EPILOGUE - Retyrement on 2 Wheels 3 - CycleBlaze

November 27, 2019

EPILOGUE

Copenhagen to Venice 2019

Epilogue:

Our 2019 trip generally worked out much as we had planned. The idea of choosing a route that included countries new to us, that had a clearly defined start and finish- Baltic to Adriatic- yet also offered a few challenges, was appealing. The possibility of visiting interesting cities was also enticing and the hope that we might finish in time to enjoy a few end of summer days, beside the sea, in Italy or Croatia, added to the appeal. 

Looking quite straight forward when put like that.
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Our bikes are on their way at Auckland Airport
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As with all plans, our initial idea underwent a few alterations along the way. The major change being our decision to head south from Vienna on Eurovelo 9 instead of following the Danube to Budapest and cycling along Lake Balaton into Slovenia. The other decision we made was to follow the Prague-Vienna Greenway southeast instead of cycling directly south from Prague along the Vltava River. I had read of the greenway online and the route was sold to us, literally, at Praha Bike, since we purchased the route map from them after their excellent repair of my Kona broken spoke. In both cases the choice worked well for us: Southern Austria, though it included some challenging climbs, provided interesting and enjoyable cycling through a varied landscape. 

The ‘challenging climb’. 10 kilometres up but compensation in the form of a comfortable gasthaus at the top.
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We persisted with the Prague-Vienna Greenway despite one or two tempting alternatives.  It proved to be well signed, with a combination of eye catching historical sights and landscape features and was relatively traffic free. Most Tourist Information staff were aware of its existence, even if they hadn’t actually cycled it themselves, which also proved helpful.

Spot the Greenway sign.
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Sometimes hard to resist Anglicising some names.
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The route overall, Copenhagen to  Venice, was eminently manageable, mostly well signed for cycles and approximately 70% of it ran on cycle paths of some sort.   How much route information one feels the need for and how one manages it, is something of a personal choice.  We were fortunate enough to have a SIM card from 3 UK which provided sufficient data when needed (although Eastern Germany seems to suffer from a surprising number of reception black holes) and Ann used Maps.me. In addition we read blogs and used Bikeline Guides (The Elbe guide, generously donated to us by a wonderful French couple we met in Denmark.) Local tourist offices were also helpful at times. 

Danish signs for cyclists meant getting lost was difficult- though occasionally we found a way.
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Our accommodation choices varied. We made use of campgrounds for about the first half of our trip before making greater use of pensions in the Czech Republic and later in Slovenia and Italy. The latter, were invariably of a very good standard and situated in interesting places, such that we remember some with special fondness.  Several of the hostels we used were great value and very well placed for exploring on foot.

Camping beside the fjord at Roskilde- beautiful sunsets.
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Hillerod- glamping camping.
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The 4T campground- tables, toilet seats, toilet paper and trees.
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Camping beside the Elbe.
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The blue plastic drop sheet- light and surprisingly comfortable seating.
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Welcome sight after a 10 kilometre climb.
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Piran- we counted at least 4 languages that our hostess could converse in.
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The necessities of the touring cyclist’s life. Sustenance, wifi and shelter.
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The trusty clothes line- a few metres of thin bungy cable can be stretched as far as required.
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Autumn days at Rialto Campground.
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The ultimate bonus - the POOL!
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 We were very grateful to our Warmshowers hosts in Northern Germany, Berlin, Vienna and Southern Austria. These stops came at just the right time and place, allowing us a base to explore interesting cities and countryside.  We feel a huge debt of gratitude to such generously hospitable hosts with whom we could share experiences and discuss lifestyles, politics, food and customs. And perhaps most importantly, we so much appreciated their skill with English.  Frequently on our travels I would find the level of sophistication with English expression quite astounding.  Campgrounds in Denmark, Germany and Austria were reasonably plentiful and of a high standard. We found  comfortable campgrounds along the river in the Czech Republic too - one using an old bus for toilets and dining, and another lucky find - a kayak club found, fortuitously, on a night between school visits. Last year in Aquileia we met friends Rudolf and Elisabeth who live near Dresden. The three wonderful days we spent with them provided a great catch up and an opportunity to learn so much about life in Eastern Germany as well as experience ‘foraged’ foods we’d never encountered before.


Language- perhaps the ultimate challenge.
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Eating al fresco doesn’t mean standards have to drop.
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Our arrival and departure accommodation worked well. The Airbnb apartment in Copenhagen allowed us to overcome any jet lag, and explore the city. We have used Camping Rialto as a departure spot twice now. It’s close to Marco Polo airport, close to buses running to Mestre and Venice and can provide accommodation with enough space to pack up cycles. The airport shuttle, organised by the campground office came to €24 for both of us and our bikes, considerably less than a number of the quotes we’d had. (And, yes, a VW Caddy LWB, will take two bike boxes, lying on their side) Last year we bought our return bike boxes from Breda Cicli in Mestre at €12 each. This time we cycled out to Decathlon and picked up a couple of freebies from Alfredo.

Bike box bungied.
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We reviewed the equipment we’ve taken in the past but in the end, added and subtracted very little. Our decision to camp, where possible, did mean that we once again packed light weight sleeping bags and silk liners, our Marmot Tungsten 2 (2.2kgs) tent and our roll up mats. The latter were a cheap replacement for our Exped Ultra lite air mats, both of which were transformed from streamlined mattress to giant blimp overnight in France last year.  Attempts to gain replacements under their guarantee met with a singular lack of success but the cheap Decathlon replacements have proved reasonably comfortable and pretty indestructible. They are also useful to wrap around packed bikes. We made considerable use of our Jetboil stove, both when camping and at times in other accommodation that had no cooking facilities. Taking a power bank and a solar charger proved a great help with keeping phones and lights functioning, though battery powered lights would probably make life easier for campers. 

The coffee filter- lightweight and and an easy way to get the essential caffeine hit before a day in the saddle.
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Our bikes both performed well. My Kona Sutra has always felt a very stable yet responsive steed and I really appreciate its bar end shifters and Brookes saddle. Ann’s Giant Liv is a commuting bike yet it handled the weight required of a tourer with no adverse effects. The tubeless tyres, about which we were initially a little uncertain, have covered around 7,000 kilometres without a puncture and her hydraulic brakes required a little less grip than my mechanicals on some of the steep downhills. 

Our Ortlieb panniers once again coped with everything we could throw into them and also worked well as cabin baggage. Almost as resilient was my drawstring black plastic rubbish bag used to carry our tent and other sundries. It had the advantage that the drawstring could be untied at a moment’s notice and a baguette or a bag of pastries stuffed inside, protected from the heaviest weather nature might throw at us. 

The trusty rubbish bag.
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Writing this after over a month of life, of family gatherings, of work days, back in Godzone,  where the days are growing warmer and the sea is beaconing, we’re nevertheless left with wonderfully warm reminiscences.  In addition, the challenges offered by cycle touring make this a most satisfying mode of travel. Then there are those mind boggling moments when you realise that something as simple as your cycle has delivered you to the most astonishing place in the world- and there you are!

And there you are!
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And there!
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And there too!
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Where to next? The more routes one travels, the more there seem to be- watch this space.

You think you’re not- but you are.
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