Europe


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

 

The Donau Capitals

It was a long and exhausting haul but we made it to Wien in one day from Znojmo. It was a distance of 120 km, but the hills were killer. We were forever climbing!

The next day was spent cruising Wien and touring the local architecture. It has a lot of gorgeous buildings, as well as the "Hundertwasserhaus".

Today we cycled along the Donau to Bratislava. Very straight and flat. The Donau cycle route is an excellent beginner route because if you start in Germany (Passau or Ulm) you mainly go down hill with the wind at your back! It was a nice change from the hills we've been climbing!

Bratislava is a capital with small town feel, and does not have much tourist action. However, while hanging out on the tandem in the "old town" we were a tourist high light for at least 3 people whom we noticed. I think that we should start charging for the photos! ;-)

Dovidenia,
Emillie






Trip from Prague to Bratislava.







In front of the grand palace in Wien.







The Hundertwasserhaus in Wien.







The Bratislava castle, and the cycleroute on the way in along the Donau.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

 

Moravia

Wow, has our weather ever cleared up quickly! We were expected rain until Tuesday, and it hasn't rained since we left J. Hradec. I felt a lot better on Friday, so we cycled a quick (and VERY beautiful) 40km to a little place called Slavonice. Slavonice has one main square, where almost every building is covered with a facade from the 15th or 16th century. They made the facades by etching the pictures into the brick and plaster.

By the way, the area we are in now (lovingly called 'Czech Canada', it's offical! really!) is great for cycling. Highly recommended, as long as you can do with some very hilly terrain. Oh, and if you cycle through here during the right seasons (like we are) you will be able to make use of the orchard lined roads! No kidding, most of the roadsides are perfectly lined with apple, plum, pear and cherry trees. We're loaded up with plums and apples of all types right now! It's great!

Now we are in Znojmo, in the centre of Moravia. Wine growing country here, and things are starting to flatten out a bit. We were uncertain about Znojmo (the bike map does NOT talk it up very well), but we came anyway, and are not at all dissapointed. A beautiful old town and some very cool old churchs on the edge of a river ravine.

So, tomorrow we (hopefully) end our day in Vienna. Will be a long day, but we're hoping the rain will stay back.

Dobry dene,
Brad






A few of the etched facades in Slavonice.







The baroque palace in Vranov. It was built on the ruins of a medieval castle... you can still see the old foundation.







Soviet era protection... the border between Prague and Wien had bunkers every 500m and all the towns had loudspeakers on the eletrical poles.







The old, and the new. In Znojmo.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

 

Bohemia

We left Prague on Tuesday on our new bicycle, heading south. It took forever to actually escape the urban outskirts. Ever since then we have been cruising the rolling hills of the country-side. It is a beautiful land of endless hills to climb and wind our way down. (Brad likes it because it reminds him of a rally car race course). All the villages are small clusters of old houses with narrow roads that snake around the hillside.

The only unfortunate thing is the weather. While in Prague it was soo hot and sunny that we were definitely enjoying summer. The night before we left the wind picked up, and it has been blowing cold wind on us ever since. Luckily the wind is blowing east, because we are going southeast. However, the windy roads means that we do get the wind in our face at times. This caused Brad to come down with a cold. That and the fact that it has started raining Vancouver style caused us to take a short day today.

The country-side is also dotted with castles. The first night we stayed in Sidlcany by default. Our map has hotels and pensions marked. However, it's accuracy is pretty bad and we had to continue on our route for 4 or 5 towns before we were able to find a place to stay. The next night we stayed right next to a gothic fortress (re-done in the baroque period) on an island in the middle of a lake, called Cerny Lhota. Then we took a short 16 km cycle to the town of J. Hradec and again are located right next to the castle. We took a tour of the castle, and it is quite the masterpiece of addons... each successive person has added a new wing leading to a very odd looking sprawling building. But it houses some cool stuff (Napoleon's bed,a piano that Mozart played on and some original gothic interiors).

Dobri dyen!
Emillie






Tabor, where we stopped for lunch.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

 

Prague

On Saturday afternoon we arrived in Prague via a train from Karlovy Vary. But first, here is our past few days...

After getting our bike in Ravensburg (with the help of the Pocherts... a million thanks to the whole family for all of your help!!) we continued on our way towards Lindau. Beautiful city on Lake Konstanz. The cycle to Lindau was also extremely nice; we met MANY other cycle tourists (even one group from Nelson, BC). Seems that the Bodensee area (around the lake) is jam-packed with cycle routes, one of which we took from Ravensburg.

The next day, we jumped a train to Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad). We got there very late... too late to get into the hostel, which closed at 7pm. Karlovy Vary is a very beautiful spa town, and very popular with European vacationers. So, the next 3 hours were spent bouncing from hotel to hotel trying to find a place to sleep. We settled in a somewhat overpriced and cheap hotel (the window wouldn't close, no springs in the bed, etc. etc.) near the centre of the city. Stay away from the Kosmo Hotel in Karlovy Vary.

The next day though, we cruised the strip in Karlovy Vary. If anyone every wants to visit a beautiful, old spa city, this is it!

Then, we jumped another train (maybe the last one?) into Prague. The ride was very nice; trees, hills reminding us of home, and quaint villages. Then... we entered a bit of a wasteland. About 50km of strip mines, and we counted about 13 nuclear coolant towers.

Arrived in the afternoon, found a GREAT hostel, and settled in. Today, we spent the day in the old town of Prague, checking out the castles and marionettes. Beautiful place.

Dobri Den,
Brad






The rathaus in Lindau.







One of the 4 thermal geysers in Karlovy Vary.







Much of the journey to Prague was very idyllic and almost like a fairy tale, but...







... there were sections with a very industrial nature. The last two pictures were taken about 50km apart from the train.







The view towards the Prague Castle from the old town.







One of the bridge posts on Carls Bridge, which was built in (and is the only bridge left from) the 1300's.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

 

Phew!

The night spent at the airport was awful. There were about 10 other
people who also spent the night there. However they designed the
airport to be as uncomfortable as possible. The floor was freezing
cold cement and the chairs were all curved so that we were unable to
lay across them. At least one person was able to sleep though, and
they spent the whole night snoring.

The flight was also interesting, the airline was very no frills (Ryan
Air), and the trains we've been on are more luxurious! Frankfurt,
however, was a nightmare. The place was a zoo, and there were few
free rooms to be had because the whole town was booked out for a
tradefair. We finally found a hostel that had free dorm rooms at an
enormous cost of 30Euro each! After leaving our stuff in a locker there
we went off to the local tandem shop.

Unfortunately they were out of stock but the owner, Janice, was kind
enough to start calling all other tandem sellers to find someone who
had some in stock. In fact she figured everything out for us including
the train schedules to get to the various stores. Janice's shop
exports folding bikes, so if you're interested check out www.radschlag.de. We
chose to buy a high-quality "slightly used" tandem from a german maker
called Zwei Plus Zwei.

One hour later we had extracted ourselves from the over priced hostel
and were on a train headed for Ravenburg (near lake Constance) with
the phone number of Stephan Pochert who was to sell us the tandem (he
also helped design it based on tandem cycle touring experience). We
were invited to spend the night with Stephan and his family. They have
also been kind enough to feed us, and the amazing part is that the
whole family is vegetarian, so I haven't had a problem.

Tschuss!
Emillie






The rathaus (city hall) of Ravensburg.







Emillie, Frau Pochert, and our new bike, Passepartout (from the book 'Around the world in 80 days').

Saturday, September 11, 2004

 

Decisions

Well... After having searched both Barcalona and Stockholm for tandems we have decided to go to Germany (the land of tandem bikes). We purchased the cheapest airline tickets we could find! So we will be flying to Frankfurt early Tuesday (14/09) morning. So early in fact that we will likely be spending the night at the airport. That should be an adventure in itself! The solution of buying another tandem is cheaper than all other possible solutions. (busing, training, 2 bikes, etc.) After checking out our financial situation it should only put us in a shortfall of $3000. So we maybe home a week or two earlier than planned.

Until then, we are relaxing with Per, and feeling the Stockholm vibe. Design is huge in Sweden. I almost bought Claire a foldable compact plastic purse, however, unfortunately it only came in neon yellow! (Claire if your interested let me know asap). The 80's are coming back... along with the Mullet!

Tack,
Emillie






An open air concert in the centre of Stockholm.







Emillie is finishing off a bottle of Codorniu Cava (Spanish Champagne) that Brad brought back from Barcelona.


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

 

Barcelona/Stockholm

Sorry to keep everyone in suspence... we've been busy the last few days. We're in the process of trying to find a new tandem. I've put the word out over some tandem newsgroups on the Internet (had some good tips from people in the States and France). And put out some Q's to a few stores in Germany, but no word from them yet. We'll get something, that's for sure... we are ADDICTED to the tandem way of doing things. And we forgot to mention, it's not all bad... at least the bike was completely empty of everything when it was taken. We still have all our bags and other equipment, just not the bike.

Barcelona is treating me well. Quite a city to visit! I am very glad that I will return in a bit, because the conference makes it difficult to really relax and enjoy what is around me. I could wander the streets of Barcelona for days and not be bored! The conference is going well; there are more people that I recognize than I thought there would be. My presentation is tomorrow, so wish me luck!

And Emillie has the following to say (she mailed it to me so I could post it with my bit... :>)

...

Per took me on a weekend sailing trip with 3 boats, 11 Sweedish speakers, and 3 month old baby. It was very fun and very interesting. I was so busy I only had a few moments to morn our missing bike. We sailed through the archapelligo of islands around Stockholm. I was on a wooden boat built in the 1930's! The boats are like floating campsites, although the one newest boat was more like a floating cottage. The most exciting part was sailing into Stockholm around 6pm. There is only one enterence by water to the city, and it is protected by an old military fortress. The exciting part is that at that hour the route is like a ferry boat highway! With most ferry lines leaving the port at 5:30pm. Plus there were a few ferrys on their way in as well! We were continuously working to keep between the boats and shore. Luckily I was with 3 other fairly expert boaters who gladly used me as a winching slave to help pull the ropes when ever we needed to change the direction of the front mast.


Adios!
Brad






The Barcelona promenade.







The Codorniu Cellars, where the PIMRC gala dinner was held. What an AMAZING dinner!


Friday, September 03, 2004

 

Tragedy!

Today we cruised Stockholm and went to the Vasa museum. The vasa museum is based around a warship from 1623 that sunk while still in the harbor (design flaw, it was top heavy). It was found and resurface in the 1950-60's in practically perfect condition. The museum was entertaining.

The tragedy is that while inside the museum our bike was stolen! It was locked up right in front of the main entrance. The cable lock attaching it to the bike lock up was snipped and the bike was carried off with the U-lock still attached.

We have filed a report with the police and will wait until Brad gets back from the conference in Barcelona to decide what to do. Meanwhile we are trying not to feel to bad. Brad leaves on a flight very early tomorrow morning, and Per is going to be taking me on a sailing trip with some of his friends.

Cheers,
Emillie






The Stockholm palace.







The Vasa. This ship is from the 17th century, preserved underwater till the 1950's. The building it's in is cool, sealed and large. The ship is about 5 stories high!


Thursday, September 02, 2004

 

Stockholm

The ferry from Tallinn to Stockholm was very nice. We even got a berth for the night! It was a 18 hour ferry ride, not like the Vic-Van money run...

Anyways, our ship had everything you needed to keep you occupied (if you had lots of cash): restaurants, cafes, shops, even a swimming pool (full of half-drunk vacationers...). Good time though, only problem was getting woken at 2am by the swells, which were fairly major (they estimated 1-2 meters). Oh, and Brigid, Emillie says thanks for the Gravol idea.

So we arrived in Stockholm in the morning, cycled around a bit. Gorgeous place, what we've seen so far. I get one day to explore before shooting off to Barcelona AT 6:30AM! Pain, but that's the student fares for ya.

Hey Ben, say hi to your parents for me... guess Emillie and I will just have to visit them in Australia instead eh? Hope that they had a good trip up and all. And say hi to Gavin for me!

Taak,
Brad






Just before we left Tallinn, the sun came out...







The archipelago on the way into Stockholm.







Entering Stockholm!.

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