Leg 1

Conquering Europe, Asia awaits.

Leg 1 complete, just in time to make our own Brexit from Europe.

 

Once again it has been a while since we wrote a blog, and as in the past an apology is due. Discipline has been a hot topic of conversation between the saddles and when it comes to taking time out to write on this blog, certainly more discipline is needed.

 

Just two weeks a go we were crossing the Danube and leaving it for the last time, it had acted as our guide from Vienna, through Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia and finally Romania. Though we would not be seeing it to the sea, but instead leaving its banks in search of the flattest route across the Balkans, the vast range of mountains tearing across mid Bulgaria.

 

Romania had proved tough, not just another country we spouted off on our ever extensive list of European countries we had to cover before the excitement of Asia began, but a challenge we had not prepared well for. Crossing the Serb-Romanian border was pleasant and easy, welcome back into the European Union.

 

A privilege we take for granted in Western Europe is the ease and freedom we have to withdraw cash in almost every town and village we pass, Romania was a far cry from this and 25 miles without an ATM and only Euros, Dollars and Dinar in our wallets meant we had to dig in, battling the heat and hunger of the afternoon. Our grace came in the form of 5 fine gentleman of Pristol, congregated around the vine sheltered entrance of the village shop. Their kindness was refreshing, and so was the water they bought us. 2 loafs of bread and a half a kilo of pâté later, we were rejuvenated and it wasn't long until we were able to extract some fine Romanian Leu.

The shop in Pristol, and our kindly donated loaf.

The shop in Pristol, and our kindly donated loaf.

Apart from the night time hazardous occupation of burning fields close to polyester tents, Romania remained trouble free; desolate but trouble free. We learnt our lessons and stocked up on money, food and water, not much could stop us, not even the enthusiastic dogs.

A short ferry brought us across the Danube and into Bulgaria, a country we had been warned about a few times in Romania, one remarking it was "full of mafia, don't go there", but isn't that what everyone says about their neighbours!? I for one wouldn't trust a Welshman as far as I could throw him!

Taking a ferry across the Danube, leaving Romania. 

Taking a ferry across the Danube, leaving Romania. 

The first 15 minutes disproved their worry, as we bared witness to a rather casual affair. No more than a scuffle in a lunchtime cafe left one man bleeding at the gut and another wielding a machete. At least the Mafia would have done a cleaner job. Onwards we went, passing through the old Tsar strong hold of Veliko Tărnovo. Perched at the foot of the Balkans, a grand city still holding onto its splendour amongst the valley entrance. Climbs awaited us, our first serious vertical challenge, heads down and feet pumping we made the summit ready for a cruising descent to the Turkish border.

Jumping the queues we crossed the border to Turkey and celebrated in Edirne with the most pleasant pigs intestine sandwich one has ever unknowingly had (Kokoreç if you would like to google it). We camped up and enjoyed a warm evening in the tent. Blissfully unaware we enjoyed breakfast the next day, just grabbing wifi to feed our narcissism and see how many likes our last Facebook post received. This is when we became aware of our unpleasant situation, without knowing we had been lucky to cross the border last night before an attempted military coup took place in Istanbul and Ankara. It seemed like not a soul cared in Edirne, but following the advice of the FCO and to keep our mothers happy, we booked ourselves into the nearest hotel.

24 hours passed, and it was like nothing had happened, even the television stations were showing repeats of the scenes from two nights before as they struggled to make any sense of this peculiar situation. We couldn't wait like lemons and had to crack on, no news is good news right? We jostled the frantic roads of Istanbul and made it safely to the Galata region of the city, business was as usual, but unfortunately for the punters the tourists weren't. This left us with the keys to the city and we fell in love, Istanbul we shall return, but first we have to tackle the Black Sea Coast.

nb. We have been attempting to acquire an Iranian visa through the planning process and during the ride but have come thus far empty handed. Therefore we have had to change our route and we now head to Georgia, via an adjusted route to avoid Ankarra as advised and take a route planned with the team at the bike shop in Istanbul.

Possibly the best bike shop since the UK?  

Possibly the best bike shop since the UK?  

All the best, 

 

George

Update: Recent Military Coup in Turkey

Some may be aware of the attempted Military Coup that took place last night, 15th July 2016, in Istanbul and Ankarra.  

 

We entered Turkey in the early evening of yesterday and reached the town of Edirne before sun fall, where we camped on the outskirts and entered the town this morning. Since finding Internet and reading the news we have following FCO advise and booked into a hotel for the near future while we monitor the situation in the Istanbul and the capital.

 

Istanbul is a 2 day ride from our location, around 155 miles, and though this will slow our progress and add time to our record, we feel this is the most sensible and safest option we are presented with currently. 

 

We will update this blog with any more information we receive on the situation.

 

George and John  

 

News Source:  http://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-europe-36811357

Route change - Budapest to Istanbul

After advise from cyclists in Budapest and Vienna we have decided to follow the Danube through Serbia towards Bulgaria and Romania, rather than take a northern route through Romania as shown on our map. The reason, a lot fewer hills! But don't worry, we're still on track for the record as we're covering very similar mileage in the an eastly direction.

 

Yours, 

George and J

Canterbury to Budapest.

 

(via Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Bratislava) .

 

Our journey so far has taken us across the continent of Europe in an easterly direction, through eight countries as well as passing through each capital city. We simply could not have asked for a better introduction to this adventure. Having had a delicious taste of each and every culture on the way through Europe, we can only be excited for the rest of the journey ahead.

 

We would be lying if we said that at no point in the run up to this journey were we apprehensive, because travelling to new and unknown places (especially by bike) can be intimidating, no matter who you are. However from day one, these apprehensions and worries were shattered, and we haven't looked back.

 

We may only be 1 month into this 10 month saga, but I for one have already had the experience of a lifetime. There have been highs and lows, and without a doubt this will continue. However what will also continue, I'm sure, is the way in which the highs have outweighed the lows in an enormous fashion.

 

The most rewarding and surprising aspect of the trip so far for me has been the outward generosity of strangers along the way. We have been met with nothing but kindness throughout the trip so far, whether it's a warm smile from the side of the road or the offer of a shower or a meal and a bed for the night. The human race really is pretty amazing.

 

Our European leg is nearly over, next we head through the Middle East and into Asia. The adventure continues!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

John

 

Ps. We'd love to hear from you on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Keep up to date on where we are and what we're up to and maybe come and join us for a ride? Inspired by what we're up to, or want to find out a bit more? Stick the kettle on, make a brew and pen an email, you can catch us at thetandemmen@gmail.com. U

The joy of Warmshowers

Now sitting in Germany, just crossing the 4th border yesterday morning, we can't express our gratitude for our newly found community of Warmshowers.

I'm almost certain that you haven't heard of this quirky and comforting corner of the Internet, we sure hadn't before we left. But doing its own thing and staying happy go lucky, Warmshowers offers cycle tourers like us a bed for the night and a shower, maybe even food. And the best bit, but also the slightly daunting part when we first started, is that this is all provided by other cyclists, wanting nothing more than your stories and enjoyment of your company for the evening. 

On a journey where we expect to sleep in our tent for two thirds of its duration, we've been able to find a bed for 7 nights out of 12. A real bonus after a long day in the saddle, often with rain on our backs (Europe really isn't much better than the UK!). 

Host #1 Geert rides with us across the Belguim-Netherlands border. 

Host #1 Geert rides with us across the Belguim-Netherlands border. 

Our gratitude goes to Lisa, Albert, Michel, Sandrine, Baloo, Geert, Maarten, Boris and Kai-Anne, all whom have welcomed us into their homes and given us an insight into hospitality across France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Now onwards with Hannover on the horizon tonight and Berlin by Wednesday. 

 

Here's to Warmshowers.org! 

 

George

 

Ps. We'd love to hear from you on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Keep up to date on where we are and what we're up to and maybe come and join us for a ride? Inspired by what we're up to, or want to find out a bit more? Stick the kettle on, make a brew and pen an email, you can catch us at thetandemmen@gmail.com.

Route Change!

Those of you eagle eyed followers will have noticed we have strayed away from our route on the website. This was a last minute decision to see our dear friends Albert and Lisa in Paris at the start of the trip rather than at the end and thus avoiding too many westerly miles. We are resting today and will set off toward Belgium tomorrow. Hope you are all well! 

 

All the best,

George

Le Grand Départe

What a quite unusual morning yesterday was, the mass ensemble of friends and family wishing us goodbye at the Cathedral gate was staggering, and to top it off, we managed to leave exactly at 10am, lateness is something I specialise in. Thank you to all those who came to say goodbye. I know we didn't get to see everyone, but that wasn't for a lack of trying. 

Setting off. Credit: Pavel Marendzuik

Setting off. Credit: Pavel Marendzuik

 

The ride to Dover was a breeze, knocking 10 minutes off our previous best. The motivation of our escort certainly helped! 

 

Now we sit in a river side restaurant in Amiens, stout gingham clad French gentleman make comments and chuckle to them selves as I tuck into my second course, this cycling lark doesn't half make you hungry. We've been recuperating from an exhausting day, both physically and mentally, we are behind on our target but we were being ambitious. Mind, we haven't done much riding fully laden.

 

Oh, did I mention we slept in a bus stop last night, I've certainly stayed in worse hotels. Clean, sheltered and the sleeping bags were like duck down on our tired bodies. 

 

Night #1 of many. 

Night #1 of many. 

 

Anyway, better let you get on with your evening, 51 miles today was bad for a rest day. We may be in Paris a bit late, but not to worry, we have all the time in the world. 

 

George

 

Ps. We'd love to hear from you on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Keep up to date on where we are and what we're up to and maybe come and join us for a ride? Inspired by what we're up to, or want to find out a bit more? Stick the kettle on, make a brew and pen an email, you can catch us at thetandemmen@gmail.com.