In 6 months we will be on the way. On the way, which started long before we even dared to think, that we will ever be planning one year long cycling trip. It was a love on the first sight (or first kilometer?).
It was year 2010 and we were planning what to do with summer holidays. We had new bicycles and were thinking how to use them in our plans. And we had a dog. Dog which we didn’t have a place to leave and didn’t want to either. So we googled a planned where and for how long we could go and we figured out to depart directly from Prague to Austria and follow Danube cycle route when we get there. It will bring us to Bratislava at the end. So we had a route, the only thing missing was to figure out, how to travel with Happy. We carried him in a backpack in the past (and he survived) but this is not feasible when you are cycling whole day.
Fortunately, Happy was an easily packable dog and he fitted into the basket on the rear rack. New set up was tested on few trips around Prague, weekend at Berounka river and trip to Slapy reservoir and Happy was awarded new member of cycling crew. My mom even made him a comfy padding for the basket. And how did we secure him not to jump out when on the road? He was wearing seat belts of course! Two climbing ropes attached to the basket and to his harness.
And so, someitmes at the beginning of August, we rode out. The ride through Czech Republic had several highlights. Never ending journey to Sedlec, cherries from the tree, warm bed and home food at Ondro’s house in Ceske Budejovice, charming woodland road to Cesky Krumlov where Happy could run, beautiful Sumava mountains, taking the ferry boat across Lipno reservoir.
Just like this we made it to Austria, more precisely to Oberosterreich (Upper Austria you could say), with amazingly green and hilly landscape. A region of open door garages and bicycles left unlocked on the street.
On the way towards Donau, we had to conquer steep hill to Gramastetten to finally join the river in Ottensheim. After that we drove down along Donau, overtaking kids and seniors and sometimes seniors and kids overtook us. We had small info brochure about Donau radweg (cycle route) and we were discovering cities and villages around. But most of all, we were enjoying the freedom this kind of travelling offers.
And we also discovered the magic of wild camping. If we had to stay at official campsite sometimes, it was literally a bother. In between Melk and Rossatz we were chased by heavy rain clouds, which caught up with us overnight and we woke up in a puddle.
That day will be always remembered. We managed maybe 10km for the whole day with most of it spending hidden at a bus stop, cooking hot tea and soup, designing gore-tex improvement to our gear, using a lot of leukoplast tape, packing poor Happy under plastic cover. When it was still raining by the end of the day, we changed location for a hostel in Krems an der Donau.
Next day the weather improved again and we had 80km to Vienna ahead of us. It didn’t really impress us as a cycle city, with too many cycle lanes ending in the middle of crossroads.
And because we spent too much time with Sacher cake, we ended up leaving the city while dark. There’s a decent forest just outside of Vienna and we only had our emergency front light on handlebars, which kept falling of and so we taped it tight to the bars. RIP to all the snails crossing the wet road after recent rains and we haven’t seen them with the poor lights. We had to ask at first house we met (which turned out to be a pub) if we could put up our tent on the grass next to it. We packed everything quickly in the morning and continued the journey toward Bratislava on the river dyke – long straight path with no change to surroundings. Before taking the train back to Prague, we made a short 2 day side trip to Neusiedler See. The total kilometer count stopped at 790km.
Lessons learned from the first long haul cycling trip:
- always carry plenty of leukoplast tape
- ready to cook pasta is not a good food for 10 days straight on a cycling trip
Ever since then we’re totally in love with cycle touring. Compared to hiking by foot you see much more during one day by covering much more distance, but you’re still in close contact with nature and environment compared to the car. At the same time you’re still travelling slow enough to enjoy the route itself, not only just like chain of “attractions” along it. Ideally if you also sleep in nature. There’s no need to rush anywhere. You control your time.
Still to these days it’s like a drug to us. Every year we managed to spend at least some time travelling by bikes. And eventually we dared for the biggest one so far which will start in May next year. So fingers crossed for this love affair to last :).