Embark On Your Own Cycling Odyssey From Athens To Amsterdam in 2017
Every Friday afternoon around 15:30 or so, the staffers at the Toronto TDA office drag themselves away from their electronic devices and gather at the conference table in front of a giant world map. With a cold craft beer in hand, they talk over the week’s events and dream up new tour possibilities. It was during one of these sessions a couple years ago we realized that, although we had two wonderful European tours, the Orient Express & the Trans-Europa, there was a large blank spot in the Balkans. Like all great ideas we let this one sit for awhile and gradually worked it into our schedule for 2017.
Morning fishing on River Osum – Berat, Albania
We are now very proud and excited to introduce to you – The Odyssey – a 7 week, 3,500 km cycling journey from Athens to Amsterdam, from the Acropolis to the Rijksmuseum. You will spin through 10 European countries – Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Germany & The Netherlands – enjoying great scenery, amazing food, incredible history & fascinating cultures. As an added bonus, this will also be our first all-hotel cycling tour in Europe, so leave your tents at home for this one.
A few weeks ago we sent off Tour d’Afrique 2006 alumnus & European Tour Leader Gergo Szanyi to check out the planned route. Here’s what he had to say about the scout:
“When I was assigned the job of scouting the route for The Odyssey I was very happy to go back to the Balkans again. The expedition’s proposed path also included two countries I had never been to, but always wanted to visit, Albania & Montenegro. The preparation for a scouting trip is essential. We browse through maps, we read hotel reviews, we check out the relevant guide books. Then we may contact local bike clubs and always ask all our friends who have already cycled in the region. We contact and visit all the hotels along the route. After all this preliminary effort, the actual scout consists largely of driving the support vehicle along a route that we believe will be the best suited for cycling.
Dead end in Greece
It is a good idea to avoid busy roads. And if you do, well… that is how we ended up on an isolated hiking trail, faced a collapsed bridge in Greece, drove on a goat path in the Albanian mountains and crossed a minefield (!) in the forests on the way to Sarajevo. The route on the Odyssey is great! Yes, as you can tell from any map, the Balkans are quite hilly. Riding inland or on the coast – both will take you into some challenging ascents. But while climbing, remember: there is likely a stunning view from the top and, besides, a downhill is always waiting on the other side. Driving always feels too fast; next time I’ll just ride a bike.
An important part of scouting is to test the local food and I can tell you that we took this task very seriously. We sampled real Greek salad, seafood on the Albanian coast, gurmanska pljeskavica in Montenegro (also known as the Balkan Burger), ćevapčići in Croatia, bratwurst in Germany and french fries in a paper cone topped (and actually bottomed) with mayo in the Netherlands. What is a good day on a scouting trip? No, it’s not about the food, nor about a nicer hotel room. It is when you create a route, explore it and, at the end of the day, you just can’t wait to bring a group of cyclists there. Because the real adventure is to share one.“
The Acropolis, Athens
Start your unforgettable European cycling Odyssey at dawn from the stunning hilltop surroundings of Athens’ ancient Acropolis. Spinning down through the streets of one of Western civilization’s founding cities, riders will head northwest through the hilly Greek countryside passing through historic Delphi & Metoria, perhaps pausing for some olives, figs and a sip of retsina along the way.
Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Meteora, Greece
Soon the cyclists will cross into Albania, an enigmatic land dotted with undiscovered archaeological ruins and blessed with sun-soaked beaches. Next up is tiny Montenegro where our 2 days of riding take us through rugged mountains populated with bears and wolves.
Old Town, Sarajevo, Bosnia
Riders can recover from the climbs in historic Sarajevo, site of some of the worst events of the 1990 Balkan wars and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered World War I. The route in Bosnia now winds down past the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge) in Mostar before turning northward along the spectacular Adriatic, into Croatia and a rest day in Split’s historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Odyssey continues north with some island-hopping along the gorgeous coastline before the riders wash up in Italy and the city of Trieste, a hotbed of Cold War intrigue after World War 2. The Alps now dominate the skyline and the cyclists will put on their climbing shoes as they slowly spin up the mountains past a trio of Winter Olympic cities – Cortina, Innsbruck & Garmish – before descending into Munich, host of the world’s largest Oktoberfest celebration.
Rhine River, Germany
After quenching their thirst with a few brewskies, the cyclists will head through the charming Bavarian countryside towards the University town of Heidelberg and the start of the Rhine River bike path. Three beautiful days of cycling along one of the world’s great rivers will lead the riders into Cologne and its Gothic masterpiece, the incredible twin-spired Cathedral.
It is now the home stretch as the riders spin north past the Dutch town of Arnhem, the sight of a historic World War 2 battle brought to life in the book and film ‘A Bridge Too Far’. Amsterdam soon glides into view and the cyclists will enjoy riding into the city on some of its 400kms of bike paths. Coming to a final halt in front of the world famous Rijksmuseum, home to many of Rembrandt’s most famous works, the riders can look back on their incredible Odyssey and raise a toast to their adventures and memories.
The Odyssey can also also be cycled in 3 spectacular sections: