October 2021 has been a quiet month on CyclingEurope.org; just two substantive posts, one about episode 40 of The Cycling Europe Podcast and the second reflecting upon the possibility of embarking upon a cycling trip around the Baltic Sea in 2022. Well, after quite some considerable thought and an in depth chat with a German chap called Bernd who cycled the complete routed in 2019 (that will be published as an episode of The Cycling Europe Podcast later in November), I took a significant step in committing myself to heading off on a long Baltic cycle tour next year by buying a ticket for the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam on Monday 20th June 2022…
The online map that was referred to in the earlier post has evolved somewhat in the past few days as I have fiddled with routes, investigated ferries and trains and added notes from people who have commented either here on the website or on social media:
I do like these online Google maps and have created several in recent years, most notably the one for the abandoned trip to Japan and, earlier this year, the one for cycling the Hebridean Way. They are clearly of interest to other people as they have been viewed thousands of times. Indeed the one I’ve started to create for the Baltic Sea Cycle Route, despite only existing for under a week, has already been viewed over 600 times. Admittedly, if you zoom in on the Baltic Sea route map, it is not a very accurate representation of the EuroVelo 10 route, just a rough estimation, but it doesn’t need to be pinpoint accurate. Other sources are available if such information is needed; the EuroVelo website for example or the EuroVelo app or indeed the very useful OpenStreetMap ‘cycling’ layer which must have every cycle route in the world covered with great accuracy. Quite an achievement! Here’s a screenshot of the Open Street Map cycle layer for the western end of the Baltic Sea for example:
But I digress… Although I now have my ticket for the ferry on June 20th, everything else is very much t.b.c. From what I have discovered about the route so far, a cycle clockwise would seem the best of the two options. It would mean cycling the more northerly parts of the route earlier in the summer and would also mean that, upon arrival in Klaipėda on the Lithuanian coast, I would have the option of cutting the trip short by taking a ferry to Lübeck. I’m not saying that I want to do this but it’s at least an option if time were running short. The date of the 20th June is specifically chosen as it would mean arriving on the continent on the morning of the longest day of the year (the ferry being an overnight voyage). It also marks the start of summer, obviously the best time to be on a bike. My nominal return trip on the ferry is September 20th, three months later. Is that enough time to cycle the entire route? I say ‘nominal’ as the ticket is flexible so can be easily changed. But staying for more than three months in the EU is problematic (thanks Brexit voters!). It’s not impossible however and I doubt there would be consequences if you happened to overstay your welcome by a few days. If you are wondering how I could possibly get time off work to embark on such a three-month trip, remember that although a teacher, I work as a supply teacher (or, as the pupils prefer to say ‘just a supply teacher’) so I decide when I work rather than any employer. I can highly recommend it!
Other questions to spend time reflecting upon in the coming months:
- Should I take the ferry from Stockholm to the Åland Islands and onwards to Turku in Finland, or, in order to explore the Gulf of Bothnia, should I make use of the night trains that would take me north along the Swedish coast and then, after a 250km cycle across the border between Sweden and Finland at the northernmost point of the Baltic Sea Cycle Route, take another night train along the west coast of Finland? I have all but discounted the idea of cycling the whole route. If I were to do so, I would need to cycle 9,000km in three months which, if not impossible, would stretch me. I cycled 7,800km in 2015 from Tarifa to Nordkapp in just over 100 days without taking any trains (although it did involve a few unavoidable ferries, especially in Norway) so I have the completeness thing out of my system. A journey around the Baltic Sea that is predominantly by bicycle with a few trains and ferries where appropriate is fine by me.
- Which brings me nicely to Russia. I don’t relish the thought of cycling in Russia but it would be interesting to visit St. Petersburg. You can do this without applying for a visa in advance but by buying a ticket to travel on the boat from Helsinki. It comes with a 72-hour visa to stay in Russia’s second city after which a second boat links with Tallinn on the north coast of Lithuania. Visiting Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland might be more problematic visa-wise but it would be a quick overnight cycle. The alternatives would be to cycle inland and cross the border into Poland to the east of Kaliningrad or take a series of trains from Klaipėda to Gdansk. Or even take a ferry to Trelleborg in Sweden and then another ferry to near the Polish-German border (missing out most of the Polish section of the route). Not the best option but an option nevertheless.
- Clockwise, yes, but from where and to where? Kiel? Lübeck? They would seem the obvious places. But would I cycle to them at the start of the trip or take a train? I’ve always fancied cycling along the north-western coast of Germany and then the Dutch coast. Would it be better to do so as a prologue to cycling the EuroVelo 10 or as an epilogue?
Much to think about…
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