We had a very short day today and so woke up a leisurely 15 minutes later than normal. After our breakfast of bread and jam which we are becoming very accustomed to now, we set off, direction Slovenia. Crossing into another country is always exciting and so we hurriedly cycled to the border. We found a path only for pedestrians and cyclists to cross and were greeted by a big Slovenia sign. We spent the next 15 minutes putting on the self timer on my camera and trying to capture mid air jumping shots. We were very excited indeed to be in Slovenia. After jumping about like happy little children, we were back on our way. We followed the river for a while before making our way southward to Maribor – the second biggest city in Slovenia. After 35 miles of cycling, we arrived and were pleasantly surprised by the lovely city centre. We went straight onto trip advisor to see what the main attractions were, and the number one thing to do here is to go to an ice cream shop. We felt compelled to try the no.1 activity; and we were not disappointed. An enormous ice cream for only 1€!! It was so good in fact that we went back a couple of hours later to have another. We are even planning our breakfast there. After watching a beautiful sunset over Maribor, we slowly wandered back to the hotel where Sasha enjoyed the luxury of a double bed.
We said goodbye to Hartberg and continued South. Our morning was fairly flat and so we did a quick 20 miles before stopping for a break. The bicycle path had been so well signposted up until now, however, they quickly faded away and Garmy came to the rescue correcting our route many times. Temperatures hit 30 degrees today and our first tan lines emerged. We also had some very fast descents reaching a new top speed of 45mph. Overall we had a very pleasant day and arrived in a tiny town 15km above the Slovenian border at around 17pm. We were the only people staying at the small chalet-like hotel and enjoyed a not-so-delicious microwaved pizza for dinner. Tomorrow – Slovenia !!!
We left our lavish Thai accommodation early in the morning and bought croissants from a local bakery for breakfast. Assuming our day would not be too long, neither too difficult, we took things easy. However, shortly after leaving Wiener Neustadt we realised we were very wrong. A day of hills followed.
Spirits quickly turned from good to grumpy, hills quickly turned into mountains, sun turned to rain and roads turned to rocky path. We stopped for lunch mid way up the hill and the view was beautiful. The lunch of stale bread and ham was less so, however we were feeling happier. The path didn’t have a single car, the scenery was picturesque and so a part from the never ending steep hill that lay before us, there was not much to complain about. We found the cycle path early on in the day and followed it all the way to our destination – Hartberg ( a small town in southern Austria, famous for precisely nothing). The path was generally very well signposted, however, it did throw us off a few times leading us into private gardens and flowerbeds. We enjoyed a quiet dinner and wienerschnitzel in the town centre and mentally prepared ourselves for the next hilly hilly day.
After the best 9 days cycling with dad from Berlin to Vienna, the time had come for him to leave. The time we had spent together had been truly special, however, it was time for part two of the cycle trip with my friend Sasha. I had two days to explore Vienna before he did arrive and so I spent my time visiting the city and more importantly cleaning the bikes and making sure they were in perfect shape for the next 1000 kilometres. Sasha managed to lose himself on the way to the hotel however we did end up together in the end and ambled around the city for a couple of hours eventually finding a very cheap 6€ pizza for dinner. We slowly cycled around Vienna the next morning squeezing the most we could out of the beautiful city before turning on garmi and heading south. The ride was extremely easy and flat, and after just over 40 miles we arrived at our destination. The hotel was a little less luxurious than it had been with dad. We were staying above a cheap, unattractive Thai restaurant in a cheap, unattractive town. On the plus side, the hot water was working and the beds had mattresses so we were happy.
We left Znojmo after another altercation with the Penzion which would accept either cash or credit card (but not a combination of the two). As I wanted to get rid of my remaining Czech Kroner and pay the balance on credit card, we were set for a stand – off. Leaving Czech was a bizarre experience. The road near the border was lined for a few miles with casinos and “gentleman’s” clubs. Are these illegal in Austria and they have to cross the border for a flutter and other entertainment? Who knows? The border crossing itself was another massive disappointment with the tiniest sign to tell us we were entering Austria.
Having cycled all the way across Czech over the past few days, we expected something a bit more significant to mark our departure from the country.
The cycling day was perhaps our least fun of the trip. The rain which we had avoided so far came lashing down in the afternoon and we were soaked and frozen. There were more (and steeper) hills than we were expecting and for the rest of the time we were going through fairly ugly towns like Hollabrun where we stopped for a sandwich lunch. We finally arrived in Vienna – my final destination after 500 miles, but for Toby just a resting point before continuing his journey on Monday with Sacha (who will pick up my bike here). We have been through 3 countries and 3 capital cities ; have visited 5 castles ; reached a peak speed of 40 mph; climbed countless hills – and amazingly have not had a single puncture. We have tomorrow together to see the sights of Vienna, but as it was our last night we went to a fabulous restaurant (called 1070) to mark the end of our journey together. It has been a very special time and whilst looking forward to coming home, it will also be very sad to part and to draw a close on what has been a very special experience.