July 29, 2003

Cycling in Czech then to Köln

There are a lot of Hills in Czech and the dew is thick and it is not so warm! Daniel showed us many things as he knows all about the history and ecology of these areas.

In an expensive Cyber cafe in Köln 40 cents/10minutes!

Köln is great for bicycles, perhaps better than Munichen! (debatable) It is very dense, very cultural. Magnificent Cathedral, one of the biggest and most elaborate in Europe.

We are staying in Uncle Seps apartment by ourselves. Very relaxing. Good to have a break from camping. Too bad it is not cheap like the East, Spent 11 Euros just on some fruit (Very Good Fruit mind you.)

We didnt stay in Prague much. Randy biked us home to his apartment and gave us a quick bicycle tour of the archiatecture. Almost no bicycle facilities in this artsy town. Randy lives on the 4th floor (called the 3rd because the basement is zero) of a tall apartment. Shared house but very nice. We met his two friends Noni (antonia from Australia) and Johanna (from Sweden) who were also going to cycle with us. We went out to a cool netcafe was still partly a used bookstore and had interesting old Czech Communist Books. We had beer and the girls did computing. Then Jane nd I went on with Randy to another beer place this time undergound and dark and very smokey. Aparrently an 'ex-pat' hangout meaning english speaking locals not native but not tourists.

We slept in Ian's room big bedroom as the house was full. Ian was very nice especially considering we never met him until the morning, though it was somewhat uncomfortable trying to be very quiet and not wake this person we had not met. Went out and bought some supplies for breakfast. Randy went later on to get more at a discount price :) Then we caught the train about 12:30. Our luck with nice Train conductors ended. The first train didn't let bikes on. The next one was a big hassle to load and we had to run around in and out and the conducter was a jerk. We head South to meet the others already cycling. The connecting train was late and then it went very slow and arrived 45 minutes after it should. Too late for the 8 minute connection to the third train. It was only 20km furthur to the rest of the group in Telc(h) so we rode. Noni and Johanna are quite new to bicycle touring, never used gears properly before or knew to pump the tires hard. And they planned to cycle two weeks alone after leaving us all! We tried to give as many tips as we could. We went to a restaurant in Telc and then met the group camping in a frmers backyard. The others were Daniel (organiser) and Julia and Eva. Daniel was working on checking bike trails and other project which the Ecological FOundation he works for gives grants out for. The farmer was mayor of the town of 69 and build bike paths and an outdoor public bowling alley.

next morning we got up at 7 and left at 8:30 to a meeting in another town. There are a lot of Hills in Czech and the dew is thick and it is not so warm! Daniel showed us many things as he knows all about the history and ecology of these areas. We stopped at a peaceful monestary for water. We had lunch after the meeting is SSomethingtiwn in the middle of Sudatenland at the crossroads of Bohemia and Moravia. There was a good vegetarian restuarant and a cool communityx centre where the meeting was. Eva and Julia left the group there to go home.

After more riding we went for a swim in a beautiful little river where the locals showed us a great rope for swimming into the water. We continued for the evening Janes tire blew out after it had bulged in a similar way to mine in Durrenzimmern. Ended riding in a little town where there was a maypole and a festival the next day. We had some local beer. Daniel told us about his experiences with the Communist Regime in Czech, he was 22 when the wall came down. Very interesting too much to tell here. Good to hear a local activists perspective. We camped just out of town in the woods. The Czech were so paranoid when we had a camp fire, we had to keep it small. Then it rained a lot phhhht. All night rain and lots of bugs. Daniel got two ticks removed by Janes trusty tick remover.

The next day warmed up fast after the rain about noon. We saw a Castle and Jane and Noni got lost from the group for a little while. I phoned janes parents about meeting up as that was our plan to contact. Just after the call of course Jane turns up. We bought some lunch. We went to the last remnant of the Iron Curtain in Czech and visited a wonderful little ecological museum there. We took many photos. The damn commies put toxic herbacide in the Iron curtain area to kill plants so the sightlines of the guards would not be disturbed. Now it is a national forest and still the border with Austria. We did not make it to the winery before it closed as Daniel had planned. We went through the trails of the park and took a wrong turn. We crossed the river on a tiny suspension bridge. The other route Daniel planned was where the bridge had been washed out last year due to flooding, this lead directly to the winery. The river was very big and daniel had wrongly thought we could carry our bikes across. Turns out they have a damn upstream and raise and lower the water twice a day so it was stronger than normal. We swam in the river and it was very very cold. We climbed the hill out of the valley and finally reached Mravia where the weather is warm and dry and they specialise in wine not beer. We went and saw a 300 year old wine cellar. We went to a nice wine restaurant and the waiter was bemused by our vegetarian order. Jane and I bought some very good wine for very cheap in bottles for later. We all slept just outside of town. It was out last night and very warm and dry so we all slept under the stars close together 'like a sleepover' which was Janes idea. it was fun talking late into the night. We drank a little czech hard spicey liquer similar to hungarian unicum but slightly less awful tasting.

in the morning no soccer players bothered us but the sun was very hot. Daniel and I went back to the river for a swim it was only 2km away. The water was much lower now but still as cold. Beautiful and refreashing. Not good for the ecology the constant water level changes however.

We rode with the whole group to the train station in Znojmo nearby. We said goodbye to everyone. Our trip was 10 hours and the last train took 5 hours from before Prague to Cheb near the German Border. Lond rides and kind of stressful with quick changes and Czech trains are kind of confusing regarding bicycles.

We slept the night outside of Cheb in the forest which was dark and not scenic but comfortable. We saw a farmer or some local in the morning but he didnt bother us. Cheb is a little bit sketch because it is the closest town to Germany and is cheap and many EU people come there and spend money on the cheap and somewhat sordid nightlife. The economy there will change a lot I bet when Czech joins the EU. We rode from there to Marktredowitz the closest German Train town. It turned out to be a little farther than we thought, 28km. Border was no problem, must remember to demand a stamp next time but there may not be any more borders to cross except the Canadian one!

What a contrast between Rich Germany and poor Czech. The train was so luxurious and it was very nice the bike facilities on all German trains are super. It only cost 34 euros total for the weekend deal pass across germany. Unfortunately the trains were busy with bicycles and seating was packed and we had to take out panniers off to fit in with many other cycling tourists. Now it is summer and there are many with fancy touring bikes. We went through Nurnberg and Frankfurt. Quite easy also since Jane knows German well and even i know a little and also it is more western and german is a similar language to english. We met a couple going on a cycling trip for 5 weeks starting that day. Arrived in Koln and cycled to meet Sep and Rita very easily in this bike friendly small town. Had Doner for dinner with thwem and went out for tiny koln beers. Next day we went on transit with sep and rita and looked at the cathedral and some street theatre and other nice stuff, good icecream. We helped Sepp and Rita furniture into their car and they left for home leaving us alone. This was Ritas mothers apartment until she died a few years ago. They kept it a while but they sold it the day we arrived, they were very happy to have quickly sold it to a resident who also lives in the building and wanted one with a balcony.

Since then we have mostly slept and done laundry. Went for food this morning and explored a bit. Read some books. Went to the university to find free internet and apparently it is all password only for students stuff. Found this place very close.

Going to head to Amsterdam maybe Thursday, Tuesday night now.

Posted by rusl at 10:34 PM | Comments (2)

A few words about Czech

It is still pretty warm here, but it rained one day last week when we were
with the group in Czech. Actually, it rained all night long, really hard
raindrops on the roof of our tent. It was exciting and i

It is still pretty warm here, but it rained one day last week when we were
with the group in Czech. Actually, it rained all night long, really hard
raindrops on the roof of our tent. It was exciting and i didn't sleep much
because i kept thinking about the storm outside. That same evening, i got to
use the tick remover that Hildegaard gave us! But not on me, thank goodness
(oh how i hate ticks on me:). Daniel, the Czech, found TWO ticks and didn't
know that much about them. I got out the ticktool and Rusl took out the first one
(you unscrew them really, without pulling on them). Then when Daniel found
another one on him, i took it out. Both times were easy and successful with
the head. OF course, this didn't help my sleep that night, fuelling my
imagination about ticks crawling on me, AND...that was also the night with
the flying red ants that got in our tent! So: pouring rain, ticks, red ants
which bit me three times throughout the night (and you really feel it too).
It is funny now that i look back on it:) Towards the morning i finally
started to sleep ok, but then Daniel, who was the most gung ho about getting
started good and early (he always wanted the group to go further than
possible, probably because he was excited to show us so many interesting
spots), Daniel started calling "Time to get up everybody! Don't be lazy!"
He was quite funny and nice and also open with people soon after meeting them (Randy,
who knows him well, said people always get to know him quickly because he is
not especially polite even at the beginning, and you actually might get into an argument
with him soon after meeting him:). Since he knew the area, he had the route planned and took on
the role of guide sometimes. It was a great trip (Rusl is writing about some of it) and Daniel had an interesting insider perspective of the Communist era in Czech. He was also working to help Bosnians after the war, in Bosnia, for 6 years. I of course asked him a lot about that too. I would like to write more about all this another time.

My TIRE blew out during this trip (25 km away from any town that would have
tires for sale), but Rusl did a trick with some fabric we got from Hildegaard (thank you Hildegaard for the tick remover AND the fabric!)
to line the inside of the tire and it has been
working ever since! I will change my tire here in Koln because it could burst
again at any time (it's usually hard to do anything if your tire blows,
so i'm amazed it has worked so well).

The water here in Koln is pretty good, not as good as in Munchen, but fine
for drinking. The apartment is nice and spacious, and Sepp and Rita even left
their portable mini-refrigerator for us. We are relaxing here. Today we feel good and refreshed. thank you to everybody who is sending us messages and keeping us updated with your news!

Posted by jane at 10:04 PM | Comments (2)

July 22, 2003

Car Busters Prague!

We are in Prague, writing from the Car Busters Office!

Cant talk long, will be on a bike trip with randy and others in eastern czech,
may not be able to do email for a few days. Should be in Koln, Germany by Sunday.


...all at once because some might not work if you have to reach us.


Posted by rusl at 06:47 PM | Comments (1)

July 12, 2003

Gyor Bike Shop

The hotel lady gave us detailed directions printed out to a bike repair shop. We found it and it was great. It's an old used bike selling shop at also fix and rental. I don't think it is a non-profit but is probably a father and son, Tom the name of the son. They were very nice. Reminds us of the dirty bike shops we love in Vancouver...

This Morning we got up about 8:30 in our luxurious Hotel Suite. We went downstairs and had the free breakfast which ended at 9. The food was good, we could have asked for eggs and bacon if we got up earlier.

We had to be out by 10am. We packed up and left on time and paid 8800Ft, which is 8500 for the room and 300 for two waters from the mini-bar. pretty much $50 total!

The hotel lady gave us detailed directions printed out to a bike repair shop. We found it and it was great. It's an old used bike selling shop at also fix and rental. I don't think it is a non-profit but is probably a father and son, Tom the name of the son. They were very nice. Reminds us of the dirty bike shops we love in Vancouver. They fixed our spoke and we went to the market nearby. the market was very lively, All sorts of produce for very very cheap, especially watermelon. There were clothes also and Jane got more socks so we don't have to do laundry so soon. We came back and they had done the spoke. The couldn't fix the freehub and I don't think they had the new parts to replace. Oh well, quite rideable i think. We talked to them and gave them a MOM and some bikesummer stickers. It was only 800FT for the Spoke, not $5 even. We took a photo and got their address and promised to send a copy. There was also some Japanese Tourists there who spoke English because last year they visited Vancouver! Then the bike shop man showed us this internet cafe only a block away, he rode here with us rather than try to explain the complicated translation. We said goodbye and now we are here. Tonight we plan to camp in Gyor again and then perhaps leave tommorrow towards wherever the bike route goes. It is not far to Budapest but we will take our time and enjoy it.

Posted by rusl at 04:00 PM | Comments (4)

Jane's first entry

I finally found a way to communicate to you---since we left Vienna on
Wednesday evening, we haven't been able to make any phone calls or write
emails. Of course, since we have been mostly in little towns or else trying
to find a place to camp before it gets dark. It has been a real adventure the
past three days.

I finally found a way to communicate to you---since we left Vienna on
Wednesday evening, we haven't been able to make any phone calls or write
emails. Of course, since we have been mostly in little towns or else trying
to find a place to camp before it gets dark. It has been a real adventure the
past three days. It seems like more than three days since we left the
comforts of easy communication. Yes, i now consider speaking German to
be "easy communication"! At least compared to Slovak or Hungarian:) It's
funny that now when Rusl and I come across a person who speaks German
(usually as their second language), we are
relieved. Oh, I should begin from Vienna and see how far i get.
By the way, i'm writing from an internet cafe in Gyor, Hungary, so I might
ramble and i won't proofread, and i might just go into lower case like this
because it is quicker for me:)

OK, so we got on the train from Munchen in the early afternoon on Tuesday. We
had to make a train change in Salyburg, and for the first time on this trip
we did not make the change on time! There was plenty of time in between the
trains, more than half an hour, but the problem was the train we were
supposed to hop onto arrived only about a minute before it left again. We
couldn't find the bike car, so we asked some officials. They said to go to
the other end of the train, so we raced to the other end and when we got
there a man told us we had to go back to the OTHER end! And as he said this
he hopped onto the train and the train started moving. Some confusion. But,
there was luckily another train leaving for Vienna 45 minutes later, so we
got on it. Anyways, it was not a big deal, even if we had to stay over night
in beautiful Salzburg:)

Vienna was very beautiful, as i remember it too, and we explored on Wednesday
until about 5 pm. Johnny: We had a kebob for the first time, and they had
some yummy falafels as a substitute for meat, so it wasn't just bread with
lettuce and tomato for me! Rusl had the meat kind, and it was just like you
said, a mixture of meat twirling around on a stick. Back to Tuesday
evening...We found a place to camp (wild, not at a campground) on the Donau
Insel (some friends of Sepp's who live in Vienna tipped us off about the
possibility of camping on the long narrow island in the Donau River, right in
Vienna). It was dark (as it often seems to be when we look for a place to
camp!) when we started to search for a spot to put our tent that wouldn't be
so visible. We found a place in a little forest right in between two bike
paths. It turned out to be a mysterious forest, with spiders everwhere, the
underbrush had been cleared, there was a little hut with old corn cobs that
made it look like someone had kept chickens there some time ago (maybe
someone who was living in this forest). Arriving at this place in the dark,
of course made it even scarier than it was in the light. We pitched the tent,
and spoke in whispers, and heard noises in the night, but made it till the
Rusl is typing on the computer next to me and I see that he is ahead of me in
the story, and has written about this part. We've decided that i should jump
ahead of him and write about things he hasn't...
(although i love the parts about Slovakia, and would like to write about them
too, but i think Rusl is doing a good job describing it)

NOTE TO MUM AND DAD: I didn't have the phone number to do the collect call
thing in Slovakia, and it's different from in Czech, so that's also why i
haven't been able to call until now.

So now i'm gonna jump to friday morning (yesterday morning), when we were
still in Slovakia.

Hope it's not too confusing. It doesn't really matter if you don't get the

We woke up pretty early because we knew there were things to do (finding a
bike shop in Samarin that sold shifter cables,fixing my bike, and also
getting more supplies. Ah, supplies supplies supplies, even what seems like
a simple task like buying groceries is an adventure for us because of the
language! Also, it has been so hot that things will go bad very fast in the
bottom of my panier (like the zuccinni and carrots i discovered last night
which were extremely stinky with white fuzz and oozing yellow and green goo,
and i only bought them three days earlier). SOooo, back to the point: we are
often buying groceries.

We rode along the flat flat flat nice Donau Radweg to Samarin, and were
pretty confused until we found a woman riding her bicycle. We asked her, with
hands and face and maybe some German too, where a bike shop might be. She was
very nice and took us to the shop, riding her bike with us until we got
there. It turned out great and we bought a shifter cable. We also bought food
and went to the gas station to fill up our stove canister with regular
gasoline. The stove is working well, by the way, even on regular auto
gasoline (we couldn't fine white gas anywhere)---the instructions say it can
use regular gasoline too.

Then we rode to a nearby park and Rusl fixed my bike for me, YAYYY! IT sure
made a difference. I'd been riding the whole trip with the cable breaking
thread by thread (or so i imagine:), which made it so irritating to ride,
always slipping and making it hard to know how much pressure i could put on
the pedals before it jumped. And adjustments to the derailleur not working
because it was the steadily-deteriorating cable that was causing the
problems. After that, the riding was so wonderful, effortless, and i thought
nothing could make me grumpy on this trip anymore:)...

I need to speed up a bit in my story, because we've been here for almost two
hours (but it doesn't cost much at all, a dollar an hour). We need to figure
out our campsite for tonight.

After Samarin, we continued on the Donau Radweg. We swam in the Donau River
when we stopped for lunch. It was so nice, refreshing cool water, the current
was not strong at all because it was getting close to the dam (at that point
it was a reservoir i guess). We swam twice, since it was a very hot day (the
usual in the Donau Valley says the book).

I should mention the bruises, mosquito bites, horsefly bites, and layers of
dirt, sweat, and sunscreen on my skin! For SOME reason i've gotten more cuts
and bruises on my legs than usual---scraping through bushes looking for a
tenting spot, and also just being with my bike for so many hours a day. The
pedals on my bike have attacked my ankle and shin a few times. I'm OK, just
have a few bandaids. I don't know if rusl mentioned the horseflies, but i
will say: they are nasty! We've both encountered them a few times, and it
hurts at first, then becomes a big itch. Bugs bugs lots of bugs. No more
ticks though since that day near Frankfurt, thank goodness. Also nice bugs
that don't bother us, like dragonflies, butterflies, grasshoppers, ladybugs,

So, we rode a fair amount on friday, considering the work on the bicycle
earlier in the day, and the swimming. 73 km, starting after 2 pm, and
including a long lunch and swimming break around 3 pm.
We decided to cross the river and go into Hungary (we at least have a little
Hungarian-English dictionary. We have no book for Slovak). It is so fun to
just look at the map and say, "Yes, Gyor looks like a good place, let's go
there." We are enjoying this ride a lot, and aren't in any hurry to get to

We saw cargo ships travelling up and down the Donau, coming from different
countries, heading to different countries. The Donau must be a major trade
route for east and west countries. We got to see the big dam and ships going
into the locks (several ships fit into the lock!). The ships aren't huge like
the ones in vAncouver. They are biggish but not huge:). It was neat to see
them up close, and since we've been riding along the river this whole time
we've seen a bunch. We haven't met people who live on this river like you
read about, but it seems they could be just around the corner. It's a
wonderful river, and the people who live in the villages along it are usually
so friendly. I'm glad we picked this route.

We went over the Slovak-Hungary border friday evening---they glanced at our
passports and let us through (we used the Canadian ones this time). The last
20 km into Gyor was hard because we were hungry and tired from the sun a bit.
We went along some gravel parts too. The Donau Radweg has spoiled us, with
its flat smooth perfect path. As we rode through little Hungarian towns,
people waved at us and said hello.
So, we got into Gyor as it was getting dark,PLANNING on finding the campsite
that was on the map. THEN...Russell's spoke broke and his freewheel (I think)
started making a loud noise, right near the town square. A long hot day, and
now this? We decided to try to find a cheap penzione or hostel to sleep in. I
went up to two women and discovered one of them spoke some english. They told
us about a "panzio" and gave us directions with a map. We arrived there after
10 pm, rang the bell, it was still open, the lady Anne helped us inside. It
turned out to cost about 20 Euros each (because it was actually quite a fancy
place, with a sitting room, decorative moulding on the ceilings, pretty
little chairs, a fancy staircase...). She led us to our room and i was going
to ask her where the showers were, but didn't need to because our room had
its own bathroom! This was very luxurious for us. Our room was decorated with
pretty curtains and two sofa chairs, and had a small fridge too. We flopped
down, ahhhh.
It reminded us of Fawlty Towers.
We still had to have dinner, so we left the panzio around 11 pm in search of
something to eat. We found there were lots of places still open, and many
people were walking along the streets, out on a warm summer friday night. We
found a restaurant pretty quickkly because it was so late and we were
starving. We ate Hungarian food, which was yummy (i was glad to find
something on the menu that had no meat and wasn't a salad---some places don't
have much vegetarian food). Most of the choices were still meat, so Rusl had
a big selection.

I'm going to stop here, because Rusl is writing about this morning. That
pretty much catches you up with us.

ANDREA: Sepp and the family are really looking forward to seeing you and
meeting Anil:)

Posted by jane at 03:59 PM | Comments (1)

Vienna to GyÖr

Well, right now we are here in Gyor, Hungary which is just South of the Danube River (Dunaj), a few days bike ride to the West of Budapest. We found a very new looking internet cafe which is 100Ft/30minutes which is about $1.10 Canadian per hour I reckon'

I wrote the first half of this journey here and Jane writes the second half next.

Well, right now we are here in Gyor, Hungary which is just South of the Danube River (Dunaj), a few days bike ride to the West of Budapest. We found a very new looking internet cafe which is 100Ft/30minutes which is about $1.10 Canadian per hour I reckon'

It is great to read all the comments from people reading. Don't want to spend all my time here on the computer writing personal emails so just a general thanks, write more!

We had a lot of fun staying with Uncle Sep in Munich. I wrote about it the night we arrived there and we stayed until the Tuesday. Too much fun to write all here. We drank in a real Beer Garden in the shade of (horsechestnut?) trees. We learned about how to make Computer Chips because that is what sep does, also he has a company which makes Plasma Sources (!) for the computer industry. Mmmm Plasmalicious... Also I was wrong about the trains. The streetcar is a different service than the S-bahn, so they have one more automobile free transportation service than the many I listed in my previous post about Munich.

We took the train from Munich to Vienna (Wien) which is in Austria. There was a stopover in Salzburg which was interesting but we didn't see any olympic banners. They should have won the olympics, they already have trains and streetcars! I guess they didn't have as much Big Business support which is what it is all about. Or maybe they took down the annoying 2010 Candidate City banners quickly since it was only a few days after the decision.

The train because it was International was not so good for bikes. It cost 10€ each bike! And we missed our first train out of Salzberg because it came very quickly and we went to the back to find the Bicycle car (like we are supposed to) and some train officials pointed us to the front of the train then we went there and the official in the first class area didn't let us on and pointed us to the back and then the train left without us. Grrr. There was another train to Wien 40 minutes later and so we took that, luckily this one was waiting at the station already and so we had time to find the unmarked cargo car which bikes are supposed to go on. Also we had to lift very high through the cargo doors with no steps and the conductor made us remove the panniers for the ride. So don't assume everything here is perfect for bikes.

In Vienna we rode around a bit to get a look at the place and found our way over to the Duna Isle (Vienna Danube River Island) Which is very long, narrow and developed only as a nature park with bike paths. We chose not to use the pay campsite because it looked more like a RV park than a campinplatz. We ate food in a restaurant along the Danube which was ok, it was at a weird sports water thing where you waterski hanging onto a rope tow thing built on the river rather than being pulled by a boat...

We found a very secluded camping area in the bushes in the dark. It was kind of spooky but we stayed there. We didn't want to camp out in the open because we thought the park might be really busy in the morning. It turned out to not be. The place was kind of weird like the bushes had been cleared out and there was a hut for chickens to eat food but it looked old and no chickens. The ground was a very fine river sand and there were lots and lots of bugs and spiders. Spooky camping! Anyway we slept alright until about 10 am. When getting up we noticed a man sitting about 50feet away. At first we thought he was a person picnicing but later saw he looked very dishevvelled and had only plastic bags. We waved at him then he looked away and put his head in his hands and stayed that way for about 40minutes until we left. Obviously not very happy and somewhat disturbed. He didn't disturb anything of ours so I guess it was OK, just spooky.

We rode back into Vienna. We had a Dona Sandwich for lunch (at the reccomendation of Klaus or Thomas, Sep's boys) which I think is like a Donair we have in vancouver but Jane doesn't think so.

We went to the tourist info and the bookstore. We got a book about the Vienna to Budapest Bike Route with good maps, (but a few years old and in German, not english) and also a English-Hungarian Dictionary and a European Menu Reader with 15 languages. The books were not cheap. Then we bought food and water and headed out to the Danu. We rode on the North Side Bike Route.

The Path is well paved and well marked and perfectly flat. We rode along river recreational bike paths for 10km or so then turned off. Then we rode through this area with many huge Oil Buildings, storage or maybe a Refinery. Funny that the bike route runs straight in the middle of an enormous oil refinery. There were a lot of geared out roadies riding along here, assembling their fancy euro race bikes out of the trunk of their cars. We then rode along a very straight well paved bike path through the trees. The roadies were passing us a lot. Then they would turn around and go back at what seemed like arbitrary points. Some kind of distance per time trial i guess. They stopped after a while once the road got more gravelly (still paved though) and then we went along this super straight flat for 13km river dyke. Most of our route since then has been on top of river dykes. The wind was at out backs! Very easy to cruise at 24km/hr with all our gear. This is about the easiest cycling terrain i could imagine. And beautiful in nature! We rode about 50km that day until we were pretty close to Bratislava and the Border end of Austria. We stopped before it got civilised and camped in a totally remote field. There were trees around it and it was next to the dyke. The trees were planted in rows, a tree farm! This was much less spooky and more open. We once heard a lot of crashing noises in the woods. Jane thinks it was brobably wild boar or pigs. There was also a really cool old hunting hut build high up in an old tree. This one was bigger than most and had a winding ladder up the tree. It was the ideal tree fort. We might have slept in it. However it was very old and maybe rotten. We carefully climbed up to look in it but it was creaky and unsafe and so we went down.

The next day we got going about 12:30 after arguing a lot. When you have no choice but to alway be together and you can't speak the language to anyone else properly then it is hard to not argue and get on each others nerves sometimes.

We rode through a small town Hainburg which is just before the border and got some supplies. We went through sunflower feilds which were gorgeous. We rode to the border, part of the former Iron Curtain. We took the bike route almost the whole way. Then we joined the cars. We went trough one booth showing our American and Deutch Passports (supposedly Canadians need a Visa to enter Czech) Then we rode a while and couldn't see the bike route. Then there was another booth and they looked again then stamped the passports. Then we went and there was another kind of booth but I don't think we were supposed to stop and they waved us through. We found the bike route again after there were no more buildings and it was normal road. They had weird bikes only gates across the path which I thought were for the border but I've seen them elsewhere and they must have to do with keeping cars off the path. Often cars use the bike path as a regular road which is strange and usually rare but sometimes there are a lot of cars and it is dumb.

We rode into the city Bratislava. The money is SK and the exchange is about 1$ is 25sk and beer is often only 30sk. We got money and then followed the confusing bike paths through the city to leave it. We were going to buy stoff but the money bills we had were 10000sk about 40$ and it was strange to buy a 12sk corn on the cob with 10000sk. This country is much less rich, things are smaller and not as clean. Quite interesting. We rode our bikes on the bike paths over a few bridges and through strange small house residential areas. Not quite slums, much more lively and happy, just small. The path has a lot more bumps and potholes but is somehow more fun and interesting than the Western bike paths. Eventually we were on a long straight river dyke with the wind at out backs. We rode about 30km from Bratislava to a little town (called?) near a slightly bigger town called Samorin. Jane's had a big problem however as we left Bratislava, the rear shifter cable broke. No wonder we hadn't been able to adjust it tight enough this whole trip. Stupid Shimano Rapid Fire Shifters! This happened to my old bike when i had those, twice! The shifter damages the cable. Anyway Jane decided to ride it anyway in the hard gear. I used the limit screws to get the second from hardest gear. Because the terrain was so easy this problem was not so bad, riding fast was not a problem, just starting up difficult. Thank goodness the land is flatter than the Praries.

We went into the little town and found a restaurant. Our Cezech Menu Reader was useless. the Waitress spoke deutch better than Jane (Ein Bisken she said) And we had some good food. It was pretty cheap but not super cheap. About 20$ total including tip and beer and also a bowl of peaches for dessert. We were is Slovakia! Not Czech! Upon closer inspection we noticed out map book had this written on the cover. Our 10 year old cycling in Europe book had Czechoslovakia. That explains the sk currency and the lack of czech on the menu. The beer was good, called budweiser! It was hard for Jane to realize that it was not the crappy American Beer of the same name.

We went out to the river to camp. It was dark so we didn't go far. The path was busy with recreational rollerbladers and cyclists earlier in the day so we went down off the dyke kind of behind a hill, in the bushes. The bushes were planted in rows and may have been small cherry trees as they had really tiny berries (like huclkeberry size) with a large pit in the centre. they kind of bitter. Anyway it was a much much nicer camping hole than the earlier one in Vienna. We could see the sky and it was grass not dirt on the ground. There were some bugs but much less and not as biting nasty.

We both have many mosquito bites and one large (probably) horsefly bite each. On the way out of Vienna had a sharp bite on her leg while riding, it was very painful. Then later it was a large twoonie sized red itchy lump. i got one the next morning, just before Hainsburg before the border. We do have bug spray but it say only lasts 2 hours but warning do not reapply constantly toxic. We put in on a caouple times a day but now and then get bit.

I think Jane is writing the rest from the next morning until today.

Posted by rusl at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2003

Muenichen Biken City!

Yesterday we arrived in Munich at the haufbahnhofen (hauf=main bahn=train hofen=station) at met Jane´s uncle Sep. He came on his bicycle from work to pick us up, and he printed a map of the internet of the bike route home - what a great uncle. He led us out onto the streets of munich which we could immediately see were quite full of bikes. Munich is very flat, the biggest hill is about 10m and that is really just the immediate slope to the river which runs in the centre. So there are mucho farads. Everywhere there are bike routes...

(Well I´m gonna skip a little of what I have yet to catch up on, maybe later I will fill in details from earlier)

Yesterday we arrived in Munich at the haufbahnhofen (hauf=main bahn=train hofen=station) at met Jane´s uncle Sep. He came on his bicycle from work to pick us up, and he printed a map of the internet of the bike route home - what a great uncle. He led us out onto the streets of munich which we could immediately see were quite full of bikes. Munich is very flat, the biggest hill is about 10m and that is really just the immediate slope to the river which runs in the centre. So there are mucho farads. Everywhere there are bike routes, often integrated as a second sidewalk which is different from the level of the pedestrian way and slightly raised from the car street. Sometimes it is just a painted line on a wider sidewalk and less often it is a painted red bike lane to the left of parked cars which is a little wider than your average north american bike lane. There are cute bicycle signal crossing lights with the bike icon red green and yellow.

Sep wove us through traffic which was often more pedestrian and bicycle than cars, there were crowds of cyclists - over a dozen - building up at the signal light to wait, critical mass critical mass! Munich is a big city of 1.3 million people. From what we have seen it is very well put together with not much suburban sprawl. Besides the regular long distance trains which we used to get to the city and the all important bicycle there is a large (actually a few smaller ones also) pedestrian only city centre (walk your bikes) and the S bahn which is an at grade street car in the city and out to the outskirts and the U bahn which is a underground subway for the core. There are indeed cars and to many but they dominate much less than other cities and things are really accessible without them. We saw many older and younger people riding formal clothes. Well there were a much wider variety of cyclists than Vancouver. Apparently at one point on our ride, Sep told us afterwards, we were riding alongside some famous german TV actor older woman with a smart dress and big TV hair. One danger is the many streetcar tracks in the road at funny angles but I did not witness any accidents or slips.

At one point in our journey we had to cross the rail yard. Sep didn´´t want to take us on the busy street (which we later found is much easier as it has a bike path sidewalk, but he chose a more pleasant smaller road route) so we went underground down the stairs to the U-bahn area and then rode through an underground shopping mall (you can ride your bike everywhere here, the security in the Frankfurt airport rode their bikes in the airport and so did we) Then we went up the stairs on the other side to get out. The problem was that our bikes were so heavily loaded that the stairs are a real problem. There may have been elevator access somewhere else in the mall but we didn´t use that. Sep offered to carry Jane´s bike up the stairs but when he tried to lift it he thought it was stuck, our bikes is heavy. Anyway he apologised for taking us downstairs because he thought our bikes had lighter cargo. Anyway the rest of the journey was good, a pleasant quick 25 minute journey. There were more cars and no more crowds of bikes as we left the city core however there still was these very good bike lanes almost everywhere. Fun fun!

We got to Sep´s house and met his family. There are 8 people living in the house besides (!) us two now so excuse me if I mix it up. Sep´s wife is Rita who works at home cleaning up after the rest of the large family. They have 4 boys. The two oldest (20) are twins Klaus and Thomas who are both just finished their high school exams. Toby is younger and in grade 12 next year. Flo is the youngest only 11 or 12. Both Klaus and Thomas live with their girlfriends here at home, who are named Suvi (family from finland) and Whatsername, and I can´t remember who goes with which. They have a nice big narrow house which has 3 floors plus basement and is half the house and their neighbour has the other half. There is a garden with cherries, plums and tiny strawberries plus a shed for bikes. here in munich the tap water is very good to drink! it is mineral water with no chlorine! Sep has a machine that adds fizzy CO2 to any water and uses it to turn tap water into Shprudel which is the other national drink of Germany (after beer).

We arrived home unpacked our bikes then rode back out to a restaurant very nearby where all 10 of us had a big meal. I had the ´typical bavarian´thing which was pork meat and gravy and hude dumpling balls and sourkrouts (cloeslaw) with bacon bits. So much meat, I countn´t finish. It was good. beer is so cheap here. This is Bavaria! On our way home we rode through a ´typical, real´ beer garden (beiregarten) where you sit outside under trees and drink huge glasses of not real strong beer. The beergarten was in a beautiful park. Not dirty like you´d think a drunkenfest would be. The beer gardens here are big, 3000 people. There are many. The biggest in munich holds 8000 seats. Thus the tourist T shirt slogan `they tell me I was in muenchen but I can´t remember!´ Tommorrow we may go there.

We slept downstairs in the basement room which is the ´party room´built by klaus and thomas. They have a bar and 2 fridges and microwaves and many glasses and decorations and couches, no running water but other than that a real bar. Unfortunately the have a cat and a mouse (in a cage) but so far ma allergies have been not bad.

Today we got up late and rode into town around 1pm. We stopped at the first bike shop we found. I needed a new front tire and Jane a nut and bolt for the stripped rack mount for her front panniers. At first the mechanic was kind of rude with Jane´s shaky Deutch. Also perhaps it is international that bike mechanics are kranky. However he did warm up a little after some talking. At first we wer confused because I need a 700 tyre and all they had was 622mm. Eventually we realised that 622 is the inner diameter of standard 700 tyres. I was confused because Janes front tyre we had just measured to put the speedometer on her bike and she rides standard 26" wheels and the outer diameter is 630mm. Anyway we got a good one with a reflective sidewall for about 20 euros and fixed Janes bolt. Also I bought one of those bicycle parking brakes which lock the rear wheel to the frame so you can´t ride - common in th practical city bikes here - very rare in sports-only-bikes North America.

We met a man named Charlie at this shop and he took us to a place where we should have gone (he said) to buy bike parts cheaper. It was a supermarket box store thing and here at such places they sell bike parts: eveything, cranks, chain, reflectors, locks tires, many types of those great german patch kits, tools... Practical cheap and heavy parts mostly. There was a interesting chainbreaker tool which had adjustible screw tubes on both sides so you could hold the chain in place with the tool. Anyway we didn´t really want to shop at a big box store so we left.

We rode around downtown. We went to the pedestrian only tourist trap at the centre and took a long time trying to find the tourist information centre which was not where Sep supposed it was. It was annoying because we had to walk and there were crowds and lots of overpriced tourist stuff for sale. Eventually we cound the place and there was no specific bike map. However we did find an odd book which lists repair shops by catagory for munich (all types of repair - appliances) and there was a section of bike shops. We may visit some of these tommorrow. It lists the facilities of each shop and it seems to us in our basic deutch that almost half of all the shops offer workspace to fix your own bike (a la OCB/bike Kitchen/bike works) which is surprising and will make it harder to find one central hub of bike culture using our find-something-like-OCB-method. (on the other hand perhaps there are many her in this bikin town and that is even better)

We had a picnic of food we bought and ate on the river. They have an awesome river which is split in two though it divides and joins often. There are many beautiful old ornate bridges and many are bike/ped only. We ate lunch in the centre of the river on an island which is conncected by bridge. There was a very curious and unafraid duck that was black that we fed our leftovers too.

then it rained, very hard. We had our rain gear including goretex pants and booties. We got wet. It subsided after about 40 minutes to almost nothing. Anyway it was still wet all evening. We decided to check out the Munich film Fest which we saw posters around town for all day. Eventually we figured out where to go and looked at the schedule. We picked a movie that started at 10pm. It was hard to pick because we only had a few of many that were on tonight at the right time and only some were in english or with english subtitles. It was then about 7:30 so we rode around the town more now that it was drier and ventured outside of the central core. We discovered some good bike shops that were closed. We had a beer in a little tiny bar. Then we went to see the movie. The filmfest has a lot of fancy advertising and decorations, more high end than we expected. They had a woman standing very still then moving like a robot manequin all dressed up outside the theatre. We went to see Nayanqaytsi which is the third in the Koyanasqaytsi (like Baraka) movie series. There is no words only pictures and music. This was not nearly as good as Koyanasqaytsi. It was a lot more computer generated and technological. Also it was too long. it was supposed to be 69minutes but it was longer. Also there was almost no colour, mostly solorised monochromatic or two colours. There were some very very interesting parts and the themes of technology and violence and decay and the tower of babel was all very interesting but it just wasn´t so good. If you love the other movies you might want to see it to know, there are good parts. But the ending is long and pointless.

Anyway we are having a lot of fun. Read vancouver.indymedia.org Sucks about the stupid olympics. Good for the squatters taking over Victory park, we´ll see how that turns out. People congratulate us here if they here we are from vancouver, hard to explain our dissappointment in deutch. Salzberg is very close, we may visit on saturday. Hold COPE´s feet to the fire you Vancouverites! If wé have to have the dumb olympics lets make them do it as least damaging as possible - NOT 7 years of bad luck. Build a train not a highway. Enforcable social housing construction (not 2500 units promised, 150 actually built Salt Lake City style [jack poole style]) Apparently munich had the Franchise in 1972 and it didn´t wreck this place. That was before the super corpratisation of the thing but still. Make Vancouver copy Munich and do better, or maybe how about amsterdam... ...How about a big big Critical Mass ...Anyway we´ll also try and hook up with some local IMCs on our journey.

Posted by rusl at 03:31 AM | Comments (3)