Friday, August 11, 2006

So, you went on a cycle trip?


Here is a brief run down of the trip:

Number of days cycling: 21
Total distance cycled: 2120 km
Days of rain: 5 (the last five)
Flat tyres: 1 (Cres, Croatia)
Crashes: 1 (Hungary, only minor damage)
Countries visited: 9 (If 5 km in Italy counts...)
Border crossings on bike: 11
Free meals from generous people: More than 25
Most water in one day: 9 litres (Over 40 degrees in Croatia)
Number of times I was told I was crazy: Lost count, as usual!
Steepest climb: 1100 m in 8 km (Vřsič, Slovenia)
Longest day: 200.86 km (9 hours 15 mins)

Liquid Sunshine

It's not kayaking if you don't get wet, is it?

Me getting an upper body workout for once...

That's not a bike!

The chandelier

The remains of 40,000 humans decorate the inside...

Looks like a normal church from the outside...

Church in Olomouc

Some say that rain is just liquid sunshine...

After seeing the town of Olomouc under heavy cloud, I again caught a train in hope of finding some sunshine. In vain, I arrived in the rain in Kolin, 70 km east of Prague. Dodging puddles and closed road signs, I peddled to Kutna Hora where I visited the creepy church you see in the photos as well as the beautiful old town. A rather creative, though quite morbid artist carefully decorated the church with the remains of 40,000 humans after the graveyard ran out of space following the plague. Featured is the chandelier made from at least one of every bone in the human body.
With the blanket of cloud now a blanket of (heavy) rain, I pitched my tent next to a group of scouts from Prague that where canoeing down the river. The evening was spent sipping hot tea and playing the old favorite rainy weather game, musical chairs.
Packing in a downpour, I left the camp and followed the rapidly rising river towards Prague. I was invited in for a cup of hot coffee by an old couple out for a walk in the forest. I spent a good hour or two trying my best to communicate as they spoke only Czech. Feeling a little warmer and with some home made cakes in me. I continued...
Returning to my bike after purchasing lunch I discovered that half of my tent was missing...after a futile 50 km (bike) search of the road ways the following day, I'm still unsure where when and why it disappeared...luckily it was the last (cycling) day of my trip and it should be covered by insurance!
So before heading back to Sweden I will spend the week in Prague staying with friends of a friend. I'm very grateful that they are willing to not only put up with me arriving looking like a dirty, drowned rat but also taking me out to all the best places in town, taking me kayaking, driving me all over the place to find a box suitable for my bike and giving me my own room for the week. Much appreciated! As you see in the photos, I'm a bit out of practice in a kayak since the old outdoor ed days at school...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Czech Beer and Slovakien Architecture

Czech countryside
A Polish Valley
The High Tatras shrouded in cloud
Marco and Paul
The building style of the 60s in Bratislava
Relaxing on the "beach" in Vienna

Three days in Vienna was about right to do what needed to be done...relax and do something other than cycling. Spending time with friends is the perfect way to prepare for the road again...
Sebastian escorted me out of Vienna, following the Danube we said our goodbyes as the road turned from asphalt to gravel and became unsuitable for his racing bike. Some hours later over the horizon the outskirts of Bratislava appeared with a somewhat domino like form.
Entering the old town I bumped into Paul and Marco who where on their way to Katmandu from Belgium...where else?
Quickly realising we got along well, we decided to meet up for a beer later on, I found a place to stay (which I paid for, for once). We spent the evening at a bar on a boat floating on the river with the guy they where staying with who, soon after, invited me to his BBQ the following evening. Why not?
The BBQ turned into quite an event as a range of people from the Netherlands, Czech Republic, USA, Germany, Belgium and of course New Zealand turned up (plus a few locals...), this meant that sleeping space was at a premium...first in first serve! A good time was had by all...
With time running short for the trip the train was a good option to the hub of the High Tatra mountains in northern Slovakia. From here I cycled north into the mountains where the weather turned from bad to worse and only a short sighting of the mountains was possible, I guess luck has too sides sometimes...
Circling the mountains I crossed into Poland traversed the northern slopes of the range before crossing back into Slovakia and spending the night next to a large lake with one German speaking Czech cyclist and two English speaking French women.
Heading west I followed a small line on the map which was an equally small line in reality winding my way first up and later down through dense forest on, at times, rough gravel tracks, stopping only to happily munch on wild raspberries along the roadside. Finally reaching a real road again I felt a little more secure and headed for the Czech Border. Soon after the rain began, stopping only after I had packed my things to leave this morning...
Now in Olomouc, Czech Republic I am enjoying the friendly hospitality of Jan who I studied with in Sweden three years ago...just arrived home from a heavy Czech meal washed down by several good (and very cheap) beers!