At 5.30am in the morning Cleave shook me awake begrudgingly and with much complaining. After seeing three cruise ships docked in the harbour oozing out thousands of people onto the dock and being smushed by the crowds in Old Town we put on an alarm hoping to beat the masses. Of course now that it was the crack of dawn it was hard to remember the enthusiasm we originally had. At 6am we stood bleary-eyed at Pile Gate, the main entrance to the old city. Usually packed by ice-cream fuelled crowds by day it was eerily devoid of any signs of life. Advertisements
As soon as we rode into Omis, we could tell this place was really unique. Located approximately 25km below Split, the landscape of Omis looks like it’s right out of the Jurassic Age, surrounded by mountain ranges whose rocky steep slopes rise dramatically behind the town.
We thought we would share some updates on how some of our gear is holding up (bikes, tent, humans) along with some encounters with nature and statistics on the trip to date.
Arriving in Zagreb, Croatia’s northwestern capital and transport hub, we were greeted with the news that no further trains within Croatia would take bicycles. The trains either had no luggage compartments or they switched to buses which they refused to give us a ticket for. We would have to ride from here on in.
Standing at the international counter in Budapest’s Central Station we met with an interesting hiccup. Most people take a direct train to Croatia, arriving a few hours later with barely a delay. Most people do not have loaded touring bikes. And the two daily trains from Budapest, Hungary to neighbouring Croatia did not have bike or luggage carriages.
After our epic 125km day of riding we spent the next few days holed up in our AirBnB apartment doing not much more than small, knee-creaking ventures out for groceries and gelato. We cooked dinners in our tiny galley kitchen, caught up on Game of Thrones and basically moved as little as possible. After about three days of that we promised that we would make an effort go out and see the city. Budapest was waiting for us. And she was glorious.
Throughout our time bike touring across Europe we could clearly see how cycle tourism has created successful businesses and kept small towns thriving. The Danube path between Linz and Vienna is on both sides of the river to combat the large numbers of cyclists. In quite a few sections we could see bars, grills, penzions, hotels and bike friendly signage. Countries are now rolling out kilometer after kilometer of perfect cycleways to encourage this type of tourism.
Leaving Vienna we resumed our adventure heading east towards Budapest. To reach the Hungarian border we would be crossing through parts of Slovakia, a former member of the Eastern Block.
The Austrian capital Vienna has incredible imperial, artistic and intellectual roots from residents such as Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud. Once the centre of the powerful Habsburg monarchy, historical palaces, monuments and opulent buildings line the streets in a seemingly never-ending display of grandeur. Such a grand city can easily burn a hole straight through your wallet and your trip budget. Due to our trip timing we spent only one whole day in Vienna which barely scratches the surface of this great city. However we did manage to keep within our budget of $100AUD (€70) for two people, including accommodation. Read on to see how we did it!
Vienna! Grand sophisticated imperial Vienna, the Austrian capital and the ‘City of Dreams’. We couldn’t wait to get there. We rode 92km straight from Krem in one day along the Danube river. As soon as we got in we set up camp, walked to the nearest pizzeria and crashed out exhausted.
Riding is not the best when you’re hung over. I blame the schnapps. Or it could have been the homemade walnut liqueur. Not to mention the countless beers and wine spritzers we had.
We left Český Krumlov with mixed feelings. The disney-like town was to be our last major stop before saying farewell the Czech Republic. Despite being beautiful it was sadly overrun by the tourism industry. Through a drizzle of rain we headed south to the border, determined not to let the mountains ahead stop us from reaching the Austrian city of Linz some 70kms away.
We had heard from a few people that a Czech ‘must see’ was the 13th century medieval town of Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Due to its economic importance but relatively peaceful history, Český Krumlov has retained its entire medieval layout and has 300 protected historic buildings including an enormous castle which the town was built around.
One of the best things about bike touring is that you can change plans on a whim. We had planned to stop for lunch provisions only, and then ride onto a campsite. But we rode into the middle of this town square and just said ‘Wow’.
We took a local train to Tabor, about 100km from Prague. Riding on the sidewalk in Prague is illegal and the traffic is crazy busy, so we didn’t feel comfortable riding side by side with all the peak hour vehicles. Tabor is a popular start to the Greenways Cycle Route, which takes you from Prague to Vienna. When we got off the train we encountered something we hadn’t done yet: Hills! And plenty of them.