While the concept of Germany has existed for a couple of thousand years, the present shape has only existed since the Second World War and Germany has only been back as a single country for 20 years or so. The Elbe is historically linked to the Hanseatic League, which was a multiple city state trading system in the Middle Ages that included Hamburg and Prague. The League is long gone although you will see buildings from that era as you cycle through the region. One of the most notable features that you will see on the route is the former East/West border. The no-man's land strip, protected with barbed wire and landmines, that existed all along the border from the end of the Second World War until 1989 has given the route large areas of bio-diversity and is now known as the Grunes Band (Green Belt).
Hamburg is a major ship-building port and a vibrant, prosperous city. As a result it is relatively expensive. Progressing eastwards, the wealth of towns and cities clearly drops as you enter the former DDR (some streets even have grass growing in them), although the culture of good public services and good behaviour continues all the way to the ancient (but largely rebuilt) city of Dresden. Passing into the Czech Republic you cross into a simpler (and hillier) environment and will encounter small areas of rust-belt factories, the industrial city of Melnik and finally the suburbs of Prague as well as green fields.
Public transport works well in both countries and the airports of Berlin, Hamburg, Hanover, Dresden, Leipzig and Prague are good places to start or finish trips. In both countries there is a fine mesh of good bike paths and, as the Elbe Radweg is one of the most popular bike paths in Europe (and the longest), there are a good number of support services along its length. A culture of spas exists along the route and for roughly €12 you can spend a couple of hours immersed in hot (and sometimes salty) water.
While Germany uses the Euro, the Czech Republic uses the Koruna. ATMs (hole-in-the-wall machines) are to be found in most small towns, so currency is easily available. In Germany credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, but not at the level of the UK or North America. For smaller payments you may find that the electronic options are limited to debit cards (like Maestro) or pre-charged EC cards. It is wise to carry plenty of cash, including small change. In the Czech Republic credit cards are accepted freely but, owing to "system errors", you may find your card doesn't actually work on occasion. Concepts like "cashback" in a shop don't really exist.
As well as the straightforward Elbe bike path we also offer you a circular route passing close to Hamburg, Magdeburg and Hanover. These link up well with two major airports and there is good railway support. Have a look at the Elbe Map, Aller Route and Leine Heide Route to understand the options.
Bicycle holidays along the Elbe are not generally offered by large travel agents or international tour operators. But it is perfectly possible to use the web to book bike tours offered by local operators. Accommodation and other costs are generally (except for Hamburg) medium/low for Germany (which is itself low compared to France). Our estimate of the cost of a reasonably comfortable holiday (ie staying in medium quality hotels, and eating and drinking moderately well) and assuming you rent a bike, based on riding for 14 days and two people sharing a room for 13 nights is:
||Cost in Euros
||€10/day per bike for 14 days
||€75/night for 13 nights
|Food and drink
||€40 per person per day, for 14 days
||and getting rental bikes back
||say €40 per person
making €2,020 in total, or €1,010 per person for a two week holiday. The bike path can be ridden end to end or you can do just sections of it which will, of course, affect your costs. Four weeks would be a comfortable timescale for the whole 922 km route (Cuxhaven to Prague), allowing for a few days off.
A lot of the smaller tourist web sites are written in German or Czech only. This should be no barrier to you using or them as Google offers a number of translation solutions. Our preferred option is the Google toolbar which can be downloaded, as the quality of translation is reasonable and in most cases the web page will appear in English as you read down it. This means it is always up to date and integrated with the website.