Posts Tagged With: Cycle touring

Enough is enough

18th April- Strasbourg to Lille

After a hearty breakfast Hils and I set off for the train station so I could see her off, then set off to head in the direction of Reims- which I anticipated would take 4 days.

after saying goodbye I suddenly felt very alone and really sad, and then it started to rain. I circled the station for a while, thoughts swimming around and dreading the prospect of even 4 days of cycling alone, let alone at least a week to get to Lille, and I decided right there I want to go home and headed back to the hotel to use the wifi to find a way to get home.

I spent about 2 hours online figuring out he best way that wasn’t going to cost a fortune, all the while battling with the voices in my head. “You’ve failed if you go home now, it’s only a week and what will people think” then the other “get stuffed, I’m done. I’m missing Nik, I’m sick of being on my own and this is my journey nobody else’s.” The second voice won and I booked a train from to Lille and changed my Eurostar for the next day. I know I’d made the right decision because normally the stingy in me wouldn’t agree to paging an extra £150 onto anything, but I didn’t care I just wanted to go home.

The first hurdle was to try and get on the fast train that didn’t usually take bikes, so I was ready with my best ‘I’m a poor defenceless girl alone who really needs your help’ face. It worked- luckily the very nice train manager, who also had his bike not only let me on the train with my bike but also let me off paying extra for it and put me in my own little carriage. He was my knight in shining armour who let me breath a huge sigh of relief knowing I’d be home in my own bed with my man tomorrow.

Got to Lille around 4pm and hung around in the hostel for the evening, which had a real buzz to it and some nice people to talk to. I still had the first voice in my head, but the second was definitely overpowering it.

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Picture postcard

11th April- Iffeldorf- Fussen- 85km

I crept out of my tent this morning, paranoid someone would come and find me. I was right next to some taps, so I thought I’d be able to have a cuppa and brush my teeth before I left- but the water had been shut off of course so I had to make do with brushing my teeth in the lake.

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fuhnsee campsite Iffeldorf 

It was freezing last night, so I didn’t get much sleep again. However it was worth it for the view I woke up to and also when I nipped to the loo in the middle of the night (when I say loo I mean bush) the stars were out of this world. Excuse the pun. Living in London it’s easy to forget a real starry sky.

I couldn’t stop taking photos today, the scenery was beautiful- like every travel magazine you see of Austria in winter, snowy mountains and lush green fields. The little villages I passed either had gorgeous paintings on he houses or wooden houses with decorative carvings.

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5km from Fussen

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Lunch stop

My mood was so upbeat I was singing at the top of my voice (Justin bieber  ”sorry’ in case you weren’t wondering) the way you sing when no ones around- those real high pitch notes I really can’t hit when two guys on bikes cycled past pretty cautionary giving me some really strange looks. I was just a tad embarrassed. He he.

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Got to Fussen in the afternoon, dropped my bags at the hostel and went for a wander around. It’s a really cute little town with cobbled streets that run along a river but not a massive amount to do other than he castles tomorrow which I’m so excited about!!

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Fussen

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A great day on the bike

10th April- Salzburg (Austria)- Rosenheim- iffeldorf (Germany) (100km train, 90km cycle)

I snook out as quietly as I could this morning, which was made easier by the fact he was sleeping in the basement for some strange reason!

Getting the train to Rosenheim meant I have enough time to see the castle in Fussen before I meet Niks mum in Strasbourg. The trains in Germany & Austria put ours to shame- they’re clean, have plenty of space for bikes, much cheaper and are actually on time!

Today has been one of those days on the bike that make up for the shit days and remind me why I’m doing this. The whole ride was constantly entertaining and without headwind, which helps, and the rain had stopped and the sun came out. I passed Through thick forest, then through some lovely picturesque villages with snowy mountains in the background and came across a lot of other cyclists on the way. I stopped for a beer and joined a guy who was just trying out his e bike for the first time- nice chap.

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Passed this cute ‘calf house’

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Lunch in Foching

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Bad tolz

There were some hills to tackle, but they weren’t huge and I was rewarded with some pretty awesome down hills- even clocked my top speed of 56kmph!

fussen is around 150km from Rosenheim so the plan was to get to 80km then find a place to camp. I rocked up at the first camp site and it seemed closed, but yet there were mobile homes there with people around, so I snooped about and found a spot I thought I could get away with pitching my tent. I was wrong. A nice Germany lady politely told me I could stay here, but there was a site 5km away. So I got to the next one, Camping fohnsee, and this officially opens in 4 days. I wasn’t in any mood to go looking elsewhere, and there’s no one actually staying here, just semi perm mobile homes that people spend the summer at, SO I found a spot to pitch my tent in the garden of someone’s spot that doesn’t seem to be here. Fingers crossed they don’t come back!!

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Talking to animals

7th April- Rossatz- Amstetten- 90km

It rained most of last night so I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but at least I was warm enough. That’s the problem with camping; as much as I love waking up outdoors it’s not the best nights sleep. I tried to time getting up and packing when the rain had stopped and got most of it done, but when it came to packing the tent away the rain started.

The camping folk are very friendly here, despite not understanding most of what they’re saying I got the jist of a few words: “guten morgen” and “calt?” (Asking if I was cold in my tent). The common phrase for hello is is gruss got I learnt, so I’ve been using that a lot now to try and sound like a local.

I made a new friend in the form of a little bird. Last night cooking dinner he/she got very close and was chirping at me to give it food, which it practically took from my hand. The cute little thing showed up this morning too as I was packing- I think he wanted to say goodbye.

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The ride to amstetten, whilst a wet one, was a tranquil and scenic one with the odd bit of farm land thrown in with the Danube path.

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I was supposed to camp again tonight but the weather forecast rain for the next few days so I’m staying at a warm showers host, called Anita. I arrived around 5pm and we sat and chatted for a while after she’d shown me around her place. Anita is the same age as me and loves to travel and cycle of course so we had plenty to talk about and shared stories of our travels and places we want to go to next. She’s got three cats, two of which are the most affectionate little things And one shy one which has a little hitler tash- I really wanted to take one with me!

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Nudity

4th April – Bratislava – Vienna- 75km

After one last look around the city with Charlie this morning we grabbed food and went on our ways in opposite directions.

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You can always count on the Austrians for their efficiency. The Eurovelo 6 sign posts tripled as soon as I passed the border into Austria in an orderly and clear fashion, so GPS not needed at all.

Despite not speaking or understanding German I can just about order a beer or ask for directions and it’s nice to hear a language that has at least a few familiar words, unlike the rest of he countries I’ve come from.

It was a fairly monotonous ride for the most part, just one straight road surrounded by Forrest on each side- again I didn’t see another soul for miles. I went slightly off track at one stage as it looked more interesting and I’m so glad I did as I saw a deer and it’s calf running through the Forrest.

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Nearing closer to Vienna the Danube path springs into life, with loads of other cyclists, runners and families surrounding the area with a really happy vibe. I turned round one bend and almost fell off my bike. Was that a completely naked old dude by the river? I shook my head and carried on only to be greeted by several other very naked bodies….Arghhhhhh it’s a nudist area. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo for the blog, but there were too many people about and I didn’t wanna look like a pervert.

I’m staying at a warm showers host again tonight, a Czech web designer called Jakub. He’s lived in Vienna for over 5 years so he was pretty knowledgable about the city and over a beer he told me about all the places I should visit tomorrow.
I pre warned him about my big appetite and he certainly took it on board providing TWO dinners- now that’s my kind of dinner. Check out the quiche he made!

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He’s an interesting guy and was telling me about a 1000 mile bike race in Czech Republic he does most years and how they have to take pepper spray as there are bears in the area and also about the hikes he’s done in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan- the photos were amazing.

I can’t wait to explore Vienna tomorrow!

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Flying through

3rd April- Gyor (Hungary)- Bratislava (Slovakia)- 85km

Today I hit my 1000km mark!

For the first 50km or so I cycled along the Danube towards Slovakia. On one side of the river it’s only a cycle path, so blissfully no cars to contend with, not even people or other cyclists it seemed. Without exaggeration I didn’t see a living sole for a good two hours, then when I did it was because I was overtaking a boat. Yes, that’s how speedy I was today. The tail wind (basically a cyclist’s energise star on Mario) and complete flat terrain helped, but I tried convincing myself it’s because I’m getting faster!

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Just me and the Danube 

I crossed the border into Slovakia pretty early on with the eerie border unmanned. Totally forgot to change my currency, so I had to scrape together cents for a coffee.

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Creepy border

My first impressions of Slovakia were really positive. Everything seems so pristine in comparison to other parts of Europe I’ve come from. The cars are shiny new ones, the streets are clean, the houses and even the churches look immaculate and brand new. Maybe it was just the few areas I passed, but I’m impressed so far.

Fun fact about Bratislava: it’s the only capital city in the world that borders two Independent countries.

For lunch I stopped at what seemed like a workman’s canteen from the 80s- everything that mustard yellow colour, but the portion sizes were spot on. I had a soup, bread, schnitzel, potatoes and a drink for €4.50!

I was around 5km from the city and waiting to see some sign of actually being in a capital city which I didn’t really get, it’s really small in Bratislava. There was a marathon going on which I stopped to watch for a bit, however my cheers in English didn’t do much good I don’t think.

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Once I’d dropped my bags at the hostel I went to explore. I was going to catch the walking tour for 3pm, but I didn’t have enough energy for that so I walked for a bit then sat outside of a cafe (the weather has been beautiful) to people watch and drink €1 beer. It seems I wasn’t the only one making the most of the cheap beer: ten drunken English guys on a stag do were sat near me- talk about Brits abroad giving us a bad name, these guys were vile. Listening in to their conversation was cringe worthy, the meaning of life (it’s to have fun if you were wondering), women’s arses, football. Yikes. I got out of there and sampled some local cuisine at a place recommended to me. Sheep’s cheese is big here, so I had these breadcrumb type dumplings with cheese and bacon in them, then strudel for dessert. Yummy!

When I got back to the hostel three other guys had checked into my room. One was a French guy called Charlie who was also cycling the Eurovelo 6 route but in the opposite direction. We got on really well and sat chatting for a while about the ups and downs of cycle touring; being unprepared, bad weather in his case (luckily not mine), hills, punctures. It was great to hear from someone else doing it solo and finding parts of it tough and not always fun, such a shame we’re not going in the same direction.
The other two guys that checked in were Russians who had come over for a gaming competition- wow did these two fit the stereotype for ‘gamers’. I had to take a photo of the amount of stuff they had charging, as I couldn’t have put it into words!

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They kept me awake until late tapping away at their games on their laptops in the dark….not a happy bunny!

 

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Weird

2nd April- Ezstergom to Gyor- 105km

I woke up around 6am and saw a text from Amadeus, the owner of the house who texted last night to say there was wine downstairs if I wanted some. I slept for 10 hours?!

The route I’m travelling from Budapest to Linz in Austria is supposed to be on the Eurovelo 6- this is a dedicated cycle network that’s supposed to be easy to follow and a nice scenic route. This hasn’t always been the case and I ended up off road yet again.

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I found my way back on the route, a fairly nondescript journey rough boring farm land and industrial estates sometimes waiting at level crossings for trains.

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This car train went on for miles!

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Perhaps the distance did me in today, but arrival at my place in gyor didn’t fill me with much joy either. It was a halls of residence rather than what I thought was a hostel in a ten bed dorm with just one Korean guy in there and his stuff everywhere. I got a strange insight into his skin care regime that included scrubbing then slapping his face!!

Weird place, weird guy, weird day

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Rock n roll

1st April- Budapest- Esztergom-75km

I dragged out breakfast this morning, eating a million slices of toast, cereal, sweet treats and 3 mugs of tea because I really didn’t want to leave Budapest and the hostel, which has been the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It was sociable, clean, the rooms were nice, staff were extremely helpful and of course the free breakfast was awesome.

The journey was a pretty peaceful cycle along the Danube. I’ve turned off my GPS as I think I’m just about capable of following a river westbound, I must admit I did check it a couple of times just in case I somehow took a wrong turning!

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Around 20km in I stopped in Szentendre for my daily hot chocolate. I really need to stop these if I’m actually going to see the psychical benefits of this cycle. Szentendre is a touristy seaside like village popular with artists, lots of cobbled sets and cute little shops.

Further on I met two cycle tourers from Belgium who are 5 weeks into a trip to China! They were a lovely couple and we stopped and chatted for a little while, exchanging tips on the route ahead as we were going in opposite directions. It’s quite funny, of the few Cyclists I’ve met along the way the first thing we do is size each other’s kits up- what bike, panniers, saddle, handlebars they have. This isn’t even in a “my kit is better than yours” kind of way, but purely out of interest, as I’m sure like me they’ve done a tonne of research on what kit to get and its nice to hear first hand opinions. They seemed impressed at how lightly I’d packed and were shocked to hear I had a tent in my panniers too!

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I arrived at my air bnb place around 3pm and nobody was in, so I was a little miffed to say the least. As you can imagine the first thing I want to do other than eat after a day of cycling is shower and change out my cycle gear and this guy was delaying that. My mood was festering until I eventually met with him (Amadeus) and he’d been trying to contact me, then told me all about his city, talked of wine later and have me a fridge magnet and postcard. He works 7am-8am at a shop in the city which is why he couldn’t be there, so I felt really bad for being annoyed at him.

On the hunt for food I stumbled across an all you can eat place that had Whitney Houston blaring loudly from the speakers- what a perfect combo. A few of the locals were either disgusted or admiring the amount I was putting away after my fourth plate. That’s when the owner of the place put a dessert in front of me. Was he offering a special treat to the foreigner or was he saying “ok, enough is enough, eat your dessert and leave my restaurant”. He had a smile on his face, so I’m going to go with the former.

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I wanted to have a walk around and check out some of the sites, but I was so exhausted I got a few steps away then decided to turn back. I fell asleep around 8pm. Rock and roll!

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Mostly Peaceful day

29th March- Letenye- Balatonbereny-85kms

Cycling when the sun is coming up made for a beautiful peaceful morning, however the fleece and gloves were needed!

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I stopped to eat breakfast (muesli and yoghurt has been my staple) in my pot with my little camping spoon at a little bus stop, taking in the scenery.

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The roads are way more set up for cyclists in Hungary, there are lots of bike signs and special designated bike paths which made for a nice ride. Not much to report on the scenery, apart from some nice cottages and house along the way and a Virgin Mary or Jesus/cross statue every few kilometres. They’re big into Easter here so a lot of the houses and trees are decorates with bunnies and little eggs- looks so nice.

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I read a few cycle touring blogs that mentioned dogs chasing cyclists. Since the beginning I’ve had dogs bark at me and some chase along side for a little while, but today was the scariest. This huge dog chased me for ages and then kept swerving I front of my bike, I really thought I was going to go flying or run the dog over. The locals at the side of the road found this hilarious!

As Hungarians don’t have a coastline Lake Balaton is their seaside. It’s around 15km wide, 70km long with different resorts depending on what you want- party, relax, bit of both. Seems the ‘resort’ I got to wasn’t any of those expect a ghost town! When I arrived at the guest house the owner of the house, a very strange lady, told me I was her first customer of the year and then I found of all the bars and restaurants along the lake only one was open. The area is beautiful and I can see it’d be fun with a few more people around but at the moment it’s pretty creepy and I’ll be glad to leave tomorrow.

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The ‘scenic’ route

28th March- Ljubisica (Croatia) – Letenye (Hungary)- 100km

The day started off so well, early rise and nice flat roads. I must say that at least with the proper hills you get a hell of a view at the top, the large expanses of flat farm land can get a bit tedious so I had my podcasts (serial) to keep me entertained. In no way am I complaining though, I’m 100% done with mountains.

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I approached the border to Hungary and sat for my daily hot chocolate- I think I’m addicted to them! Thankfully the lovely Herman, from Herman restaurant exchanged my Croatian Kuna for Hungarian Forint, yet another currency to figure out. £10 is equivalent to around 4,000 forint- this should be fun with all these notes!

A couple of police officers stopped to check out my bike, paying particular attention to my Brooks saddle. For those non cyclist geeks- Brooks make (apparently) the best saddles in to world. They’re leather and don’t look comfortable, but look pretty vintage stylish- they actually mould to the shape of your bum in time, making it bespoke and the best seat to suit your own bum.

Another 20km down the road and I wasn’t on a road anymore but a lot of bloody off road, mountain bike suitable tracks. At one stage i was swerving to avoid trees, the next I was in grass so long I had to get off my bike.

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Once I got into civilisation, after about 10km of this madness I needed a beer- my first Hungarian 50p beer. It was a very small town I stopped in and I was stared at like I had two heads. They’re big starers here so I always smile or wave, but most of the time the stare just continues.
I met a delightful one eared morbidly obese man sat on the bench outside trying to speak to me in Hungarian with his mouth full of sandwich, bits flying everywhere. Nice.
Time to get the GPS out and see where he hell its been taking me. It somehow changed its own setting overnight and had set to ‘go onto unpaved roads and take the scenic route’. I cursed silently when I realised that it’d be another 60km to my destination (10km going back over the same road) and I’d already done about 80km. I really didn’t have it in me, physically and mentally so the next sign I saw for a guest house I stopped at and breathed a sigh of relief.

It made my day when the place had a little French bulldog puppy who lived there and the goulash with about 6 slices of bread went down a treat.

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Buddy

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