Our Route in Europe
We live in the south east of Britain which makes access to the continent very easy. One day in May 1995 we waved goodbye to Ians' father and cycled 6 miles to meet with a dozen members of our club: CTC Herts DA. This was to be our big send off, together we rode the Youth Hostel at Castle Headingham in Essex, and celebrated our last night in Britain at a local pub. With parents & friends waving we sailed overnight to The Hook of Holland. Back to top.
The following morning pedalled away using two cycle paths. The first one took us north along the coast to Den Haag, and then we took the LF4 heading east, near Gouda, Utrecht and Arnheim. This path goes all the way to the German border where we joined the R1 cycle route. Back to Top
For the first part of our route we used the R1. In 1995 this ended near to the old West/East border, we believe it now continues further east. Our outline route was Zwillbroek, Munster, Quelle, Detmold, Hoxter, Bad Gandesheim, Clausthal Zellerfeld, Kelbra, Leipzig, Colditz, Messian, and Altenbrou. The highlights for us included eating wonderful meats, drinking St Paulaner Weissbier and visiting some beautiful old towns and villages. Leipzig was going through many changes when we visited, many of the grand pre-war buildings were in a decrepit state. Some streets were being rebuilt; with often a modern steel framed building being assembled behind the front face of an old building. Back to Top
We crossed the border, changed some Sterling and all of our Dm and had a wonderful downhill to Dubi and next day onto Prague, a wonderful city that should not be missed. There is a noticeable difference in the Czech countryside, wild flowers remain, and birdsong can be heard. Back at home in the UK both are in decline because of our intensive agriculture and our consumption of land for buildings and roads. After Prague we he headed out to Czestahova in Poland, by way of some enchanting villages, often with fishponds still intact - Kutna Hora, Pardubice, Polana Zdroj, Klodzco and Otmuchow. Back to Top
Czestahova is a pilgrimage centre where the Black Madonna is kept. Many sick and disabled people come to pray for a cure and stand patiently waiting during a religious ceremony for the moment when the screen is pulled away and the Black Madonna is revealed. It is a moving experience to be there. A long ride 132 Km takes us to Krakov, where we find ourselves a little confused at a road junction. We are helped by Prof.Jurich, who nips home, gets a bicycle and guides us to the Youth Hostel. We have a guided tour of the town the next day, the Professors son Jacob and sons girlfriend Agnetha show us the important historical sites. Next day we journey to the Wielca salt mine - complete with a massive underground chapel complete with frescos and altarpiece.
We cycled on to Aushwitz. Nothing can truly prepare one for such a sobering experience. We quietly walked through the gates in the two surrounding barbed wire fences and into the concentration camp. It is surprisingly small; many of the buildings are open but contain exhibits. I am not sure what moves one most, is it the room full of suitcases, of spectacles, or maybe of shoes - all sizes are represented from tiny children and up. Just a few feet kilometres away is Aushwitz II - Birkenau. This site was made particularly well known after featuring in the film Schindlers List. We saw the real railway tracks and brick buildings. Of the wooden barracks only a few remain, but the very large site has many brick built chimneys pointing to the sky. We entered one of the barracks and listened to a survivor describe how food rations were evenly divided, and how not a single crumb was wasted.
From Auschwitz we journeyed to Zakopane, we had some terrific rain so for one night we abandoned camping and took a warm hot bed in a B&B, with a TV we can even watch some of the 1995 Tour De France! Back to Top
We have an uneventful crossing and spend our first night at Tatracamp, woah what a storm that night, lightening and torrential rain - a great introduction to Slovakia. Our route took us to Vavrisovo, Slovenska L'upca, and Banska Bystrica we camp, out of town at the lovely Tajov. The next day we retrace and relax in Banska Bystrica before cycling away. The town is bedecked with coloured flags from around the world, a fashion parade is taking place and we talk with some of the locals. Eventually we pedal off through more delightful countryside, through Pstrusa and onto Dolna Stetova where we camp for the last time in Slovakia. Back to Top
We cross the border and head directly to Budapest for a couple of days sightseeing in this city. We travel on through Tata, Kocs and camp at Camping Panorama at Pannonhalma - highly recommended for location and facilities. Our route was then to the almost border town of Szombathely for a most amazing
rainstorm and then into Austria. Back to Top
Our most expensive country in Europe, so we did not stay too long! Austria is such a neat and tidy country; the villages with their gaily-decorated buildings are very attractive. We had an appointment with a friend so made a beeline for Graz where after much confusion we did find a campsite. Voitsburg had a most interesting Glass Church; we treat ourselves to a room there so the next day we are away early to Pibar and onto Koflach where the mountain pass to Khunsdorf begins. It's a lovely climb and a beautiful descent. We meet our friend Norbert and find a campsite. We break the news that instead of a week more in Austria we are planning to hop over the Julian Alps into Slovenia. He's happy and hopes no one asks to see his passport, which is back home in Germany... Back to Top
The road to Slovenia is surrounded by beautiful countryside, the top of the pass is 1218M, so it's a nice length climb. Over the top the descent is steep, but some beautiful mountain scenery through a very steep sided valley at times. We camp at Smeldnik where we exchange Monty Python stories with the English-speaking receptionist. Ljubjana is a pocket handkerchief sized capital, its' very accessible. Our route takes onto a gravel road through Ig, Ratkitna, Begunge and Postjarna for our last camp on Slovenian soil. Back to Top
We found that the Italians were warm & friendly towards us, we enjoyed our journey here, especially good was their wine, cheeses, bread and olives - Mmmm... Our route took us in to the country near to Trieste, then to Venice, Padua, Ferrara, Firenze, Siena, Rome, Napoli, Pompei, Acerno, Montechio, Altamura, and Brindisi.
It's difficult to pick highlights, but the great buildings decorated with beautiful works of art are incredible. The Sistine chapel was worth the long queue, as was the Vatican museum galleries. We chilled out in Venice by resting at various piazzas' whilst 'Tourists' jostled for access to the many and beautiful buildings. Be careful you don't overdo the culture, there is a never-ending list of possibilities, we O.D'd in Florence.
Pompei was very interesting, but be aware that most of the original artworks are in a museum in Napoli.
Funny moments included a terribly wet thunderstorming day when we desperately keen to keep going cycled into Altamura, with people clapping us on while they stayed dry under shop awnings, and arriving so late at one camp site that we could not find, that the local 'policeman' lead us in his car to another one he knew of where at 11:15pm we had a very warm welcome.
The open countryside was very beautiful, the plain north of Bologna incredibly flat as a contrast to the hills to the south. We sailed from Brindisi to Greece. Back to Top
We landed at Igoumenitsa and had a lovely breakfast in a small park in the early morning sun. Our route took us over the mountains to Ioanina, and then through some fabulous mountain scenery including the Kataras pass to Metsova. We encounter some cyclist unfriendly dogs on the way to Meteora, but enjoy a relaxing break at Camping Kalambaka eating Baclava from the local bakery. Greece is a delightful place to camp - but always bring strong pegs and a mallet to hit them in with. We head over to the East Coast doing many pleasant Ks' on the way. Some roads are not surfaced and it's always a bit of a guessing game with the maps available. Platamonous, Methoni, and then Thessaloniki - where we track down an important parcel containing a new tent pole. Then it's a short hop to Turkey through Asprovalta, Kavala, Fanari and Alexandroupolis. Back to Top
We crossed the bridge into Turkey, the Greek side Blue & White, the Turkish was Red & White, both with the appropriate guards. After paying for our visas we cycled on an undulating road, chased by a dog at one point. We spend our first night in Turkey at the Comet Hotel, Kesan. We took a route south through the Galipoli peninsula, eating at a wonderful Lokanta (a sort of 'workmans cafe'). The dishes available were all freshly cooked and tasted delicious. To a westerners budget they were also inexpensive.
We cross the straits to Canakale, and courtesy of Captain Jons Willems we enjoy an al fresco meal. Our route took us to the ruins of Troy - use your imagination, to beautiful Assos, Bergama - the wonderful mountain top ruin of Pergamon and onto Izmir a busy city. We used a bus to get to and later from Izmir, the roads are big busy dual carriageways and not great for cycling. There are some cultural activities available in Izmir.
We moved on to Selcuk, the base for the ruins of Efes, they are most definitely worth a visit as is the local museum. You can safely skip Kusadasi unless you are desperate for some social interchange with numerous carpet salesman etc...
We headed off into the country via The Menderes Valley, Nazilli and to Denizili where we took a day out to visit Pamukkale - worth it. Our route took us to Yesilova, Burdur, Egirdir, and to Sarkikaraagac where we experienced a small earthquake. Up on the third floor everything wobbled like mad - not reassuring to see the hotel staff running into the street. Konya the home of the Whirling Dervishes was followed by the very flat and open Anatolian Plateau, Sultanhani boasts a beautiful Karavanseri. Araksay, Ilhara (the nearby Troglodydte dwellings are interesting), Derinkuyu, Goreme - a useful base to visit the strange landscape of Cappadocia. We took a bus to Ankara - don't miss the tomb of Attaturk, and then a bus to Istanbul where there is many interesting things such as the covered market, Aya Sofia, The Blue Mosque and the Sultans Palace. Back to Top