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Cycling through Eastern Europe: places you have to visit

Since Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, cycling’s popularity in the UK has surged. So much so that people are even getting on their bikes to go on holiday! Chloe Smith is a business consultant, part-time writer and cycling enthusiast – when she’s not busy travelling the world on two wheels, she tends to write about it. So we asked her to contribute…

When you think of cycling abroad, you probably envisage the French Alps, or the Spanish Pyrenees. It’s not surprising as these spectacular places host the most famous cycling races in the world.

But I recently looked beyond these cycling hot spots and journeyed into Eastern Europe. This is my itinerary and I would highly recommend to anyone who likes getting about on two wheels. I hope you enjoy reading as much I enjoyed riding it!

The Tour de France in Yorkshire, another cause of cycle-mania
The Tour de France in Yorkshire, another cause for UK cycle-mania

 

Firstly, Map out your route

I’ve given you the bones of a route herehere but make sure you flesh it out. Get together with your group, grab a pencil, open a laptop and plan your route in detail on a map. Also, make sure one of you is good at the whole map reading thing. I know it sounds obvious but it’s important. Also be smart with your smartphone: create a digital map and share it amongst your group. Obviously, you could plan it on Google Maps and listen on your earphones.

Service your bike

Obviously, first things first – get your bike serviced. The last thing you want is a mechanical hiccup that could have been easily avoided with a bit of forward-thinking. When’s the last time you changed your tires? Might be worth updating, they don’t last forever and punctures can and will occur.

Starting in Italy

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Is there a nicer place in the world to be off the saddle and pushing?

We started the trip in Venice but you’re not actually allowed to ride your bicycle through Venice, so I had to walk my bike past the famous Rialto Bridge, St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. Fairly surreal.

My ride had to begin at the bridge to Mestre. The part where I started was narrow, but soon I was at a section where there is a bike path. After a freeway section, I followed a route from Caposile to Latisana. Then all I had to do was get from Cervignanoto the border town of Gorizia. I rested in a hotel on Via Triste, and was ready to move on.

Slovenia

A few kilometres behind Gorizia, I reached the border. Then it was down a quiet freeway, to Ajdovscina. After a climb at Ajdovscina and a descent near Podkraj, the remaining road to Ljubljana was straight, with traffic picking up as I got nearer to Slovenia’s capital.

Solvenia has changed a lot since the socialist times, with great roads and clean streets. Ljubljana is a beautiful town that has preserved an old-fashioned charm. I stopped at the castle that overlooks the city to enjoy the view. I really enjoyed the friendly spirit of the people in the stone-paved, curving streets.

After sleeping in a hostel, it was time to follow the river Sava to Brezice, a neat town with an old main street that has beautiful houses with small gardens. A real treat.

Croatia

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Cycling down a beautiful country lane in Croatia.

We passed the Croatian border, and had 40km to reach Zagreb. Once there, I had some time to enjoy the old part, with lovely curved streets and old buildings, which are replaced here and there with modern buildings and baroque palaces.

Pedestrian areas are spacious with lots cafes and plenty of room to check my bike, eat some food and grab some sugary supplies for my rucksack. After Zagreb, it was time to head out to Varazdin, along a scenic route full of village, forests and hills. Varazdin is a wonderful place which looks a little like Vienna, consisting of an old town and a downtown great for scenic walks. I took a rest in a hostel and was ready to go on.

Passing through Hungary

From Varazdin, I had to pass a narrow Slovenian street between Croatia and Hungary. I had to go through Hungary to get to my next location, Slovakia. Before reaching Budapest, I travelled via a scenic route to and from Keszthely, passing the Balaton Lake.Then it was a climb to Veszprem, and the remaining road to Budapest.Budapest is Hungary’s wonderful capital, consisting of the old town Buda in the North, and the new town Pest in the south. I rested here before heading out to Slovakia via the road through Esztergom.

Slovakia

After passing the border, I was on my way to Komarno. After that, I headed to Medved’ov, enjoying a scenic route consisting of forests and fields. I took a rest in Gabcikovo, and headed out straight to Bratislava. Since socialist times, Bratislava has grown into a beautiful town with a sweet pedestrian street that I followed to a large square. I didn’t have the time to visit the large and beautiful Bratislava Castle, but I decided I would do so on my next visit. I crossed a bridge near the castle, and followed a bike path near the Danube. It wasn’t long before I was at the Austrian border.

Passing through Austria

A view of the alps in Austria. Wow.
A view of the alps in Austria. Wow.

I took a bike path next to the Danube, all the way to Vienna downtown. When in Vienna, I took some time to rest in Vienna’s main square, Stephansplatz, enjoying the view of Stephansdomcathedral. The square was full of people speaking various languages. Vienna is not only visually stunning, it’ also a beautiful metropolis and a clash of various nationalities.

Vienna’s clean streets took me further on my way to the Czech Republic. I took a road to Stockerau, and then went through the hills of Niederoesterreich. Then it was through Hollabrunnon and onto my next destination.

Czech Republic

After passing the border, I was on my way to Znojmo from which I took small roads from Hluboke Masuvky to Heraltice, and then from Brtnice to Jihlava. It was a road full of hills, giving me a wonderful view of Czech forests. Brtnice is a wonderful little place with two churches on top of a hill. It took me a lot of complicated roads to reach Ricany, before I was on my way to Prague.

Prague is a large city that has a lot to offer. It’s mostly untouched by modern creations, so its old spirit is especially charming. Since this was my final destination, I could fully enjoy the city, going to the castle district of Prague, Hradschin. I got to pass the famous Charles Bridge to get there, paying close attention to the 30 statues that it has to offer.Then I went to the new part of Prague, to enjoy its alternate side.

Final thoughts

All in all, this tour was worth it. It was suggested by G1 Holidays, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are a lot of beautiful things to see in Eastern Europe, so it’s worth the time travelling on bike to get to experience all of it.

 

   

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