13. Stage Farcasa – Vanatori Neamt
60 kilometres - 760 metres altitude difference – cycling time 2 hours 30 minutes
Before we say something about today’s stage, we’d like to give you an impression of our daily camp life. After getting up at 06:00, we prepare breakfast together, the relevant utensils and crockery carried by our support truck. Since breakfast is enormously important for us cyclists, a large choice is made available. Alongside bread and jam, we also have muesli, fruit and scrambled eggs. After being well-fed, all the breakfast equipment is stored away once again. There is then the chance to carry out any last minute adjustments or repairs to the bicycles and the opportunity for a quick look at the map.
At around 08:00, everything starts to move. Arrival time at our destination is normally between 15:30 and 20:30. After the support truck is in its final position, we all start work on building the camp up. The trailer needs to be opened up, benches are set into position and the mobile kitchen is put together. Approximately 90 minutes after arriving, the food is ready. Finally, even in our men’s world, we wash and dry up and get cleaning. Also the report that you’re reading at the moment is written and the route for the next day is confirmed. There is normally no time left for any further leisure activities, since by this time, the evening is almost over. Most go directly to the trailer to sleep after carrying out the above work.
Today’s stage was something special for us. Shortly after the start, we were caught out by rainfall. With our wet weather gear on, we carried on to climb a 900m high mountain. Once we reached the top, this was the last peak of the Carpathian mountains that we had to negotiate. The way down was made difficult by the poor roads and bad weather. A gentle downhill slope saw us reach our destination in Vanatori Neamt, where some of us took the opportunity to visit the Greek Orthodox church there.
Since we are well within our time schedule, and it’s only one day’s ride to the Moldovan border, we deliberately made today’s stage short. We should reach Calarasi on Friday, and slowly the excitement is building. Once of our gifts will be a “peace pole”, with the words “May there be peace on Earth” written in the four languages of the Bühl twin-towns. With this gift, we want to offer our help to reach an ideological goal.
12. Stage Faragau-Farcasa
171 kilometres - 1178 metres altitude difference – cycling time 6 hours 39 minutes
Due to a rain shower, our start was delayed by one hour. However, after we said goodbye to our hosts, who kindly let us use their land, the roads were mostly dry once again. Although delayed, we continued our journey with dry feet. The more than 1900km that lie behind us was noticeable by all. Tiredness and exhaustion were obvious amongst the group. However, the closer we come to our destination, the easier it becomes to overcome this.
After we passed Reghin, the moderate climb began to the highest point of today at 1105 m. The route runs alongside the River Bistrida, where many sawmills are to be found. In some places, the roads were so bad, that we preferred to ride on the verges. Once we reached the above peak, this was the highest point of the whole tour. On the way down, we had a further 35km to manage before reaching Lake Bicaz. Another 10km later saw us reach our day’s destination in Farcasa. Here, we set up in the car park of a really nice Pension, that was found in the normal manner by our support team Horst and Willi. We enjoyed our dinner together in the carefully tended Pension garden. Our kitchen remained cold for a change.
11. Stage Gilau-Faragau
132 kilometres - 1400 metres altitude difference – cycling time 5 hours 35 minutes
We had a good night in Gilau without succumbing to vampire bites. We arrived in Cluj Napoca after just 15 km from our start. We had a number of difficulties crossing the really large town, where many large global companies (e.g. Nokia, Bosch and Rehau) are located. We had to repeat a 5km climb up a 700m high hill twice due to navigation problems, not helped by the high density of heavy goods vehicles.
After Cluj Napoca, we left the busy E60 and rode on the comparatively quiet E16, which runs alongside. This roads runs through hilly landscape towards Reghin. In Cluj Napoca, we saw the last signs of industry. The villages that we were now passing through seem to live entirely from agriculture. We could often see work being done in the fields, that for us has for a long time been handled by machinery, being done by hand or with animals.
Not just the landscape was impressive, but also the friendliness of the locals. As a part of the group waited for the rest by a well, following a climb, two locals offered us water from the well. This offer was gratefully received. With an ambient temperature of 32° C, the cool and clear well water provided a welcome chance to cool down.
On our arrival in Faragau, Horst Schmidt (one of our support crew members) had negotiated the use of a school yard for our nightly camp. Unfortunately, it wasn’t reachable with our support truck. Without further ado, we were offered the use of a neighbouring former business yard to park the truck. After we set up camp, the Mayor of Faragau paid us a visit. He told us about the dramatic situation of his community in great detail. According to him, the community had 1684 inhabitants, that without exception live from agriculture. 220 school children attend the local school from ages four to eleven. The typical rent is between €50 and €200 monthly. 20 members of his community are working part-time in Germany as seasonal farm workers. Their income there increases their quality of life once back home. He showed real interest in friendly relationships between German communities in any type or form.
10. Stage Oradea-Gilau
136 kilometres - 1000 metres altitude difference – cycling time 4 hours 56 minutes
We were happy to leave the campsite in Oradea, since the sanitation left a lot to be desired. We continued our journey through sparse and unfarmed land towards Transylvania. Today we again had luck with the weather with a sunny 30°C. Until today’s destination in Gilau, we’ll follow the E60 main road, which makes navigation a lot simpler. This was, we will be following the route sought out by Dave Barrett, who rode this for us last year. Here, we’d like to say a hello to Dave and Susanne. If you’d like to read about his motorcycle tours, you can buy his book entitled “Dodging Potholes”. Contact details can be found on our homepage. All proceeds from the book sales are going directly to the Calarasi orphanage.
The area was finally hilly again several kilometres after Oradea, with us reaching the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. This was a welcome change from the long flat stages over the last couple of days.
In this region, it appears that time has stood still. For example, haymaking is carried out with scythe and horse cart. The result is countless haystacks dotting the landscape. Almost every house has its own well and watchdog, who we often surprised by announcing our presence by ringing our loud bells. The many people by the side of the road were initially very surprised by us, but shortly began to make contact. Many opportunities to buy souvenirs were offered by the countless number of stalls at the edge of the road, mainly offering basketware, animal skins and wood carvings.
We hope for a peaceful night on the wonderful campsite in Gilau, without being bitten by Count Dracula, since our food reserve doesn’t have enough garlic to go round to ward off the vampires.
9. Stage Cedleg- Oradea (Romania)
210 kilometres - 370 metres altitude difference – cycling time 6 hours 40 minutes
Before we started in wonderful weather towards Romania, we unfortunately had to say good bye to Florian Vogel, Klaus Metzinger and Jürgen Schweder. With heavy hearts, they started their journey back home.
With a strong tailwind and good roads, we were quickly through the “well-known” towns of Szolnok, Törökszentmiklos, Püspökladany and Berettyoujfalu in the Hungarian flatlands towards the East.
Endless vastness and giant cornfields dominate the landscape. After 180 km and an average speed of 32 km/h we reached the border with Romania. We must say good bye to a country with friendly people, picturesque towns and an impressive capital. Actually, our stage should have ended before the border, but the campsite we wanted to use was too soft for the truck, so we ended up finding an alternative in Oradea.
The unexpected border crossing brought about a few problems, since not all the cyclists had their passports to hand. Copies were not accepted by the precise, but friendly Romanian border guards. After half an hour, our support vehicle, that had already crossed into Romania, turned back, supplied us with the missing passports, and we could continue.
Our impression of Oradea, with its scruffy concrete-block buildings and run-down industry, stood out from what we had seen already. In strong contrast, new houses on the outskirts were in evidence, which showed more of a Western Europe standard.
Worn out from the unexpectedly long stage, we finally reached a small campsite to the east of Oradea. By a comparatively low temperature of 20°C, we set our watches one hour forwards, since we have crossed a time-zone. The impressions gathered today gave us lots to talk about during the evening.
8. Stage Üröm – Cedleg
109 kilometres - 410 metres altitude difference – cycling time 4 hours 10 minutes
At around four in the morning, we had to re-secure our tarpaulin, since a heavy storm with accompanying high winds was raging around us. For this reason, plus the fact the planned stage distance isn’t so long, we set off at 09:30. Despite heavy traffic and poor roads, we crossed the capital, Budapest, relatively quickly. The city crossing was a whole 20km long. At the edge of the city, a strong tailwind allowed us to reach speeds of up to 45 km/h, although the extremely poor road conditions allowed this only on the better sections.
We built up our camp on a nice campsite in Cedleg. Helmut Ehreiser and Simon Seiler were waiting here for us, and they will accompany us from here on until the Black Sea.
Today, we‘d like to report on the daily activities of our support crew - Willi Keller and Horst Schmidt, who drive our support vehicle, plus Heinz Rübig and Uwe Weissgerber, who are driving the truck with our mobile hotel towed behind them. The support vehicle keeps us supplied with drinks and snacks throughout the daily ride. In addition, should problems arise, e.g. problems with the bicycles or navigation difficulties, they are always on hand. After the crossing into Hungary, the linguistic skills of Horst Schmidt, who speaks fluent Hungarian and Romanian, are really appreciated.
The two truck drivers search for a suitable place for our lunch stops, fill up the water tanks (until now, we have used 2000 litres of wash water), secure the loads and take care of the shopping. Up until now, we have used approximately 500 litres of drinking water. Without the four members of our support crew, this tout would not have been possible, so we’d like to say a big THANK YOU!
7. stage Nickelsdorf - Üröm
176 kilometres - 513 metres altitude difference – cycling time 6 hours 30 minutes
After our relaxing, but short night, we’re heading towards Budapest this morning. After just 2km, we reached the Hungarian border, where we took our daily group photo.
Over bumpy and long, straight roads, we reached the first Hungarian villages alongside the A1. The sun burned and the traffic towards Györ became heavier. In addition, the sometimes poor road condition sapped our complete concentration. The long line of cyclists threaded their way through the town towards Komarom, where we made the long awaited lunch stop.
Fortified, we rode in 40°C heat along the Danube on the A10 towards Budapest. The extreme heat made us stop for an additional drink shortly before our destination, allowing us to refill our water bottles for the remaining kilometres.
We managed the biggest climb of the day without problems and arrived in good spirits at 16:15 at the campsite in Üröm, approximately 10km before Budapest. Here we relaxed from the strains of a successful day under shady trees with a glass of cold beer.
6. stage St. Pölten - Nickelsdorf
175 kilometres - 1000 metres altitude difference – cycling time 6 hours 30 minutes
We began today’s stage at the town hall square in St. Pölten with the obligatory group photo. From here, we travelled through the gentle hills of Wachau towards Vienna. Unfortunately, our tight schedule didn’t allow us to see the sights of Vienna, so we were restricted to the outskirts. We were quickly through the picturesque town of Mödling, where we left the greater Vienna area, then we went further on country roads towards Burgenland. In many fields the crop harvesting was in full swing, with sunflower fields lining our route. This region is renowned for its vineyards. At the same time, the closeness to the Hungarian border could be seen, since the buildings start to adopt Hungarian architecture. In scorching heat, bathing in the Neusiedler lake was very welcome. After this last rest, only 30km remained. Since our start last Friday, we have reached the 1000km mark, meaning we have a third of the tour behind us.
Once in Nickelsdorf, we set up our camp next to a sports field. The town, with a population of 1500, lies just 2km from the border to Hungary. The most well-known event is the annual NovaRock rock festival held every July, which regularly attracts some 150,000 visitors.
We curiously await tomorrow’s stage that will lead us to the entrance of Budapest. From there, our stops and visits are no longer pre-arranged, and must be organised daily by our support team.
5. stage Wels – St. Pölten
158 kilometres - 510 metres altitude difference – cycling time 5 hours 55 minutes
Clear blue skies and a temperature of 23°C indicated a hot summer day by the start in Wels. Courageously we made our way to St. Pölten, the regional capital of Lower Austria.
After about 30km, we reached Linz. Accompanied by Markus Draxler, a local cyclist, who we met due to having a puncture, we followed the River Danube. Once again we profited from the Austrian hospitality. Despite a strong headwind, we made good progress, although that didn’t stop us enjoying the attractive Danube valley landscape. We met many cyclists on the way through the valley.
After crossing into Lower Austria, we reached Persenbeug in the Wachau region, with a midday pause on the shores of the Danube. The last Austrian Kaiser was born here. We found some shade from the midday heat under two large oak trees.
We followed the Danube further until Melk. The monastery here was an architectural highpoint of today’s stage.
Strong headwinds accompanied us for the last stretch to St. Pölten, which we reached at 16:30. We had a lot of fun on the waterslide in the local swimming pool. We set up our nightly camp next to the prison wall.
4. stage Mattsee - Wels
115 kilometers - 1100 metres altitude difference – cycling time 4 hours 30 minutes
We had breakfast at a beautifully set table in Mattsee castle in order to get enough power for the fourth stage. This was also the opportunity to thank them for the hospitality. Before we started our trip, we had to say farewell to Isabell Vogel and our guest cyclists Siegbert Meier, Walter Kronimus, Oswald Seebacher and Erwin Oser.
With 16 cyclists left, we continued our tour towards Wels (close to Linz) in Lower Austria. Like the previous days, the terrain was very hilly when we headed east with a pleasant temperature of 27°C and mostly cloudy sky. The fourth leg was planned a bit shorter on purpose, so that we could possibly enjoy the European Championship party. This also meant that there was for once enough time to have lunch in a pizzeria near Ried (Inn district). Well fed, we continued the second half of the trip.
A thunderstorm took us by surprise not too far from today’s destination. Luckily, we found refuge in a petrol station, so that we hardly got wet. In the city of Wels (60.000 inhabitants), we set up our camp close to a nice public pool and chilled out watching a film.
3. stage Pfaffenhofen - Mattsee
210 kilometers - 1575 metres altitude difference – cycling time 8 hours 10 minutes
Our third stage started in the pretty town of Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm with bright and sunny weather. Cycling alongside the hop growing region of Hallertau, we continued our journey in the district of Freising. Using small roads, we could fully enjoy Bavaria’s beautiful landscape. We quickly passed the districts of Landshut and Mühldorf with high spirits, heading directly towards Zangberg where we stopped for a lunch break. Our companions told us that they were stopped at a police control, but passed through without problems. This brought back memories of last year’s tour to Schkeuditz when the group was stopped under the suspicion of people smuggling.
The route then led us to Altötting where we payed a visit to the famous pilgrim’s church. In Burghausen we crossed the river Salzach and also the border to Austria. With high temperatures of 36°C, we cycled through the beautiful district of the Salzburger Land and headed for Mattsee. Ten kilometers before Mattsee, we had to attack the 3 kilometer long and 20% steep stretch to the top of the Haunsberg mountain. However, the warm welcome in Mattsee compensated for the strain. They also organized a TV so that we could watch the European Championship finals. Unfortunately, German only reached second place. The break at half time was used to exchange gifts. The city of Mattsee donated 500 Euro for the orphanage. A big thank you for this!
2. stage Bad Urach – Pfaffenhofen
203 kilometers – 1350 metres altitude difference – cycling time 7 hours 30 minutes
Our second stage began in Bad Urach in wonderful weather and should take us to Pfaffenhofen a. d. Ilm.
Right at the beginning, the Grabenstetter Steige was the first steep climb of the day. A motorcycle accident caused a delay, since the road was completely closed to traffic. We continued our stage with an apprehensive feeling. Each of us was reminded of the risk of our trip. Cycling across the Swabian Alps, we passed the beautiful old city centre of Lauingen and cycled on to Dillingen in Bavaria.
There we crossed the river Danube and stopped for a lunch break. Our companions Willi Keller and Horst Schmidt provided us with fruit and vegetables in their usual excellent manner. Uwe Weisgerber and Heinz Rübig had to supply the first spare parts for Hubert’s bicycle.
Following a good lunch, we continued the last 100 kilometres of our second leg. Although we did not have to master any real climbs anymore, the hilly terrain was quite a challenge. However, the beautiful landscape and sunny weather made up for the strain.
More and more hop fields next to the road indicated that we were getting close to Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, since the city is located in the Hallertau, Germany’s largest hop growing region. Our sponsor, the “Ulmer Brewery” buys hops from there.
When we reached our camp at the open air pool in Pfaffenhofen, our cycle computers showed 203 kilometres and 1350 metres altitude difference. In the pool, we enjoyed the opportunity to relax our muscles and to have a shower. After dinner, we finished the evening in a laid-back atmosphere.
1. stage – Bühl – Bad Urach
190 kilometers – 2000 metres altitude difference – cycling time 7 hours 45 minutes
We met on Friday morning at 8 o’clock at the church in Bühl to start our tour to Călărasi. After the symbolic act of enrolling all cyclists, greetings of Bühl’s coordinator for European partnerships, Bern Kölmel, and of mayor Hans Striebel, the cycle group headed off to Bad Urach applauded by quite a number of spectators. Until today, the donations amount to 36.000 Euro. It would be great to hit the 40.000 Euro mark by the time we arrive in Călărasi.
On this first stage, the Bühl-Călărasi cyclists were accompanied by about 40 cyclists from different clubs and companies, amongst others a group from Mommenheim (Alsace), the clubs Sturmvogel Moos, RSV Falkenfels Bühlertal and Volksbank Bühl. Furthermore, the district administrator Jürgen Bäuerle, mayor Hubert Schnurr and Bühl’s head of police, Walter Kautz, accompanied us, the latter also organized a police escort for the cycle group to guide them to their first stop at the “Ulmer Brewery”.
There, the CEO of the “Ulmer Brewery”, Siegbert Meier, presented us with a cheque for 1.000 Euro as a donation for the orphanage in Călărasi. Of course, they also served us food and drinks. Then, the route took us via Ruhestein, Baiersbronn and Freudenstadt to Dornstetten where we had a break. The last guest cyclists left us there and returned back home. With good weather conditions and temperatures around 27° C, the stage continued across the Black Forest towards Calw, Tübingen, Metzingen until Bad Urach.
We did not reach Bad Urach until 19:30, after a total of 190 kilometers, 2000 meters altitude difference and a cycling time of 7 hours, 45 minutes. Since the city of Bad Urach had already reserved a site spot for us, the camp was set up very quickly. After a well deserved dinner, we had a quiet evening.