Right or left? Biking through Europe

Right or left? Biking through Europe

After two months in the kayaks during the summer adventures around Denmark, it was nice, but also special to get solid ground under their feet again. However, it wasn't many days before the feet were once again removed from the safe ground and instead clicked into a pair of bicycle pedals, where they would spend around 200 hours over the next seven weeks. We had given our old race bikes a little overhaul, fitted them with a pair of chunky tires and a lightweight setup of panniers, ready to take us on an adventure neither of us had experienced before.

On September 6, we pulled on our cycling shorts, packed our meager gear on our bikes and headed south and into the unknown. We had no fixed route and no definite plan, just an agreement to reach St. Peter's Basilica in Rome just two months later. To tie a bow on it all, we started our self-appointed pilgrimage in front of Roskilde Cathedral's tall twin spires, which slowly shrank behind us as we moved down over the hilly landscape of Midtsjælland with butterflies in our stomachs and smiles on our lips.

We crossed the border into Germany at Flensburg and were now faced with the first of the many route choices of the trip. Should we head east, directly south or along the Wadden Sea? It was an open question with no right or wrong answers. None of us had seen the city of Hamburg before, so we decided to head directly south through small cozy villages, mixed farmland and past historical sites. We squeezed our little tent into campsites and meadows and enjoyed the simple life, bringing only what we needed, and with the conviction that if we needed something, we would find it in one of Europe's many cities that awaited us.

Driven by spontaneity and an immediate sense of adventure, we wound our way through Europe, and the lightweight bikes allowed a unique sense of freedom to go wherever we wanted. As a result, we rarely knew where we were going more than a few days ahead, and often changed our plans ourselves when a good chat with a local gave us a better idea or we stumbled upon something else exciting on our phone's many maps that called out to us. Like when in Bratislava we had planned to drive south through Hungary, but suddenly realized that Vienna was only 60 km away and decided in a split second to head west instead, found a place to stay and booked a classical concert in this old cultural capital. Or when, on the rain-soaked headlands off Venice late one afternoon, we decided to challenge ourselves by doubling the day's distance and driving through the night to reach the 270 km to Ravenna. A lot of little adventures in the adventure itself.

Along the way, we took time to hike in the mountains, relax with a book along a rushing river, explore the life and cuisine of the cities and generally soak up the atmosphere of the places we visited. This meant that our sparse packing had to include both clothing and equipment for overnight stays in remote mountainous terrain and clothing suitable for visits to old Catholic churches and better restaurants. Once again, we were delighted with our wool t-shirts, which worked well both on the bikes and on foot in trail running shoes, but which after a quick rinse and wringing also worked well as city wear with a pair of light hiking pants and lightly cleaned trail shoes. The clothing equivalent of a Swiss Army knife that does it all.

The paths of chance ended up leading us through Germany's vast forests and charming villages, up and down the humpy hills of the Czech Republic, over the soft mountains of Poland, along the sharp ridges of Slovakia, into long Austrian valleys with cows grazing on the steep slopes, on top of Slovenia's dramatic peaks and down through Italy's vineyards on winding country roads. 

We have experienced the diverse life of Europe and have been invited inside by total strangers who have opened their homes to us. We've seen and felt the wild nature that still exists on our continent, experienced the tranquillity of a rushing river and the rush of a narrow rocky ridge high, high up. We've explored cities big and small, eaten new food, heard new music and felt new moods. We've lived like nomads with the intoxicating feeling of freedom that comes from having the world open up in front of you, and we've been able to float into the trance-like feeling you get when the landscape glides past you and your thoughts and dreams run free. And we've gained a completely different relationship with the continent we've lived on all our lives. Just by hopping on our bikes outside our front door and heading south. An adventure doesn't have to be complicated and require a lot of equipment. With a tent, a small touring kitchen and the right clothing in your bags, the world is wide open and adventures big and small are within reach.