etc. and take in their scenery. I found things such as eating the local wines, cheeses, and specialties (such as choucroute and Riesling in Alsace, cassoulet in Languedoc, etc) and visiting Notre Dame des Cyclists and other such places to be as enjoyable. I wonder what places, foods, etc. you would suggest for this route. Should I have frankfurters in Frankfurt? Yes, I will search for Italy's best macchiato and cappucino, even if it causes my heart to explode. And I may take a detour to drink or smoke things that are not easily available here in the states. Perhaps a nip of absinthe, or "coffee" in a dutch coffee house.

    More questions to come as they occur to me

  2. #2
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Free camping isn't technically legal in any of the countries you mention. It is in Sweden and Norway, and there are many free campsites in Denmark, but the other countries don't allow it. However, I do it all the time. I have never been caught, but then again, I don't use a bright orange tent.

    I can't say I would recommend stealth camping in a bright orange tent because, as you say, there is much less distance and open space between towns.

    Where are you from?

  3. #3
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    I'm from Southern California

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    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Go to Freiburg. It's down the Rhein, and wonderful. It's an old university town, but is freed up for bikes. The only other place I've been so bike friendly is Copenhagen. But Freiburg has a certain difference. Maybe it's the youth. ride the river cycle route at rush hour. It's something to behold - an artery of bikes zipping along the narrow track, no safety rails, just you and the river, a number of bridges to ride under and what feels like every other cyclist in Germany. I've never experience anything like it.

  5. #5
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    As you have already suggested, The Rhine bike path, and then the Danube bike path, are great riding. Beautiful stuff, well sign-posted and lots of bike friendly infrastructure. Also the Elba is beautiful riding. The Camino de Santiago in Spain is incredible as well. Too many choices, not enough time.

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    Free camping is definitely illegal in France but we have not had a problem yet. Yes, it is more crowded but I think you can still find plenty of places to hide yourself away and in any case in most situations I don't think people really mind. We have asked before where we can camp and have been pointed by locals to public but quiet spots, never had a problem. I think the police in general have bigger things to worry about!
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  7. #7
    Senior Member marmotte's Avatar
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    If it's only for the night, noone will prevent you from stealth camping. Ask farmers for a place, maybe a shower possibility. (You also can have showers where soccer places are).
    Freiburg is a really good place for cyclists, but if you decide to go to Munich, better way is the Neckar valley (Rhein up to Mannheim, then to Heidelberg, where the Neckar bike trail starts).
    My favorite place is Corsica. But avoid eastern coast, it's flat and rushy. Center or western coast are a dream.
    marmotte
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    Corsica was my favorite part of my 2004 France trip as well. Calvi to Corte to La Restonica. I hope to get a taste of the South this time.

    Do you recommend taking the Neckar bike trail over the Rhine and Danube? I'm not attached to any route at the moment. Visiting Freiburg sounds like something I would like to do. I love bicycle-friendly places. It sounds like the Rhine+Danube route is quite nice, and a good way to mosey towards the Austrian Alps.

    Some more questions:
    Is denatured alcohol widely available? I will be bringing an alcohol stove. I remember Alcool a bruler to be quite common and cheap in France, but will I have problems finding it elsewhere?

    Are Tourist Offices as common elsewhere as they are in France?

    Are most of the high passes in the Austrian Alps and Dolomites clear by mid-June? Or usually passable?

  9. #9
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    You'll have no problems finding a place to write your photos to CD. Internet cafes are everywhere, even in small towns.

  10. #10
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    This is a map of Germany's long distance routes. Traveling is easier when you know the route will take you where you want to go instead of constantly deciding which way to turn.

    http://s98.photobucket.com/albums/l2...tz20_620px.jpg

  11. #11
    Senior Member marmotte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jabantik00
    Corsica was my favorite part of my 2004 France trip as well. Calvi to Corte to La Restonica. I hope to get a taste of the South this time.

    Do you recommend taking the Neckar bike trail over the Rhine and Danube? I'm not attached to any route at the moment. Visiting Freiburg sounds like something I would like to do. I love bicycle-friendly places. It sounds like the Rhine+Danube route is quite nice, and a good way to mosey towards the Austrian Alps.

    Some more questions:
    Is denatured alcohol widely available? I will be bringing an alcohol stove. I remember Alcool a bruler to be quite common and cheap in France, but will I have problems finding it elsewhere?

    Are Tourist Offices as common elsewhere as they are in France?

    Are most of the high passes in the Austrian Alps and Dolomites clear by mid-June? Or usually passable?
    For Neckar bike trail click here and follow the links to the villages and sites for pics. With the mountains on both sides of the Neckar it's my favorite training area. There are many trails that are for bikes only.
    Denatured alcohol is available in every drug store (it's for BBQ purpose).
    Tourist Offices are everywhere, search for "tourist information".
    The passes will be certainly snow free (global warming), usually they open june 1st. The small passes are nearly car free. I remember my favorite pass which is between Italy and France: Esischie. There is a very nice place for the night at Marmora. You might pass there on your way to TdF (Iseran / Galibier is the best stage this year)
    marmotte
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  12. #12
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Well, to get from Germany to the Italian Dolomites, then the absolutely best route would be the Via Claudia Augusta. I thoroughly recommend the map book by Esterbauer even if you don't speak German. The maps are the best in the world, and irreplaceable. One book gets you a long way.

    Go to http://bikeline.at/ Click on Radtourenbucher, then Italien, then Via Claudia Augusta.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jabantik00
    Some more questions:
    Is denatured alcohol widely available? I will be bringing an alcohol stove. I remember Alcool a bruler to be quite common and cheap in France, but will I have problems finding it elsewhere?

    Are Tourist Offices as common elsewhere as they are in France?

    Are most of the high passes in the Austrian Alps and Dolomites clear by mid-June? Or usually passable?
    denatured alcohol is called Methalated Spirit, known as "Meths" in English English and Alcool a bruler in Fench. It is widly available in large towns, look for it in Camping shops, hardware stores or places that sell cleaning materials. You can also sometime find it in pharmacies and shops that sell cooking equipment (as it what runs a fondu set). You will find on the net several site that give you all the translations, take a copy.

    Tourist offices (also known as TICS) are very widespread in France, Germany and Austia, less so elsewhere

    Pasees should be open by june

  14. #14
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    I like to follow the river valleys of France. The Loire was easy. Dordogne less easy. The country side through Provence was incredibly scenic. Favorite French food too.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Miguelangel's Avatar
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    Hi
    You might want to try this web site:
    http://www.ecf.com/14_1

    Its the european cyclist federation, they have routes and info you might find interesting.

  16. #16
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    Thanks for the tips. I will check out the Via Claudia Augusta.

    I found that the Routes Departmentales (D-routes) in France were the roads to look for. They tended to have less traffic than Routes Nationales (N-routes.) Are there similarly designated highways I should seek in Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland?

    It may sound silly, but I look forward to eating canned food. I miss canned choucroute royale, cassoulet, ratatouille, etc. Are there other canned products I might want to keep an eye out for?

  17. #17
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    What kind of bike do you have? How far do you like to go each day? Do you prefer roads or bike routes?

  18. #18
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    I have always toured (except once) with an aluminum Fisher mountain bike and either front+fear bags or rear bags+BoB trailer. The one exception was in 2005 when I road my Douglas Fusion (shaped aluminum tube frame with carbon fiber seat- and chain- stays) from San Francisco to San Diego with a bolt-on seatpost rack and rear bags.

    This time I plan to do the same. 2005 Douglas Fusion, bolt-on seatpost rack, rear bags. Throughout the years I notice I take less and less, and gear in general seems to be made lighter and lighter. I don't have a scale, but I estimate my gear to weigh around 20 lbs (9 kg), excluding food. 25 lbs (11 kg) is the official weight limit of the seatpost rack. I am using an aluminum synchros seatpost because I hear it is unwise to clamp a rack onto a carbon fiber seatpost. The bike is stock with the exception of the aforementioned seatpost, 700x28 conti gatorskins, and fsa compact 50/34 crankset. I think my lowest gear (34x25) may not be low enough for the steepest sections, but I can climb out of saddle and suffer for a bit if needed.

    I'm not attached to making any particular distance or average per day. When I tour on my MTB, I usually rid e between 60 and 120 mi/day (100-190km/day.) I don't race. I just go all day at an all-day pace, stopping frequently for coffee and sightseeing. I guess I prefer bike routes. I'm assuming this means roads without cars. But I'm fine sharing the road with motorists. One thing I enjoyed about France (I assume this is true of its neighboring countries) is that motorists seem to respect cyclists' rights to the road and pass with care and courtesy. And cars are usually smaller. At least much moreso than in Southern California, where the car is king and how dare you ride a bike on my road?

    Sorry about the non-metric units. Someday my country might catch up with the rest of the world and use logical units.

  19. #19
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    So, you arrive next Tuesday. That's pretty funny because I'm starting a tour next week as well.

    I just realised, do you have a place to stay when you get here? My wife is going away on vacation next week, so I don't even have to ask permission from the boss if you could crash here.

    Are you a member of the Warmshowers list?

  20. #20
    as you wish, skeletor. ephemeralskin's Avatar
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    yo if you stop in freiburg you can look me up and ill show you around. im a 26yr old philosophy student, and i ride a cdale touring bike. i know some awesome rides, especially if you are looking to get to basel, i can ride you down thatta way.

    'Fun means something that makes you feel good. Someone who likes movies might watch a movie for fun. Games are also a way to have fun. Most people like to have fun. [citation needed]' -simple.wikipedia.

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