Germany, the country of BMW and of the Autobahn. Germany, one of the Alp countries. Germany, with regions that are visited so often by motorcycle riders that many roads are closed during weekends.
On the other hand, Germany has also regions which are very pleasant to ride through, and which are almost unknown to motorcycle riders.
All in all, Germany is a very pleasant country for motorcycle travelers. Here are some tips.
Er is een Nederlandse versie:
German: an Germanic language
German is a Germanic language, like English. This means that many words are a bit similar: you will probably recognise some words when you try to read German. The "alt" in "Alte Burg" the picture is for instance "old".
When you try to understand German speaking people however, you will probably not be ably to understand a single word...
That is not a problem, as many Germans speak (a bit) English, but, as everywhere, it is much appreciated when you try to learn a few words, and it will be handy to be able to understand a bit of German.
German pronunciation differs greatly from English. There seem to be much more consonants in German, and they all have to be explicitly pronunciated.
Some helpfull sites are the German pronunciation guide of the Oxford Dictionary and this Guide to German pronunciation.
To say yes, you say "ja". Tha "j" is pronounced as in yes, and the "a" is pronounced as in dark, but then longer, like in Haagen Das.
To say no, you say " nein". The "ei" is pronounced as the y in my.
Thank you, Vielen Dank
Thank you is "Vielen Dank" or "danke". The "ie" in Vielen is pronounced as the "ea" in "meal" and the "e" as the e in the. The "a" in Dank is pronounced as in dark; the "nk" as in ink.
Here you are, please, Bitte
Both here you are and please are "bitte". The "i" is pronounced as the "ea" in "meat", but shoerter, and the "e" as the e in the.
Another usefull phrase is the "Zimmer frei" that you see in the picture: it means that there is a vacancy.
German Language Links
The BBC has several courses in German, both off- and online, both free and for sale.
Wikipedia has a page about the German language, which is thorough and interesting.
Traffic rules: maximum speed
Probably everybody knows that there is, in general, no speed limit on the German Autobahn.
Be reminded, however, that there are many stretches that have maximum speed. In general, the Germans obey those maximums meticuously.
Without a maximum speed, you will have to check your mirrors more often than you are used to! One moment, there's nothing to see; the other moment, there is a Porsche very nearby...
Most Germans are good drivers. They keep a safe distance with those speeds. When you want to see how fast your bike can go on the Autobahn, try to remember that you should increase the distance to the one before you!
For those stretches without a speed limit, there is an advisory speed of 130 km/h.
Pass on the left!
Passing on the Autobahn is strictly on the left. You are supposed to return to the rightmost side after passing.
Maximum speed elsewhere
In the end, the Autobahn is just as boring as any other motorway. Germany has more to offer!
Without signs stating otherwise, maximum speed is:
- 50 km/h in urban spaces,
- outside urban spaces and outside motorways: 100 km/h or as signed. This can be lower or higher than 100 km/h.
The relatively high maximum speed of 100 km/h outside the Autobahn, in combination with the good to excellent condition of German roads, makes that the country is great for motorcycle travel.
Here, the same applies as for the Autobahn: when there are signs with a lower maximum speed than the default 100, people adjust their speed meticuously.
One very pleasant aspect of driving in Germany for motorcycle riders is that some speed cameras only take a picture of the front (because in Germany, the face of the driver must be visible to make the fine justifiable). Because we motorcycle riders don't have a license plate on the front, we escape the fine.
But of course, there are other ways to receive a fine...
When you are caught with a speed of more than 30 kilometers above the maximum, you are likely to loose your license. The same applies when your exhaust is too loud, especially in regions like the Eifel, with many motorcycle riders!
Other traffic rules
In many European countries, passing between two rows of slow riding vehicles is not forbidden. In Germany, this is (at the time of writing) still officially forbidden!.
However, more and more motorcycle riders start weaving through traffic in that way, and the laws will probably change in the future.
But you can always get a fine when you pass rows, and you also have to be wary of car drivers trying to prevent you from passing them: in Germany, many people don't like it when you break a law, any law.
The maximum promillage is 0.03 (which is about one glass of wine or beer).
Police enforcement is strict: it is simply not tolerated to drive when you have been drinking.
Lights and helmet
In Germany, you should wear a helmet.
And you should always use your headlight.
Right of way
In Germany, traffic coming from the left should yield to traffic coming from the right, unless signs tell otherwise.
This site gives an overview of the most important signs.
The official traffic rules for Germany are online, but unfortunately only in German...
Car drivers in Germany are, in general, very capable and well-behaved.
Maybe it's the Autobahn-speeds: most of them (motorcycle riders inclusive) observe traffic very well, and are able to take corners at relatively high speed.
Riding between such drivers is really an advantage of German roads.
Courteous and obeying
Germans are courteous in traffic: expect people to stop for crossing pedestrians, and be prepared to stop yourself too to let pedestrians cross the road.
Germans in general also obey traffic rules meticuously. You will have to ride more "civilised" than for instance in Italy.
A rather nasty side-effect of that obeyence is that some drivers will do their best to enforce rules upon you (for instance by trying to prevent you from passing a line of stopped cars).
Stau is the word for a traffic jam, and the Stau on the Autobahn, at rush hours, is (in)famous.
There are stretches with very dense traffic, even outside rush hours.
Many roads in Germany are empty, most of the day. The thing about Germany is that there are some regions that are densely populated, and many regions without big cities.
But even within the densely populated areas, it is possible to find likeable roads without much traffic.
Weekends in motorcycle heaven
Another thing to be reckoned with is the popularity of some regions for motorcycle riders, like the Eiffel, the Schwarzwald or the Harz.
Sometimes, roads in such areas are closed for motorcycle riders during the weekends, and you will encounter many fellow-motorcycle riders. You can even get stuck in a real "Motorrad Stau"!
Don't take the risk of riding on such closed roads: the police is very strict, and the punishment is severe!
Some of them will ride recklessly (at least in your eyes); others will hinder you in corners. It will be crowded when you try to eat or drink something in a café or restaurant.
But, on the other hand, riding between so many others can be a nice experience as well of course.
Where and what to eat?
Restaurants come in different names. Many of them, especially the more rural ones, are called Gasthaus or Gasthof.
Other places not to miss are Weinkeller (belonging to a Weingut, a wine making form), Brauhauses (belonging to a beer making firm) or Biergarten (garden or terrace for drinking beer) which serve food.
For fastfood, it's much more fun to go to an Imbisch than to mcDonalds. Many Imbisch eateries along great bikers road have a sign "Bikers welcome", or are even called "Biker Imbisch".
Meat and potatoes
Germans are meat-eaters, especially pig. I think it will be hard to find a restaurant which doesn't serve a Schnitzel. There are often huge, and always taste very well.
Another German treat is Wurst (sausage). They come in different varieties, like CurryWurst or Bratwurst. Any Imbisch will serve them all, often with Kartoffelsalat (potatoe salad).
For breakfast, you will get frische Brötchen; (fresh rolls), with butter, an egg, and cheese and meat to choose from.
Most restaurants serve lunch as well as dinner, often with the same menu.
In any cafe, you can get a Strammer Max, bread with fried egg and ham.
In short, Germany offers perfect food, especially after a day of riding.
What to drink?
Germany is a beer-drinking country. German beer is very good beer: an old law (the Reinheitsgebot) specified a high quality for the ingredients, and Germans are now so accustomed to pure ingredients in their beer that it is almost impossible to sell inferior beer.
To view the essence of German beer drinking culture, you could visit the Hofbräuhaus in München, where you will see men in Lederhosen (lether shorts) and women in dirndl (colorfoul dresses), drinking or serving beer in one-liter (or more) glasses.
Or you could visit the oldest brewery of the world to taste their beer.
Germany is not only a beer-producing and -drinking country; it also produces (and drinks) wine.
Especially a white wine is well-known: Riesling.
Probably the most famous whine region is the Mosel valley, but there are more regions.
In all wine-producing regions there are "Weinguts" where you can taste the wines, and often, they have the possibility to sleep there as well, and enjoy a dinner with very good wine.
Information on German wines is offered by the Deutsches Weininstitut.
Where to stay?
An overview of small campings is offered by Small Camping-Grounds in Germany.
An overview of all campings is offered by Camping in Deutschland (only in German).
Hotels and Gasthofen
Family-owned hotels with a restaurant and café/bar are called Gasthaus or Gasthof. They are often cheaper than hotels, offer good quality, and much character.
You will find them mostly in rural areas, and they are highly recommended.
Also full of character are Weinguts which offer a place to sleep.
Booking.com on Germany offers information on accomodation, and the possibility to book in advance.
On this site, we have gatherd some examples of Places to sleep in Germany that we especially liked.
"Classic" motorcycle regions
The Eifel is situated between the Rhine, the Mosel and the High Fens (Hohes Venn) in Belgium.
Especially on weekends with nice weather, you will encounter many fellow-motorcycle riders. The downside is that some roads are closed on weekends: if possible, you should visit the Eifel between weekends as well!
The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald is another well-known area for motorcycle riders.
It is a continuation of the French Vosges on the other side of the Rhine.
The Schwarzwald is a wooded mountain range, ideal for motorcycle riders.
It's famous for its cuckoo clocks,
You can visit a cuckoo clock factory, and everywhere are half-timbered houses, interiors and exteriors with wood carvings.
The Harz, the northernmost mountain range of Germany, is another loved travel destination for motorcycle riders.
Half of ot used to be on the Western German side; the other half on the Eastern German side.
Lovers of trains will be glad with the narrow gauge rails (site in German, I'm afraid) in the Harz.
Many more regions
Germany has many more mountain ranges, great for motorcycle riding. Germany is, for instance, one of the Alp countries: you could follow the Deutsche Alpenstrasse (German Alp Road).
Motorcycle roads: how to find them
Germany has a lot of so-called Ferienstrassen, signposted routes. Some of them have their own websites.
The Deutsche Alpenstrasse (German Alps Road) is the oldest, and runs, of course, through beautiful mountains.
A remarkable route is the Deutsche MotorradStrasse (the German Motorbike Road), which is 9000 kilometers long, and covers the whole of Germany.
Probably the most famous is the Romantische Strasse.
Another interesting route is the Burgenstrasse (Castle Road): there are a lot of castles to visit along this road.
Finding your own
Of course, it's very easy to find your own good roads.
A first step could be to inspect a region you would like to visit on the Michelin map, and look for the roads that are marked as scenic (the "green roads ").
What to see?
Probably everyone on the world has heard about Neuschwanstein, and when you're in the nabourhood you should visit it, if only to admire the great location.
But there are many more castles ("Burgen" in German) in Germany, and many of them are open to visitors.
Wikipedia also has a list of castles in Germany.
One special castle is Schloss Augustusburg in Sachsen, which houses a motorcycle museum.
In the first place, there is the motorcycle museum in Schloss Augustusburg.
It's nearby the place of the old factory of MZ, but there is much more to see.
Germans (well, many of them) are motorcycle-minded, and Germany has a lot of small or bigger motorcycle museums. Of course, Berlin has one: the DDR Motorrad Museum, especially for formal DDR brands.
The combination of "German" and "motorcycle " is, nowadays, almost synonymous for BMW. There is a BMW museum in München, which has a motorcycle department.
There are many more, such as the Fahrzeug und Technik Museum (vehicle museum) in Neuendorf, the Zweiradmuseum (two-wheeled vehicles museum) in Neckarsulm, or the Motorrad Museum Heinz Luthringhauser in Otterbach.
When you pay some money, you are allowed to ride around the Nürnburgring, together with other motorcycle riders, and car drivers: be carefull!
The Hockenheimring has guided tours and many other activities.
The Sachsenring also has guided tours, and you can take part of a riders training as well.
Another tyupe of "circuit" is the BMW enduropark Hechlingen, where you can rent a BMW or take your own bike.