Day 1 : 123 miles
After a very surreal start where we were finally at the Brandenburg Gate it was lovely to have such a great send off by friends and family. Getting to the start line was such a long time in coming it was completely surreal to finally be there. A rush for independent witness statements and getting everything set then Laura’s parents unfurled an amazing banner and we were off.
Then empty roads out of Berlin on a dozy Sunday morning and into the countryside. Green fields of corn dotted with poppies and cornflowers lined our route while kites and buzzards wheeled overhead. It was just the start we needed. We were fascinated to see artifical stork nests but failed to get a photo until days later. Finally finding an open cafe on the bank Holiday weekend we ordered the biggest ice cream float coffee we could before piling on in the heat.
We certainly weren’t used to temperatures much above double figures so quickly were very hot and bothered. This made it tricky to eat and keep the fluids up but it finally started to cool later in the day but made it a stiff finish to Radeburg to grab what we could from a takeaway (all the shops are shut) only to find the campsite we had planned just outside Radeburg was actually just outside the other Radeburg… 25 km away!!
We managed to get in another only a mile down the road though and managed to get a pitch. We met some lovely Germans cycle touring the other way and feasted on our takeaway before piling into the tent.
We tucked ourselves up and and listened to… the pounding disco beats! And the strobe lights… thus was certainly not a quiet peaceful campsite. Luckily we have war plugs packed which blocked most of the noise but it was still the early hours before everyone shut up. It did make for a very quiet start the next morning though.
Day 2: 103 miles
Here come the hills…
After a flat start yesterday we quickly started on some climbs to warm up outside of Dresden before a very long drag and then some punchier bits up to about 3000ft (about the height of Snowdon) to Altenberg and ice-cream!
A final kick and we were in a different country, up and over the Czechia border. Country number 2 !
It didn’t cool down much and the hills kept on coming, combined with a particularly rough track, and then a bridge we need to dismount for and then another track we decided to sack off the scenic route and stick to relatively quiet main roads… we suspect this may have lead to a rather epic finally climb of the day but we’re pleased with our progress given the ascent!
We pushed on to find somewhere to camp and realised we would need to stop sooner rather than later given it had been a bit of an epic day. Laura spotted a town on Google maps with shops, restaurants and even pizza so we headed there to find everything closed up early. We spotted the sign for 24 hours garage and had our first experience of a Mol Garage. There were pumping tunes outside but a lovely friendly lady serving and despite us having no Czech language she rustled us up a couple of hot dogs and we bought artfully of sandwiches and snacks before heading off to see if we could find the nearby campsite.
The campsite turned out to be closed so we decided to wild camp and bedded down in a wooded area off the road. It was dead quiet until 3am when a car went past but we were undisturbed and slept well. We awoke to the patter of rain on the tent.
Day 3: 109 miles
The rain had truly settled in. Misty clouds rose from the forests on the hills as we wended up and down the rises and valleys. it looked like a tropical forest.
Soon it became less than amusing as the damp settled in everywhere and we both suffered from struggling on a bit too long without a proper break so it was a relief to get to Primbram and feast on soup and pizza in a lovely restaurant before emerging blinking into almost sunlight at 2pm…it had been solid rain to that point!!
The weather convinced us to stick to the main roads which were pleasantly quiet (we even got offered a lift!) and we were soon ticking off the next few towns and picking up the pace.
The pizza got us most of the way to České Budějovice (and a bit of fudge- thanks Edward) and we managed to aquire a lovely hotel and a couple of beers to celebrate clean bodies and shorts!
Day 4: 108 miles
Down to the Danube! First out of the city on some busyish roads and a long drag up to the border. Luckily the hotel breakfast sustained us well a we were delighted to summit in country number 3!
The we winded our way down through the Austria hillside to join a beautiful river path amd go hurtling along smooth roads to finally join the Danube.
And then we were flying. Finally on the flat along the wonderful Euro velo routes. Camped up in Melk we watching the sunset over the immense river and celebrated with a wonderful Austrian meal and a few beers.
Day 5: 146 miles
The long one…
We made a tremendous start having been fueled by the fanciest breakfast roll in Austria and were soon wending our way through the picturesque villages along the Danube, beautiful but fiddly!
A small route misdemeanor (being on the wrong side of the road) resulted in a detour through sleepy villages but along some lovely straight road with a tailwind and we’re soon back on track. We rejoined the Danube cycle track and flew along with a cracking tailwind before screeching to a halt for an epic lunch of soup, massive tuna salad and a giant schnitzel burger.
Fueled up we put the throttle down and power along a disused railway, part of Euro velo 6, and the miles started to fly for the first time this trip. In Vienna another small routing misdemeanor left us back tracking again but we mostly negotiated the city from a wonderful island through the centre. Soon we hit the Slovakian border and decided to push on through Bratislava. Having successfully navigated the city my routing failed and we bailed onto what looked like track only to grind to a halt when the next turn ended in tracks through long grass….
A quick retrace and we decide to get a hotel in the nearest village. However, despite being the perfect spot it was a flat “no” from the hotel as they were full. We tried the next… and full again… so onto the next and the next and the next…
About 15miles later and hours later we finally convinced a business hotel to let us put here in the mail room before dinning on the finest food the petrol station next door could offer and passing out in bed!!
Day 6: 113 miles
A fast day…
After a bit of stop and starting out of Bratislava for breakfast and paintbrushes (and riding some of the roads we did last night) we finally had the wind truly on pur backs and the first 50miles were bliss!
We could definitely do 180 days like this!
Then diverted onto cycle tracks Laura decided to ignore her insticnes and stay on Eurovelo 6 despite there being a short off road section. This quickly turned from a rutted track into mud and deep puddles and we literally became stuck in the mud as the pannier laden front wheel got lodged in a particularly deep puddle and we toppled over in slow motion. A slight graze to Laura’s knee and more mud on the freshly paint-brushed bike were the worst damage we sustained, but these then proved to be the slowest miles of the day as we dismounted for any further dubious terrain.
Once back on hard surfaces we picked up speed again but the wind had shifted to cross making it hard for Stevie to hold the front of the bicycle. The road surface and traffic got worse as we approached Budapest and we were delighted to get to a farmhouse guesthouse on the outskirts of the city. Mark (an ex colleague of Laura’s) came out especially to meet us and wined and dined us with true Hungarian hospitality. It was great to see a friend on the road.
We were wined and dined and the lovely folk at the guesthouse left out breakfast for us due to our early start.
After a beautiful stay at the farmhouse B&B we were slightly delayed leaving as we found the front pockets if our panniers had leaked in the rainstorms and everything needed drying.
Finally on the road to Budapest it soon got busy and finding our way onto the cycle track was a challenge enough and then it wove in and out and up and down so much we made slow progress.
Getting out of the city was tricky with either convoluted cycle track or busier main roads.
Finally on track we were soon flying with a strong tailwind and barring a couple if stops for cold drinks to cool us down from the heat we flew through the miles. The cycle tracks came and went and were variable in quality one minute on a pan flat cycle highway and next a rutted track doubling up as a pavement.
We picked up dinner in the last town and an extra 2km to the campsite along a track and we rolled into an oasis (it’s actually called Oasis Tanya). A beautiful campsite, very peaceful and with a saltwater pool to help ease our muscles…
Tomorrow onto Romania!
Almost nailed it…
We made a cracking start from the beautiful oasis campsite, sad to leave such a peaceful place but then smooth roads to Szeged and the cycle tracks had us negotiating the city in no time. We pushed on to the Romanian border and had a passports checked and stamped for the first time this trip. The Romanian’s seem to be lovely friendly people waving and cheering us on.
We stopped for yet another cola/iced tea/ice cream break feeling pleased with our progress only to roll off on a flat front wheel. Stevie made quick work of changing the tube in the heat of the day but concenringly we couldn’t find the culprit in the tyre… another 15 miles down the road and we were losing pressure again!
2nd inner tube in whilst sheltering at an empty fruit stall and we had everything crossed this would hold as we tried to tackle Timişoara. We had hoped to get a fair few more miles under our belt but checking the time we were shocked to see it was gone 6pm! We then realised we’d changed time zone for the first time this trip.
The cycle tracks weren’t so smooth here ending abruptly in a steep curb. We finally got into open roads again headed out of the city in search of lodgings and dinner. We found a very fancy hotel complete with peacocks but strongly deserted reception. A bit of Google translate work at the bar and we secured a room on booking.com and were very pleasantly surprised by a fabulous boutique style room and enough time to get showered before dinner.