Confessions of a trainspotter - Jimmy Carter thinks I'm a sinner - CycleBlaze

February 17, 2007

Confessions of a trainspotter

When I was a boy, maybe about nine, I didn't have a bike. On the other hand, I was passionate about steam trains and with my pals I'd spend all day sitting beside railway lines collecting the numbers of the locomotives that passed. To do that was a big thing in those days and nobody thought it odd, least of all young boys. Nowadays you still see trainspotters but they're adult and to be called a "trainspotter" means you're obsessive about petty details of no importance to anyone else.

In some ways, I suppose this passion hasn't passed. I was looking at the map of Europe last night counting how many countries I could clock up on different routes to the Black Sea. I realised to my shame that I had stopped taking an interest in which countries; all I cared about was how many. That is not reassuring in a grown man.

Anyway, there are various ways. I could keep to the south of France, run round the top of Italy, pass into the Baltic states that all used to be Yugoslavia and then work my way up to the Black Sea from there. Or I could take a more northerly route towards Switzerland and then curve down through Austria and Hungary before delighting the Romanians with my fly-stuck knees.

The trouble with the Italian route is that it crosses the big industrial cities. And getting into Italy along the southern French coast isn't fun either because the Mediterranean roads are driven exclusively by maniacs and there are lots of short, dark tunnels.

I could take a quieter road inland but that gets mighty hilly and doesn't get round the Italian factory problem.

OR... I could ride up to Switzerland, maybe via the Black Forest. But not only is Switzerland noticeably three-dimensional but so is the Massif Central, France's third mountain chain, that lies in the way.

HOWEVER... I am not one of those morbid johnnies who do nothing but moan. Good golly, no!

I HAVE FOUND that there is a bike route all the way from the Atlantic west of Nantes, up the Loire valley, switching to the gorgeous Doubs valley towards Switzerland, then over the hills to the Rhine before picking up the Danube for as far as I want to the Black Sea. I knew about the Danube bike path but not about the rest. It's called Eurovélo 6, this route, and you can find it easily enough on the net.

I'll probably go this way. Probably.
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It may be I get cheesed off riding with water on one side and grazing cows on the other for day after day. But I think I'll go that way nevertheless because it limits the time I spend with my front wheel higher than my back wheel and, whenever I want, I can strike off by myself.

Plus, and I'm not sure I should let on about this, I have just reached the age at which I can get half fare on the railway. In this specific case, to Nantes. It will be the first time I can ask for a "half to..." since those years when I watched steam trains flash by.

I may even get out my trainspotter's notebook and pencil...

AFTERNOTE: No chance of a ferry between Constanta and Istanbul: it stopped running several years ago.

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