Cirque Euro Tour Part 5
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Posted on 18 July 2016
in Stories

Andorra to Albania - Part 5

06/27/16

Day 25 - Shakespeare etc

 

Today's ride was short and sweet, some of it along Lake Garda which, at this time of year, is swarmed with people looking for some relief from the heat. Less than three hours later I was in Verona, a beautiful city full of history and fables. By the way, Greengo wasn't allowed to see the most fabled place in Verona - Casa di Giulietta. Since I visited the city not long ago I didn't spend much time wandering around, just took a few pictures for the blog and went to meet an old acquaintance who is also my host for tonight. I haven't seen Elina for a while and it was nice to reacquaint. We went out while the city became empty and quiet. It was nice to see it without the overwhelming crowds, all courtesy to a football game, an important one - Italy against Spain. Of course there were eruptions of joy a couple of times for an obvious reason - Italy scored. We dined in a small restaurant tucked away in a quiet street. I ate pasta, good for cyclists, but with a twist, it was with horse ragout. We chatted about this and that and at the end of the day we knew a little bit more about each other. The more people I meet on this trip the easier I find it to open up. 

 

Today in numbers:

56 km - distance covered

3h13m - riding time

2 - goals scored by Squadra Azzurra against La Furia Roja

4 - flavors of gelato I tried today

3 - of Shakespeare's plays are set in Verona

 

06/28/16

Day 26 - (un)Comfortably Numb

 

Most of the road was, mildly put, unexciting: busy with traffic, surrounded by warehouses, industrial buildings and the bland houses of villages following one another. At times there were patches of more familiar Italian landscape with vineyards, fruit trees and other crops, but even that was quite monotonous.

It was flat as a table. I am so glad the mountainous part is over, at least for a short while. But there are always checks and balances: you have to pedal all the time without changing your position much… this ride was not solely mind numbing.

The entertainment I had during the ride was an Italian song from the 80's by Adriano Celentano I was humming. I remember neither the lyrics or the name. It has been stuck in my head since I entered Italy. I am afraid it's going to follow me around for a while.

So far I am not impressed with Italian roads or signposts: there aren’t many cycling pathways, the sides of roads are often crumbling, the directions are not always clear. Today, near Padua, on 2 roundabouts within 300m, there were signs indicating that the distance to Padua was 24km, 19km, 18km and then 20km. Peculiar, isn't it?

Padua itself is picturesque, with a dense network of arcaded streets opening into large communal piazzas, and many bridges crossing the various branches of the river. Galileo Galilei was a lecturer in Padua university, the second oldest in Italy.

When I arrived at Elisa and Mirco's house I was received with open arms. They are my wive's friends from her travel days. For dinner Elisa used vegetables from their garden, Mirco sliced several different types of prosciutto that were all delicious, and there were all sorts of Italian wines. We snapped a few selfies and had so much fun on their rooftop terrace that the dinner lasted well past midnight.

 

Today in numbers:

90 km - distance covered

4h40m - riding time

4 - items lost so far: visor from the helmet - not essential, pump - important but I have an extra one, tripod - very important (practically my personal photographer), chamois Butt'r - essential

 

06/29/16

Day 27 - Six Degrees of Separation

 

The day started so nicely. I woke up later than usual, Elisa fixed me a healthy breakfast, and when Mirco came back from a business meeting they sent me off with a bag full of food and wished me a good trip. I was in a good mood, cycling was easy, I anticipated a quick arrival to Venice and a pleasant day there. What could go wrong?

I got a flat tire - no biggie. Not my first, so I fixed it relatively quick. Put my bags back on the bike and... it was flat again. I didn't panic. Applied another patch, put the wheel back, loaded my bags and...repeat. I had to take the back wheel off to change the tube six times before it held its air until I got to Venice. I suspect it was a batch of old dried up tubes.

I finally arrived and was ready to board the ferry to go to San Marco Square, but bicycles are not allowed on ferries. Maybe others would turn around and leave, cursing the Venetian rules, but not me. I cursed, of course, while dragging the bike with its cargo through narrow streets full of tourists and carrying it over numerous bridges - six of them at least - including the Realto Bridge. But in the end, I am probably the only person who ever came to Piazza San Marco with his bike.

As soon as I snapped my last picture, the back wheel was flat again. I was out of tubes at this point. I used my last resort: I called Mirco and asked him to rescue me. And so he did. About one hour later we were back at their house in Padua. Pizza and beer, cheese, wine and conversation. The day ended as nicely as it had started.

I owe a big one to Elisa and Mirco for their hospitality and their help.

 

P.S. The word "Ciao" has Venetian origins. It used to be “s-ciavo vostro”, which means "your servant". Then it became at first “s-ciao” and then “ciao”.

 

Today in numbers:

52 km - distance covered, including dragging and carrying Greengo

3h - time riding, walking, climbing steps of bridges

4 - new tubes wasted

2036 km - total so far. Bigger part is behind

 

06/30/16

Day 28 - Great Plains

 

I booked my tickets to go Cyprus and Malta, so now I am on a real schedule. I don't know what I would’ve done if Mirco hadn't picked me up in Venice and found a Brompton dealer in Padua to get extra tubes. Only specialty bike shops sell tubes for Bromptons and there aren't many of them on my way. I was lucky there was one in Padua.

 

This morning we had breakfast on the rooftop terrace and Elisa, once again, put together a bag of food to get me through the day. We said "Ciao", and Mirco drove me up to the point where I would have started if I had stayed around Venice last night. We hugged and I was off, right on schedule.

Today my route was going through Italian plains. Some other time I might have been bored, but not after yesterday's debacle. I was perfectly content with the plainness of the passing passage. I was listening to the voice in my head singing the same Italian song over and over again. And it was OK. Although every now and then the voice would come out to cheer me up a little bit.

I was envisioning myself on the golden sand of Lignano Sabbiadoro, hence the name, sipping beer and planning my next day. When I arrived I did just that. The beach was full of Russians; I guess it's cheaper to come here than Sochi or Crimea. By the way, the sabbia being doro was an overstatement.

 

Revision: after checking my GPS tracking, I counted 11 bridges I crossed over yesterday in Venice on my way to Piazza San Marco.

 

Today in numbers:

86 km - distance covered

3h59m - riding time

5 - new tubes for the bike

1 - picture taken

1 - peg from my tent is missing

0 - flat tires

0 - detours

0 - frustration

 

07/01/16

Day 29 - Fool on the Hill

 

It was more of the same today. More flatlands, more pedaling, more of a sore butt. More fun with road markers: according to signs Trieste was 43km, 59km, 41km, 33km, 40km, 47km, 32km, 35km away, in that order. The only difference - it was even hotter. Close to Trieste, locals were going to the sea by their droves in an attempt to escape the heat. I would have liked to do the same but I also wanted to see the city, so I continued towards the city center. It was OK but that's about it. Maybe I just have an overdose of sightseeing. I used Google to look up the nearest campsite, it was about 4 km away. Because Google doesn't give cycling directions in Italy, I chose walking directions over driving to avoid getting on a highway again. I don't go for easy ways out and I am stubborn enough to pull it through. The first kilometer or so was nothing to report about. However, the last 3 kilometers were another story. It was so steep I had to push my bike all the way up. Add to this 36°C heat and blazing sun and you get the road to hell. One hour later, when I finally got to the camping site, I did not care about the view that opened up from the top of the hill.

Today in numbers:

90 km - distance covered cycling

4h - riding time

2.5 km - distance I pushed bike uphill

1h9m - it took me to push through Via Scala Santa

 

07/02/16

Day 30 - Fuggedaboutit

 

I started early morning, anticipating longer riding time in the hilly Balkans. I said Arrivederci to Italy, I didn't say anything to Slovenia and Croatia as I don't  know a single world in either languages. Once again in one day, actually within 3 hours, I set my foot in three countries.

The road was nice, well paved, with pleasant views. It ran through the Dinaric Alps but it wasn't too difficult to ride. The ups and downs would alternate with consistency, like a washboard. The area was scarcely populated with occasional village here and there, and with as many if not more currency exchange kiosks, as Croatia isn't part of the eurozone. The majority of cars passing by were from other European countries going to the Adriatic Sea.

The main city on my way was Rijeka in Croatia. It’s a city with a port occupying practically the entire seashore, a pedestrian area, and dozens upon dozens of gold pawn shops. Nothing to lay an eye upon.  I left it very quickly for the camping about 20 kilometers south and forgot about it as quickly.

It's Saturday, so the camping area is bustling with people. I took advantage of a relatively early arrival and enjoyed the pleasantly warm sea water. The backdrop, unfortunately, was Rijeka's oil refinery. But soon, the soothing effect of the water made this mirage disappear.

Today in numbers:

100 km - distance covered 

5h28m - riding time 

30 - days on the road, a whole month

 

07/03/17

Day 31 - Ferry tale

 

Last night was my “The Princess and the Pea” night: the site where I pitched my tent was quite rocky and I could feel those rocks through my thin air mattress. I got up at six o'clock to have plenty of time to get to my next stop. The morning start was rough; the way out of the camping was close to 2km uphill - but that was nothing in comparison to the rest of the ride. I was mentally prepared for hilly ride; but hills with strong head wind - it's a killer. At one point I was going downhill while pedaling, and yet I was still completely stopped by wind gusts. Then there was an 18km climb without any breaks. Half way through the day, my left knee started to bother me, then my hamstring. I was completely disheartened by the seemingly endless struggle. I wanted to quit. When a German motorbiker asked me how many kilometers I did so far and I replied "almost 2500", he said: "Respect!”. That pushed me a bit further. To get to Novalja, my next stop, I took a ferry to Pag Island. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel: there were just a few kilometers left on the other side. Yeap, just a few, at 9% grade.

Now I'm here on the beach with blue water, cold apple cider and free wifi.

Today in numbers:

111km - distance covered 

6h55m - riding time 

33 - US dollars to pitch a tent, as steep as the hills