(written by Nancy)
Our time in Nice is coming to an end and we have worked out a rough plan of where we go from here and what our summer will look like. Dave created a map that shows our current plan (see below) but as always with this trip there is always potential for change!
There a number of things which dictate our plan for the next few months. Number one, we hate travelling by air with our bikes. We have to disassemble and reassemble the bikes, meaning lots of work on both ends of the flight. The airline baggage folks are not always completely kind to large boxes, making reassembly difficult or even impossible. And finally, with all the gear we have we are usually overweight on baggage limits, leading to large excess fees. We’ve looked at ferries, trains and even buses as alternative ways of moving on from Nice.
The second major issue driving our plan is the Schengen visa rules. Schengen refers to a treaty to which many European countries are a party and that establishes a region that applies the same visa rules. It is intended to make travel in the region easier, as a separate visa for each of the countries is not necessary. And certainly it does make it easier not to have to obtain visas at each country border in Europe. The problem with it is that a 90-day rule (for Australians and Americans) applies to the region as a whole. We can only be within the Schengen region for 90 days out of every 180 days. Because Schengen includes many of the countries we would like to travel in (Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, the Scandinavian countries, etc) we have to plan carefully to inside and outside Schengen for the requisite amount of time.
On the map below, the large yellow lines frame the Schengen region. The region is a subset of the EU and a great advantage to short-term travellers. It’s a bit of pain to slow moving bicycle travellers but we have a plan that should be interesting and keep us on the right side of the immigration folks. We will have been inside the Schengen region for 60 days at the end of our time in Nice. That leaves us 30 days to get outside of the Schengen region. We then have to stay out of Schengen countries for 90 days.
Third, while the cold spell that has gripped Europe over the past month has finally moved on, there is still some winter out there to keep an eye on. We don’t want to head any further north from here until later in the spring. We need to head south to warmer climates for a few months.
So the plan is as follows:
Phase one – head toward warmer weather in Turkey, where East meets West – Starting 1 March, we plan to ride from Nice along the Mediterranean to Pisa (home of the famous leaning tower). From Pisa it is a short ride to Florence, then south through a bit of Tuscany and over mountains in Italy to the port city of Ancona. Dave has his eye on a professional cycling race in Tuscany at this time of year (Tirreno-Adriatico) so we’ll try to see some of the big boys if we can time it right. Cadel Evans won this race last year. And no, we are not planning on any racing!
From Ancona we’ll have a 24 hour ferry ride to Patras, Greece. Dave is kind of excited for the ferry, I am not. Once in Greece, we have 2-3 days riding to Athens. We are hoping that protests and other issues related to the debt crisis will have settled a little by the time we arrive. If so, we’ll have a look around at some of the sights in Athens (the Parthenon, Acropolis, etc), but we may just make a quick stop depending on the situation.
From Athens we have to ride two more ferries to get to Turkey (and out of Schengen). For some reason, there are no direct ferries from Athens to Turkey, we have to first stop in one of the Greek islands. If you look at the map, you’ll see that many of these islands are very close to the Turkish mainland. We are currently thinking of going to the Isle of Chios, then taking the short ride to Cesme, Turkey. We may change the island we stop at on depending on ferry schedules, which we will sus out in Athens. This time of year ferries in the Mediterranean are on winter timetables. They run fewer boats due to lack of demand (not due to weather/waves – Dave keeps saying that the ferries will be fine – we’ll see).
Phase two – Explore Turkey and Western Balkans – In Turkey we’ll travel eastward hugging the Mediterranean coast of Turkey for the next month or so. Some of the world’s oldest archaeology sights are in this region and we are of course hoping for some sunshine. We’ll make our way as far east as Adana, Turkey. We may also hop over to Cyprus for a few days but we’ll make this decision on the fly. From Adana, we hope to cut across central Turkey, making our way to Istanbul. Dave has a cousin who lives there and it looks like a fascinating city. As Aussies, a trip to Turkey without a visit to the WWI battlefields of Gallipoli would be unacceptable so we’ll head there after Istanbul.
From here, the plan is a bit vague. In the previous post, we mentioned Bulgaria and the Balkans (Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia). But in truth, we only just starting reading up on these areas and started mapping out things we’d like to see. The overall plan is to spend at least 90 days exploring Turkey and the Western Balkans during phase two so that we will have another 90 days available for the Schengen countries when we reach the Croatia/Slovenia border.
Phase three – Heading north – In phase four, we’ll be spending time in Sweden with some of my siblings. So… phase three is about getting north to Sweden. The route we take depends on timing of when we need to be in Stockholm. The route will likely go through Slovenia, Austria, Germany and Poland. We may hop a train if time becomes an issue. We hope to start this section in early July.
Phase four – Finding lost Petersons – We’ll spend a couple weeks in August based in and around Stockholm. The hope is that with some help from my sisters we can track down long lost Swedish Petersons and Andersons – there can’t be too many people with those names in Sweden, can there?. And of course have a feast of pickled herring, reindeer hide and some schnapps (Dave here, the food and drink choices were my idea, if you couldn’t tell).
Phase five – Heading south – By this time we should have 6-8 weeks left on our second Schengen visa. We’ll head south through Denmark, Holland and probably over to England (which is not party to the Schengen agreement). Time in England will let us re-acquaint our English speaking skills and every day we spend in England adds a day to our time in France, Spain and Portugal. If we are feeling strong perhaps we will take on the legendary Lands End to John o’Groats route – seems a shame to pass it up while we are there.
After England this phase of the trip is very open. We’d like to see a bit of the northern French wine regions, the French/Spanish Pyrenees and some of the central Spanish mountain towns. We cycled toured in Portugal in 2006 and look forward to more great coffee and their wonderful ham and cheese sandwiches (both staples on our last visit there).
If all that sounds fuzzy, then it should. As we work through each phase, we’ll no doubt make changes. We are pretty excited about phase one (at least Dave is, I am already re-thinking the ferry thing) and it’s important to remember that we are trying not to be overly scheduled on this trip. I am however particularly looking forward to proper Turkish pides (pizza), kebabs and of course authentic Turkish coffee.
Dave played with google maps and came up the map below. It makes the blog slow to load but you can zoom in and out. The yellow line is Schengen, the blue lines planned bike travel and the red lines planned ferries. We’ve not put any trains on as we don’t know how that will work out. We’ll compare this map to the one our CIO Donaleen builds of our actual route. I’m sure that there will be many changes.
So that’s the plan anyway. We have a few more days here in Nice to relax and try to figure out what to do with all the things you accumulate when you are stationary for awhile. Repacking is one of my least favourite chores but it must be done…
(note: seemingly well-known bug in google chrome prevents the map lines from loading in some browsers – try reload or ie, if you use chrome)