Tuesday, 24 August 2010

19.08.2010 All things go, all things go... (Hinova, Romania to Vidin, Bulgaria, 140km)

Off to Bulgaria. This was our last stage. Landshut, Germany to Vidin, Bulgaria was about to be finished. We raced towards our destination and finished our epic journey:

- 18 cycling days.

- 1793 kilometres

- an average speed of 20 km per hour

- 20 kg of luggage plus water, water and water.

- bikes not stolen or broken

- unbelievable experiences

- discovering a truly beautiful Eastern Europe

- no accidents

- no bears, no wolves

- no stolen organs

- it is all about the people you meet

- it is all about the people you travel with

Thanks to all of you who turned this trip into a unique experience. It has truly broadened our horizons and we sincerely hope that you enjoyed following this blog.
More pictures will follow here or on facebook upon our return to Germany.

We are now spending some days in Sofia with our friend Maria and will thereupon take a bath in the black sea. After all, we need a good wash.

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Monday, 23 August 2010

18.08.2010 The Romaniacs... (Donji Milanovac to Hinova, Romania, 85km)

Größere Kartenansicht

More beautiful scenery was awaiting us on the 18th... We rode our ladies past the narrowest part of the Danube and the so called Iron Gate, a mighty dam in the national park.

"You want to go to Bulgaria? You can also go through Serbia!" We thought it would be a nice idea to see yet another country on the way to Bulgaria, namely Romania, and did not even change our plans as the policeman at the border advised us to go through Serbia.

Romania is hard to describe. The roadconditions were a lot better than expected, yet the warm-hearted cheering that had been part of our trip through the Balkan countries so far, was replaced by suspicious looks and laughs. Furthermore, we experienced a theft at some small village: the chased villain had thrown the loot into a fountain and the victim and the police consequently tried to do their best to get the things out of there. We lent them our torches and felt alright.

Exchange rates are fun. Especially when the information given differs to the acutal exchange rate by a decimal place. We were riding around Romania thinking that 1 Euro = 43 Lei, whereas the actual exchange rate was 1 Euro = 4,3 Lei. The BB we had checked in in the evening was just weird. Seriously. It all started off by the host attempting to charge unbelievable prices (in Euros) for a night's stay. After a terrific round of bargaining, we agreed on the price of 20 Euros. As we only had 15 Euros left however, we handed him another 150 Romanian Lei, as we were calculating with the aforementioned exchange rate. Of course our host did not mention anything. How lovely.

The scales fell from our eyes as we ordered beer and a coke and payed 6 Romanian Lei. Hm... Lucky us, after ages of discussion, we managed to get our money back and give him the right amount... Good night...

17.08.2010 Floating down the river... (Veliko Gradiste to Donji Milanovac, 80 km)

Größere Kartenansicht

We spent the night in a mediocre hotel at the holiday resort of Veliko Gradiste. The day was filled with spectacular landscapes along the Danube, tiring mountains and visits of ancient roman settlements. At our destination Donji Milanovac, a pittoresque village right in the centre of the national park, we tried some delicious local fish specialities. Just a beautiful day, and pictures will tell more than thousand words. You'll see...

Monday, 16 August 2010

16.08.2010 Something is rotten in the state of Serbia... (Veliko Gradiste to god knows where...)

We are actually quite happy to cycle through the Djerdab National Park, a huge national park on the border of Serbia and Romania. Not only will we experience a unique nature, wrestle with bears and wolves, but moreover will not many people experience our lovely smelling, rottening cloths. No matter what we do or how many times we wash them, the three weeks of constant cycling have taken its toll. Our friend Maria will be in for a special treat once we reach Sofia. The estimated arrival in Sofia will be on Friday. Until then, we will probably not be able to update this blog, as we are cycling through pretty remote areas of Serbia and Romania.

Here are some first impressions uploaded in the town of Donji Milanovac...

The last updates will follow upon arrival in Sofia. Finger's crossed that our bikes make it through this demanding stage...

Cheers guys...

15.08.2010 The great escape (Kovin to Veliko Gradiste, 70km)

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Andreas had an awesome sleep. Manuel had a couple of minutes of sleep. But hey, you gotta appreciate the small things, right? Before hitting the road, we decided to frequent the local internet cafe in order to get our blog up to date. On the way there, we strolled through a small market, discovering a stand selling tools. We stopped for a second, eying some special pliers until all the sudden and out of nowhere, the strange guy at the first hotel we had looked at the previous night stood next to us and grunted "why didn t you stay at my place?" We said, we had found a cheaper place to sleep and that we didn t promise to come back to stay at his. "I lost 30 euros because of you. give me 20 euros or I will call the police."

Hm that sounded inviting. We smiled and didn t give him any money. He and another woman at the stand started shouting.

We forgot about the tools and tried to escape the market. We moved quickly towards the internet cafe, just to see it closed. shit. Alright, we had to get back to our hotel, which was located just a couple of meters away from the weird guy's place. We packed our gear in no time and rushed out of the town. we thought it would be a better idea not to mess with the police in Serbia.

In the heat of the moment, we rode our bikes through some broken glass just outside of the hotel. We thought everything went alright until just outside of Kovin, Andreas discovered that he had a flat tyre. We hid behind a tree next to the road, repaired the bike and continued our pretty quick ride towards Veliko Gradiste, a town on the Romanian Border...

14.08.2010 No alarms and no surprises! (Novi Banovci via Belgrade to Kovin, 80km)

Größere Kartenansicht

We left the Kondor in order to face the hectic city of Belgrade and continue our trip along the south side of the Danube. In a Belgrade suburb however, we had an acquaintance which changed our plans slightly. We hopefully correctly remember his name as Bicycle-joe, anyways, he is the owner of a tiny tiny bike-shop on a bumpy street in the aforementioned suburb. We stopped in order to get some quick advice on a few issues, as the wear and tear has been slowly but surely affecting the rideability of our bikes. Free technical advice, hints on what to look out for, contact numbers and new road directions were given to us. What a passionate guy. What a service. We kinda felt guilty not buying anything from him. But so it goes, and we were off on a new track - along the north side of the Danube.

One could argue that we cold-shouldered Belgrade. We certainly didn't spend weeks in the Serbian capital - yet we can tell you that one gets a pretty decent first picture of a place when cycling around in it for a day. Which we did. Belgrade is big. So loads of cycling to do. yeew!

It was a bit of a struggle to eventually get to Kovin. Not having proper maps of the area made it hard at times to navigate, especially as most street signs were now written in Cyrillic. So it took a bit longer, but hey, we got there in the end. In Kovin, the plan was to check out a couple of hotels and compare the prices.

The first place we approached had even German sign posts. The German speaking host though was a little too full on, and a little too friendly. We still checked his rooms and told him that we would check other places now and maybe come back to him at some point.

Thereupon, we had a look at another hotel, which was located just a few meters down the road from the first weird guy. We hadn't even stopped our bikes yet as a massive, bold guy jumps out of the hotel\restaurant door and welcomes us in fluent German. Another guy followed, shaved had and a similar shape. They were both friendly and the rooms they offered were cheaper than the first ones we had looked at. Not feeling like we had found the right thing, we told them the same thing and tried to find another, more inviting place to sleep.

Our cycle in town didn't prove too successful, so we opted for a night's stay at the bold bear hotel. The price was right, and the rooms okay, so we unpacked our stuff and went into the town center to enjoy some local dishes and beers.

We got back to our hotel around 11 pm, yawning and longing for a good sleep. As we were just about ready to go to bed, our beds started shaking. What the hell? There was music playing right underneath our beds with a bass turned up to the max. At that point we realized that we had checked in into a hotel which is built right on top of a night club. Andreas usually sleeps like a log and could even fall asleep with the weird Serbian dance music. Manuel however couldn t really appreciate the lullabies and went down to check out the club, just to discover the village club for the under 18 year olds and the hotel owner and his friend working as bouncers. Oh dear...

13.08.2010 Stop the traffic (Novi Sad to Novi Banovci 65 km)

Größere Kartenansicht

WHO ARE YOU? - Manuel yelled. Around 6 am, an old, bold man stood right in front of our couch, breathing heavily with a cigarette in his mouth, staring right at us.

AST, AST, AST, WAKE UP!, the man turned around, switched off the light and left. Andreas wasn t all that impressed by the situation and went back to sleep straight away, whilst Manuel was lying on the broken couch, truly confused.

Later that day we found out that the old man was Kristijan's grandad. And in fact, it wasn't really Kristijans house. He only had been sharing it with his granddad for some time. yeah.

We packed our gear, went to see the art camp where Kristijan had been working at, said goodbye to the couchsurfingfolks and eventually found a bus that took us back to Novi Sad.

Passing by the famous fortress of Novi Sad, we embrace the intense traffic. The combination of sticky weather and challenging mountains was just lovely. But hey, once again, the people keep us going. More cheering on the way as we reach the smaller villages... we just love the countryside and its small villages. Splendid!

The ride was pretty tiring, therefore we decided not to cycle right to the center of yet an other stressful city, namely Belgrade, and instead looked for accommodation in its outskirts. Thanks to two lovely ladies in the street, we found the awesome hotel named Kondor. Not only did we get a student discount, the service moreover exceeded our expectations and the breakfast the next morning was just enormous. Like enormously good. Enormous bacon and eggs. YUM.

12.08.2010 Sweat, baby, sweat... (Vukova, Croatia to Novi Sad, Serbia, 80 km)

Größere Kartenansicht

6.00 in the morning, we attended the early mass. Three nuns and the priest (Marjia's dad) held a service and we received blessings and prayers for our trip.

After that, Marjia and her sister Andrea came to see us in order to get some breakfast. While Andrea unfortunately had to go to see the doctor, Marja joined us for banana pancakes in a local cafe. The banana pancakes took ages, but that wasn't too much of a problem - Marjia filled us in on the recent history of the area and the influence of the civil war on all aspects of today's life in a Croatian border town.

Our destination for the day was Novi Sad, Serbia. This stage took us through tiring Croatian mountains, but the cheering of the locals and the beautiful countryside kept us going. That's what it's all about.

" SHIT PASSPORT! YOU HAVE A WATER PROBLEM". The police officer at the Serbian border could for some reason not appreciate, that Manuels passport was partly soaked with sweat, as he is carrying it in a holster on his back. As we promised to dry the passport in the near future, we received our desired stamp and went on to conquer country number 5: Serbia.

The traffic was mental. On a regular basis, we were close to snuggle with some overtaking truck. Slightly uncool, honestly. In the end, we somehow managed to reach the concrete student town of Novi Sad without being hit or run over by some crazy driver.

Couchsurfing was on for that night. Sounds familiar, right? Backo Gradiste was calling, a small town 30 km outside of Novi Sad. Kristijan, a 31 year old passionate couchsurfer and beer drinker welcomed us to his funky house. With a power cut taking place and cutting all connections of the village, candles were lit, beer bottles opened and stories told. Still laughing about Kristijan's passionate attempts to give a lively demonstration of previous drinking adventures, we moved into our room and hopped on the couch to get some well deserved sleep.

... We don't know what happened exactly, but in the middle of the night, the couch collapsed. High five, bed number 2, broken. Hm. We both fell asleep again, now lying in a slightly weird position.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

11.08.2010 Laudamus te, Croatia! (Mohacs, Hungary – Vukova, Croatia, 120 km)

Größere Kartenansicht

38 degrees baby. We crossed the Danube and subsequently the Hungarian, Croatian border. Everything went smooth; we got through the Hungarian part of the border without any problems.

“What do you think will happen, if we just sneak through the border?” Manuel asks Andreas. We cycled past a gate and an empty hut, no Croatian border police anywhere to be seen. Superhappy to have reached Croatia, we started taking pictures with smiling poses and slowly started to roll again. All the sudden, there was a whistle. We looked back, but there was noone to be seen.

We continued cycling just to hear another whistle, followed by loud Croatian swearing. OH, right, there was somebody at the main gate. Hm.

“You illegally entered Croatia! 100 Euros and one year no Croatia!”. The policeman was not amused. Cool. Fortunately he spoke German. And he had family in Germany. We got into a conversation, and happily escaped afterwards without having to pay the fee. High five!

Croatia is amazing. Anywhere we stopped, people asked us whether they could help and people kept cheering at us anywhere we went. We were even offered free, chilled Water Melon by some old woman on the street. Amazing and unbelievable how this area was having a terrible civil war not even 20 years ago.

Because of the many landmines that are still lying around in the area, we considered it wise not to do wild camping that night. Instead we looked for a hostel in a town called Vukovar, a weird touristy town on the border of the Danube, heavily marked by the civil war. However, there were no hostels to be found and the hotels there were either too price or wouldn t want to have us (“No, you can not have a single bed room for two people. You are strange!”). The result was two smelly German cyclists standing in the middle of Vukova asking random people for help.

Finally, as we had almost given up and were ready to pay 62 Euros for a crappy hotel, a group of students stopped and saved us. In the most exceptional way. It turned out that they are siblings and that their dad is a greek-catholic priest. To cut the story short, we ended up sleeping in the cellar of the church. Without words. More about that upon our return.

10.08.2010 As(s) we take care of ourselves… (Kalocsa to Mohacs, 120 km)

Größere Kartenansicht

Morning Morning! The sun was out, the bikes not stolen and we felt pretty good, considering that we had had a pretty uncomfortable, paranoid night in the tent. With heaps of motivation and peanut sandwiches in our bellies, we started rolling. Only for about 10 meters. First puncture for Andreas. But hey, it` s all part of the game, so no problem for the beardy heroes. We did probably the awesomest repair ever seen.

“Hey AST, did you apply the soothing bum-lotion?” – We really take care of one another. Yeah, the bums are sore, but we have an amazing lotion which helps us get through the day. Gotta have the good bum-lotion.

The ride was long and hot. Yet we reached or planned destination, Mohacs (bordertown of Hungary and Coratia), exceeding the 1000km on the way.

In the night, it`s camping again and dinner consists of delicious spaghetti with tomato-garlic sauce in our awesome camping cooker (thanks paddy!).

09.08.2010 The Gypsy-nightmare (Budapest to Kalocsa, 100km)

Größere Kartenansicht

Alright. It was time to leave the Hungarian capital in order to experience the wild Hungarian countryside. After equipping ourselves with missing camping gear, we faced the task of finding our way out of the city. Cruising through Gypsy suburbs of Budapest gave us mixed feelings about what was lying ahead of us, especially as we had been warned about potential dangers by Hungarian friends more than a couple of times.

Anyway, with our mighty beards, we thought to look kinda scary too. Therefore, after around 100km of cycling on wild Hungarian roads (or muddy paths), we waited for the sun to set in order to secretly set up our tent in some bushes close to the road.

The mosquitoes didn`t have mercy upon us. No no. Neither did the insect repellent do a good job. We got eaten alive. The romantic camping experience turned into a “shit shit, let`s set up one tent and get in there as quick as possible”-adventure and included snuggling with all our gear and wearing our lovely smelling cycling-cloths. Hmm.

As soon as we were in the tent, the dogs of the farm nearby started barking. Nice. We somehow managed to fall asleep, still fearing that our bikes could get stolen during our sleep or that some Hungarian farmer would beat the shit out of us.

“GUYS, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” – Manuel woke up in the middle of the night by some paranoia, thinking that something around the tent was moving. Andreas respectively dreamt that Gypsies stole the bikes. At 7 in the morning, we both woke up, laughing, seeing that everything was fine and our bikes were waiting for their next ride…

Monday, 9 August 2010

08.08.2010 Budapest – city cruising…

The night was long, especially the walk home. We initially intended to head off today towards Belgrade, but going to bed at 5 didn’t prove very helpful. Instead we pulled a Joker card. We fortunately have a couple of them left so it’s fine, and then Budapest is definitely a town worth seeing. Gyuri, our caring host has asked a friend of his to join us on a city cruising tour. We grabbed our bikes and experienced a truly beautiful and stunning city. Spaghetti Bolognese in the evening was, just to get energy for the next day. Now it’s time to go to bed.

Tomorrow we are heading into the wild. This is where the official Danube cycle path ends and the true Eastern Europe starts. We’ve done a third of our trip so far. The legs are feeling fine, our equipment is okay (apart from some minor technical issues), and we feel pretty confident about the next 1200 km. Internet will be scarce, therefore we hope to be able to give you a new update in about 3 days, when we reach Belgrade. And yeah, sorry about our delayed posts. As some of you might know, blogging does take quite some time and the internet connections are not as good as we hoped them to be. Therefore you’ll get one or two pictures of the day. The lot will follow if we get back to Germany safely, with all our organs. So, knock on wood…

07.08.2010 Budapest – Chillax day

Budapest baby. The Hungarian capital is overwhelming, not only whilst cycling through it during a thunderstorm at night.

We used the day to do some laundry, check out downtown and catch up with other couchsurfers to cook some dinner. “Paprikas” was on the menu at Mira’s, consisting of potatoes, salami and secret ingredients. Gyuri turned out to be not only a savvy bike mechanic, but also an excellent cook. At the overwhelming apartment of Mira, we therefore relished the opportunity to get our hands on some traditional Hungarian food. YUM! Afterwards Mira took us to the awesomest location ever: “Szimpla”. It’s a bar which is set up in some ran-down house, somewhere in the old parts of Pest (Budapest actually consists of two cities: Buda and Pest, fyi). What a night, fully of great dancemoves, cheesy pick-up lines and in-your-face-moments.

06.08.10 When lightning strikes you… (Kormano to Budapest, 150 km)

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BAM! 6 am, and lightning strikes the house next to us and we literally fall out of bed. Good morning! An epic thunderstorm marks the start of a day, which will indeed be remembered.

After a delicious bacon and eggs breakfast prepared by our lovely hosts Barby and Tila (Barby’s cousin) we left Komarno for good, hoping to reach Budapest without getting into major thunderstorms. Gyuri invited us to stay at his apartment in Budapest. We shook hands and sealed the deal.

With courage and heaps of energy in our bellies, we started rolling, just to experience the first puncture after about 100m. Gyuri’s tyre had snuggled with some broken glass. No worries, no worries. Gyuri, an extremely knowledgeable cyclist got it repaired in no time. We embraced the mounting clouds and rainy skies around us, feeling tough, Hartland-boys as one might call us. There would have been the option to take a ferry all the way to Budapest. Well theoretically.

The first raindrops hit us about 30 min later. Still feeling tough, we stopped to help a French cyclist who had completely destroyed his gearshift in the middle of nowhere. The Karma was good and the clouds around us high.

Then it came down. And it so came down. And it so didn’t stop. And we can so tell you that the best raincoats won’t help you from getting totally soaked. And we can so be proud of us to cycle 150km through Hungarian thunderstorms (they are the worst and most frightening, we have heard) to arrive in Budapest at 11pm. Some might say: “Hardcore niggas on the mic tonight”

05.08.10 Better late than never… (Bratislava to Kormano, 120 km)

Größere Kartenansicht

Bye bye Zdenka, Unca and the rest of the very welcoming family. We took our time, just as we do each morning, so it was not until 1 pm until we could get back onto the saddles. It’s surprising how long it takes each time to actually pack our bags, even though we seemingly don’t carry loads of stuff. Anyways, after a lovely round of lost riding around Cunovo, a suburb of Bratislava, and some shopping at a superweird supermarket on the outskirts of B-town (the till girl was around 12 years old, her boyfriend around 41, heartwarming couple that was), we actually got back on track towards Komarno, a town on the Slovakian-Hungarian border.

Whilst riding on the dams of the Danube, we made a great encounter. Gyuri, a Hungarian which moved to Munich 25 years ago, is one of the few persons that cycle all the way from Passau to Budapest. We talked, laughed and shared some experiences as we were fighting strong headwinds and muddy gravel paths (joy!)

In Komarno, we were supposed to meet Barby. Yep. A couple of emails went back and forth to organize the catch up, but we still managed to write down a wrong number. As a result, we were in Komarno (including Gyuri, for whom we also wanted to find a place to sleep), but didn’t have a clue on how and where to meet our couchsurfing host for that night. Luckily, we had written down the street in which her apartment was supposed to be. On the plus side, Gyuri has also been equipped with a Sat Nav, therefore we could at least type in the street name and cruise around the block. Yet, we didn’t quite remember how Barby looked, nor had we an idea where to look for her apartment, as the street consisted of high-rise buildings only. It was already dark, and we had decided to look for a cheap hotel in town as suddenly a car rocks up next to us with somebody yelling: “MANUEEEEEEL”.

Oh. Hey Barby! Tears of joy, laughter and all that jazz. Slovakian pizza and some night sightseeing-tour in Komarno – best of the best.

04.05.2010 If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna (Vienna to Bratislava, 70km)

Größere Kartenansicht

Well, we definitely took the craziness of Vienna. While the previous night certainly accounted for some of the craziness, the next morning wasn’t any worse. Our lovely, yet slightly mental French couchsurfing friend had invited even more couchsurfers, namely a Russian couple. Just after a completely relaxing night on the floor, the door bell rang and the Russians were about to invade. Hervé, who had already left the sinking ship in order to go to work, left the apartment to the 7 strangers. Good on him. It made it a bit stressful for us, as we wanted to leave and the whole floor of the apartment was covered with bags, cloths, bikes, shoes etc and turned it into a tough mission, packing all our stuff and not forgetting anything.

Humid weather, vienna road works and confusing maps are a no-no-no combination. It took us bloody 45 min. just to find our way out of the Austrian capital. Slovakia was on our radar, and we threw ourselves into 70 km of cycling in a pretty unspectacular landscape. Yep, we had been spoiled by the splendid countryside and weather on the way from Passau to Vienna!

Bratislava! Ahoj! Zdenka (yep she’s the couchsurfing host) came to pick up the smelly boys under the Danube bridge of Bratislava and took them home to her family home. There, her dad, mum, sister and the dog Unca welcomed us.

At the same time, Unca fell in love with Andreas, which isn’t really very surprising. It wasn’t really mutual at first, but upon departure the next morning, both had tears in their eyes. The night included however a very interesting guided tour through Bratislava and more importantly, an epic dance battle, which some of Slovakias finest dancers. More about that upon our return...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

03.08.2010 Puck you with P! (Stay in Vienna, 10 km)

It's all about the mighty mighty chill-out. We are considering it wise to get a couple of days on our tour on which we just don't do anything apart from eating and eating.
Therefore Vienna consists of heaps of sleep, a small city tour along the major sights and a big, international cooking-session, attempting to cook "Semmelknoedel" with some french-style meat (we still don't have a clue what it was, but our man Herve did it, so it was great, uhm, yeah.) Oh yeah, and we thought our Korean friends some new expressions, like "Puck you with P". They were greatful for this truly interesting lesson.

After mouthwatering cookingexperiences, we just love to move our hips. Dancing, or at least walking to a pub that is. An old schoolmate of Manuel is now living in Vienna and invites the cyclist-boys for a pint. Cyclemaniac as we are, we head off at 2am, on our bikes to head to a pub in the centre of town, called Chelsea. After our quick beer,it's time to find the way back to Herves Monsterappartment. After hours and hours of beautiful yet lost night cycling in Vienna, we eventually get to Herves place, just to find out that the repair kit, which was attached to Manuel's bike and which contained pretty much all important tools, had been stolen whilst enjoying the beer at the "chelsea"s. Hail to the thief. Puck you with P! Lesson learned though.

P.S: Andreas kindly wants the readers to notice the following: He did not even attempt to drink, taste or even smell a beer that night.

02.08.2010 Birthday-boy on the road! (Emmersdorf to Vienna, 140km)

Nagyobb térképre váltás

Ooooh guess who's birthday it is? Andreas is the birthday boy! In good old choir-manner, Manuel positions himself in front of the tent and sings a birthday song, full of love, passion and all that. The lake is calling for a swim and we induldge the cool fresh water on that warm August morning. Ok, time to pack. It's getting hot now, 35 degrees burning on our arms. oh yeah speaking of which: in the meanwhile we have developed one of most legendary tans ever. nice, chocolate coloured legs and arms, sweet cheesy-IT-Nerd-white-tan every where else. AST (Andreas Stenger) even managed to get a striped sunburn on his head. Manuel is kinda jealous. Anyways, it is just beautiful. This unique tanning experience, presented by the probably fittest guys in Europe shall soon be seen in all major cool-cat magazines.

Oh yeah, and speaking of cool cats. We've been having a hard time finding a place to sleep in Vienna. Not only could Manuel's friend not welcome the two hotties, but also did it prove hard to find a couchsurfer. But then, at last, Herve, a frenchie living in Vienna, has mercy upon us. He invites us over and provides us with a most comfortable place to sleep, namely on the floor of his kitchen and his living room. But not only us. We end up staying in his 1-beedroom flat with two korean girls, one italian and one french guy. A birthday that certainly won't be forgotten. What a crazy trip.

01.08.2010 How to become a scout... (Linz to Emmersdorf, 120km)

Nagyobb térképre váltás

After an ultra-comfty sleep on Sarah's couch, we are taking it easy. 7km of nice, smooth downhill cruising, just to arrive at the valley to get a drive-in brunch at McDonalds. That's what we call joie de vivre. Accompanied by perfect weather and filled with a cheesburgers and big macs, we continue making our way to Vienna on the beautiful north side of the Danube river. The track is flat and things are good. But they get even better. At some remote village near Mitterkirchen, we pass by a couple of houses, one of which is playing music to the max. And what's that person playing? Yepp, our man "Gute Laune DJ" ! Put the speakers up! We laugh, high-five and continue cycling with huge smiles on our faces.

The smiles don't even fade as we get lost due to misleading signs at some major roadworks. We rather crack out laughing as other cyclists tell us, that they had only followed us, because our "appearance is rather professional" and because we "radiate expertise". Yeah right...

After a pizza, a nap and an enormous icecream in the pittoresque town of Grein, we continue our way to Melk, via the odd-named town of Ybbs. Close to Melk, we stop at a farm in order to ask for some drinking water and subsequently prepare for our first night camping. Scout time! We quickly discover a nice lake in the area and set up our tents. We even almost cooked something on our camping cooker, but just in time we discovered a small hut selling chips. We postpone our scout career...

31.07.2010 Finally the sun is shining! (Passau - Linz, 105 km)

Nagyobb térképre váltás

8 o clock: the alarm is ringing. Time to wake up! After half an hour of struggle, we finally manage to get up and welcome the new day. As we know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we prepare some peanutbutter-sandwiches. Gotta have sandwhiches with crunchy peanut butter!

Now, we are ready to go back on the road where we belong.. Just one more thing! Where is Manuel's helmet? AS it turned out, Marie's lovely roommates had been enjoying a couple of glasses that night, which ended in one of them passing out, and the others improvising a custom-made bee-fancy-dress, which apparently included Manuel's helmet. We are glad, that our helmet got involved in some Passau partying and take it of the sleeping roommate Martin.

The cycle paths to Linz are mostly flat, so we cycle a rather long distance in no time. In a place called Wilhering we stop at an old abbey in order to visit an art exibition of Fritz Froelich.(Check out some of his work if you don t know him!)

As we arrive in Linz, the first thing we check out is the historic center. Hmm.. alright... Mediocre. We therefore soon ask several pedestrians for directions to Altenberg, the part of town were Sarah is living, who was so kind to welcome us to her home (happy couchsurfing, hooray). Let us tell you one thing. If you think Altenberg is just a part of town, oh be warned. It technically is still within Linz, however it takes some 9 km of serious uphill cycling to get there. But it's just one of the many things you gotta do to get Europe's sexiest thighs. yeah!

30.07.2010 Nerds in Passau (Hebertsfelden to Passau, 70km, 11.00 – 17.00)

Größere Kartenansicht

Wakey, wakey! Surprisingly, the bed did not collapse during the night. We’re more than happy about this and throw a round of high-fives. Rubbing the sleep out of our eyes, we sneak into the kitchen. Hello! Our man Albert has prepared an enormous monster-breakfast (Thanks Albert!). We fill our bellies, stretch our muscles and tighten some screws of our ‘ladies’. We’re off again, Passau it is, the mood is good.

Heroic as we are, we raise our heads and roll into what seemed the right direction. After a couple of metres, we encounter an elderly woman, alone on the country road, moving smoothly with her walking frame. As it turns out, it’s Felix’s grandma. What a nice surprise! She has been on a quest to steal plums from her neighbour. Unfortunately, there were none left on the tree, so she rightly starts complaining. What a pity. We feel sorry for her failed theft and wish her all the best.

Three minutes later, we discover that the encounter has only been possible because we managed to cycle into the wrong direction at the very first corner taken today. What a nice and lucky mistake to make though.

Following the Rottal-bicycle path, we continue making our way to Passau. Stopping at some signs indicating various cycle-directions, a car suddenly stops next to us. The driver yells something we couldn’t understand, so Andreas instinctively yells back “Sorry, we’re not locals” (even though we surely look like locals with our packed bikes, standing in front of street signs, looking rather lost). He answers: “I’m one of you guys. You look lost. Can I help you?” Smiles in all faces.

Lead by the given directions, we continue our journey. Shortly after the encounter with the fellow cyclist, a car behind us honks the horn and takes over just to stop right in front of us. Hey! It’s fellow-cyclist-Joe again. He jumps out of the car, full of excitement: “Guys. Listen. Once you get to Budapest, make sure to stay on the left side of the Danube. Everything else will get you into trouble. Have a save journey. Good-bye!” He does a u-turn and disappears. That’s what it’s all about.

Cycling via the hilly area around Bad Grießbach and Fürstenzell, we finally reach the outskirts of Passau. Right at this moment, it starts pouring down on us. We quickly manage to find a shelter, right next to two Chinese law students.

For the night, we’re booked in at Marie’s. Marie is a couchsurfer (for those of you which are not familiar with couchsurfing please check www.couchsurfing.org). She’s a cool cat, superrelaxed, very welcoming and outgoing. We chill at hers for a bit and thereupon decide to do some shopping in order to cook a legendary dinner: Tagliatelle with garlic-cream sauce, oyster mushrooms and parsley.

After a falling in love with an exemplary nerd-student in the queue of the supermarket, who provided a detailed yet slightly weird explanation to the till girl on how to correctly do her job, we stroll towards Marie’s house, attempting a copy of Mr.Nerd's explanation and looking at the Passau scenery.

The dinner is great and we subsequently decide to see some of Passau’s nightlife. Marie takes us with her to go out with her friends and we throw ourselves into some moderate partying at a bar called “Kreuzweise”.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

29.07.2010 On the road... (Landshut to Hebertsfelden, 65km, 16.30 – 20.45)

Agrandir le plan

Clouds are covering the Bavarian skies; it’s pretty chilly for late July. Last minor issues have been ironed out and we both find our way to Landshut, the place where it all begins. Visibly affected by the stressful last days, we gather at the student halls, mount our gear, wave goodbye to fellow students and start rolling.

The bikes feel incredibly sluggish. We have to get used to manoeuvre the bikes with around 20 kilos of luggage, which includes a couple of cloths, two tents, sleeping bags, a cooker, pottery, food, water, a pair of shoes, maps (consisting of print outs of Google Maps), books, a first aid kit, a repair kit, sunglasses, travel documents, toilet bags, toilet paper and no sunscreen, as we forgot it.

Anyhow, we’re actually on our way. It’s 16.30 and the first leg leads us to Eggenfelden, or more precisely Hebertsfelden, the home of our good friend Felix Bauer, whom we could convince to get his parents to invite us over. Thanks!
With every kilometre down, we shake of the stress and start appreciating what is lying ahead of us. And even though we get lost occasionally, we actually start laughing and enjoying what’s making this trip worthwhile: the beautiful nature, lovely people, sunsets, physical exercise, garbage talk and action playgrounds like the one in Eggenfelden. That’s what we do this whole thing for.

Cool. We’re reaching Hebertsfelden. Our plan works out. We can stay at the Bauer’s place and we even managed to get them to prepare some food for us, namely goulash. Good on us. Albert and Monika are awesome. Not only because they are Felix‘s parents. No. They have been preparing loads of food and even waited for hours in order to have dinner with the two smelly cyclists.

Moreover, the ultra-comfty looking guest bed is waiting for us to ensure a recovering sleep. But then something unexpected happens…
The bed can’t cope. The burden is too heavy. In other words, whilst sneaking onto the bed, ready for a romantic round of snoring, it collapses. BAM. The sprung slats are on floor, so is Andreas. Laughing our heads off, we quickly develop a heroic technique in order to conquer the bed without letting it collapse and actually making it possible to sleep in it. It is called the “Schneider Bedroll”:

28.07.2010 You should expect the unexpected...

Bugger! It’s Wednesday the 28.07.2010, Manuel is still at home in Herzogenaurach and the foot pedals won’t move. They’re stuck, rusty and seemingly no way to replace them with the new, super fancy click-in ones. Not even the local bicycle-stores can help. The sweat starts running down his forefront as he looks on the watch. It doesn’t only stress him, after the weeks of thorough preparation, but also the ones around him, particularly his mum.
Close to throwing himself to despair, he consults his savvy neighbour, who happens to be a knowledgeable cyclist and talented mechanic. Time is running, but it’s only at the end of the day, that the two manage to eventually get the new pedals onto the bike.

Meanwhile, in Kraiburg, Andreas is having a hard time mounting the bags onto his bicycle as matching devices seem nowhere to be found. As a consequence, this sends him on a quest all over southern Germany, to eventually find a local store at his hometown, which can fortunately help him out.

We clearly underestimated the preparation needed for such an extensive trip. As a result, we had to delay our departure by one day, to Thursday, 29.07.2010.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

A trip that separates the boys from the men.

Landshut, Germany to Sofia, Bulgaria. It’s on.

We have been looking forward to this very moment for months: On Wednesday the 28th July 2010, Andreas Stenger and Manuel Schneider are heading off to Bulgaria on their bicycles. One month and around 2300 km of sweat, tears, laughter, continuous struggle and joy are lying ahead of us. We’re more than ready and full of excitement. The last exams at uni are written, the chocolate bars are packed and our beloved ones are ironing their handkerchiefs in order to wave us goodbye.

But why the hell are we cycling to Bulgaria?

To cut a long story short, Manuel’s good friend Maria happens to be from Sofia, Bulgaria and invited the two extremely handsome German lads to come and see her in Bulgaria in summer 2010. Inspired by fellow cyclists, we decided to grab our bikes and take on the task of breaking new grounds and discovering the so-much-talked-about-but-never-really-visited Eastern Europe.

How did we prepare?

Having been professional cyclists for years now, we knew exactly how to prepare for this trip. Not.

Well, the first thing we thought would make sense whilst preparing for this incredible adventure was to stay away from alcohol, cigarettes and junk food. We swapped these things for indulging banana-milkshakes and more-or-less healthy cooking, such as deep-fry parties and bbq-sessions during the world cup. Believe it or not, it did not only turn this last semester at uni into a gourmet-experience, it also helped us to get into shape for the trip. A win-win situation, don’t you think?

We moreover considered it wise to actually get some mileage onto our bikes. With old-school jackets, colourful helmets, super-sexy-camel-toe-cycling tights and no experience whatsoever, we hopped onto our babies and certainly looked good in the lower Bavaria area.

Eastern Europe? Aren’t you guys afraid?

You gotta risk it to get the biscuit. Heaps of people, including Bulgarians themselves, told us not to go on this trip as there are lots and lots of dangers such as robberies, accidents, bad roads etc. True, it will be a challenge. But I guess with some human sense and general awareness, we will be able to avoid risky situations. That said, there are still a couple of things that scare the shit out of us:

Manuel: People that want one of his kidneys and mad drivers.
Andreas: Mountains, Mountains, Mountains and bears.

Anyway, whatever happens, it will all be written down in this very blog. We would love to invite you guys to follow our trip, make sure to sign up to the feeds at the right side of this page and you will automatically be informed about our whereabouts. Speaking of which, here’s the rough plan of our route:

Größere Kartenansicht

Alright, that's it for today. Save travels to us and happy reading to you! If you happen to feel absolutely inspired, please don't hesitate and join our trip anytime!