My name is Louis Tousignant, a Canadian in his mid fifties, living in Nova Scotia on the Atlantic shore. Having cycled Copenhagen to Rome in 1998, and the U.K. in the mid 80's, it seemed a good idea to try Eastern Europe. As an eager amateur photographer, I particularly wanted to see Krakow, Prague and Budapest. Having had a grand time in Italy the year before, I also wanted to see Venice, a must... before one dies... Ergo this trip which I enjoyed tremendously.
I try to do a major trip every year and am always on the lookout for partners. Considering the particular parameters of my trips, partners are difficult to find but maybe this profile fits you:
If this suits you, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org If you can't be free for 5 weeks, the format allows participation for a couple of weeks only.
This 52 day trip included 33 days of touring (3003 km for a 91 km/day average) and 19 days of travel and tourism. The load, minus water, was 20 kg, distributed in 4 saddle bags and one camera bag on the rear rack.
- POLAND -
My arrival in Warsaw was eventful. Had neglected to verify, silly me, that you need a visa to enter Poland...which I obtained at the airport after 90 minutes of sweat and fear! I put my bike together at the airport, refusing many offers of taxi drivers to bring me to the hotel and then rode to it laboriously, finding very few English or French speakers to provide directions... A phrase book is absolutely essential if you travel in Eastern Europe and Lonely Planet has one. Without it, you are stuck with sign language, faulty pronunciation and bewilderment. German or Russian, not English, are the second languages of lots of people...
You can find maps at the Dom Ksiazki shop below the central train station (Euro Cart 1:300,000). Needed 3 to get out of Poland and you could probably do with one with a larger scale. The Czech and Slovakia Republic Euro Cart map with the same scale was invaluable later on in the trip.
Trams are the way to go in Warsaw and be sure to have a valid ticket when you ride on them. My ticket was verified no less than 3 times during my stay in the city and I am sure the hassle is great and the bribe/fine heavy if you get caught. Pickpockets tried to take the contents of my fanny pack but did not succeed; I pushed them away and had a tantrum in the tram. It worked but never carry valuables in the fanny pack. I keep them in a velcro locked pocket.
War is written all over Warsaw. It is obvious that the Nazis razed the city to the ground and that the liberation (!!!) regime under the Russians did not do much by way of historical reconstruction. The old Warsaw is now being refurbished and gentryfied; it is interesting to visit. A leisurely visit of Lazienkowski Park is also a must. Spent 3 days in Warsaw, probably one day too many.
Day 1 - Warsawa - Pulawi
This being my first trip with a computer/odometer, I was not familiar with its operation. It did register kilometrage but I was not able to get a reading until much later on in the trip...
Took the shore road on the east side of the Wisla (route 801) and therefore had to cross one of the bridges from Warsaw, which are all multilane affairs. There is a bike path under the one going to Gdansk (which I took). Route 801 is a big zero re sightseeing and O.K. from a traffic standpoint; do not leave the pavement, the shoulders are very soft.
A 16 year old kid, Pavel, guided me into Pulawi and brought me to a comfortable and cheap hotel (room and a hefty dinner for 89 zlotys).
Considering the dullness of the road I chose and bearing in mind the first major touristic/rest destination is Krakow, you might take the 723 to Kozienice on the West side of the River. The pavement and shoulders are sure to be better and the scenery may be more interesting, with 2 larger towns to go through.
Day 2 - Pulawi - Sandomierz
The Wisla route brings you first to Kasimierz, a typical small town with beautiful architecture, a museum, nice pubs, etc. If you do this trip, stop there instead of Pulawi on day 1. It's only a few km farther.
In Annopol, on the recommendation of a local, I switched to route 777 which is much better paved. There's too much traffic however and I should have carried on on the East side road.
The scenery is much improved on this leg, all the way from Pulawi, and Sandomierz is a very nice, hospitable town. Went to a dance at the music school with students and had a great time.
Day 3 - Sandomierz - Opatawiec
Being only 160 km from Krakow in Sandomierz, I took the 777 (that particular stretch was less busy and there are shops and services) and stopped at Opietowice (this is the spelling in my notes and the map says Opatawiec), about 60 km from Krakow, with a view to an early arrival to find a room more easily the following day,
Had my first meal of pig knuckles... Great, but only for cyclists who can burn the calories.
Day 4 - Opatawiec - Krakow
Rolling hills through farmland to Krakow. Agricultural practices are like they were in Canada in the 50's... horse pulled machinery, lots of people in the fields loading hay with pitchforks... very picturesque.
With a noon arrival, had no trouble finding a room at the Letni Summer Hotel, a student residence with a huge room and shower (50Z). I highly recommend the Avanti Restaurant in center town, but there are many good spots all over town, such as the Chimera salad bar.
Spent 4 days in Krakow as a tourist. A beautiful city. However, the air pollution, as in most of Poland, is wicked. Took a tour to Auschwitz, a must see if you go there, but an extremely sad place for reasons that need no elaboration. It breaks your heart.. Also went to the salt mines on an organized tour. This Unesco site is also a must see, a unique place with underground caves transformed into churches, full of rock salt sculptures. You could of course stop en route with your bike and visit these places, but I think it would bog you down.
Day 5 - Krakow - Tichy (80 km)
From Krakow, I connected with Zbigniew, whom I had met on the plane from London to Warsaw, and who expressed an interest in riding with me to Prague, where he had yet to go. I went to Tichy to meet him.
From Skawina in the outskirts of Krakow, it is a nice ride in agricultural country. He and his wife live in a collective apartment building, situated in a sea of similar buildings. A legacy of the communist regime... Spent the night at Zbig's place and the following morning, headed off to Prague. Zbig had a computer, so from now on the distances mentioned are recorded.
- CZECH REPUBLIC -
Day 6 - Tichy - Hlucen (98 km)
Traveling with somebody who can speak the language makes a huge and welcome difference. I could not have crossed the Czech border without Zbig. We were at a local crossing and, as a foreigner, I would normally have had to go through an international crossing... There's lots of bureaucracy still in place from the previous regime!
The itinerary to Hlucen went from Prczyna, Jastrzebie Zoroz, Bohumin. The roads in the Czech Republic are much better than in Poland.
Day 7 - Hlucen - Sternberk (85 km)
Finally hills! The first town on the route towards Prague is Opava, where - if we had known - we should have stopped the night before. Bilcice is also a very interesting village on the way. Zbig forgot his wallet after lunch. Waited for him for about an hour and he finally came back with it. Honesty is alive in these parts.
It was pouring rain and we stopped in Dvorce where I ate my first ever cow stomach soup... It was great! The restaurant owner phoned ahead to reserve a room for us in Sternberk, which was a relief. We would ride knowing we had rooms.
We had a very fast 8 km coast to Sternberk followed by a 14 degree climb on cobblestones to get to the hotel. Found out that our American friends stole the name Budweiser from the Czechs! All the local beers are incredibly good.
We had a tough but very nice ride on first class roads in hilly terrain, despite the heavy rain. Lots of nice things to see. In Sternberk, you absolutely must visit the castle and the clock museum. There is more beautiful artifacts there than in many prestigious locations in cities like Krakow and Prague. Remarkable!
I cannot emphasize too much the huge benefit of traveling with someone who can speak the language. I would never have known I actually ate cow stomach soup, nor have somebody reserve a room for me.
Day 8 - Sternberk - Moraska-Trebova (85 km)
Zbig had mechanical problems and we visited the castle and museum while repairs were underway. A God send.
This was August 11, the day of the total eclipse of the sun and traveling in the eery light was memorable. Unicov is a lovely town with lots of photo opportunities. We found a dirt cheap room (300 Krones) at the Hotel Slavia in Moraska-Trebova and had a wild night with George (a military man who had been in Canada and spotted me for a Canadian), Paulina and the Colonel, an incredibly original and funny man. I'm afraid we drank a lot...
By the way, the price is right in the whole of the Czech Republic, with the exception of Prague of course, where prices are geared to the hordes of tourists visiting the city.
Day 9 - Moraska-Trebova - Chrudim (90 km)
On your way out of MT, there is a long hill. We took route 35 and turned on 34 to Svitavi. Avoid this, because there is a very long tunnel with heavy truck traffic. Recommend turning off on 35 at the Kamenna Horka intersection, reaching Svitavi passing through that hamlet.
Routes 366 and 358 out of Svitavi to Chrudim are sheer poetry. Litomysl is worth a stop if you are in photography. Chrudim is also interesting, but similar to a number of town sprinkled throughout the country.
Day 10 - Chrudim - Kostelec (90km)
We took route 17 to Caslav and route 337 to Ublisrki Janovice and then onwards to Kostelec on a country road and a small section of highway 2. Avoid the latter at all costs, it's too busy. Look at the map... there are many ways of getting to Kostelec on small roads.
The Czech R. is a cyclist paradise. I cannot say that enough... As an illustration - but thanks to Zbig and his language capabilities I must admit - we found spotless rooms with showers at the castle in Kostelec for 250K a piece. That's $10 Canadian/ $6 US. And of course the countryside is spectacular pretty much everywhere.
My odometer has come to life today and I am clocking 925km on the trip to date.
Day 11 - Kostelec - Praha (45 km)
I try to plan things so that I can arrive in large cities early, to ensure a room can be obtained as easily as possible. This also leaves a lot of time for photography on day 1, in the event you want to continue on the following day. But Prague is a city that deserves a long stay. It's as interesting as Florence, but without the abundance of art that is found in the latter.
We coasted in Prague very rapidly; left Kostelec at 8, arrived at 11 and found rooms
through Centre Accomodation (there is a booth in a parking lot near the train station) at 12. 1500 K/ night for an individual one room apartment with shower, 1 km from the center of things. Lots of people rent their apt. to tourists through the agency during the peak season. Zbig paid the same for his place in the same building.
We arrived on August 14 and on the 16th, Zbig took the train back home... I do not mind traveling solo, but it's nice to have a companion. In this particular case, it was providential and extremely useful. In addition, I made a friend.
I spent 4 days in Prague altogether. I could go on for at least 2 pages on its numerous attractions. It is architecturally superb, musically remarkable and a paradise for any photographer. If you haven't been there, you must. It's as simple as that! My only suggestion (which applies in most major centers) is to buy a tourist pass which give you access to public transportation and some sites for a pittance. I never use my bike in big cities. It is always stored away from view.
Day 12 - Praha - Milevsko (106 km)
Having figured out a broad itinerary to Budapest, my easternmost destination, I started in a southern direction. If you leave Prague at 7, which I did, you will be in heavy traffic. Try earlier if you prefer freer roadways and less smoke.
Take autoroute 4 to Zbrazlav. It's of course busy but the pavement is excellent, the shoulder wide and clean. It is also a simple and idiot proof way out!
The 102 and 119 to Sedlcany is flat as you follow the Vlatva River. The only hill runs for 3 km between Stechovice and Slapy. Look out for fallen rocks...there were lots when I went through.
From Sedlcany, you ride in rolling hills (mostly up) on the 105 and 102 to reach Milevsko, a typical small town. I made a useless detour on the 102 and would suggest you stay on the 105. The countryside is beautiful, with photo opps along the way, particularly in Stechovice and Visoky Chlumec
Found a clean room with private shower for 170K!!!, the cheapest yet... Had dinner and breakfast with Judith and Rob, a young couple from Holland.
Day 13 - Milevsko - Jindrichuv Hradec (78 km)
You will have a super 26 km roller coaster ride to Tabor, where a photo stop is warranted. Took the 3 and the 23 to destination. It's pretty much uphill for the last 25 km, with a short 2 km coast in town.
Jindrichuv Hradec is very picturesque. You must visit the castle. Food and lodgings are quite affordable and excellent. A recommended stop.
Day 14 - Jindrichuv - Znojmo (106 km)
Follow the 164 and 151 to Dacice, then the 408 to Znojmo. The start is hilly, then you are in a roller coaster all the way in, as usual, beautiful countryside.
Strayed inadvertently to Maly Desov - Vysocany - Chvalatice, a detour from the 105 that I would recommend in any event. Had chain trouble (a link was twisted and beginning to lose its pin) which was summarily repaired by an auto mechanic in Chvalatice. Being in the middle of nowhere, with zero mechanical skills and no chain tool or spare links, I got really worried.
Found a bike shop on arrival in Znojmo and signed languaged my way into a new chain. The morale of this story is : Get a chain tool and practice repairing a chain before taking the road. I was lucky...
Found a ritzy hotel (Pension Austis - 450K) and had an excellent dinner (Jesuitkas - 270K). Having said this, limited touristical interest in Znojmo in my view.
Day 15 - Znojmo - Malacky (Slovakia) (120 km)
Starting on the 53, turn towards Brezany and Novosedly, then to Mikulov on the 414. >From there take the 40 to Breklav and a right turn to Lanzhot will bring you to the border with Slovakia. A breeze of a ride, mostly on flat roads.
During my trip, I covered a fair section of the Czech Republic but there is much more to see. They are developing biking itineraries all over the country with specially marked roads; prices are extremely good; people are reserved but very friendly if you make the slightest effort to communicate. THE CZECH REPUBLIC, WITH ITS ROLLING HILLS AND WONDERFUL SCENERY, IS A CYCLIST'S PARADISE.
- SLOVAKIA -
The transition from one country to the next is striking. Slovakia is visibly poorer and much less attractive from a touristic point of view. Followed highway 2 to Malacky and stopped for the day, since it was the major center before Bratislava and not far away from it. The hotel, a vestige of the communist era, is a rip off and the town is absolutely charmless.
Stupava, a little further down the # 2, seemed a much better stop - it's picturesque and lively - although I did not stop.
Day 16 - Malacky - Bratislava (40 km)
Arrived in Bratislava in a flash, following the #2 which merges with D2 - E65, a multilane deal, as you arrive in the city. It was fine, considering it was 11 a.m. on a Sunday, but it is probably atrocious during the week.
A better way to get in, by far, is to turn towards Devinska Nova Ves from Stupava, then follow the Danube to Devin (an interesting place to visit), straight through to the city center. When you see the Hrad and the Novy Most (a super modern bridge), you are there! The info center is on the corner of Ursulinska and Klobucnicka. Buy the Mapa mesta of Bratislava (1:20,000); it includes all you need to visit the city and to get out without hassles.
Had difficulty finding a reasonably priced room. Ended up on the Fairway Botel - a boat essentially - somewhat pricy but super clean and different. My cabin was on the Danube. THE Bratislava restaurant is the "Harmonia". The food is excellent and it's not as "ripoffy:"as most other places.
Rested 1 day in Bratislava which was enough to see all that is worth seeing. In fact, some of my better photos were taken there.
Day 17 - Bratislava - Komeron (117 km)
My plan being to follow the Danube to Budapest, I did not bother to buy yet another map. I relied on the material handed out by tourism offices along the way.
Take the main highway (wide and clean shoulder) to Komeron (Komerno in SK) and do not even bother to try the small route. There is nothing to see!
I did not particularly enjoy Slovakia and wanted to get out as fast as possible. As a final illustration of my dislike for the country, when I arrived on the Slovakian side of Komeron, I figured I would nevertheless sleep on the SK side. They tried to f... me with a 1700K double room when the place was obviously empty, so I immediately crossed to Hungary. Easily found a B&B, super cheap, with the landlady offering a free glass of beer, coffee, pastries, with nonstop chatter in Hungarian, a totally incomprehensible language... This, and the friendly help of a student to find my way around as soon as I set foot on Hungarian soil, demonstrates the hospitality you can expect in that country. A refreshing change from the last few days!
Having said all of this, one's feelings about a place or a country are guided by personal experiences at a given point in time. I am sure good times are to be had in Slovakia.
- HUNGARY -
Day 18 - Komeron - Budapest (88 km)
Since I would be returning along the Danube, I saved the visit to Estergom for the return trip and rode on #10 to Budapest. In turned out to be a good decision, as I met Nigel and Linda - a Brit and a former Canadian - at lunch and we agreed to have dinner in Estergom when I returned from Budapest.
Route 10 requires absolute and total concentration...
I spent 4 days in Budapest, counting the afternoon of arrival. I correctly figured 3 full days would be enough to cover all sites of interest. You absolutely must buy the Budapest card (3000 Florins) on arrival. It gives 4 day unlimited access to public transportation and to many attractions, if not free, at a significant discount.
Ticket control on public transit is alive and well in all Eastern European cities and Budapest is no exception. Always ride with a valid ticket! The subway system in Budapest is a marvel (the escalators are long and steep) and it is the way to travel within the city. This is a positive legacy of the communists in all major eastern European cities... it was essential to provide good transit to the people.
Budapest is very interesting, although not as much as Prague, and the attractions are far from one another, ergo the utility of the subway. A guided tour of the city (half price with the B card) is extremely useful to figure out where are things to see and what you like and dislike.
I won't bore you with details, discover the place. However, you must go to the public baths (they are renowned and massages cost a pittance). The laser show is OK but below expectations. If history is your thing, go to the War Museum; the exhibits really help to understand the country.
Day 19 - Budapest - Ezstergom (65 km)
Left on a Sunday and there was lots of traffic. Only rode 3 and a half hours because of the dinner date with Nigel, Linda and company. This gave me an opportunity to visit.
The cathedral/basilica is the major attraction and lots of buses come and go. Climb to the top of the cupola for spectacular views of the Danube and the town. There is also, on a nearby hill, a calvary church and stations of the Cross donated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This ancient work of religious art is of great photographic interest.
Dinner was great!
Day 20 - Ezstergom - Gyor (94 km)
Gyor is probably the only interesting populated stop before Vienna and it was raining heavily. So I stopped. Could have gone much further because of the flat terrain alongside the Danube. Found a room through the tourism office. Took boring routes 10 and 1 because of the rain. Komedias is a first rate restaurant which I highly recommend. Lots of photo opps in Gyor.
Day 21 - Gyor - Hainsburg (Austria) (90 km)
Hungary is a fine country to visit and I did not cover enough ground to pass a valid judgement. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay.
A super route is the bike path from Gyor (get plan at tourism office);ride in the direction of Heggsholm up to Halaszi, then turn towards Namasziget to Rajka. Cross the Slovak border and go to Berg (not Jarovec like I did), to enter Austria. Had trouble getting out of SK ( the SK border guards were particularly arrogant and bureaucratic but I stayed in a sheepish mode for the entire episode) and entering Austria, because Jarovec is a local population border crossing. In 1 hour, you go from Hungary to Slovakia, to Austria. Lots of stamps in your passport!
- AUSTRIA -
The difference in atmosphere/culture/environment is striking as soon as your wheels roll on Austrian soil. Roads are infinitely better, you enter the Danau cycle path which is superbly maintained and world famous, there is absolutely no garbage, the air is clean. There are also soldiers with machine guns and numerous watch towers to prevent illegal immigrant infiltration... You are entering an orderly society where there is respect for pedestrians and cyclists, no crowds, lots of groomed properties and, of course, no visible poverty whatsoever.
Found a room, spotless of course, just outside the center of Hainsburg, with a restaurant specialized in Italian cuisine. The owner, no surprise, was Hungarian.
Day 22 - Hainsburg - Wien (56 km)
On the Danube path, you are in nature. Saw only 5 or 6 cars at crossings and very few bikes, as Sept. 1 is past the peak biking season. Bike traffic started 20 km from Vienna.
Austrians keep to themselves I found, but if you ask for any assistance, they are extremely helpful. A guy gave me a Wien Stad Plan as I was approaching Vienna, and the map was extremely useful to figure things out after crossing the bridge to the city. Most people understand English and all the people I came in contact with, throughout Austria, were very nice.
The staff at the Tourism Office , located near the Opera, will find you a room in the price range you are willing to afford, if there is any available. Plan to arrive in the morning or early afternoon, as going from hotel to hotel, as I did entering the center, is extremely frustrating. Through the office, I was booked in a hotel located near the Parliament, at $45 Canadian/night ($25 US), a real bargain. Of course, the place was comfortable, clean as a whistle, and the service was excellent!
Counting the day of arrival, I spent 3 days in Vienna. Pouring rain except on the last day. Public transit fares are steep, so it is worth buying a Wien Karte even if it does not provide significant discounts to attractions. Contrary to my habit, I did not do a city tour, as interesting places, except for the royal castle, accessible by public transit, are concentrated in the center.
Freitag and Berndt (Konemarkt 9) have all the maps you can think of and I bought the Kompass Rad Wege maps that would bring me to Innsbruck. A debatable idea... the text to guide the reader is in German (I only master English and French), the maps not as precise as regular car maps, and they are pricy... It's easy to find your way and the bike paths as you cross the country. Not as good as in the Netherlands, but close.
Needless to say Vienna is a fabulous city. You could easily spend a week there to explore everything. The Kunsthistoriches Museum is an absolute must... but beyond that, there's lots of brochures at the Tourism Office to figure out what you will want to do. I strongly recommend the Marienhof restaurant (Josefstadtes Strasse 9), near the Parliament buildings. Excellent food and first rate service at affordable prices.
Day 23 - Wien - Melk (123 km)
A delightful ride through orchards, picturesque villages and towns, all of it along the Danube, on the path. Tail winds and no cars! What more do you want?
Day 24 - Melk - Linz (111 km)
More of the same great riding on the Danau Radweg... At Wallsee, be sure to cross on the North side of the river. The path to Mauthausen through St Pantaleon is rougher... but then again the few bumps and narrow sections on the South side are by no means "technical".
Linz is a half day visit affair. Stayed at the Zur Lokomotive hotel, near the train station, good value for less money.
Day 25 - Linz - Vocklabucker (77 km)
As you get out of Linz, go as quickly as possible to the River Traun to reach the path. I rode in suburbia when the path was right there. From Wels to Lambach, the ride is absolutely divine through farmland, woods, corn fields. Only saw 3 cars during the day.
Day 26 - Vocklabucker - Salzburg (78 km)
The rad route to Attersee finishes with a steep climb; you get confused at times, so you need to check where you are. The scenery is breathtaking...
It was raining, so in the interest of gaining time, took the road from St Georgen to Mondsee and Eugend'hof. Once there, returned to the rad path. Thank God I did... The sun was back and it was a 12 to 15 km coast down to Salzburg. You go through forests, oversee a valley, follow a stream, then a river and suddenly, you are at the entrance of the small bridge leading to center town. The most spectacular entry into a city that I have made and probably will ever make.
Spent the day after arrival resting. The fortress is a must but walk up, the lift is expensive; make it your first visit as you can figure out the city plan from the walls. The only other suggestion is that you should eat at the fish market on the Salzbach boardwalk: great fish, super atmosphere, plenty of history.
An undercover inspector checked my bus ticket!
Salzburg is a class act. Just check out the outdoor sign of the local Macdonald!!!
Day 27 - Salzburg - Worgl (111 km)
The beauty of the scenery, from start to finish, is beyond words. The bike path to Reich, along the river, is divine, sometimes only 2 feet wide. There are bike paths all along but I did 45 km on the highway, including a 20 km coast (with 2 tunnels) to Worgl.
Day 28 - Worgl - Matrei (85 km)
If you follow the route I took, Austria is flat, to all intents and purposes, until you reach Innsbruck. Turn left or right anywhere however and you will hit water or a steep hill! The Inn River radweg is great.
Did Worgl to Rattenburg on the highway. Once in Rattenburg, leave the highway, to avoid a tunnel, enter this quaint Tyrol town, and rejoin #171 after it. Took the Inn Radweg from Jenbach into Innsbruck.
Only had lunch in Innsbruck, which is probably very interesting to visit, and carried on towards Italy. After a 13.5 km climb ( my very first real hill in Austria) stopped for a beer in Matrei and met Karl Petersen, a German bus line owner...a 75 year old man that looks like 60, an incredibly interesting pacifist who had emigrated to Australia to avoid conscription in WW!! and returned to Germany when Australia wanted to conscript his son in the Vietnam war. I stayed in Hotel Stolz, which I very highly recommend, and spent the evening learning about and from this extraordinary person.
- ITALY -
Day 29 - Matrei - Bolzano (113 km)
Karl kindly offered to bus me close to Venice, but I of course refused. Left Hotel Stolz early in the morning and climbed the remaining 16 km of the Brenner Pass. Purists among you will scoff at the notion of taking this easy and busy route over the Alps, but I don't apologize. My interest, beyond cycling, is photography. Historical towns and cities are generally along major highways. We have tons of nature in Canada...
As soon as you cross the Italian border on the S12, the coast begins. It lasted for about 150 km.
Could not find a room in Bolzano, the last major Tyrolian (read Austrian) city in Italy, so I stayed in a small hotel in the outskirts.
Day 30 - Bolzano - Trento (52 km)
As I left the La Posta hotel in Bauernkholen (while officially in Italy, it is still Tyrol) just off Bolzano, I was engulfed by the local cycling team, a peleton of more than 50 riders. Since they were warming up and there was still a negative grade in the road, we stayed together for about 10 minutes... It had been a while since they had seen a Canadian cyclist!
In less than 3 hours, I was in Trento and stopped there as I had an arranged meeting with Andreas Caranti, the founder of the Trento Bike Pages . These are an indispensable working tools for cyclists who plan a tour anywhere in Europe.
En passant, it would be quite easy to ride from Matrei straight into Trento and if I redid the trip, that's what I would do. The S 12 is not a road fancied by purists... but the pavement is in excellent shape, the shoulder clean and wide, and as a result it is very safe and fast despite the traffic.
Trento, which is truly Italian as Tyrol influence is no more present, is a beautiful university town where you can usefully pass the afternoon with a camera.
Dinner with Andreas and his family was super. I discovered polenta, an interesting carbo food..
Day 31 - Trento - Verona (92 km)
Probably the best way out of Trento is the S349 to Bassano via Asiago... or the S 12 to Rovoretto and then the S46 to Schio and Vicenza.
But I wanted to see Verona, of Romeo and Juliet fame. As I previously said, I love nature in Europe, but crave for history/architecture as we have a lot of the former and very little of the latter in Canada. So I went for a 3 day trip to Venice: Verona, Padova, Venezia, 3 celebrated cities.
Arrived in Verona very early and quickly found a room at Hotel Scalzi. I had the brilliant idea of asking the receptionist - Titiano Leone, the son of the owner - to find me a room in Venice as I would be arriving on a weekend. I gave him a ceiling of 100,000 lire/night and went out to see the sights...
When I came back, Titiano reported that Venice hotels were all booked (they make more money on couples than singles) and that I could stay in Mestre, the city on firm land just beside Venice, for the agreed ceiling. I was wise to book the room without hesitation. There is always a room in Venice if you want to pay the price... But I absolutely wanted to avoid any hassles on arrival.
I highly recommend the Mille Voglie Trattoria, a fine and reasonably priced restaurant in Verona.
Day 32 - Verona - Padova (90 km)
You ride in a virtual city for 30 km on the S11 (it's identified as such on the Michelin map, but I call it the Nazionale 10 in my notes). This is a heavy traffic road where concentration is a must, but it is a safe ride to Padova.
After such a long time on the road, I wanted to move as fast as possible, but if you want to enjoy the ride in the fullness of time, there are small roads south of the highway.
Padova hotels were full. After numerous tries, I went to the tourism office and they found me 1 of the literally 2 rooms left in the city (there was a convention). Fortunately, it was a one star hotel...
The city is a treasure and if I had not been booked in Mestre, I would have stayed one more day.
Day 33 - Padova - Mestre (36 km)
Took the main road along the Riviera de Brenta. I noticed too late that if you cross to the right side of the river, there is a bike path. The journey is interesting, with lots of beautiful villas along the way. As usual, finding the hotel in heavy city traffic, was a little bit of an experience, but I was exhilarated of having completed the trip!
3003 km in 33 days of cycling, an average of 91 km/day. Considering there were short rides to enter many large cities, I was reasonably proud of myself. Not a single flat tire... Thanks to trusty Continental Top Touring 2000's.
Immediately on arrival, I booked my flight out as my ticket had to be changed, found a box in a bike shop and packaged my trusty machine, and found a banana box (useful to pack 4 panniers as it can easily be fitted to suit the size of the load). Once this was taken care of, I could enjoy Venice.
Spent 4 days in Venice, counting the day of arrival. It is an incredible place, a completely different world from what we are all used to. The boat traffic on the canals is fascinating and until you figure out the lay of the land, you will get lost in the maze of alleys. The attractions of Venice are world renowned... Figure it out by yourself.
I really enjoyed the trip as it was full of contrasts. Going through Eastern and Western European countries made for an extremely interesting variety of cycling, photographic and culinary experiences.
Leaving aside the huge touristic interest of cities like Krakow, Prague or Venice, the Czech Republic and Austria were the most interesting to cycle through. One pass is not enough however. There is lots to discover still in all these countries.
Have fun! Blue skies and tail winds...