We left the Spanish coastline, making our way inland towards Pamplona. The map showed nothing but mountains all around us so we were expecting hellish inclines. Instead the inclines never appeared as the road simply followed the river, weaving between the hills, leaving perfectly flat riding for us to enjoy.
Six months on the road! Six months of travelling on two bikes, eleven countries (thirteen but we’re not counting our two hours in Bosnia or Vatican City), over 5,000 kilometers and 417 hours, 48 minutes and 47 seconds, give or take, with our butts in the saddle. For two people who didn’t ride bikes, who didn’t even own bikes, we are absolutely loving this way of travelling.
London engulfed us as we stepped off the platform at St Pancras, commuters pouring out the train doors and through exits, swirling around us as if we were stones in a fast flowing river. We waited on the side until the ebb slowed, making our way single file, following wheelchair access signs to lifts that would take us above ground.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As we have now officially survived one month on the road here is a snapshot of what we have learnt as first time bike tourers to date.
We rolled into Frankfurt at 3pm with about 70km under our belts and no accommodation organised. It is a massive city, it would be great to stay a few days and sightsee, surely we would have a plethora of hotels to choose from, right?
On a friendly recommendation we headed for the very pretty town of Koblenz. Situated where the Rhine and Moselle rivers meet, Koblenz is full of historic fortresses, palaces, romantic narrow lanes and inviting town squares.
50km away was our next stop Venlo and we were on a pretty good run when we came across a windmill. But it wasn’t the windmill that stopped us, it was the albino emu.
With storms chasing us across the map, we decided to try and outrace the weather, stopping only for one night in the smaller towns. We wanted to join up with EuroVelo 4 or 6, crossing into Germany and following the Rhine. It was the first time the bike paths turned to dirt, winding through forests, horse trails and fields.
Our devices for our trip: Samsung galaxy s tab 8.4 (one of two) & Sony Experia Z3 Compact (Mine, Suyin has a IPhone 4s) We already owned two fantastic tablets and smart phones so we wanted to avoid spending extra money on a dedicated GPS unit or a trip computer (a.k.a nav man for a bike). Smart devices have so many apps and options now, so we decided to try our luck with free apps and location services built into these. So how do we navigate?
Starting at 7am as it was going to be a big day of riding we loaded up the bikes in the chilly rain. We were heading for Breda the next big town on the map and it was going to be our longest kms yet: 66km. We should have added another number 6 to that as every km totally sucked. The bike paths followed farming paddocks and field lines and the wind and rain came howling straight across them with no shelter or protection. For 6 hours (yup another 6) battling headwinds and crosswinds the bikes were reduced to a crawl with every rotation of the pedal a huge exhausting effort. The hours crawled by and we could do nothing but put our heads down and get through, soaked to the bone and freezing.
The Cube Houses: The Overblaak Development was designed by Piet Blom. Each cube, tilted on a 45° degree angle, was built to resemble a tree and together they represent a forest.