The Forest to the Sea

The ups and downs of Danube Cycling

I’m sat in my flat in Vienna, reading Ezra’s post from far away Bucarest and it’s got me going over my favourite moments of our epic cycle. It’s great to be home…I knew from the first hungover moments in Constanta the morning following our arrival and subsequent celebrations that I wanted to get back to Vienna…but joy at homecoming is definately mingled with sadness that it is over and some weird daydreaming moments when I feel like I’m ghost cycling. Hell, yesterday Dani and I even went for a swim in the Danube, I think I just wanted to check it was still there! So, two days after leaving hot, scary, messy, rundown Bucarest, here are my ups and downs, in no particular order…I’ll start with the lows.

  • The first heavy pangs of wrist pain after a day or two and losing the feeling in my fingers. The inside of each little finger is still a little numb.
  • The often mentioned twisted wheel and the guilt of thinking for a few moments that I had wrecked all our grand plans. Lucky I knew there was a bike repair shop around the corner…
  • Arriving in Passau, wet and tired after 160km and discovering our hostel was in a castle up a 22% incline…on a cobbled road!
  • The after-Radler lethargy (or letharg, as it came to be know) following an incredible morning ride to Krems, Austria.
  • Leaving Vienna…passing through home and spending time with Dani made the days after Vienna psychologically very tough. The endless, unshaded, dirt track along the Viennese Danube to Bratislava didn’t help.
  • The oncoming of hot weather which caused my worst, grumpiest day from Gabcikovo to Ezstergom. Very happy to be off the saddle that day after too much heat, losing Ezra and getting lost which added 10km to our ride.
  • Rain and roadworks cycling into Budapest, and terrible cycle paths leaving the city the next day. There were points on that day I thought it would be impossible to make it, assuming the paths would get worse and worse. It was a very pleasant surprise to find Hungary was actually only a temporary low on cycling road maintainence. Once we got past a particularly bad bit of sandy track and a local thug who tried to block our way and demand GPSs (we weren’t about to hand over our human GPS Ezra) my mood improved.
  • Arrival in Romania, industry galore and the strange contrasts of Turnu Severin with it’s incomplete buildings and lovely modern boulevards with multi-coloured fountains.
  • Trying to get my change back from a particularly aggressive Romanian family, not a pleasant experience.
  • The bloody kids who put a skipping rope across the road…really annoying!!
  • Hot punctures in Bulgaria which timing our approach on the hilly bit to the hottest part of the day.
  • Drivers on the final day to Constanta…twice I genuinely thought I would have to ride off the road and into a tree.
And the now the highs…
  • Cycling in Germany – beautiful cliff valleys and castles on day 1, the ferry near Regensberg, gorgeous forest paths.
  • German towns – they may have got a little samey, but most were very pretty. Ulm and Regensberg were my personal favourites.
  • Setting the tandem on turbo with a good, flat path and a tail wind to rocket through the countryside and past all the day trippers. That thing sure can fly.
  • Our company from Passau to Vienna – it was so cool to be able to share a part of the experience with Dani, Claudia and Pete. My favourite bit was the wine drinking, flamenco music night in Krems.
  • Some great, speedy riding down the side of the dam beyond Bratislava where the Danube widened to lake-like proportions. Really beautiful.
  • The basilica at Ezstergom that you could see from about 15km away.
  • Discovering we had drunk 3 beers at 10% in Gabcikovo and deciding if that was the case a forth wouldn’t hurt.
  • The ride to Budapest from Ezstergom…great scenary and interesting towns.
  • Hot bathing in Budapest. The only negative thing about it was that we couldn’t do it every night.
  • The afternoon ride after the Croatian border up and along wine terraces, screaming downhill and making good time to make up for a break pad cursed morning, rolling into Osijek, a very cool city, for one of the best thirst quenching beers of the trip and an incredible apartment to make ourselves comfortable for an evening. Judging by the village people photo, perhaps a bit too comfortable…
  • Fantastic riding towards Serbia on the Croatian side with sweaty climbs, rushing downs and picturesque villages.
  • Serbia – friendly people, great riding (Iron Gates in particular) and two incredible cities in Novi Sad and Belgrade.
  • The relief of laughing for about an hour about our narrow escape from the dogs outside Belgrade. I now genuinely know what it must be like to live in a Jurassic Park movie and experience the moment when you realise there’s a hole in the fence…
  • The mega, high fiving dash across the Romanian flood plains to rack off 180km in 9 hours. Very exhilerating.
  • Arriving in Svistov and discovering relative modernity, less wild dogs and mostly complete buildings that weren’t about to fall in on us.
  • Welcoming hosts – the apartment owners in Osijek, Ivan in Belgrade who gave us a tour and our receptionist in Svistov who took us to her friend’s birthday party!
  • Singing to keep the spirits up on the climbs…we don’t know when, but at some point this kind of morphed into a musical adventure.
  • Most of the fantastic riding in Bulgaria – good roads, challenging hills and great scenary.
  • That point in Constanta when, after the third beer you realised you could have another, or another two, or even more, and no one in the world could make you get up at 7am, put on your indescribably skinky cycling shorts and ride saddle sore for 120km+. Made it all worth while.

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