With about 1 week left before I reach the Turkish capital, I’ve decided to update the European map. Here, from Ljubljana, Slovenia the black dashes track my progress through Hungary, Serbia and, currently, through Bulgaria.
The end is in sight!
in partnership with World Literacy Canada
16 Jun 2012 2 Comments
Discovery of the day: riding slower makes heat more bearable.
I wake up to tons of dew and blazing sun turning my tent into an early-morning sauna. I crawl out to greet the mosquitos and decide to move camp away from wet grass and critters to the park bench nearby for breakfast. There, I encounter many a jogger and alpine-walker all of whom stop just a meter away from my bench to say a little prayer to the statue of the Madonna found there. I can’t fully make out what this local Virgin’s particular mission is, although I think it had something to do with protection from sorcery and evil spirits. One older jogger comes past the statue twice and so prays twice as well. All wish me a Buongiorno and buon appetito in passing.
I spend a torturous morning attempting to keep me regular biking pace in the already ridiculous heat. I stop frequently as I begin to feel faint and mentally incoherant. Finally, at Treviso, I find a quiet park to have lunch at and a nap.
A shot of espresso for good luck and I get back on the road around 15:00, except this time I get a city section of bike paths to ride on. I look around me wondering why the other lazily peddaling bicycle commuters aren’t swooning from heat at the hottest part of the day when it dawns on me – they are riding really slow!
It may seem like I’m not the brightest crayon in the box, but believe it or not it hadn’t occured to me earlier to bike slowly in the heat. I guess I’m so used to biking hard, taking good breaks and biking hard again that I had considered everything – from rehydrating salts to revamping my schedule to be out on the road at the crack of dawn – but I had not considered lessening my pace. Or maybe it’s the car traffic on the road that pushes the cyclist to speed (?)- as I really had to focus and force myself to take it slow!
I swallow my pride and continue on my way riding at Sunday- afternoon stroll pace instead of the usual road-racing speed. I may still be melting, but atleast I’m not passing out,
Kasia – your very-intelligent-at-times cyclist
P.s. I made a beautiful friend today!
15 Jun 2012 Leave a Comment
Morning cappucino, and a catch up with Italian newspaper on current EuroCup standings. Poland to play Check republic tomorrow, and I’m as usual chearing on all the Eastern European nations – perhaps Croatia will come out on top this year? Am wondering what the football fever must be like in co-hosting Poland and Ukraine right now… With years and years of preperations, building roads and stadiums primarily, I hope the locals are atleast enjoying the current tournament fever
We head out in blazing heat to Padova and roll into a children’s playground around 13:00 where we find welcome shade and a picnic table. A colourful lunch of a salad type suggestive of travellers in Italy who are tired of pasta – lentills, corn, mozarella, rucula, vegg… Delicious and filling. We spread out under various trees for the obligatory post-lunch nap. Temerature is well over 35 celcius.
Around 16:00 we get unceremoniously kicked out of park by the organizer who informs us that it is for children only. I guess being child-like and curious to the world is not enough to stay in the park, I muse, as we walk our bicycles out under the suspiscious gaze of young parents…
Padova is ridiculously beautiful. We stumble upon the main square, in fact the biggest Piazza in all of Europe, very open and decorated with over 50 roman statues. This, and the heat, are breathtaking.
Chatting with locals, I receive my first athletes complement of the trip, as one of the security guys looks approvingly at my strong legs calling them “triathlete legs”. Thanks!
We split ways with the guys. They continue to Venice and along the Croatian coast while I stay inland heading towards Slovenia. I continue my riding heading to Treviso, stopping in a corn field near Noale to camp for the night.
All is peaceful,
Kasia – your cyclist
10 Jun 2012 Leave a Comment
An unpredictable day, yet again.
The morning ride to Pacienza went quick, a flat 20km, a stop by the grocery store, and I headed to the heart of the historic center for a not very coordinated meet up with the Catalan guys. We had figured out the previous night that we were all near Piacenza, meaning that we could take advantage of a few more days of shared road before the inevitable Slovenia/Croatia split up takes place and I take to riding solo again.
On the way, already entering the gothic quarter, I cycled past a curious object closely observed by a priest, photographer and an excited elderly gentleman. I did a double-take and turned to take a photo, I had just gone past a rain-bike, a squat-scooter like looking red contraption that was in fact a type of covered partially-electric bicycle. I couldn’t let such an innovative biking opportunity pass me up!
Evidently, the photographer and excited gentleman (who I would learn was the engineer of the rain bike) weren’t about to let their opportunity pass them up either! The photographer, who was in fact a doctor with an intense passion for photography, started feverishly snapping shots of me, the bicycle, the engineer and anything else bello in sight! Those two charmers, their friend and I spent quite a bit of time together discussing the Ride to Read, the design and making of the rain bike and my supposed resemblance to Italian celebrity Manuela Arcuri…and on to another photo session!
The Italians were very sweet about it and the rain bike such a neat project; I did have to make a dash for it at some point though if I had any hope of meeting the Catalan guys! I headed to the main piaza where I imagined they might be…
A capuccino later and I got back on the road. There was no point to hang around waiting all day, obviously the guys were elsewhere! The next town, some 30 flat kilometers later, I meandered in, in all the way to the city center and BAM there was a cyclist speeding right towards me! I only had a milisecond to read the “pangeats” on his front pannier and there was Edgar greeting me with gusto. Sergio and Pepe were right behind him, and me wondering at the irony of trying to coordinate a meeting via SMS when a chance encounter was all it needed!
We continued on our way, heading east and a bit south. Tonight we sleep in an empty garage lent to us by the owner. With passing grey clouds a frequent occuramce in this part of Italy, a passing traveller need only point to the sky and imitate rain drops to get a bit of sympathy from the locals
Kasia – your back-to-team-riding cyclist
05 Jun 2012 Leave a Comment
In summary, one of the most beautiful and grueling days up to date!
Slept like a log at my first ever “wild camping” site! Last night, the guys spotted our personal campground from the mainroad, a sign with “proprieta privata” and an obviously abandoned flat space of rocks and grasses. We pounced on the opportunity, and the site proved one of the most beautiful and well equipped spots ever. While Kasia K. , Edgar and I went for a quick dip in the Med (in lieu of shower that evening), our chefs and campsite guard, Pepe and Sergio, prepared dinner. We returned to some delicious soup and “pan con tomate”, a Spanish classic, served on a table while sitting on chairs. I tell yea – that improvised campsite (photo 1) had it all!
We headed out in the morning continuing along the up and down coast – direction: Genoa. Around 13:00, in scorching 32 degree weather we stopped for lunch and another swim in the refreshing sea. We said our goodbyes with the Catalan guys, a little sad to part ways but with hopes to meet up later on the road and/or later in general, and headed inland to Ferrania – home to our WarmShowers host for the evening. The guys had plans to continue along the coast to Genoa and then to cut across north to Croatia. For more info on their adventure you can check out http://www.pangeats.com
As we rolled inland I looked at Filippo’s, our host’s, directions for getting to his place. As we passed one village and then another I wondered when we would meet the 400m climb that he had warned us about in his email, since up to then the road had been fairly easy. Upon turning into a narrow, and beautiful, road tucked into a valley between mountains, I understood the challenge at hand. It wasn’t the continuous steady climbs I had been used to in France, with steadily burning legs that you can learn to ignore as you mentally set-in for a 5 kilometer long hill…no, this was a climb of a whole other caliber – the very steep, at times downhill and then mad steep once again, type of hill. Mentally, it’s exhausting since you have no idea when it’s going to end and physically, you learn to change gears with lightening-speed efficiency.
We did the best we could. A few times we pedalled, legs flying, chain straining and wheels advancing inch by painful inch. Sometimes we pushed our bikes up. Always we double-checked we were going the right direction by asking a passerby.
…Because the only thing worse than struggling up hills is struggling up them when you are going the wrong way.
Actually we successfully navigated the whole way, right up to Filippo’s village where his instructions ended and we were advised to ask a local for the location of his cascina. This is where our troubles began. It wasn’t the Italian that got us (I’m reserving language barriers for when they get really big, like in Hungary, for ex), but the locals mistaking Filippo for his father and directing us to the wrong house (same last name, you see). 2 hours later we had gone up many unnecessary hills, my chrono was showing 80km and my legs were crying for mercy – all sure signs that it was time to stop riding for the day – and we were still lost and calling back and forth with our host who was was driving around the village frantically trying to find us.
We, thank goodness, did finally find each other, and were soon home safe and sound and tucked into a delicious dinner of home made bread, goat cheese and zucchini-mushroom-pasta dish. But not before Filippo informed us that we were his first pair of girl travelers (he had had solo female cyclists and couples but never two girls) and that we were also the first ones incapable of finding his house on our own!
My navigator’s ego a little bruised, I comforted myself with the fact that it did, after all, take me 22 days to lose my way! …which, for a first time bicycle traveller, is not too shabby
We spent a really enjoyable evening with Filippo and Tommy, of the kind of comfort and easy-going nature generally reserved to good friends who have known eachother for many moons. We learned of his passion, and obvious talent for photography (already a few shots sold to National Geographic!), his young wife, now pregnant with their first bambino, and of course his passion for cycling. He works with an organization that promotes mountain biking in the area, logo of which is the funny wild pig on a bicycle (photo 2)
…and the wine and carbs kicked in and we were arrivaderci for the day…
Kasia – your very-sleepy-cyclist
04 Jun 2012 Leave a Comment
in fundraising, Week 3 (May 30 - June 5), World Literacy Canada Tags: bicycle fundraiser, bike fundraiser, Canada, CIDA, CIDA funding, cycling fundraiser, Europe, Funding, Ride to Read, World Literacy Canada
One of the reasons that I chose World Literacy Canada as my platform on this ride across Europe, besides all the great work that they do, is because World Literacy Canada’s CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) funding was not renewed this year. They have been an important partner of World Literacy Canada for four years, matching individual donations received and in turn being a key element to WLC being able to provide their programs and services to those in need.
In light of this unfortunate change WLC is relying on citizens to help with fundraising and donations so that they can continue to change lives with the gift of literacy. To see the story on World Literacy Canada’s webpage click this link –
03 Jun 2012 2 Comments
…I used to be afraid of them, thought they were gross etc. , until I got over it.
Now I realize how cool and interesting they are, and so much fun to photograph
But darn the little buggers, sometimes they think that they can free-ride it on my bicycle!
Hope you enjoy ‘em
19 May 2012 Leave a Comment
Here we have Philippe explaining to us how best to eat raw nettles (“ortilles” in French), without getting “burned” by this prickly plant.
In fact nettles have many fascinating properties, including being a kidney cleanser and great for teas and soups. In my case it’s a readily available source of vegetable protein that grows everywhere in abundance. Generally freely growing nettles are a sign of soil overly rich in nitrogen, often found near animal-rearing spots.
Looking forward to finding this extremely useful plant during the trip!
Kasia – your practical and raw-food loving cyclist
13 May 2012 Leave a Comment
I haven’t done too much driving in Europe.
It initially unnerved me – the narrower roads in the cities, the many cars on the highways (so unlike the empty ones in the prairies) the limitless parallel parking (who am I kidding, I only learned to do that once – properly – to pass the driving test, at which point the ability left me completely). You need to get out of the Canadian mindset of stopping for every pedestrian within a kilometer radius (this may work in a low density country, but you wouldn’t get anywhere in a car if you did this elsewhere), get used to driving more assertive and occasionally rolling down your window to shout a few choice phrases at a nearby driver. In whatever language flows from you naturally.
To drive in Europe it’s much more – how shall I put it…engaging.
26 Apr 2012 1 Comment
Listened to the interview on Bicycle Touring Pro (click here), and looks like these guys really know what they’re talking about. Geared especially to those travelling Europe light and on a bike – I hope to get more than 1 useful tip from their book!
haha, + check out this sweet photo (I hope I can pack with that kind of efficiency!)