Paris to Budapest. Half way already.
Since leaving Paris over three weeks ago, we are already at the half way point of the trip.
The weather was more like winter as we rode through France, with the longest distance day to date of 130km giving us all the chance to see forest and mountain scenery through a veil of light rain, heavy rain and monsoon downpour. However, we had the luxury of being able to use the school hall to sleep in rather than under canvass. I think we were all grateful to the tour organisers and the mayor of Xertigny for that. The mood in camp was as low as the cloud at that point and the climb to the top of the Col de la Schlucht rewarded us with nothing more than 50m of visibility in the mist rather than the splendid Munster valley.
As one local told us, it always rains on the Xertigny side but the Munster side is always sunny. Turns out he was right, and as we crossed the border into Germany the sun started to shine and the mood in camp also brightened with the weather. From Freiburg, we had a short but climbing ride to see the source of the Danube, before following it using the cycle path through Ulm, Regensburg and Passau in Germany and then on through Linz and Vienna in Austria.
This is the ‘pastry route’ as the cycle trail follows the river but regularly diverts into the many villages along its banks. Whether you ride on the north or south side, there are plenty of chances to stop for a coffee and home baked cake or pastry at a Konditorei or Backerei. These also serve the coffee to go with whatever you eventually choose to eat, but 10 riders in a shop designed for two or three as well as their regular customers causes a bit of hilarity, and more congestion as they want to know why we are riding to Istanbul by bike. With a bit of knowledge of the language you can hear that the story you have told one being relayed to the others. This happened the day we missed the lunch stop by taking a short cut and taking a dinner of fresh asparagus at the only eating house in the village. The lady who was actually preparing the asparagus as we went in relayed our story to the locals having their lunchtime beer. In those places you are a star for those few minutes you are there.
As the days progress the joking amongst the group gets more and more and that relaxes any tiredness from the day’s ride. The evening meal is usually eaten with us sitting around a virtual camp fire which helps with the interaction between us all.
Tomorrow, we ride into Budapest to enjoy a rest day and also reach the half way point of the trip to Istanbul. No doubt this part of the trip will seem to go faster than getting here, and it will be memories we take with us rather than as much water as we can get onto bike frame and into jersey pockets.
– Stewart Sinclair