Germany and cycling go together like curry powder and sausage.
Nevertheless, we had to leave and pursue our Turkish goal. Since joining the Danube at Vilshofen (Germany), we crossed into Austria just outside Passau and have been winding our way towards Vienna for a couple of days. Both sides of the river have very good, signed cycle track, we have been following the Austrian R1 and we occasionally see a EuroVelo 6 symbol.
We had been warned before leaving for this trip that parts of the Danube had recently flooded. We saw first hand how high the water reached when we stopped for a drink in a cafe in Passau. There was no inside seating, the place having been six feet underwater in June. The owners had done remarkably well to get things up and running in such a short time, the pictures on the door showing how damaging the flood had been.
Moving towards Vienna there were constant signs of destruction. It is a credit to the Austrian cyclist’s organisations and tourist board that so much of the cycle track is back up and open. We have experienced only one large diversion and one short section which is still covered with silt and tree debris in the 300km or so from Germany.
A highlight of the past couple of days was joining a cricket practice in Linz. We had had a nightmare few hours caused by splitting inner tubes and wonky wheels and were pedalling out of town with glum expressions when, on approaching a motorway underpass, we saw a bowler steaming in. He was pretty rapid, though the batsman seemed unperturbed by his pace and gracefully guided the ball through extra cover. We watched for a few moments before asking if we could find a place to field. We were gladly excepted and were soon streaming in ourselves. Slightly less pacy and indeed accurate we held our own – it’s not easy bowling in cleated cyclung shoes! Ed was offered the bat and was thankful for the “you can’t be out on your first ball rule” when the stumps clattered to the ground.
We said our thank yous and were on our way. A short spin later and we found a perfect camping spot on the banks of the river and cooked dinner in the sunset.
The following day we had an unbelievable morning. We had managed 75km by 11:30, helped by a group of Austrian cyclists who were starting a six day tour and allowed two pannier clad Brits to ride their train and catch their draft. Ben, the courteously young man that he is, did his turn at the front of the peleton much to the amusement of the Austrians.
More flat Danube riding through the spectacular Wachau valley was the flavour of the afternoon and we finished our day just outside Krems, sipping on a bottle of Gruner Veltliner bought from a local vineyard.
A short 70km spin into Vienna in the morning where we have enjoyed some indoor camping. On to Bratislava today along our favourite European river.
It has been a tough few days for furious green ideas. We have experienced our first significant mechanical problems alongside some challenging terrain and a turn in the weather. The cycling, however, continues to improve!
After our rest day in Konstanz we took the ferry across the Bodensee to Meersburg before racing the 50km or so down to our real start point at Lindau. Lindau marks the beginning (or end) of the 420km Bodensee-Königssee-Radweg, a route that follows the foothills of the Austrian Alps along the southern German border, taking in some of the minor climbs amongst some breathtaking scenery.
It’s is a more challenging tourist trail than those which follow the Rhine or circle the Bodensee, but worth every climb. As ever, the route is fantastically signed – our map was only useful for picking out lunch/beer stops 20km or 30km down the road. Some signs will even have the gradient of ascent/descent marked so there are no nasty surprises. We had a Kompass map (8.99€) which marks steep gradients and has a profile overview so you can choose to miss some of the larger climbs if you wish.
Our one criticism of the route so far is that there is no distinction between minor roads and unpaved forest trails. This meant we spent around 25kms on Sunday crawling along at less than 10kph on bumpy tracks, just waiting for a spoke to snap. We even had a river crossing to negotiate!
That said, the views have been spectacular. We have climbed above 1000m, and rarely dropped below 600m since the Bodensee. It is worth noting here that if you’re thinking of coming this way, bring some more wintery cycling gear as the weather can turn quickly at this height, as we found out last night!
We are only able to complete half of the Radweg as we must head north to Munich, but if anyone is looking for a challenging four day/week long cycling holiday, get to Lindau and head east!
So a few absent days due to a lack of internet. They have been fairly frustrating for us.
For Ben, battling against the boredom of flat, pothole and traffic free cycle track has taken its toll. We called up reinforcements in the shape of Trivial Pursuit and have seen a mild improvement in character.
For me a broken spoke has proven that I did indeed eat all the pies, and have most probably got a few more tucked away in my panniers. This has caused a delay to a day which started so well with a 11km descent before a dip in the bath water warm Rhine.
So, we sit in Bad Säckingen, just on the german side of the river after a few navigational mishaps in Switzerland last night, waiting for the bike shop to open to true up my back wheel. No idea how far we’ll get this evening, so time to relax..
We are up and underway after a slap up breakfast and a warm send-off at ‘look mum no hands’, east london’s chic-est cycle spot.
Lunch was a Weatherspoons special. The handy menu has the number of calories marked next to the dish so the choice is easy – go big! Steak and kidney pie has a delightful 1165.
Onwards along the south bank of the Thames, Gravesend being our first afternoon pause. We met Nikki who chairs the Gravesend RLNI rundraising group and had a go on her Tombola. Our luck was in and we walked away with a pack of Polos. Minty fresh!
We later steered inland to Gillingham, travelling swiftly through the beautifully sunny countryside. A few wrong turns followed before we stopped for a well earned pint in Faversham.
A nightime search for a camping spot was perhaps not the most clever idea, though we were lucky to happen upon an idyllic setting on the edge on an orchard. Food cooked and eaten it was time for bed – our first border crossing tomorrow!
A question asked by everyone we’ve spoken to about the trip. Cyclists are an often misunderstood bunch and excitement at the thought of cycling 4500km in four weeks with infrequent access to showering facilities seems a tricky concept to convey. So, I put the question to myself – what is the motivation behind the trip?
For me it’s simple. I want to cross a continent under only my own propulsion. When put as simply as that, it sounds epic! With so many complications in modern day life, a stripped back adventure of pedalling 4500km unsupported and outside the constraints of tolls, traffic or timetables is, to me, the most appealing holiday I can think of.
In addition, there is an environmentalist aspect. We are both keen to approach our lives with sustainability in mind, from recycling our beer bottles to re-homing some quite horrendous woolly jumpers! Cycle tourism is the ultimate in sustainable holiday making and something we hope to promote during our trip, both in the UK and more broadly in Europe. It is fair to say that the EuroVelo network is still very much in the development stages. The guys at the EFC are doing some monumental work to get a signed infrastructure up and running and it’s up to us the cyclists to get out there, use it, comment on it and help it develop into a fully operational European-wide network.
It is a truly unique concept and makes our American and Australian counter-parts green with envy. A whole continent connected with criss-crossing routes which enable the two wheeled adventurer to visit some of the most spectacular sites in Europe is a tremendously desirable amenity. What’s more, the fact you measure the cost of your journey in miles per flapjack as opposed to miles per gallon of petrol means that it is an affordable means of exploring a country in these days of ever increasing fuel prices. And let’s face it – the price at the pump is only going one way.
We leave in four and a half months and have a great deal to organise. We want to get in touch with cycling contacts in the various countries we plan to cycle through (a draft route can be found here) in order to promote EuroVelo in that particular country so please get in touch if you can be of any assistance. A more detailed route will be coming soon.
In the mean time, happy pedalling!