Day 25, Vienna, 2.000 km
I hope that in a few months I will not be writing a post named « The Twelve Plagues of the Cyclist », but it turns out that I had to face a second challenge of nature. The rain was already something, but I didn’t expect them at all: mosquitoes (!!). But let’s proceed with method so that nobody gets lost.
I’m leaving Olomouc, after a good night’s sleep in a good bed. The sun is shining, it’s nice after the two days I just spent. I’m so happy that I compose a little song: « Under the Sun », to the tune of « Under the Sea » in The Little Mermaid. I will sing it to you if we find the occasion. And I’ll ask Etienne to make me a Dubstep remix. The road is nice, small detour because of roadworks on the path but overall a fairly calm day. I have to cross a lake (or a river I’m not sure), a kilometer on a dike, pretty cool. I also happen to pass by a « museum » where planes, helicopters and tanks of the Czech army are stored. A vestige of the communist era probably. Simply a field on the side of the road with the machines put there with no order at all. Papa and Gogo would have liked it.
Then I arrive in Brno. Second largest city in the Czech Republic. I have time to walk around a bit. The structure is classic: a pedestrianized old town, cobbled streets and a castle on a hill overlooking it all. I meet two guys doing a fight with plastic sabers. Attend a punk concert in the castle courtyard. Have one of the best hot chocolates of my life in a little cafe in a park. Pass by a band playing jazz in front of the university. People are dancing. Unfortunately, I don’t dare to invite someone and join in the round. Next time maybe.
Then on to Bratislava (some gossips will say I’m going there only to add a country to my list – I’ll let them think what they want). At the reception of the youth hostel in Brno, I was given recommendations for the itinerary: castles and a museum on the Iron Curtain. Direction Lednice first. Magnificent castle and gardens. Plus it just fits on my lunch break. Perfect. Then Valtice, almost on the Austrian border. Less impressive but with beautiful views of the surrounding vineyards. I also visit the museum there. 90% in Czech (which does not help with understanding things) but still interesting.
I spend my last crowns on an ice cream (luxury !!) and then head to Slovakia. I ride along the border with Austria for a little while (I don’t want to enter there until Sunday) and I end up changing countries: the third since the start of the trip!
I am all alone on the road. Not much of a difference with the Czech Republic. I come across bunkers from time to time. Probably remains of the Iron Curtain. I’m very close to the border and at one point I’m in Slovakia, I have Austria in front of me on the left and the Czech Republic on the right. I can’t resist the temptation to take a photo. You can only see trees…
The day is drawing to a close and I start looking for a place to camp. I find a small forest right next to the bike path. Seems perfect to me. This is when hell gets unleashed. I am attacked by a horde of mosquitoes. I tell myself that it will be fine. I set up the tent. The number of mosquitoes is increasing. Loubs, you’re gonna tell me it’s in my head. It is true. And also in the eyes, in the ears, on the arms and legs…. There are so many of them that I manage to kill 5 or 6 with one blow on my foot. I tell myself that I will make a fire to try to keep them away. It becomes unbearable. I pack it up and run away. Mosquitoes 1 – Pierre 0. If I could have taken my tent on my back and ran away, I would have done it. I am aiming for a campsite about ten kilometers further down the road. I am in shock. I didn’t think mosquitoes could be such a nuisance. Things are a little better at the campsite, I sip a beer to calm myself down. But as soon as the night starts they are back. I tell myself that it will be better after a shower. Wrong. It’s worse. I give up on the idea of cooking. Mosquitoes 2 – Pierre 0. I lock myself in the tent as quickly as possible and start hunting down the mosquitoes that have entered it. After 45 minutes of an intense battle, I exterminated them all. All that’s left is to eat (cold) and sleep, hoping the enemy will not find an opening in the tent to disturb my night. Final score 2 – 1 for mosquitoes. Damn Vietnam. It was not my war…
The night goes well at the end, I had managed to get rid of the enemy completely. The sun is out, the day looks like it’ll be beautiful. Especially since I have a short way before arriving in Bratislava at the end of the morning and I will be able to enjoy the city a bit. I ride along the Danube for the last few kilometers, it’s quite pretty, the cycle path is well laid out, it’s nice. After a good meal to celebrate my arrival, I drop off my things at the hostel and go for a walk around town. Once again the structure is known: the old town, the castle, a cemetery of Soviet soldiers from the Second World War on top of a hill (the main monument is under construction, it reminds me of the Golden Rider of Dresden … I will let you use Google like grown-ups this time), churches (including a blue one), parks, that’s pretty cool. Back to the hostel where the team has planned a typical Slovak meal (potato salad and a kind of vegetarian schnitzel, very good), very nice atmosphere, it allows me to discuss a little with people: French (including a walker), a Polish truck driver who speaks 6 languages, German cyclists (who unfortunately leave too early for me the next day), English, other Germans, Italians, Americans, in short, a good mix. The evening continues at the hostel bar and then into town. Beer is cheap and flowing, it feels good to find back some kind of social life.
The night is short and the morning complicated. But I finally ride Jay again around 9am, heading for Vienna. Bright sun again. Unspectacular Austrian border crossing (there is not even the proper sign to take the usual photo … very sad) and then straight and clean cycle path to Vienna. It would almost be boring but at least I’m moving fast and I’m arrived early in the afternoon. I make a small loop which adds 400m to my route for the day to arrive exactly at 2000 kilometers. For the 2000 pilgrimage, it will suffice to go to Vienna (renamed Thousand Town in the near future?). I’m at Michael’s, the first known face since Berlin, it feels good! Rest the next day, bike ride around town, it’s clean, full of castles and beautiful buildings on every corner, very pleasant for cyclists too, and especially as the weather is still super nice.
Finally, I am welcomed by Marion and Sinan, assailed with metaphysical questions by their two children during dinner (Why are you tall? Why do people have houses?) and given good advice for the road to follow in Austria. Next: along the Danube to Melk, then Graz and Linz, with a pass at 1,200m in the middle, we will start to prepare properly for the Alps !!
And as usual, the maps: