FIRSTLY THANKS SO MUCH TO ALL THOSE WHO HAVE DONATED TO OUR CHARITY - UNICEF SCHOOLS FOR AFRICA. WE'RE REALLY REALLY GRATEFUL, AND VERY PLEASED WITH THE RESPONSE SO FAR. (there have been a few problems with the funraising page though, so please let us know if you've had trouble, or don't see you're donation listed)
Leon Trotsky: "Let a man find himself, in distinction from others, on top on two wheels with a chain."
So, the Danube has grown from a meandering stream into a majestic river, and we're currently stopped in Vienna taking a much needed break from elastase, spandex, polymide, and all the other stuff cycling clothes are made of. In a bid to blend in with the intellectual literati that inhabit this classy city, we donned our only clean(ish) clothes and headed to Central Cafe, the old haunt where Trotsky and chums went to play chess and talk politics. We just played travel scrabble and ate cake, but it was still a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we've now returned to the reality of our situation in a dingy internet cafe near our hotel, in a rundown suburb of Vienna. Walking around here in the dark for the first time, we realise why our hotel was about half the price of all the others: the place is crawling with prostitutes and other dodgy characters. But nevermind, tomorrow we leave Austria and Western Europe and on to the paths less trodden of Central and Eastern Europe we're both really looking forward to it.
The ride through Germany and Austria has been the easy start that we both needed but it's kind of hard to feel like an intrepid adventurer when you're trundling along with American tour groups and stopping at half-past four for cheese and wine tasting. It also doesn't help when you get overtaken by lycra clad roller bladers twice your age. This has happened more than once and I was pretty shocked at first to see these guys maintaining speeds of 20km/h+ on the flat (with all our gear on the bike 20km/h is our rough cruising speed).
The last two weeks have been essential though, to get used to life on the road. We've been doing about a 100km a day and until now, that's been taking almost the whole day, and we've been crashing out by about 9.30pm, with various sore bits. But it's getting easier. We're also developing the same tell tale traits of the cycle tourers whose blogs I was following in preparation for the trip. I didn't think I would get like this but I'm starting to pay an almost obsessive compulsive attention to my pack-weight. I gleefully ripped out the foreign sections of a couple of my instruction manuals to lose a few grams the other day, and am on the verge of throwing away my trainers, which would leave me with only cycling shoes and sandals. (I also broke the handle off the toothbrush we have to clean our chains - that was at least 7 or 8 grams). Food is the other thing. I've gone from generally getting trying to be quite healthy in London, to hunting down the fullest fat, highest carb, most proteinous, sugary versions of everything. It's great!! I forgot how good all that stuff tastes.
In amongst all the cycling stuff, we've also stumbled across loads of cool villages, bits of history, and stories that the Danube is packed full of. One of the best was after our longest day on the road. We'd done 112km and by a stroke of incredible fortune, ended up in the village of Weltenburg, home of the oldest monastery brewed beer in the world. It was 7.30pm, raining, and we were knackered, so we stocked up on the 960 year old booze and checked into the nearest guesthouse. To tired to even go and find dinner, we ate the museli and yoghurt that was going to be for breakfast, washed down with the beer, whilst transfixed to an episode of Grey's Anatomy dubbed into German. The perfect romantic evening in!
We've managed to meet some great people going through Germany and Austria as well, like Kristian the couch surfing Canadian who took us to a dinner party of Passau's couch surfing community, and Maurice, an old time cycle tourer who passed on some good advice and contacts (should we ever reach Uganda). We're hoping to see both again further down the road. The locals have also been amazingly friendly wherever we've been. For example, we've hardly been able to look at our map anywhere along the Danube without being approached by locals eager to help us find our way. Normally this is quite annoying to be honest, but it certainly demonstrates how kind everyone's been. On the latest occasion that this happened coming into Vienna, the local in question actually decided that our map wasn't good enough and whipped out a special cycling map of the city to give us from a small stock that he apparently carries around especially for lost looking cycle tourers.
That's about all for now. I'm off to run the gauntlet of weirdos and prostitutes to get back to my bed. Goodnight!
Stats so far:
Days on the road: 16 (13 cycling, 3 rest days)
Kilometers: 1133
Average Milage per day: 87km
% of total distance done: 6.3%
Camping nights: 9 (8 campsites, 1 wild camping! (very scarey))
B&B nights: 6