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.
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..
Athough this was the winner of today’s on road caption competition, It was bone dry, a scorcher, more parasol than umbrella.
Our day started with a parting of ways. Our domestique left us mumbling something about an unfair split of prize money so we were left to fetch our own water bottles. 600+ miles done, he hopped on the train and later, we’re told, did a ‘victory lap’ of Brussels, and a few hours spinning the other side of dover ‘for the craic’. Expect Hamlet cigars to be on the Wada banned substances list shortly.
A morning of smooth traffic free trails led us towards Schegen, a village that’s in Luxembourg, France and Germany all at once, and is known the world over for its fantastic area. As ever, close to the country border all signage disappears as each country helpfully assumes the other will cover that section. Nevertheless, proud Europeans that we are, there are plenty of non-border photos coming up at our next computer stop.
Then we entred Germany. And it was so terribly German. Call me Clarkson, but we enjoyed perfect signage, cracking traffic-free paths and wonderful hospitality. We followed the Saarland Radweg for most of the afternoon, which included a wee siesta and a spot of cricket using tiny apples and a rolled up mosquito net. No sticks of rhubarb here. We even found a backstreet icecream shop selling hooky cornetos at bargain prices! Oh Germany.
We sped onwards towards Saarlouis, undertaking some of the toughest climbing thus far, arriving in town just late enough for all the shops to be shut. Cheeky meal out, where Ben was delighted to find that Germans make pizzas out of fadge (potato bread) before a nightime spin along the river to own camping spot, which might just have a nice view in the morning. Joyous.
Tomorrow we head into wine country.. the main aim being to teach Ed how to spell Gewurztraminer. More posts coming soon, including our impressions of EuroVelo so far, and our Sweat-o-meter of the facilites offered to touring cyclists in each of the countries we pass through.
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!
The alarm goes off, it’s seven thirty. Rain, lashing against the window, is audible above the quiet hum of the radio and in my sleepy state I hit snooze. The sound of the rain seems to increase in volume and intensity. I know that within half an hour, I will be battling into the headwind atop my trusty mountain bike on a cycle path alongside the A4. The month is February.
This is a reality for 3% of the UK workforce every morning. A reality which we at Furious Green Ideas would love to see encompass more of the commuters living within five miles of their place of work. We want more people to enjoy a daily mini-adventure as man and machine battle through whatever is in their path on their way to work with the added bonus of not worrying about finding a parking space.
We realise however, that despite the best intentions, most of us are fair-weather cyclists. If there is a splash of rain or the mercury has dropped to single figures then the car seems to be a far more attractive option. And in terms of comfort it perhaps is. That is until you experience the delight of peering in on those bored looking drivers sat in queues of traffic while you (safely and legally) sail past. It is the most acutely satisfying feeling any morning can bring, no matter what the weather throws at you.
It is that feeling which drags me out of bed and into my well worn cycling jacket, leg warmers and winter gloves every morning. But that is not to say you need all the gear to become a cycling commuter. In winter, a bike with lights and reflectors for night cycling, a warm jacket, gloves and a helmet are all you need to kick start the healthiest way to get work.
So dust off that rusty steed in the garage or check out eBay for some bargains on both bikes and accessories and join the two wheeled commuting community, I can assure that you’ll never look back.
Birmingham to Istanbul – 2000 miles and 10 different countries. The bikes must be at least 20 years old and cost under £50. A month long tour sampling the various varieties of refreshment on offer along the way. May/June 2013, thoughts?
I hope all is well, speak soon,
And so the idea was born. The rudiments of which dreamt up whilst revising for finals exams at university as an attempt to escape the monotony of 19th Century French literature. The trip seemed simple; take four weeks and try to visit a few places still on the “To see” list in a green and environmentally friendly way, whilst working off a few pounds in the process!
Crazy but I like it.. Count me in I reckon who all’s behind this plan?
Yes let’s have a Skype and a catch up soon, was going to ask if you’re going to be in Brussels again anytime soon? I’ve moved back there!
So, the plan evolved. Ben was keen to include the EuroVelo network into the plan and, having moved to Brussels, the idea was that the city would become our starting point. More discussion followed and the plan to ride on £50 bike became less and less attractive as the gravity of the challenge was realised.
We then discussed an aim. What did we hope to achieve by cycling 2000 miles in a month, ending up at the tip of Europe? This is when FuriousGreenIdeas was born. We wanted our journey to have an environmental aspect and the EuroVelo network, as a seriously decent idea, seemed like an obvious choice. We wanted to champion the work they have done and aid in the publicity and development of the network. Usage is key to development and we feel the more people know and use the routes, the more funding will become available to improve what is already an impressive European-wide facility.
And this is where we find ourselves today. We have a route (albeit 2000 miles longer than initially anticipated), we have an aim and we have five months in which to build a network of contacts throughout Europe who can help us publicise the EuroVelo network to the maximum number of potential cyclists as possible.
Keep checking FuriousGreenIdeas for further updates and feel free to get in touch!
Ben and Ed
Why “furious” green ideas??
A not-so-subtle reference to the work of Noam Chomsky – an inspiration not only for his work in linguistics but also for his activism and his environmentalism.
Although we’re generally pretty calm people, there are plenty of things in this world to be furious about. This blog is about using our fury to good effect and becoming active inthe things we care about – the environment, cycling, language and travel, food and drink.
Idea number 1 – cycle the length of Europe, from London to Istanbul. In doing so, we want to show as many people as possible along the way how great cycling is – whether for a long distance budget holiday or just for getting to work in the morning. By using, promoting and reporting about the EuroVelo routes (more here) we’ll provide proof that you can have a better, healthier, more sustainable holiday, soon to be made even easier with the completion of 14 uninterrupted cycle routes across the continent.
We set off in August, and preparations have already begun: planning the route, getting into cycling shape for our 150km a day regime, and arranging promotional events with local cycling associations in the 13 countries we will pass through.
Watch this space for updates on this and future projects!
Ben & Ed