(Our version of) Turkish Hospitality

11 04 2013

Jimi  and I spent hours deliberating about what to write in the blog and which bits of our Turkish life we could share. However Jimi’s mum has kindly solved our dilemma by writing this brilliant article, not for us, but for one of the Turkish national daily’s;  Today’s Zaman. We are posting her article as it has everything we wanted to say, but better she is with the English (what’s a noun again?). We will update again soon but for now this will more than suffice. Enjoy.

IMG_3386

7 April 2013 /ALISON KENNY, Antalya
There’s a lot of chattering in my house at the moment and, although it’s all in my native tongue, I can barely understand a word.

I catch snippets of conversation emanating from serious-looking individuals, heads bowed intently over their work, bizarre-looking tools in hand. Sometimes similar sounds waft in my direction from the same somber heads, this time riveted to laptop screens or poring over maps and guidebooks. The conversations go something like this:

James: “Twenty-eight-inch wheels? But surely you can’t get any replacements for these over here?”

Alex: “Ah, maybe, but they roll for longer.”

James: “I thought all Thorns came with Rohloff hubs?”

Rose: “Only as an extra.”

Around the world on two wheels

And so on. It’s like a whole new language or a whole new world, and one that I will clearly never belong to, nor, to be truthful, do I wish to. These are the words of a new breed of travelers known as “cycle tourists.” Until two of my children became suddenly and inexplicable obsessed with bikes — as children they had never shown more than a passing interest in their childhood bicycles — I had absolutely no idea just how many people were prepared to set off around the world on two wheels. I can fully understand the wish to travel to foreign parts and even the pleasure of being in the open air, but am still struggling to understand the attraction of pedaling uphill on a bike loaded with all your worldly goods, including the kitchen sink, with nothing but a bleak night in a tent to look forward to.

I also had no idea of just how many of these tourists pass through Antalya. It was, of course, no surprise when my son, his girlfriend and my eldest daughter turned up last October, all looking suitably sunburned and ridiculously fit after their 5,500 kilometer trip from the UK. They had warned me about their imminent arrival and, though I managed to be absent for the event, I have had plenty of time since then to hear all the gritty details of life on the road. For my daughter, the three months in the saddle were perhaps enough to abandon her bike in Antalya and hop on a plane to İstanbul to seek her fortune, or perhaps just to enjoy the comforts and contrast available in a big city. The other two have equally happily swapped their specially padded and balanced bike seats for the rather softer options of beds and our sofas for the winter months. They are now, however, beginning to get itchy pedal feet and busy plotting the next part of their round the world cycle tour.

 

guilliam and lillian photo

Wild camps and warm showers

Like all moms, I like to think that my children are unique. But when it comes to cycle touring, quite clearly they are not — far from it. I now know from personal experience that there are many people from all parts of the globe who pack up their belongings into a few saddlebags (or is that panniers?) and set off around the world — because I’ve actually hosted them in my house.

Although operating on a tight budget and therefore camping (preferably “wild”) most nights, living off semi-cooked lentils and pasta, all the while huddled in four-season sleeping bags and watching out for rabid dogs, they occasionally need respite from their self-induced life of hardship. This is where we come in. My son and his girlfriend (James and Rose) cleverly joined the website, appropriately named, Warm Showers (www.warmshowers.org) before leaving the safety of their home in Manchester. Unlike its “rival” website, http://www.couchsurfing.com, Warm Showers is specifically aimed at those who understand bicycle banter and the needs of those who have traveled long distances in the saddle. Joining this website entitles the members to turn up and stay at the homes of other participants. Obviously, the deal involves the use of a bed (or sofa), preferably the chance for a hot wash and, if possible, the use of a washing machine rather than a quick rinse in a passing stream. During their time in Manchester, James and Rose hosted a couple of Koreans, a pair of Australians and a solitary Frenchman. In Manchester, they were able to treat these foreign guests to the delights of warm beer in British pubs, over-sized portions of greasy fish and chips and a guided tour round Manchester United’s football ground. What more could any self-respecting traveler hope for?

With Joo and Soo

Turkish hospitality

During their journey here, they also made use of a few warm shower hosts en route in several European countries, interspersed between the many nights spent under canvas. When they reached Turkey, however, they found very little use for either tents or warm shower hospitality. For the majority of their nights, they were offered shelter and often food by locals in villages they passed through, such being the nature of Turks, particularly those living away from large towns. With their limited knowledge of Turkish, this gave a great opportunity to learn first-hand about the culture of this most hospitable of countries.

hamza hospitality

 

However, when they reached Antalya and had recovered sufficiently from their trip, they realized that although they might not be “on the road” they still had a burning desire to communicate in their newfound language — the arcane lingo of bicycle banter. Initially, they tried with us and a few of our cronies to inspire an interest in their stories, but nobody could make head or tail of their conversation. So they logged on to the Warm Showers website, updated their status to “living in Antalya,” and, within a few days, requests from itinerant cyclists began trickling in. Fortunately, it’s perfectly acceptable for participants to turn down a request if it’s inconvenient, so there’s no obligation to put up those three Finnish cycle fiends when half your relatives from the UK have just turned up for their annual holiday in the sun.

A different breed of traveler

We have, however, successfully hosted several of this breed of traveler. They may come from all parts of the world, but, no matter what their indigenous language, I’m glad to report that they all speak fluent bike banter and I am able to leave these folk to twitter away for hours about handlebars, spokes, lycra shorts with sewn-in nappies (that’s what they look like anyway), where to buy fuel for their state-of-the-art stoves in downtown Antalya and whether it’s possible to renew their Turkish visa by taking a detour into northern Iraq and re-entering from there.

To date, a very sweet Swiss couple, a lone girl from New Zealand, a charming 50-something-year-old guy from South Africa and a very vivacious German pair in their 20s have all made use of our facilities. Not only do these guests provide hours of entertainment for my son and girlfriend, they have also all made the most of having a kitchen and cooked delicious food for all of us. Their energy, enthusiasm and refreshing attitude to life are infectious. They defy the principles that my generation was brought up to uphold — the “must get a job, save money and settle down” philosophy. Instead, these people from assorted backgrounds may have saved money — but only in order to enable them to travel the world with their bikes in tow.

All seem to enjoy their stay here, spending much of their time sleeping and eating, but the rest of the time they can be found enjoying Antalya’s old town, swimming in the sea, testing out the best food spots and soaking up the good weather from the comfort of our garden. Most importantly they can — and do — indulge in endless hours of bicycle banter whilst busy mending punctures, truing spokes and greasing hubs.

Ian
Advertisements




A Surprisingly Pleasant End to an Unsurprisingly Good Year

14 01 2013

The good year we expected. It was just your bog standard year, you know the type: loads of parties with friends, family gatherings, quitting of jobs and cycling 5000 kms to Asia. You know nothing special, no point saying anymore about that really.

New Year, although we were not expecting to have a bad time it turned out to be really rather special. We were due to celebrate it separately. (Can you see where this is going yet?) Rose had booked cheap flights back to the UK for Christmas and New Year to be with her family, particularly her beautifully pregnant younger sister. Whilst Jim was remaining at the coalface- those puncture repair kits won’t pay for themselves you know. I (Jim) arranged to go to Istanbul for 2 nights with my Mum and her Terry to visit sister Rhi (formerly of the Rosy and Jim TDW Cult) in her new Galata pad.

So whilst Rose was living it up in the good old North of England with our two best friends, Real Ale and Cheddar cheese, Jim was on a culinary tour of Istanbul with an Istanbulite (Rhi) and the author of A Rough Guide to Istanbul (Terry).

We started the day with a swish coffee in Cafe Konak, check this for a view (and no that isn’t Robert Redford- she gets that a lot)!Moved onto Tantuni for brunch. Tantuni is spicy beef fried and served in a durum wrap. Before moving on to baklava,  ice cream and tea in the afternoon.  We then watched the excellent Life of Pi in 3D which was fantastic. Then whilst the oldies went for a lie down, me and my sis went for a few swift beers at a English microbrewery that she knows of.

IMG_6177 IMG_6139 IMG_6141

Feeling somewhat appropriately merry we made our way back across Istanbul managing to avoid the customary groping in Taksim square towards the meyhane, Gurme Boncuk, to meet the wise ones for our New Years Eve dinner.

After several bevvies and a one hour dash via 2 tubes our bladders were somewhat at capacity, so we dashed into the restaurant eager to find the toilets. As a result the scene that greeted us almost resulted in a very embarrassing accident.

Joining the oldies at the table was Rosy Pose and Little Jas, one of my all time  top 11 friends.  My slightly drunk and high on anti bladder release adrenalin brain was saying, “I know these faces but they don’t belong in this restaurant, who ordered them?”

IMG_6144

After avoiding the afore-mentioned embarrassment I regained my composure and set about getting to the bottom of the mystery. I think I’ll let Rose take over from here….

I had just spent a lovely week back home, visiting the family, holding the babies: my niece Melissa, nephew Lewis and friends new addition Freya. I ate lots of lovely food, met up with almost all my friends and even had a turn at karaoke at the family christmas party! After a training visit to York to see Jemma Buxton was my next stop and the lead up to the most expensive night of our lives.

First I had a lovely tapas dinner with Izy and got to play kitchens with Lewis and generally love his new words and cuddles. I met Jas in the pub and we were catching up and chatting about new year and our respective plans. I said I was going to Ben and Cats in Manchester then get the plane to Antalya on New Years Day. Jas didn’t have much plannedl, just maybe go to someones house. I told him where Jimi was and their plans and then suddenly we shared a look across the table at exactly the same time, we both knew what the other was thinking…”what if we went to Istanbul to surprise Jimi?” The seed was planted!

8:37pm 30th December 2012.

Jas got to work on his super duper phone and looked up flights for the very next morning. As the evening wore on and I had a few more glasses of wine the idea seemed flawless and of course it was the only way we wanted to spend our New Year. Jason was driving so he cant even blame the alcohol for the rash decisions we made. We then got a call from Jonathan (Jimis dad) asking us to go to his for wine and cheese and a catch up. Off we went with the help of a few bottles of wine from Co-op and indulged in a midnight feast of cheese, scones, crackers, red wine. The idea was firmly planted by this point and with Jonathan saying, “Don’t be ridiculous, Istanbul in the morning! Ha that will never happen,” we were spurred on.

So at 3am Jas and I parted with Jas saying, “I’ll call you at 7am, look at flights and make a decision then.” “Ok Jason, of course you will.”

7:03 am 31st December 2012

After 3 hours of drunken sleep…..Brrrriiiiing brriiiing brriiiiing! “WOW Jason you meant it then?” “I’ll be there in 30 minutes was the reply.”

8:07am 31st December 2012

Jason and Rose in a Nissan Micra driving to London Stansted, ticketless, hoping we could buy a plane  ticket from the airport and be in Istanbul in time for the new year celebrations and at the restaurant at 8pm to meet everyone…easy!

First problem of the day, Jason had no passport so we had to go via Doveridge (Staffordshire) to collect his passport a change of clothes and then off to London to catch the 14:10 flight to Istanbul we saw advertised. That means we have 3 hours to get to the airport,hoping there is no traffic, park, buy a plane ticket and get to the check in before it closes…easy!

9:32am 30th December 2012

The sat Nav said 2 hours 45 minutes that means we would be there at 12:15 if all went right, and there was no traffic. We arrived at London Stansted at 12:06, parked the car, the shuttle bus took us to the terminal and we were inside the airport by 12:15. “TICKET OFFICE CLOSED: read the sign in front of us… problem number 2.

We went to the Atlas Jet desk and politely inquired if we could buy a ticket for the Istanbul plane leaving in 2 hours. ” The ticket sales man is not here so I cant sell you a ticket sorry.” Problem number 3.

Just by chance the computers and internet were right next to us so we got onto them straight away and found the website to book the flights. (it was a minor problem that the flights had gone up by about £50) We added all the details into the system with our hearts racing as check in would be closing very soon. After a minor issue of credit running out on the pre-pay machine Jas finally put in his details and his flight was confirmed, he was going to Istanbul…or so we thought!

I added the details and was using Jason’s credit card to pay for the flight, “SORRY WE DO NOT ACCEPT THIRD PARTY PAYMENTS ON THIS SITE” read the notification in bold red letters on the screen. Problem number 4. That was it, Jas was going to Istanbul – on his own. I hastily made a call to my mum, ” Mum could you put £100 in my bank straight away I’m in London airport and want to fly to Istanbul in less than an hour and check in closes in 20 minutes. “Of course love Ill do it right away!” (Mum your a life saver)

Brilliant I thought, Ill just book the flight with my card and we can be on our way. I added the details only to be told the flight was no longer for sale as the airline had withdrawn them. Of course, its 10 minutes until check in closes, no one would be so stupid as to think they could book a ticket 30 minutes before the plane leaves. (Oh yes there are) Problem number 5.

I called the ticket sales number and they said sorry there are no tickets for this flight, they are no longer for sale. So I sulkily went with Jas to check in and say my goodbyes wondering how I would get from Stansted to London then Manchester in time for my flight on 1st back to Antalya. The train to Manchester was £100 and I started to feel a little silly.

Problem number…I cant remember! The man at the desk said, “there is no confirmation of this flight so you are not booked on it. I have called the sales UK Manager and there are no details for you sorry.” “Surely there must be something you can do?” He spoke to the manager and he said Jason could buy a new ticket from him and get on the flight….hold on if Jas can buy a flight surely I can do the same I politely asked to speak to the manager. “If Jason gets to buy a ticket, please can I also have a ticket?” “Sure give me your details and ill get you both on the flight right away!” Were we hearing right?

1:45 pm 31st December 2012

Jason gave his card details and to our delight two boarding cards were printed and handed to us with the words, “dont worry you have to go through security and go on the shuttle across the airport to the plane but it will wait for you no problem!”

Me and Jason were giddy that after all the problems and near misses we were finally going (to even our own disbelief) to Istanbul right now. In the hurry Jason left his phone at the security and the assistant said don’t worry ill go and get it for you, the plane will wait. You would think we were some kind of VIPs and the airport was on hold for us. This was all too good to be true.

14:15 31st December 2012

Alas no phone arrived so we boarded the plane which had in fact waited for us. Jason cancelled his phone literally just as we  left the runway, saying I have to go I’m on a plane.

We were brought Efes and a tasty meal as we soared over the Alps to a beautiful sunset and great view of the snow capped mountains. We couldn’t really believe we were actually on the plane after all that had happened, 4 hours sleep and a hell of a lot of adrenalin and hare racing going on all day. I may add that Atlas Jet are a fabulous airline, free luggage, loads of leg room, tasty food and drinks and very friendly and helpful staff.

As we landed at Istanbul airport, I asked a girl if by any chance she was going to Taksim Square and if she wanted to share a taxi, sure she did, she was surprising her friend there as well. (She had of course had hers booked for months).

So we arrived at the restaurant and was quite funny trying to explain to the manager that it was a surprise and not to tell them we are here. Finally he said, “oh Supris” which is very similar in Turkish. We sat down, had a well earned beer and waited with baited (although boozy) breath. In the midst of all the excitement at the airport and thinking it would never happen, I had text Lem to say I couldn’t come and that Jas would be coming alone, I had forgotten to text to say I would now be there, so even she was surprised when she climbed the restaurant stairs to see me and Jas sitting there.

So as Jimi pointed out earlier, he was desperate for the toilet and did in fact nearly wee himself at the sight of us two sitting there when he thought he would be greeted by just the oldies!

IMG_6164

The night was better than we could have hoped for and the flow of food, wine, Efes and Raki added to the enjoyment of the evening. We even did some Turkish dancing at midnight and shortly after Tez fell asleep at the table, we went onto a club (something we would never normally do) and had a jolly good time! The trip was well worth the butterflies, the anxiety and the money we spent. To top it off, Jas overslept and nearly missed his plane home. But as we now know you CAN check in late and board at the last minute, I guess some airline staff are kinder than others.





The Great Croatian Escapade

29 09 2012

Firstly as she will be riding with us until Antalya I feel we should introduce Rhiannon in a little more detail for those who don’t know her and as her brother Jimi has the artistic licence to do so:

The curious case of Rhiannon

Rhiannon rides a bike like no other. Despite its fixed components and spherical wheels she manages to make cycling look like a novice hill walker scrambling up Crib Goch, flip flops and sombrero in tow.

After two days of marvelling at this epic struggle we were forced to briefly hospitalise her. Her chest pain finally brought tears to her eyes and we took a taxi to the emergency ward. After a thorough examination; a verdict of a pulled muscle was administered and she was dismissed before they could photocopy the passport, much to the surprise of the receptionist. Rose and I did try to take this opportunity to put Rhi under house arrest orders for a week whilst we pedalled away, but fearing we may ‘party’ without her  and revitalised by the doctors diagnosis, she had a second coming and vowed to soldier on. I even caught her doing these insane sit ups down by the dock one morning.

This diagnosis had also had the effect of improving her riding style, where before she would be out of the seat more times than Tyler Hamilton up the road to Bayonne and stopping more times than our old dad in his middle aged fell running crisis, she is now forced to ride more smoothly and at a steady pace which greatly pleases us as it’s much safer to stay as one group on these busy Croatian coastal roads. Such has been Rhiannon’s improvements that questions have arose over her means. “I’ve never tested positive,” has been the all too familiar rebut. So we await the inevitable USADA’s case to be built before we can clean up our Tour de World guest star. She can however cook up a mean fish, potatoes, salad and even makes beans and tomatoes taste amazing.

We have substituted “the translator” for “the chef” and she now delights us with the ‘campsite cooking’ meals every night. But don’t worry Jake she can’t speak a word of German.

Anyway on with the blog…

So after the last post, Jimi wrote about us leaving Rijeka and heading to Zadar on the ferry the next morning. We awoke at 6am after an early night and well rested, it felt like we were sneaking away in the dead of the night as we cruised down the hill in the dark into Rijeka. We were greeted by a smiling sailor who sweetly said, we are not sailing today, the weather is too bad, we all looked up into the beautiful rising sun to what looked like a promisingly beautiful day. Rhiannon replied with a laugh and “ha! Ha! he’s joking, it’s the funny Croatian sense of humour” he smiled again and said “well you can wait if you like but we won’t be leaving until Wednesday.” We watched as other eager tourists loaded with their backpacks were told the same thing and slinked away, wondering how they were to reach their destination, fortunately we did not have a flight to catch the same day as some tourists did.

So of we set back up the hill to Rijeka in the hope of catching a ferry the next day which we hoped would take us to Zadar. Happy to be on the bikes again after a lazy few days at an abandoned festival we headed full of energy (well half full) and found a lovely wild camp spot 60km towards Rijeka.

We were in bed by 8pm and awoke and set off the next morning by 7:30. Arriving into Rijeka we were told, sorry no bicikla on this catamaran, you cannot leave Rijeka today and will have to get the overnight ferry to Split tomorrow as this is the only one you can take your bike on. Not to be disheartened by this minor set back, we booked the tickets and set off in search of the campsite. Low and behold, the campsite did not exist although we were told various legends by 3 different locals. We gave in and Jimi found a small cheap apartment however on seeing two girls ‘Mama Ana’ upgraded us to a bigger apartment with ‘more room to rest’. We communicated with Ana in little broken words from French, German, Italian, Turkish and English and in the end she said “ahh my children, call me Mama!”

Safe in the knowledge we would be leaving Rijeka (a full week after Jimi and I arrived there the first time) and catching the night ferry, we settled into the apartment, did some bike maintenance and watched a film. Not quite the camping and slumming it that we would usually be doing but enjoyed the luxuries all the same. The next day we headed to the ferry port but were cut short with Rhi and her broken rib and decided she should see a doctor. I settled in at the port and Jimi escorted Rhi to the hospital just to be on the safe side and unsure if she would be able to continue the trip if her rib was worse than expected. 30 minutes later they returned and Rhi was diagnosed with a pulled muscle in between the ribs, much to everyones relief.

Finally after a lot of waiting around and me worrying about getting the good seats on the ferry, we boarded and found some comfy seats in the salon, ready to bed down for the night and awake bright and breezy in Split, ready for the next leg of the journey. Me and Jimi looked worryingly as 40 rugby men boarded the boat in front of us, concerned about the rowdiness of the sports teams/large groups we had previously encountered. Rhi on the other hand had a little smile on her face in the hope that somewhere amongst them they may have a little party on the boat she could get involved in. We met some fellow cycle tourers from Slovenia who were part of a travelling theatre company called The Pink Aliens and we shared a bottle of wine and some tales on deck. We even had a wonderful nights sleep, just about waking up before the ship docked in Split.

Rhi received a message from the Chrisophere, her friends called Chris who are travelling and climbing in Croatia, saying they would be in Split that evening and so we decided to find a room and hit the town and then continue on from there the next day. We searched for a tout for a room and of course there was not one to be found anywhere until finally we were approached by a man who promised us a lovely new apartment for 5 people with sky TV, air con and right in the old town, for the price we asked of him. We walked across town but he wouldn’t let us put our bikes in the apartment, he said they would be okay outside in the street but we were not risking our bikes being stolen so regretfully had to turn down the as mentioned beautiful apartment and try to find another room. We were met by another man who had a room, but he wanted too much money, another had given the room away and finally we found a small basement apartment, which just about would sleep 3, let alone 5 but after searching for hours we settled for this and decamped here.

This is the  reason it is easier to pitch a tent, set up camp and cook our dinner than stay indoors. 

Me and Rhi went in search of fish (at a market) but we didn’t understand why everyone was saying no until we realised they closed at 1 and we were too late. We eventually bought some fish and Rhi made amazing fish supper which was ready in time for the arrival of the mighty Chris’s. We all headed to the square amongst the beautiful old town and had a few drinks and headed back found everything closing as it was midnight. We were directed to the beach and to the ‘euro club’ which was empty when we arrived. Jimis late night party disco dream had come true and the rubbish beer and shit music added to the atmosphere of it all and was helped along with a few local shots of honey rackya. Me and Jimi left Rhi and the two Chis’ to it, knowing we cannot party as much as them three and headed home.

“Poor old Rosy Pose” was the saying the next morning as the ‘euro party’ (I blame the Chris’s and the ‘honey’ shot that did it but I did not feel well at all, and was not looking forward to the ferry crossing to Hvar, knowing the wind was strong.

We made it and across to Stari Grad and headed to the campsite, which was actually closed with a few campers but locked toilets. This did not deter us and we pitched up knowing it unlikely we would have to pay. A beautiful harbour was waiting us and since we did not pay for the campsite, went out for pizza and some home made wine at the harbour. This may be the time to explain about Croatian pizza. Croatians make pizza, nearly if not as good as the Italians and the pizza is crispy and tasty and after trying a few pizzas in Croatia so far have not had a bad one yet.

The next day was one of the best days cycling we have had. It was beautiful scenery all the way along the Island.

From there we took a short ferry back to the mainland and continued south. We stopped in Neum in Bosnia for the night (it was suprisingly beatiful and after finding a campsite, the man said ” wait there in ten minutes a man will come and watch you all night”. He sure did and we were guarded, Im not sure what from as we were the only ones there camping amongst the olive trees. (Mum auntie Bev and mads); there was a cat there called Tigger, same colour as our tigger and he sat outside our tent all night! Jimi learned he had passed his PGCE so we had an impromptu graduation dinner which was fantastic.

After some more miles and another ferry we reach Mljet. Jimi had been looking forward to this island for weeks but unfortunately it coincided with Rose’s knee being very sore and Jimi having the flu. So whilst Rhi explored the island we rested up in the beautiful village of Sobra for three whole days.

After two nights in Dubrovnik, a few more Spritzers (fast becoming Jimi’s favourite drink) and a hair raising ride down another busy coastal road we have left Croatia.

We have had a wonderful time, taking in some breathtaking views and met some lovely people along the way, cycled some of our best days and are pretty excited about the unknown of Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Greece…





Down the Danube to Budapest

8 09 2012

After experiencing what was the most exhilarating thunder and lightning storm- complete with heavy rain- throughout the night, it interrupted our Friday night film (Sherlock Holmes 2) to such an extent that we couldn’t hear the headphones and had to abort we awoke wondered what would be of our tent…It did us proud and held up well in all the rain and wind. Jimi did get up in the middle of the night though to re-peg and tighten all the guide ropes. Reluctantly we crawled out of our tent and braced the now bleak weather, had breakfast in the shower block and crossed the lake by ferry at a not so early 12 o clock. After only 7km in heavy rain we stopped in a shelter, put the kettle on and sat listening to a podcast hoping the rain would pass. An hour later and it was still the same so we decided the only way to make any headway today would be to get the train to our next destination 58km away. (Honestly it had nothing at all to do with the hills that stood in our way across the border into Austria…”I love hills, I love hills, I love hills”). We cycled up a very steep hill and were greeted by a breath-taking view of Austria from high up, the downhill to the station was not so fun though with rain scratching our pretty faces.

It was a lovely train journey and some other cycle tourers had the same idea as us and got on the train and explained they were going to a lovely hotel in Linz, “oooh lovely” I said, with a pang of jealousy as I knew we would be pitching the tent in the pouring rain and settling in for the night damp and cold. They recommended the Linz Torte as a delicious treat only made in Linz. We should have known not to trust them as they were hotelling and obviously not on a budget like us as Jimi found out when he came to pay and realised he’d just spent a whole weeks food budget on the delicacy! So that night we had our dinner and wine in the changing rooms at the campsite and dried out our clothes in the shower room. Rain again the next day didn’t stop us cycling 80km along the river although I wasn’t expecting to be wearing my fleece buff, thick coat and gloves in the middle of summer.

What we saw of Austria was beautiful and very picturesque, cycling through the rolling vineyards and windy country lanes along the Danube. I feel so privileged that I am able to see so many wonderful countries and do it the way we are. The ever changing scenery, food, languages and customs are a great way to spend my time and I feel touched by the beauty of the countries I never imaged to be so wonderous. Every day we are thinking of all the things we are heading towards and what delights the rest of the world has to offer us, making plans for other legs of the trip.

I thought Vienna would be a city to spend some time in and enjoy, how very wrong we were. After Jimi picked up his new tyres (his tyre got sliced up on the bad Czech tracks) we headed into Vienna. After an extortionately priced but delicious bratwurst and a whistle stop tour we couldn’t leave quick enough, well getting lost and trying to find a way out was not quick at all and an hour later we were on our way again. Seemingly heading the right way me and Jimi simultaneously looked at each other as we passed many a person lay on the grass next to the river naked, leaving nothing at all to the imagination. There were hundreds of people sprawled out along the river bank looking at us as if we were the strange ones. We were in fact on the wrong path and had stumbled across a nude stretch of the Danube. One woman shouted at us and signalled we should be on the other side of the river and to get away!

 

We arrived in Brataslava after a 100km cycle and found a hostel, more like a 5 star hotel really and headed out for a traditional Slovakian dinner which was very tasty and a traditional Slovakian bar with rowdy men and cheap beer. It was a whistle stop visit through Slavakia but we got the feel for the place. Vienna to Brataslava was not the most exciting leg of the journey and cycling with trees either side on a long straight road could have got tedious, but with Jimi beside me making up songs, singing the wrong words to songs confidently and entertaining me along the way it was not so boring after all. We didn’t even know we had entered Slavakia for the lack of border sign, the only way we knew were derelict border control rooms and a tax back office. The border sign to Hungary however, a mere 16km further was ridden with bullet holes and we entered a new country with trepidation and unsure about what this country had to offer us!

 

We were full of excitement that we would be soon in Budapest, but still enjoying the ride along the Danube, dubbed as ‘the most beautiful part of the Danube river’, I’m not so sure about this as the terrain was rugged, rough around the edges and the scenery was not as pleasing to the eye as some of the other countries we have cycled through. The cycle path took us through many industrial towns and along bumpy, dusty and rough paths, there was a distinct lack of beautiful greenery and wildlife that appeared in other parts.

I am still amazed that we can cycle 80km in a number of hours and I now find this a pleasant ride and not difficult in one go, if you told me a few months ago I would be cycling 80-100km a day and truly enjoying it, I don’t think I would have believed it. After popping to Tesco (they are on nearly every corner as in England, and I could not avoid my boycott of the store as there were no other supermarkets for miles) we camped at a little site in Taht. We were warned on arrival that there were a group of university students and there may be a ‘bit of noise’- now there’s an understatement if ever I heard one. As previously experienced the rafters and canoeists are a rowdy bunch and these were no exception, until late into the night they partied. Not that we are getting old or anything but we go to bed when its dark and get up when its light. Rhiannon I think you may be in for a shock at our non-party lifestyle and 10 hour a night sleeps!

So an easy ride into Budapest and the sight of the magnificent parliament building greeted us. We realised that this is about the half way mark to Turkey and we have completed about 10% of the circumnavigation of the earth. ‘Lavender Circus’ (our bohemian hostel) sounds lovely and it is really is, we decided if this was our own apartment we would be very happy to live here. It is a unique hostel and more of a boutique hotel with its individual features and very beautifully decorated rooms and common areas. We don’t really want to leave the hostel but have torn ourselves away to see the many sights that Budapest has to offer. Tonight we are celebrating our 7 year anniversary, so will have traditional goulash and sample the fineries that Budapest has to offer. (In other words we will find the cheapest restaurant and have a beer or two.) I think the 7 year itch is well and truly being scratched away and we are having the time of our lives, the cycling included.

Tommorow we head to Croatia and to meet another of the ‘third musketeers’ in the form of Rhiannon, Jimi’s sister, we will take it slow for a while as I have heard Croatia is a little hillier than the 800km flat we have just covered. Watch this space as to how and when we get there, our bikes are booked all the way to Pula, but we could only get a ticket to Zagreb so from there we are unsure how and when we will move on…the unhelpful assistant could only say, “computer has no ticket” so we did the best we could and hope we get there with bikes in tow and start the second leg of the journey towards Antalya. We are having a fantastic trip so far and I would not change a thing.





Děkuji Czech Republic, it’s been Lovely

30 08 2012

As we rode into the Czech Republic Rose turned to me and said, “it feels different doesn’t it?” We both agreed that it did, although we hadn’t spoken to anyone, the environment was similar although the house’s were a little less preened and we were certainly cycling along the same river since Dresden. So although not much had changed barring the number plates on the cars we felt the atmosphere had changed, But would we have noticed this ‘change’ if we weren’t aware of the border we had crossed? I guess we can’t know for sure but we think it was our sub conscious perceptions of the Czech Republic that influenced our initial feelings of this new country. It would be nice to let a new place make a completely fresh impression on you with out any additives.  Just a thought, anyway that’s enough of thinking for now.

The other notion that struck us some 40km into CZ was that the beer prices outside the bars we passed were marked in Kc’s. “Uh oh,” was the communal dread! We hadn’t even considered the currency of this new country, so we found a bank in Usti and withdrew 2000Kc not knowing whether we had just gone bankrupt or not. However being seasoned beer drinkers we were able to pretty accurately deduce from the pub chalk boards that 30 was about a quid.

On leaving Dresden our friend Thomas had boldly declared that the Czechs do the best beer in the world, better even than the Germans. This statement  has more weight to it when you consider that Thomas is German. I must admit I was dubious having enjoyed the liquid cuisine of Deutchland a little too greedily for the last few weeks. That was until I met my new best friend (Mr) Braznak, who is a delicious dark beer.In the interest of Eurpean exploration we have sampled many more, all of which will be included in our future compendium of beer. It is worth noting that the Czechs like there beer so much that it is not uncommon to  see them drinking large quantities for breakfast, one chap camping opposite us had 3 before his coffee and breakfast.

Although we cook most of our meals ourselves we have eaten out a few times. The highlight of which has to be my roasted pigs knee with a dark beer sauce, if you like ‘meat’ and the fattier cuts then this has to be tried. Dad I thought of you when ordering this, remember the pigs ears and duck feet fiasco?

We of course went to Prague where we treated ourselves and our bikes to a double room in a hostel in the old town. Prague has the feel of most Europen capitals although this maybe more beautiful than many with wonderful architecture around every corner.

We were also lucky enough to bump into Vicky and Steve,  Roses good friends from Manchester.Another place of note has to be Cesky Krumlov which we accidentally stumbled across and has a fantastically pretty old town.

We have been following another bike route from Prague to Austria. It has again loosely followed the Vltava river to our current position alongside Lake Lipno by the border.

We even got to cheer on Team GB in the European rafting Championships yesterday, which makes up for missing the Olympics which we hear was quite average.

Unlike previous routes this has been somewhat hillier and a lot more rugged. The hills have reduced our daily distance to around 65km and the ruggedness has reduced my lovely soft Panasella Racer tyres to shreds, the result being that I have a temporary replacement tyre on and have arranged to pick up 2 new stronger tyres in Vienna.

As we prepare to leave the Czech Republic it has to be said that it has been a tougher ride than previous routes but it has completely been worth it. The views have been astonishingly beautiful, the people warm and welcoming, the food good if not gourmet, the prices cheap (excluding Prague) and did I mention the beer is OK too. Good ingredients for a holiday destination I’d say.

Austria and the Danube here we come!





It’s starting to feel a little more real!

29 04 2012

So we are going on a bike ride and up until now we have had no bikes!

After many hours of Jimi searching far and wide for the perfect machine, he found me a ‘Ferrari’ as he called it! (Well it was black and red)

Only a small problem, it was in London and we are in Manchester. Thanks to a helpful auntie, problem solved, we borrowed a car and drove to get it. I was assured by Jimi it would be worth the early start, long drive, expensive petrol and heavy traffic jams along the way!

So we set off and hoped it would fit me and feel right to ride. (I secretly think Jimi was hoping it wouldn’t fit me so he could have it.)

After the Sat Nav nearly taking us the wrong way up one way streets, down industrial estates and crazy drivers beeping for nothing, we reached our destination.

Duuuuum duuuum duuuuuuuuuuuum… it was perfect! We were greeted by a friendly face, freshly brewed coffee and a nearly brand new Thorn Sherpa bike, perfect size, mint condition, and dare I say it, beautiful (Yes Jimi I think its beautiful, and not just a bike with two wheels.)

So I have my bike now and it feels as though everything is coming together for our trip, only a few more things to get and we can be on our way.

Jimi had a few days of intense jealousy and looking longingly at my bike until he found a bike which he will go and pick up tommorow… from Edinburgh.

From opposite ends of the country but he has the same bike as me, only a black one (and not as good.)

So now I have THE bike, I need to get practicing on it now and await the big day to arrive. (86 days to go, not that I’m counting!)





Lycian Way- ‘Like’

14 04 2012

We have been in Turkey for a week, so here’s a little story about what we got up to.

We come here a lot to visit my (Jim) Mum, she’s lived here with Terry in Antalya for 7 years. Mum writes a column in a English language national newspaper and is a Primary school teacher too. Terry is a travel writer and Archaeological Tour Guide.

A few years ago Terry was part of a team that way marked and wrote a book about the Lycian way, a 509 km way-marked footpath around the coast of Lycia in southern Turkey, from Fethiye to Antalya. We have been meaning to walk a stretch ever since and as I still can’t cycle since I killed a car door with my chest we couldn’t complete the cycle tour in Turkey we had planned.

So we took a bus from Antalya and after a couple of changes were in Olympos, an ancient city that once housed Romans, pirates and Greeks. There are also some rather more recent dwellings, treehouses, which are home to a new generation of travellers- the backpackers! It is now a well established destination on the ‘packers circuit of Turkey. We chose to stay at Bayrams on my sisters recommendation and guess what? She was right as usual, a lovely little place that had a fire in the evening that everyone gathered round and enjoyed dinner and cold beers together, it’s 35tl each including breakfast and dinner!

But back to the Lycian Way, we did the leg that starts in the Ruins of Olympos and heads west up a steep valley. It is clearly marked with red and white stripes. We hiked for a couple of hours until we reached some more ruins where we sat and downed our water. We were drenched in sweat, I can see why they don’t recommend you do it in summer, a cloudy spring morning is hot enough. The four bottles of Efes the night before had not helped our hydration levels.

We ‘liked’ the Lycian Way and if you like walking you will too. Especially if you, like us, enjoy hiking away from the crowds of the Alps and such places. We didn’t see anyone all day but we’re sure we heard something big in the woods. Although we had just watched the Liam Neeson film about wolves 2 nights before.

Oh I almost forgot, there is a beach to read (sleep) on and a sea to swim in!