A Travellerspoint blog

Reggio Emilia - Màntova - Ferrara - Venezia

Finally cycling again, from Reggio Emilia along the Po river to the Po delta and then to Venice

sunny 17 °C
View Cycling south east on luzian's travel map.

I cycled on from Reggio Emilia on 5th November, heading to the Po river when it finally got sunny again. There's a cycle route along the river, on many parts following a small road, on the the dam protecting the area from the frequent high waters of the river. I originally planned to follow this cycle route from near Milano but as I had skipped a part of it by taking the train, I wanted at least to continue on it as soon as possible.

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Sunset at the Po
On the first day cycling from Reggio, I joined the majestic river in Guastalla for the first time, from where I continued to Màntova, a nice old city a bit off the river, which is surrounded by water on three sides(actually artificial lakes built in the 12th century). The road along the river dam is really good for cycling - there's almost no traffic on most parts of it, and some parts are only allowed for bicycles (and pedestrians). As there is no heavy traffic on it, the road is also mostly in a very good state - unlike some other roads in Italy which have many holes and broken parts from all the traffic. It's very quiet along most parts of the river, there's mostly agriculture in the area (with a little bit of industry scattered around), and it's mostly away from traffic. Boats are rare on the river, so apart from stretches where other roads are nearby, it's just the occasional military plane cutting the silence.

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Mantova

On the next day, which was mostly sunny with some clouds in between, I went back on the river dam, continuing to Ostiglia, Sermide, Bondeno and then to Ferrara, another great old city which features buildings and palaces dating from the 14th and 15th century. It's also part of the European "citta' delle biciclette" (cities for cyclists) network, and indeed it seems that everybody who lives there is cycling, and it has a good network of cycle paths. In fact I was generally surprised how many roads in the area have a cycle lane, I know this from bicycle friendly countries like Switzerland or the Netherlands, but didn't expect it in Italy...

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Castello Estense, Ferrara

After spending the night in Ferrara, I cycled on again along the Po towards the end of it, the Po Delta. This day was mostly foggy but with the sun peeking through for some bits. The cycle route goes all the way along the river to the Adriatic Sea, but I had to leave it before in order to turn north towards Venice. I followed the route which is on most parts on the right (south) side of the river (hence "Destra Po") until Ariano Nel Polesine, where I crossed and headed north. A better option would actually have been to cross before in Ro, because Ariano means already quite a detour, and later I had to cross a very dangerous bridge because another smaller bridge that was on my map didn't exist.

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Trees and water, at the Po

Finally I found my way through some small towns and following various Canals until I reached Chioggia at the southern end of the Venetian Lagoon. From there, a first ferry took me to Pellestrina Island, along which I cycled until reaching the next ferry to Alberoni, and from there another short cycle ride and I was in Lido di Venezia, where I stayed for two days to explore Venice! This has turned out to be the best way cycling into (and out of) Venice, as it avoids all the traffic chaos at the "main" entrance to Venice.

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The industrial side of the Po area...

More images...

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Posted by luzian 15:29 Archived in Italy Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Slow motion

Lago Maggiore to Reggio Emilia by train, and some time off the bicycle.

rain 10 °C
View Cycling south east on luzian's travel map.

Finally I'm getting around to writing some more about my trip. I was held back by some internet access problems, and viruses on my memory stick and camera memory card... now I partly managed to solve them, so writing this late from Trieste (Italy, at the border to Slovenia).

Of course, after a fast start to my trip, it slowed down quickly. After crossing the alps in just two days, I planned to stay in Cadessino/Oggebbio for a day, but ended up catching some flu, probably because I had gone for a bit too long on the second day. So I stayed there for a couple of days, which was no big problem because it was raining horribly anyway. I was also lucky to be well taken care of by the friends of my parents - good place to stay while being sick actually.

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Lago Maggiore

After a few days, I had enough of staying in bed, and felt slightly better. So I finally decided to move on on Friday 1st November. To catch up some time lost while being sick, I only cycled about 20km to the next train station, from there I took a train to Milano, from there to Parma and then to Reggio Emilia, where I had planned to visit a friend from University (Ivan) who is living there at the moment. Taking the bike on trains in Italy works ok but is only allowed on regional trains which is slow and kind of painful because they stop in every small town and you have to change all the time.. but they got me there in the end on late Saturday night.

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Reggio Emilia

Ivan took me around Reggio nell'Emilia, a nice town and home of Parmesan cheese (that's why it's called Parmiggiano Reggiano). The Emilia-Romagna region is also where the famous Aceto Balsamico (from Modena) and Parma Prosciutto (from Parma, of course) and some other good products come from. We also visited Bologna and had some good authentic Italian and regional meals. I stayed there for 3 days in total while still getting better, and also still to wait for some heavy rain to stop.

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Towers in Bologna

Some more pictures from Reggio and Bologna:
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Posted by luzian 02:00 Archived in Italy Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

Crossing the alps

Cycling up to the St. Gotthard Pass at 2091 m... and back down on the other side!

sunny 18 °C
View Cycling south east on luzian's travel map.

After finally getting everything ready to head off on my bicycle, and a "good bye" dinner with my parents on Friday night, I started cycling towards the mountains on Saturday afternoon. My first goal was to try and cross the St. Gotthard Pass, which was not going to be easy with all the luggage I had packed on my bike - kind of a test to see if I still manage to get uphill with all the weight (roughly 25km luggage including camping equipment etc., + the bike itself which weighs almost 15kg total). The goal was to go as far up as possible on the first day, and then continue to the top and back down on the other side on the second day. I also had an escape option to stop in Göschenen if it turned out to be too tough with all the weight, and take a train through the Gotthard tunnel. But of course I was hoping to be able to go all the way up and cycle over the alps, as a first achievement on my trip!

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I left home only around 2pm on Saturday due to some things that I wanted to finish before leaving. It was an overcast day, but the forecast said it should clear up sometime in the afternoon or at least after getting above some altitude. The start was easy with a mostly flat route along the Zugersee (Lake of Zug), over to Schwyz, Brunnen and continuing on the "Axenstrasse" along the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne) towards Altdorf and Erstfeld.

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After about 55km there was a sign for cyclists saying "1560 meters altitude gain on the next 34 km" - from there it's only uphill to the top of the St. Gotthard Pass. At a reduced pace I slowly started climbing the windy roads. I made some good progress even though due to my late start it was already getting late in the afternoon. Just after 6pm, I finally got to an altitude where the sky cleared up - giving the view on some mountains just before sunset. Soon after, it started to get dark, and I cycled the last stretch in the dark (testing my lights..) until Göschenen at around 1100m where I spent the night in a hotel.

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The next morning, I started around 9am to attack the steep climb through the "Schöllenen" gorge on a beautiful sunny morning. A short stop at the "Teufelsbrücke" ("Devil's Bridge"), and soon I reached Andermatt at 1450m. After a short flat stretch, it started going up again on the final uphill stretch towards the top of the pass - another 650m climb. Just before noon I reached the top of the Gotthard Pass at 2091m!! Of course it was quite cold at this altitude, but on a perfectly clear and sunny day it was still enjoyable. After 1000m uphill with all that weight I was quite tired, but from here it was mostly downhill, so I could still continue for a while. After having lunch in the restaurant on the top, I started the downhill in Ticino (the southern, Italian part of Switzerland) and towards Italy.

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The old, windy, cobblestoned Tremola road with its 30 or so turns, was closed for road works, so had a good excuse to take the new road, which is good for a fast ride at 60-70 km/h without much effort :) Only on the lower part, the road turns back on the old road with cobblestone parts and many turns, which was quite tiring. But the entire downhill from the pass down to Airolo, at the same altitude as Göschenen at the start of the day, took only about 15 minutes. Some 1000m below the top, it was suddenly at least 10 degrees warmer, so it was time to adjust clothing.

I continued the road through the Leventina valley towards Biasca and Bellinzona, with some long flat stretches changing with some more fast downhill parts. Until Bellinzona I had made almost 100km distance, and although a good part of it was downhill, I was getting quite tired (after 1000m uphill at the start), but I continued for about 50km more because I wanted to reach the house of some friends of my parents in Oggebbio near Cannero at the Lago Maggiore. So after heading to Locarno, I crossed the border to Italy in Brissago and finally got to Oggebbio - cycling the last hour or so in the dark again, which was no big problem thanks to the good light system and lots of reflectors on all the panniers. Finally after almost 150km and 8 hours on the bike, I was rewarded with a good meal and got some long sleep until the next day.

More pictures on flickr.

Posted by luzian 04:38 Archived in Switzerland Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Every long journey begins with a first step.

Ready to roll and heading off south today!

overcast 11 °C
View Cycling south east on luzian's travel map.

"Every long journey begins with a first step", they say. Well the first step seems easy: leaving the house and heading off in some direction! But of course there's a lot of work involved before - a long journey also needs to be planned accordingly. They also say "The most difficult part of any journey is the first step" which I have found to be true - planning everything has taken much longer than I had hoped.

But after weeks of planning, reading guide books, looking for equipment, buying a brand new bike (not just a touring bike but THE touring bike: The Papalagi from MTB Cycletech), getting ultra waterproof Ortlieb panniers, learning about the latest high tech membranes in rain protection clothing (made from expanded polytetrafluoroethylene [ePTFE], some sort of advanced teflon membrane), mapping out possible routes, and collecting all sorts of information needed during the trip, the great day has finally come - I'm hitting the road today! A few weeks later than originally intended, but hey, it's never too late to start!

The rough route outline is from Switzerland over the Alps to northern Italy, through the Po Valley towards Venice and then over towards Slovenia and into Croatia. From there, continuing south along the Croatian coast and probably over some islands. Afterwards possibly further on towards Albania and Greece, who knows! Timeline is roughly two months, planning to be back at Chrismas. I'll try to give some occasional updates of my journey through this blog - you can subscribe if you want to stay updated. There's also a flickr gallery where I will upload my pictures.

So, wish me nice weather and good luck with not too many mad truck drivers trying to kill me!

Luzian

The bike:
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The driver:
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More pictures here

Posted by luzian 01:47 Archived in Switzerland Tagged packing Comments (1)

EXIT Festival 2008 in Serbia

10-14 July 2008 in Novi Sad, Serbia

sunny 36 °C
View Summer Festivals & Eastern Europe, July 2008 on luzian's travel map.

So this is my brand new travel blog. A new blog is quite sad actually, because it's completely empty and useless. But very soon I'm starting my cycling trip to south east Europe, and then the blog entries should start coming in at some point, shouldn't they? Only time will tell how soon and how often I'll be able to find access to the internet, and getting myself to actually write something interesting (more interesting than what I'm writing right now, I hope).

To avoid starting with a completely empty blog, I thought I might just post an entry about my trip this summer to the EXIT Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia. I'm actually writing this in October, but backdating to when the festival actually happened. Back in the UK, I heard about some festival in Serbia called EXIT, which incidentally was voted Best European Festival at the Yourope Award in 2007. So as I had just quit my job in London and as I wanted to go travelling anyway, I said why not try and see for myself if it's really as good as they say! Of course nobody had time for such a long journey but hey travelling alone is more fun anyway!

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So after flying from London to Berlin and a quick stop there to say hi to my friends, and to go to the Radiohead openair concert at Kindl Bühne Wuhlheide (great gig actually, they are still amazing and had quite a mind boggling light show), I took the 20 hours train trip from Berlin through Prague, Bratislava and Budapest and then on the night train to Belgrade, Serbia (Београд, Србија in cyrillic - they use the cyrillic alphabet in Serbia). I decided to spend the day there for a short visit of the Serbian capital before heading on to Novi Sad (Нови Сад) for the festival.

From there, four amazing festival nights waited for me and some 40,000 to 50,000 other visitors each night. Already the festival location is stunning - it takes place in the Petrovaradin Fortress sitting on a hill on the Danube river, at a site where a continuous settlement has existed for roughly 20,000 years. The fortress itself is a very cool locatioin for the festival, there are many different concert stages scattered around the fortress, hidden between some walls, with paths connecting the stages over stairs, walls and through tunnels.

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Apart from the great location, the festival also offered a huge range of different concerts and music styles on some 20 stages. There was a bit of everything from Reggae to Heavy Metal, from Alternative Rock to Drum'n'Bass - with a slight bias towards electronic music. Particularly everybody who enjoys Drum'n'Bass was most certainly happy with the late night program on the main stage - the lineup of international top DJ's attracted many people until closing time each morning - which was long after sunrise. (The picture shows the crowded Dance Arena at sunrise).

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The crowd at the festival was very nice too, with a very international mix of people. A good number of visitors from the UK (probably even more since the awards last year), mixing up with the local Serbian crowd and a lot of people from neighbouring countries as this is one of the biggest festivals in Eastern Europe. Everybody was friendly and happy about the festival - the English enjoying the cheap booze, and the locals seemed happy that somebody actually comes to visit their country. I was there on my own, but didn't spend much time alone each night before joining some group of people. The Serbian people were particularly warm and welcoming, they invited me to join them, took me around the festival, and seemed happy to spend some time with a foreign visitor and practise their English in real life. Some guys also invited me for a beer back home at their place in the afternoon, so I even got to see a real Serbian flat share. Cool folks!

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The festival was starting each night at 6pm running through to 6am, which was quite clever given that in the afternoons it was over 35 degrees. So after catching some sleep for a few hours in the morning until it got too hot in the tent, the afternoon was spent at the Danube beach where cooling down is provided in the river (the water is not terribly clean anymore after having gone a couple thousand kilometers and through 3 countries' capitals before getting here, but hey it's good enough for a refreshing swim). Early evening was then time to reload on food (and restart on booze), it was also the most busy time in the camp showers before people go back up to the festival. I preferred waiting until the shower queues have closed in - I didn't mind getting to the festival a bit later as I wasn't going to leave before sunrise again anyway...

Summary: Brilliant festival, I fully agree with the Yourope award and I'd definitely go again! Ја волим Србију, Хвала EXIT!

More pictures on Flickr.
Link to EXIT Festival.

Posted by luzian 20:00 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

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