Introduction - Krakow to Salzburg 1999 - CycleBlaze

May 14, 2021


I thought I had already posted the last of my original hand-written journals, but was startled and elated to discover two more packed away in our storage unit this spring.  One, of our first tour to the Dordogne in 2000, is incomplete - it looks like I ran out of journaling steam partway through the tour.  And then there’s this one, of our tour from Krakow to Salzburg the year before.

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For a number of years I had a deep interest in Middle Europe and the countries trapped behind or just emerging from the Iron Curtain.  Several of our earliest international tours reflect this almost obsessive curiosity at the time: in 1994 we toured through western Hungary; in 1996, the Czech Republic; in 1998, Slovenia; in 1999, this tour; and in 2001, Croatia.  

This tour was to have been the most eastward-facing of the lot.  Poland wasn’t as deeply entrenched in the tourist circuit yet, and starting out from Krakow felt quite exotic and even daring to us.  Travel guides were still pretty limited, especially once you left the best known cities.  In an age where first-hand accounts of cycling in Eastern Europe were hard to come by, it’s safe to say that we really had little idea what was in store for us when we left for Krakow.  As I think back now, I think I managed to find one Rough Guide that covered all of Middle Europe, and a guide to Poland that gave much more detail but supplied little information or insight about tourist facilities and certainly nothing about biking. 

Other than the time when we lost our passports in Spain, this is our only tour where we failed to generally stick with our original plan.  In this case, we started out with the intent to bike south from Krakow across the Carpathians into Slovakia, and then through northeast Hungary to Budapest.  From there we were going to make our way to Salzburg for our flight home, but I don’t recall now what the planned route even was - but most likely we would follow the Danube upriver to Vienna and then work our way down to Salzburg somehow.

That didn’t happen.  This happened instead:  

Brown: from Krakow to Budapest, by the original plan. Pink: Krakow to Novy Targ, by bicycle. Green: Novy Targ to Brno, by train(s). Blue: biking from Brno to Passau. Yellow: train from Passau to Innsbruck. Red: by bicycle, from Innsbruck to Salzburg.
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I’ve taken to mentally thinking of this as a blown trip, but rereading this journal reminds me of how incredibly rich this experience was.  It’s amazing how many of our most memorable travel experiences came from this chaotic, crazy month on the road.  So many experiences quickly come to mind that were memorable enough that they’re still vivid in my mind, ones we’ve kept alive by retelling them to ourselves and others over the past 20 years:

  1. Getting sick in Krakow.
  2. The worst pizza and salad combo of our lives, in Novy Targ.
  3. The incident at the Krakow train station.
  4. Getting ejected from the train at the Czech Border.
  5. Revisiting a memorable hotel in Passau.
  6. Losing and then refinding Jack Maggs.
  7. Losing and then refinding Rachael’s glasses in Kufstein. 
  8. And Salzburg.  We loved cycling around Salzburg and have talked of returning ever since (hopefully, this autumn!).

It’s almost startling to me to reread this journal now.  So many details I’d forgotten, of course - I always expect that when I reread a journal from the past.  What surprises me most though is just how dense and detailed the journal is of those first days in Poland and on to the Czech Republic.  It’s a fifty page hand-written journal, and fully half of it comes in just the first five days.  It’s almost like I had logorrhea! So much happened in those first days, but it also reflects an openness and impressionability that feels like I’ve lost a bit of as I’ve aged.

I hope you enjoy the experience, and thanks in advance for following along.  I’m sorry that not more photos survived, but it’s more than I expected to find after all this time.  

And, a plug: support this wonderful, welcoming website!  If you’re not a member yet, consider signing up.  It’s free, though you’re encouraged to donate - someone needs to help Jeff pay for all this disc space, after all.  And, if you’re registered you can interact - drop a comment, tell us how great you think pizza slathered in catsup and salad topped with an inch a of mayonnaise really is, or whatever else is on your mind.  We like company on the road, even on roads from the past.

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Graham Finch1999 - You've found yourselves a time machine of sorts!

That was the year I came here.

We've visited Salzburg and enjoyed the historic place. You should ride over Grassglockner Pass if you do head back.

Isn't it great to have digital photos now?
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2 years ago
Scott AndersonTo Graham FinchYes, and I should be 25 years younger, when Grossgluckner could make more sense. Actually, that was our plan on our tour in 1995 from Vienna to Venice by way of Budapest. We were in Graz and planning to go next to Salzburg and south over Grossgluckner but an early snow got in the way.

And yes - digital changed everything. I didn’t take all that many photos on those older tours, but I can’t believe so many got lost along the way. I can still picture some of them.
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2 years ago
Graham FinchI was still using slides when we cycled in the early 2000s and I got my first digital SLR in 2005 - just after we left Austria. I bought one - a Minolta - in Germany. It was a good camera - the 7D.
At the time my wife had a small Sony, which I think is still working. It also took nice photos.
When we rode over that pass, it was the first good day of the year, so we were very lucky. There was deep snow at the top section.
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2 years ago