It has been a year and a half since posting travel experiences on this site. I am sorry for that and have no excuses. In the months that have slipped by I have hiked in Iceland and Norway that should have been shared. There have also been numerous birding trips to new destinations resulting in a host of new birds in my repository, some of which are interesting enough to share. But, that is water under the bridge and I am committed to try again.
My first foray into Eastern Europe, as a cyclist, was on the back end of my trip around the Baltic in 2004. Leaving Scandinavia I fought the wind and rain from St Petersburg out of Russia through Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Kalingrad, Poland and East Germany on my way to Copenhagen and the end of that adventure. As challenging as the cycling was tasting a less modernized and unhurried Europe left me with a hunger for more. I’m not sure why a return did not make its way to the top of my travel priorities before now but at last I have booked a return. This time I will be heading for the confusion of countries in the south east part of Europe. I am flying into Frankfurt on Sept 1 returning 60 days later.
One of my favourite travel writers, Patrick Leigh Fermor, as an eighteen year old in 1933 struck out from Britain to walk to Constantinople, largely following the Rhine and Danube Rivers. It took him a year and a half to get there and a further 30 years to write the first of three books reliving his experiences and observations of an unsettled Europe between the two world wars. To some extent I will be cycling over Fermor’s steps now 85 years erased. It is not only his foot-prints that have been eliminated by time and happenings. I have little expectation of being hosted by Hapsburg nobles or ambling along quiet roads beside a wild Danube as he experienced. WWII, the Soviet occupation, multiple power dams and the modern world has dealt the Europe of old a blow. In search of the remains of a quieter world I will be heading for some of the more remote parts of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, … It will be impossible to resist Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Bucharest,… but the quiet roads call more urgently.
I will likely start this adventure by hopping a train from Frankfurt to Regensburg on the Danube. The Danube Cyclepath is one of the popular car free cycle destinations in Europe. As I have never been successful in sticking with a cycle path for long this time I am going to attempt to deal with my impatience with slow routes and convoluted navigation by following the Cyclepath , possibly as far as Budapest, about 1000 km. My inclination, as I flit from maps to books to the internet here in Calgary, is to leave the Danube in Budapest to begin a wander through Hungary into northern Romania finally reconnecting with the Danube at its Delta on the Black Sea. If that works out I will turn and head up the Danube this time, possibly into Bulgaria, Serbia or wherever. At some point I know I will run out of time; I needed four not two months to taste SE Europe even superficially. So I will likely need to bus and train back to Frankfurt at some point.
Along the way I am expecting to savour the regional food, beer and wine. After all, one of the reasons for leaving my lethargic life in Calgary to travel by bike is to be able to eat and drink whatever I want. I expect to tent a little, use homestays, hostels and small inns by preference. I will touch on a few birding destinations, hopefully catching some of the fall migration. Alas, since buying a nice birding lens a few years ago I have been spoiled for bird photography with smaller lenses. But my big one is just a bit too bulky, heavy for long bike rides. However I do hope to get some nice travel pictures and will have to be happy with that. Fitting in some day hikes is also on my wish list. Hopefully I will not get in such a rush that I forego that pleasure.
I leave a week today to spend a night with a “warm showers” host in Frankfurt so if I am diligent with my communications job I will do a further update in a couple of weeks… ‘til then.