The night before Marco suggested that I should take the Ragweg i.e. the bike path to Vienna instead of the planned B17 motorway. He said it’s more scenic and also safer as traffic will get more crazy as I approach Vienna. This makes sense. So I decided to follow his advice. After breakfast Marco left for work and I left much later as I have a short ride to Vienna so not necessary to rush. I left Marco’s house at around 10am. The forecast for the day was great but it was actually greater. Lots of sunshine and warm. The route that Marco suggested was fantastic also. Very scenic and peaceful.
I had plenty of time to get to Vienna and the weather was good so I stopped many times to take pictures and also to rest. The radweg EV 9 to Vienna follows most of the way the canal. Once one the outskirts of Vienna it gets a little complicated. So I had to ask several cyclist on how to get to my host’s apartment in Vienna.
After awhile I finally managed to arrive at my host’s apartment in Danube Island. Hermi my host is a friend of my wife. She is also married to a Malaysian but now living in Vienna. She cooked and we had dinner and wine together and chit chatted a while before I turned in for the night.
Tomorrow I will explore Vienna and do a city walking tour.
Wow what a wonderful short stay at Hartberg. I had a fantastic host and a very quaint little village. I really wish I had some more time to stay longer to enjoy Hartberg. I had to push on just because the weather for the next few days seems fantastic and during this season, you need to take advantage of that. I believe in transition months the weather can be fairly unpredictable as we have seen already.
So with a bit of sadness I decided to leave and had a nice cup of coffee with Ulrich before he left for work and I went on to pack to leave a little bit later.
It was bright and sunny when I started my ride but temperature is still cool at around 9C. I am anticipating lots of climbing as the Route shows that I need to climb to 1000m before decending and Hartberg is at around 320m only. For the first 30KM or so it was climbing gentle and before I knew it I was already at 600m. Then the climb was visibly more steep but nothing that you need to dismount and push but very manageable. And the I was at 800m and that’s when the cross wind hit. Thankfully it was not too much a problem but it did make it more chilly. Finally I arrive at the peak at around 960m and had a wonderful decend for at least 6KM down to 400m ! Wohooooo! After that it’s gently downhill all the way to Sollenau.
My host only come home from work at around 4 pm but 1 arrived at his place at around 3 pm. I was asked to chill out at his verandah till he comes home.
At around 4 pm my host came home and showed me around his huge home. I was first shown his newly acquire chickens. He has one cock and 4 hens. The hens after 20 days already laying eggs. Usually 4 eggs a day.
Marco just ordered a big ass Smeg gas cooker and he needs help to move it into his apartment from his garage. So together with neighbour we managed to move it. After that Marco made a wondeful dinner for us and we had a nice evening with some wine.
After that we decided to call it the night. Tomorrow I will head to Vienna.
Today my plan would be to head to Hartberg which is around 60KM plus from Graz. The weather forecast is good although the start of the morning was a little grey. I do not have a host for today. One Couchsurfing host called Ulrich replied that he cannot host me as he plans to be out of town this weekend. So I plan to arrive Hartberg slightly after noon so that I have enough time to explore places to stay. I saw on google maps that there is a camping site in Hartberg but it’s closed for the season. I ear marked it and plan to check it out when I arrive to see if I could still camp even though it’s closed for the winter.
After breakfast, I started to pack and was ready to leave Tobias apartment at around 830am. Tobias decided to accompany me cycling to help me find my way out of the city and on to my intended route.
Once outside the city and on the route I had to start climbing and a steep one. The signboard says 14% incline. I had to climb for the next 15 km up to 600m before decending. After that the route profile is mainly climb up to the village and then decend and after that climb again to the next village and decend. It was a bit of work but rewarding vistas. This went on until I reach Hartberg.
Since Hartberg was a village or town rather than a city, there are not many choices for places to stay. It’s either high end hotels or private rooms. I was prepared to camp for the night whether on proper camp site or wild camping. The weather is mild and good so it will not be an issue.
I went to check out the paid campsite first and true enough it’s closed for the winter but the grounds are open and there are a few camper vans there. My plan was to try to call the operator and ask anyway if I could camp. Failing which I will still camp there and see what happens. So I went to the city center to try to get a free wifi spot and call the campsite operator. I managed to get a free hotspot right in the middle of the town. As I called a few times and no answer so I decided to wait and call later. Just as I was a about to move a gentlemen and a lady with her young daughter came up to me and said Hi ! He said he is Ulrich! It appears that his plan changed and he is in town after all. He said he noticed me and guess I must be the one requesting to be hosted. I was so shocked again. What are the chances. Anyway he asked if I had other arrangements and I said no. So he invited me to stay with them and I gladly accepted.
Ulrich has a huge house near the town and next to the old castle. It is surrounded by trees and a park. I was given the entire ground floor to stay with my own kitchen, bathrooms and a huge sleeping room. After settling in I was invited for dinner with Ulrich and family. He cooked a fantastic and delicious dinner. After dinner we all played a couple of round of Memory with little one before turning in for the night.
The forecast was rain today but I was planning to chance it as it could be just intermittent. As I woke up I heard raindrops falling on the window pane and I was thinking this is not going to be good. And it wasn’t. The skies looked completely dark and grey and it was raining quite heavily not torrential like in Malaysia but heavy enough to be not comfortable for cycling. I was hoping it would clear up after breakfast and it didn’t. Anyway Tobias said I could stay one more day if I wanted to. So I decided to do so because it will not be fun cycling in the rain and also I do not have a place to stay in the next destination and I dread looking for a suitable place while in the rain.
I am glad I did as it actually rained the whole day. I did a bit of email and updating of my blog and later went out on a city tour. I first wanted to check out the castle on the hill and I took the cable car up. It was interesting ride up. The tram actually had to negotiate a very step section of an almost 61% incline. That’s incredible. Anyway it was wet, grey and slightly cold so I did not spend too much time at the top of the hill.
After that I walked around the old town and visited the Christmas bazaar. Well even the Austrian has caught on with the early Christmas events.
It continued to rain so I decided to return back to apartment and cook a late lunch and chill the rest of the night. Tomorrow the forecast looks good so I will definitely head out. Hopefully I can find a host in my next place or else I might wild camp as so far there is no hostel or cheap place to stay that I can find on the web. Perhaps I can find something when I am there.
Wow! Two months and almost 3,000 KM on the road already. On paper in looks like a long time and lots of distance but to me it seem to have gone by rather fast. Initially I thought doing a solo tour would give me a lot of free idle time. So I actually brought along my ukele so that I can entertain myself and also learn to play it better. Well I can tell you out of the 60 days I took out uke only once in Macedonia. Actually my days have been very full instead as I find myself either busy sightseeing, interacting with host, updating my blog and planning my next route.
Today is the the day I say goodbye to the Balkans and start my Western Europe journey. I had a blast and wonderful time in the Balkans. I am hoping that Western Europe will offer the same. Probably in different ways. It will certainly be more expensive and more predictable. Let’s see.
Damjana and kids need to leave the house at 730am and we planned that we all leave together. I was up already very early and had my breakfast and packed. After taking a selfie of all of us, I was on my way. This time I made sure my navigation app worked and it did. Soon I was on the right track to Austria.
I knew the ride will be at least 95KM and I plan to arrive around 3PM. So I plan to ride with minimal breaks. Probably one coffee break and lunch break in between.
The day started with cloudy skies but no rain. Temperature was also not too extreme and I think was around 9 or 10 C. After awhile the skies turned more grey and dark clouds start to appear. I believe at some parts it drizzle a bit but nothing uncomfortable.
As I approached the Austrian border the sun started to appear and right after passing into Austria it was blue skies and everything nice as if to welcome me in the most perfect way. That made me very happy and really pushed me on. So much so that I arrived at Graz around 2 pm which is 1 hour ahead of schedule.
I had a little trouble finding my hosts apartment. At first I could not find the unit. I was on the right street. The unit number was 37 and on the street there was no 37 at all. There was 35 and then 39, 41 and 43. So I asked a passer by if he knew where 37 is which he say it should be the unit before 35 but it wasn’t. Finally said that 37 could be a unit actually behind 35 and I should go through the door of 35 to find it. True enough that was it. Problem solved.
I met my host Tobias which is doing an apprentiship in Graz on designing prosthesis for limbs. Interesting stuff. Anyway I am lucky to have him host me in Graz as he actually just moved to Graz and first time hosting guest in this new apartment. He was living in Linz before. Anyway we discussed dinner plans and I suggested I cook a curry for us. We decided to go vegetarian as one of the apartment mate is a vegetarian.
We had a nice time chatting over dinner and some beers. I turned in early because I was tired after another long ride. Tobias and his housemate went out to party till late. Young people.
Damjana, my host is a mother of 3 kids, 2 daughters and a son. One daughter is in Switzerland studying and the other 2 studying in Ptuj and lives with her. She has a very spacious home and had hosted many travellers both on Warmshowers and Couchsurfing. Damjana is a kindergarten teacher and teaches English.
Since today is a school day all of them had to leave the house before 8am. I took my time to make myself coffee and some breakfast. I left at around 10am to have a look around town. The first visit will be the Ptuj castle. It’s a museums so well. So I spent around 1 hour there before taking a walk around town to look at the interesting buildings and shops. It was great weather for walking around. Not too cold and too warm. Just nice. I believe the temperature during noon time was around 15C.
I had a Burek for lunch and then went to the bank to check if I can exchange my leftover Croation money to Euros. I could and also for the Macedonian Denars. However they did not accept my leftover Albanian Leks. I hope I can change them in bigger cities.
After that I had a cup of coffee at a local cafe bar before going back to the apartment. Damjana and the kids was home already and she was busy cooking lunch for them.
After lunch we chatted awhile and had tea. Damjana and the kids usually have a late lunch only. For dinner it is usually something very light if any. So I had to adjust to that as well.
Tomorrow I have another long ride to Graz, Austria and I will be leaving the Balkans with rich and fond memories. The weather is looking good as well.
Last night Drago my host made some joghurt and I was looking forward to try it. We had it with some oats, dried fruits and some flax seeds and it was great. After breakfast I did my usual packing and was ready to leave. Drago gave me a small sample of tree tea oil to go. He told me that he uses the oil diluted with water to clean himself when wild camping. He said it’s also good to spray it on clothes and attires to keep odors away. I must try this and see if it works.
After bidding Drago thanks and farewell I was off. Getting out of the city is always a pain. And it was. The night before I tried out an app to plan my route to Austria. However it acted up and was more or less useless for getting me out of the city and on to the right path. I was confident that the app work so I didn’t ask Drago for help. On hindsight perhaps I should always do that as backup.
Anyway after awhile I saw a gentlemen that looked like a regular cyclist and I hailed him down to ask for help. I am glad I did. Turns out that he belongs to a NGO that is mapping the city’s bicycle path to improve it. Wow. He gave me some fantastic directions and also instructions on how to get where I want to go. With that I was able to get on the right route.
It was not exactly easy going even with the directions as I was trying to avoid highways. At times you have a choice of 3 routes. One is the toll way which has a abbreviation of A and in this case A2 and that I guess the trunk road D1 and then a rural road. I was kind of rushing for time as I need to be in Ptuj pronounced unfortunately as Ptui ! by 4pm. I knew it was tight as I have at least 90KM ride ahead. So I minimized the rural road and went on the D1. It’s really a touch and go situation as some parts of the D1 ,bicycles are not allowed based on road signs but I went ahead anyway. Luckily there wasn’t any issue and I manage to make good time.
It begins to be trickier as I approach the checkpoints and I asked a passerby how to get to the immigration checkpoint and he told me I need to go up to the A1 for about 100m to get through the check points. It seems there are no other way. In any case I managed to get through again without much problem. After clearing Slovenia side I was told there are no tollway or highway. So I was quite happy about this. Initially it started ok much like the single lane D1 but what I did not know was that we’re building a massive highway on this road and I was trapped inside this semi finished highway and with no exit in sight. I was comforted though to know that I am around 18KM to Ptuj and so I pedaled on.
After awhile I saw an exit and I estimated that Ptuj must be closed so I stopped and ask the construction worker where I should go to get to Ptuj. Luckily I did and he told me indeed that exit was the one to take. I was making great time and I estimate I would reach Ptuj around 3pm and will give me ample time to search for my host apartment.
I really need to get a new iPhone when I get back. Battery died and refused to charge up. So I asked another cyclist if he knew the place and he said he did and was too complicated to explain and instead he asked me to follow him as he will show me the way. Once were on the correct street we began to look for the unit and suddenly a lady came up to me and said she was my host. It seems like she was on the way shopping when she spotted me and guessed I must be her guest. Wow again I am so blessed and lucky.
So she showed me to her apartment and also her cute shack for me to park my bike. On my way into Ptuj, I noticed how charming and interesting town it must be so I decided to explore it tomorrow instead of rushing off. In any case I check my ride distance and it was 103KM ! I think in this case I deserve a rest.