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BICYCLE TOURING

Eastern Europe Adventure

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       Bicycling        

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Day 1-ride to Dresden

Day 2-ride to Litomerice

Day 3 ride to Prague

Day 4-ride to Lintz

Day 5 ride to Ybbs

Day 6-ride to Tulln

Day 7-ride to Vienna

Day 8-ride to Bratislova

Scenes from the Elba bike path on the way to Prague

...on Elba Bike Path after arriving at Coswig,Germany by train from Berlin...

..scene on the Elba bike path before we entered the Czech Republic...

 Lost  Luggage   

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Day 1 - Berlin Hotel

Day 2 - Berlin Hotel

Day 3 - Berlin Hotel

   Touring   

Berlin

Prague

Viena

Bratisolva

Litomerice

...the Elba River bike path....

...the Danube River bike path...

I retired in 2005 and we entered what we called "Bicycling: PHASE III." Part of the PHASE III philosophy was "there would be no excuses." We would plan and execute two bike trips a year. One trip would be in the States and one somewhere in the world. No excuse would be accepted to postpone a Bicycle trip. When the date of the trip arrived, “pack because we are going.” 2008 would test our Phase III philosophy.

 

the planning - The original plan for 2006 was to bicycle New Zealand’s South Island in Late January 2006. My mother-in-law had a very ugly traffic accident in December 2005. She was very beat up and the situation was very touch and go. She had numerous broken bones. At 83 we were not sure she would make it. She began to recover but we believed she would require constant care. Then she just sucked it up and got back on her feet and returned home. The entire process took about six months needless to say the New Zealand trip was a casualty and all of the 2006 travel was in doubt.

 

Summer is winter in New Zealand and South America so we began to discuss a trip to Eastern Europe. I wanted to visit Berlin because of comments from friends that it was a must see. They were impressed with Berlin. We had stopped London on the way home from other European trips why not stop off in Berlin on our return from our Eastern European adventure? My wife found a bike path along the Elbe River that started in Germany and ended in Budapest. There would be little or no climbing which was important since she had ridden very little since my mother-in-laws accident. I began to plan a trip along the Elba Bike Path.

 

The Elba Bike Path is in Southern Germany and Berlin is about 75 miles to the North of the bike path. The plan was to ride from Berlin on bike route "number 2" which runs between Berlin and the Elba Bike Path. We planned to bicycle from Berlin to Prague, then from Prague to Vienna, and then finally from Vienna to Budapest. That would allow us to cover many of the places that everyone said was a must see. It would be about 450 miles of cycling. Including days to tour the major cities along the route, the trip would take about 21 days.

 

I located the Marriott's in Germany, the Check Republic, Austria and Hungry and reserved rooms in Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest at good rates. I divided the route into daily distances which I thought we could handle and started looking for places to stay between the major cities. I created a “bailout” plan if we were stranded somewhere, I determined how to get from the airport to the hotel, I got verbal agreement from our hotel in Berlin to keep our bike boxes while we were cycling, and determined the best way to return from Budapest to Berlin at the end of the ride. I started to look for airfare which would be the final test of the plan.

 

The World Cup of Soccer was in Germany in June of 2006! The airlines were booked and we could not find reasonable airfare. My wife wanted to add Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic to the "must see list." The plan was revised to visit Cesky Krumlov. Bicycling in Hungry was not recommended on the web. Budapest was dropped from the plan. The Danube River in Austria also had a bike path. We would ride the Danube River Bike Path to Vienna.

My wife was concerned about her conditioning. The stress of her mother's accident had caused her back to act up and she was in pain. Riding 400 miles in Europe over an unknown route seemed less and less appealing. A couple of day rides around LA confirmed that the Eastern European trip could be a long ordeal.

 

In the background the World Cup was making reasonable ticket prices impossible. I began to look for another date for the trip. My daughter was bringing the grandkids for a visit in July. Cramming an Eastern European trip into the three weeks before they arrived did not compute. We would fly to Berlin on the 13th of August. We would be gone a total of 19 days returning on September 1.

 

It should be noted that all of our rides start this way. "Am I in shape?" We had been kicking around the idea of riding from the West Coast to the East Coast doing a couple or three states each year. So to do some riding in June to improve our conditioning, my wife organized a ride from Nevada across California to San Francisco. That was about the length of the trip in Eastern Europe and we had to climb over the Serria Mountains!

 

We would be riding with all of our gear on our bikes, clothes trunk, carrying our trail food and water mix, tools and spare parts, maps, etc. It would tell us if we had the right stuff. We drove to Reno and began to trip. We did it and came home and got our airfare for Eastern Europe. During the back and forth about should we or shouldn’t we go I had set up Plan B which was just take the train to the Marriott's in the Main cities of Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest and tour in the cities. Since I could cancel the Marriott's the day of arrival I kept that plan up to the day we started the ride in Germany.

 

Then just to complicate things further, there was a terrorist threat at Heathrow Airport in London and the airline and “cheaptickets” contacted us to say we could bail and not lose our ticket money. My wife said the decision was mine. I decided I am getting older by the hour and we had said when we retired that we would travel. This was our best chance to get in an overseas bike trip in 2006. The trip was on!

 

getting to Heathrow - Our flight to Berlin was scheduled for Sunday. We had reserved a “Blue Shuttle” to take us to the airport. Our flight was to depart at 8:30 PM so the shuttle showed up about 5 so we would have plenty of time to get to LAX and them through security. We were flying with American Airlines to London and then British Airways would fly us to Berlin. The Shuttle left us outside the American Airlines terminal at LAX.

 

We had 2 bike boxes, a duffel bag filled with bike trip support gear and a bag with "additional" clothes for Berlin. Since we could only take four bags without paying, and I did not bring enough clothes for Berlin to fill my bag, we decided to put Bren’s bag inside my suitcase to make the four luggage limit. It worked.

 

The bike box was big but on rollers, the double clothes bag had rollers but the duffel bag with our bike support gear was heavy and had to be carried by straps. My wife set off into the airport dragging her bike box behind her. I tossed the duffle bag over my shoulder, grabbed the handle of the bike box and the suitcase and set off behind her. I took two steps and the duffle bag dropped off my shoulder breaking one of the temples off the reading glasses I had hung around my neck! I had to balance my glasses on one ear to read for the remainder of the trip. Lessons learned. Do not expose the only pair of reading glasses you have to travel trauma!

 

I recovered, a little pissed, put the remains of my glasses in a safe pocket, and joined my wife at the American Airlines counter to check-in for our flight to “London.” As is our typical practice, my wife waited in line with the rest of the passengers while I stood with the bike boxes at a convenient spot away from the counter. The ploy being once my wife became first in line I would move the boxes forward to the counter for check in. Waiting at my strategic spot, I could not understand why the passengers at the checkout counter were taking so long to check in. The person at the counter was on the phone while the passengers waited impatiently.

 

When it became our turn we discovered the problem. We were told we would probably miss our connecting flight in London to Berlin. The check-in person got on the phone and tried to get us on a later British Airways flight to Berlin. She was able to put us on the flight after the one she had predicted we would miss but she was worried that the second flight would be cancelled, are would be full because of other flight cancellations, etc. Just in case she also put us on the morning flight to Berlin which would mean a night at Heathrow or a hotel in London. While she was completing our reservations I called Marriott reservations and made a reservation at the Heathrow Marriott.

 

The flight to London on American Airlines was long. The seats were very uncomfortable because they were pushed close to the seat in front leaving minimum leg room. The seat itself had an odd shape and did not form to my back very well. I had to push the backpack I was carrying behind me for support. Since we had very little room for my legs, my right knee would lean out into the aisle when I began to dose and the stewardess would bump against it on her way through the plane. Obviously this would wake me up but I could not find a comfortable position that did not include the knee exposure.

 

We had purchased “Bose” noise canceling headphones for the trip and they work but the airline music was a little disjointed, meaning the sound and volume would change abruptly causing me to yoyo back and forth into and out of a deep sleep. The headphones can only cancel a constant noise source. Initial conversation could be heard which also added to the yoyo effect. My wife had purchased had purchased an IPOD which she had downloaded music onto. She said worked very well.

 

The service was good. Ten hours of flying allowed for two food services and various drink services with a snack thrown in for one. We did not participate in the first food service because we had eaten at LAX due to the late departure of the flight. We had eaten a hamburger at Chillis. Mine had been very over cooked which I ate and started a food consumption routine of “eat what is served and like it” which I think I will not do again. If it is bad I will not eat it and send it back. When we returned to LA my wife had some soup at a local restaurant which she said was very salty. When the waitress inquired my wife told her and she removed the charge from the bill. I think it is time to grow up and not accept poor quality.

 

We arrived at Heathrow after 10 and a half hours and found we had made our flight to Berlin. We then went through the process of canceling the Marriott. We were 20 minutes beyond the cancellation dead line but with the terrorist thing in London we expected some slack especially from Marriott. Using the phone at the London airport was a pain. The BA counter first gave advice and then actually left the counter to assist. What money to use, which phone to use, when to add more money and so on. It turned out we were attempting to use an internet connection and not the phone. Once corrected we began the “mongoose and snake” action with Marriott which was resolved by a supervisor at the Heathrow Marriott.

 

getting to Berlin - Our flight kept being delayed an hour at a time. We finally got off the ground around 11 PM. The flight was scheduled to leave at 8:30 PM. Once on the flight everything went well. The flight to Berlin on British Airways was pleasant, or we were so glad that we had made a connecting flight. We had not gotten a seat together in LA. But, on the ground at Heathrow British Airways put us together when we checked in. The seat arrangement was three across on each side of the isle. We sat with a Englishman in the window seat who worked in Berlin for a French oil company. We talked about travel, George Bush and Tony Blair. He was not as anti-Bush as most and when I told him that the war was about oil he remained rather neutral. He thought Blair was more intelligent than Bush but had gotten the war wrong. It was an interesting conversation, the seats were comfortable, a snack was served and the flight went quickly. I did not realize that Berlin was only an hour and a half from London. Rather a quick bomb run I would say.

 

getting to the Marriott - We arrived after midnight at the Tegal Airport in Berlin. We waited for our luggage and none arrived. We did get the little hand carry on we were asked to check at the gate but no bicycles or clothes for Berlin. We joined the others refugees at the claims office. It was quite a wait but we finally had our turn. After filing the claim I told the British Airways person that we were in desperate need of our bicycles and she said that there was an estimated 3000 articles of luggage in Heathrow and everyone was special.

 

We walked out of the airport and discovered a single cab at the curb. We told him we wanted to go to the Marriott Courtyard in Teltow. He asked a couple of times if we meant Teltow to which we responded in the affirmative. He drove for some time and then was obviously lost. He was on the radio talking with the dispatcher and continued to drive. After what seemed like forever, he drove into the parking lot of the hotel. I gave him a credit card but he could not get it to work in his machine. I motioned for him to join me in the Marriott with the assumption that we would find English is spoken here and the receptionist could translate what we should do. When we arrived at the check-in desk I told her who we were, she looked up the reservation and I asked if she could pay our cab fare and charge or room. She said of course and asked the cabby what the fare was. The cabby told her and she gave him a very cold stare to which he just gave a silly smile and waited. She told us the fare was 40 euros and we asked if we could include a tip which made the fare 45 euros or $59.50 cents.

 

After the cabby departed we told the receptionist about our lost luggage and asked if she could call British Airways and tell them the address of where we were staying. She said of course. I asked for a tooth brush which she produced and we were off to our room. We were in Berlin, staying at mother Marriot’s, life was ok. I had added an extra day based on the luggage snafu in Italy so we would just relax and wait for our stuff to arrive.

...Danube Bike Path scenes...our "revised" route began in Linz and ended in Bratisolva...

..riding up from the bike path to the hotel in Ybbs,Austria

....fountain along the bike path in the town of Tulln, Austria

rode through huge vineyard on the way into Vienna,,,

...check station on the Bratislova border...

 

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RIDE DAY 1 – Miessen Riesa to Dresden

...waiting for the train in Berlin to take us south to the Elba River Bike Path...note we carry all our "stuff" in the bike trunk....

...we transferred at Coswig to a train going east along the Elba River to our "recovery start point"...

...we bicycled a short distance from the train station in Miessen to the Elba River Bike Path to start our adventure...

...riding along the Elba River Bike Path....the bike path landscape provided beautiful views and we saw little or no traffic even in populated areas....

Plan for the day – Before the terrorist threat in London had trapped our bicycles for three days, our ride plan had been to begin our bike tour of Eastern Europe yesterday. Today was our planned ride day 2. The plan called for us to ride from Riesa to Dresden. Today, however, we were still in Berlin.

Our bicycles had arrived at the hotel last night. We quickly put a "bicycling recovery plan" together. We had lost two days of riding. We did not want to cut off days at the end of our planned ride because they were a bit more exciting. Our plan change would be to take a train to a location on the Elba Bike route which would allow us to complete leg 2 of our Eastern European Route. Leg 2 had been Riesa to Dresden. This would put us back on our planned ride to Vienna, Austria.

We looked at our route and determined that we could take the train to Miessen and then locate the Elba River Bike Path and ride to Dresden. This would compensate for the the lost time and put us back on our original schedule to bicycle "Eastern Europe." 

Start of the day – To recap, our bikes had arrived about 10 PM last night!  After a what the “hell” lets give it a go discussion, we built the bikes. We rode in the parking lot after dark to test for assembly problems. We gave the bike boxes to the Marriott to save for us which had been part of the original plan.  We went to bed.  Tomorrow we ride!

 

We got up and dressed in our bike clothes. We were still in Berlin and would be required take our bikes on the subway from the hotel to the train station. We had packed our bike trunks which ride with us on the back of our bikes the night before. We had also packed away our street clothes we had been wearing at the hotel in our luggage and left them with the bike boxes at the hotel. After packing our pj’s we took the luggage to the receptionist for storage while we were away bicycling.

We enjoyed another breakfast at the Marriott. After breakfast we went to our room got our bikes and returned to the lobby. We said goodbye to the staff. We thanked them for all their help, went outside and started the bicycle trek to the train station which was about 3 miles away.

 

Today’s ride – We rode along the bike path that shared the sidewalk to the subway station. We waited for the light rail to take us to the main train station to catch the train which would take us south to Meissen.

 

We entered the station pushing our bicycles and my wife held onto the bikes while I waited in line to purchase a ticket. When my turn came I attempted to be “cute” and asked the woman at the counter for “2 tickets for old people.”  She immediately responded with a straight face, in perfect English by the way, that there were “no old people in Germany.” She then joined me in laughter with several of the others in the lines nearby joining us.

 

Tickets in hand we pushed our bikes to the platform we had been told our train would arrive shortly. When the train arrived the conductor showed us to the “bike car” and we pushed our bikes onboard. We attached our bikes in the bike car to a railing and took our seats in an adjoining car which allowed us “see” or rather watch our bicycles.

 

The train we caught in Berlin did not take us to Meissen. The train took us south to Coswig where we caught a train heading east to Meissen. The trip took about 4 hours but it was August and we had sufficient daylight to bicycle to the hotel in Dresden after we reached Meissen.

 

When we reached Coswig it was sprinkling rain. It was apparent it had rained hard before we arrived. The station at Coswig did not have a covered platform so we stood with our bikes in the drizzle. We got a little damp as we waited. The train arrived in a short time and we got on and left for Meissen.

 

When we got off the train in Meissen we asked at the station how to get to the Elba Bike Path. We got directions to the bridge that crosses the Elba River. Once on the bridge we saw a path below us along the river. It was below us and there was no one on it. We thought it best not to go down and the find we out we had to climb back up.

 

We rode across the bridge on the right side as several bicyclists were riding in the same direction across the bridge on the opposite side. When we reached the other side they stopped waiting for the light. I yelled across “Elba bike path, Dresden.” They indicted yes that way. I got on my bike just as the light changed and rode into traffic and then against traffic to where they were standing. The drivers of the cars were not amused.

 

The riders were German but spoke enough English to tell us to trace their path back across the bridge and take the steep cobble stone path down to the bike path going in the opposite direction they had come. It was the way we had assumed but I have grown so much being lost all the time on “my” bike trips that “now” I always “ask.”

We went back across the bridge, bounced down the cobble stones to the path and were off. The path was right along the river and was smooth asphalt. We cranked along taking in the view. It was very pleasant. We snapped a few pictures to capture the start. It had stopped raining before we got off the train in Meissen and the weather was clearing. The sun was out and the sky was clear within an hour.

 

When the path approached the outskirts of Dresden civilization forced the path away from the river. The trail moved into civilization and became difficult to follow. We rode along streets which had “bike path signs” posted but we encountered too many corners and too many dead ends for the first time rider ro comprehend.

 

Finally we turned a corner atop an incline and looked down on cobble stones that had water standing it. The rain we were in Coswig must have dumped gallons of water on Dresden to produce this. It was apparent as we rode that it had been raining hard during the day. We decided we were lost and went back about a quarter of a mile to an intersection.

 

At the intersection we asked four people and they motioned us to turn right onto a street which would have been straight on our entry path. We headed in that direction and soon found ourselves on a bike path along a very busy street.

 

We rode for about three miles and then my wife stopped to ask a guy setting in a car for directions. A black woman setting next to him got out of the car looked at the map my wife was holding and told us in perfect English to continue along the road for some distance to a second bridge across the river that was on the map. She said “when you pass the “Burger King” you know you are on the right path.” Off we went.

 

After what seemed like a long distance we passed the Burger King and then after a short distance the black woman drove by leaning out of the car telling us that we were going in the right direction and should continue. Note that we were riding along the edge of a very busy street.

 

We continued until we reached an underpass with a bike sign with a line through it. A very obvious sign that we were not to ride through the underpass. No bicycles beyond this point. My wife stopped a young woman and began discussing the map in German. After some discussion the woman motioned in a direction at a right angle to our Burger King direction and said something in German to my wife.

 

We set off in that direction. My wife told me that the woman asked why we were on the street when there is a bike path a couple of blocks to our right. We rode for what seemed like more than a couple of blocks and suddenly there was the river again with a beautiful bike path. The bike path went in both directions how did we miss it and get onto the street? We never found out!

 

We rode along the path until we reached a bridge (which was above us) we thought to be the one we were to use to get to our hotel.  I found a red rocked path that went up part of the way up the bank but from where we were standing we could not determine if it went all the way to the top. I told My wife to wait while I went up the path and look for way to the street above. By the time I reached the top of the short grade, My wife had asked a woman who was passing by how to get to the street. There was construction on the path I was standing on an no apparent way to the top. The woman told my wife that we could get through the construction and the path lead to the street on the opposite side.

 

We followed her advice and when we got to the construction found that it was possible to continue through to the path beyond to the street above. We got to street and using the map from the web turned by gut feel in the direction we thought would lead us to the hotel. We rode about two blocks along a busy street. I was completely turned around and thought we were riding in the wrong direction. My wife was confident so we rode to the corner and looked right and there was the hotel.

 

Today’s landscape - I was a bit tense on the trip down to Miessen to begin our bike ride along the Elba River and paid little attention to the scenery. I do remember that it was a bit overcast and the weather was a bit dreary on the way down from Berlin.

But once we hopped on our bikes in Miessen and began to look for the Elba Bike path we acclimated quickly and once on the Elba Bike Path the scenery added to the adventure. The weather cooperated as well and the skies cleared.

 

The bike path was bordered on one side by the River and on the opposite side by heavy foliage. Large green trees obscured the civilization on the opposite side path in cities and towns so we had the feeling we were always riding in the countryside. The bike path was located below the populated areas along most of the trip which added to feeling of being alone in the countryside. It was a pleasant ride. The wait had been worth it!

 

Cycling notes - For dinner I had weinersnetchel which came with potatoes. I thought it would be a safe selection. Everything was fried and salty which I had suspected it would be. I grew up in Kentucky and we fried everything to death and my dad's family were German. But growing up salt was never used in cooking and I do not have a tate for it. Even a small amount of salt is too much for me. Since collage in Colorado and moving to California I have moved to "raw" stake and susi. It is easy to over cook for my current taste. That said, I thought the Weinersnichel was good. We had out traditional Greek salad which was very good.

 

On our approach to the Dresden side of the bridge, My wife noticed a sign advertising a “flea Market” the next day. She said it was a must!! We know how the first hour or so of our day will be spent tomarow.

 

We were lucky today with the rain. This had been typical on our previous bike trips. We had not had any rain while touring in Berlin waiting for our bikes to arrive. And now on our first day of bicycling it had rained on the way to Miessen but the clouds had cleared just before we started our bike ride. Somebody up there must ba a cyclist.

The signage on the bike paths was great. We had not encountered many riders on today's trek from Goswig but the sineage was very helpful. The only SNAFU was that we paniced and made an early departure from the bike path to ride to the hotel. If we had more faith in the "system" we could have avoided the round-about way we got to the hotel.

 

Bicycles ride first class on German trains. We got on the train in Berlin with our bikes and entered a bike only car. The car was divided into two equal parts. The bikes were placed in one half of the car and the passengers (I would assume most would be cyclist) sat in the their half. A window seerated the two halves so I could see my bike was safe. This is important because I had a bike solen from my home.

 

The bikes were strapped to one of the poles that ran equally spaced long each side of the "bike half" of the car. We failed to understand how to use the stap that was provided so we used bungee cords we carry with us. We have learned that bungee cords are "very" useful on bike rips. For example we use them to secure luggage outside our trunks, hang wet clothes, etc.

 

When our bicycles had not arrived with us from London it brought back memories of our bicycling trip to Spain. We went to Spain in 2003 and my bike did not arrive for 7 days. Luckily we had planned "loop rides" from Seville so when the bike arrived we took the next loop ride that was scheduled and rescheduled others to make up the difference.

 

We were about to give up our bike agenda when our bikes arrived. Staying in Berlin for 7 days would not have been attractive to us. We had begun discussion about a backup plan of giving up the cycling portion of the trip before we left LA if our bikes did not make it. We would take the train to Prague and Vienna, stay a week in each city and return to Berlin for the remainder of the trip. We had the hotel cancel our reservations for day 1 and then day 2 when our bikes did not arrive. Lucky for us the bikes arrived before we gave up.

 

I think everything is cooked to death in Austria and Germany. My ansetiry is German and I remember my uncle burnt our steaks when I took my wife for a visit to my home state of Kentucky. I think its in the genes. I lived on wienersnitchel on our trip. We also always ordered a Greek salad. It became a must for each meal. We found them to be very good but it varied from place to place. Our Greek salad in Bratislava was the worst and it was good.

 

Post Ride Activity - We walked the short distance to the hotel and went in to check in. From the outside the hotel looked like a Hilton. We checked in and the young woman at the desk asked us to take our bikes back outside and put them in the garage. We removed our trunks from our bikes and asked the young woman at the desk to watch our "stuff" while we took our bikes to the garage.

 

We returned and carried our bike gear and bike trunks up to our room. I thought the girl at the reception desk was a little uptight but maybe I became a bit tense. It was the first day of riding and the delay was stressful. which may have consumed our. We had also been spoiled by the Marriott folks. The girl at the hotel desk was ok!

 

Our room was nice but we were paying twice the rate of the Marriott. It was not worth more than the Marriott but it was ok. Opps! I am so glad that we have started our bicycle adventure.

 

We changed out of our riding clothes into our non-riding best. Our non-riding best was a mix of bike clothes and regular clothes. We were respectable.

 

Our hotel was located across the river from the old part of the city. We wanted to see the old part of the city so we walked from the hotel on the sidewalk to the bridge over the Elba River. As we approached the bridge, which was only a block and a half from the hotel, we saw a ramp with a bike path on it running from the bike path to the street where the hotel was located. We had given up too soon on the bike path coming into Dresden.

 

We walked across the bridge. On the opposite side of the Elba we found ourselves standing at a wall of an old fort. Once inside the wall there were many old building. As we walked through we approached a large staircase near a fountain on the opposite side which returned us to street level.

 

We followed a street into the old part of town and then into a square. There were restaurants along the sides of the square. A very interesting city I thought. My wife said she remembered that the US or allies had bombed Dresden a lot during the Second World War.

 

We decided on a restaurant with outside seating in a courtyard. The courtyard looked out onto a square. My wife noticed a list of recommended restaurants on a bulletin board near the reception desk as we were checking in. She had memorized a couple of names to aid in our dinner selection and the restaurant in the square had been recommended by the hotel bulletin board.

 

There were only a few people at the restaurant which to me was not a good sign. I was still suffering from my poor attitude!

 

We asked if we could eat in the court yard in front. Of course, we were told. I ordered Wienerschel which was served with very dry, salty potatoes. My wife had lamb which she said was very good. The Wienershinetel was good although very dry and cooked well. It was breaded. And we ordered a Greek salad. We also had “aqua con gas” everywhere in the tradition started in 2000 on the ride in France.

 

We finished our meal and decided to take an around about route back to the bridge to the hotel so we could checkout the shops and the people along the streets. My wife is an elite shopper but we were reluctant to buy anything which we would have to carry on our bicycles for the next several days. It was interesting and fun to mingle.

We crossed the bridge back to the hotel and went to our room. We put on our "sleep wear" and went to bed. We were back on the road on a cycling adventure. Tomorrow would be a full day of cycling. It was great to be on the road!

 

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RIDE DAY 2 – August 19, 2006 - Dresden to Litomerice - 73 miles

...the great scenery along the Elba River continued as we rode toward the border with the Czek Republic...

...picnic tables were commn along the Elba Bike Path in Germany but disappeared at the Czek border...

...we lost the signage that allowed us to be lazy about staying on the route after we left Germany...

 

Plan for the day - We start the day back on the ride plan that we had put together in the States. We would be riding the fourth leg of our planned trip from Dresden, Hermany to Lotimerce in the Czech Republic. The distance would be 53 miles. We had made reservations at a hotel in Litomerice for the night as part of our preperations before we left the US.

 

Start of the day - Breakfast came with the room which made the price more bearable when compared with the Marriott were we paid for breakfast which was 17 euros or about $22. It was quite a spread and was very good. I believe their add on the web said it was an American breakfast. The hotel had a large number of folks staying based on the number that came to breakfast. The eating area was very large and it was packed.

 

I had assumed the night before that we were the only folks who could afford the place. Not true. Also from the breakfast area we could see that the hotel was about four times as large as was evident from the building where we had checked in. There were four similar multiple story buildings that formed a courtyard which we looked out on from the breakfast area.

 

After breakfast we went back to our room, dressed in our bike clothes and loaded our bicycle trunks for the day's journey. We went down to the desk in the lobby and checked out. We pushed our bikes to the street in front of the hotel and headed for the Elba Bike Path located on the opposite side of the bridge. The bike path ran along both sides of the Elba River but the locals had told us that the best riding was on the South side. Day two of bicycling had begun! We were back on schedule.

 

Today’s ride - We crossed the bridge to the other side and below us was the “flea market” that my wife wanted to visit before we began the day's bicycle adventure. We had to carry our bikes down a flight of stairs to get to the flea market but my wife wanted to visit it.

 

I followed my wife for awhile through the flea market but it was difficult to shop with a bike in tow. I told her that I would take her bike and wait out of the way for her to make her way through the stalls. There was a lot of stuff to browse through. My wife did the whirlwind tour which took about forty-five minutes. She had seem many things that would have been fun to own but we would have to carry our purchase on the bikes for three hundred miles. We left empty handed and headed for Litomerice.

 

During a discussion as I waited for the shopping to end, I learned it was possible to ride back up to the bike path along a road running east from the flea market making it possible to avoid the labor of carrying our bikes up the stairs. We exited the flea market riding east and soon had climbed back up to the bike path. We continued along the bike path for several miles making good time and enjoying the scene.

 

We stopped at one point and asked four riders who had stopped at a rest stop along the path to verify that we were on the Elba Bike Path. Our quick stop turned into a discussion of bicycling and land of origin. We told them we were from LA. They were on vacation from Belgium and were out for a day ride along the German bike path. They were stopping in Pirna Germany which we were told was about 15 miles before we would cross into the Czech Republic.

 

After our short discussion we continued on but we continued to run into them along the route. They would pass us taking pictures at some point then we would pass them a few miles further along where they had stopped for no obvious reason.

The bike path came to a street where we had the choice of continuing to a ferry crossing a couple of miles further along the path or turn and go over a bridge we had just ridden under. While we were looking at the map the Belgium folks rode up and we told them we were going to ride across the bridge. They said they would join us.

 

The bridge had a bike path along it which made the crossing easy. Once on the opposite side we dropped down onto a road which ran parallel to the river. We were riding in a group talking and as we approached an overpass my wife took off to accelerate for the bridge and leaving the group behind. Just as she started her assent the group approached a small asphalt path to the right with a sign indicating we were to turn to get back on the bike path.

 

I yelled to my wife that she had missed the path and she turned around to come back to us. The group was impressed with her bike prowess on the assent. One of the riders said to me “once she gets that bike going she really goes doesn’t she?” Our bike friends stopped to look at something of interest and we continued alone.

 

The bike path proceeded onto an access road through a populated area where folks had built homes along the river. The road ended shortly after we passed the houses and we were on a gravel path. The bike path disappeared on our side of the Elba after a short distance and we found ourselves at a ferry crossing. The bike path continued on the opposite side of the river. We paid 3 euros to cross. It was a bit more of the unusual experiences that make bicycle trips interesting.

 

Before the ferry left the dock the cyclist from Belgium appeared and joined us on the ferry. After leaving the ferry we talked with the Belgium cyclist for a while, took pictures and then were off. We met up with them several more times along the bike path and rode with them for a short distances before they stopped for something that attracted them. We saw them for the last time setting at one of the many restaurants that was adjacent to the bike path as we passed. They waved as we disappeared down the bike path.

 

About 15 miles further on we exited Germany and crossed the Czech border. We took a picture at the small sign marking the border. No one was there to check our pass ports. No one checked our pass ports the entire time we were in the Czech Republic. For about 3 miles the trail continued ok accept for the cars. In the Czech Republic the Elba Bike Path became a road that bicyclist could use.

 

The path is about one car width. We met three cars before the trail ended and moved onto a highway. The cars were all traveling at least 30 miles an hour and did not slow down when they saw us. The road split with one leg making a steep climb up to a road above us.

 

The second leg of the trail continued along the river. We assumed it was the bike route and continued to ride along the river. The trail became a rough, rocky road. It was a road which had two tire paths with a patch of grass growing in the middle. The type of road that a car would make driving through a field only this was not a field it was a rocky river bank! There were fist sized rocks in places which would have dumped the bike if they were hit. Some very sharp pointed rocks stuck up from places in the road which had to be avoided.

 

The rocky road transitioned into a road made of cement slabs laid side by side. There was a small gap between them and they were not level with each other. It was a wash board. This slab surface ended and the path became a gravel path with a surface of small pea gravel. For a road bike this was especially stressful. We were treated to small distances of asphalt which actually were there to support car traffic near someones's home. A short distance past the residence the path returned to gravel.

 

To add to the bike path trama I had miscalculated the distance to Lotimerice. I had calculated the distance to be 53 miles. This discovery was made when our odometers rolled past 56 miles and civilization was not in site!

 

The trail turned to dirt and then we ran into mud and standing water! T was sure we were lost but just as hope was waining another trail sign appeared indicating we were on the Elba Bike Route. We rode through the mud surrounded by a very lush forest at about 4 miles an hour. I was sure that it would be after dark before we reached civilization. We would be forced to spend the night in the forest! We soldiered on!!

 

In a short distance we transitioned from the mudd onto an asphalt road which was used for cars but also served the bike route. We had reached civilization or at least were approaching civilization. A short distance further we entered Litomerice. We rode on until the path disappeared under a bridge. We stopped because the map we carried with directions to the to the hotel indicated we needed to cross a bridge. This seemed to be a good path to take us to the opposite side of the river.

 

We stopped a young guy who was walking past as we approached the bridge. He did not speak English so we showed him the map and he indicated that we go up onto the bridge and cross over. We followed his advice and rode up a steep cobble stone street to the bridge. We stood there not wanting to go across until we had a better feeling that we were doing the right thing. Daylight was not critical yet but it was time to get serious.

 

As we waited a man and a woman struggled up the cobble stone path to the bridge. We asked for help. We showed them the map. They attempted to communicate but finally the guy just gestured that we follow them across the bridge and we were off.

 

The bridge had a side walk and a bike path. We crossed over the bridge and as we were exiting off the opposite side my wife spotted our hotel. We had made it. We turned into the parking lot and rode up to the entrance. It had been a very interesting ride today!

 

Cycling notes - On the German section of the path we rode today the path was very smooth and flat. Asphalt surface wide enough for bicycles to pass. There were lots of riders on the path. It was Saturday. Many of the riders were as old as we were and there were families with young children on their own bikes. We had been amazed at the number of cyclist in Berlin who were not wearing he;mets. We saw little children in a child’s seat without helmets on the bike with mom without a helmet. They were cranking also! An ugly early experience in our cycling had taught us to never ride without a helmet.

 

There was not a cloud in the sky. The rain that we had encountered in Miessen on recovery day one had disappeared. It was beautiful. The path ran along the Elba River of course and provided beautiful views.

 

We had ridden 73 miles. The distance calculation I made in the states was 53! I have to look at my calculations when I return. We are lcky that we are in sha[e from our ride across Caifornia and that the route was flat today. There had been some difficult climbs in the first few days on our ride across California. Maybe that helped us today.

 

It is interesting that everyone we met knows California is located in the United States and LA means Los Angeles. You are not required to say the United States at all. I am afraid that I do not have the same knowledge about the rest of the world. I think we also believe that if the US has a problem it is a world problem. But the world has a lot of issues and they don't share our belief that everything important is going on here.

 

As an example, we stopped to take a picture of the graffiti painted on a rock along the bike path which read “fuck Bush.” We stopped a German cyclist who was riding by and asked her to take a picture of us under it. We only spoke briefly, she spoke perfect English, but it was aparent that she was not overly critical of the US situation in Iraq. I read some of the English news papers in Eastern Europe and it became apparent that there are a lot of problems in the area which I knew nothing about.

 

I thought it strange that the bike path would end in "Germany" and there would be a ferry to take us across the Elba. I assumd the ferry folks had asked the government not to pave the bike path along the opposite bank so folks would use the ferry. Otherwise you got to ride on the gravel. And the gravel ended at the ferry crossing! What ever the reason the ride on the Elba Bike Path in Germany was great and the ferry was welcome!

 

We wanted to buy bottled water at the market to fill our water bottles for the day’s ride. The night before we had stopped a “Target” looking store and went in to look for water. We could not find plain water to buy. Everything had "gas" in it. We were to find this to be true all through Eastern Europe. We were not sure what to do but decided the risk of getting sick from drinking the tap water was a bad idea. It was late and we assumed most of the stores were closed. We bought the water with gas. We mixed the water with drink mix for today's ride. we discovered that after a couple of hours the gas was gone and the mixture did not taste that bad. We had no physical effects from the water mixture.

 

Today’s landscape - The Elba River must be at least half a mile or more across. The bike path is built along the dike just above the river which provides a great view of the river. Obviously with all of the rain the area was green. There were large, red roofed buildings in some places, all on the opposite shore surrounded by a cluster of red roofed houses. Some of the larger building appeared to be castles other were churches. The highway ran on the opposite side. The train track was on the bike path side of the river but was a reasonable distance away. The river had small rowing boats and rafts as well as tug boats pushing barrages and large touring boats with tourists.

 

Post Ride Activity - We knocked at the door to the hotel and A fellow appeared at the door. He gestured that we park the bikes in an adjacent hallway which was 90 degrees to the entrance and we did. No more of the taking them apart as we had done in Dresden to prevent theft. If the locals steal all our stuff off the bikes they were welcome to it.

 

We did the pantomime trick with the hotel guy to get into the room. We were showing him the paperwork we carried that indicated we had a reservation. The route map was attached and when he saw that we had started in Dresden he pointed to the map and began to jester with a look “you rode all this way.” My wife indicated in the affirmative and he just gave a sigh of disbelief. We had ridden 73 miles. The distance calculation I made in the states was 53! Have to look at my calculations when I return.

 

When we found our room and dumped our stuff. My daughter called from the States. We told her of the days events, i.e riding in mudd in the Czech Republic. We were setting on a patio which was part of our room. It was very pleasant. The sun was disappearing over the trees so we had made it just in time. After sharing our exploits of the day with my daughter we decided we had better find dinner.

 

We asked the guy at the desk (He could have been the owner.) where he suggested we get something to eat. He told us to cross the bridge and head toward the church, the tower of which was above the buildings and could be seen from distance, and we would find the city square. Around the square were three restaurants he recommended. We set off across the bridge, then to the church and entered a square. It was not the “square” we discovered because there were no restaurants. Some sport bars or girls and guys bars but no restaurants.

 

But, were there are bars can restaurants be far away? No. We walked out of the square into the next and there were the three restaurants he had told us about. We selected the first we came upon. The waiter showed us to our seat out side on the square. We always sat out side to avoid being trapped in the smoke.

 

The waiter handed us a menu and we asked for suggestions. My wife asked for something that you could get in only in the Czech Republic or rather was a special Czech Republic dish. (The worst meal I have ever had in Europe was to come later in Austria asking for “waiter recommendations.”) What he suggested we cannot remember but the food was good as we recall.

 

The desert, however, is burned into my brain. I first had to chase down the waiter who was setting with his buddies (three other guys) at a table on the street next to the front of the restaurant. I asked if we could have desert and he said yes and arrived with a desert menu after I was seated back at the table. I forgot to mention that our waiter spoke very good English which we had not fund as a rule in our short time in the Czech Republic.

 

We ordered an ice cream desert with raspberries we were to find out. Anyway, mine turned out to be whipped cream with raspberries and a taste, and I am being generous using the measure “taste,” of ice cream. A little disappointing but, I ate it all.

 

Then the bill comes and it is in the Czech currency and euros. It cost 16 euros. I gave the waiter a 20 euro bill. He stood at the table and asked if I had anything smaller. I had already decided that I would give him a four euro tip, but for him to play me by asking for a smaller bill which I am sure he assumed I would say “keep the change” iterated me, but I let it slide. Keep the change!

 

return

 

....Elba bike path scenes from the Czech Republic....



Bicycle Day 3 – August 28, 2006 - Litomerice to Prague - 63 miles

...the bike path looked solid as we exited Lotimerice....

.....but within a half a mile the bike path turned to mud and we exited onto a highway....we did not have a map....we were lost!

...we returned to the Elba Bike Path...unfortunately we ran out of daylight and had to bail...

 

Plan for the day - Today is recovery day 3 of our Eastern European ride. It would be day 5 if we had not lost two days due to British Airways failure to deliver our bicycles to Berlin leaving them stranded in London. The plan is to ride from Lotimerice to Prague in the Czech Republic on the Elba Bike Path transitioning onto the Vitava River Bike Path which will take us into Prague.  It will be a distance of approximately 60 plus miles assuming that I have made the correct calculation in the US during the planning phase of our adventure.

 

Start of the day - We got up put on our bike selection for the day and packed our trunks for the day's ride. We went down to breakfast which came with the price of the room. The buffet provided meat, cheese, soft boiled eggs, bread and rolls, yogurt, cereals, fruit, juices, etc. There were fewer selections than we found at the hotel in Dresden but there was still sufficient variety to provide an excellent breakfast.  We ate our fill, went back to the room, got our gear and took it down to load the bikes.  We paid our bill using a credit card and rolled outside to start the day's adventure.

 

Today’s ride - We rode back across the bridge, turned left onto the cobble stone street we had used the night before to come up to the bridge and rode back below the bridge. The bike path continued under the bridge from where we had turned the night before.

 

After going under the bridge the bike path entered a wooded area. The bike path at this point was asphalt and smooth. Within a mile, however, we entered a service road area similar to the one that had delivered us from the marsh area the night before. Shortly thereafter we entered a gravel road or path which consisted of two gravel paths a car width apart with weeds in between. Only the two gravel, wheel tracks indicated that this was a road. The Elba bike path sign confirmed that we were on the bike path.

 

The gravel ranged from fist size to sand. The rider had to stay focused to prevent hitting something that would put him or her on the ground. We had left the asphalt access road and entered onto the gravel road which ran along the edge of a meadow. A railroad track ran adjacent to the meadow, and about a tenth of a mile further on I could see cars on a highway. To add to the excitement a car came down the gravel road and passed us with zero room to spare between bicycle and car.

 

The path turned due South toward the Danube River. We rode down the road to the river until we reached a single path which turned and ran along the river. Weeds that were at least as tall as I am grew immediately on either side of the path. We looked at the path and said you must be kidding. No, there at the turn into the weeds was an Elba Bike Route sign with an arrow pointing into the weeds.

 

We started down the path. The high weeds disappeared after about 50 yards but we entered an area were the path became mud. There were large ruts in the road approximately six inches deep and a foot wide that were filled with water. The ground around the ruts was wet and muddy. We had difficulty staying on the bikes dropping a foot to the ground often. We took pictures of the mess.

 

After about 25 yards of this I called a halt and told My wife that we should continue on the highway which was only about a tenth of a mile from where we were riding along the river.

 

We turned onto a gravel road that took us to the highway, turned right (southeast) and began to ride. Our problem now was that we did not have a map of the highway system with us. We only had the bike path maps. There was enough detail about highways on the bike maps to give some idea of the route we should take. It was Sunday. All Czech people who own cars are in church. We were off.

 

We rode along the highway “16” which our maps indicated would take us toward Prague. As we rode we were reassured by signs indicating that we were heading toward Prague.

 

At first there was little traffic. We were passed by a very serious female rider on a very good road bike dressed in full bike garb. She was serious and just buzzed by us.

 

At first the traffic was light but became heavier as we rode. At one point as were climbing a hill very slowly a car passed us and the driver leaned across the front seat to express his displeasure. Since we did not speak the language we can only assume he was complimenting our choice of roads to ride on.

 

Things really got serious when we got close to Prague. We were 5 miles from Prague when “16” went South and the freeway that we assumed that we could not ride on went on to Prague. Since our map did not have sufficient road detail to give us an alternative, we were stuck.

 

We turned off of the “16” onto a road where we could see a service station a short distance away. We would seek directions to Prague from the locals. There was a couple standing by their car at a service station and we stopped near them. We had found a location on the bike route map which would take us to Prague or at least would take us in that direction. The bike map did not provide much detail about the highway.  We decided to ask the couple if we could get to prague by the route on the map.

 

We rode up next to their car with our map and did the pantomime act with the map. The girl looked at the map and indicated that our destination was in the opposite direction from what I thought it should be.  I was confused but thanked her and we rode off in the direction she had indicated.

 

After we had ridden for about a mile we stopped again because the direction we were riding seemed wrong to me. We asked a second person on the road as they passed and they said yes that was the direction we wanted to go in.   I even checked the compass that I carry on my bike trunk (this was a result of planning to go North and somehow getting turned South on the ride in France in 2000) to determine if we were going in the correct direction. My compass however seemed to have decayed hanging on my bike the last 5 years and gave me readings that were not always consistent. But the majority of the reading indicated that we had been given the correct directions. So we took the advice we had been given. I suffer from a poor sense of direction.

 

After a few miles of riding we were rewarded with a sign that indicated that we were riding in the correct direction. The Elba River is north of Prague. To get into the city you must change to a bike path that runs along the Vitava River which runs through Prague. So after our highway “16” left us at "Freeway 2," we decided to find our way back to the bike path along the Vitava River.

 

When we had stopped at the freeway and discussed how to get into Prague we had discussed taking the “608.” It was a straight shot to the Northern part of the city and there were bike paths indicated on our maps which we could use to take us to the hotel. But we had to find the "608." We passed "an information location" which had a large map of the area. We stopped and decided that we were within range of the bike path into Prague so we decided not take the “truck route” 608 but ride the bike path along the Elba as planned.

 

The first few miles were uneventful and we followed our map making the necessary turns. We came to an intersection of two rather busy streets which were not marked with a bike path sign indicating which way to proceed.  I did not want to “turn right, cross the busy intersection, go under an overpass in the distance without a bike path sign.  As we stood looking at our map, bicyclist began to appear from under the overpass, cross the busy intersection and either pass us or cross our path. We got on our bikes crossed the busy intersection and under the overpass.  After a short distance we entered a busy commercial area with well marked bike paths and a sign that read “Prague, this way.”

 

We rode toward Prague. From lessons learned we stopped another cyclist and asked if Prague was really this way. The girl said yes it is and I just rode from Prague but I am not sure how I got here! But, continue to the round about and take the street that is 90 degrees to your position. We were off. She was English, American, Canadian or something and her English was easily understood. No language problem but I experienced a little discomfort when she told me "I think I am lost too!"

 

We get to the round about but the 90 degree street was not obvious so we asked again. This time after a little pantomime with our Czech guide we start to ride on the street.  The street we have been directed to does not look like a boulevard.  It looks more like an industrial access road. Feeling a little insecure about the street we are riding along we are relieved when passed by two cyclists. We hail them and find out “English is spoken here” and inquire about Prague.

 

We are told that indeed we are on the bike path to Prague and they are going to a restaurant on the path and to follow them. On the way we find out that the woman is a graduate student (medicine?) as is here husband who is the other cyclist. The conversation continues until we reach the restaurant and then we are given advice to avoid the portion of the bike path through the woods along the river taking a loop around the area instead.

 

About fifty yards beyond the restaurant the asphalt ended and we began to ride on a very rough rocky shoreline area which was incredibly dangerous. Rocks of all sizes, slick rock surfaces, sticks, etc. marked the trail. We continued along the shoerline for about a mile or more and then my wife says "this is the turn the woman told us about."  We turned left as we had been told onto an asphalt street or road.  As we turn a guy is lowering a barrier accross the road a few yards ahrad.  He continued to lower the barrier as we approached so we got off our bikes and pushed them around it. He did not say "get off the road," however, which we had feared he might. Returning to the rocky river bank and continuing was not an option in my opinion.

 

We continued up the road on an uphill grade of about 5% for a couple of miles climbing to small communities located above the river. The communities were marked on our poor map. We stopped at the top and had a GUE. We were now standing at a crossroads and while we consumed our energy gell, we selected a road which we thought would take us back to the river and the Bike Path. We rode through several unpopulated intersections (no houses and thus no one to ask about our route) as we rode and selected exit roads based on our map. We were making progress.

 

Then we rode into an intersection and made an incorrect choice. We were suspect of our decision and after we rode for a couple of miles (down hill) we decided we had made a mistake.  We checked our map and decided we should retun to where we had made our mistake. We were about to ride into a residential area and my wife said if we continue to ride we might see the church and get back on the trail. Should we go back up the hill or continue nd look for the church? We decided why ride up hill.  We might find the church and be back on course.   We did not find the church.   Lessons learned: Always go back to where you made the mistake. Do not try an correct.

 

We began to ask for directions to the church at houses along the way where folks were relaxing in their yards. Very little English spoken here. To make a long story short through no fault of our own we sudden found ourselves back at the point where we had made our original mistake. My wife did not recognize the intersection and “I convinced her that "yes this is where it all began.”

 

We turned toward the river and headed off. We rode for a few miles and when you have been lost you are unsure about anything.  “Are we on the right road?  Why have we not reached the river yet?   I believe we should be there by now!”   Finally, via the map, we locate a 15% grade down to the river path. The river path is very nice and maybe cars are on it but all we saw were people walking along it and a couple bicyclist.

 

We stopped to ask one of the folks walking along the road for information about finding bike path to Prague. He told us that we had to take the ferry across the river because the Bike Path from here was loacted on the opposite side of the river. He told us the ferry closed at 7 PM? We rode off in the direction he had indicated we would find the ferry dock. We rode over a sign on the bike path that said ferry this direction so we took it and after about 50 feet we were back on the rocks again  We were running out of time so we continued.

 

We got to what we assumed was the barge area but did not see a barge. Barge area meaning that we could not ride any further because the river bank disappeared into undergrowth. We assumed we had not made it so we turned to find a very nice asphalt road leading down to where we were standing. We could have avoided the rocky ride along the beach if we had continued along the road a bit further!  As we returned along the “real road” we ran into the walker who had given us the original instructions and he confirmed that it was not worth looking for the ferry, it was closed.

 

We rode back up the path and encountered a young woman on the road.  My wife asked her where the nearest train station was located. I interrupted and asked my wife shouldn’t we look for the “608?” We had about one hour of daylight left. How should we spend it? The young woman stood patiently waiting the outcome of our debate. My wife said we should spend the remaining daylight attempting to find the  train. The train would place us in a "transportation environment" which could be used to resolve all problems rather than riding to stand at the edge of the city in the darkness trying to determine what to do next in a strange environment.

 

The logic of her argument made sense. I gave in. My wife reengaged the woman in conversation and she told us that the train station was on the opposite side of the river and we would find a bridge in the town ahead. We were off. To make sure we were going in the right direction we stopped to ask a fellow watering his lawn and he told us a second time to cross the river on the bridge ahead and he believed that the train station was 5 minutes away and the next train arrived in 10. He said we had time.

 

We also stopped to ask a couple walking along the bike path for directions. The guy started to explain to my wife that we could not get to the train going this way because he was pointing in the opposite direction. The woman standing slightly behind him became irritated with his directions, stepped forward and interrupted and began to explain where the train station was pointing in the opposite direction. The guy got pissed and pulled me aside and started to talk to me in Czech of course which I could not understand. I assume he was telling me the woman was wrong and not to pay any attention to her. The woman finished giving My wife instructions and I said goodbye to the guy and we rode off. It would have been amusing if we had not been in such a panic.

 

We set off to locate the bridge across the river.  The road we were on was above the river.  There were large beautiful homes built along the road we were on and the foliage was lush and thick and obsecured the river.  We could not look down the river and see the bridge we were looking for.  I was not sure what type of bridge we were loking for.  I just assumed a big bridge for carrying cars and trucks across the river with bikes and pedestrians being after thoughts. This was my typical American experience.

 

We raced along the road turning in on streets occasionally to look for a bridge. No luck. Back to the main road and on. After a couple of more failures I looked down a tree lined street and saw what I thought could be a bridge. I stopped, looked again and sure enough there was a narrow bridge (15 feet wide) with a wooden plank floor going across the river. I called to my wife and we started toward the bridge. We rode hell bent for leather across the bridge. About half way across the bridge a train pulled up on the opposite side. About 25 yards from the platform, the train pulled away.

 

We reached the platform and we still had to go down under the tracks to the other side. I asked a guy that was standing on the bridge side of the platform when the next train would arrive. He said (in perfect English) that another train would arrive in an hour if we were lucky! His comment did not give me that warm feeling inside but what the hell, we were there. It was now dark. We had just made it before being lost on dark roads in a strange land where we do not speak the language.

 

We crossed under the tracks to the other side of the platform and began to look for a schedule and a place to buy tickets. We found both. We confirmed that we had an hour to wait, and that we could purchase the tickets using EUROS. We bought the tickets and then began the process of contacting the Marriott to help us get from the station to the hotel.

 

We had the hotel phone numbers on our cell phone. We had not been on our own for a sufficient enough time to understand how to make a phone call in the Czech Republic. My wife had broken the code in Berlin but the same process did not work here. We tried the country code for the Czech Republic. Did not work. One, followed by country code. Did not work. Just country code and the call went through.

 

The Marriott told us to take the train to the "Main Train Station" in Prague and locate the subway station there. Then take the subway to the Flore station. The subway was not direct. We would have to change from the “red line” to the “green line.” The “green line” intersected with the “red line” after only one stop on the red line.  Get off there and then take the green line to the Flora station. The Marriott was across the street from the Flora subway station. We were subway veterans of Los Angeles, London, and Berlin. Prague would be easy enough.

 

While we waited I took the opportunity to take photos of some of the graffiti on the station (or platform) walls. I had planned but not executed taking pictures of the graffiti we saw on the walls as we made our way through Eastern Europe. The Germans had influenced the Czech folks with there art it woudl appear from the graffiti on the station walls.

  

The train arrived and we climbed on with the bikes. We were in an area between cars and basically blocking the path between the cars.  I assumed that the conductor would be pissed when he found us blocking the aisle between cars. The doors closed and the train pulled away from the platform. A few minutes later the conductor arrived and stood at the entrance to the area and checked our tickets and wrote us a ticket for the bikes. He then slipped around the bikes and into the next car. We made a couple of stops before we reached the station, but no one got on with us. I assumed they saw the traffic jam and went to another car.  Well so much for difficulty getting your bike on a train.

 

We arrived at the main station and exited the train. The subway area was not obvious. We walked through the train station but did not see any signs indicating the subway. My wife asked and the guy pointed off in a direction and we went that way. After walking some distance we were still unable to see any indication of the subway. We asked again and were directed outside. There we saw the entrance to the subway.

 

There were steps leading down. I stood with the bikes while my wife went down the steps to make sure we should go down before we lugged the bikes down the steps. My wife reappeared and said that we were there. We lugged the bikes down the steps and located the subway the Marriott had directed us to take. After a short wait we caught the subway for the first leg of our trip.  At the first stop we exited and caught the second to the Flora Station.

 

At the Flora station we exited the subway, stood on the subway electric stairway with our bikes to the top and then onto the street. We came out of the station on the opposite side from the Marriott. We did not know this at the time. The fellow on the telephone had told us the Marriott was adjacent to the station. We pushed our bikes along the sidewalk and after a turning a couple of corners saw the Marriott.

 

Today’s landscape - The towns we passed through on our bike ride reminded me of France. Houses were built close to the road with red tile roofs surrounded by lots of flowers.  I am sure the homes were built along roads and streets where the traffic was only people and horse draw carts.  Now they were a bit narrow for car traffic.

 

It is pleasant to just be lost in wonderland with ones thoughts while riding through the countryside on a bike. The anxiety associated with of exiting a bike path with poor map support trumps those thoughts.  Becoming one with the environment while cycling looses its appeal when survival is the only thought that comes to mind.  But I must admit that there is a bit of excitement about the chase.  We prepare for recovery from "bike trouble" before we ride and we have had to execute our plan a few times.  We call it the "bailout plan."  Success has made us confident we can recover.  

 

But being lost requires that I meet many of the locals when information is required.  And, talking with the locals is a big part of the riding experience.  Our recover process provided us with several opportunities to interact with the local population. The countryside we rde through was pretty but meeting the people was today's "landscape experience" of record.

 

The disappearance of the Elba Bike Path into an unridable mud surface focused our attention on finding a way into Prague and locating the Marriott hotel where we were to stay.  I do remember the traffic that was not pleased with us on the road. I do remember the conversations with the people we met as we attempted our return to the Elba Bike Path.  It was especially interesting during our hasty attempt to reach the station to catch the train. 

 

We also were treated to a very interesting dialog with the Czech people as we attempted to locate our "bail our" ride on the train to Prague.  And I remember the conductor on the train to Prague and our subway ride to the Marriott.  The reception we were given at Marriott once we arrived was a game changer.  That erased all of the day's trauma and returned our thoughts to "I'm glad to be cycling in Eastern Europe!"

 

 Cycling notes - Today we abandoned the river path because it turned to mud. The landscape away from the bike path was puncated by traffic, conversations people along the route as we attempted to return the the bike path and punting when we ran out of daylight. We could have stayed on the routes which could be expected to have heavy traffic. It could be considered foolish to attempt to return to the bike path. But not having prepared in the States before the trip to ride on a highway can be a bit dicey. We had an idea what to expect on the "bike path." We had no idea what to expect on a busy highway and did not know if bicycles were allowed to ride along it at all. Our "minor" experience with the traffic when we exited the bike path due to mud was a could indicator of what to expect on a heavily travelled highway.

 

We bought new tires for our bicycles before we left for our ride in Eastern Europe. Considering the rough terrain we had ridden through on the "Bike Path" we had done a good thing! Putting up with tire repair would have made my mileage SNAFs and "trail turning to mud" excitement a bit tiring.

 

If possible we always get a room with breakfast on our bike trips. I enjoy a wakeup cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Being able to go to breakfast or find coffee in ones PJs is relaxing. We have more time to get ready to leave and to eat breakfast. It makes for a relaxed start to the day of riding.

 

As we rode on the bike path we would come upon "information areas" marked with a blue or green “i.” The information area could be anything from a building (usually in a town along the route) staffed by folks that could get you a room at a hotel, give you maps, or information about almost anything or as simple as a map showing the bike path mounted on posts supporting an overhanging roof to protect the map. The maps were rather detailed and since language was not a big problem when looking at a map they were very helpful.

 

We carried our luggage with us on a trunk that was mounted on a bar that attached to the bike seat. It was small to reduce the weight on the bike. Our clothes had to be selected carefully. We attended many outing in cities along our route in Eastern Europe weraing what I called "my special bike clothes." We could not carry a large selection of clothes to pick from. We washed our bike clothes each night. The material had to be quick dry to ready to support the next day's ride.  Our "special bike clothes" we used to attend concerts or plays could be worn to support a day's ride if needed.

 

After our experience I think it can be said that the Elba Bike Path does not exist between the German border and Prague. During my research on the web I had not found a lot of information about the bike path in that area from other cyclist who had ridden on it. That should have been a "red flag." Also the supported bike rides along the Elba in the Czech Republic were all East of Prague which should have alerted me as well.

 

I had thought about using the train to support a “bail out plan” in the States because they ran along the bike path and I knew from my research that "most" would transport our bikes. The unknown had been, “How far are the trains from one's location when you need them,” and “Are you allowed to take your bike on any train?” The positive answer to our second question had been supported by our experience using the train in Germany. They allowed bikes on everything. There were time rules on the subways but that was before 9 and after 6 for a couple of hours. The rest of the time bikes were ok and I would bet that if you jumped on the subway before 9 you could get away with it. As for how far away is the train. We were 50 yards at the most from the railroad tracks the entire trip. I would guess the stations cannot be more that 25 miles apart so you are always 12.5 miles from transportation that can take you anywhere.

 

Post Ride Activity - We entered the lobby of the Marriott and identified ourselves to the guy at the counter. The lobby was full of Asian folks. It was about 10 PM and we were standing there in our colorful bike attire with bicycles in hand in the lobby full of non-Czech people. Such is life on the trail.

 

The Manager of Marriott appeared and came over to us and welcomed us to the Marriott. He asked about our trip and said if there is anything I can help you with let me know. He said I am sure you are hungry. He said the restaurant is closed but let me ask the staff if they can put something together for you.

 

We headed off to the room. I assumed that we would be brought whatever the leftovers were from the restaurant and they would be delivered to the room. I took a shower. My wife stuck her head in the bathroom to inform me that the staff was waiting in the restaurant to serve us. I threw on my clothes and went to the restaurant.

The manager introduced us to the staff of the restaurant and we ordered. The manager continued his conversation with us at the table. He told us he was a bicyclist. His father-in-law was a cyclist. He was impressed with our equipment. He offered to take us to a bike shop near the hotel the next day if we needed any equipment or repairs. He insisted that we let him know if we needed anything during our stay.

 

I was a little taken aback by the attention. I had emailed Marriott in the States to tell them I was having a difficult time communicating via email with the Marriott Courtyard Flora in Prague but I had attempted to make the tone very low key so as not to make any one angry. If this was the response to my email it was a little over the top, but, that is the Marriott! We finished our meal, thanked everyone and went to our room. It was a good end to a "long day." That is why I enjoy the cycling so much.

 

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RIDE DAY 4 – August 24, 2006 - Pargue to Linz - by train

..on the train from Prague to Linz..our bikes rode in their own car...but we changed trains at the Austrian border!

..outside the train station in Linz on our bikes, loaded and preparing to ride to the hotel...

..we rode on a narrow bike path along the street from the station to our hotel near the Danube River...

...at the Danube with only a short distance to ride to the hotel...

 

Plan for the day - Our stay in Prague was at an end. We would catch a train in Prague which would start a train adventure to the south with our ultimate destination being Linz.  Linz would be our starting point on our ride along the Danube River Bike Path.  Our bicycling today would be brief.  We would ride from the train station in Linz to our hotel near the bike path.  We bought our train tickets last night to Linz on our return from our exploration of Prague.  We would return to the train station on the subway system we had used to explore the city and catch our train to Linz.

 

Once in Linz would spend the night at a hotel where we had reserved rooms in the States.  Tomorrow we begin our bike adventure along the Danube River Bike Path.  The Danube bike path runs along the Austrian side of the Danube and it will be interesting to see if we return to our German Bike Path experience which had spoiled us or to the wilderness experience we were treated to in the Czech Republic.

 

Start of the day - We went down to breakfast. It was the same spread as the day before. We had discovered that we were stiffing the Marriott during our stay and eating one buffet and claiming another on our bill.  We tried to compensate by buying the more expensive spread the last two days.

 

We returned to our room and packed our bike trunks and secured them on the bikes.  We went down to the front desk with our bikes in tow.  We were low on the local currency and decided we should get some EUROs. At the desk we were allowed to have a 100 EUROs charged to our bill! The management would not let out too much cash.

 

I gave the girl at the desk my Mastercard and after receiving the recept for the bill I found that I did not have my credit card. We spent about 10 minutes where I searched, the girl at the desk searched but we could not find the card. My wife asked if were possible that the card had been put with the room keys? The girl looked and there it was. The personal at the Marriott in Prague were not fully integrated into capitolism yet.

 

Today’s ride - We bicycled to the station in Prague and caught the train to Cesky Bojdivice. There we changed trains and went onto the Austrian border. The Czech Republic train was not allowed to continue beyond the border with Austria.  It stopped at the border and we changed trains. The border was out in the middle of know where. The train we were on stopped in the middle of know were and a second train from Austria waited about 50 yards down the tracks to take us to Linz.

 

There was no platform. We struggled to get our bikes down the steps of the train to the tracks. We had about 4 feet to drop to the ground after exiting through a narrow doorway. We got to the ground and headed along the tracks to where the next train was setting on the same track. The one we were on obviously went back to Cesky Boudjvoice.  As we hurried along the tracks to get to our connection we ran into two Austrian border guards who wanted to see our pass ports.  I was anxious because I was afraid we would miss the train and find ourselves in a two hour wait to catch the next one. That would probably mean we would be riding in the dark to find the hotel in Linz.  Something to be avoided.

 

The lady who wanted to look at my pass port could care less. She stood in front of me as I struggled to get my pass port out. I have traveled the last two trips with all of my identification and money in a purse that hangs around my neck. It is safe (I think!) but it can be a pain to get something out of because I have to unzip or unbutton my shirt, open the purse, find the compartment the information I am looking for is in and then pull it out. The lady was unimpressed with by struggle and gave me a very dark stare.  She was about the same height as I was and if things did not go well I would be in trouble.  Besides I had a bicycle leaning against me. We presented our pass ports and they let us through. We made to the red train that was to take us to Linz. It was just waiting there out in the open. If there was a platform I missed it because of the police harassment.

 

The train trip Linz was a few hours but seemed to go quickly.  We reached the station in Linz. We went to the information counter in the train station to find out how to get to the Danube Bike Route. Our hotel was located along the river east of the city. Another indication that this was not the old Communist Block was the people at the information counter. They were very helpful. They gave us a map of the city and marked the streets that would take us to the river. There were bike paths along our route to the Bike Path.

 

As we were leaving we decided to get back in line and ask about the train from Bratislava to Berlin. We had made the decision to cut the tour of Vienna by one day and bicycle to Bratislava. The fellow at the counter looked up the schedule and found a train to Berlin. He told us that this was a “European” train which I believes means that it travels throughout Europe as opposed to “country or regional” train which only travels inside a particular country. We had been concerned about getting our bicycles onto the train because we had been told that there were only 7 places available per train and you had to make a reservation. After looking on the computer for a few minutes he told us we would be able to buy the ticket much cheaper in Bratislava. He said he had confirmed reservations for the bicycles but we would have to buy the tickets in Bratislava. He gave us paperwork for the reservation and we were off.  So American!

 

We went outside to a very clean metropolitan area. We walked our bikes out to the street and got our bearings. Satisfied we knew what we were doing (Which is always a risk!) we started to ride in the direction of the river which had been marked on our the map by the guy at the information counter.

 

The bike path quickly entered a very busy shopping area where there were lots of people walking on the sidewalks and cars on the street. There were also bicyclists riding along the path. It was a little chaotic. People would stroll in front of you several feet ahead, bikes would pass and the cars were buzzing along the street. The street was rather wide and we rode in a bike path that was marked along one side. Not sure if there was one in the opposite direction but would assume so since all of the bicyclist on our path were riding in the direction we were. I would say that the best description of our environment would be that we were in a long commerical square that went on for several blocks.  A lot of shopping was in progress.

 

After a couple of miles, as was typical on our European adventures, the name of the street on the map did not match the name we were reading on the street signs. We assumed we had missed a turn and stopped an asked one of the locals pointing to the map. He motioned to continue as we were riding so we were off again. Soon we saw the bridge so we stopped for a picture and looked at our map. We were to turn left and ride along the street along the Danube River to our hotel.

 

There was not a bike route along the hotel side of the river. The traffic was heavy and swift. We began the ride to the hotel along a side street that joined the busy route after about 200 yards. At the junction my wife said she would rather ride on the side walk and we did. The side walk was narrow. Other bike people were on the street (all coming toward us) but we stayed on the sidewalk. We came to a busy intersection which was poorly marked one leg of which came out of a tunnel. We waited until the light changed and crossed to the sidewalk on the other side. As we rode we saw a man walking on the sidewalk. My wife rode up behind him and I think she used her “bell” to warn the guy we were behind him. He was very surprised and jumped. He turned and looked at us holding his chest and started to smile.  We stopped and I took the opportunity to show him the name of the hotel we were looking for. He told us we only had a few more meters. We slipped by him on the sidewalk and continued.

 

The road or street we were riding along was immediately along the Danube River. One side of the street had businesses and houses, the other was the river bank. I am sure that is why the traffic was so heavy is that this was street that connected other main streets into Linz.

 

Today’s landscapey - We were introduced to Austria looking out the window of the train on our trek from the Czech boarder to Linz.  As would be expected the Austrian countryside was similar if not the same as the Czech Republic.  The country side was very green. Only a few small hills along the way.  We must have been travelling through Austria's version of Kansas.  I had always pictured the entire country being nothing but AlpsIn fact now I am wondering where are the mountaoins?

 

The Communist influence was missing in Austria.  It was obvious from looking at the houses, the roads and the grooming along our rojute to Loinz that Austria had avoided the superstructure decay that was apparent in the old Communiest block countries in Europe we had travelled in.  The difference fom east and west Berlin is very striking.    

 

Cycling notes - Before going to Eastern Europe I was told via an email from the Vienna Marriott that the overnight train to Berlin only had 7 places for bicycles and it would be necessary to make a reservation for the bicycles. We took the “E” train from Bratislava and it had 16 positions. The “E” train is supposed to be the best and it had many creature features, but it also had 16 bike spots! The fellow who helped us at the information center in Linz took good care of us. He made the bicycle reservation and put us on the "best ride" back to Berlin.

 

When we caught the train into Prague after our mud experience along the Elba it was dark, we were tired and lost so we just took the first door in front of us and got on the train. We were in a passage way between two cars and our bikes were in the way. I was sure that the conductor would ask us to move or leave the location where we were standing.  But the conductor came in, we bought our tickets which included paying for the bike transport and he went on to the next car.  No harm no foul!  He had to craw over our bikes.  I was impressed.

 

The subways and trains we rode on during our Eastern Europe adventure all have bike cars. The bike car is marked by a bike on the window or a small bike emblem on the car.  The bike car in the Czech Republic has pull down seats which face the center of the car.  If a bike is there it is secured or held and the seats are folded against the side of the train. If there are no bikes, passengers use the fold down seats. We became subway, train and bus "bike transport experts" on the trip in Eastern Europe. We are now transit buffs.  Veterans might be a better word to use.

 

The railroad tracks ran along the river not far from the bike path. That makes since.  The towns, roads and life were all located along the rivers. Thus it was a perfect bailout solution for a cyclist. If you cannot continue the bicycling, one should be able to find a station within a reasonable distance and bail. We had done this to get into Prague after we ran out of daylight. The local people were sympathetic and were very helpful. The train solution worked perfectly for a "ran out of daylight" problem.  A bike failure or injury may require a bit more help but my experience has been that the local population will support.  That is true both in the US and any country we have ridden in! 

 

Post Ride Activity - We turned a slight bend in the street and my wife recognized the name of the hotel. We turned into a little gravel parking area with a flower garden along the back. Behind the flower garden was a patio area where people were setting eating dinner.

 

A woman who appeared to be the waitress came out to greet us. She motioned that we take our bikes to the opposite side of the hotel building to a location immediately to the right of the patio area. When we got around to the other side, she was standing there and motioned toward a garage or shed where we were to leave our bikes. We unloaded our bike bags and put them on a small picnic table near where we were standing and put our bikes in the shed. After Dresden we became a little less protective of our bikes. We assumed they watched the shed for bicycle theft. We may have been starting to relax.

 

My wife showed the lady the reservation which we had made in the States before we left. I am sure the early reservation was unnecessary because they had extra rooms. We checked in, got our room key and went to our room. We dumped our gear, changed into our “bicycle” finest and went down to eat dinner.

 

I believe we had Greek salad or something similar and we had apple strudel for desert. The main course I do not remember but the food was good. None of the food in Eastern Europe was Peruvian or French (my favorites), but was great after a day of batching it on the train and hotel searching.

 

We had completed another day of our adventure. We finished our meal and went to our room. We dressed in our "bike ride" PJs and went to bed. We always checked to see what was available on TV. We were looking for something in English but sometimes it did not happen. Tomarrow we would find out what the Danube Bike Path had to offer.

 

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RIDE DAY 5 – August 25, 2006 - Linz to Ybbs - 40 miles

...the bike paths along the Elba & the Danube were flat with only one small climb along the Danube...

...eating ice cream...there were many places to eat along the bike path with a variety of meals served. There were also a few places to stay overnight....

...along the bike path there were few houses...homes, businesses and a road were located on the opposite side...

 

Plan for the day - Today we bicycle from Linz to Ybbs. I love the name of this town. We plan to ride on the Danube Bike Path and we hope to avoid the same experience that we had on the Elba Bike Path in the Czech Republic. Mud!!!! Today's ride is 40 miles.

 

Start of the day - We got up and dressed in our bike clothes and packed our evening attire in our bike trunks. We exited our room and went down to breakfast which was located inside the hotel as opposed to where we had eaten dinner on the patio the night before. At the bottom of the stairs we turned right through a small bar area where a man, I assumed the husband of the waitress, was setting reading the paper.

 

Breakfast was the typical spread of cereal, meat, rolls, etc. It was a good selection. Unlike at the Marriott in Prague my wife and I came down to breakfast together because we had to get an early start. After the mud on the path in the Czech Republic we were not sure what we would find in Austria and we wanted to save as much daylight as possible for recovery.

 

After breakfast we went back to our room and put our helmets on, pulled on our gloves and assorted bike gear, and gathered up our bike trunks. I was using my camelback today so I put that on as well. We went down stairs to checkout. The lady of the hotel did not speak English so we had to do the punch and Judy show to check out. She indicated to us that we would have to pay for dinner in EUROs. We could pay for the hotel with our credit card.

 

My wife found the EUROs necessary to pay for dinner and I handed the woman my Citibank card. She made an imprint of the card and looked at the result. She left I assume to consult with her husband. She returned and indicated by hand motions that the card would not work. I gave her my backup card. She swiped it and indicated that it would not work. Fortunately My wife had brought a third card (because the rule is that we only carry two cards in different places in our luggage on bike trips) and the woman swiped that in her machine. She said this card was fine pointing to the imprint of a "V" for visa on the form.

 

Today’s ride - We went outside and put our bike trunks on our bikes and pushed them to the busy street in front. We had to ride back to the bridge again to get onto the bike path. We decided to ride in the busy street with the traffic. We rode along at a fairly fast clip trying to get off the road as quickly as possible. The traffic was polite and we did not get buzzed. We had seen several folks on bikes riding along the road when we rode to the hotel so the drivers must have been aware.

 

After reaching the bridge we crossed the street and turned left onto the bridge across the Danube. On the other side we again turned left and rode down from the bridge to the bike path and we were off.

 

After a few miles we knew we were back in bicycle heaven. The bike path surface was wide, asphalt and very bike friendly. Without having to pay attention to the bike path we quickly became one with our surroundings. The Danube River consumed our northern view and the lush green landscape consumed our southern view. Cars or civilization were nowhere to be seen. Signs were posted which allowed easy trail changes. We just cranked along and took in the environment.

 

We only had 40 miles to ride so we had time to enjoy ice cream at a shop on the bike path. Our favorite treat. We also had time to interact with the "ducks" which were not afraid to approach us and solicit food. We also had time to relax and photograph the many interesting venues and relax along the route. It was a very pleasant ride.

 

As we approached Ybbs we stopped at an information location. We asked about the location of our hotel. The information folks instructed us to continue along the bike path and take the first immediate right we found along the path. This would lead us up to the highway and then we would see the hotel to our left across the road. The lady working the counter who had given us directions  told us that they served the best food of any of the hotels in the area. We would enjoy our evening meal.

 

We located the immediate right about a quarter of a mile down the bike path. It was up hill to the road so I shifted down and stood up and my back wheel basically froze. I had to stop, looked down and my rear wheel has shifted forcing it against the frame so it could not turn. I released the wheel and it slipped back into place and I rode to the top of the small hill.

 

We saw the hotel across the road. The road was very busy and did not have a shoulder. The busy road had been the reason the woman at information had suggested we continue on the bike route. We cautiously crossed the road and walked to the hotel which was only a short distance away. We leaned our bikes against the building, took the trunks off and went inside. It had been a good day. No mud!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s landscape - We were back in God's country. The scenery along the Danube Bike Path was beautiful. We were riding far enough away from civilization that we were surrounded by the best of nature but not so far that we had the security of knowing we could get help if something unexpected happened.

 

The Elba River Bike Path was beautiful but the area along the Danube River that we were riding along was much larger than the area of the Elba River that we had ridden along.  Both were beautiful however. There were large areas of green along the Danube. There were ducks enjoying the river and looking for a handout from the tourists.

 

The surface of the bike path was very bike friendly. There were many places of business along the route which sold food and drink to the cyclist. We stopped for ice cream. It was a very enjoyable ride.

 

Cycling notes - We had not bicycled into a town along the route where we did not have a hotel reservation that had been secured in the States before we came to Europe. Today's adventure without a hotel reservation was  a new experience for us.

 

We had traveled all through Europe in 1975 without hotel reservations. We carried our "Europe on $25 a day" book with us. We would take the train into a city and call for a hotel reservation from the station using our book. We were very young and I am afraid Europe is now more than $100 a day  if you can find a place that cheap.

 

I contacted Citibank when I got back to the States to inquire about the card failure we had experienced in Linz. I was told they did not put the "V" imprint on their cards anymore for reasons that were not clear to me. We were lucky to have the third card which produced the "V" imprint.

 

Post Ride Activity - We left our bikes outside and went inside to ask where the bikes could be stored.  A gentleman greeted us (I believe he was the owner) and said put the bikes around back. I went back out and took the bikes around to the back of the building where I located a play yard with swings, slides, etc. The ground was covered with wood shavings. I leaned the bikes against the fence that surrounded the play area.

 

I went back in and my wife had checked us in. We carried our stuff up to our room and cleaned up. We had asked during checkin if they served dinner. They said that dinner would be served at seven. We had time walk back into town. We assumed that the town must be what we had ridden through on the way to the hotel.

After we arrived in Ybbs and checked in we decided to walk back along the highway to see the town. The next The next morning we found that we had actually walked in the wrong direction from the hotel. We walked to the West when the town was located to the East of the hotel.

 

As we walked we saw a bakery on the opposite side of the road so we crossed over and went in. They had all sorts of good looking pastry which we passed on but we also noticed they had sandwiches that we could carry for lunch the next day. We told the lady behind the counter we would be back in the morning.

 

We returned to the hotel and went to the restaurant to order dinner.  I got the worst meal I have gotten in Europe or in my life time in general.  In Ypps it was the same old cook everything to death approach to food preperation which I had grown up with in Kentucky. 

 

The worst meal I remember was “hog brains and scrambled eggs” which I was served by my grandmother on my grandparents farm.  Actually I believe it was the thought of hog brains that produced my trauma.

 

The waitress told me when I was considering the meal I got that it was the specialty of the house.  What I got was very dry pork. Very dry and basically tasteless. The potatoes that came with it were hash browns which had been overcooked. I would say they were burned. Little hard brown sticks.

 

I ate the pork but left the potatoes. The waitress asked why I left the potatoes and I told her I was not a potato person. She said “you should have told me, I could have brought you other vegetables.” My wife ordered something with the best looking broccoli and noodles with sauce. It came with meat but I do not remember what it was.

We retired to our room after we ate. We washed our bike clothes in the bathroom sink and hung them up to dry. We dressed in our PJs and turned on the TV. We just relaxed and watched TV. I wrote notes on the day's ride in my diary for my journal. It had been a good riding day and the Danube Bike Path had treated us well.

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RIDE DAY 6 – August 26, 2006 - Ybbs to Tulln - 61 miles

...a turn left or right from the river would involve a tough climb on a bicycle....

...we carried everything in a trunk which sat on an arm connected to the seat post...no carbon bikes on this trip...my GORTEX jacket is in the red bag...

...stopped for desert...note the river and the bike path in the background...

. .

 

Plan for the day - Today will ride along the Danube Bike Path from Ybbs where we spent the night to Tulln. We had decided to add a bit of drauma to the our plan for the day and cancel our existing reservation at a hotel in Kerns and find a hotel after we arrived in Tulln. The distnace to Kerns was 40 miles. The distance to Rulln will be 60 and change. The extr distance today will mean that we only have to ride 40 miles to Vienna tomorrow. The shorter distance should allow us to have time to to get lost in Vienna and recover before the sun goes down.

Start of the day - We got up at the hotel in Ybbs, dressed in our bike clothers for the day and went down to breakfast. It was the typical spread of meat, cheese, breads, fruit, cereals and coffee or tea. It was all good. We selected what we wanted from the spread and sat down and ate. After we finished we went back to the room and loaded our trunks. We carried our trunks down to our bikes and put them on. We went back in to check out and pay our bill.

 

Before we left we discussed getting our lunch at the bakery we had visited on our walk the day before and decided to do it. We rode back to ahop and bought sandwiches and a pastry. We added a couple bottles of coke and we were off. We knew how to get to the bike path since we had ridden it the night before.

 

Today’s ride - The bike path along the Danube between Ybbs and Tulln was the Napa Valley of Austria. The bike path ran along both sides of the river. The highway was on the North shore. The train tracks were on the South shore. We were told in Tulln to ride on the South side because we could see the vineyards. We actually rode through the vineyards on the South side and could see the vineyards on the hill side on the opposite side of the river as well.

 

We continued to encounter other bicyclist as we rode. There were park benches all along the bike path where we saw people who had stopped and were looking at the river. Some of the benches had picnic tables also.

 

We were carrying the lunch we had putchased in Ybbs so we looked for a table to stop and eat. We found one half of which was occupied by another couple. We stopped and asked if they cared if we used the other half of the table. They said no and we sat down and pulled out the bakery food.  Another lone cyclist joined us. They were Austrian and spoke a little English so the conversation was limited.

 

We finished our lunch, said goodbye and headed for Kerns. My wife called and cancelled the hotel we had gotten in the US to stay in Kerns at the edge of the town. My wife said the woman just said “ok, cancel” and appeared not to speak English. We were now committed to Tulln.

 

At Krens the bike path went over the Danube to the North side. Our destination was Tulln which was on the South side. The bike path along the South side seemed to disappear as we approached the bridge in Krens. We stopped and asked a woman who was riding her bike toward the bridge. She indicated that we should follow her over the bridge so we did. She crossed the bridge in front of us and then proceeded on city streets along the north side of the Danube. We rode for about a mile and I did not see signs indicating we were on a biike path. We were riding along city streets. The woman stopped and motioned for us to continue straight ahead. She was turning North. We continued on with that uneasy feeling that she misunderstood what we were saying. But, after a mile there was the sign indicating we were on the bike path route.

 

We reached a bridge across the Danube that would take us back across the river to the bike path on the South side. The Bridge was long and there was construction on the bridge which made it dicey for bicycles. As we rode across the bridge, however, the trucks stayed behind us until they could pull completely over into the other lane of traffic to pass. When we reached the other side we turned right onto the bike path which took us back under the bridge much like the underpass we use on the bike path at Balboa Park in LA.

 

When we got to the other side the path split an went in two directions which is always a little unsettling but the signage kept us on the path. We had planned to find a hotel west of Tulln. The places we found were "one star" but we took a look. We were unempressed so we decided to go into Tulln itself. This would make for a 60 plus mile ride for the day.

 

When we reached Tulln there was a festival in full bloom in progress along the river. There were bleaches filled with people watching and listening to a rock band on a floating stage in the river. Near by was a tent city offering food and a varity of things to buy. The tent city was also filled with people as well.

 

 

We were looking for information office so we turned south on a city street and rode to the center of town which was no more than a quarter of a mile. Lucklily we found the information tent there and my wife jumped off her bike and while I held it outside she went into the inquire about a hotel. We got the "last room"available according to the woman at the desk. A couple had arrived a short time after we did and they were also looking for a room. The woman asked while on the phone if they had one more room. They told her that were sold out but one reservation had not been filled and they would give the second couple the room.

 

We were off after instructions from the information lady following the other couple to the hotel. They were on bicycles as well. We were lost for a while but quickly corrected our mistakes and located the hotel. The hotel also had a restaurant out front which is were we checked in and got the key to our room. The bikes were left in a garage out back. There must have been 10 bikes in the garage. One was a "Trek Madone." We pulled our bike trunks off our bikes and carried them to our room. We had pulled off the on the road "room reservation."

 

 

Today’s landscape - The folks who had told us to ride on the Southern shore of the Danube from Ybbs to Tulln were right. Today was the most beautiful ride we had experienced on our ride along the Elba or the Danube bike paths.

We saw fruit trees of all varieties, apples and peaches grew right up against the bike path. We rode through large corn fields and we saw several people who had stopped, gotten off their bikes and had gone into the corn fields and picked an ear of corn. I assumed the farmers were used to having their crops picked for them!

There were also a lot of flowers growing along the bike path. Occasionally we would ride through an area which had large trees growing next the bike path then out into an open field or rather an area which was not planted in anything, just green grass and weeds about knee high. The scene made the extra miles we had added to the day's ride go by unnoticed.

 

Cycling notes - The day's ride would be extended to 61 miles which should be about 4 hours averaging 15 miles an hour which we could do. The route along the river was flat and therefore there should be no risk to our planned route change. On training rides in the States we push ourselves to insure that we can maintain 15 miles an hour on difficult terrian. The training supports changes we make on the road (or recovery from getting lost) and allows us to complete 60 miles over flat terrian without difficulty.

 

We also reenforced a rule I have learned which is verify the route before riding 20 miles in the wrong direction. We had ridden into a small town along our route and encountered a warning sign about contruction on the bike path route. We read the sign to mean that we should continue straight along the path. We did not turn and continued straight as we assumed the sign was indicating. We rode over a bridge and continued to the end of a street. At that point the bike path went left and right. Worst of all the signs indicted it was a different bike path. Experience had taught us to be concerned and not continue for a few miles to determine if we were going the wrong way.

 

We rode back over the bridge and stopped a cyclist to ask. He directed us back to the point where we had found the sign indicating construction which we had assumed meant the bike path was closed. We ignored the warning sign and turned onto the path. Ater a couple of miles we came to a contruction site where a bridge was being constructed to allow the bike path to go under a highway that was being built. Boards had been placed so cyclist could get through. We asked a man and woman who were walking on the opposite side of the bridge if we were on the bike path to Tulln. We received a yes! We were back on course.

 

We had planned in the States to stay in Krens which is located about 40 miles from Ybbs on the Danube. That would have left a 61 mile ride to Vienna the following day. After discussing it we decided that it would be better to have a shorter ride into Vienna and ride more miles today. We still had our adventure of trying to get into Prague on our mind after leaving the bike path at Litomerice and being lost the rest of the day. We thought it better we give ourselves more time to feel our way into Vienna the following day

.

We had seen many hotels located directly on the bike path as we rode along the Elba Bike Path in Germany. We assumed the same would be true along the Danube and we could find a place to stay without a problem. We selected Tulln which was about 40 miles from Vienna. We assumed we could cover 60 miles in 4 hours so we would arrive in plenty of time to locate a place to stay. We would call the hotel in Krems as we rode through to cancel our room. That would be new and interesting calling from the bike to talk to the hotel. We were breaking new ground here.

 

Post Ride Activity - We went to the room and dumped our stuff and went looking for food. We walked down to the river (2 short blocks, the hotel was located in the center of the square in Mulln) to see if there was any food at one of the booths that interested us.

 

The crowd and the intertainment created a great atmosphere. They only had sandwiches and some other fattening goodies. No real meals. We decided to return to the restaurant at the hotel.

 

We sat outside. The location of the hotel in the square in the old part of the city or town made it very pleasant. It should be noted that we set outside whenever possible because there were smokers in the resturants and they really made in miserable.

 

A waitress appeared and took our order. She told us when we inquired that we had 1 hour to eat. I guess they take your food and asked you to leave after an hour. Sounded strange but maybe people come to nice location and spend the day if there is not a time limit. She was young and friendly so I would guess we had as long as we wanted.

 

We had Greek Salad which became a staple of our meals, and potato cakes covered with melted cheese and vegetables. (I cannot remember the vegetables) For desert I had apple strudel. We selected the same entree and shared the salad.

 

After dinner we returned to our room (we had ridden 60 plus miles today) and sacked out. A fireworks display began at the rivers edge. We could see the high ones from our bed room window but a building across the street blocked the view to the river. My wife watched the display from the window since my response to “do you want to go to see the fireworks was silence." After the fireworks, My wife and I fell into the usual routine. She watched TV for about and hour and read. I made notes about the day's adventure and fell asleep. Sixty miles along the Danube is a great experience!

 

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RIDE DAY 7 – August 27, 2006 - Tulln to Vienna - 40 miles

...the Danube Bike Path continued to amaze as we rode toward Vienna....

...the signage along the bike path was excellent...one did not have to speak the language to understand...

...the bike path we rode on in Vienna to our hotel ran below the "lightrail track support structure" on the right...

...we did it!!! We had bicycled from Berlin to Vienna...well maybe train & bike...

Plan for the day - The plan for the day is to bicycle along the Danube Bike Path to Vienna. We plan to stay the next 3 nights at a Marriott near the Schonbrunn Palace. At the end of today's ride we leave the Danube Bike Path and ride through Vienna to the Schonbrunn Palace and locate the Marriott hotel. We only have 40 miles left to ride to Vienna because of our 60 mile effort yesterday and today's route should be flat. It should take us no more than 3 hours to get to the hotel.

 

Start of the day - We got up, collected our bike clothes from the shower where they had hung during the night and dressed for breakfast. We went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Breakfast came with the room so the "credit card trauma" or finding EUROs would be avoided.

 

The folks we had met the night before at the tourist counter during our search for a place to stay the night where at breakfast. We initiated a conversation with them and asked where they were from, where they were bicycling from, what was their destination, etc. They were bicycling from Holland to Slovakia (Bratislava). They were riding on one of the "Euro Trails" which began in Holland and ended at Bratislava. The Danube Bike Path was part of the complex of trails that made up the route.

 

During the conversation we also learned that they had run into rain at several locations on the ride thus far. They had been to the States (Los Angeles) several times for a Yoga Conference. We got their email address and told them to look us up when they were in LA.

 

After breakfast we went to our room and retrieved our packs and carried them down to the garage where our bikes had spent the evening. About two thirds of the bicyclist had left by my count of the bikes remaining in the garage. We attached our packs to the racks on our bikes and pushed them from the garage to the street. Vienna here we come!

 

Today’s ride - We got on our bikes and rode two blocks from the hotel to the bike path. We took a couple of pictures of me setting in the bleachers that looked out over the river. The bleachers had been filled the night before with spectators listening to a band on a boat floating in the Danube in front of the bleachers. After the photo we remounted our bikes and began our ride to Vienna. We stopped briefly to take a picture of a sculpture or a fountain along the bike path as we exited Tulln.

 

We exited Tulln on the Danube Bike. We cranked along the bike path making excellent time and we were sure we would make the outskirts of Vienna with time to spare. We entered Klosterneuburg where the Klosterneuburg Monastery is located and my wife told me that we should stop and take a look. We began to look for signs that would direct us to the Monastery.

 

We passed a tourist information office and stopped for help. Using their directions we located the street where we were to turn off the bike path and "climb" to the Monastery. I had been spoiled by the flat terrain the Elba and Danube Bike Paths had provided and the climb to the Monastery was a bit of a shock.

 

We climbed to the Monastery and went in for a quick tour. Since our bikes had everything that we owned in Europe on them we were a bit anxious about leaving them unattended for long even if we were at church! We left our bikes and "stuff" and went inside.

 

My wife lit a candle and left a donation to support us on the remainder of our trip. We continued our tour through the church returning to the entrance and exited the building. We took photos of the Monastery before getting back on our bikes and exiting back down the road to the bike path. We turned east toward Vienna at the bike path and continued our trek. I would guess that we had less than an hour of riding before we reached Vienna.

 

As we approached the outskirts of Vienna the bike path began to follow a "raised" highway. After a few miles the highway entered a populated area and we entered that puzzling maze of streets that one encounters when entering a city for the first time. All of the streets and traffic on them looked a little imposing and not bike friendly. We had a map of the city that my wife had gotten from the information office in Mulln, but the street we were looking for was proving difficult to locate. The street signs did not make sense. The most confusing thing to me was the street numbers. Riding along one street the numbers would be in the hundreds and a street adjacent to it would have numbers that were an order of magnitude larger.

 

As we were stopped looking at the map, a young couple crossed the street and entered the paved area where we stood. My wife asked the woman if she would please take a look at the map. The guy kept on walking, but after the woman stopped he returned. They spoke sufficient English to guide us to the bike path, indicated on the map.

 

We thanked them and entered the street they had indicated. We rode up a hill along a curve until we reached the top. There we located a bike path sign which indicated that our bike path crossed the street we had ridden up the hill on. We stopped, waited for the traffic light to change and we rode across the street onto the bike path.

 

Following the directions the lady had indicated we were soon on a bike path

running along a four lane street. After a short distance the street we were riding along separated into two, two lane streets representing the north and south bound lanes. A large, structure ran between the streets. We had learned from the young couple that we had asked for directions that this was the overpass structure for the light-rail that ran north and south through Vienna.

 

We continued to ride on the east side of the overpass on a bike path that provided both north and south lanes. We had been warned to expect the bike path to cross back and forth to each side of the structure in the center as we rode.

 

Before we began our ride along the light-rail over pass, we stopped long enough to verify that we were still on the street headed for the hotel. The map indicated that the bike path that ran along the light-rail wall would support us all the way to the Schonbrunn Palace where our hotel was located. I was carrying a map of the location of our hotel which I had gotten from the Marriott website.

 

After a few blocks we stopped to ask about the location of our hotel. We were told to continue on the route we were on. After several more blocks we believed we had reached the area where we had understood the hotel should be located. We again stopped and asked the locals for directions to the hotel. We were told to continue on the route we were on. After a few blocks we asked again. "Continue on the street you are on" we were told.

 

We rode on until our map indicated to me that the hotel should be close to where we were standing. We saw a “Best Western” sign which we thought must be attached to a hotel and started toward it when “bingo” we saw the Marriott across the street from it. We rode up to the front door, got off our bikes and pushed then into the lobby to the desk.

 

Today’s landscape - We were out of the agriculture that we had ridden through on the way to Mulln. The fruit trees and vines we had ridden past yesterday were unique.

We continued to follow the river which is always relaxing to ride along and the views are beautiful. Nothing really new along this section of the river but being away from traffic riding along the Danube was great.

 

At Klosternburg the commercial influence began to appear near the bike path. As we approached Vienna the commerce expansion became more evident. The bike path view was interrupted in areas were construction was in progress incorporating some of the "green area" into the business area of the region.

It was a pleasant ride just the same!

 

 

Cycling notes - Breakfast typically cost 15 euros for the two of us so a room with breakfast was a significant savings. Also not having to run around town to find breakfast before hitting the bike path was a plus. I enjoy getting up and going to breakfast in my PJs. My PJs on a bike trip look like a workout outfit. The idea is that I am drinking my coffee after my morning workout. Not that I just got out of bed. Breakfast at the hotel allows my bike buddy to sleep in and I can do my "multiple coffee routine" with news paper before she joins me to eat breakfast.

 

The weather was threatening today with groups of large black clouds that would form right over top of us and then break up without any moisture. At times it was rather clear with sunshine and at other times the sun was obscured and I was sure it would rain. We were anxious about beating the rain to Vienna. We kicked it up a notch and went for it. Fortunately the "saint of cycling" was with us and we made it all the way to the hotel with nothing more than a few drops of rain.

 

I enjoy stopping to see the sights as we tour on our bikes as we did today at the Klosterneuburg Monastery. The stops are a good respite from the bike and the fact that after I have been cycling for a couple of hours my attention to off bicycle activities becomes a bit more focused. I am ready to exit the cycling and explore. It is a good mix for me.

 

One note of interest that I realized as we were riding today on the bike path, we were following the river in the direction it was flowing. Thus we were going slightly downhill. Another plus was the wind which could blow hard at times was always at our back. Not sure if river flow direction influences wind but not having to push helped to make relaxing ride.

 

Once in Vienna the bike path we rode on to the hotel ran along the side of a light rail track which was located above the path on a structure. I assume the elevated track allowed the train to run without interrupting traffic. The track was located about 15 feet (or more) above the street. The sides or walls of the raised area were made of brick or large blocks which hide the structure which supported the material (dirt) on which the track was laid. The structure of the wall allowed it to blend in with the area the trains ran through.

 

The bike path went back and forth under the wall of the light rail structure. We would ride for several blocks along one side and then the path would traverse at an intersection to the other side. The couple who had turned us onto the path told us to expect the trail to go back and forth from one side of the light rail causeway to the other.

 

Post Ride Activity - We had discussed going to hear an orchestra the night before we arrived in Vienna because we assumed we would arrive early and could easily add a visit to the Schronbrunn Palace into our plans. We arrived early in the afternoon and a concert was scheduled for the evening at the Palace. We asked how far the Palace was from our location and the clerk at the Marriott produced a map which showed the location was a short distance away.

 

We asked for a suggestion for a place to eat nearby. The clerk at the Marriot desk suggested

“Wienerwald” a restaurant a block away. We found the restaurant. We ordered a Greek salad. I ordered a rice dish which I can describe but do not know what its name is. The dish looked like two very large pieces of sushi. The rice mixture was held in two large bands which I am assuming were made of rolled bread. It was very good. My wife had a beef and tomato mixture poured over rice. I ate most of both which I thought was very good or I was very hungry or both.

 

We returned to the hotel and left for the Schronbrunn Palace where the chamber orchestra was to play in one of the many halls. We were told at the Marriott that we were only two blocks from the Schronbrunn Palace, hence the name Schronbrunn Marriot Courtyard.

 

Remember we were carrying everything we owned in a small pack that attached to a rack on the back of our bicycles. Thus what clothes to wear was easy. I wore my dress bike shirt which is white with a small reflective sliver strip that runs the entire length of each arm so the car lights turn me on as they approach after dark. I wore the only pair of light tan trousers that I carry for just such an occasion as going to hear the orchestra at the Schronbrunn Palace.

 

The tickets offered A, B or C seating with C being the cheapest. We of course selected C. It was first come first serve and we were told if you wanted a seat in the first row of section C, we must line up early. I stood in line in my best while my wife checked out the part of the hall used as the entrance. Drinks and food were available plus souvenirs for sale.

 

I was waiting to be admitted to make my run to the first isle C row, when two South African women joined me at the front of the line. They were the most raciest people I have ever met anywhere and I grew up in the southern United States! Maybe because I was from the US is the reason they confided in me. I was wearing my very impressive theater outfit which may have signaled that I was a "rich man" from the States. They even alluded to the fact they supported George Bush! Oh my God!!!!!!!!!

 

We were seated in red velvet chairs in a long room with a very high ceiling from which hung very beautiful chandlers. The orchestra was located on a raised stage at the front of the hall and tonight we were treated to Mozart. The performance also included two opera singers and two dancers who would appear from off stage after the music began and sing or danced to some of the music. It was very entertaining. The orchestra was very good. We had a lot of fun enjoying Mozart in our dress bike clothes.

 

When the orchestra performance ended we exited the Palace and headed back to the Marriott. We would return to the palace the next day to walk through the grounds and take in the sites. Back at the hotel we went to our room. I put on my PJs/breakfast outfit and made notes on today's experience. We watched a bit of TV and went to bed. We had completed the ride we had planned in the States and it had proved to be a great experience.

 

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RIDE DAY 8 – August 27, 2006 - Vienna to Bratislava - 40 miles

...we exited the light-rail and rode through a park nearby looking for the bike path which would take us over the river to the Danube Bike Path....

...the bike path east of Vienna was constructed atop a "dike"... the surface was small gravel which was loose in areas...note the car path which allowed cars to use the path as well...

..bored Austrian border guard caught napping in a raised observation platform at the border who graciously came down to pose for a photo...

 

Plan for the day - On the ride to Vienna we had decided to continue along the Danube Bike Path to Bratislava after our stay in Vienna. We had toured in Berlin during the two days we waited for our bikes to arrive from London and it would be possible to cut our stay on our return by one day without missing any of the sites in Berlin. The ride to Bratislava would be an additional 40 miles further along the bike path from Vienna. It would allow us to visit another country in Eastern Europe.

 

We had scoped out the plan during our stay and had a map which would support our exit from Vienna. Our plan would be to take the subway (light rail) to a location near the south side of the river. After exiting the light rail station we would locate a bike path nearby which would take us to a “bike friendly” bridge. We would cross the bridge to the Danube Bike Path on the northern side of the river. Once on the northern side of the Danube we would turn east on the bike path and begin our ride to Bratislava. It should be noted that we had become “light rail” veterans during our stay in Vienna.

 

Start of the day - I got up and went down to breakfast in my "cyclng" PJs. I drank several cups of coffee while reading the newspaper and was joined by my wife. We were again treated to a great buffet of sliced meat, breads and rolls, various jelly flavors, eggs, sausage, fruit, juice, cereals, and more plus all the coffee I could drink.

We stuffed ourselves, went back to our room to pack our trunks and load them on our bikes. We went to the desk with our bikes and checked out of the hotel. We rolled them outside and headed for the light-rail station. Our adventure to Bratislava had begun!

 

Today’s ride - We rode to the light-rail station which we had used during our stay located near the Schonbrunn Palace. The light rail was only about two long blocks from the Marriott, . We located the elevator which would take us up to the platform. Remember the light rail was on a structure above the streets. The train arrived and we got onboard standing in a loading area of the car.

 

My wife assumed that she would be able to put her bike against the door of the train opposite to the one we had gotten on. This was done in Berlin and Prague because most if not all of the stops were exited from the side you got on. A young man spoke up when he saw what we were about to do and told us that was a bad idea. He was riding a bike. We started a conversation and found out he was from Kentucky which is where I grew up. He had lived been in Austria for a few years, enjoyed it and was not sure when he would return to the States.

 

We reached our exit, got off and looked for the elevator to the street. We found the elevator, took it to the street and exited the subway. The map indicted that our current location was just south of the Danube Bike Path. A bike path was also shown which led from our location to the Danue Bike Path which was on the opposite side of a park. On the map looking down on a large green park area we assumed its location would be obvious when we got near it. Standing outside the subway station in an area sourrounded by many very large trees the park could not be distinguished from the neighborhood.

 

We began to ride in what we assumed was the obvious direction. As we rode we noticed other bicyclist appear ahead of us turning onto our path from a street we hoped was the path to the Danube River. We turned onto the street they exited from and retraced their path. We soon found ourselves riding along a rather deserted street with trees on either side. We stopped to take a picture of a Ferris wheel that was in a park behind a building along the street we were riding past. During the photo opt we asked some walkers who passed where the park was located. They instructed us to continue on the road we were on and we were off.

 

After a block or two we entered the park. We were soon riding along with other bicyclist, joggers and two horse drawn sulkies that were running along a dirt area located behind the tree lined street. We rode along assuming that at the opposite end of the park we would find a sign pointing us to the bridge to the Danube bike path. We got to the opposite side of the park and found a round-a-bout that didn’t look as if it would support an exit from the park. There was not sign saying “Jim this way to Bratislava.”

We are checking the map when an “older” lady rode up on her “wonker bike” and asked with a hand jester “Danube Bike Path” in German. Not sure what she had said (my wife may have known) we said “yes.” She jestered to us to follow her. We did. Americans could be captured and killed all over Europe because we are so gullible.

 

This “older” woman is cranking. She took us back about half way along the route we had taken through the park, turned onto a path which after a short disrtance took us to the bridge. The bridge ran 90 degrees to the street. My wife told me later that we had passed a sign indicating we were on the bike path to the Danube but it was obscured by the trees.

 

The bike path ran under the bridge. Only later later did I surmise this bridge was the one that went over the Danube! We continued on the path and after about a hundred yards it intersected with a second path that ran parallel to the park. We turned right (the lady turned right and we followed) and we rode along until we reached a street and we turned taking us parallel to the bridge' We crossed a street on the green light and began to climb up a grade toward the bridge. This is where I noticed the large calves the “older woman” had. She was cranking up the grade to the bridge. I was holding on.

 

At the top of the grade we entered a “V” shaped bike bridge under the bridge that took the cars across. This bridge was the first of two bridges which crossed first a smaller canal that ran parallel to the Danube and then a bridge that took us across the Danube itself. We exited the first bridge and continued on a short ride to the second which was rather wide (no longer a “V” shape) that took us across the Danube. At the opposite end the bridge we entered a structure which housed a circular path that went round and round until we were again at street level below the bridge. The “older lady” disappeared into this structure while I made my way at a safer pace!

 

We exited the bridge path into a path running parallel to the bridge. We continued to follow our hostess. About a 100 yards along this path we encountered the Danube bike path running parallel to the bridge path. We followed our bike buddy to the right. She stopped after a few yards and she pointed down the path towards Bratislava. We tried to pay her but she refused. We asked if she would take a picture and she agreed. We took the picture and she rode away to retrace our path across the bridge.

 

The bike path ran along the river most of the way. Once in a while the path would pull away from the river due to some industrial plant located at the river’s edge. But after the obstruction it would return to the river. I had assumed the surface of the bike path would be asphalt on the Austrian side. Our Czech Republic experience had me worried about the Slovakian side. The Austrians, however, had a surprise for us. We were tooling down the asphalt when suddenly it turned to gravel. We were riding along a dike which must have been used to help with flood control. The surface was not as dicey as we had found in the Czech Republic but there was still areas of loose gravel which on a road bike is not ridden without trepidation.

 

We were veterans from the Czech Republic, however, and cranked along at 10 to 15 miles an hour on the loose gravel. We rode up on some guys who were fishing in a small waterway between us and the bank. We were between the river and a small water way. The folks who were fishing were standing on a little causeway. A bike path sign indicated we turn left onto the causeway.

 

We turned left and crossed the causeway and rode into a rather forested area and there the trail turned to dirt and then to mud. We had about 20 miles to ride and I thought this should be interesting. Five miles an hour for twenty miles! We rode on and were rewarded after about an eighth of a mile by the bike path returning to the top of a levy or dike returing us to loose gravel. The dike protected the bank from both the river and a small stream that ran along the bank.

 

Our mileage indicated we should be approaching the border. The bike route turned or somehow began to follow a highway. There were several trucks parked along the road waiting. Their drivers in some cases standing by the trucks.

 

The bike path went across the border and there was a barrier but there was no guard. We pushed our bikes around the barrier but decided we should go to the guard shack along the road and show them our passport. We did and when our turn came the guard looked at our pass ports and waved us on. We went back to the bike path and continued to ride.

 

From the border we rode toward Bradislava which I would estimate was still about 5 miles away. We stopped to check our map. As we were looking at the map a cloud burst occurred. Our luck with the rain had ended. Luckly we had our rain gear on so we did not get extremely wet. We quickly put our paper away and after about 15 minutes the rain turned to a drizzle as we rode into Bratislava.

 

I wanted to make sure we had a reservation on the train to Berlin. I assumed the train station would be along the river. We stopped an asked for directions. The woman told us it would be a 20 minute ride to the train station. That could be 10 miles! We continued on and soon found the train station. Maybe the lady had estimated in kilometers. We went in and after some confusion we understood we had a ticket on tomarrows train to Berlin. The confusion was that no one spoke english and we did not speak enough of any other language to be understood. It was our Italian experience in the 70’s.

 

My wife had saved us and gotten a list of the hotels in Bratislava in Vienna and selected one. We asked for directions at the train station to the hotel. After giving the person at the train station the name of the hotel they pointed out the route we should take to get there. We laft with the map nd began to ride. Locating the hotel once we left the train station continued to be interesting. We stopped and asked a couple of times for directions to our hotel. We were told to continue along the street we were on. After what seemed like a long ride we finally got to the hotel. We got off our bikes and pushed them to the desk. We had made it to Bratislava!

 

Today’s landscape -There was very little civilization along today's route. Accept for the guys fishing on the transition between the dikes and the few scattered bicyclists, we did not see any civilization.

 

Since we were riding on dikes I would assume there was significant flooding and everyone had learned the hard way to locate their homes away from the river, i.e. dikes. We passed signs indicating that towns were located a few miles from the levy which I believe supports my "flooding theory." The towns were noted on our map.

 

We passed large fields of grains or hay. I do not know which. The fields were lined with trees and sometimes a forested area would appear. For the majority of our twenty mile ride it was the Woodland Hills Cyclists on the dike by themseves!

 

Cycling notes - Vienna has many good bike paths, Prague had none. I found it interesting to see the legecy left by the Soviet control over the eastern countries in Europe. Bike trails are the last on everyones list when rebuilding a country. From what we saw in East Germany it will be some time before we see bike paths in the Eastern Block like we saw in Western Germany. Then there is the United States. As for the US, gas prices will have to exceed $5 before we accept the bicycle as way to travel. We love our cars!

 

In Vienna the elevator at the light-rail station took us to the street located above the station. This was a great idea for exiting a station that we discovered in Vienna. Carrying bicycles up the steps or wrestling with them on the escalator is not fun. The elevator to the outside allowed the commuter (especially one with a bike) to avoid steps and having to find another exit from inside the station after the steps.

As we bicycled to Bratislava we always seem to be about two hours ahead or behind the rain. When we started along the bike path it was obvious that and area of the bike path had had rain sometime during the morning but the water for the most part had disappeared from the dike. The only mud we encountered was during the crossover between the two levies. In passing I have to comment that I thought it was a clever idea to use the dike system which was necessary, and the service road along the top to support bicyclist.

 

The wind on the ride to Bratislava was particularly fierce. We had a tail wind which was wonderful with the other road conditions. But, occasionally we would ride out from behind trees that protected the trail and be hit by a cross wind that was brutal. Riding on gravel and fighting a cross wind can be exciting. We were troopers though. No one went down and we cranked. We passed a bicyclist going in the opposite direction and he looked beat. He must have been going 7 miles an hour (on the flat) and the wind was obviously taking it toll. In passing I think we passed two other riders as we cruised along the dike toward Bratislava.

 

The 15 minute cloud bust we experienced as we stopped just outside of Bratislava was a good test of the mositure protection of the trunks that we carried on the back of our bikes. I would say the gear worked well. Our clothes did not get wet in the trunks. During the trip we saw others on the bike path that had rain covers on their trunks. Lessons learned we will get covers for our gear in the US to support the next ride where we carry everything on the back of our bikes.

 

When we looked at the selection of the hotels in Bratislava we selected a 4 star hotel. We had learned the hardway in 1975 when we traveled through Europe making it u as we went that if hotel was rated "4 star" we "might" just get an ok room but it would be acceptable. But if the hotel was rated less than 4 star, it was a roll of the dice and we could expect the odds where against us. In 1975 the rooms we got were off the charts. We had a great time and we learned.

 

..walking up to the castle..

...view of Bratislava from the castle wall...

..the church at the castle..

 

Post Ride Activity - We checked into the hotel and we were told we could not take our bikes to our rom. We could put our bikes in their garage for 3 EUROs. After putting our bikes away we went to our room and dumped our stuff.

 

We had one "afternoon" to see the sites of Bratislava and we had to get cracking. First we needed to eat something. We went to the hotel restaurant to eat. We ordered a Greek Salad to split. I ordered pasta with vegetable sauce. Can’t go wrong with pasta. When it arrived the vegetable sauce looked a bit strange but it tasted very good.

 

After we ate we walked "up" to Bratislava Castle which over looked the city. It provided a great view of the city on all four sides. Bratislava Castle was a Castle. It was very interesting both inside and outside. We walked around for a couple of hours taking in what was in the building and also the views from ouside.

 

After we had completed our tour of the Castle we walked back down to the "old town" square. The sun was going down as we walked back down from the castle to the square. We were looking for our traditional desert that we treat ourselves to every evening on a bicycle adventure.

By the time we reached the square it was dark. We entered the square and joined a crowd watching a movie produced by one of the locals in the square.

 

The square was filled with young couples setting on benches or standing in the square watching the movie. The scene was very interesting to me. Not sure I had witnessed something like this before.

 

We found a resturant and went inside. We found a table that allowed us to watch what was happening outsde in the quare. We ordered our desert and watched the movie, and the crowd, through the front windows. The movie had no spoken dialog just music. Our waiter gave us coffee we did not want or order with our desert but maybe that is way desert is served in Slovakia. No one spoke English. How rude! Don't they know we are Americans? After we finished our desert we went out into the square and walked through the area.

 

We found a place to set on a bench and take in the scene. After a bit we exited the square and returned to the hotel. We went to our room and I put on my "cycling PJs" and I sacked out. It had been a long but interestng day. We had made the right choice in coming to Bratislava. It had been a very interesting day!

 

return 

 

...............more street scences from Bratislava.......



"car free adventure"