A tour of Eurasia

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The deported: A good reason to go cycling

Wednesday March 17, 2010

Well it has finally happened. Danny’s getting deported. And what a great excuse for a bike ride. So the whole Eurasia thing has had its appeal for a while now so a flight to Vienna, a month looping around Czechland and then it is Slovakia and beyond.

Feelings are mixed. It is great to be going but it is really shit to be going this way. With less than two weeks to plan, not to mention finding lawyers, giving and selling my stuff, yudda, yudda, yudda, details of the trip are a little bit scarce. But that’s okay. Why not wing it!

The bike.

Vienna airport to Bratislava: Welcome to Austria. Wait, now welcome to Slovakia

Friday March 19, 2010, 58 km (36 miles) – Total so far: 58 km (36 miles)

Emigration out of Taipei isn’t a problem. There is no red ‘deported’ stamp. No hassles. Nada. You finish work around lunch time and it is only then that you are told to pay your tax. Fuck. 500 US smackers straight to the government because you are in the country less than 6 months. They already took a k and as a further consequence of being deported they can take 500 more. So it is off to the tax office to file 2 years of tax records. After a confusing interval the good news arrives. A 2000 Americano dollar refund. Brilliant. Except you have to wait 2 weeks to pick it up. So despite the triple F U from Taiwan you do have a little bit of cash to help finance this trip.

Not long after boarding the flight to Vienna do you realize that not only do you not possess a credit card but your debit card is also absent. But worry not because it was not left behind. Hidden somewhere in one of the bags it is at last procured. Relief.

It is quite cold in at Vienna airport around 6 AM. Ice still sits in puddles. But it doesn’t feel that cold as you piece back together the bike and sort out the luggage. The next problem to solve is a lack of a nut and bolt to fit the front rack on. Actually you have the bolt. You just need to find a nut. Until a nut is found a cable tie is used.

The route from Vienna airport to Bratislava is the same 1 taken 3 years previous. Except this time you don’t get on the freeway but onto the smaller road running parallel. Traffic isn’t as light as you would like but at least drivers here are courteous. None of this me first mentality you are used to braving.

A bike path runs most of the gauntlet. Unfortunately a lack of a map and knowledge of the place names means you at times abandon the path for the road. If only you had known. So for future reference, route number 6 takes you to the border.

The day is uneventful. You see some ancient roman ruins that you missed the last time round. Last time you took the detour to the ‘ruins’, ie amphitheater and in so doing missed out on seeing the much more spectacular gate. You see the trips first castle ruin. Not long after you spot Devin castle across the Danube and in nearby Slovakia.

You stop by at the border to get your passport stamped. But, according to the polizie, there aren’t any border formalities. From the border it is only a few more km, over the bridge with the UFO and welcome to Bratislava proper.

Coming into the hostel you find that the cable tie used to secure the front rack is gone, broken off. It is just luck that the whole thing stayed on. Tomorrow will be spent looking for a nut and bolt to secure that thing. But wait, Macgiver to the rescue. You do have such a set. You have a spare quick release for your seat. It fits snugly. But only time will tell if it lasts.

Time for a beer.

Men at work.

Bratislava to Breclev: Welcome to Czechtopia

Sunday March 21, 2010, 122 km (76 miles) — Total so far: 180 km (112 miles)

A day of procrastination in Bratislava and you are off to see the world. Following the Danube to Devin castle you then head north along the Morava River. You see some of the hundreds of bunkers along the Iron Curtain bikeway, built originally against Nazi Germany.

It is a pleasant day. That is, pleasant until it starts to rain. But it is good to be out on the bike in the beautiful countryside, passing through quaint towns and eerily quiet woodlands.

You stop over in Austria for a late lunch and then it is back into Slovakia and then Czech Republic to Breclav, your stop for tonight. It is not until you buy a beer do you realise that you don’t actually have any money on you, at least not Czech money. And the exchange place is closed for the night. Damn.

Tonight’s host is a lovely lady called Zuzana. And no, it’s not like that. I met her on Couchsurfing. I slept on the couch. Soon it all catches up with you as those heavy eyelids close shut. It must be time for bed. Apparently you are quiet lucky with the weather. It was winter 2 weeks ago. It still is cold though.

Bratislava castle.

The iron curtain.

From Breclev to…: Castle hopping

Monday March 22, 2010, 90 km (56 miles) — Total so far: 270 km (168 miles)

You change some money over but the fuckers only give you big notes. Big notes that everyone else will refuse to take. Can I have some smaller money please? No. Fuckers.

Lunch is had in Mikolov and none too soon. The castle here looks pretty cool but you are too early in the tourist season for a tour. So you move on. Lednice is nice. You have a quick look at the castle but with all of the renovations going on you don’t stay long. Besides, it is getting late. It would be good to put away a few km before dark.

You find a pension but it is closed. You ask the lady in the bar next door. You need a card she says. But how do you get a card? One asks. Not to worry though as a very nice pension is to be found just a couple km further along. Time for a pivo.

To Zarici: Night in a castle

Tuesday March 23, 2010, 107 km (66 miles) — Total so far: 377 km (234 miles)

After a little whiles along the road you beeline off to Breclev castle. Unfortunately it is closed. Wait until April apparently. After Breclev you kinda get lost, mixing up the hiking trail with the cycling 1. Results are anything but good but you must have gotten out alive. After all, who would be here to write this?

Eventually a road is found. Then a late lunch. You see a lot more snow today as you roll through a couple minor ski resorts. It is sunny and hot but the wind bites cold, especially on the descents. There have been some beautiful rolling hills these past 2 days. Lots of vineyards abound although it’s a little too early for any colour.

Then there is only a couple of hours of daylight left until you can make it to Kromenz, today’s destination. And those legs just don’t seem to want to help. No matter. The last 12 km are all downhill. Kromenz is lovely with a beautiful town center. Unfortunately there isn’t anywhere to stay so you move on, in vain hope of a pension before night fall.

It doesn’t happen though. The lights go on but only for 3 km more. In Zarici you find a pension, all decked out like a castle. In the entrance there is a gallows with a dummy hanging. Ominous perhaps? You go up to your room. Wait a minute. A quick look from the outside confirms it. You are staying in a turret. How cool is that!


My turret.

Zarici to Olomouc: Beautiful beautiful Olomouc

Wednesday March 24, 2010, 37 km (23 miles) — Total so far: 414 km (257 miles)

It’s not far at all to Olomouc. You arrive by 12 and spend the rest of the day wandering about town. Olomouc is a wonderful city. Very livable. But there’s no one else about the hostel so there’s not really any point to stay. Otherwise Olomouc would make a great rest day or 2. But as today already is pretty much a rest day.

Olomouc to Moravsca Trebova: Damn that headwind

Thursday March 25, 2010, 83 km (52 miles) — Total so far: 497 km (309 miles)

Yesterday was pretty much a rest day so it is back on the road again today. You follow the bike paths but even then you still manage to get yourself lost. On the outskirts of town you stop to fix the mp3. Just ahead a branch breaks off a tree and lands on the path in front. Missed it by that much. A little further out the path disappears entirely as you trudge through the mud.

Bouzov castle looks pretty cool but alas you are a week too early for a tour. Restaurants are also closed.

Just an easy day today. No need to ride too much. Except there’s a biting headwind.

Moravski Trebova to Pardubice: Penzion where are you?

Friday March 26, 2010, 128 km (80 miles) — Total so far: 625 km (388 miles)

Lots of snow today. You head to Policka trying to find this castle but it looks like it doesn’t exist. Oh wait, there it is on the map you got from the tourist office. Oh well. Too late now. Policka is nice though with a nice square and plague column. No pensions in Chrudim so you keep riding to Pardubice.

And now oh so sleepy. Cannot write. Not another.


No snow here.

Pardubice to Nova Pecka to…: Riding around in circles

Saturday March 27, 2010, 125 km (78 miles) — Total so far: 750 km (466 miles)

It is already 9 pm. It is cold. There’s snow everywhere. And there is nowhere to stay. Prices are outrages. Penzions cannot be found. And now you have a flat. 16 km to Jicin. Looks like a long hard slog but there will be places to stay there. If only it isn’t too late.

Days are usually biting cold until around 11. It gets hot but an icy wind keeps the coat on. It cools down some by 5 or 6. 8 pm is still warmer than 10 am. But not today. Today is icy cold all day. True, it does warm up some but then it cools right down again. On go the gloves. On go the mittens. Yes, there are mittens. Want to know a cool trick? Socks make great mittens. Especially on a long descent.

You passed through a couple really beautiful towns. You detour to Kuks because you remember reading about it in the guidebook. You reread the section on Kuks. Give it a miss. Oh.

Bike trails have you riding on dirt tracks along the river Lube and through a muddy field.

You fix the flat and move on. Oh, and your headlight is almost dead as well. Fortunately a big round moon helps shine your way. The road to Jicin has for the most part a nice shoulder. But, and take it from someone who knows, it is not good for the shoulder to end when high beams are being shone into your eyes.

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