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06 November : Cribyn, Wales
Home again! (by train) ... ... it took 3 months to cycle almost 5000 km from Wales to Turkey. Passing through so many Eastern and Western European countries and meeting so many kind and interesting people along the way has been a really wonderful experience. The World out there is a beautiful place and it's a much friendlier place than the picture we often see painted in the media.
... Thank you, all of you, for your generous donations to Cyclists Fighting Cancer. Some of your money has already bought a handcycle for a local boy who is recovering from cancer after months of treatment. ... ... Further donations can be made until 31 January 2013.
26 October : Istanbul, Turkey (4987 km = 3117 miles)
** MADE IT! ** Storms, steep hills and a tummy bug made the last 4 days tough ones for me - but thank you, Lewis, for being so patient and understanding. We saw the Black Sea at Kiyikoy, where the Imam allowed me to sleep in the mosque for an hour, but the town itself was disappointing. We approached Istanbul along muddy tracks, stopping frequently to remove clay from our tyres, and finally risked our lives for the last 30km on busy roads with heavy traffic and crazy drivers. Di arrived by plane a few hours later and we spent a few days sightseeing together in this interesting city.
22 October : Vize, Turkey (4773 km)
We were sad to leave Bulgaria and passed into Turkey through the intimidating border post at Lesovo. Then the weather turned stormy, making cycling strenuous and, wimps that we are, we spent the first 2 nights in hotels. Fortunately Turkish people are very friendly, Turkish towns are full of interest and Turkish food is delicious!
17 October : Magliz, Bulgaria (4446 km)
We finally said goodbye to the Danube at the Orjahovo ferry crossing into Bulgaria. We headed south and crossed the Balkan mountains at the Izvor Pass - an exhilarating, but strenuous, 45 km of some really wonderful mountain scenery (I'll add some photos when I get home in November). Bulgaria really is a wonderful country to tour on a bicycle.
10 October : Bistrita, Romania (3915 km)
The Croatian border loops into Serbia at one point so we had to negotiate 2 border crossings in just 3 km of what was, otherwise, a Serbian road. Then we entered Romania after following the Danube through the long and breathtaking Djerdap Gorge. The southern part of Romania is poor and reminded me of Africa - and the people make the most of their lot in similar ways. There were as many horses and carts on the roads that we followed as there were cars.
06 October : Belgrade, Serbia (3644 km)
We stayed with Manie, who visited us in Wales as a teenager many years ago, her husband Igor and their children Sofia and Oliver. They prepared some delicious local foods for us and it was interesting to discuss some of the issues surrounding the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
04 October : Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia (3516 km)
I just had to visit this town because my Mum and Dad fell in love here whilst on an international workcamp in 1948. (I arrived 2 years later!) I took lots of photos to show Mum when I eventually get home.
30 September : Pecs, Hungary (3265 km)
Lewis and I cycled round the northern edge of Lake Balaton, one of Hungary's favourite resort areas, followed by gentle hills and rolling countryside to the city of Pecs where Servas hosts Zita, Bence and András afforded us their kind hospitality. We witnessed the local harvest festival, where listening to the city orchestra playing Barber's 'Adagio for Strings' in the magnificent surroundings of the main square was a truly moving experience.
24 September : Budapest, Hungary (2852km)
Budapest's motor traffic is horendous but local cyclists Susanna and Andrew kindly guided me along safe routes into the city. My friend Lewis joined me to accompany me for the last leg of my journey and we enjoyed the generous hospitality of Anna, Adam and their delightful little daugthers Emma and Lily. Budapest has some beautiful buildings and its thermal baths provide the perfect way for weary cyclists to soothe their aching limbs!
19 September : Bratislava, Slovakia (2587km)
For once a strong wind was behind me and I sailed along beside Slovakia's huge reservoir / flood control / hydro-electric scheme, reaching Bratislava in record time. I stayed in one of the youth hostels and treated myself to a gourmet meal from the local cuisine.
18 September : Vienna, Austria (2491km)
My wife, Di, flew in to join me for a few days in this interesting city and we stayed with Bernhard who took us to some fascinating places that we would never have found on our own - he even took us canoeing on the Danube! We had a great time.
11 September : Melk, Austria (2413km)
With several days to spare, I turned west and cycled with Olexi (from the Ukraine) through wonderful scenery along the River Danube. But disaster struck after turning back towards Vienna as my bags and everything in them were stolen from my parked bike. However s/he was an honest thief because, bizarely, s/he returned all my pills in the early hours, without which I'd have been forced to return to the UK. The remaining spoils would have been worth little to her/him but they cost me over €1000 to replace in Vienna - my only other option was to abort the trip.
06 September : Czech-Austrian border (2140km)
My 2 days in the formerly militarised zone of the Iron Curtain were very interesting. I was able to examine the barbed-wire fence (originally charged with 10,000 volts of electricity) and the lines of concrete gun-emplacements, between 200 and 500m apart, that originally stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
02 September : Jihlava, Czech Republic (2007km)
My proposed detour over the mountains into Poland felt too ambitious, so I continued south towards Austria instead. It rained non-stop for 2 days and 2 nights and so, after a thorough soaking, it was wonderful to relax in Pavla and Lucá's warm house in Jihlava for 3 days. She took me to a delightful Czech tea-house where we were given a bewildering choice of 155 different teas from around the World.
29 August : Prague, Czech Republic (1766km)
The beautifully preserved towns along the edge of Germany's Harz hills were a delight to cycle through, but don't eat at the 'Saroya' indian restaurant in Weissandt-Golzau unless you can cope with cracked crockery, a dead fly in your rice and glass in your curry - I had all three! Prague is a lovely old city where I've enjoyed the hospitality of IVS friend Ladislav and his wife Ivana - and thank you, Dennis, for guiding me around the edge of the city last night.
22 August : Hildersheim, Germany (1029km)
Leg pain made me consider aborting my ride here but a quick call to my friendly UK doctor solved the problem. I rested in the youth hostel for 3 days and took the opportunity to have my pannier bags expertly strengthened by Herr Temel, the local cobler. I also watched children participating in a wonderfully-organised summer-holiday 'Olympia Camp'.
19 August : Langenhagen, Germany (973km)
3 days along the Mittelland canal towpath against an east wind with Wim from the Netherlands. Arriving a day ahead of schedule, I was spoilt rotten by friends Doris and Hans-Werner - taken to a music/food festival the first evening, to an amazing open-air production of Shakespere's Midsummer Night's Dream the second, and to live jazz outside the town hall on the last day.
14 August : Enschede, Netherlands (731km)
3 days easy cycling across the Netherlands. Dutch cycling facilities are legendary - everybody cycles on sensible bicycles, wearing everyday clothes, without helmets. Electric bikes are popular, old grannies cycling at speeds that left me panting. But the Dutch have rules for everything - like no wild camping anywhere - so I've had to pay €20 to pitch my diddy tent in a proper campsite!
11 August : Delft, Netherlands (478km)
I enjoyed a rest day here with my Servas host, Hans. Delft's 'new' church was built as recently as 1381 and the 'hill' in the middle of the town must be at least a metre high!
10 August : Harwich, England (454km)
Thankfully I got fitter each day and managed to reach Harwich in good time to catch my ferry to Holland. Cycling across London during the Olympics was fun.
01 August : Cribyn, Wales (0km)
I found the first few days very tough as I was still recovering from my last radiotherapy session. I should have waited a bit longer before setting off!
I'm Chris Bell, an engineer from West Wales. I'm attempting to cycle to Istanbul, some 3500 miles through Eastern Europe, and I hope to achieve four things...
1. To raise money for Cyclists Fighting Cancer. This charity provides specially adapted bikes, trikes and tandems for children and young people who've been affected by cancer. These can have a remarkable effect on both the physical and mental recovery of young cancer survivors and their families.
2. To raise awareness of prostate cancer. I'll do this by giving illustrated talks of my trip after my return, providing opportunities to talk about this nasty disease as well. My own cancer has spread to my spine and I've undergone treatment with radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormones - so I understand just how awful cancer must be for children.
3. To have a lot of fun along the way! It's going to be a tough trip but I'm a firm believer in the notion that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. I'll be riding about 50 miles a day through a dozen countries, camping wild at night, hostelling and staying with Servas friends. I'm particularly looking forward to meeting people along the way and learning more about the countries of Eastern Europe.
4. To update this page with progress reports along the way, as and when I can access a computer.
Please donate generously ... Click on the Donate button at the top of this page to send money straight to 'Cyclists Fighting Cancer' (it's simple, fast, safe and Gift Aid can be added) ... Or why not print off a Sponsor form and ask your friends and workmates to sponsor me too?
Chris. ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
PS. My cancer has focussed my outlook on life and I've enjoyed the last 8 years, in its shadow, with a new appreciation of just how wonderful life can be. Don't let the years pass you by - make the most of every precious day you have!