Thursday 30 December 2010

Circuit Rider’s review of the year

In line with this blog’s long tradition of breaking the mould, I’ve decided to end 2010 by doing exactly what every other blogger is doing at the moment, i.e. writing a review of the year.

I had intended this to be my 100th post ever, and so it would have been if I’d had more spare time and anything very substantial to write about in the icy run-up to Christmas. Not to worry - 97 may not be a very round number of posts, but it’s not a bad total for a blog that only came into life just over a year ago.

You might say that launching a cycling blog in November, i.e. right at the start of the winter, was a rather silly thing to do. And you’d be right, of course. However, it did at least give me time to develop my initially non-existent blogging skills in relative private.

For the first few months I focused on planning my circumnavigation of the Czech Republic. Slowly but surely, I built up some content on the site. By March, though, I’d realised that hardly anyone was reading it. I discovered that to find an audience, you need to network with other blogs and relevant websites and register with the major search engines. This I duly did, and before long I was starting to get a few returning visitors - and even some followers - in addition to the one-hit wanderers who make up most of my pageload stats. To my delight, I began to hear from complete strangers. With one notable exception (“Your writing is stereotypically stereotypical”), their comments were all kind and complimentary.

Official start, Bohumín railway station, 14 May 2010

The trip itself finally began on 14 May this year. It was drizzling with rain as I arrived at the official start point - Bohumín in the northeast of the Czech Republic - and the conditions got steadily worse from there. Such was the downpour, in fact, that several towns and villages were flooded soon after I passed through. More than once I considered packing it in and going home. The high/lowlights of Stage 1 included a recurring puncture, a moment of the soul, being offered (and declining) a lift from a passing motorist in the pouring rain, chancing upon a haunting (and possibly haunted) old Sudeten German church, and riding the road to Hell.

Abandoned Sudeten German church

Also in May, my blog made the shortlist of five nominees for best Commuter/Travel Biking blog at Crank. In the end, Going Slowly deservingly rode away with the prize, but I was surprised and flattered even to get nominated.

Reschensee in the Italian Alps

In June I took a break from cycling around the Czech border by... cycling from Munich to Venice (with a couple of friends). Again, bad weather took its toll, especially in the Alps, but we got to Venice safely and had a great holiday. You can read about it in my post Cycling the Via Augusta - with bronchitis.

The Izera River, separating Poland from the Czech Republic

Stage 2 of my jaunt around the Czech border started in Náchod in July. Along the way I successfully hunted down Krakonoš, legendary lord of the Giant Mountains, did battle with washed-away Polish cycle trails, traversed the stunningly beautiful Izera plateau, visited the “tripoint” where the borders of the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany all meet, reached my furthest point north, and even found time to visit Switzerland (Saxon Switzerland, that is).

The Czech-German-Polish tripoint

Just two weeks later, almost unbelievably, more catastrophic flash floods swept through the areas I'd been cycling through, killing several people.

Ryan and I on Děčín town square

By contrast, not a drop of rain fell on Stage 3 of my tour, which started on the banks of the River Elbe in Děčín in September. I spent the first two days riding through the Ore Mountains in the company of my great friend and frequent cycling companion Ryan. He’s such an extrovert, it was almost inevitable we’d end up singing songs late into the night with a party of Germans in the pub. After parting company with Ryan I rode to the summit of Klínovec, the highest point of my trip so far. The next day I reached my final destination for 2010 - the town of Aš in the far north-western corner of the Czech Republic.

Haj viewing tower above Aš

That, pretty much, was my circuit-riding year. I’ve enjoyed re-reading my old posts and reminiscing about my travels, but now it’s time to look to the future and start planning the remainder of my trip - from Aš back to Bohumín. And that’s exactly what I intend to do in my first few posts of 2011.

Oh, and you can expect a surprise announcement in January as well.

Happy New Year, folks!


1 comment:

Alistair Kewish said...

Well, for anyone who decides to cycle from Germany to Venice surely demonstrates a sense if determination, if nothing else!
I did a quick calculation in my head and reckoned it could have been no mere jaunt!
I doubt I could manage it.
My sole contribution to travel by any means in Europe has been by train, coach or private car rental.
The reason for choosing train was purely through being issued with company travel coupons that gave me access to almost every rail administration in Europe!
Now, I gather, no longer possible as most of the facilities have been withdrawn, possibly as few staff members were ever actually using them.
So by coupon, I arrived in Prague at the end of October, 1999. After that, events would take a most unexpected turn.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Alistair Kewish

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