Cycling

Joining the CTC

According to the little vote countdown over there on the right, it is now 365 days until I set off at 9am on Monday 19th July 2010. Actually, it isn’t as it is still Saturday 18th July 2009. But anyway, P-365 is looming and is now within hours…
I have joined the CTC – “the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation” for the sum of £36 for a year. Let’s hope it’s worth it. They have lots of advice and guidance on their website – and I’ve already made use of their chat forums (see earlier posts). A welcome pack is winging its way to me as I type. A bi-monthly magazine is promised etc.. However, the potentially most interesting attraction of membership is having access to the bank of routes that they have made available on their website. It will take some time to actually find the most useful ones for Berkshire to Brindisi – the nearest I have come so far (after only a few minutes browsing) is a route from Calais to Istanbul by a chap called Martin Fiennes (good name for an explorer – he could be related) in July/August 1983! The first bit of his route takes him to Strasbourg, from where he heads east to Austria and finally Istanbul. His route to Strasbourg is described as follows:
CALAIS to St Omer
Fairly gentle through area of old coal mines, pretty villages.
St Omer to Arras, to Bapaume, to Peronne:
Battle of the Somme country, again fairly flat, many war graves etc.
Peronne to Coucy (nice chateau) and on to Chavignon, climb up to the “chemin des dames” very beautiful. On via Maizy to Cormicy.
Cormicy (northernmost village of the Champagne region) to Rheims, climb for 15km towards Epernay. Then Champillon down to Epernay, wonderful views, speedy downhill. Lovely ride along “route de champagne’ through Avize to Villeneuve. (Note – try the local aperitif,
not champagne, but Ratafia). Villeneuve to Vatry, to Soutry, to Vitry – fairly flat and dull country.
Joinville to Gondrecourt lovely unspoilt farming country, you are now in the foothills of the Vosges.
Gondrecourt to Vaucouleurs, approximately 30 kms with a nice downhill to finish. Very good road, little traffic. On to Evilize and nice chateau at Haroue. On to Baccarat.
Baccarat, 25 km uphill to the Col du Hartz, then beautiful 15 kms down to Schirmeck, to Mutzigf to Strasbourg.
His route is all in France – the Eurovélo 5 route takes in Brussels and Luxembourg – so to the south of what I expect to do, but it is more direct – worth thinking about.
Anyway, at the end of his account, a few wonderful notes have been added, some of them reflecting the days of 1983:
I had days off in Ravensburg, Salzburg, 4 days in Vienna, 4 days in Budapest, and one in Kavala, as well as a liberal sprinkling of half days here and there. It took me from July 15th to August 26th. After Vienna I took pretty well the most direct routes; a couple of extra weeks here and you may well find some quieter and more interesting roads.
How many km? I’m not really sure, I never sat down with the maps and worked it out; but maybe around 3000.
Calais to Istanbul is effectively one diagonal of Europe – top left to bottom right. I want to do the other one day, maybe something like Gdansk to Cadiz.
Camping was never a problem, and you will be unlucky (if travelling alone) if you have to put your tent up more than a couple of times in Hungary and Yugoslavia so hospitable were the local people.
Have a union Jack on your bike bags somewhere. Otherwise people will assume you are from another European country of which they have less happy memories. This was a wonderful, memorable trip. I would do it again at the drop of a hat! Go alone!

With GPS et al, I can’t imagine there are many people nowadays who so laid back about the distance travelled. The comment about the Union Jack is one I don’t think I’ll follow! Nevertheless, most of his advice is still relevant.
My route search goes on…

Categories: Cycling

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