Cycling report from New Zealand contingent
We learnt about Baltic Tours from the Internet a couple of years ago but did not really know what to expect when we arrived in Brussels 3 weeks ago. However we are happy to report that the cycling has been very pleasant, sometimes quite challenging, map reading skills need sharpening but the company is from diverse backgrounds but all with a similar philosophy of life.
Each morning starts with a 5 minute map meeting. The first few days Peter from Germany guided the novices along cycle ways. Those who were more experienced often ignored the suggested route and arrived at camp hours ahead of us. We were quick to learn that being ready to leave camp at the same time as Maria and Herman gave us a distinct advantage. They have an uncanny sense of turning the right way when there are no signs to follows. Looking back the first two weeks along the Rhine and Main rivers were very scenic, fairly flat and days were broken with visiting towns like Louvain, St Trond and admiring the wonderful old buildings, churches and castles. In Germany the town of Aachen and city of Cologne were favourites. Stefan who met us in Cologne had just arrived home from a kayaking trip. He dropped everything to take Brian to a cycle shop as the hydraulic brakes on his new bike had failed. Then he led a group of about ten through the city to replenish stocks whilst at the same time giving us a guided tour of Cologne of which he was very proud.
Accommodation has varied. We have stayed in camping sites packed with caravans, camping sites with beautiful gardens, resident donkeys adjacent, complimentary beers on arrival and in the last week since we crossed to the Czek Republic no camp grounds available. This was the case for two nights and at 7pm some of us were a little anxious and tired. However we learnt about the magic of Sigitas and Janek who can always find a resolution. While we were having a beer at a remote village bar Janek met a man who was renovating a large house nearby. He offered the house to our group of 38 and asked us to wait an hour while it was cleaned. Then we set up our beds 6 to a room with some camping outside in the garden. One bathroom for 38 people involved patience and an opportunity to learn more about each other while you waited in the queue. The next night another bar gave us the grassy yard adjacent for our tents and we enjoyed hearty salads while Brian ate Steak Tartare.
The last few days cycling to Prague were quite hilly, by road and muddy cyclepaths through a couple of forests and finally downhill with a tail wind to beautiful Prague and our camp site in the centre on the banks of the river Vltava. The cold inclement weather of the last few weeks has gone and we’ve enjoyed blue skies, temps in mid-20s while sight-seeing for the past two days. The city is incredibly beautiful with a wealth of architecture Gothic cathedrals, Baroque Palaces and Art Nouveau cafes. The group took a cruise down the river for an hour and returned to have a shared meal and very happy time. Today some of the Polish people are leaving but they are replaced by another group.