After a lunch break in Vienna, we follwed the Danube river cycle pathway until Linz. Passing by Munich and the Allgäu we arrived at the lake Konstanz in Brengenz. We were vey happy to see the lake again and especially to swim in it. It was a little bit cold already but at least we were clean afterwards.
Our last night we spent in Rohrschach, Switzerland, right next to the lake. Our campsite was beautiful but the Swiss police thought differently: at 23.30 they woke us up and they made us pack our stuff and camp somewhere else. The reason: Wild camping is not allowed all around the lake. Not even for one night.
It was very dissapointing, especially regarding that in 5 month of wild camping we had always found a place where we were welcome.
The 20.09.2014 around noon we finally arrived at Konstanz!
We are happy and greatful that we could make this journey and at the same time we are happy to be back home, enjoying the comfort of having a bed and a warm shower.
At this point we want to say thank you to all those who gave us their support and who followed us on our trip. It was great!
Anja - Müllheim, 26.09.2014
After some days in nature close to Brasov, Philip and me continued our way by bicycle towards Sighishoara. This small city, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, is the birth place of Dracula. With its ancient castle and clock tower and its cobbled stone streets you can easily imagine Dracula coming alive. But in the sunshine it is mostly a relaxed place, which is nice to hang out!
As Philips got an inflammation at his knee we made a 3-days stop there, but in terms of enjoying the city this was actually slightly to long. The city is very beautiful but it is also very small and there isn’t much going on. But at least the knee got better and we could continue riding the bike afterwards.
We were surprised to find out that there was actually a lot of German influence in big parts of Rumania (Transsylvania). Apparently the Saxons were living in this area in the mideavel. A lot of cities also have a German name that is still known very well. Sighishoara for example is also called Schäßburg and Brasov is known as Kronstadt. Ans in Sighishoare there was a small musuem about an old German school and all the ancient textbooks of the pharmacy-exhibition in the castle were written in German.
Generally we found that the architecture of the villages we passed through in Rumania were similar to German ones.
So step by step we can feel how we are coming close to our home country. There are for example German supermarkets everywhere and also the weather and the landscpaes are somehow similar – only that nature in Rumania is still much wilder and untouched. And well, you can’t find a lot of horse carriages in Germany, too. And the condition oft he streets is a lot worse. But we actually found a bicycle lane a few kilometers before the Hungarian border. Yes, we can feel that we are in Europe again!
Everything is a little bit less extreme here. The Carpathians almost don’t feel like mountains to us and the sun is just shining not „burning“. In Turkey we were only able to cycle about 85km a day but here we do easily 120-130km. It’s somehow just easier.
But Hungary teches us, what the meaning of „flat“ is. The highest point on our way from the Rumanian border to Budapest prbably was some bridge crossing some tracks or a highway.
In Budapest we only spent one lunch break. We had explored this city before and this time we wanted to get to know the Slovakian capital: Bratislava.
Going there was horrible though. It was raining non-stop. As everything was completely wet we decided to skip our last night of camping and so we cycled the last 50km in the dark. We were not sure i fit was a good decision, as we had done 130km that day already and we had almost never cycled at night before, but it was fine and we were really, really happy when we arrived in a Hostel where we could take a warm shower and slip into a dry bed.
The next days we explored the city and we really liked it. The Slovaks seem tob e nice and relaxed people who likt to climb and to cook delicous food. Also they semm to have a godd portion of humos and they seem to like unconvential things. Also the old town of Bratislava is very beautiful, as you can imagine, if you know that Bratislava once was the capital of the Austrian-Hungarian empire.
So we spoiled ourselves a little bit in Bratislava before starting the last part of out journey and going home.
After 3 days on the ferry we finally have arrived in Ukraine. In Odessa we were hosted by couchsurfers, who also showed us the city. Odessa is very beautiful! Everywhere is holiday feeling, there are street musicans, eateries and especially nice temperatures! Yes, nice 25°, which we enjoy very much.
As many people asked us about it: You do not feel that there is war in Eastern Ukraine when being in Odessa. In Odessa there are no fightings, there was only one violent incident 3 or 4 months ago.
We enjoyed very much being in Odessa, looking at buildings, going into bars and regenerate a bit.
Because the following days were very exhausting. We agreed on meeting Milan’s friend Niklas in Brasov, Romania and we had to hurry up. So we were cycling the whole day, about 120 km a day. The landscape helped us be being quite flat, especially in Moldavia, in which we entered from Ukraine.
We crossed this small state from east to west in 3 days. In Moldavia people speak a language similiar to Romanian, but Russian is still understood by most oft the people.
From Moldavia we entered Romania, which means that we are back in the EU now!
However the EU welcomed us by being quite slowly and rural. In Eastern Romania many people still live their lifes in a very old-fashioned way. In some parts we saw more horse carriages than cars. We liked that a lot, whereas we did not like the state oft the streets so much.
But we still made it to Brasov without making Niklas wait for too long. He had arrived half a day before us with his car, bicylce and dog.
In Brasov we split up for a few days. Milan and Niklas were going to spend some time in Brasov and then go by car to Budapest, from where Milan is going to go on the Danube bicycle route to Munich.
Anja and me went climbing in the Carpathian Mountains. It was very nice! Now we are riding through Transylvania in direction of Budapest. From there we will also follow the Danube.
On the 19th of September we are meeting up in Munich and from there ride home together.
After following the Debed river for some last kilometers and passing some romantic looking industrial sites, most of them established in the former soviet union, we past the border to Georgia and headed straight to Tiflis.
There we stayed at ¨The Travel House¨, an apartment rented out for July and August where travelers from around the world can stay for free. The Travel House is a project organized by the Serbian travel forum TheTravelClub.org and mainly financed by crowdfunding and donations. This years one was the third after Istanbul and Granada and hopefully many more will follow. We shared stories, played music, cooked and went out together. Philip and Anja stayed there only for a night and went up to Kazbegi then and I stayed there some longer to try to organize a boat journey to Boston by cargo ship.
Tiflis was a very fascinating city. Vivid but relaxed, a nice mixture of modern and nicely restored buildings as well as small old city houses and packed with bars, clubs, cinemas and theaters.
Besides that there was a camp-site, a little semiliar to the Gezi-Park one in Istanbul just a little smaller, which occupied an area where a huge hotel site should be constructed. People there were very friendly and welcoming and short visit turned into a long, very lovely evening.
Another highlight in Tiflis is said to be a visit of one of the many sulfur baths. The get an authentic experience I decided to go to the public Orbeliani Bath, where men and woman have different entries and go inside naked. You could find a lot of showers, a sauna and the sulfur bath itself. As it turned out the public bath was a meeting point for local gay people who tended to flirt as decent as Armenians tend to offer Vodka and so my visit ended a little earlier than expected and I fled. At least that way the experience was not as ordinary as it would a been in a normal sulfur bath and I was happy for the people there to have a place like that in a society that didn't seem to gay-friendly to me.
After a couple of days in Tiflis I met Anja and Philip up in Kazbegi and we walked up to the glacier beneath the kazbeg mountain, a wonderful walk which can be definitely recommended.
On our journey through Georgia towards Poti we passed many quite villages with lovely decorated houses and enjoyed a lot the quite days after some nice days of citylife. In Poti we where all looking forward to get on the ferry to Odessa and enjoyed to last days camping on the beach. The boat took us with a quite contant speed of 19Km/h in about 55 hours to Odessa and the only piece of land we could see through the journey was the krim and sevastopol before arriving in Ukraine.
Milan - Black Sea, somewhere near Sevastopol - 19.08.2014, 10.30 p.m.
Still being at the border the first thing we did in Armenia was a little Striptease. Headscarf, longsleeved tunica and trouseres were changed for bike shorts and shirts. What a great feeling!
The same evening we celebrated this regained freedom with beer in the small town Meghri closeby. But only with 1 or 2 beers, as we still had to look for a place to put our tent.
But opportunities to proove our drinking skills were not far: The next evening we passed the mining city Kajaran where we were invited by some local guys, more or less our age, to have BBQ and Vodka with them. And we failed. It all started with a little chat but we were told to have a seat, to have a plate and to drink Vodka. Drinking was fun after all this time in Muslim countries but the next morning we had a terrible hangover! We were not able to continue cycling the whole day! So that's how we had another chance to get familiar with Armenian hospitality. As we had put up our tents right in front of the public barbecue place the next day we were inivited again for sharing food and drinking Vodka. We strictly refused the Vodka, something that our hosts didn't understand. It was more, we even felt that we had seriously insulted them. (There was no common langugae, which made this even more complicated. If elder Armenians know a foreign langugae it is usually Russian. And we don't know neither Russian nor Armenian.) In the ongoing or our journey throgh Armenia we had many of this kind of invitaions. On hand hand it was nice that people were so eager about sharing but on the other hand it was annoying because we didn't want to drink Vodka. That's why we mostly refused, leaving people behind disappointed. Compared to their Muslim neighbours we felt that Armenians were not less hospitable but the way of displaying it couldn't be more different: In Iran for example were were many times afraid to accept something because many times they would just offer things because they wanted to be polite not because they really meant it. In Armenia there were no doubts: If you get a plate you get served it together with a command: Eat! And they will insist until you do so. Most comfortable , if you are hungry, difficult when you're full.
But we also got to know other Armenians. Much more descent, less Vodkad-drinking and still very helpful. With Zorhab and his climbing friends from Yerevan we spent 2 beautiful days climbing in the Hell's Canyon, which is about 90 km south of Yerevan and also a very nice spot for hiking.
Later in Yerevan, Armenias capital, Zorhab would also introduce us to Yerevan's clubbing scene. After spending so much time in nature it was a really nice change. We are always looking forward to go to the big cities: being surrounded by so many people, shops, arts, architecture, restaurants and bars, internet, a shower and a bed and especially having the chance to get to know some english-speaking, similar-minded locals of our age! But usually we also have enogh of it quite fast. I feel, that for a city you need time to really get to know it, and otherwise you have seen most of it pretty soon. That's why we left Yerevan after only one full day, although we liked it there.
Back to the mountains. Although the mountains north of Yerevan we comparably easy-going. Overall the Southern Causcasus is quite challange. The first days after arriving from Iran we climbed up to 2400m went down to 700m just to directly climb up to over 2000 m again. But nature was more than making up for it: Most of the mountains would be of an intensive green, only being interrupted here and there by small villages (which were more or less nice, acoording to the degree of influence of Soviet architecture) and monasteries. Further there was water everyehre in form of small rivers or drinking water fountains. And even the main connection road was a small road (although not in best conditions), with not much traffic. Altough the style of driving could be more careful sometimes. Driving with alcohol is apparently also normal here. But all in all Armenia is a very nice country for cycling and being in nature (if you are not annoyed by climbing mountains)!
Anja - 13.08.2014, 15.00